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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been thinking about what all factors might be enabling some beekeepers to have good colony survival with very minimal treatments even be treatment free. I Have been thinking that beekeepers have varying levels of skill, and are more or less dedicated to getting the highest basic survival, aside from mite control. Some people seem to have been able to record 10% or less winter losses and others coast along at 25 or 30% losses and call it good. Your local situation controls what is practical survival targets for YOU. I am suggesting that this variance in operating methods could very well make the difference of which operator might be able to survive treatment free or not. If you are leaving a lot of money on the table in other areas you sure can also be losing a lot to mites!

Certainly we could make a list of things which favor the success of a treatment free proposition. Isolation (from transported bees) which would more easily allow local conditions adaptation, excellent foraging with wide variety etc. Feel free to add your thoughts as to what things constitute the local condition enablers.

Similarly with beekeeper habits that might contribute collectively to that extra 15% survivability that could make the difference whether treatment free would fly or not.
I am thinking of things like ensuring that colonies were not commonly allowed to go into winter with aged queens with statistically higher mortality rates. Maybe a few points improvement. Not taking scarily high percentage of bees stores rather late in the season and feeding last minute etc. Going the extra mile for winterizing even though it could have costs in labor and material. Maybe a few points could be added here and there. Suggestions?

Maybe it is something besides pure luck or misrepresentation that enables some operators to pull it off. I am not suggesting that everyone would even want to do the extra detail that might be necessary. I dont think I would, although I may have some enabling conditions. I am not having a difficult time controlling mites so it is less trouble for me than perhaps jumping through the hoops that might enable treatment free. I am highly suspicious about someone who claims to be both a treatment free and a lazy beekeeper! I dont think it happens by luck or just having the right mantra!
 

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Here is an older guy in Siberia someplace (hope still there, but the video dated 2013).
He started his apiary from a single bee tree with some wild bees - he brought the tree down and made his first 5 hives out if it (now runs about 100).
He stays deep in the forest and keep his bees in shoddy POS hives.
He does not know what the "treatments" are.
His bees are pretty darn hot, but he does not care.
So here you go:
 

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Hopefully, in 2-3 short months I will still have 100% survival.
This will mean I am actually a pretty good keeper (outside of doing some crazy and highly bee-lethal experiments).
But the 2-3 short months will tell - maybe I am just full of it. :)
If the bees die anyway, I will write a beekeeping book. LOL
 

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I am highly suspicious about someone who claims to be both a treatment free and a lazy beekeeper!
Great post, Frank. I'm not sure I have the intellectual energy to pontificate much on the discussion, but one thing I do know: Beekeeping (like any other animal husbandry effort) is hard work. So much so, that I am not sure there is such thing as a lazy beekeeper. There might however be a few lazy BEEHAVERS (all CAPS in homage to George Imirie).

I am reminded of Walt Wright's frequent mentioning of the '5 percenters'- things that are fairly inconsequential in-and-of-themselves, but cobbled together might account for above average performance relative to not employing that particular (and fortuitous) combination in a specific management setting. He is obviously talking in the context of honey production, but it seems reasonable this idea could be applied to other aspects of our management as well.

One such quotation: 'To recap the classification of five percenters, several worker jobs can be considered as occupying hive populations in activities that do not directly support honey production. The effects of a large portion of hive population engaged in non-production activities is difficult to measure, and is definitely not obvious to observation. But it should be easy to understand that bees engaged in work not related to your goal of honey production would make some dent in that production. Since the diversion of that portion of the work force is not readily measurable, we just arbitrarily assign that consideration to the 5 % classification. Some will be more or less of that much impact, but the combination of all of them could be worth the effort to minimize the effects.'

Interesting questions- I will look forward to reading the feedback and maybe jumping back in if I feel I have anything worthwhile to contribute.
 

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There might however be a few lazy BEEHAVERS (all CAPS in homage to George Imirie).
6 years ago I would have been offended by this term. Now I'm angry when someone is a beehaver. Maybe angry is too strong of a word. Frustrated is more like it.
I've always said that managing bees is so easy when you compare it to managing beekeepers.

To answer Frank's inquiry, I can mostly get away with with TF beekeeping, but not management free beekeeping. Past 4 years winter losses have been around 23%. This year I'll be happy with 40%, but expecting 50%. Somewhat bad fall, but mostly my mistakes. Simple as that.
Successfull beekeeping is all about experience in my opinion. The more experience you get the better you develop the skills to manage bees. Failure is part of success. Consistent failure is maybe a sign to take on some other hobby.
 

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I can mostly get away with with TF beekeeping, but not management free beekeeping. Past 4 years winter losses have been around 23%.
So, hold on Marcin.
You've be lurking about in the Chicago-land, mostly getting away with the TF and STILL getting only 23% loss?
I am all ears.

PS: what is "mostly"?
where in the Chicago-land?
... though I think the "mostly TF" part is the most interesting... spill the beans since now you said it!

PPS:
.......The more experience you get the better you develop the skills to manage bees.........
 

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0% winter survival rate. We shake them all out.
Let me start by saying I'm not a beekeeper, I'm a honey producer.
NO CHEMICAL TREATMENTS.
My 7 year avg. is 157 lb. APH. Still looking to improve my APH.
27 years on running bees my way.
Second generation honey producer.
Beekeepers are my best customers.
Yes I do love my job, look forward to it each day.
 

