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check out this video

http://anarchyapiaries.org/hivetools/node/14

note there are no bees in these top bar natural comb hives! no wonder they wear no equipment. those hives are smaller then my 4 frame nucs in july!

this may be a classic honest mistake making claims about survivor bees when you got small populations. mites are parasites thus if the hives are kept small you never get the overwhelming explosion of mites.

this operation appears to be more interested in selling bees then producing honey thus the small hives and frequent splits into mid season.

elsewhere in his blog he indicate huge losses over winter. my assumption is that also is a product of small clusters.
 

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"no bees" seems like a bit of stretch. As far as only wanting to sell queens as a his motivator goes I would suspect it is more the case of wanting to breed better bees. I would doubt he sells no more than 500 to a thousand queens per season at best. Perhaps we can get Sam to chime in here? Definitely not factory bee farming.

Smaller operations can afford to some risks with their bees that commercials can not. I applaud and am thankful for the effort.
 

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The hives also appeared to be weak to me. He is going about selecting the right way except I would not ignore the bees ability to produce honey. Basically, I do what he's doing except I also select for honey production.
 

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Sam Comfort has over 300 working hives. I doubt they are 'empty'. He does make up new TBH's to sell every year- perhaps these were a crop of his newer hives on the video? He doesn't sell nucs or packages- I believe he sells complete new TBH's (that he makes and teaches others how to make) with new colonies in them each Spring.

Though he does sell bees, hives, and services, his highest goal is to produce healthy, naturally disease-resistant bees. He feels very deeply about this and about allowing the bees to live and thrive with as little artificial interference as possible. It's his thing. Everyone has their own beekeeping goals.

Last autumn, someone gave me my first working hive of bees, it was 26 miles away, and neither she nor I had any idea how to go about getting the hive to my place.
Sam leads a bee club near me. Someone told me I should email him, so I did. He didn't know me from Adam. He met me at the far farm location where the hive was, and together we opened and inspected the Lang hive frame by frame. He consolidated my hive for winter, explaining every step, pointing out the queen to me, looking for brood and for any signs of disease or pests.
Later that evening after the foraging bees were all in the hive, he came back again with his truck, strapped, loaded up, and drove my hive to my house for me. All this took a good portion of his day to do. He asked me only for gas money in return.

Sam's a great guy who does good things for both bees and people. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm not interested in ripping Sam he looks like he is enjoying himself in the video. He might be a really nice guy too but that's also irrelevant to my post.

There are some folks that seem to believe so called natural comb and top bar hives are somehow magical and the resultant bees in this environment are free without treatments from the same problems most of the rest of the bee world are dealing with and therefore worthy of the title "survivor" status.

My point from the video is that dink hives that are not pushed for honey production and constantly split down for nucs is not an environment where you are developing any survival genetics.

I'm working on the assumption that what beekeepers want is a line of bees that produces big honey crops and can also deal with AFB and varrora without treatments.

Its well known that splitting hives is a form of mite control. Thus bees from hives that are not left undisturbed for a season and allowed to make a honey crop and an opportunity for mites to get going, have really nothing to offer a beekeeper who is looking for honey production in a for profit operation.

Calling bees, "survivor bees" in this context shown in the video could be misleading in my view. I'm saying these bees were never challenged in circumstances that most beekeepers would call an environment typical of big mite loads, so the fact they are still alive later with no treatments means nothing.

So lets leave the video author out of the discussion and use the video as a point for conversation .
 

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Calling bees, "survivor bees" in this context shown in the video could be misleading in my view. I'm saying these bees were never challenged in circumstances that most beekeepers would call an environment typical of big mite loads, so the fact they are still alive later with no treatments means nothing.
Well wouldn't a good experiment then be to take some bees from a heavy honey-producing treated commercial environment and install them into some hives like Sam has going, alongside his 'survivor bees', and let them stay there for a year or two with no treatments and no pushing them for high honey production, and see if they die or do well?
What I'm thinking is that maybe when you raise bees in such a way as to push them into the maximum possible honey production, that just maybe they are then under enough increased stress as to make them more vulnerable to pests and diseases? Sort of like if you jammed a factory full of workers more than 3 times it's intended capacity and made them work 16 hours a day and sleep in crowded conditions then those workers would naturally be more susceptible to disease and premature death, etc.?
I'm not saying this is necessarily the case, but just a thought to consider. It's an interesting subject and i can see your points.
 

