OTS - Treatment Free
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  1. #1
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    Mar 2015
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    Decorah, Iowa USA
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    Question OTS - Treatment Free

    I've been studying Mels OTS System for a couple of years searching for the silver bullet for TF. I went to Treating 2 years ago because I was losing the majority of my hives every year, but I actually would love to keep everything TF. I did some notching last year and it worked great. Those hives were treated last year in Aug and are alive this Spring. I've spent a lot of time studying Mels theories on requeening in May and July and why this leads the mites to self distruct. I also realize he's selling bees not honey.
    My question is DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?
    I also realize the labor intensity of the system.
    Would love to hear from people actually using the system.
    Jerry

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    KC, MO, USA
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    IMO this will help but you also need to have resistant stock. The degree of the resistance and your genetic footprint will determine success.

    Basically it boils down to a brood break at a critical time for the mites.

    Continually raising new open mated queens enables you quickly gain local genes in your area, if these genes are survivors they will integrate into your apiary.

  4. #3
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    Aug 2015
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    Bergen County, NJ
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    I dont know about "self destruct" or "silver bullet". Brood breaks present opportunity to curb mite growth. But brood breaks come at the expense of bee population growth too.

    And any positive gain depends on type of requeening. If you just replace queen with new laying queen, I dont see how that can help. And there are number of ways to requeen, OTS being one of them.

    I personally think this is just ONE tool in the toolbox.

  5. #4
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    Aug 2015
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    Then there are

    * Genetics
    * Nutrition
    * Virus types prevalent locally
    * Environmental Stress factors (pesticides etc)

  6. #5
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    Jul 2013
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    Morro Bay, California, USA
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    Continually raising open-mated queens increases the velocity with which the bees revert to the background population "mean". These are likely to be more swarmy, more aggressive, and less productive than the queens raised under controlled selection.

    Very swarmy bees exhibit considerable "resistance" to Varroa on a population scale (due to constant repopulation). However, if this trait has survival advantage, it will disencourage more "sophisticated" traits such as VSH or "ankle-biting". Evolution is a cruel mistress, and the sloppy, easy solution (excess swarminess) has far lower entropy than a recessive trait based on 20 loci.

    There is a reason VSH is maintained with artificial insemination from selection of 1 in 500 colonies. To expect open mated queens to converge on the same solution is belief in "magic".

  7. #6
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    Mar 2012
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    Bay City, MI 48706
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    151

    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    I use small cell and have had good results.
    I started to use OTS to build numbers and
    I see my overwinter survival get even better
    So now I use both.
    Paul 15 years 15 hives TF

  8. #7
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    Jan 2015
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    Williamsport, PA
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    Quote Originally Posted by JWChesnut View Post
    Continually raising open-mated queens increases the velocity with which the bees revert to the background population "mean". These are likely to be more swarmy, more aggressive, and less productive than the queens raised under controlled selection.

    Very swarmy bees exhibit considerable "resistance" to Varroa on a population scale (due to constant repopulation). However, if this trait has survival advantage, it will disencourage more "sophisticated" traits such as VSH or "ankle-biting". Evolution is a cruel mistress, and the sloppy, easy solution (excess swarminess) has far lower entropy than a recessive trait based on 20 loci.

    There is a reason VSH is maintained with artificial insemination from selection of 1 in 500 colonies. To expect open mated queens to converge on the same solution is belief in "magic".
    I've been giving thought to something similar. Studies have show that feral bees and commercial bees are very different. From the Scientific Beekeeping website a quoted study showing the genetic differences between the two populations:
    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/scib...s/fig-0411.jpg

    A quick glance looks to me like feral bees and commercial bees are as different as a Great Dane and a Poodle.

    But, if the beek was using those open mated queens and selecting for known traits what would be the result? Would his/her bees never drift too far from commercial genetics?

