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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, I posted an introduction in the welcome form but in case you don't browse that section I am a fairly new beekeeper located in North Central Florida aiming to build to a small scale mainly non migratory commercial operation leaning towards the treatment free side of things, at the very least chemical free. (I realize treatment free means different things to different people)
I'm wondering if there any operators running similar outfits on here who wouldn't mind me picking their brain from time to time. Thanks
 

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.......aiming to build to a small scale mainly non migratory commercial operation leaning towards the treatment free side of things.....
120 views and "crickets". Why?
Answer: In commercial beekeeping, job #1 is keeping bees alive and healthy.
Pests and diseases MUST me effectively mitigated in order to make this happen.
Those of us in business for decades are all too familiar with the result of letting up or forgetting, or small mistakes that result in entire yards of crashing hives.
I wish you the best of fortune in your new business.
I just hope that you re-think and listen carefully to those on the varroa battlefield since 1986...
 

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I run treatment free. Currently 10 hives. Two years ago I had a crash and lost all my hives. The root cause was varroa, though different things finished various hives off. I think if I were to try commercial beekeeping with many hives I would have to treat. TF is time consuming and prone to failure.

I believe a commercial queen breeder or seller of nucs could manage TF, because the management activities to produce queens and nucs help control mites. Not so sure about pollinators and honey producers.

Be nice if a few Florida or commercial folks spoke up. Anyway, people here are pretty helpful. Just post specific questions and someone will answer.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I shared my philosophy on treatments in my thread in the welcome section but to reiterate, I'm not against treating, I just don't want to use harsh synthetic chemicals. I don't have time to explain my full plan at the moment but for the time being I'm curious if there are any small commercial operators (-200 colonies) successfully managing against varroa using only natural treatments? And yes, selling nuc's is a big part of my business plan.
 

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Sure, there are treatment free commercial beekeepers. The esasiest way is to sell all your bees in the fall and start fresh every spring. The not easy way takes alot more experience than you have, or will have any time soon.

Crazy Roland
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Sure, there are treatment free commercial beekeepers. The esasiest way is to sell all your bees in the fall and start fresh every spring. The not easy way takes alot more experience than you have, or will have any time soon.

Crazy Roland
Oblige me of the not easy way in short if you don't mind. Thanks.
 

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You want to be a smaller commercial, if I recall your intro post. That leaves some questions. How do you plan to make money? Selling queens, nucs, honey? Pollination services?

If you plan to sell honey then some of the common TF options become more difficult. Making honey means large colonies not being split much. One of the easier ways to maintain TF is to split a lot, which means lots of young, small colonies with young queens. Lots of questions to think about.

What are the 'natural' mite controls you are considering using?
 

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Tim Ives is a commercial beekeeper who remains treatment free. You should search his posts.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
You want to be a smaller commercial, if I recall your intro post. That leaves some questions. How do you plan to make money? Selling queens, nucs, honey? Pollination services?

If you plan to sell honey then some of the common TF options become more difficult. Making honey means large colonies not being split much. One of the easier ways to maintain TF is to split a lot, which means lots of young, small colonies with young queens. Lots of questions to think about.

What are the 'natural' mite controls you are considering using?
My plan is to sell bees mainly, it seems to me to be a lot less work than honey production, extraction etc., though I do intend to sell some honey. Pollination service doesn't currently appeal to me and seems like a liability if you're trying to remain as TF as possible unless the location is isolated from other farms and your bees are the only bees there. I figure off of 100 stock colonies I should be able to make 2-300 nucs a year, maybe more on a good year. To that end, the brood breaks associated with frequent splitting should help with the TF aspect of things. Queen rearing is also of interest to me though I haven't attempted it yet, I will be shortly for my own expansion. If I decide to sell queens it will be the last part of the business I expand to as I would want to be selecting from a larger pool of queens and have stock that is proven to be resilient with minimal treatment.

As far as honey production is concerned, like queen rearing, I will select my most resilient hives to be my production hives. Being that I'm an organic blueberry farmer who caters mainly to consumers who desire a local chemical free product, I have a unique market for honey sales as do several other smaller operations I've read posts from on this site. Getting $10 for 1lb jars will not be a problem at the farmers markets I already attend. In Florida we can sell up to 50 grand a year of honey under the cottage industry laws and it would be great to reach that threshold but I'll be happy with half or even a quarter of that. I will also offer home deliveries for gallons of honey as I do with blueberries at a discounted price. Aside from my home where I can keep 24 permanent colonies I have a few different bee yards at my disposal with great seasonal nectar sources including gallberry, palmetto, cabbage palm, Brazilian pepper and mangrove. I've read mangrove honey crystallizes badly and some folks don't like the Brazilian pepper honey so it'll bee a wait and see on those varieties. My BP site is also risky for theft and vandalism as there is no homeowner onsite and in an area of known trespassers and general no-gooders. A big plus is all my sites have multiple nectar sources, I can leave my bees year round and aside from the BP location, there are no other apiaries nearby so cross contamination from other bees shouldn't bee too big a problem. I'm ok with feral's.

