ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat
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  1. #1
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    Default ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    I removed 4 colonies from houses last year. These bees were healthy,very large combs. Tons of brood, tons of honey. One colony was there for 6 years. No one was treating them with anything. I treated them with OAV this past Sept. since I have mite paranoia! I don"t like the idea of using a "cut out" as a guinea pig, but I think I will try. I will NOT treat a colony I remove this next season. I will conduct mite counts so I don't end up killing them.Why are these bees doing fine with no help? I know it was luck , right? Please share your thoughts. Maybe we are interfering more than we need to. There is a chemical for everything out there. Just like there is a drug for every human problem.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    Do you still have all four colonies?
    David Matlock

  4. #3
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    All of my bees are from cut-outs from the walls of one of my barns (and the daughter queens of those cut-outs).

    I had feral bees in my barn walls continuously for two decades. I kept an eye on them, but did nothing to care for or manage them as I believed myself to be one of those unlucky souls who had a life-threatening, allergic reaction to honey bee stings. Then sometime between late Dec 2012 and early May of 2013 they simply vanished. As it happened I was watching for them that spring so I noticed the disappearance. I was very unhappy at the loss - and ashamed because the previous summer I had meant to do "something" about those bees, but got busy with other things and failed to follow through.

    I was really beating myself up about this. A week or two passed, and I kept checking to make sure they weren't still "hibernating" (you can see I knew zip about bees at that point). And to my surprise and delight in early June some bees appeared in those long-used cavities. A second group arrived a few days later and I made plans to have them cut out but before that could get organized, a third swarm appeared and occupied yet another entrance to the walls. So in the end I had three separate colonies setting up house in the walls. (And all three survived the cut-out and were my first bees - two of the three original queens are still alive and doing well - now in their third winter with me; the other one was superceded late last summer, but her colony is still doing just fine, as well.)

    The point of this story is this: in those two decades of "continuous" occupation I now believe that colonies came and died off and the space was reoccupied by new swarms so this wasn't a story of unmanaged bees surviving without treatment. It was just a good habitat that played host to successive colonies for a couple of years until they succumbed and new occupants arrived to claim the comb and honey. But before I had bees I would have just mistakenly supposed the bees could live without care. I now know that in nature feral honey bee colonies are not the long-term proposition that managed bees are.

    I happen to live in an area with a still-robust population of feral, tree-living, colonies (I know of at least five within two miles from my apiary, and more are likely.) Now that I better understand the biology of honey bees I am more able to assess whether a particular colony is likely to be the same one, or just the newest tenant. A casual observer who saw bees in the same place, year after year, might erroneously assume that these were the same bees surviving without treatment.

    My formerly "feral" bees adapted to their new Lang-style digs very well and have grown and thrived, despite my utter cluelessness at the start. (I jokingly refer to them as "survivor" bees because they survived my attempts to care for them, not because of their origins.) But I do treat them for varroa, because w/o that they surely would have crashed and succumbed by now. I watch nearby unmanaged colonies go through this process every late summer/early winter as now I know what to look for. (And I keep my own bees protected with robbing screens, and treat them assertively when a nearby colony is crashing as I know my sweet girls are hardened felons when it comes to taking advantage of weakened hive and will bring home nasty souvenirs of their raids.)

    Which brings me to my final observation; there is no way I would allow an untreated colony to remain in my apiary if I was treating the others. (Except in the case of a short-term delay due to getting virgin queen out the door, mated and established. In that situation I would merely delay the start in that colony but as soon as possible I'd treat it, too.) I have really regretted it every time I haven't followed this policy. It has resulted in more treatment to overcome the resulting re-infestation.)

    If you have a separate apiary to use as an observation location that is different.

    But don't count on an apparently "survivor" colony to actually be able to live indefinitely w/o treatment. It may just be the most recently-arrived occupant. I think that there some places in the US where there may be bees living on their own for a long time, but I think it not likely in the Hudson Valley. (Note: I am north of you in Rensselaer County.)

    The issue for me boils down to this: since it is my intention to actually keep my bees, not just replace them continually (and I include planned nuc-production to cover expected losses - aka the "sustainable apiary" to be a form of replacement bees), I need to do what it takes to achieve that. And for me, where I am, that means suppressing varroa effectively. So I use OAV, and formic acid (MAQS). I also monitor all year long (yes, even in winter.) It must be working, since I have never lost a colony, and the ones I have are booming. My biggest bee "problem" is managing their growth without expanding my yard more than I want.

