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New beek here still in my first few months of beekeeping. I have appreciated the information I've received from this group and come with more questions.
My goal is to keep 2 hives. 3 months in and they are still alive! I would also like to use as little as possible in the way of chemicals (I will treat if necessary) I've been researching non-chemical ways to keep varroa counts down - drone frames and splits, etc.
I came across a website at mdasplitter.com that talked about on the spot queen rearing which appealed to me as I would prefer to not have to bring in bees from other areas. I think bees from my own area make stronger hives.
But then again, I'm new to this and I just don't know what I don't know. :)
MDAsplitter diagrams how to take one hive in the spring and break it down into nucs which produce their own queens and build which are then put back together in time for the honey flow creating a "powerhouse hive" It creates a brood break which controls varroa. But it also requires the discarding of queens. I'm still trying to wrap my head around all the ins and outs of the process but I have a lot of questions, many of which would likely be covered in his book. So first question - Is the book worth $75.00? I don't mind spending that if it's a workable program for someone who ONLY wants to keeps a couple of hives. I do not have the space for more. Has anyone here used this method? The appealing part is raising my own queens and the break in the mite breeding cycle. The unappealing part is the destruction of perfectly good queens and from what I can tell, each hive at the beginning of the process will produce an extra hive by the end of the process.
All insight is greatly appreciated.
 

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MDAsplitter diagrams how to take one hive in the spring and break it down into nucs which produce their own queens and build which are then put back together in time for the honey flow creating a "powerhouse hive" It creates a brood break which controls varroa. But it also requires the discarding of queens.
i haven't spent much time reading all of the info on the method, but generally speaking i'm not a big fan of aggressive splitting as a means to mite control.

perhaps someone familiar with the method and having experience with it will chime in, but on the surface here's what doesn't make sense to me...

1. the queen in the parent hive isn't getting a brood break so the mites will continue reproducing in that hive.

2. if the splits are made with brood there will be mites in that brood along with phoretic mites, and after the new queen starts laying in 2 - 3 weeks the mites will be reproducing again in the splits.

3. when you combine the splits back to make the 'powerhouse hive' and unless the brood is discarded along with the queen you are just combining the mites in the capped brood along with the phoretic mites back into the production hive.

4. mites generally don't become problematic until late in the season and after the main honey flow is over. it's not clear to me how this method gets around that.

it might be argued that the splits could get a pass on succumbing to varroa the first season, but i'm not sure i see how 'powerhouse hive(s)' are going to get that pass.

i think aggressive splitting is a great way to produce a lot of colonies and selling those can be profitable.

have you met any beekeepers in your general area having success with survival and production that are utilizing methods that you are comfortable with? if so that would be your best source of information as many of the factors involved tend to location dependent.

if not and you enjoy experimenting your experiences will be a great teacher. i would recommend deciding on a reliable method for determining mite levels in your colonies, watch closely for any sign of brood disease, and do whatever it takes to prevent robbing should you have a colony collapse.

robber screens and frequent observations are the best way to accomplish the latter.
 

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I'm new to this and I just don't know what I don't know.
That ... is my all-time favourite expression: the not knowing of what you don't know - which of course also includes not knowing what you need, and what you don't need :)

My recommendation is, whenever possible, to always keep a minimum of two-and-a-half hives - with the 'half' being a nucleus colony. Think of that nuc as being the equivalent of an automobile's spare wheel - it's function being solely to provide a laying queen, should one of the others become lost or damaged out of season. Cheap insurance. Then, come spring, it can be sold or given away.

