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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Without getting into a whole lot of discussion, I'll just ask it then sit back and read the back and forth drama that unfolds. Many of you think you've got to treat your bees with miticides for them to live, right? Are mites a primary cause of hive death or are the a secondary cause of hive death because of poor or improper nutrition? I think nutrition is another and possibly a bigger piece of the puzzle.

How many of you lose healthy, honey fed hives of bees to varroa mites each year?

How many of you pull all the honey, or more honey than you probably should off your hives and feed them sugar or corn syrup? How many hives do you lose every year?

How many of you are willing to double the amount of honey left on the hive and see if it makes a difference?

I don't have enough experience under my belt to answer this question for myself, but I do personally know a beekeeper who has never used any mite treatment, who has 40-50 hives of bees. He also doesn't remove much honey at all from the bees, he just wants them around for pollination. I know that he hasn't lost a single hive of bees in the past 2 winters. I'm not sure about before that, but the past two winters with no loss is good enough for me. For the mathematically challenged, that's a 100% wintering success rate. That's impossible to beat, and pretty hard to argue against.

So, I will sit and wait for the responses......
 

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When I keep food stores up with both syrup and pollen, but do not treat, I lose 85-100% of the hives. If I do treat and feed, then my losses are much less at 20-30%. In the location I'm at, feeding has to be done of both syrup and pollen sub, or losses will be great, even if treatments are done. The last three years, I've been treatment free with feeding and have had very high losses. The treatments I used before that was essential oils and drone brood frames management, and losses were much less. I think that for me in my location, varroa mites with the viral infections they cause are primary cause of losses with feeding being a close secondary cause.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
But Ray, what if you didn't feed syrup and just fed honey?
 

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If it is as simple as that: I'll be drinking that free Bubble-Up and eatin that rainbow stew.

I am fully in favor of you keeping your bees in whatever manner is satisfying and financially adequate for you. People who harvest honey are not some kind of war criminal and it always strikes me funny that the supply of bees for the folks eschewing honey collection and supplemental feeding, come from people who make a living collecting honey and feeding supplimentally. Was Ist Laus? I know Roland, I spelled it wrong.
 

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I dont think you can separate their affects. Either condition will worsen the effects of the other. Either condition in the extreme will kill the hive whether the other is present or not. In the north, preventing condensation dropping on bees can be just as crucial.

Really, it is up to the beekeeper to ensure both adequate stores and a mite load below economically affective.
 

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But Ray, what if you didn't feed syrup and just fed honey?
They would obsconde or die off because of no incoming pollen. Feeding honey instead of syrup is not the cure all. Honey is better than syrup, but syrup is not bad. Syrup or honey is the carbohydrates needed, everything else is in the pollen. In my area, I get pollen dearth and have had hives up and leave because of it, even with honey stored.
 

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People who harvest honey are not some kind of war criminal and it always strikes me funny that the supply of bees for the folks eschewing honey collection and supplemental feeding, .
I do not think anyone is saying not to harvest honey.....but to harvest honey and at the same time leave the bees an ample supply of their own honey!

In other words, if you leave the bees one super for winter feed and have to give them syrup in early spring to prevent starving, then why not just leave them two supers and let them survive on their own natural stores?
 

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I think you may be on to some thing. I had 25 hives going in to winter and 2 /3ds had sugar on there top bars and the rest where well over 100 pounds so I let them with just there honey to see how they did and they did very well. And out of the 10 hives I lost all had sugar on the top bars.
All the hive that had just there stores went through winter great.
My goal for this year is to study bee nutrition and I will not be putting straight sugar on the top bars it's a mess in the spring. When it comes to honey this year it's bee's first me 2nd. I want strong healthy bee's and I have 15 hives to start with. It's going to be a great year.:D
I think syrup feeding is good in the spring along with pollen sub.
 

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Last winter was my first so my input can be taken with a grain of salt.
I treated my hives and saw mites fall afterwards....way more than the occasional drop over the season.
I left honey on my bees. Going into winter brood and most bees were in the bottom deep. There was enough honey for most to have a deep of capped honey. Three had not filled a second deep so they had to make do with a single brood deep and a full dadant super of capped.
All were given the option of a sugar brick on the top frames. In late fall all were offered sugar syrup and protein patties...most did not use that option.
All had honey in the hives when I tied up the hives 2 weeks ago. All were then offered a half gallon of syrup. The 4 new packages are taking syrup and protein patty, the over wintered hives aren't touching it.
 

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I think you may be on to some thing. I had 25 hives going in to winter and 2 /3ds had sugar on there top bars and the rest where well over 100 pounds so I let them with just there honey to see how they did and they did very well. And out of the 10 hives I lost all had sugar on the top bars.
All the hive that had just there stores went through winter great.
My goal for this year is to study bee nutrition and I will not be putting straight sugar on the top bars it's a mess in the spring. When it comes to honey this year it's bee's first me 2nd. I want strong healthy bee's and I have 15 hives to start with. It's going to be a great year.:D
I think syrup feeding is good in the spring along with pollen sub.
I will be following your updates with interest...perhaps you start an maintain a thread simply called Glock:)
 

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My production hives only eat honey but they still get mites. Here, we are going into winter now, I'm taking around 140 production hives into winter each has at least one full deep of honey for feed which is more than they can eat but I do it so they will build up quickly in spring so I can make plenty of nucs off them early. I also expect 100% survival unless one goes queenless mid winter in which case I would add a nuc to it.