    A year-round mite program (not treating constantly, but not waiting for signs of imminent disaster, either) is what works for me and allows me to use the fewest number of carefully chosen and timed treatments. And it spares my bees the awful effects of mite-infestation. They can just go about their bee-business and leave that part to me. After all. it was my decision to turf them out of their chosen cavities in the walls so I think that makes me responsible for their well-being from that point forward. If I was only interested in observing their natural history without doing any management, I could have just left them alone.

    Enj.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    An interesting post Enjambres and an enjoyable read.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    Very well put!

  7. #6
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    Eng's comments just makes sense.
    John

  8. #7
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    Quote Originally Posted by Riverderwent View Post
    Do you still have all four colonies?
    Yes I still have them, they were all out 2 days ago on cleansing flights

  9. #8
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    That was such a great response. You are correct, i always think people are watching these feral bees all the time. It could well be just like you said ,that they constantly re-occupy this nest. I will treat all of these again in the spring.Just like you I too want to accomplish the sustainable apiary. I have built around 20 nucs last week, in the hopes of using them! I guess from watching all the you-tubers claiming to raise bees with no treatments , It got my hopes up to do the same.If your ever down near Middletown, NY I O U a cup of coffee, or a beer!

  10. #9
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    Thank you ENJAMBRES. I THINK IT IS CLEAR NOW, i will treat all my bees feral or not! do you treat in the spring as well?

  11. #10
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    I would not treat them.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  12. #11
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    I started out with a ferial survivor than I found, then caught more in traps and swarm calls. I did treat because that's what everyone said to do. I also did not want to lose my bees. Managed to keep them alive and catch more...

    After a season of treating I never saw a high mite drop on the SBB, a sugar roll also showed few mites. So I just quite, I monitored them for a while after that. Now I don't even check for mites. I do see a DWV bee now and again. It's been 3 years no mites, no mite crashes, no high mite drops, no noticeable mite increase in the fall. My winter kills (5-10%) are from queenless hives (late swarms) or starvation in late winter (raising brood just out of reach of stores).

    I don't see anything wrong with treating your feral bees. Especially while you assess them and determine if they truly are feral survivor. If they're feral you'll still will be breeding superior bees and releasing drones and swarms into your area, helping your ferial bee population. By treating your bees a few times your not going to change the genes. Letting your bees die will not do any good either.

    IMO true feral survivors are in isolated area away from domestic bees(mite bombs). When more domestic bees are brought into an area they displace the feral population and contaminate the gene pool, eliminating any feral populations.

    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/queens-for-pennies/

    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/choo...fighting-bees/

    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/what...nd-feral-bees/

  13. #12
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    Quote Originally Posted by stixin2016 View Post
    I removed 4 colonies from houses last year. These bees were healthy,very large combs. Tons of brood, tons of honey. ... Why are these bees doing fine with no help? I know it was luck , right? Please share your thoughts.
    Perhaps they were successive annual swarms that had the ability to build up and store honey quickly. Perhaps they are able to survive two or three seasons before viruses vectored by mites overtake them. Perhaps they are mite tolerant or virus resistant, and able to survive with a relatively high level of mite population in the hive. Perhaps they are mite resistant through shorter breeding cycles, varroa sensitive hygiene, self grooming, allogrooming, gnawing mites, some other method, or some combination of these. If you treat, you will never know. You say you intend to treat. If so, you will likely help these particular bees make honey. All of their genes will flow into the soupy pool. I would not treat them, and I would not over harvest their honey and feed them sugar syrup to live on during the winter. I would make increase from the strongest. That is what I enjoy doing, and it has worked well for me so far. My circumstances are unusual, and would likely not work with other bees or in other areas or for larger scales of operation. I was told that my bees would die in the winter of 2013. They didn't. Then I was told that they would die in the winter of 2014. They didn't. Then I was told I would see dwarf wings and crawlers. I haven't. Then I was told they would die this winter. Maybe they will. They were doing well yesterday.
    Last edited by Riverderwent; 02-04-2016 at 11:07 AM.
    David Matlock