With regard to buying the book you mention - if your plan is to keep just a couple of hives, then you really only need to raise one or two queens each year. There are umpteen methods of doing this, none of which require specialist equipment, sophisticated techniques, or knowledge which needs to be purchased. :)
Very best of luck.
LJ
 

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Mmmm, that book is on my wish list, but I haven't sold enough honey to be justified in buying it. ;)

I am actually considering something similar come spring. I have 7 hives, and I don't want to go beyond 10. I'm not succeeding in preventing swarms unless I split. So, why fight the system? All queens get pulled out, but... I won't make 1 split and 1 queenright nuc. I'll make 2 splits and 3 nucs from 3 hives, something like that. Then of those hives that don't end up with a mated queen, I will just recombine with the queenright nuc from the original hive. What could go wrong? ;)

Yes a great phrase, and a lot of wisdom to admit that one doesn't know what one doesn't know. ;) It's all about asking the right questions, and being willing to change course based on good advice. And identifying good advice. Try your local bee club, and if you don't like them, try one the next county over.
 

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Those nucs ate some valuable little things when you only have a few hives.OTS will get you lots of queens and then you will need a bunch of nucs for all those queens you raise.If you re only keeping two main hives then two or three nucs will serve you well.Pull five frames fora nuc from each hive during spring and let them raise you some new queens in them.You can keep them small and have extra queens if needed.Pull brood off of them if you need more brood in a hive for some reason.Sell a couple to other bee club members or whoever.Sell a queen off them to someone in need right then.Just have them to watch and play with if you want.There are lots of uses for extra nucs.
 

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One thing to consider before launching into this system is the timing of your main honey flow(s) in the mid-atlantic compared to the northern mid-west region flows where it was developed. I think yours are quite different in terms of timing and length, not just earlier versions of the same thing.

This is particularly true if you are looking at this as primary means of mite control without disrupting the honey flows in your area. The ideas regarding queen making techniques ( i.e. notching, etc) are more universally useful.

However, notching in my experience producers a surfeit of queen cells, which present their own problems. If you want to keep just two or three colonies there are far easier, and more small scale, ways to go about it. Andyou don't have to re-queen very often - I almost never do, usually leaving it up to the bees to discern when one of my old gals is running out of steam. They almost always fix things up, with their usual perfect timing. Disposing of excess queen cells is distasteful enough to me, so killing laying queens simply as a moderately-effective mite-control strategy isn't something that works for me.

I know you want to be a as treatment-free as possible, but I hope that doesn't mean you also want to be a mite-checking free as possible. TF, or not, you have mites that needed to be checked. There are a many ways to control them, but you can't figure out what to do, or use, and when, without a constant idea of the mite levels in your colonies. How are your numbers right now? It's too late to do the MDA thing this year, so if your mite counts show you need to get them down, I wouldn't delay treating in order to make sure your bees to get through their first winter with you.

Your bees will soon be making their winter bees (winter bees are physiologically different from summer bees), so you need to protect the nurse bees of the nurse bees who will feed and care for your winter bees. Mites spread viral diseases that greatly shorten the life-spans of wintering bees. Even if your hive technically survives winter, if the there are too few surviving winter bees at the start of the build-up next spring you will miss your main honey flow just catching back up. Bees won't raise brood they can't cover with enough bee bodies during cold spring nights (why waste the resources?) so that acts as a restraint on a strong build-up.

One chemical you might consider using right now is formic acid (Mite-Away Quik Strips, or the newer formulation Formic Pro). Formic acid is approved for use in organic honey production. It has the extra benefit of killing mites under the cappings as well as phoretic ones. It can be used with honey supers on the hive, and as an added bonus, it is also active against tracheal mites which can still be problematic in some areas. Formic comes with high day time temperature restrictions for queen and brood safety. But even in MD, you should now be getting cool-enough days for it to work. It takes no special equipment beyond gloves to apply.

Once you get your bees well-prepped and ready for winter you can spend time this winter gathering info on Mel's method. Much of the information on the system is on the mdasplitter website and on youTubes. And perhaps you can borrow the book through inter-library loan, before shelling out that much money for it. This is a link to the WorldCat site, that shows that three US libraries have copies of it: https://www.worldcat.org/title/ots-...rldwide/oclc/1001808412&referer=brief_results The nearest copy to you is in ME (but I would also think Cornell has one, too, despite it not showing up.) The reference librarian in your local public library can help you find out if you can borrow it through inter-library loan, which is often free, or very low cost. It takes awhile to get books, sometimes.

