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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
To all of the beekeepers who do not treat their hives at all, I am wondering how you monitor or manage disease as it arises. For example what do you watch for during hive inspections? What types of problems have you found since you began managing your hives this way? How have you dealt with these problems? Have you ever had AFB in a hive and how have you dealt with it?

Thank. I have been combing through the archives for this info as well but if anyone knows of an older thread which addresses these issues let me know.

Thanks,
J
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Do you treat prophylactically for afb? Are spores truly omnipresent? If so are there preventative measure to be taken aside from treating with antibiotics?
 

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The only thing i know to keep AFB at bay without treating is to keep the nutrition up. Feed syrup when you need to, add pollen patties or feed from the pollen feeder. Realize, that just because pollen is coming in, does not mean the bees are getting what they need.
Weather stress, plant stress, will affect the quality of the pollen.

Keeping the hive strong and healthy, not swarming, but strong and healthy, reliant on themselves to keep the hive clean, and you might have good success.

All diseases and mites are present in the hive. It is when the stress loads get to much that the disease and the mites start to thrive and create problems. It's called the threshold barrier. And each time another stress is added on to a hive, the barrier lowers.

Remember what you do now affects everything right up to and including next spring....really!
 

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If the hive isnt thriving and its not related to swarming I pinch off the queen, make them make another, I have had EFB did not treat upon my next inspection they had cleared it all up, Dont know if they had AFB but if they were suffering with low numbers I would of pinched off the queen they would of selected a egg that was not affected By AFB and produced another queen
Bob
 

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A good place to start is with stock known to be disease and mite hardy.

Such bees should seldom show signs of disease and be able to clean it up but it is impossible to know, even if you have good stock, that an individual queen exhibits the necessary resistance until something shows up.

Unknown stock may be susceptible to various maladies and not suited to being run without treatments, despite possibly being good producers when managed appropriately.

The standard advice in regard to AFB is to burn. Some advocate burning everything associated with the affected hive (including the beekeeper).

Others recommend less drastic measures. A lot depends on the experience and outlook of the beekeeper involved.

Beginners should probably destroy any combs with disease and if opposed to medicating, requeen, then watch very closely. AFB can avalanche quite quickly and if it does, then expert assistance is in order. Once it gets going in an outfit, it can infect hives to the point where they are worthless.

Others may decide that they are going to have to compromise their principles and use recommended medications according to local guidelines, possibly with the assistance of the local inspector.

Personally, I have observed hives which have recovered fine from a few cells of AFB, and others that progressed to the point of being only fit to be destroyed. I have also observed a few hives in abandoned apiaries clean and thriving while all the others had long since died out from AFB.

Chalkbrood, sacbrood and EFB are usually self-limiting, but requeening with good stock is generally a good idea if you see much of any. Don't requeen from that stock.

In short season areas, a bout of disease can handicap the bees during the critical buildup and flow period sufficiently that they hive will not recover in time to be a candiate for wintering, so prevention is the best cure.

Sick hives just don't winter in the north.
 

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You always want to asses the health of the hive whenever you do what you are doing anyway. For instance I'm looking at a brood frame I'm looking for chalkbrood, sacbrood, foulbrood, chilled brood, starving brood, etc. even though for many of them I would do nothing, I want to know how they are doing. I also look for "K" wings, and Varroa on bees, and Varroa in a few of the drone cells etc.

But my plan is not to treat. I have never had AFB, so it's hard to say what I would do. Emotions seem to take over for most people at that point. :)
 

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For example what do you watch for during hive inspections?
I don't always look for the queen, just the results, brood pattern, overall strength in numbers, and check to be sure there are eggs/larva/sealed brood.
Overall examination of pulled frames to make sure nothing appears out of the ordinary. I also try to keep an eye out for the occasional mites on the bees.

I occastionally will do a 24/48 hr. mite count with fresh oil trays.

What types of problems have you found since you began managing your hives this way?
So far, no problems except with high mite count which I think resolved itself, either because of a dearth period or because the bees were finally regressed to small cell.

