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Discussion Starter #1
Update:
Fourth Spring and going strong with the two test hives. We will be adding a third this spring. That will exhaust our area to study here at the farm. Our next test hives will be placed at private residence.
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No offence, I'm all for experiments, but any experiment with one hive and one control, or even two hives and two controls, is simply not statistically significant. The difference between two hives treated identically can be huge. What conclusions can you draw from two hives treated differently?
 

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Looking through the whole site, I'd say that it's a biodynamic experimental nursery.

They're growing all kinds of plants, even though they've only a few hives.

If the hives don't 'fit in', they try again. They're beginning their fourth season. So far, so good.

I would characterize it as more of a 'jigsaw puzzle' than a scientific experiment.

But, the 'puzzle' looks like it's coming together rather well.

All they need are some of the folks from 'Queen of the Sun' for 'color'.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
We have 2 test hives and 9 controls. (originally 25) The two hives at Green Chapel are treated identically.
We purchased our original hive of Buckfast from Terry Toler, a neighboring apiary. Since that original procurement 4 years ago, Mr Toler has lost 16 hives. He cares greatly for his bees, as most beekeepers do. He feeds them in the winter and treats them for any number of ailments as needed.
I am sorry this information was not included, Mr Bush, as it is pertinent.
We are surrounded by apiaries with similar losses, who are doing everything in their power to save their bees. It is quite heart-breaking.
Thank you for your interest.

One of our main goals is to encourage homeowners to take interest in beekeeping. Our original hive is literally in the middle of our nursery yard, under a plum tree. Visitors to the nursery walk by it without even noticing, which allows us to demonstrate how gentle and unobtrusive they can be.
 

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With all due respect, I disagree with several of your assertions.

For example, you say treating mites is causing the mite to evolve resistances to the treatments, and "strengthening the predator mite with each new resistant generation". However it would only be strengthening them against artificial treatments, so if you aren't using any treatments at all, the mite's ability to resist them is entirely beside the point. I also find that your choice of phrasing in "strengthening the predator mite" seems to appeal towards an emotional response in the reader as opposed to a rational one.

Recent studies have also shown that bees do not "overwork" themselves into an early grave during the summer, but that it is in response to brood. Experiments have shown that by constantly removing brood, summer bees in the same conditions live far longer. At the very least the argument would be that tending to the brood is what saps their strength, which is of course unavoidable if your premise is to create a strong and healthy hive (as opposed to say just a pollination/honey production line where you don't care about keeping the bees alive after the season).

There is also no evidence, that I am aware of, that bees will supersede an otherwise perfectly healthy and productive queen just because they feel like "changing the genetics", nor are they capable of selecting the genetics of the new queen in any way. Even if they could, the hive could not control the genetics of the next generation as the drones a virgin queen mates with are essentially random. They would be just as likely to get a worse queen this way than a better one. Over time a population left to it's own devices may very well evolve resistance, but that will take thousands or even hundreds of thousands of generations, it isn't something that the bees will just work out for themselves in a couple years if you just leave them alone.

I also find the way you present some of the numbers as being circumspect. You say the person you got your original bees from has lost 16 of his hives over the past 4 years. So he has lost on average 4 hives a year. You do not say how many hives he runs in total, however, so that number is useless. If he only runs a half dozen a year, then clearly he is doing something disastrously wrong. If he's running a hundred hives at a time, his losses are amazingly low and we should all start doing what he's doing. Without knowing the loss ratio, claiming he lost X or Y number of hives over Z years neither supports nor detracts from your findings. And while I may be reading it wrong, it seems you started with 25 hives and are now down to 11? Thats over 50% losses. You apparently lost almost as many as he did, but I'm willing to wager he had quite a few more to start with.

Again, my apologies, but whenever I see people listing numbers out of context and making broad sweeping generalizations, it sets off a red flag for me. If your hives are being successful then I'm happy for you, but I believe the answers to the problems are going to come from science and empirical evidence, not personal assumptions on what we feel is happening based on our anthropomorphising of an insect.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Very simply, our hypothesis is supported by our success, and therefore stands as evidence in and of itself, to be dis-proven.
The fact that all the commercial apiaries in 5 surrounding counties suffer losses each year, is evidence that these "tried an true" practices in our area are failing.
You may disagree with why we feel our hives are disease free and mite resistant, but it cannot be argued that the changes we have made are the difference between success and failure.

We were assured by every commercial apiary we contacted, prior to this undertaking, that our bees would not survive their first winter. We did not undertake this project with the anticipation of success. Quite the opposite.
We hoped to learn as much as possible through observation, about declining signals if there were any.
After our first two years of success, the focus changed. We realized that these simple environmental changes could mean success for other beekeepers in our area as well.

We attribute the failure of swarm hives in the wild to inherent genetic weakness. The same weakness our first hive overcame through supersession in a completely stress-free environment, meaning an over-abundance of pollen, nectar, and water within 100 yards of the hive. All necessary resources not readily available to wild hives.
 

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it cannot be argued that the changes we have made are the difference between success and failure.
Actually seeing as how you've apparently lost over half of your hives, an argument could be made that these particular few are surviving despite the changes you've made.

Bees have been known to build successful hives in old car gas tanks, but I don't think that means we should be buying old cars to turn into hives. I would still like to know how many hives the person you got your bees runs, so we can know if your method has proven more or less successful than traditional apiaries in your area.

After all, just because you have one or two hives that are doing fine with this method doesn't really mean much if you've got 90% losses while the guy down the road doing traditional beekeeping methods is sitting at 90% survival.

Individual data points are meaningless. Statistical aberrations pop up all the time. It is only when you look at the big picture that you can draw any serious conclusions.
 
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