If you need help on getting set up with a mite monitoring program, I'll be glad to help.

Nancy
 

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All you need to know has been presented on the free diagrams that Mel D. provides on his site.
This one-page, free diagrams are gems and have everything in them in front of you.
Sure, buy the book as a way to compensate Mel for all the work he has done (which is a lot and Mel shared much of it away for free).


1. the queen in the parent hive isn't getting a brood break so the mites will continue reproducing in that hive.
Technically correct - no brood break.
But recall, the mite propagation progress works very closely to the exponential model (on which grozzie2 on this forum has done much work - kudos to that point).
This means that very tiny changes at the beginning of the curve develop into huge changes down the curve.
That's the point of exponential model.
So, every time you manage to reset the progress down (while at the very beginning of the curve - this is important), you hugely affect the events down the stream.
One issue is - need to repeat this reset reasonably often (probably every 2 months or so) before the curve crosses the no-return point.

2. .... and after the new queen starts laying in 2 - 3 weeks the mites will be reproducing again in the splits.
Back to #1.
It is all about the mite levels (not about their mere presence - which is always positive).
As long as the mite # is dropped to the very beginning of the exponential graph again, you again have about couple of month to stay afloat.
Eventually, you run out of the summer window frame and this means you survived for another season (as long as you have a segment of colonies with low mite counts - that is you propagation/sustainability apiary segment - your starters for the next season). The manipulations with the splitting help you keep staying at the very beginning of the exponential growth graph.

3. when you combine the splits back to make the 'powerhouse hive' .....
This is a throw-away hive which you sacrifice in the name of the high production.
Mel specifically states that this powerhouse hive will likely fade to the mites - entirely logical statement.
Here you totally ignore the exponential mite growth (in fact - you promote it by the combines).
But this is needed in order to create short-lived, but very powerful workforce needed for the honey production.


4. mites generally don't become problematic until late in the season and after the main honey flow is over. it's not clear to me how this method gets around that.
It gets around that by continuously knocking the mite progress to the beginning of their exponential growth function - in the apiarie's growth segment.
Notice - few hives are to be sacrificed (the honey producing power hives).
However, the entire apiary stays afloat and even is growing (due to the splitting operation).
Apiary as a whole matters; individual hives - less so.
Within the apiary you maintain the 1)honey production segment and 2)sustaining/propagating segment.
This is in the #2 where you keep knocking the mite progress down by keeping the colonies split.

i'm not sure i see how 'powerhouse hive(s)' are going to get that pass.
They don't and that's the whole point.
You butcher them and it has been clearly stated by Mel more than once.
This is how the model works.
The entire model is based upon the dis-balances and it is genius at that, IMO.
Also, this entire model is based on the apiary-as-a-whole idea (not focusing on individual hives).
The end result is to keep the apiary going all the while exploiting few individuals to the max and letting them drop off.

PS: IF (and this is a large IF) such "powerhouse" survives all the mite pressure thrown at them, those bees need to be looked at closely for propagation purposes; this is, however, is not very likely because even resistant bees will have hard time surviving huge mite numbers due created by "powerhouse" hive creation.
 

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So people may argue about Mel D. approaches from both ends.
I am a fan, however.
Trying to develop my own work-flow around Mel's models.
This is a reasonable compromise in my view.

A huge positive - no need to worry about any chemical issues (active selection for chem-resistant mites needs special mentioning since it is not obvious to some).
Just a non-issue and done with it.
 