The hives also have plenty of natural pollen no need for substitute so in theory all is as good as it can be. But if I don't treat for mites there are problems, in my opinion it is the breed of bee, we don't have resistant bees here as you do in the US.

Splits etc get fed sugar syrup if honey is not available & there is no noticeable detriment to health, I think most of the nutrition comes from pollen. But the splits & nucs get sold, most of my production hives have never seen syrup, are well fed, but still get mites.

I've also got a slightly different take on the health issue, it's only my opinion and may be wrong, but personally, I don't think hives described as weak or sick, are any more mite prone, in fact I think mites likely prefer nice well fed fat healthy bees to feed on. If a mite infestation is bad enough though of course the hive will appear weak and sick but it's the result of the mites not the cause.

Having said all that, and admitting I treat, does not mean I'm at odds with TF folks, you TF guys are a step ahead of me so that's why I read here and try to learn. :thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I am definitely not the first person to think of this, I know there are other beeks more seasoned than myself that have thought about it. I talked to one of them on the phone the other night and we talked about this very thing. He is a member here as well. I do not mean to imply that honey is the cure all when it comes to hives surviving but I do think that it is one part, heck maybe even a large part, of the puzzle that keeps bees alive without mite treatment.

I have been involved with animal husbandry for all of my professional career and before that as I have always lived on a farm and raised cattle. I can assure you that you can take the most highly touted blood line of any cattle breed, and feed them a substandard diet and they will raise inferior quality calves. If their nutrition is poor then parasites take more of a toll on their health. One thing that I have seen on our own farm is having fleshy, outwardly appearing healthy cattle that have not been dewormed, nor vaccinated in several years. I have also seen the same bloodline of cattle on our same farm during drought periods that had to be dewormed and vaccinated twice a year to keep healthy. The same line of cattle that never need anything during times of plenty, need vaccinating to prevent pinkeye and pneumonia when their diet is lacking in what they need.

Do any of you that farm have neighbors who feed hay during the winter that would scarcely keep a goat alive? We do. Cattle on a neighboring farm are fed hay that is underfertilized, half sage grass, and the cattle come out of winter in poor condition and he loses several cattle each year. Our cows are fed hay in the winter that is prime quality, horse quality hay. They come through winter in fine shape and we haven't lost a cow to sickness in many, many years.

I do know that cows aren't honeybees, but proper nutrition applies to all animals, even the human animal. My waist size would drop and I would no doubt feel better if I ate Subway instead of McDonalds on a regular basis.

Sugar is a carbohydrate and honey is a carbohydrate, but sugar is not honey. Honey made from sugar is by definition still honey, but it is not the same as honey from a nectar source.
 

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It's difficult to tell why a hive died out in many cases. Sometimes there are tell-tale clues, I think -- a total absence of pollen is a clue that they died from protein deficiency when they tried to raise brood (this happens in late December or early January, depending on when your bees start spring brood raising). Late fall losses with lots of tiny white specks in the brood nest is an indication that you had too many mites in the fall and the bees died early in the winter from virus infestations and general weakness.

I do think that protein deficiency has been off the radar for many people. It's not obvious, and the effects happen when it's impossible to get into the hives so it gets overlooked.

Mites vary in genetics just like bees do, and if you have mites that reproduce slowly you may very well have few problems even though they are present, but if you get different mites, say carried on a drone or during a robbing event, suddenly a hive that appeared to be mite resistant no longer is since the mites are much more aggressive in reproduction.

All you can do is inspect and do what you think needs to be done, there are no magical answers.

Peter
 

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I'm a beginner, but I've thought about this a lot. Just as scientists believe that CCD is an amalgamation of many factors, so too do I think that hive health and survival cannot be attributed to any single cause, or even a couple, like mites and nutrition. The super organism is too complex to be easily quantified, which is why beekeepers can argue pretty strenuously two completely different views, and both sides be partly right and partly wrong.

That said, I think nutrition is a neglected aspect of beekeeping. I would like to believe that sugar syrup is good for bees, but I just can't. I'm no fanatic about this; I would feed sugar rather than let a colony die of starvation, but if that should happen, I think it would either be some extreme weather event or poor beekeeping on my part.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Ray, I'm in that boat too. I have fed sugar water very sparingly. I fed one quart per hive this year when we had a cold spell after a nice warm period. If I find a heavy mite infestation I might even us OAV to treat them with. I'm not anti treatment, but I don't plan to prop up sick bees by using doses of antibiotics. I also don't plan to treat for mites unless I see signs of colony failure or start losing colonies on a consistent basis. If I can build a market for my treatment free honey, then I'll add hives so that I can leave 2 supers on each colony. I'd rather have more hives and pull less honey from each than to have fewer hives and pull more from each. I haven't tried my hand at queen rearing yet, but that is going to happen this year and it's going to happen soon. If I can replace my own bees and make more then I see no need to over harvest from any one hive.
 
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