Sorry if I missed one of the 1,650 different topics under this forum but I can’t help but see so many people confounded about treatment free beekeeping. I rarely see anyone using methods by those individuals who are easy to find and have excellent documented success not treating in anyway to include artificially feeding your bees.
If you aren’t regressing your bees to bring them back to a natural size found in the wild then there isn’t even a reason for you to go treatment free.
• Regressing your bees to at least true 4.9mm foundation or smaller.
• Use Housel positioning of frames
• Give them an insulated hive just like your boy L. L. Langstroth told you to do. He also said, “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..."
• Or just go horizontal hives. It doesn’t get any cheaper than a tbh! If you aren’t a commercial beek and don’t plan on moving your hives then there really is no point. Most commercial beeks don’t over winter their hives anyways as they are always on the move when fall comes to some place warmer ready to pollinate something. Even dumping them to sell and never making it back home. Even if you do plan on moving hives you could still go horizontal. Wayatt Mangum (top bar hive master bar none and professor of biology and statistics at University of Mary Washington) owns over 200 tbh and moves them by himself with a small pickup truck easier then anyone could with a regular Lang. He offers pollination services and doesn’t use any tool or machinery outside of a small pickup with no trailer to move a thing.
The concept of success to a commercial beek is dollar signs. Requeeing ever year to every two years, varroa treatments, pollination services, contaminated honey & wax extractions, selling of contaminated honey and wax, selling artificially sized bees and queens living in a pesticide filled home ready for you to buy = weaker immune system and shorter life span. This has been proven.
There is a reason why the cosmetic industry only gets their wax from Africa. They are all about the money too and they obviously know something about contaminated wax and the chemicals used in treatments. Being about the money they will avoid any attempts of a lawsuit from someone applying lipstick then having an allergic reaction to some bug spray chemical used to kill mites.
When the varroa came to Africa they had a meeting on what to do. They looked at the rest of the world treating and said, “If we don’t do anything the issue will solve itself in a year or two.” They don’t use foundation and their bees aren’t artificially huge. They have no problems.
The scientific mentality that humans can consume small amounts of poisons (examples: fluoride, pesticides, aluminum, etc) and they will do no harm should not be the same mentality towards your bees. They obviously do harm no matter the amount. It’s all about the effects. If they show no effects then it does no harm but surely long term effects aren’t ever studied beyond a few years.
Spain, nearly the size of Texas has such an epidemic with varroa that they have become resistant to all treatments except checkmite. That’s a sad story.
So then why is it that with 30 years of resistant bee breeding we still haven’t got anywhere yet those who truely have success in treatment free beekeeing never went the route of mixing genetic stock to get some VSH behaviored stock bees?
It’s all in the small cell sizes. Smaller cells are more compact which naturally keeps the brood warmer. Which causes less work for the bees to fluctuate the temperature.
Is is proven that varroa naturally seek the larger drone brood due to the longer incubation period and their ability to mate prolifically with such a longer incubation time is what leads to a hive being over run. Therefore when you are using jumbo sized foundation or foundation less but your bees are making jumbo foundation because that’s all they've ever known, every single cell becomes a drone cell to the varroa.
Small cells shorten the incubation period for worker brood by a full day which ruins the varroas day.
Then you have VSH behavior. Why? It’s not because of genetic breeding for resistance because feral swarms aren’t artificially inseminated yet exist and are also smaller and build smaller cell sizes. Also, so many people are quick to requeen their hives when they see checkerboard brood. They assume, because they’ve been told, that the queen isn’t a prolific layer and needs to be replaced. If you have VSH behavior in your hive then you will have that checkerboard effect. Do not kill your queen. Just leave your queens be. Your hive will replace her and kill her themselves when it’s time.
VSH has to do with more bees for the same amount of work. Contrary to what anyone may think I’ve seen one hive clean out deformed wing virus brood which triggered every hive in the apiary to do the exact same thing. In a week it was over and it looked like a gravesite outside each hive and every hive is fine and thriving. It would appear as if the bees have the ability to learn the behavior from each other regardless of genetic makeup.
• Small cells warmer compact brood nest
• smaller bees proven to live longer by weeks
• 7000 large cells on regular Lang frame vs 8600 small cells.
• smaller bees are able to reach more flowers
• larger population
• more bees for the same amount of work = VSH
It’s strength in numbers not strength in bee size and the more numbers the better.
100 years ago a man decided bigger bees means more honey and farther flights. Then came the new standardization of large foundation. That was fine and dandy but now we have varroa and we’d have to look at why certain people and certain places in the world aren’t having trouble. It comes down to cell size.
Dee Lusby, Michael Bush, more than enough European scientist and plenty of European beeks have done enough of their own research with their own experiences to make sure you don’t have to go through what they did to get where they are today. It’s much easier because you have all the answers on what they did. With the exception of the first paragraph and these last two, none of these words are mine. They are from those who have had the most success and came forth about it and to them I say thank you for all your hard work and to let you know there are beeks who truely take what you say and apply it.
You may never completely get rid of varroa, you may have losses in the beginning but overall the amount of stress to your bees will be greatly reduced and it would appear as if nothing can stop them. I digress and apologize if any of you take offense. The majority of beeks who learned everything from looking through the eyes of a commercial beek laugh at treatment free beekeeping. So prove them wrong, study and apply. These people aren’t just lucky. They all use the same methods. I leave you with the most, in my opinion, informative video jam packed with reused information from Michael Bush and Dee Lusby from an Austrian beek. We are lucky to have someone kind enough to voice it over in English. It may seem slow and its an old video which should be a testament to how long its been working for him.