Have you ever had AFB in a hive and how have you dealt with it?
I have never had the AFB, but during the 80s I helped a local beek that managed 2,000-3,000 for a migratory beek. Upon the trip back to Texas in the fall we discovered some colonies with foulbrood [we concluded AFB was from stress of the trip, thereby putting the bees in a weakened condition]. We isolated these colonies to a different location [don't remember the number but probably in the twenties]. We then treated with terramycin mixed with powdered sugar. Treated each colony 3-4 times every 3-4 days [as I recall]. Cleared up the problem with no after affects.

Kindest Regards
Danny
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
It seems from your responses that the key to successfully managing bees without chemical treatments is preventative care. This takes the form of adequate nutrition, awareness of any disease/pest problem within the hive followed up by an appropriate non chemical response, and regionally adapted and disease resistant stock.

Are most of you breeding your own stock from the hives which survive/thrive under your management and in your own climate? That will not be an option for me this year at least and I am wondering how to assess my various options in purchasing bees.

The are several local beekeepers who raise nucs in my area. What sort of questions should I be asking before I make a purchase? Should I look for a supplier of package bees? How do I evaluate the authenticity of any claims made by growers? High yields, while desirable, is not the most important concern for me.

J
 

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buzzbuzz, I myself am in an expansion mode. Entering my fifth season of expansion. I do this by purchasing nucs (started with packages, nucs build up quicker, if I can get them) and queens for splits. I also split my colonies each spring. Last year, by getting the right queens at two different times in the summer, I actually split one colony 3 times. Only got 20 pounds surplus off it by season's end, but I was going for increase.

My suspicion is that the key to treatment free are the bees themselves. Do research, and you'll find those strains that will probably work for you in your locale. There are several resistant strains out there, and some people seem to think that having a genetic mix in your apiary gives you a stronger colony. Except for the Russians. When they breed with other strains, it appears to dilute their strengths. I'll know more about that in a few years... LOLOL

After a few years of expanding with the right queens (for splits) and nucs or packages, you'll have a good genetic mix in your drone population when you go to rear your own queens, or let your bees rear them.
I wish you well!
Steven
 

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I'm not sure how "no treatments" is perceived. Is this just not using miticides and antibiotics or are we talking about no pollen subs, no HFCS, no fumagillin?

I have some hives I don't treat chemically. I'm more interested in their rate of survival and mite resistance. It's a very small percentage of the hives I keep, largely ferals. You ask, "What do you do if you encounter a problem?"

Well, these hives go untreated so the answer is, "Nothing." That's what makes them "untreated." As soon as I treat, they fail the criteria of being "untreated." I'm looking for bees that survive the problems without my chemical intervention.

However, I "treat" these hives with pollen subs and supplemental feeding. Does that count? I have a number of hives in which I add essential oils and grease patties. Technically, these are treatments, too.

I'm not trying to be a stick-in-the-mud about these things. I'm not sure how we're clarifying our terms.

Grant
Jackson, MO
 

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what works for me in florida might not work for you with shorter growing seasons your winter arrives very fast and mine almost never comes, so you should take what I say with a grain of salt, you should talk to those local beekeepers there is a lot of good info there
I would ask if they treat and what with and then you make the call, and I would buy from multiple sources to keep a good mix, then hope for the best, but if you put enough thought into it, it will work out
Bob
 

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I'm not trying to be a stick-in-the-mud about these things. I'm not sure how we're clarifying our terms.
I fear that is part of the confusion. Treatment Free means different things to different people, apparently depending upon the degree of intervention they practice. That's why, from my perspective, when someone says they're "treatment free" I always like to have them tell me what they're doing and not doing.
Regards,
Steven
 

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Treatment Free means different things to different people, apparently depending upon the degree of intervention they practice. That's why, from my perspective, when someone says they're "treatment free" I always like to have them tell me what they're doing and not doing. -StevenG
Sound advice here. "Treatment" really needs definition. To some folks, "chemical application" is synonymous with "treatment." Others include breaking the brood cycle or drone trapping or both as "treatment." Still others might include artificial selection of genetic traits for resistance to be a form of "treatment." And some certainly consider supplemental feeding to be "treating."

