Beekeeping Technique Question
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Cherokee, IA
    Posts
    10

    Default Beekeeping Technique Question

    Hey Beeks!

    I've been keeping bees for close to a decade now. When I first started I followed all the rules, did all the recommended treatments and whatnot. These days I'm very passive in my maintenance. I seldom treat or tear down unless I identify an issue and I don't do preventative treatments.

    So basically my beekeeping year is: Feed in the spring and break down hive; remove the entrance reducer if they're doing well; when feeding stops remove feeder; observe hive until about late May (for my area) when I put on a super; monitor for honey production; take any honey in supers and/or add supers; repeat if I'm lucky; feed in late fall (or during dearths if I identify one) and/or leave partial supers on; install small reducer and wrap; monitor on warm winter days. Repeat.

    Additionally, I don't do the powdered sugar roll to check for mites. My losses don't seem to be any better or worse than the check-daily crowd. Any thoughts or input?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
    Posts
    4,115

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    If it is working for you and you like the results, keep doing what you are doing. Many, if not most, would not be able to to keep our bees that way. Consider yourself among the lucky few.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Northern Colorado, USA
    Posts
    605

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    If it is working for you I would stick with it. The one factor that I think you need to keep an eye on is neighbors that bring in bees that may have mites or other problems.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
    Posts
    2,623

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    Welcome to Beesource! I'd keep doing what works until that changes. Meanwhile, I'd read everything I could about beekeeping, and talk to lots of beekeepers.

    Those of us who have had [problems with mites are using IPM - Integrated Pest Management - admitting that the mites are here, here to stay, but we'e going to torture the mites and not let them get a foothold, but only at a minimum so as not to damage our bees. Those of us who have bees with mite tolerant traits can get away with a lot less interference as the bees tend to take care of a lot of things on their own. Until you get bees that have these traits, IPM works measurably better than treatment-free beekeeping.

    Check out www.scientificbeekeeping.com

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Cherokee, IA
    Posts
    10

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    If it is working for you and you like the results, keep doing what you are doing. Many, if not most, would not be able to to keep our bees that way. Consider yourself among the lucky few.
    I honestly don't know if I'm lucky or just ignorant. I've come to accept a seasonal loss of 33-66% which is on par with what I hear. But part of me thinks if I treated and did all the maintenance good beekeepers do I would have a higher survival rate. But even when I was diligant and pretreating for varroa, nosema, hive beetles, etc my losses were the same.

    I don't know. I suppose the mystery is what keeps us all going...

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Powhatan, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    371

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    30-60 % loss may be on par with what you hear but making up that setback every year is tough to overcome.
    I would suggest that you do a thorough analysis of your dead outs to get to root cause for each.
    Getting that percentage loss close to zero is a lot more satisfying and may not take much intervention.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    4,971

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    Quote Originally Posted by hecjt View Post
    Hey Beeks!

    I've been keeping bees for close to a decade now. When I first started I followed all the rules, did all the recommended treatments and whatnot. These days I'm very passive in my maintenance. I seldom treat or tear down unless I identify an issue and I don't do preventative treatments.

    So basically my beekeeping year is: Feed in the spring and break down hive; remove the entrance reducer if they're doing well; when feeding stops remove feeder; observe hive until about late May (for my area) when I put on a super; monitor for honey production; take any honey in supers and/or add supers; repeat if I'm lucky; feed in late fall (or during dearths if I identify one) and/or leave partial supers on; install small reducer and wrap; monitor on warm winter days. Repeat.

    Additionally, I don't do the powdered sugar roll to check for mites. My losses don't seem to be any better or worse than the check-daily crowd. Any thoughts or input?
    How do you replace your losses? In some situations people are able to pick plenty of swarms out of the trees or have weather suitable to do multiple splits and have the resulting hives get up to wintering strength. Those kinds of losses are financially survivable.

    Here in a much colder climate with no feral bees and great distances between bee keepers, that option is not available. Nucs are expensive, like $200. and up and wont make you much honey first season. If you take honey you will need to feed to get up to weight. 10 to 15% winter loss is quite do able with good mite control and winterizing. In this case I think the more intensive management is well worth it.