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on the surface...

it seems like a lot of equipment and manipulation needed per unit of honey harvest compared to conventional methods...

to me sacrificing queens and powerhouse hives seems like a waste of resources...

most of all i feel the artificial breaking of the mite cycle while not moving the ball forward with respect to selection for more mite resistant stock is opportunity lost, especially if one is truly interested in pursuing bees that can be managed without chemicals.

for those not so concerned about the return on investment of their money and time why not go ahead have some fun. i don't see any reason why the method would not perform as advertised.

nancy's point about the timing of the flows is spot on. in my area there wouldn't be enough time between coming out of winter and the short-lived main spring nectar flow to make up nucs and then recombine in time to get a good harvest.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I know you want to be a as treatment-free as possible, but I hope that doesn't mean you also want to be a mite-checking free as possible. TF, or not, you have mites that needed to be checked. There are a many ways to control them, but you can't figure out what to do, or use, and when, without a constant idea of the mite levels in your colonies. How are your numbers right now? It's too late to do the MDA thing this year, so if your mite counts show you need to get them down, I wouldn't delay treating in order to make sure your bees to get through their first winter with you.
If you need help on getting set up with a mite monitoring program, I'll be glad to help.
Nancy
Oh no, trust me I've been doing regular mite testing. Likely more than I need to but then again I suppose that's what new beeks do. I didn't receive my nucs until the last week of May. Up until 10 days ago I found no mites when doing sugar roll testing. I just can't do the alcohol wash yet. I've been working so hard to build my colonies up. But the last test pulled out 2 mites in one hive and 1 in the other. I will definitely treat before winter sets in. I'm mostly looking for ways to reduce treatments once I'm into my second year.
Thank you for your offer of help. Our beekeeping association here has been good at offering a lot of information and support on monitoring and treatment.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thank you to all who took the time to answer my questions. I'm still working through what will be the best course for me and my small colony. (and I'm sure it will evolve) I'm not set on any one path - just trying to figure out the pros and cons of the different ways to approach beekeeping.
My goal is not to make a lot of honey. I certainly will appreciate having enough for my family and friends but beyond that I'm not looking for large honey production. But as GregV says, I'm looking at the apiary as a whole. If the MDA splitting system results in overall healthier colonies with stronger bees and less treatments necessary at the end of the year, it might be worth following. I don't know if that's the case though. I do find his process a bit heartless but then again it depends on what you are wanting to get from your bees.
I just find it amazing there can be so many different ways to look at beekeeping.
Thanks again for all your thoughts and for all the information that is here on the forum. I'll make my way through all of it as some point. :)
 

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If someone wants to keep a limited number of colonies, make replacement queens and a few insurance nucs, the double screen division board or Snelgrove board, does a good job. It also provides almost fool proof swarm control.

My climate does not lend itself to early splits without killing the honey crop. Later conventional splits have a hard time getting up to speed to overwinter. The snelgrove system seems a good compromise for me.
 

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I just want to chime in on a few points that I think are being misunderstood about OTS.

One is that the parent hive does get a brood break because the queen is dispatched so they will raise new queens. You dispatch the old queen then notch the brood frames the next day after leaving them queenless for twenty-four hours. They will raise new queens which will give them about a month with no new brood. You are in complete control of how many of those new queens you keep or dispatch.

Two is that this process is timed so that the hive will make more honey than usual as they will be experiencing the brood break during the peak of the honey flow. With no new brood to rear, the bees get busy making honey. Also, to prepare for a honey flow by combing hives, you effectively can take advantage of the brood rearing capabilities of two hives and two queens between flows.

Three, you shouldn't worry about having too many bees. What a great problem to have, you can only hope that it happens to you. Go ahead and make all of the bees you can -- I hear they are easy to sell if you get too many.

I'm not an expert on OTS but I like Mel's system and I do own the book. What's it worth? What's $75 worth?
 

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This is not really about too much equipment.
This is rather about running your hives on a smaller size, make many of them, and combining FEW smaller hives into large artificial conglomerates for honey production.

