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Committing or fence straddling???

2825 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Michael Bush
I started keeping bees last year. I have bees from at least 2 and maybe from 3 sources. I can't access my notes on HiveTracks at the moment. My first hive came from a swarm, cast from a 100% treatment free, no intervention practiced of any sort, beekeeper. I then purchased 2 packages of bees and fed them the antibiotics as instructed by the beekeeper who sold them to me. One of them killed the queen and turned LW, and I killed them off. I know I requeened the other hive early summer with a TF queen. My other 2 hives are from nucs that I bought from a beekeeper about 20 miles from me. He said he has never treated, never sugar dusted, never done anything to his hives. The queen that I requeened my package bees with came from him also. The only hive that I can't remember the genetics from is a swarm that I caught last May. I don't think I requeened that hive, but I cannot remember 100%. I lost one hive this winter and it was a swarm that I caught late last spring.

The first beekeeper has been keeping bees for 20 years or so. The guy I got my nucs from got his bees from a feral hive 18 years ago. He breeds his own. The first guy just catches his own swarms to expand with. I don't know about this year, but I know that the first guy didn't lose a single hive winter of 12-13.

So, now to me. Is it POSSIBLE that I have bee genetics that are Varroa resistant enough to survive without any intervention, or am I blissfully walking around waiting on something bad to happen? I consider losing one hive out of 6 to be acceptable for my first winter. Is the 2nd winter when all heck breaks loose? Is that when the hives reach critical mass on varroa counts?

I did nothing to the bees from mid summer of last year until a couple weeks ago, due to buying a business. The 5 remaining hives are flourishing. I couldn't say that I have any that are behind, but I do have one that is stronger than the other 4. It is a hive that came from one of the nucs that I bought. I intend to attempt my first splits from that hive and try to breed for the early strong spring buildup that hive has. I will try to control swarming in the other 4 hives and get my honey from them. I would like to have 10 hives and 10 nucs by fall, but I've got to get past the ignorance of doing my first split in order to get there. I tried a split last year but chickened out and recombined them. LOL
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I don't know enough about whether you're going to be successful as a TF guy or not. What i do know, is that it isn't terribly difficult to track your mite counts. just keep track of them and watch the trends. If they start to increase significantly, then you can worry about deciding if/what to do.

I didn't seek out TF bees, but my first year hives went 4 for 6 through the winter with no treatment. That's a bit ahead of the game here in Michigan, at least for this year. I have no illusuions that i have treatment free bees, or mite resistant, or any other magical type of bee. they just happened to make it. I don't want to treat, but I'll be watching mites this year. I like live bees...if that means i have to treat a bit, I"m okay with that.
Yes agree. Sounds like you've taken this seriously and done all the right things. Mites just won't suddenly wipe out your hive without warning, although the warning is easy to miss if you don't monitor. Doing things like mite counts, looking for signs of DWV, and checking the health of the brood can let you know in advance if there are any mite problems so you don't treat unless needed.

Being asked to feed antibiotics might be a concern. Although it shows the vendor was conscientious and ensuring your bees would be in good health, it also is a practise used to control a bee disease, AFB. Which could mean the package bees came from somewhere that is using antibiotics to control AFB, ie, there is AFB present.

My suggestion is google AFB and become familiar with how to recognise it. Then monitor those hives, if you can go treatment free and AFB free for 12 months it is almost certain there is no residual infection.

I may be jumping the gun, it could be the guy had no AFB, and also it is uncommon to get AFB from package bees even if they come from an infected hive. But it would still be a good idea to educate yourself on it and keep an eye out for 12 months just to be sure.
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I do not know why you would kill off a hive because they became left wing, the sociopolitical opinion of a group of bees has little to do with honey production. as for the queen with tiny feet I would think that her offspring would have trouble clinging to the pedals of flowers. Get the point here? I have in excess of 45 years of beekeeping experience, and probably could offer some information. however, not if I have no clue what you are talking about. show some initiative and spell it out at least once in the post although I did figure out TF (treatment free) I still have no idea what LW is!
I believe the 'LW' is a reference to 'laying worker'.

The 3rd paragraph in Brad Bee's post contains a number of questions. I don't claim enough experience to answer them with any authority. :)
> Is it POSSIBLE that I have bee genetics that are Varroa resistant enough to survive without any intervention, or am I blissfully walking around waiting on something bad to happen?

I never had any luck not treating until I got them on natural comb or small cell comb. Either seems to work. Assuming you are doing that, I'd say your odds are as good or better than anyone treating.

Ignorance doesn't always turn out to be bliss... it never hurts to monitor and see how they are going as long as you don't panic when you find a Varroa mite (and you will find some). Too much information sometimes leads us to make bad decisions. A good example is the use of the fetal monitor in childbirth. We have not lowered the chances of death for an infant at all since using them, but we have greatly increased the odds of a woman getting an unneeded caesarian section and therefore a big increase in the number of women dying as a result. Blink is an interesting read by Malcom Gladwell. He points out that the right information can be helpful, but too much information leads us to make bad decisions rather than good ones (and he quotes all the scientific research to prove it...)
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Yes, TF means Treatment Free and LW means Laying Worker. I sacrificed a frame of open brood then put in a queen cell a week later. They would have no part of it. I put them in the deep freeze.

Michael, I do not use small cell or natural cell comb. As expensive as foundation is, I can see moving to all natural comb.

I have seen a few mites. I noticed an odd looking worker bee on my last inspection. He wings were not deformed but there was a mite under each wing base. I removed her and them. Mites are pretty easy to spot on the bees.
>Mites are pretty easy to spot on the bees.

It's easy to spot SOME of them once you know what they look like, but most are under their abdomen up in the plates where you'd have to flip them over to see them... I would be careful assuming they are easy to spot.
Michael, what method of obtaining mite numbers do you use?
I would like to have 10 hives and 10 nucs by fall, but I've got to get past the ignorance of doing my first split in order to get there. I tried a split last year but chickened out and recombined them. LOL
Stay focussed on this aim. Promote bee numbers and comb, now, and work at making increase in a steady and controlled way. Aim to have as many as you can going into next winter. Any cobbled-together hives will do - you don't have to spend money on anything but frames. You want lots so you can lose the duffers without it mattering

Go to starter strips only.

Don't worry overmuch about varroa. What you don't want is too much varroa. If you decide you have to treat, treat just that one then stop it putting its genes into the next generation.

Try to mate well. Look to be away from treating hives/have large drone populations in your own hives/be near feral colonies. Look for mating sites - bearing in mind drones travel quite abit.

For now take daughter queens across the board - don't try to concentrate genes - because you haven't had time to make a serious assay.

You need lots of your own drones, so let some - or all - of your best hives build big (on free comb). So aim to make small mated colonies, protect them and help them to build. Small nucs going into winter will do great next year.

Your game is maintaining and raising resistance. Stay focused on that and work through all the things that make a difference.

Keep looking for more feral cut-outs, and assign strong values to well-attested long lived ones. Keep records.

If you're lucky you'll be be far enough away from treated drones, and have viable ferals around - and this will be easy. Those are the things that matter most!

Good luck!

Mike (UK)
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>Michael, what method of obtaining mite numbers do you use?

Back when I had enough to count, I used trays under my SBB and measured natural drop and uncapped some drones now and again and did a sugar shake now and then. It's helpful to not rely entirely on one system as sometimes the varroa in the drones are concentrated in one area, or a hot day causes more drop on the SBB or more drop in the sugar shake. More drop in the heat, less in the cold.
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