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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I live in southern Virginia and I'm curious. I only have 2 hives at present but I've retired and would like to get a lot larger by adding hives and possibly starting nucs to sell. I've made my own powdered sugar once or twice and treated my hives and so far have not lost any bees. My present hives have solid bottoms.
But to get a larger operation going I'll have to get nucs or packages this spring and of course I don't want to lose any hives.
My dilemma - I have a neighbor about 300 yards away that has had four hives for 6 or 8 years and never treats for mites and has had no issues. The only time he had trouble was with a moth infestation but that was after a large swarm and he didn't realize there were very few bees left in that hive.
There is also a couple that lives 5 or so miles away that has had 10 hives for close to that many years and has never treated and doesn't have mite issues.
What they both have in common is that they allow their bees to re-queen or swarm or whatever naturally and have not purchased bees except to get started years ago. Some hives are screened bottom boards and some are solid at both locations.
Neither of these couples sell bees by the way. It's just a hobby for them.
So, are their bees naturally taking care of the mites? Second, if I treat the new bees will that mess up what is already naturally taking place in these hives?
What to do - Treatments with OA and take a chance on messing up the natural progression that seems to be working, or not treat and see what happens?
Who knows.
 

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With treating you take some of the risk out of loosing them. Just got done with the ABF conference 90% was about mites, It’s not the mite it is all other thing that carry. How do you know that they are not loosing hives? Spring/summer Nucs are my replacement hives for winter losses.
 

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[...] to get a larger operation going I'll have to get nucs or packages this spring and of course I don't want to lose any hives.
I know that what follows isn't answering the question you're asking (which I don't know the answer to) - but do bear in mind that providing you're prepared to largely forgo a honey crop, your 2 colonies could well become 6 in one season, and 6 can then very easily become 20 or even 30 ... and from then on there's no looking back.

Personally, I think there's a lot to be said for building up the numbers this way - for not only are you avoiding the bringing-in of 'unknowns' into your apiary - you're also pacing yourself with regard to the increasing workload. The best bit of advice I ever received from a business advisor - for which I'll be forever grateful - was "slowly, slowly, catchee monkey".
'best,
LJ
 

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I wouldn't do anything without knowing your mite counts. Periodically perform a sugar shake or an alcohol wash. That will dictate your course of action.
 

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There are people and areas in the country that can get away without treatments and you and your area might be lucky. Then again, you might not. When trying to build up an apiary, I would not take the chance and just leave it up to fate. Do mite testing and decide from the data what you want to do. Testing wont hurt the hive and it will give you more information than anyone on this forum can give you. I don't recommend treating without testing either. The choice is totally up to you. Do I think it is the bees that are getting rid of the mites? No I don't. Will treating mess up what is already naturally taking place in these hives? Probably not.
 

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Do I think it is the bees that are getting rid of the mites? No I don't. Will treating mess up what is already naturally taking place in these hives? Probably not.
I agree with this quote by dudelt. Two years ago, I agreed with dudelt's sentiment about treating only when testing indicates. I am now wavering from that position. I treat roughly 3 times a year. My post-flow treatment is prophalyctic. No point in me testing when I pull my supers off late summer, because I know what is there. I still test before Spring and Winter treatments, but I am starting to question the value in testing at those times either. Since I use OAV in Spring and Winter, I am not worried about resistance to OAV, and do not believe there is much if any negative impact on the bees, why waste a weekend testing?

As to your neighbors, make sure you are getting the full story. I had a beekeeper friend who always kept around a dozen hives and never treated. He continues to claim that he does not need to treat and still has his dozen hives. What he does not mention until pressed is that he splits all 12 hives each year and catches another 1/2 dozen swarms. He doesn't sell any bees. But he still has a dozen hives. 12 + 18 = 12. He does not have magic bees. He is just doing some magic math.
 

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I know someone about nine miles from me that swears he has a hive that has been continuously occupied for eight years or more. It is close enough to the road to see. I have seen bees flying when they should be and other times I have not seen bees flying when they should be. Pointing this out is not welcome.

Alex
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
We are all close enough (friends) that I'm sure what they are saying is true, and the guy next door I help with his hives when needed so I know what's going on there.

Again, neither of these places have bought bees since they began. Both let nature take it's course as far as re-queening or whatever.

When changing their oil in the beetle pan (on the hives with ScBB) they both will see a mite here and there but are not concerned with them as they haven't had any problems.

Thanks for the comments from everyone
 

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I agree with this quote by dudelt. Two years ago, I agreed with dudelt's sentiment about treating only when testing indicates. I am now wavering from that position. I treat roughly 3 times a year. My post-flow treatment is prophalyctic. No point in me testing when I pull my supers off late summer, because I know what is there. I still test before Spring and Winter treatments, but I am starting to question the value in testing at those times either. Since I use OAV in Spring and Winter, I am not worried about resistance to OAV, and do not believe there is much if any negative impact on the bees, why waste a weekend testing?

