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I have been beekeeping for about 9 years. Around 3 years ago, i decided to use some of Michael Bush techniques and converted to all mediums and natural comb for the most part. I also quit treating my bees for mites. My hives (14) have been in the full Alabama sun for the past 4 years. And to my surprise had done quite well during this 3 year time span, until Fall/Winter of this past year 2020. My last "official" check on my bees was around Thanksgiving and all seem relatively healthy and ready for the winter with plenty of pollen and honey on the hives. My check up inspection in mid-January 2021 revealed a very alarming and disheartening realization. 10 of my 14 hives were dead... gone... with only a handful of dead bees on the bottom boards. Earlier ride byes in December on warm days it seemed my hives were doing good. The presence of bees flying in and out made me think things were ok... not sure now if in December the bees flying might have been robber bees since i do not know when the "absconding" or die out occurred. I have always had a few hives not make it thru the winter (2 or 3 at the most) over the last 3 years. Never anything to this amount!

Just curious of any others experiencing this "AMOUNT" of loss (71%) and any thoughts on what has happened to my bees?? I did plant a garden this year on my property and just wander if it or other "new" gardens in the area (ALL DUE TO COVID influence) could have played a roll with pesticides and such?? we used BT dipel on my corn because it is supposed to be "Bee" " Friendly.

Thoughts??? ALso, should i burn my frames and bee equipment because of this???
 

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What do you see in the hives? Check for mite frass. Without other details from what you said I would expect mite. Dwindle / crash in fall is commonly (almost always) due to mites. What do the other hives look like? What were you treating with before you stopped? What makes you think your bees can coexist with mites?
 

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What do you see in the hives? Check for mite frass. Without other details from what you said I would expect mite. Dwindle / crash in fall is commonly (almost always) due to mites. What do the other hives look like? What were you treating with before you stopped? What makes you think your bees can coexist with mites?
My 3 surviving hives look healthy and ready for Spring. I havent investigated for mite frass. what is the best way to do that and what does it look like? I was treating with miticide strips prior. as far as coexistence between mites and bees.... the theory that Michael Bush puts out there is that... by shifting to natural comb, the natural cell size is smaller than manufactured foundation and thus bees hatch faster and the theory is that breaks the mite cycle since they need the extra time that manufactured foundation provides.
 

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I have been beekeeping for about 9 years. Around 3 years ago, i decided to use some of Michael Bush techniques and converted to all mediums and natural comb for the most part. I also quit treating my bees for mites. My hives (14) have been in the full Alabama sun for the past 4 years. And to my surprise had done quite well during this 3 year time span, until Fall/Winter of this past year 2020. My last "official" check on my bees was around Thanksgiving and all seem relatively healthy and ready for the winter with plenty of pollen and honey on the hives. My check up inspection in mid-January 2021 revealed a very alarming and disheartening realization. 10 of my 14 hives were dead... gone... with only a handful of dead bees on the bottom boards. Earlier ride byes in December on warm days it seemed my hives were doing good. The presence of bees flying in and out made me think things were ok... not sure now if in December the bees flying might have been robber bees since i do not know when the "absconding" or die out occurred. I have always had a few hives not make it thru the winter (2 or 3 at the most) over the last 3 years. Never anything to this amount!

Just curious of any others experiencing this "AMOUNT" of loss (71%) and any thoughts on what has happened to my bees?? I did plant a garden this year on my property and just wander if it or other "new" gardens in the area (ALL DUE TO COVID influence) could have played a roll with pesticides and such?? we used BT dipel on my corn because it is supposed to be "Bee" " Friendly.

Thoughts??? ALso, should i burn my frames and bee equipment because of this???
Without more info I'd put my money on mites, this usually happens in the second or third late winter when there is no treatment, I am a minimalist and use only OAV, once around Thanksgiving when they have little or no brood. On rare occasions I will treat a colony at other times, but only if they have no brood. I respect and follow most of Michael's way of keeping bees, I have no doubt it works for him, but I think he would tell you that beekeeping differs by locality. As for burning the equipment, I wouldn't.
 

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Right I forgot to mention, only reason to burn is foul brood (and for most just american). If you suspect that get your inspector to check it out.
Mite frass is like little honey crystals on the top of brood cells. (I have seen people who should know better calling crystallized honey frass....) Look from the bottom bar into the brood cells for frass. If there there were a lot of mites and the bees weren't cleaning up. If not there still could be mites.
I guess you found out that smaller cells does not kill varroa. Also I have yet to see how many colonies MB goes into winter with and how many come out. I am also treatment free and aim for 30% winter loss. When we just had a few colonies we did better. Most years it's under 40%. Every 4 years or so losses can be high. We always looses some colonies to mites and in the bad years loose more to mites. (I try to keep mite losses to December and January so the mites die with the bees instead of hitching a ride elsewhere.....)
I would not expect any bee in any location to be able to handle tf. If you are isolated enough and have good resistant genes and a strong feral population it can work.
 