  14. #13
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    We live in a time where beekeeping is becoming more tenuous every day! Mite related failures lead to disinterested beekeepers. Resolution of the problem is a long way off. The discovery of and increase of mite resistant bees is not going to come about solely by research but by the cumulative efforts of thousands of beekeepers the nation, nay world over. But this reality will never come about if the arbitrarily treat every colony of bees without first making some attempt to discover and understand how well they can tolerate and control the mite load on their own. Just because a colony has mites does not necessarily mean the related stress is taxing the bees beyond their normal tolerance levels. A resistance to the viruses transmitted by the mites can never be developed if the bees are not allowed to survive it naturally.
    It is a balancing act and maybe even to a degree a guessing game for a lay person to attempt to judge what colonies should brave the storm in a attempt to Isolate mite resistance bees, but one every beekeeper should place some degree of priority on.
    I consider myself by no means a treatment free beekeeper. However I do maintain a bee yard where colonies that I for one reason or another believe MAY possess qualities that enable them to better withstand a treatment free approach in hope of finding qualities that will benefit all bees.
    When I find such bees I acquire bees from other that are claimed to have natural hygienic or qualities that lend toward resistance and incorporate them into the program.
    I feel that in many cases the hobbyist is better equipped to monitor such a situation that a commercial beekeeper as they are not production motivated.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    That was an interesting post Flowerplanter because it shows that a person can transition from a treated hive to non treatment, ie, treatment residue in the comb will not necessarily mess things up.

    Couple questions, what kind of treatment/s did you use and how many times, and what cell size are you?

    Cheers

  16. #15
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS, AS I WAS READY ALL YOUR GREAT POSTS, I WAS CALLED TO RESCUE BEES THAT WERE IN A TREE WHEN IT WAS CUT DOWN, I STARTED A NEW THREAD, NEED ADVICE. I had to take them the town was taking the tree away tomorrow . i got them all and the honey and comb. they are in a deep with wintering inner cover, i"m nervous. I don"t want them to die. Can not believe this happen today. any advice?????? sorry, you guys must think I'm crazy. they would have been dead by tomorrow, its going to be 26 tonight, and they were on the ground. tree was split and way to heavy to move.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    Thanks! you are all a great help! I am taking it all in, today has been nuts! A NEW FERAL COLONY RESCUED!

  18. #17
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    I like that f.p., yes, i really admire these bees I have obtained. some are a little more mean, but Its fine. That is a good point about my drones mating with other bees in the area, maybe this will bring in stronger colonies. I am not an expert bee keeper, but I know every one of these feral colonies looked amazing when I got them. they are all still alive, knock on wood! I think this is nature at work. Why are these bees doing so well? Because nobody is messing with them. I will do mite counts on all these when weather permits. If i don"t have to treat I won't. I really appreciate everyone taking the time to reply! I know have my plan as far as treating, I will always do what is needed for my bees to survive. Even though I was always against feeding etc.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    I don"t want to feed. I took no honey from my bees this year. They are all new colonies from the spring.I don"t want to treat.(i only treat for the mites OAV) nothing else. I will not treat unless I see a major problem. Today was a long learning experience. I feel I have come along way from 3 years ago and I thank all of you for your input! I just want to raise as many healthy colonies as possible and maybe sell nucs one day! I have been busy building nucs, deeps, etc. I never enjoyed doing something so much. Sometimes I pay more attention to my Bees than my wife.

    Quote Originally Posted by Riverderwent View Post
    Perhaps they were successive annual swarms that had the ability to build up and store honey quickly. Perhaps they are able to survive two or three seasons before viruses vectored by mites overtake them. Perhaps they are mite tolerant or virus resistant, and able to survive with a relatively high level of mite population in the hive. Perhaps they are mite resistant through shorter breeding cycles, varroa sensitive hygiene, self grooming, allogrooming, gnawing mites, some other method, or some combination of these. If you treat, you will never know. You say you intend to treat. If so, you will likely help these particular bees make honey. All of their genes will flow into the soupy pool. I would not treat them, and I would not over harvest their honey and feed them sugar syrup to live on during the winter. I would make increase from the strongest. That is what I enjoy doing, and it has worked well for me so far. My circumstances are unusual, and would likely not work with other bees or in other areas or for larger scales of operation. I was told that my bees would die in the winter of 2013. They didn't. Then I was told that they would die in the winter of 2014. They didn't. Then I was told I would see dwarf wings and crawlers. I haven't. Then I was told they would die this winter. Maybe they will. They were doing well yesterday.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    Quote Originally Posted by stixin2016 View Post
    Thank you ENJAMBRES. I THINK IT IS CLEAR NOW, i will treat all my bees feral or not! do you treat in the spring as well?
    I should have known by now, nothing is clear in Beekeeping. I will only treat for mites... and only when necessary.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: ferrel bees, to treat or not to treat

    Welcome!
    americasbeekeeper.com
    [email protected]

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