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A few minutes into the inspection of the "dink hive" (as you put it,) Sam mentions that when all the brood hatches there would be a basketball size cluster of bees and says that "they would not be able to stay in this little box." What you basing your criticism on is a hive that seems intended for splits, not honey production. His full sized top bar hives are 3' long or more.

Wayne
 

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>There are some folks that seem to believe so called natural comb and top bar hives are somehow magical and the resultant bees in this environment are free without treatments from the same problems most of the rest of the bee world are dealing with and therefore worthy of the title "survivor" status.

I'm not bold enough to say that those folks are stretching the truth one bit, are you? Those folks are not saying they don't have any mites at all, just that their bees are surviving fine without treatments, thus the name "survivors".

>My point from the video is that dink hives that are not pushed for honey production and constantly split down for nucs is not an environment where you are developing any survival genetics.


How do you know that those nucs are not surviving? I'm sure that Sam knows what he is doing here. He is trying to develop survivor stock, that takes in many issues.

>I'm working on the assumption that what beekeepers want is a line of bees that produces big honey crops and can also deal with AFB and varrora without treatments.

I'm assuming the same thing and possibly some other positive traits, depending on what the beekeeper wants to accomplish with his bees.

>Calling bees, "survivor bees" in this context shown in the video could be misleading in my view. I'm saying these bees were never challenged in circumstances that most beekeepers would call an environment typical of big mite loads, so the fact they are still alive later with no treatments means nothing.

These bees already have been challenged in many circumstances that beekeepers are looking for in a "survivor stock", thats why he is raising bees and queens in the first place. He sells survivor stock in the form of complete hives, nucs and queens every year. So the fact that they are still alive with no treatments is "everything" in these days. I don't quite get any of the points you were making.
 

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>So lets leave the video author out of the discussion and use the video as a point for conversation .

I've been trying to think about how to reply to this statement you made, and I pretty much came up empty. I just don't get it, sorry.
 

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Omie, do the double reverse. A 4 box matrix. Top bar bees in Langstroth hives Top bar bees in top bars, and production bees in Langstroth hives and top bar hives. Rank for production and survivability , and run for several years. That might answer some questions.

Roland
 

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Well, I kind of enjoyed the video. Sam is cut from a different cloth and I applaud his efforts. I'm not sure it would work for me, but I'm keeping bees differently for different purposes. Doesn't make me right. Doesn't make him wrong.

Grant
Jackson, MO
 

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>Well, I kind of enjoyed the video. Sam is cut from a different cloth and I applaud his efforts. I'm not sure it would work for me, but I'm keeping bees differently for different purposes. Doesn't make me right. Doesn't make him wrong.

Sam is a super guy, I've never met him personally, although I would like to, but we have emailed back and forth and he just seems like a really good person. Like you say, he is cut from a different cloth, but he's genuine and is doing the beekeeping world alot of good in my opinion.
 

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Omie, do the double reverse. A 4 box matrix. Top bar bees in Langstroth hives Top bar bees in top bars, and production bees in Langstroth hives and top bar hives. Rank for production and survivability , and run for several years. That might answer some questions.
Roland
Yes, I agree!
 

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note there are no bees in these top bar natural comb hives! no wonder they wear no equipment. those hives are smaller then my 4 frame nucs in july!

this may be a classic honest mistake making claims about survivor bees when you got small populations. mites are parasites thus if the hives are kept small you never get the overwhelming explosion of mites.
I watched this video twice now, and I don't understand which hive you refer to that has "no bees" in them. The top bar hives that he requeens at the beginning of that video have at least four or more bars fully drawn with comb and covered with bees. The hives appear smaller than his top bar hives he shows later in the video, but I think he uses them for getting a hie started or hiving a package. he refers to the southern bred queen when referring to those hives. I don't think he intended to requeen full size hives. From what he says I understand that he started these hives with regular queens and is now replacing them with queens from his own stock. For that reason his timing would be right, built up some, but not full strength yet.

