clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience
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  1. #1
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    Default clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    A while back, squarepeg suggested others should chronicle their
    experiences in treatment-free beekeeping. After seeing his recent
    post on winter preparation, I am reminded to post my own.

    I only have a few years’ experience with little success so far. I've made
    just about every mistake I could think of, and a few that I didn't. My
    approach is a little different, so perhaps this will provide another view
    on how to (and how not to) keep bees without treatment.

    The emphasis this winter continuing into next season, will be on
    insulating hives to allow the bees more control of their hive environment.
    Each hive has bottom entrances with no ventilation on top. Once the weather
    warms up, some of the notched inner covers will be flipped to provide top
    ventilation. I may leave a couple of the covers in the closed position as long
    as I dare, to see how the bees tolerate it. I plan to spend this winter building
    20-30 medium boxes, adding 1" of insulation to the outside of each box.
    These boxes will be used as supers, Lord willing.

    All the bees I have right now have been acquired through trapped swarms.
    I am attempting to get improved genetics by making splits off the hives
    that winter successfully, and this spring one hive was re-queened with a
    purchased, local “survivor” queen.

    Going into this winter there are 3 polystyrene hives, two 1.5”-thick lumber
    hives, and a ¾”-thick single box with ¾” rigid foam attached to the outside.
    All hives are topped with 1”-2” of rigid foam under the inner covers. All
    hives contain medium frames.

    My goals are to keep bees without treatment, and honey production.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2109 Treatment Free Experience

    I look forward to reading about your bees.
    Working to propagate my survivors and staying treatment free USDA Zone 7b

  3. #3
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2109 Treatment Free Experience

    Get ready for the arrows Good Luck, look forward to the reading.
    Please excuse me, I am now free to go manage & treat ;)
    my ladies the best way I know how.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2109 Treatment Free Experience

    many thanks for starting the thread clong.

    a little venting at the top through the winter months is thought to allow excess moisture to escape, but with the extra insulation you have at the top it's unlikely you get condensation above the cluster on the 'ceiling' inside the hive.

    any ideas about from where the trapped swarms originated?

    looking forward to hearing about how your wintering goes!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2109 Treatment Free Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    a little venting at the top through the winter months is thought to allow excess moisture to escape, but with the extra insulation you have at the top it's unlikely you get condensation above the cluster on the 'ceiling' inside the hive.
    I first learned about hives without top vents from discussions between two guys on Beemaster. One of them, Derek Mitchell wrote a paper touching on the topic in the Aug 2017 ABJ.
    Incidentally, when I have seen condensation, (early fall & late spring) the condensation doesn't appear above the bees. The heat plume rises from the cluster keeping the cover directly above the cluster warmer.
    The water condenses on the outer edges of the cover.

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    any ideas about from where the trapped swarms originated?
    I've captured 7 swarms in 2 years. Four queens were marked, three were not.

    Of the unmarked queens, one was in a swarm caught 300 miles away in WV. I strongly suspect they are feral-ish, but I can't be sure.
    They were very frugal on honey consumption last winter. They are going on 18 months with no treatments or intentional brood breaks so I am getting more hopeful that they might be survivor bees.

    Another swarm was a large one caught early May 2018 in a suburban neighborhood, which has large tracts of older trees nearby. The queen was fairly dark in color, but I don't know if that means anything.
    I made a split off this colony. It started to grow, but the daughter gueen failed, or was killed by August. The mother queen and colony still survives.

    The third was captured off a road. The queen was dead.

    Thanks for the encouragement. Last winter the survival rate was 50%. I am praying for at least 67% this year.
    Last edited by clong; 11-09-2018 at 09:15 PM. Reason: spelling

  6. #6
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2109 Treatment Free Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    The water condenses on the outer edges of the cover.
    perfect.

    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Last winter the survival rate was 50%. I am praying for at least 67% this year.
    not bad. 33% loss is easily recoverable from and comparable to small timers like us who are treating.

    do you think you have unmanaged survivors in the woods surrounding your location?