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23% has been over the past 4 winters. Before that it was 40%-80%. I think bees have a lot to do with it -I mostly use NWC and have added Russians past 2 years. And brood breaks twice a year. Either by splitting, making up nucs, or taking out frames of capped brood. In spring I mostly will take out frames of capped brood from overwintered colonies and make up new colonies with those. It helps with swarm control too. And after the main flow - which for me is mid July regardless if there's still a flow on or not - I split everything again. Queens and open brood stay and capped brood goes into splits. Then either queens cells or virgins are inserted. Like I said it mostly works. Last year I saw about 3% of the colonies with pms. Those got treated and requeened when possible. My colonies rarely reach 45-50K bees in them so I don't have high honey yields like others around me might. It's a trade off.
And I'm not opposed to treating. It's an option that I don't have to utilize often, but it's always available. 6+ years ago I was against treatments. Experiences change management.
I have multiple yards in NW Illinois, right up to the Wisconsin border.
 

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0% winter survival rate. We shake them all out.
Let me start by saying I'm not a beekeeper, I'm a honey producer.
NO CHEMICAL TREATMENTS.
My 7 year avg. is 157 lb. APH. Still looking to improve my APH.
27 years on running bees my way.
Second generation honey producer.
Beekeepers are my best customers.
Yes I do love my job, look forward to it each day.
Ron makes some good honey. His wildflower honey is something that I can't produce in my area. It makes good mead. And he's nice to talk "shop" with.
 

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I think bees have a lot to do with it -I mostly use NWC and have added Russians past 2 years.
And brood breaks twice a year.
I have multiple yards in NW Illinois, right up to the Wisconsin border.
OK, the bees + two brood breaks per a year + the location(!?)
This is NOT really the Chicago-land, as it turns out. :)
 

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Not now. But I did the same thing with 4-5 hives in my backyard in Chicago. And we do the same thing at my workplace in Chicago. Went from 80% loss in 2015 to having an average of 75% survival rate since winter of 2017-2018, including a year where all of the colonies survived the winter.
 

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Not now. But I did the same thing with 4-5 hives in my backyard in Chicago. And we do the same thing at my workplace in Chicago. Went from 80% loss in 2015 to having an average of 75% survival rate since winter of 2017-2018, including a year where all of the colonies survived the winter.
Well, good for you.
Not working me the same up here though.
 

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Hopefully, in 2-3 short months I will still have 100% survival.
This will mean I am actually a pretty good keeper (outside of doing some crazy and highly bee-lethal experiments).
But the 2-3 short months will tell - maybe I am just full of it. :)
If the bees die anyway, I will write a beekeeping book. LOL
If they die, you can write about consistent performance from your bees.
 

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I returned and saw under the sun that—

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
Ecclesiastes 9:11

That seems to be written especially for beekeepers.

To which I add, the race is not to the swift, but that is where the smart money is.

My guess is it is a lot of unrelated factors which combine in unpredictable ways to produce inexplicable results.

By the way, if someone wants to test this, it would be an easy experiment. If success is due to a large number of independent factors, then the percent survival should follow a normal distribution. If it doesn't, then there is some factor which is dominant. Just need data from about 100 beekeepers or so, it is easy to do. Make a good masters thesis.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
If your garage falls down on your hives that is bad luck but if they starve, die from mites, water dripping on them, etc., it is not bad luck.:rolleyes: People who have 15% or fewer losses for a number of years are not just lucky. If your management is not top notch I dont think many will get lucky being treatment free but quite a few inexperienced bet on it. It does not seem to happen unless the whole deck of cards is being well played. If your particular situation is lacking some of the most important enabling features, the most skilled person may not be able to pull off good survival TF.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
@ A Novice; what do you think will be some of the most common traits to show up along with high survival history.


"My guess is it is a lot of unrelated factors which combine in unpredictable ways to produce inexplicable results." Now that sounds like an all encompassing disclaimer.:)

I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.



Does a modern condensation of this become Shoot Happens? :LOL: But maybe I misinterpret it. @HarryVanderpool says he doesnt bellieve in luck!
 

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Well Frank I'll offer some of what I have experienced and am currently working on. in no particular order, brain dump.

Insulation ,, to use less stores and have less poop and less chalk brood in spring, and less temp swings for brood chill
My own queens to a point ,, I still bring in genitics then use them to raise more. cannot do 100% puppy mill queens
Balance of AG and Natural habitat ,, so bees have more options for blooms and Propolis IMO Apiary site is a big rock. 8% er rather than 5%
Feedable winter config ,, rather not tear into a hive in winter, not against emergency feed if needed. want to check
Genetics ,, enough said there and on this site.
narrower hive foot prints ,, taller comb, better heat profile, upright foot ball shaped cluster , rather a wide pancake.
culling bad queens the second you know you do not want them ,, deploy assets in a more optimal fashion
Having a good supply of good comb ,, allows faster supering, trapping, Splits, Lots of good comb gives you options.
Multiple sites ,, you learn faster as each is different, not all eggs in one basket (bears , floods, mites, theft)
Get or make 10 5 Frame NUCs (20% of your hive count) ,, fun and is one of the 5% ers for sustainability, Learn to winter them , they are great comb builders. have queens if/when you need them, replacement colony's on Hand. IMO no good reason no to give NUCs a go. I have 10 over wintering this winter. in 5 side by side setups.
Be open to new ideas ,, also do read the old keepers from 1800's and early1900's IMO not much has changed, except mites and non wood hive products.
Look at what works for others,, must be something there, if you do not see it , means you may be close minded. I do not know any one who "knows it all" many ways to skin the cat

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Sounds like "Get the major things right and pick up as many of the 2 and 5 % plusses you can". (y) Probably necessary to have these ticked off by anyone who is managing or attempting to be treatment free. The difficulties added by TF dont allow much slack in other areas. You gotta be good to be consistently "lucky"
 
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