Re: treating vs. not treating for mites: opinion thread
I thought when I started with bees I'd be treatment free and as organic as possible as I have been for over 40 years of small home farming.
I still like the idea of how things could be in a perfect world, but after several years with bees I've learned to become realistic quick. I am whole hardly FOR treating with the appropriate methods, at the appropriate time for maximum effectiveness with the least invasive and accumulative treatment possible.
I admit it, I love killing the little [email protected]#^#(*! *
I get a real kick out of being proactive and protecting my bees from unnecessary stress and the slow agonizing death associated with being a parasitic host. I occasionally will miss or overlook a hive that had declined from a mite load (usually along with an aging, failing queen) and feel like a real piece of 'you know what' because I allowed them to suffer. In my opinion, it's senseless.
I've also been absolutely amazed by their recovery when given a new young queen, mite treatment and feed. Recovery has been like a miracle right in front of my eyes. Bringing a hive back from the brink of failure is very rewarding.
I view occasional issues with hive health a great opportunity to become a better beekeeper and learn to identify the issue and resolve it- along with future avoidance of repeat issues.
I have a lot of hives and their needs are varied. Some need treatments, some don't depending on their age, genetics and broodless period histories. I don't have so many hives I have to rely on a strictly scheduled one size fits all treatment plan.
I am pleased I have learned not to be a day late and a dollar short, when it comes to mite control. I don't let anyone shame me for treating.
Popular or not, my methods are what make sense to me, with my genetics, my goals & needs, my specific climate. I am fortunate I have a broodless period during winter and many of my hives can easily wait until winter for OAV treatments without undue negative effects from waiting.
Having good genetics, young well mated queens and a broodless period earlier in the year due to the delay in virgin queens getting mated and laying are a big part of my management decisions.
My lines are resistant to mites, not allowing them to reproduce unchecked and they have excellent tolerance against viruses due to the presence of mites.
I am fortunate to be pretty secluded from other beekeepers and my risk of infestation from outside sources is very limited. My biggest threat is an unusually warm winter that allows very early brooding. That combined with older, less vigorous queens will result in the need for early spring treatment. I had that in the winter of 2013-2014 and am grateful for normal winters that keep them cool and inactive!
I OAV with the ProVap at optimal times of the year, fill in with Apivar when brood is present if treatment is necessary and cannot wait for OAV broodless periods.
I also use other methods to reduce mite loads coming out of winter such as cutting capped drone comb and running virgin queens through nucs (Break up overwintered hives that come out of winter in less than excellent shape) to help clean them up and get a fresh start. A virgin queen is like a secret weapon. Their effects are not always 100% enough to control all mites if they are badly infested, but what they do for older frames that need to be freshened is truly magic.
Hacking out the capped drone comb sections ( with those frames of partial foundation) when I make up those new nucs takes the first bite out of the mite breeders immediately. The virgin queens continued cleansing usually finishes the job quite well.
Sometimes this is beneficial, sometimes it is not needed. Pays to check though, especially in those colonies that have brooded up earlier than others.
I've pushed my hives to the limit many times in many respects for years so I know my genetics well and have faith in their ability. Sure, they may be fine for a couple years without mite treatments, but if they are kept from swarming, the queens is aging and slowing down and the colony had not had a summertime brood break in years, I am not going to let them decline to the point of crashing. I've pushed them by design at times, pushed them due to circumstances beyond my control at other times. Weather extremes and serious seasonal anomalies to name one thing, My mother falling and breaking a hip another time which left most of my colonies unattended for a considerable length of time while I helped her recover.
Too many colonies to manage well on my own and a yard too far away to get to as much as I'd like. All those things result in no or greatly delayed management, yet most were in great shape. I have no doubt though, extended neglect would ultimately result in serious loss es at some point.
But these tests do help me recognize those superstars out there that I end up selecting for grafting. Hives where all things being equal, impress me every time I get into them.
I have no hives in my yard I do not know the full extent of their history.
These hives have overwintered multiple times, I personally reared all the queens in them so the age and genetics of the queens are not in question.
A colonies peak performance and longevity don't last forever, there is a point a beekeeper needs to take control to keep colonies fresh and clean.
Could I go totally treatment free and survive ? ( No chemical or OAV treatments) With 30 hives or less, absolutely I feel I could do it, after getting the education I have running about 200 colonies for the last few years.
But if your TF requirements include not using management such as splitting and using virgin queens, then the answer would be no. I don't think I could be successful long term. Then there would also have to be a plan for isolating the hives that started to get over run when organic methods were not enough. Then what? Allow those to dwindle and fail? Spread mites to feral hives? I couldn't do that.
Focusing on the health of the colony instead of surplus honey production when I started beekeeping has worked well for me. I've been totally self sufficient ever since my second year, never buying bees again after my original purchases.
Last edited by Lauri; 01-14-2018 at 06:32 PM.
Carniolan Hybrids. Glenn, Latshaw & Wild lines.