Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies
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  1. #1
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    Default Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Tom Seeley has an interesting idea for hobby beeks: tiny colonies..
    Specifically, I am suggesting an alternative approach that enables bees to live more like they do in the wild, and (hopefully) to enjoy the health that I am finding wild colonies possess. I am calling this approach “small-hive beekeeping” for it involves keeping colonies in one deep 10-frame Langstroth hive body for the broodnest and honey stores, along with one shallow super over a queen excluder for the honey crop. This housing arrangement has the following features:
    • 1) the colony occupies a small nest cavity (like in wild colonies),
    • 2) the colony is likely to swarm each summer (as do wild colonies),
    • 3) the colony produces a modest surplus of honey for the beekeeper.
    http://beeaudacious.com/index.php/20...ve-beekeeping/

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    It's essentially what we have been doing with a large percentage of our operation for quite a number of years. Each single has a first year queen and in that scenario, its rare to see a hive swarm unless you either get the super on late or they run out of room above the excluder and begin to backfill the brood nest. Our production is pretty good, and thats measured against the statewide average and thats on only 8 brood combs no less!
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Thank you JW for for drawing my attention to this paper. My preferred setting is one deep.

    Jim do you introduce the new queens at the end of the summer of the previous year or at the end of winter / early spring of this year?

  5. #4

    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    JWC the organic beekeepers I met in bee class do it like that for years ( but are not tf).
    From now on this will be my method, too , using dadant square.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    I think to judge the "success" of this method you must also factor in the likely loss rate of the swarmed colonies.

    I think it's Seeley's own work (though I may be wrong about the source) that found that 80% of swarms in the wild in NY perished in their first year.

    With that factored into a small apiary of, say, 10 colonies in which every colony swarms annually and has an 80% survival rate (in the apiary), you also have to take into account the additional 8 swarm colony losses, in the wild, post-swarm.

    So starting from 10 colonies, making 10 additional colonies through swarming, then losing 2 in the apiary and losing 8 more in the wild, results in the loss of 50% of the total colonies per year.

    How is that really a success for bees? Even if you aren't confronted by the dead colonies in the wild, they are still dying and spreading diseases and parasites in the process.

    Why not simply keep them healthy and alive in the first place? I don't find it requires extraordinary efforts to do that. (And my bees are nothing special - just swarms to my farm; I'm not that skilled or experienced a beekeeper, and my bees are not that far from Seeley's location , i.e. less than 200 miles, and not in a warmer, or milder direction.)

    I think Seeley's work and writing are just great, but this idea seems like such a sad, disheartened, solution.

    Enj.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by Eduardo Gomes View Post
    Thank you JW for for drawing my attention to this paper. My preferred setting is one deep.

    Jim do you introduce the new queens at the end of the summer of the previous year or at the end of winter / early spring of this year?
    Early spring qc's, which incorporates a brood break. If mite levels are high at all an oxalic drip at 20 days after queen removal will give you a good cleanup.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    I think Tom takes a different view than many beekeepers... His work on swarm behavior and feral colonies seems to focus more on the long term survival of a population rather than the individual success of a colony. Colonies come and go, but with an approach modeled after feral colonies, the population lives on. It may not be very applicable to a commercial situation, but for the backyard enthusiast it certainly has some merits.
    Breeder Queens & Honey Bee Nutritional Supplements
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  9. #8
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    For most suburban backyard beeks loose swarms are a bad thing. The smaller brood nests seem to be more productive, but swarm potential is great. It takes a lot more management to split, watch supers, merge back, etc. Unfortunately, most of the people I have been running into are behavers and may look for honey a couple of times a year. If they worked on this plan I think it would be a mess, especially throwing in a few SHB.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by texanbelchers View Post
    For most suburban backyard beeks loose swarms are a bad thing. The smaller brood nests seem to be more productive, but swarm potential is great. It takes a lot more management to split, watch supers, merge back, etc. Unfortunately, most of the people I have been running into are behavers and may look for honey a couple of times a year. If they worked on this plan I think it would be a mess, especially throwing in a few SHB.
    I agree. The SHB throws a wrench in that program.

    A local beekeeper let his strong hives swarm and then lost most to SHB.