Also, I would say, I would much rather just sell 2-3 nucs per season and that will just about cover my expense and much more.
Local bees for sale are much more valuable product and we have shortage of that.

Not many of us here fortune to have either isolation (so to control the mating situation) or strong presence of resistant feral bees (to help to stay off chem treatments and do no special manipulations at all and be productive too).
My winter survival last year was 2/11 off treatments.
So this summer I am trying some of the OTS ways.
Inflow of commercial bees from south is annual routine, huge in volume and just floods the area.
Even if you have acquired some feral lines or Russian lines, dilution pressure is really strong here.
What are you going to do to stay afloat and be chem free in a heavy commercial-bee area?
 

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Dona,

You don't want to think simply about "treating before winter", you want to think about treating before your winter bees are being raised. Right now the nurse bees for the nurse bees that will actually raise your winter bees are being raised themselves, so late summer is when you want to think about treating in order to protect the later bees. Treating later may be too late.

In addition, the one-shot treatment using oxalic acid (vaporizing or dribbling) - after effective treatment earlier to protect the winter bees - shouldn't be thought of as the last treatment step. (Even though it's applied this year "before winter.") It's the first step of next year's varroa suppression program as it is protecting bees that will be born in March and April.

Nancy
 

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And is says right under the July 5 visit:
Now remove original queen and make 4 two‐ brood ‐ frame nucs for the overwinter replacement bees
Removal of the original Q is not mandatory, mind you.
In my case, I want to preserve my sole surviving Q for as many years as I can and it will be silly to follow the method blindly.
An artificial swarm will do just the same effect as Q-pinching brood break (here I disagree with Mel D.).
A shook swarm and a clean brood-less re-start should work just as well.
 

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DonaB - I'm just a bit south of you and have some of the same goals.

As a general rule in this area we have a nectar flow from around April 1st to early June. By the first of July it is time to plan on getting ready for Winter.

I would prefer to just have one hive that could dependably survive on its own, but things have happened this year that give me two full hives (2X8 Frame Deeps) and two pretty full NUCS (5 OVER 5).

Assuming that one of the NUCs survives I'll split up the NUC resources once the flow is on to create (hopefully) four queens. I have tops and bottoms to split the NUCs down to four 5 frame deeps, with modified bottom boards on two of the NUC bottoms that allows me to turn them into two frame queen mating NUCs by flipping the bottom board over and inserting a follower board..

DSCN3556.jpg DSCN3562.jpg

I can choose which queen I want to reproduce and get her offspring using a "Miller" wax frame in her hive. I'll combine two queenless halfs of the NUCs (one box from each) to build the queen cells from the "Miller" frame. If I get four queen cells the NUC halves get flipped into 2 frame mating nucs. If this works out I now have four replacement queens. Two for my two bigger hives and two for the NUCs (which are recombined to 5 over 5 with the queen introduction. I do have to pinch four (of last year's) queens if everything works out:( I'm willing to share if I end up with extras.

If things don't work out during the flow, I can try again in June with supplemental feeding.

I think that you may find that an oxalic acid drench in early summer and Formic acid in late summer will keep the mites under control.

Glen
 

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If I have to stop the car...Really, we're going to quibble over semantics? Following Mel's general method, ealier this year I removed my good laying queen to a nuc along with a sufficient number of bees to care for the brood. Within a month, she was filling a 10 frame deep. In the meantime, the parent hive produce about 14 really nice emergency queens cell from which I made 5 nucs and gave two cells away. All the bees for these splits came from the parent hive. 1 nuc got robbed out and did not make it, the other four are very strong and the first split got split again. The principles of the OTS method are what matters, not the to the letter following of "the plan". Mite drops after OAV on all these hives have been under 100 three days post treatment.
BTW, it is not necessary to notch the cells. I prefer to let the bees choose which larvae to turn into queens. According to a recent discussion on Bee-L, there is a good genetic rationale for doing so.
 
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