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another though, you may have a "neighbor" that started beekeeping this year and had a mite bomb that took out your hives. Even if you have small cells and have been successful in previous years, a change like this could cause what you are seeing.
 

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I have been beekeeping for about 9 years. Around 3 years ago, i decided to use some of Michael Bush techniques and converted to all mediums and natural comb for the most part. I also quit treating my bees for mites. My hives (14) have been in the full Alabama sun for the past 4 years. And to my surprise had done quite well during this 3 year time span, until Fall/Winter of this past year 2020. My last "official" check on my bees was around Thanksgiving and all seem relatively healthy and ready for the winter with plenty of pollen and honey on the hives. My check up inspection in mid-January 2021 revealed a very alarming and disheartening realization. 10 of my 14 hives were dead... gone... with only a handful of dead bees on the bottom boards. Earlier ride byes in December on warm days it seemed my hives were doing good. The presence of bees flying in and out made me think things were ok... not sure now if in December the bees flying might have been robber bees since i do not know when the "absconding" or die out occurred. I have always had a few hives not make it thru the winter (2 or 3 at the most) over the last 3 years. Never anything to this amount!

Just curious of any others experiencing this "AMOUNT" of loss (71%) and any thoughts on what has happened to my bees?? I did plant a garden this year on my property and just wander if it or other "new" gardens in the area (ALL DUE TO COVID influence) could have played a roll with pesticides and such?? we used BT dipel on my corn because it is supposed to be "Bee" " Friendly.

Thoughts??? ALso, should i burn my frames and bee equipment because of this???
Mites are not controlled by small or natural comb. Some strains of bees manage to survive them by swarming constantly and abscounding every time mite levels build up. But mostly bees just die. Not treating bees seems like cruelty to me. But that is just me.
 

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Elmer, I don't think the bees and mites have found equilibrium in the hives in the few years off treatments.
If you are successful ten years and then all of a sudden have a bad year you could blame neighbors. At this point I think each year you are getting more mites through the winter and eventually they get the upper hand. Usually that is the second winter....
 

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I had unusually high losses and I treat I’m at 40% and it isn’t spring yet. For me it was a dry summer my splits never built up and so they weren’t strong enough. (I suspect) if mites was your problem and not lack of resources nobody ever said treatment free was easy guess you take those 4 survivors and split them out next year. I believe that’s how it’s supposed to work. There’s a reason commercial guys all treat for mites they can’t afford losses to things that they can control.
 

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I’ve just been reading Seeley’s “The Lives of Bees.” He recommends Darwinian beekeeping, but warns that this will likely come with an 80%+ loss of colonies as mites take out the majority of colonies and only a small fraction are left capable of handling mite infestations. These are the genetically mite-resistant colonies you can split to build your apiary back up.

The main point I am trying to make is that non-treatment for mites only works on a small fraction of colonies. If you don’t want to treat, you should plan to loose a lot of colonies until natural selection has worked its magic.
 

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Some pictures would help identify the cause but a mite wash on the surviving colonies will probably tell the tale'
 

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To Darwinian beekeeping I wonder how much it works if your local system is not closed, ie if new mites and viruses are being brought in then stressors are being added artificially and I'm not sure nature will be able to establish a balance. Also there will be unusually heavy mite loads in the fall as the "80%" succumb. Can the 20% handle the mite spike or do they succumb as well? I'm not sure seeleys small sample really gives us scientifically significant stats.
 

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Isolation is key to a TF attempt.Seeley's work in the Arnot forrest was in a geographically isolated area
Here in the NE we are flooded with pkgs every spring,loaded with SHB and varroa,many going to beekeepers with no clue about mite control.
 

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I don't think seeley is isolated and he only has a very small population of colonies in the forest. Not a statistically significant sample size. What is interesting is the (genetic) data they have on unmanaged bees from before and after varroa. But to draw conclusions about bees from so small a sample in a specific locale is unscientific.
 

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I had unusually high losses and I treat I’m at 40% and it isn’t spring yet.
How and when did you treat?
 
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another point to keep in mind is the Queen lifespan.
If you do not re queen each year the queens at some point are replaced via supercedure.
the offspring would be a output of the drones in your area crossed with your queen. The original bees could have been better at resistance but as the daughters and granddaughters came the mite susceptibility may have increased. as well could be some new hives in the area that were not there 3 years ago.

any pattern of the lost hives VRS the alive hives around Queen age or lifespan? did you re queen last year?

GG
 
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