    I think it could only work if you have an established system controlling the beetles.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by texanbelchers View Post
    For most suburban backyard beeks loose swarms are a bad thing. The smaller brood nests seem to be more productive, but swarm potential is great. It takes a lot more management to split, watch supers, merge back, etc. Unfortunately, most of the people I have been running into are behavers and may look for honey a couple of times a year. If they worked on this plan I think it would be a mess, especially throwing in a few SHB.
    I was thinking this as well, although Seeley does say that this is for beekeepers who don't mind swarms. For the backyard, I wonder if you could artificially swarm once or twice a year and get by with this arrangement.

    Also wondering how this translates to someone wanting to (a) standardize equipment and (b) keep the weight down. You could use 8-frame medium boxes, with two for the brood nest and one for honey. Two 8F medium is only slightly larger than one 10-frame deep, and you'd have a little extra honey space with a medium super rather than a shallow.

    Something to think about,

    Erik
    In my second winter with 3 Langs and 2 Top Bar hives
    https://beeswitheeb.wordpress.com/

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Early spring qc's, which incorporates a brood break. If mite levels are high at all an oxalic drip at 20 days after queen removal will give you a good cleanup.
    Thank you Jim!

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    What's supposed to be good part of this approach? A lot of swarm removal jobs you can charge on?
    Contrasting opinions from northern Europe.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Quote Originally Posted by SHAWHANBEEK View Post
    I agree. The SHB throws a wrench in that program.

    A local beekeeper let his strong hives swarm and then lost most to SHB.

    I think it could only work if you have an established system controlling the beetles.
    If I am never going above 1 deep and 1 shallow, why would SHB be such a problem? Do you think that the remaining population and new queen will not be able to patrol that small of an area? I would not have thought that to be too large a space for a remaining population of an otherwise healthy post-swarm colony. But then again, I have never done it.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    It's going to be tough to find beeyards if part of the deal with that I'm going to release between 5-20 (depending on outyard size) swarms into the immediate area during about a one week period in late-May/early-June. Then who knows how many after swarms as well. Kind of a deal breaker and something I wouldn't even be comfortable letting happen.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    A pie in the sky proposal. The rest of society in many locations will not stand for hives kept in this manner. To call it ''management" is a stretch.
    There are many techniques available to effect a artificial swarm and still keep the bees under control.
    This proposal is not forward thinking and may cause more regulation on the very same hobby beekeepers that he's trying to reach to revamped beekeeping laws. Maybe he should try this in his neighborhood in Ithaca and see how it goes.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Was able to watch the "discussion group" at the end of the conference and was frankly, disappointed.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    [QUOTE=clyderoad;1496206] The rest of society in many locations will not stand for hives kept in this manner.
    There are many techniques available to effect a artificial swarm and still keep the bees under control.


    This certainly applies to my situation; There is no way I could get away with issuing swarms.

    My variety of bees is not inclined to make large colonies so swarming is not too hard to thwart.

    That said, they are not the kind of bees to have if you are in the pollination business or selling nucs which is the main focus of probably 90% of the bees kept in the US.
    Frank

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    I can see what Tom is suggesting. A lot of backyarders are let alone beekeepers as is. I agree with JWC in that swarms would likely be an issue with the neighborhood. At that size of colony they will swarm. I also wonder about the wisdom of keeping only 1 honey super. Maybe that is what some folks get but if the honey is flowing, pile the boxes on. We wait 50 weeks of the year for a 2 week event, I say take advantage of it when it is happening.

    Jean-Marc

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Hi Guys

    I've kept bees in 3 deeps up north. Now I'm beeless in South Florida. And wondering about keeping bees in the subtropics with the heat and beetles. I suspect smaller would be better. Would like to try this.

    Some very audacious ideas. You can listen to them for yourself at:

    Bee Audacious Public Panel discussion and Conference wrap up - YouTube

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Tom Seeley's proposal -- keep bees in small colonies

    Seeley is simply defining a practice for application of his results from his research in the Arnot forest. He had hoped to find varroa-tolerant bees. Instead, he found that the feral bees of the Arnot forest survived by multiplying (swarming). Kept bees are not allowed, or highly discouraged, or tricked, into not swarming. I think Seeley would say that this is why feral bees continue to survive in stable numbers in the Arnot forest with no treatment for varroa, while kept bees seem to need some help fighting these pests.

    So if you are in it just for the sake of the bees, and you do not want a huge honey production, and don't have any neighbors to piss off with swarms lodged in their chimneys, I agree with Seeley that this is the way to keep bees. Spin off as many swarms as you can. But those are not my goals, and I am not in that position, so I cannot do it that way.

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