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Thread: I want in

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Post Falls, Idaho
    Posts
    191

    Default I want in

    Per SquarePeg suggestion I am starting this thread to open a conversation about getting started in the TF world.
    History: I am a 10+ year beek living in No. Idaho. I am using conventional American methods. Buy packages/nucs, feed syrup and pollen patties, treat as required, hope for the best. I read and follow many sources of advice and theory. Trying my best to be kind to the bees and reap a good harvest.
    As of three years ago I had 35+ hives, harvesting plenty of honey but experiencing losses at or above average numbers. Always seemed like I was not able to keep a good percentage of my bees healthy.
    I began experiencing heavier losses with signs of AFB. My wife then went into heart failure so I had to abandon bees for the most part. Wife ok now and I want to get back into my bees with the same dedication as before. I now have 3 hives coming out of winter with good population and brood build up.

    So I think this would be a good time to transition to TR and build a side line beekeeping operation of production, queen rearing, and nuc supply.
    I currently have 15 packages on order due April 14 from California along with 10 queens due in June from Western Washington.

    The question is how do I start this transition? What are the steps in doing this? How do I determine sources and methods? What losses can be expected?

    Thank you for your patience with my rambling. Any assistance and advice is appreciated.

    Soapy

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    10,145

    Default Re: I want in

    welcome aboard soapy!

    you mentioned being involved with your local beekeeping organization and doing some mentoring. having some hive years under your belt and being able to recognize what is happening with your colonies is a big plus.

    are you aware of anyone else in your area who is currently having success managing bees off treatments?

    thanks for starting the thread. we're looking forward to hearing about your progress.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Madison, AL
    Posts
    82

    Default Re: I want in

    Definitely interested in hearing about your experiences and perceptions on entering this area. looking forward to your updates

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    DuPage County Illinois
    Posts
    179

    Default Re: I want in

    Quote Originally Posted by rmdial View Post
    Per SquarePeg suggestion I am starting this thread to open a conversation about getting started in the TF world.
    History: I am a 10+ year beek living in No. Idaho. I am using conventional American methods. Buy packages/nucs, feed syrup and pollen patties, treat as required, hope for the best. I read and follow many sources of advice and theory. Trying my best to be kind to the bees and reap a good harvest.
    As of three years ago I had 35+ hives, harvesting plenty of honey but experiencing losses at or above average numbers. Always seemed like I was not able to keep a good percentage of my bees healthy.
    I began experiencing heavier losses with signs of AFB. My wife then went into heart failure so I had to abandon bees for the most part. Wife ok now and I want to get back into my bees with the same dedication as before. I now have 3 hives coming out of winter with good population and brood build up.

    So I think this would be a good time to transition to TR and build a side line beekeeping operation of production, queen rearing, and nuc supply.
    I currently have 15 packages on order due April 14 from California along with 10 queens due in June from Western Washington.

    The question is how do I start this transition? What are the steps in doing this? How do I determine sources and methods? What losses can be expected?

    Thank you for your patience with my rambling. Any assistance and advice is appreciated.

    Soapy
    Its not a transition. You either decide to go treatment free or not. I don't know of any treatment beeks that say they want to transition to TF that ever get there until the just decide that is what they are going to do.

    My advice. Trap swarms. Follow any of the split programs (Mel Disselkoen) and others. Bring in queens from known treatment free breeders like Frost in Arkansas.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    5,534

    Default Re: I want in

    Your wrote: .."experiencing heavier losses with signs of AFB."

    Was it confirmed to be AFB, or not? And are you using the same equipment, or entirely new stuff?

    I know of no successful (not wishful voo-doo) TF management tool for AFB that doesn't involve a deep hole and a match.

    Trying to go TF for mites is one thing. Treatment free in the face of confirmed AFB would be a hard case to make because AFB is highly contagious and forms very long-lasting vegetative spores that will remain infective on equipment for decades. And it may be illegal in your state to not report it to your state bee inspection system.

    As far as I know the only safe way to salvage AFB-contaminated woodenware and combs is irradiation at 10 KGys.

    Other than that, I think if you mean to try TF, you need to get some TF-level queens in the hives as soon as possible. Trying to go TF with ordinary commercial queens won't get you where you want to go.

