I spoke with SquarePeg this afternoon. He asked if I would be willing to host a thread discussing my beekeeping efforts as a treatment free beekeeper using Square Dadant hives. I agreed to do so with a caveat that I will be super busy in April and May as I also run a plant business selling tomato and pepper seedlings. I will attempt to document all major manipulations and hive maintenance work and perhaps will be able to make a video or two to show how these hives work in daily use.
The bees I keep are from a mix of stock with most of the genetics derived from a queen I found in a swarm in 2004 that was highly mite resistant. I purchased 10 Purvis queens that were used to produce drones to mate with queens raised from my mite resistant queen. In 2006 and 2008, I deliberately pushed my bees to swarm putting a few dozen mite resistant swarms into the trees locally. Since pushing the swarms into the trees, I have been able to get queens mated with nearly 100% of them showing very high mite resistance. I had a few losses in the first 5 years due to mites. Since then, I have simply ignored mites except when someone occasionally challenged me to go hunting for them. A couple of years ago, I sampled sealed drone cells in one of my colonies searching for mites. I finally found a mite in the 127th cell. Given that the colony had roughly 1500 capped drone cells at the time, this suggests a very low number of mites in the colony probably in the range of 50 or less total. At that time in the spring, a heavily infested colony would have had more than 1000 mites.
The bees I keep are very frugal with winter stores tending to overwinter with 3 to 4 frames of bees when clustered (remember that these are Dadant size frames). They build up very rapidly in early spring reaching swarm strength usually in mid April. I usually pull a 3 or 4 frame split out of every strong colony to prevent swarming and increase colony numbers. Most years, the split makes at least a super of surplus honey.
My bees have a strong dose of Apis Mellifera mellifera in their background as shown by their extremely frugal wintering, increased hive defensiveness, and tendency to forage from can see to can't see. As noted above, I purchased queens from Purvis in 2005. Purvis bees have Italian and Russian in their background. I purchased 3 queens from BWeaver in 2015. BWeaver queens have Italian, Buckfast, and African Scutellata in their genetics. I also purchased a few Buckfast queens from Ferguson in Canada. I very much appreciate a Buckfast queen mated to drones from my line as they tend to be very mite resistant and very good honey producers. I am planning to use 2 queens as breeders this spring, then send them to someone else to raise from. One of them is from a 2016 daughter of an exceptionally good queen from my line. The other is a 2017 Buckfast daughter mated to drones of my line. Both have exceptionally good mite resistance and produced a very good crop of honey in 2018.
I changed over from Langstroth equipment to Square Dadant in 2016 for all colonies. The advantages of Square Dadant are numerous with one significant disadvantage that the hive bodies are very heavy. All of the boxes, tops, and bottoms were cut from cypress by Albert Zook in Lawrenceburg, TN. I made my own frames with 32 mm end bars putting 14 frames in each Square Dadant box. Wired brood foundation was supplied by Dadant. Each frame has 3 horizontal wires to complement the vertical wires in the foundation. The frames are 11 1/4 inches deep and the boxes are 11 5/8 inches deep giving 3/8 inch for bee space between boxes. I use shallow square supers with 13 Kelley shallow frames until drawn out, then running 12 frames for honey production. This gives nice fat combs to extract. Here is Albert's address: Albert Zook, 26 Midway Road, Lawrenceburg, TN 38464
I have a 100 gallon Kelley tank, a 50 year old Kelley stainless 4 frame extractor, and a 40 year old Kelley bee blower which I use to take off honey. The 100 gallon tank does double duty for uncapping with a strainer and filter cloth in the top. The extractor is old enough that it was made to accommodate Dadant size frames so I can extract the deeps if I choose. I use a very sharp very thin bladed kitchen knife for uncapping. It works as well as or perhaps better than a heated uncapping knife so long as I remove wax buildup occasionally.
The only time I make sure to wear a veil is when removing honey in August. The rest of the time, I just wear a light colored t-shirt and work the bees gently to avoid disturbance. I've had a few too-hot-to-handle colonies over the years. Those colonies get requeened with a cell from a gentler queen.
Here are a few links and notes for background reading.
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?249192 Gives background for my reasons to use 32 mm frame spacing
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?316006 Brother Adam's hives and some reasons I was interested in them
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?320011 A thread about jumbo size hives and my and shinbone's journey to get them
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?320759 Figuring out the number of cells in a frame for different size frames and cell sizes
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?321069 A discussion of hives in terms of honey production and cost efficiency
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?321209 8 or 10 frame configuration, actual usable brood space in different hive sizes
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?325985 What is really important when building a frame
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?327308 Large hive, small hive discussion
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?327565 Hive designs and their advantages and disadvantages
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?306234 Two queen colonies and other discussion of square Dadant hives
https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?330089 Sense of smell for varroa resistant bees