  7. #7
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    Clong:

    I had the opportunity to read your thread and I am intrigued by your approach- looking forward to hearing your thoughts on minimizing ventilation and maximizing hive insulation. While I have not sought to minimize the insulation of supers, I have definately erred to the side of too much ventilation at the top of the stack thus far.

    Have you read Abbe Warre's book? While I cannot support or refute his approach one way or another, he takes quite a bit of space to outline his thoughts on hive insulation.

    As I recall, he felt that highly insulated assemblies consumed more stores because the colony remained more active through the Winter- which might square with what you are seeing? It will be interesting if your empirical approach supports or conflicts with his findings.

    I look forward to following your efforts- good luck with your hives!

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  8. #8
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Clong:

    I had the opportunity to read your thread and I am intrigued by your approach- looking forward to hearing your thoughts on minimizing ventilation and maximizing hive insulation. While I have not sought to minimize the insulation of supers, I have definately erred to the side of too much ventilation at the top of the stack thus far.

    Have you read Abbe Warre's book? While I cannot support or refute his approach one way or another, he takes quite a bit of space to outline his thoughts on hive insulation.

    As I recall, he felt that highly insulated assemblies consumed more stores because the colony remained more active through the Winter- which might square with what you are seeing? It will be interesting if your empirical approach supports or conflicts with his findings.

    Russ
    Russ,

    I've been pondering the insulation idea for a while. I don't personally know whether insulation reduces honey consumption, but it seems correct. My guess is there is a honey consumption/temperature curve along which consumption goes to a minimum at temps between 40F-50F inside the hive.

    There are several beekeepers who report lower consumption of honey during winter with good insulation, vs no insulation. One is a beekeeper in NY, Rob Overton. I think he typically winters in a single 10-frame deep. He uses polystyrene hives. You can find him on Beemaster.com. Another, John Gaut, is in NJ. See the following link:

    http://www.nnjbees.org/wp-content/up...-v20151013.pdf

    As I recall, Mr. Gaut said he thought about doing a controlled experiment to compare heavy insulation vs. no insulation, but couldn't bring himself to keep a control hive with no insulation. He was interviewed in the following podcast at about the 30 minute mark:

    http://www.bkcorner.org/episode-106-jersey-proud/

    I haven't read Warre's book all the way through, but it has some good food for thought. I need to read the part on insulation again.
    Incidentally, one of the very first things that Reverend Langstroth mentions in his book, even before the idea of removable frames is the importance of a well-insulated hive. He had a lot to say about the importance of insulation throughout his book.

    I look forward to reading your thread as well.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    ........he felt that highly insulated assemblies consumed more stores because the colony remained more active through the Winter....Russ
    What really matters are these points:
    1)maintaining ideal wintering temperature - about 4-5C (whatever that is in F).
    2)preventing wild temperature swings; instead, holding ideal the temperature steady

    However you manage keeping steady 4-5C for your particulate situation is up to you.
    But if you manage to do it - those will be the most efficient wintering conditions (in term of the fuel).
    So if one could winter the bees in a fridge, that would be just about the ideal place.

    Keep in mind, Warre lived in Somme, France with sufficiently mild and steady climate, and no classic cold winter/classic hot summer to speak off - close to Atlantic.
    His climatic conditions to be considered.
    Last edited by GregV; 12-14-2018 at 11:19 AM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Clong:

    Thank you for the detailed and helpful reply. You have certainly researched your position, and it sounds very logical, particularly for more Northern climes. That said, here in the mid-South our temperatures in the Winter seem to be increasingly wild in their gyrations- it was 18 degrees on Monday night and was 57 degrees on Wednesday afternoon. It certainly seems intuitive that a more stable and moderately cool temperature makes for better overwintering than wide fluctuations. One stat that stood out to me was the observation that, "For every 11F degrees reduction in temperature, the bees must work twice as hard to keep warm and function." Mr. Gaut's set-ups look very pro, and it looks to conform to his assertion that he can apply it year-after-year. Is this generally the approach (including the upper entrance) that you are using as your working approach now?