    I wish you good luck and I am very glad to know your wife is better, now. Heart failure is a difficult thing to face, and manage.

    Nancy

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    10,145

    Default Re: I want in

    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz-kill View Post
    Its not a transition. You either decide to go treatment free or not. I don't know of any treatment beeks that say they want to transition to TF that ever get there until the just decide that is what they are going to do.
    the problem is that we've heard from numerous folks here on the forum who 'decided' to go treatment free and found out that simply deciding wasn't quite enough to get them 'there'.

    rmdial is playing it smart by seeking out assistance and advice from those with experience here. gleaning information from those willing to share their successes and failures puts him a step or two ahead of those who simply 'decide'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz-kill View Post
    My advice. Trap swarms. Follow any of the split programs (Mel Disselkoen) and others. Bring in queens from known treatment free breeders like Frost in Arkansas.
    good advice on the swarm traps, especially if there is any hope of catching swarms from feral colonies or those already being managed off treatments. also good advice to acquire 'proven' genetics if possible, but that's easier said than done and no guarantees.

    aggressive splitting to stay ahead of mites might allow one to sustain an apiary and perhaps sell off some nucs, but it won't do much for those interested in honey production or making any progress in moving the ball forward with respect to selecting for more resistant bees.

    (buzz-kill, i just took a moment to browse through the 168 posts you've made since joining beesource last august. what i couldn't find was any mention of your own personal beekeeping experiences.

    i encouraged rmdial to start this thread so that all of us could benefit from the exchanges as his story plays out.

    it would be great if you would likewise start a thread and share your experiences, i.e. how many hives and for how many years have you been managing off treatments, what are your management strategies, how are you doing in the survival and production departments, ect.)
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Denver Metro Area CO, USA
    Posts
    1,852

    Default Re: I want in

    The question is how do I start this transition? What are the steps in doing this? How do I determine sources and methods? What losses can be expected?
    1# that depends if you take a cold turkey bond or an IPM path
    2# breed from the top 5% or less of your queens, requeen at least the bottom 60% (ish numbers) Sam Comfort started with 5 chosen from over a thousand, Bweaver bonded a thousand to find 5 (then bonded a thousand more), Kefuss some times chose only a single breeder and re-queened heavy. Surviving a winter is not enuff, it needs to be the best and you need to requeen the advrage.. A split program like OTS can prop up the stock, but it breeds form the advrage. Fine for getting your numbers up, but very poor for selecting traits and shifting them in your stock and leads not only to a lot ho-hum queens, but pisspoor drones as well
    3# unknown TF is highly locally and beekeeper dependent..
    4# High if you go bond, for at least for the first few years if you have a large enuf stock size, If you don't, and end up having to bring in replacements you can get stuck on a tread mill making no progress.
    Here is a guy speaking at the organically manged conference this year who lives about 200 miles from you, has lost a few hundred hives over the past few years, constantly bringing in replacements from his dads stock and is down to 7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPn-uUmbZwY.

    Being able to mass propagate seems to be key for many if you find a queen worth breeding from you need to be able to exploate it or other wise breed from the best.. If you take hard losses you need to be able to bounce back, Sam Comfort got ahead by grafting, he turned those 5 hives in to 160 3 frame nucs in 2 months and then grew them out to full size.

    isolation from other stocks also seems to have a large impact, not just there genetics, but there mites as well.

    Having good records and metrics so you can make sold data based management choices seems to be a winner as well.

    a sold local TF stock or Ferals is also a good start..
    for some people it just seems to all work out (likely location related) others not so much. There are fokes who succeed with package bees and OTS. If it works, it works let your bees tell you what works and dosent, and if they are telling youit isn't working it time to change things up
    Last edited by msl; 03-22-2018 at 07:29 PM.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Hall, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    316

    Default Re: I want in

    I'm convinced your neighbors will have a stronger effect on you than probably anything you personally do, and probably stronger than your genetics.

    If you are bordered by responsible beekeepers who either treat minimally or not at all but maintain healthy hives, along with a diverse feral population, I think you can make a go of it and stand a good chance of being successful. Even a treating neighbor is ok if they follow label and are responsible and attentive. Nutrition is vital, and diverse forage is a must.