A few folks have even considered smoking hives as "treatment."

Depending on your definition of "treatment," the only "untreated" hives might be unmanaged colonies. Or, again depending on the definition, hives that have everything under the sun done to them except chemical applications might be "untreated."
 

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Other factors included in my hive inspections (leaving "treatment" alone for a moment):

Production (honey and overall condition of the hive).

Brood pattern.

Queen status.

Behavior of the colony (defensive vs. passive, hygienic trait expression, presence of other animals, robbing by other colonies, etc.)

Of course, I also check for parasites and diseases, but I would also use chemical treatments if I found a problem and deemed it worthwhile to use such a course of action.
 

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A good place to start is with stock known to be disease and mite hardy.
I don't disagree w/ the statement above, but Allen, don't you think that a good place to start is with education?

Quite often I see questions on beesource that make me think that the questioner doesn't have much bee and beekeeping knowledge and they are trying to take the easy road by asking questions on a bee forum. That in itself isn't bad, but a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Especially if it is taken as the gospel truth, when, in fact, there is more than one way to do something.

But, I do agree w/ Allen, that disease resistant and mite hardy stock is good to have. That and a strong nectar flow.
 

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How do I evaluate the authenticity of any claims made by growers? J
Well, I would think that if you don't trust what they tell you you should stay away from them, as suppliers of bees.

It also seems to me that if you want treatment free bees you shouldn't start w/ bees that have been or came from hives that have been treated. To me that would be like growing an organic garden from seed that came from plants that weren't grown organically. But maybe that's what organic gardeners do, I don't know.

So, unless you can find a supplier of bees who is on the same schedule as you want to be on, you are going to have to settle for what is available, bees that came from hives that have been treated. Any swarms that you collect in the Herkimer area will have come colonies that have been treated for one thing or another. Unless you can find a cut out or bee tree that has been occupied for a couple of years.
 

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Sound advice here. "Treatment" really needs definition. To some folks, "chemical application" is synonymous with "treatment." Others include breaking the brood cycle or drone trapping or both as "treatment." Still others might include artificial selection of genetic traits for resistance to be a form of "treatment." And some certainly consider supplemental feeding to be "treating."

A few folks have even considered smoking hives as "treatment."

Depending on your definition of "treatment," the only "untreated" hives might be unmanaged colonies. Or, again depending on the definition, hives that have everything under the sun done to them except chemical applications might be "untreated."
I would have originally defined no-treatment as no pesticides.

However, your comment on smokers brings to mind something I've read in an article about a 'treatment free' TBH beekeeper.

http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/June04_beehive.pdf

Almost crying tears of
joy, the Crowders recognized
they had a silver bullet to the
mite problem and that their
farm would survive. Since
this initial experiment, they
have used creosote bush on a
consistent basis to keep mites
at bay. They have also found
that juniper bark and leaves
when burned are an even
more effective solution on
mites.
The use of creosote or juniper as a
miticide was quickly discredited by the
producers of Apistan, who claimed the
smoke contained chemicals that could
cause harm to the bees and the consumer.
There were members of the scientific
community who thought otherwise, however,
finding the practice to be not only an
effective way to kill mites, but one that
was safe for bees.
Creosote or juniper in a smoker. Interesting stuff.
 

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I'm not trying to be a stick-in-the-mud about these things. I'm not sure how we're clarifying our terms.

Grant
Jackson, MO
It seems like you have set your own terms. That's fine. How someone else sets their own terms, I don't know. Certainly if one says that they are treatment free and then they artificially control the health and well being of their hive, then they are deviating from the "leave alone" ideas of "treatment free". I guess it just depends on how fanatical one wants to get about this idea.
 
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