    GregV:

    Thanks for that keen observation- reminds me again that so much of beekeeping is local. Your analogy of the refrigerator is one I am going to hang-on to.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Clong:
    Mr. Gaut's set-ups look very pro, and it looks to conform to his assertion that he can apply it year-after-year. Is this generally the approach (including the upper entrance) that you are using as your working approach now?
    Russ,

    I'm not running an upper entrance. No openings in the top of the hive. I've got three poly hives, one wrapped up using John Gaut's method, and one with rigid foam insulation permanently attached on the outside of a conventional Lang box. I will be building 20-30 boxes this winter with the foam attached to wooden lang boxes. These boxes will be used year-round.

    Insulated boxes will have less benefit in the winter the further south you go. However, I believe that they will still benefit, and that includes in the summer. Listen to Kiwimana Buzz podcast #84 for a commercial beekeeper switching to all poly hives. He said he made the switch in large part for the benefits during the heat of summer.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Clong:

    Thank you for your reply. I do appreciate it. I actually considered starting-out with Apimaye hive bodies initially and was talked out of it based on the anecdote that "bees don't like plastic"... that's a discussion for another time.

    That said, I like your logic, and it kind of speaks to the idea of mimicking a tree hollow as best that modern bee management will allow- enough thermal mass/resistance to attenuate-out wild temperature swings as observed inside the hive.

    Also, I realized I failed to acknowledge your point about Reverend Langstroth advocating for insulation. I seem to recall him saying something to the effect that, "insulation is an important aspect of successful beekeeping but the masses will be too cheap to implement it. I wanted to be sure I had the gist right, so I looked it up:

    "I recommend, however, a construction which, although somewhat more costly at first, is yet much cheaper in the end. Such is the passion of the American
    people for cheapness in the first cost of an article, even at the evident expense of dearness in the end, that many, I doubt not, will continue to lodge their bees in thin hives in spite of their conviction of the folly of doing..."

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Hive Report 2/4/19
    CLong:

    Good update- 5 out of 6 so far, right?

    So you can still afford to have #1801 drop-out and be at your target overwintering percentage?

    Best of success to you in this upcoming year.

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

  14. #14
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Russ,

    Yes, 5 out of 6. I think 1801 is just toying with me. I am a little bit surprised to still have five alive.

    Now the new problem is to prepare for 5 hives potentially building up and swarming. Right now, I only have 14 empty 10-frame mediums to work with. I better get busy.

    Thanks for the good wishes. Same to you.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Now the new problem is to prepare for 5 hives potentially building up and swarming. Right now, I only have 14 empty 10-frame mediums to work with. I better get busy.
    Now that's a good problem to have . Congratulations.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Here are a couple pictures of the insulated boxes I’ll be using this year. They still need to be painted.

    Insulated Medium (corner).jpg
    Insulated Medium (top).jpg

    I am moving to permanently insulated boxes for 3 reasons:
    1. Better winter survival. I’ve seen the difference myself, along with some anecdotal evidence.
    2. Better health for the bees. I haven’t seen any formal proof of this, but I have my suspicions.
    3. Better honey production. There is anecdotal evidence of this, and research backs it up. See Derek Mitchell’s latest paper:
    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/d...eid=8425a04372

    I am currently using some polystyrene boxes, but I am in favor of boxes like those above for the following reasons:
    1. Wood interior (scored) allows for bees to create propolis “envelope”.
    2. Stronger hive bodies. My worry has been poly boxes with several full honey supers above might crush.
    3. Ability to retro-fit existing equipment.
    4. Insulation can be easily removed or replaced.

    The materials are ¾” hive body, 1” rigid foam insulation, ¾” 1x6 cut into 1 ¾” strips. The only thing holding the cleat on is 2 screws. I question whether the two screws will be enough to hold a full super of honey. Any pointers on how to improve the design would be appreciated

    This design was borrowed from Bob Stewart as seen in the following link:

    http://www.stewartfarm.org/docs/Stew...ee%20Hives.pdf
    Last edited by clong; 02-08-2019 at 06:42 PM. Reason: added link

  17. #17
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Any pointers on how to improve the design would be appreciated
    Clong:

    I am watching your results with great interest. I have previously considered utilizing the Apimaye hive (https://apimaye-usa.com/), but beyond the cost implications, my other rationale for not pursuing this option was the lack of ability to be integrated with traditional woodenware. Your approach seems to provide a means to successfully incorporate this concept into existing equipment.