    What will doom your program is: irresponsible (often TF) beekeepers who let their unhealthy bees get overrun, die out, and then get robbed out by your bees; commercial guys who come back from California with every disease known to man or bee and don't really care if 15% of their hives die in the fall; or a habitat dominated by monocultures and commercial farmers. Those 3 things will kill your bees (obviously within about a 5 mile flying radius), no matter how wonderful their DNA and your management are.

    I read often on this forum about some folks who seem to have a fairly easy go of it, and other (equally bright and motivated folks) who struggle and fail and don't know why. I'm convinced it is likely stuff happening outside their beeyards which is hurting them. If you pour clean water into a bucket of muddy water, you end up with muddy water. Your clean water is gone; the muddy bucket is barely changed. This is what pouring fine TF bees into a bad neighborhood is like; they don't stand a chance.

    I don't want to gloom you out. I'm beginning to think I might be lucky and might be in a good neighborhood. It happens.

    Enough soapbox. Practically addressing other things in the thread: AFB is nothing to fool around with and you should burn any equipment involved in that. There may be someone close by who can test for you if you are unsure. And SP's advice about attending a local meeting (or three) and finding out who your neighbors are is a great one. Do that.

    Best of luck!

    Mike

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Post Falls, Idaho
    Posts
    191

    Default Re: I want in

    Another question:

    Does anyone use foundation-less frames? If, how do you support the wax and how do you get the girls to build comb the way you want it? Doesn't sound like I have been keeping bees very long does it? I do know bees will do as they please but I also know there are tricks. I have always put a drawn frame next to an un-drawn one but now with all new frames that is impossible. Should I use bland foundation next to foundation-less frame?

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Hall, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    316

    Default Re: I want in

    I've had good success checkerboarding with foundation frames between foundationless frames. Just A B A B A B across the box

    If your bees draw the foundation, then cool. You have a frame. If they shun your foundation and draw one of the foundationless ones, also cool. You have a frame, and hopefully the foundation on either side of it makes it straight.

    Remember: foundationless hives must be dead level.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    10,145

    Default Re: I want in

    what little experience i have using foundationless frames involved inserting them in between already drawn frames so someone else will have to chime in about starting with all foundationless. using foundation in first frame have foundation sounds like it might work.

    with my first foundationless frames i glued wooden tongue depressors into the slot on the underside of the top bar as a starter strip and that worked well. i've since been buying the 'f' style frames from kelly supply that come with a bevel on the underside of the top bar and they work well too.

    the main thing with foundationless is to perfectly level the hive left to right so that the comb is drawn straight to the middle of the bottom bar.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Rosebud Missouri
    Posts
    4,012

    Default Re: I want in

    If you are going foundationless and have a good guide on your frames, a package should be like a swarm. When I get a swarm, I put it in a box full of foundationless frames and the bees know what to do. I do usually drop two drops of lemon grass oil in the bottom of the hive body.

    This is how I did all of my swarms and trapped bees and on the splits, I have given the bees maybe one or two frames and the rest empty frames.

    I do move stuff around if they start getting off in some way or draw fat or start curving near the end of the frames cause it will get worse with each frame. I do pull frames up to get the next box started and will put empties in between brood comb. That is where they draw the best comb.

    I do mostly level my hives side to side but do lean my hives forward so that water runs out the bottom board instead of in. I am not perfect at the side to side but do use a 2 foot level to get it pretty close.

    I am only starting my third year but have always been foundationless and have eight hives. Take it for what it is worth.
    Cheers
    gww

    This is my comb guide.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    zone 5b

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Post Falls, Idaho
    Posts
    191

    Default Re: I want in

    Thanks for replies on foundationless. Have never heard of leveling and it's importance. Always learning.

    I am in an isolated locations. In the back of a valley with a small lake in the middle of it. Two watersheds on each side of me and no knowledge of bees in close proximity. Don't know of feral bees in the area although there is lots of forest land around me. Public and private.

    Since I have not had bees here due to my wife falling ill soon after we moved, I still do not know what the forage situation is. I will soon find out.