  9. #8
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    Mar 2015
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    Decorah, Iowa USA
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    Any information from somebody who is actually doing it?
    Jerry

  10. #9
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    Decorah, Iowa USA
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    I can't believe that this treatment free group, that has a way to pretty much eliminate mite treatments -(OTS) doesn't have anybody using this method.
    I sure like to hear from you.
    Jerry

  11. #10
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    Sep 2016
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    Denver Metro Area CO, USA
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in PA View Post
    But, if the beek was using those open mated queens and selecting for known traits what would be the result? Would his/her bees never drift too far from commercial genetics?
    I would argue in most places they would drift too deep into undesirable commercial traits

    Quote Originally Posted by Swarmhunter View Post
    I can't believe that this treatment free group, that has a way to pretty much eliminate mite treatments -(OTS) doesn't have anybody using this method.
    there are mostly 2 types of TF fokes in this fourm...those who are good beekeepers and have a location that has made it fairly easy for them... and those who see TF as do nothing bee keeping, sit back and see if your bees will make it
    to one set OTS is not needed, to the other its too much work/woodware or is against doctrine

    Tom Seeley has a study running on something simunlar to OTS https://mysare.sare.org/sare_project...=annual&y=2016 I cant wait to see his spring/summer mite counts for this year

  12. #11
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    my personal opinion on using frequent ots or any other method of perpetual splitting as a means of mite control is that doing so isn't really practical to the typical beekeeper desiring to make a honey crop.

    my approach is to not split any colonies that have a decent shot at providing me with harvestable honey. i do sometimes split colonies for nuc production that have a poor track record with respect to swarminess or poor production or both, in order to make increase and requeen from the more promising stock.

    i would be hesitant to purchase bees advertised as 'treatment free' if they are coming from an operation that uses perpetual splitting for mite control and not having colonies that have demonstrated multiple year survivability and productivity without being split.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  13. #12
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    Mar 2015
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    Decorah, Iowa USA
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    I wondered whether OTS was going to qualify for treatment free - I guess I got my answer.

  14. #13
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    west central Arkansas
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    I've been thinking about OTS in the context of it's application and how it relates to some of what msl stated on the first group of beekeepers he mentioned, though I think his categorization of the TF beekeepers here is a bit presumptive. I'd say there is quite a varied group of folks. Back to the point.

    OTS, and I'm no expert here, does one thing quite well, and that is to create a brood break at critical times when mite build up is nearing peak level, considering that the beekeeper is fine tuning those critical breaks to his locale. Many of the beekeepers that fit into category one that msl referred to are living in areas where the bees respond to dearth situations, coinciding with near peak bee populations by shutting down brood rearing and implementing their own break(s). This is a time when the bees begin preemptive drone culling and the brood nests start shrinking. Here it begins around late June and continues through August, with a trickle coming through from the occasional bloom here and there. My belief is that the combination of this natural brood break coinciding with building mite/bee populations and subsequent dearth is a huge reason for the success of many folks, particularly in the south. Is that enough alone? I don't believe so. I think it also takes some bees that are tolerant/resistant/adapted to mites/viruses for outright success.

    With all that said, I think OTS could be of huge benefit to someone who can solve that puzzle in an area where maybe that natural cycle doesn't occur.
    Season 5. TF.

  15. #14

    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    Quote Originally Posted by Nordak View Post
    I've been thinking about OTS in the context of it's application and how it relates to some of what msl stated on the first group of beekeepers he mentioned, though I think his categorization of the TF beekeepers here is a bit presumptive. I'd say there is quite a varied group of folks. Back to the point.

    OTS, and I'm no expert here, does one thing quite well, and that is to create a brood break at critical times when mite build up is nearing peak level, considering that the beekeeper is fine tuning those critical breaks to his locale. Many of the beekeepers that fit into category one that msl referred to are living in areas where the bees respond to dearth situations, coinciding with near peak bee populations by shutting down brood rearing and implementing their own break(s). This is a time when the bees begin preemptive drone culling and the brood nests start shrinking. Here it begins around late June and continues through August, with a trickle coming through from the occasional bloom here and there. My belief is that the combination of this natural brood break coinciding with building mite/bee populations and subsequent dearth is a huge reason for the success of many folks, particularly in the south. Is that enough alone? I don't believe so. I think it also takes some bees that are tolerant/resistant/adapted to mites/viruses for outright success.

    With all that said, I think OTS could be of huge benefit to someone who can solve that puzzle in an area where maybe that natural cycle doesn't occur.