    Best of success to you with this project- please do keep us all posted.

    Russ

  18. #18
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Here are a couple pictures of the insulated boxes I’ll be using this year. They still need to be painted.

    Insulated Medium (corner).jpg
    Insulated Medium (top).jpg

    I am moving to permanently insulated boxes for 3 reasons:
    1. Better winter survival. I’ve seen the difference myself, along with some anecdotal evidence.
    2. Better health for the bees. I haven’t seen any formal proof of this, but I have my suspicions.
    3. Better honey production. There is anecdotal evidence of this, and research backs it up. See Derek Mitchell’s latest paper:
    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/d...eid=8425a04372

    I am currently using some polystyrene boxes, but I am in favor of boxes like those above for the following reasons:
    1. Wood interior (scored) allows for bees to create propolis “envelope”.
    2. Stronger hive bodies. My worry has been poly boxes with several full honey supers above might crush.
    3. Ability to retro-fit existing equipment.
    4. Insulation can be easily removed or replaced.

    The materials are ¾” hive body, 1” rigid foam insulation, ¾” 1x6 cut into 1 ¾” strips. The only thing holding the cleat on is 2 screws. I question whether the two screws will be enough to hold a full super of honey. Any pointers on how to improve the design would be appreciated

    This design was borrowed from Bob Stewart as seen in the following link:

    http://www.stewartfarm.org/docs/Stew...ee%20Hives.pdf
    only pointer I can see would be to drill a counter sunk hole on the wood cleat you use to carry the full supper or full brood box. Add a 4 inch screw into the end of the Hive body, (I.E. all wood spot only 3/4 inch target on each end) for the cleat you carry with or both 8 screws instead of 4. A 16 penny nail is rated for 400 LBs of shear strength. So IMO 2 4 inch deck screws would hold the supper if full. Fairly east retro fit with out changing the design. I would carefully drill 3 inches with a small diameter bit to prevent missing center of the hive body. then counter sink to prevent splitting your cleat as you would be about 1 3/8 from the end of the cleat. Could also add a couple skinny 2.5 inch wood screws cleat to cleat at the end like 1/2 inch from the end of the long cleat. Cleat or handle not sure what you call it. Looks good for the design A little more strength from a few screws and I do not thik it would break.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: clong 2018-2019 Treatment Free Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Here are a couple pictures of the insulated boxes I’ll be using this year. They still need to be painted.

    Insulated Medium (corner).jpg
    Insulated Medium (top).jpg
    Looking at these pics.
    One thing is holding me back - this hard foam is still only foam and will get damaged too easily.
    Do you think taping the corners and edges (as the most vulnerable parts) with strong aluminum foil film should help?
    If it holds the edges/corners for reasonably long time (supported by some rigid and strong, thin material - e.g. tape), this would be a good design.

    This aluminum tape is rated for heat ducts:
    AluminumTape.jpg

    In fact, once I looked at the hive picture here:
    http://www.stewartfarm.org/docs/Stew...ee%20Hives.pdf
    I can tell right away how the foam block have been damaged and worn at the corners/edges.
    I'd hate going back and redoing the rig over and over.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Incidentally, a good video on brood-rearing, "Bees in Winter" was given by Ben Harden at the 2015 National Honey Show. Very enlightening. It appears the bees often go broodless in Nov/early Dec, though some colonies, will even go broodless in January before ramping up for spring.
    Clong:

    Great video- thank you for sharing. The whole concept of water balance is fascinating and makes me wonder if there is an ideal 'shell' r-factor and/or convective ventilation rate that best exploits this dynamic?

    The temperature increase bit you are recording reminds me of Tim Ives predictive evaluations with a thermal camera.

    Do you think the Broodminder has been worth the investment?

    I am most interested in following what you learn from your evaluations of insulated envelopes and no top ventilation.

    Thanks for the update.

    Russ
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

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