    I am familiar with IPM methods but have a question on one aspect. I have heard of interrupting brood cycles as a method of mite control. I understand why it works but am confused how it is done in a practical way. Is it during increase like splits?

  15. #14

    Default Re: I want in

    Welcome, Soapy!
    " Refrain from treating colonies for Varroa. WARNING: This last suggestion should only be adopted if you can do so carefully, as part of a program of extremely diligent beekeeping. If you pursue treatment-free beekeeping without close attention to your colonies, then you will create a situation in your apiary in which natural selection is favoring virulent Varroa mites, not Varroa-resistant bees. To help natural selection favor Varroa-resistant bees, you will need to monitor closely the mite levels in all your colonies and kill those whose mite populations are skyrocketing long before these colonies can collapse. By preemptively killing your Varroa-susceptible colonies, you will accomplish two important things: 1) you will eliminate your colonies that lack Varroa resistance and 2) you will prevent the "mite bomb" phenomenon of mites spreading en masse to your other colonies. If you don't perform these preemptive killings, then even your most resistant colonies could become overrun with mites and die, which means that there will be no natural selection for mite resistance in your apiary. Failure to perform preemptive killings can also spread virulent mites to your neighbors' colonies and even to the wild colonies in your area that are slowly evolving resistance on their own. If you are not willing to kill your mite-susceptible colonies, then you will need to treat them and requeen them with a queen of mite-resistant stock." (Thomas D. Seeley - darwinian beekeeping)
    Itīs the way to go.

    Iīm with gww in respect to foundation less frames. I put in some empty frames and one drawn brood frame empty of bees when my hive throwed a swarm.
    They started on the empty frames building comb. Later, when the frames were filled with brood and honey they used the drawn older comb.
    A nicely build comb will start nicely build new comb at the sides.
    Because of the narrowness of space between frames the natural comb is very straight built.

    AFB is a problem in my area. Last outbreak was 5km distance. Spores are everywhere.
    Because we are not allowed to use antibiotics the bees are developing resistance and nowadays the bees are saved, the boxes burned.

    Brood disease often comes with weakening a hive. Weather, starvation,mite disease, managements like too small a split or the opposite, giving too much space, and migrating weakens a hive.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Post Falls, Idaho
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    191

    Default Re: I want in

    What is "bond"?

  17. #16

    Default Re: I want in

    Quote Originally Posted by rmdial View Post
    What is "bond"?
    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/the-...oblem-part-6a/

    Scroll down

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    DuPage County Illinois
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    179

    Default Re: I want in

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    the problem is that we've heard from numerous folks here on the forum who 'decided' to go treatment free and found out that simply deciding wasn't quite enough to get them 'there'.

    rmdial is playing it smart by seeking out assistance and advice from those with experience here. gleaning information from those willing to share their successes and failures puts him a step or two ahead of those who simply 'decide'.





    aggressive splitting to stay ahead of mites might allow one to sustain an apiary and perhaps sell off some nucs, but it won't do much for those interested in honey production or making any progress in moving the ball forward with respect to selecting for more resistant bees.
    Aggressive splitting can also be managed for honey production. They are not mutually exclusive. Likewise you can also move the ball forward on mite resistance if that is your aim. For example Mel and some of his followers replace overwintered queens but you can leave them and see how they do a second year. If they survive you can select from those lines. It depends on your goals. Many back yard keeps just are looking for a way to get their bees to survive and make some honey. Others may be trying to move the ball forward.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    5,457

    Default Re: I want in

    I dunno, transitioning should be the way everyone does it if you can't find bees that hold up at first. It's tough to breed from dead bees but over time you should be able to somewhat adapt the bees or at least bring in the genetics that may hold up or hold up once you start cycling generations and pick up some local adaptability if it exists.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
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    DuPage County Illinois
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    179

    Default Re: I want in

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    . It's tough to breed from dead bees but over time you should be able to somewhat adapt the bees or at least bring in the genetics that may hold up or hold up once you start cycling generations and pick up some local adaptability if it exists.
    Also difficult to breed from treated bees.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Sawyer County,WI USA
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    364

    Default Re: I want in

    This is one of the best discussions going. Thanks to the OP and all the excellent comments.

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