The other hives that he works on later in the video (about three feet long or so, with that roof cover on top) it's hard to tell how strong they are. But again they show nicely drawn top bars with a good number of bees on those combs. Again, from watching the video and what he does I assumed he intended to split them for nucs, or increases, or raising more of his stock of queens.

I can't speak to the rest of Sam's operation. From reading on his site he seems to have hives that he runs full strength all year. As to large losses last winter, I believe he wrote somewhere on his site that he does not feed nor treat his bees, and lets winter select the survivors. If I'm not mistaken Kirk Webster's bees also entered the winter of 2008/2009 with few stores (I believe Michael Palmer wrote about it in one of his posts). Since Kirk is also in Vermont it stands to reason that both Sam and Kirk were faced with a bad fall flow that left their bees with little stores. Most beekeepers would probably try to feed their bees. Based on Sam's philosophy that he reiterates on his site he doesn't want to keep bees that won't survive on their own. We can debate the wisdom of that approach, but that doesn't make Sam a bad beekeeper, nor his approach less relevant. It's just the way he approaches it.

Without more information, and solely based on this video, I would not feel comfortable making any claims about the validity of his approach in regards to the survivor label of his bees.
 

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note there are no bees in these top bar natural comb hives! no wonder they wear no equipment. those hives are smaller then my 4 frame nucs in july!
No bees? Did you see the same video that I did, from the link you provided? What i saw looked like plenty of bees for the size of the hive and the time of year that it appeared to be.

I don't really get your point. Is it that his claims aren't valid?
 

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Marc, Sam did feed his bees with 1200 pounds of sugar this past Fall, he said he disliked doing so and usually never feeds his bees, but that this was the worst year weather wise for bees that anyone around here can remember in over 25 years. He said it was a drastic measure because he felt the bees just obviously weren't able to get enough food put away for winter last year. I attended Sam's bee club at its last Fall meeting and all 15 or so beekeepers there said the same thing- they saw very little winter stores in their hives and they were all worried.
 

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What we don't know is when the hive was set up. The video label says "mid July 2008". I am kind of with Bud on this if that hive is more than a month old. If I have a hive that doesn't have more bees than that after the first of May, I will requeen also. By mid July I would expect 4-5x that many bees even from a early May nuc.

Now maybe he just set the hive up a month before, I couldn't figure that out. It seemed to be a very small hive to be splitting in July, but maybe that is just me.
 

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I think that anyone, natural beekeeper or not, would probably do the same thing in Sam's situation. I'm sure all northeastern beekeepers who were on top of things probably fed heavily last fall too. From what I understand, the weather last season was horrible for bees in that area, way too wet and cool, and the fall flow didn't materialize so the bees would have went into winter with almost certain death to follow. Sam has his principles about what natural should be, but he knew the situation was grim if he didn't feed, so he did.
 

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I
I can't speak to the rest of Sam's operation. From reading on his site he seems to have hives that he runs full strength all year. As to large losses last winter, I believe he wrote somewhere on his site that he does not feed nor treat his bees, and lets winter select the survivors....

...Since Kirk is also in Vermont it stands to reason that both Sam and Kirk were faced with a bad fall flow that left their bees with little stores...

... Based on Sam's philosophy that he reiterates on his site he doesn't want to keep bees that won't survive on their own.
Well, I don't know what to say. Sam's home base in in the Hudson valley, not Vermont, and right now his bees are in Florida. I guess he moved them so they'd survive on their own?
 

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I think most of us like to feed as little as possible because it is much cheaper if the bees don't need to be fed. However it is more expensive to replace bees than it is to buy sugar.

I think sometimes we forget that honey bees are Livestock; Livestock usually has to be fed. If everybody stopped keeping the honey bee in this country and they were left completely to their own devices they would quickly die out. They are not designed to survive unassisted in this climate.

If you have to feed then feed, if not then don't... It isn't a sin either way.
 
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