    I had an experience with European Foulbrood followed by losses due probably to winter suffocation. From 13 to 2 colonies in little more than a year. The emotional drain of living with ongoing high losses would take me out of the game if that became standard.
    Frank

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
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    4,115

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    I tend to agree with Frank here. 33%- 66% losses annually would be a hard pill for me to swallow. Last winter I had zero losses until I starved a nuc in March. My goal is less than 10%, although a really tough winter could see losses much higher. But as I said before, if is working for you and your numbers are acceptable to you, keep doing it. Just be aware that a little more intervention could result in far fewer losses.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    5,604

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    Quote Originally Posted by hecjt View Post
    So basically my beekeeping year is: Feed in the spring and break down hive; remove the entrance reducer if they're doing well; when feeding stops remove feeder; observe hive until about late May (for my area) when I put on a super;
    Not clear what you mean by - "observe hive until about late May..."
    If you are not doing any internal inspections during the month of May it could be that your hives are all swarming during that time period. That might be part of the reason you are not experiencing major losses or collapse from mite infestation. If the hives are swarming in the spring they will be getting a brood break and it might be just enough to allow many of the colonies to survive. Just a thought.
    To everything there is a season....

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Geauga, Ohio
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    453

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    If the bees are building up enough population to cover 2 deeps and honey supers, then they are strong and healthy

    My third year, after starting beekeeping with a swarm the June prior, I split, and my hives swarmed (there were 3, so then I went to 6). What I saw was that the bees never built up in population enough to cover more than a deep and a shallow.

    Then I started treating for mites, using OAV only, multiple treatments through the fall and winter.

    The following year, the bee populations were definitely at least 2 deeps and a medium, couldn't tell beyond that because I had top bar hives, whose max capacity was 2 deeps and a medium. Just horizontal. So treating for mites meant that I could get a big bee population, that I could harvest honey or make splits to repopulate my deadouts (I lost 3 of 6).

    And that's why I treat - I would never get honey if I did not. That's the mite behavior, or virus profile, or bee genetics in my area. I use the bee population as my metric that treating with OAV in fall and winter is working, that no treatments are necessary in summer, and that running treatment free did not work. As with so much in life, the proof is in the pudding!

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Cherokee, IA
    Posts
    10

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    Thank you for the response. I should have added that I semi-regularly treat with oxalic acid (as I did this past weekend) as a preventative measure. I like this method because it's easy and doesn't seem harmful to the live bees although I've noticed some of them try to "attack" the oxalic acid crystals as it melts. Maybe I'm answering my own question here, but since I don't do varroa monitoring with a screen board or sugar roll I have no idea if I have a varroa problem. Which means I need to be more active in monitoring to know if I have a problem. Good discussion everyone, really appreciate the conversation.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
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    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    It is easy to tell when varroa get bad - the "shot" brood pattern coupled with the white mite waste on the tops of the combs, and any one single bee with
    Deformed Wing Virus is a dead giveaway. Usually you will see a brown mite two or seventeen on a bee by the time they get that bad. That is getting close to too late to save a hive.

    Another quick check is to stab a fork into the side of a patch of drone brood and pull it up. See the brown spots? Yup, them are varroa destructor (formerly known as Varroa Jacobsonii), doing what they do best. Take a good careful look at them with a magnifying glass or a 10X loupe.

    Generally, we have to check them and stay ahead of the mite game and always torture the mite population somehow, even if it is only a powdered sugar dusting. And don't forget that August 15th is Great International Northern Hemisphere Giant Mite Bomb Day, when we treat the bees and mites to a healthy dose of formic acid, the nastiest treatment we give them all year (that translates to February 15th in the Southern Hemisphere). We do this so they will go into Fall with ZERO mites, with time enough left for the bees to recover and build up stores for Winter.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Deep Brook, NS, Canada
    Posts
    605

    Default Re: Beekeeping Technique Question

    I guess you can do it until it doesn't work any more, but mites can come out of nowhere. Don't treat if you don't have to but if you monitor mites more closely, it may avoid a very disappointing event. i learned that lesson the hard way.
    I want bees that make up for my mistakes.

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