  16. #15
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    Mar 2015
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    Decorah, Iowa USA
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    Nordak- That sheds a whole different light on the way I look at the opinions from different areas of the country. It was easy for me to project the method into my beekeeping area. We have a flow of one kind or another(unless we get an extended drought) from the 1st of May thru the 1st of October. Increases here would be made in May and 1st week of July, with a good basswood flow in July.
    I thank all of you for your ideas and opinions. Next Winter I'll let you know how it worked out for me.
    Jerry

  17. #16
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    i'm looking forward to reading about your experience swarmhunter, thanks for posting here.

    i believe keeping a handful of full sized established colonies that don't get split to provide you with some marketable honey and servce as 'proving grounds' for your stock selection with respect to honey production and heartiness.

    sales could get especially robust when you can brag about the buyer's queen mother without lying or exaggerating.

    jmho, if the business model is predicated on the selling of bees and as the market becomes more savey, buyers are going to be looking for colonies derived from colonies that have to some degree proven themselves under the conditions that the buyer intends to use them.

    even if just for personal use, gaining the skills to successfully propagate more colonies from one's own stock may not be for everybody, but no one would deny that the return on investment is there.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  18. #17
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    To do OTS the right way here means doing it on or around June 20.
    Last season I had plans on doing OTS but by the time June 20 arrived I'd already been forced to do splits on most every hive.
    I find it dumb to replace queens that just got mated 4-8 weeks earlier.
    When I get to the point where I can control each and every hive until June 20 I'll give OTS a shot but until then I'm letting the bees make all the split decisions. In other words when I get swarm cells I split, sometimes aggressively.
    It's not exactly the best strategy but it is better than letting them swarm.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  19. #18
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    Sep 2016
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    though I think his categorization of the TF beekeepers here is a bit presumptive. I'd say there is quite a varied group of folks
    yes it is varied for sure, I was refering to what I perceive as the 2 most vocal camps on the forum out of the varied group. not trying to be presumptive, didn't mean to come across that way
    Last edited by msl; 03-30-2017 at 07:06 PM.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    Quote Originally Posted by aunt betty View Post
    In other words when I get swarm cells I split, sometimes aggressively. It's not exactly the best strategy but it is better than letting them swarm.
    that pretty much describes my second and third seasons aunt betty, but instead of making splits and using swarm cells for them i was able to catch 80% of all swarms after they issued, and the other 20% i was feeling good about letting them repopulate the nearby woods.

    i think i caught about 9 swarms in the second year, and 13 swarms in the third. i used them to make increase and it worked. i even sold a few. 100% of my colonies swarmed at least once every year, mostly at about this time of year.

    the 4th year was when i met walt wright who came down to my yards to over see the checkerboarding of my hives. that spring, i went from 100% swarms to 50%. this totally surprised walt, and he was convinced that these bees were the swarmiest he had ever seen.

    it made sense too because they have been derived from feral survivors cut out of trees. it turns out i was keeping swarmy bees to start with and restocking them with their swarms! in a sense i was selecting for swarminess by not deselecting for it.

    we learned and tweaked the method and i've been at about 15% or so swarm rate ever since. plus for a few years now i've been selecting breeders from non swarmy colonies and deselecting queens from the swarmy ones.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  21. #20
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    Oct 2016
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    York County, VA, USA
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    Default Re: OTS - Treatment Free

    On OTS vs. honey production --

    What I've read Disselkoen to say is to start the swarm season with a pre-emptive split of the queen and some appropriately selected frames, leaving the rest of the colony in place. The queen continues to lay eggs and generate brood, just not in the same hive with the original colony. This compares interestingly with the "cut-down split" technique. I do not understand why it would not do what Disselkoen suggests, which is to leave the population of the home colony with the job of making replacement queens, a lowered brood population to feed, and therefore more foragers to resupply the colony (and beekeeper) with honey for a new-queen-fired attempt to push the world's bee population over the top.

    From the beekeeper's perspective, this seemed to be a good way to propagate bees, generate increase and keep reserve nucs, as well as to harvest honey. By selecting productive colonies for multiple (in OTS, not hundreds of) queens from good producers, one should still be selecting for productive colonies. In the selection process, one would avoid feeding back notably swarm-prone bees into the apiary.

    Have I misunderstood something important here? I'd answer the O.P. with a "Go for it!" It happens to be where I'm headed over the next couple of years. I'm building population now and starting to introduce queen (cells) from TF apiaries near me. Every bee gene I have on-site was new to me last year, so I can't say much about development patterns in my apiary. But I'm trying local increase, too, and OTS should be involved although I've just done "walk away" splits so far, letting the bees generate their own queens. Well, they already had started that, so I just endorsed, aided, and abetted them.
    "I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong." (heard often from the late David Sebree) Still making them, myself

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