My homesite is of particular interest to me in terms of honey production. I'm in an urban setting and have a multitude of nectar sources around my 2 acres, i.e. dozens of bottle brush trees, golden rain trees (which I hated as a landscaper but don't mind them a bit now that I see how much the bees like them) loquats, ligustrum, cabbage palm etc. I've only harvested one frame of honey so far but it was so much better than the other local honey we had on hand and not just because it was from my bees. It was dark, rich and I tasted it against the local purchased raw unfiltered orange blossom, palmetto and gallberry honey we have and did a blind sampling with a friend and the result was the same. I'm just not sure how many production colonies my home will accommodate.

It's a shame there isn't another label for my planned management strategy as the TF moniker seems to invoke a bit of negativity and is defined very differently person to person. As I said, I'm an organic farmer. That doesn't mean I don't use fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides, it means that inputs I use are organic and are approved for use in organic production. Aside from fertilizer and herbicides I've only used horticultural oil or soap twice in 6 years of organic farming. My plan with bees is the same. Select and raise healthy resistant stock and only use treatments as needed and only those that are approved for organic apiary management or "soft" treatments as they are called.

So far I've only used mineral oil (with success) to treat for mites in two treatments about 2.5 weeks apart on two colonies but I am open to using thymol and OA if needed (both are approved for organic honey production in Canada if I remember correctly. USDA failed to rule on them but if it's good for Canada it's good for me. I love Canada) My original two colonies are feral's as far as I know being that I got them from a guy who does removals and they survived the first 16 months without any treatments, feed or manipulation aside from adding and removing boxes. They remained at the farm from purchase until June this year, and being that the farm is 75 miles from home, I didn't mess with them much as long as I saw bees coming and going since I have a lot of farm work to do when I'm there. I did absolutely no research on beekeeping prior to taking delivery and went way too long without an inspection. When one colony started suffering badly I began researching and opted for the FGMO treatment which worked for me and through the course of two treatments saw no mites on the trays and the once failing colony is now thriving. If I had properly managed their space and resources through winter I wonder if they would have needed any treatment at all. Also, contrary to my thoughts before I really paid attention, the farm has minimal nectar sources compared to my home so I'm guessing they were in a constant state of stress and never really thrived there.

My new carniolans are supposed to be highly hygienic and thus far have proven to be so. I haven't seen any mites or signs of mite related issues but am keeping a watchful eye. I'm hoping between my feral's and the carniolan's and other resistant stock I might add in the future I can raise bees that require minimal treatment. I'm also aware of using brood frame traps for mite reduction and/or removing brood comb but don't know if I'll employ that strategy or not. From a queen/nuc raising standpoint it seems it would be counter productive but using it on my production colonies may be worth exploring.

All that being said, I have some questions about production colony densities, size of brood chambers, use of QE's, SBB vs Solid and excess moisture issues associated with SBB in FL, hybrid screened/solid bottom boards (kind of like freeman beetle traps but built with a solid bottom board. Not sure if they're already a thing but it's something I've thought about making), telescoping vs migratory lids for our heat, what stock TF or chemical free operators are using, timing of splits, etc. that seem specific to Florida and in particular my area of Florida. Any beekeeper that's been operating here for a while should be familiar with the nuances and different variables related to heat, moisture, pests etc. I'm just hoping to find someone with similar management strategies that wouldn't mind offering a little knowledge. I'd be willing to help out on occasion in exchange or even work for someone given the right situation. The farm and a part time career playing music limits my availability though live music has taken a hit since the shutdowns, but with enough notice I can make arrangements.

Anyhow, thanks for the responses. Even the ones that weren't so helpful ;)
 

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HTB - The not easy way involves making 50 years of mistakes in 10 years. Everything looks good on paper untill you try in in real life/

For example, you will need to learn how to:

Treat AFB without terrimycin
Treat Nosema without Fummigilan
Treat mites without oxalic, coumophos, etc.
Treat wax moths without Paradiclorobenzene.
figure out how to get the pesticide residues out of the comb annually.

Get the picture?

Crazy Roland
 

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The 'negative' responses are because TF is disaster-prone. And as you say, it isn't well defined. My goal year by year is to get hives through winter. In 4 years I have had one complete disaster with all hives dead by mid-fall. That was due to my low level of experience, not understanding what I was seeing (mites, virus, small hive beetles, and moths) until too late, then responding to the multiple problems way too late to help.

Best of luck. Hope you stick around and let us know how things are going.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I don't know which I'd rather deal with, harsh winters or relentless hive beetle issues. It would seem overwintering in FL will be the least of my problems.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
HTB - The not easy way involves making 50 years of mistakes in 10 years. Everything looks good on paper untill you try in in real life/

For example, you will need to learn how to:

Treat AFB without terrimycin
Treat Nosema without Fummigilan
Treat mites without oxalic, coumophos, etc.
Treat wax moths without Paradiclorobenzene.
figure out how to get the pesticide residues out of the comb annually.

Get the picture?

Crazy Roland
Starting to.
 

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Tim Ives is a commercial beekeeper who remains treatment free. You should search his posts.
Since OP is in Florida, he should be looking up Sam Comfort. Sam's been raising few hundred Queens per week, 10 weeks in Florida then 10 weeks in NY (think he avoided NY this year). Then travels around talking about Bees.
I'm still Treatment free since starting in 2001 and still haven't fed a colony since 2006. Best looking me up on FB.
 
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