As to your neighbors, make sure you are getting the full story. I had a beekeeper friend who always kept around a dozen hives and never treated. He continues to claim that he does not need to treat and still has his dozen hives. What he does not mention until pressed is that he splits all 12 hives each year and catches another 1/2 dozen swarms. He doesn't sell any bees. But he still has a dozen hives. 12 + 18 = 12. He does not have magic bees. He is just doing some magic math.
PSM1212, I agree with your assessment on how to treat and it is better for me personally as well. The advice I am giving above is specific to the poster. Since he (or she) is not having issues while being treatment free, suggesting them to go that way (with treatments) without a reason is bad advice in my opinion. Personally, I treat on a schedule and have stopped all monitoring except looking at the mite drop an a few hives 3 days after treatment. I don't suggest my system to most beekeepers because I have 7 years of data and patterns unique to my area. I know that if I treat in August and then again in December, I am really good for the year. I also recognize the signs of a failing hive (usually mite issues) in late summer because the yellow jackets will be attacking that hive mercilessly. Often, robber bees will be working with the yellow jackets too. I don't have to even open up the hive to find that out, thanks to the yellow jackets. But I cannot ever advise anyone else to take that course unless they are an experienced beekeeper. If you can do beekeeping without treatments, keep up the good work. I don't want to break what is currently working good and not broken. But I do think that if you are going to go treatment free, testing is important because without any treatments, there is no good way to determine how bad things might be without a testing system in place. A single shot of OAV in August can drop hundreds of mites in a couple of days. That is a pretty good indication that you need to do something. If you are treatment free, you would never see that kind of mite drop in a two or three day period and might not know there was a problem. A testing system will help you to find it out, hopefully before it is too late.
 

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With treating you take some of the risk out of loosing them. Just got done with the ABF conference 90% was about mites, It’s not the mite it is all other thing that carry. How do you know that they are not loosing hives? Spring/summer Nucs are my replacement hives for winter losses.
Not sure why you have loose hives. You could strap them down?
 

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Learn to do mite counts so you don't get caught in a particularly bad year and end up losing a significant number of colonies. I was treatment free for 9 years and expanded from nothing to about 240 colonies. It worked out really well until multiple stressors happened in one year. I lost way too many bees.

I prefer the the alcohol wash because it is fast and efficient. At this point I identify the colonies with high counts. I treat those and requeen as soon as possible with genetics from colonies that keep low mite populations. There is no reason to let the bees die when you can just change the genetics and they have another chance. There are always outliers that don't deal with mites as well. My focus is to get them out of the local population and improve mite resistance.

I also run a lot of nucs (close to half my colonies) year round. Those are used for resources for splits and raising queens, and of course replacing deadouts. The nucs can help you reach your expansion goals in a hurry.
 

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Couple thoughts you might want to consider. First, I did not do treatments my second year - split from 1 to 3 hives. I noticed that the number of frames covered by bees was close to the number of frames of brood. So, if I had 8 frames of brood, I'd have 10 frames of bees. Well, there is a problem with that - every frame of brood should result in TWO frames of bees (a frame holds over 2000 bees crawling, and often has around 4500 bees in the brood cells). So, my bees were dying almost faster than they were being replaced... this is an early sign of a hive that is being overwhelmed by mites.

If you are looking to expand, get to know the way your bee population grows. And will you be selling mite-resistant, swarmy bees that don't make honey? Or are mean? But you may have mite-resistant bees that are gentle enough and lay up a lot of honey instead. Get good at documenting important performance traits of your hives so you can identify good queens to breed from, and so you know what you're selling. I note the number of frames covered with bees, and the number with brood, with every inspection. Nastiness and presence of SHB in excess numbers gets noted too. I'm not very disciplined at noting honey removed for harvest - but that is another metric of the queen's performance.

But the queens are only half the equation... if you are selling bees with your mated queens, the responsible thing to do is either swamp with your drones from your good hives, like 10 hives with drones, or to encircle your mating area with 3 out apiaries with couple of drone hives - still 10 drone sources. The more hives around you, the more your drones from colonies with known traits are competing.

It is possible to trust to mother nature... but sometimes she produces bees that are a mother. It's adaptive, after all....

Or you can do splits then buy queens from a breeder that you want to work with. Then you can concentrate on one part of the equation. There is a big demand for local nucs with local queens... don't have to be your queens!!!

Or maybe you can learn to graft your favorites, and help your neighbors requeen with your queens...

So taking some time to flesh out your goals as a beekeeper who is selling bees is a good way to wile away some winter days... and thinking about the extra equipment, minimal number of hives and when you split and sell...better not to be operating by the seat of your pants!
 

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If you have two neighbors that have continual hives without treating, my concern with buying bees from outside the area is that they may not have the ability to go treatment free and the drones will be mating with the better bees, driving their quality down. You may want to point that out to your friends and talk them into letting you graft from their hives. You could offer to pay for successful grafts. They may not want to deal with breeding, but maybe they don't mind if you do.
 

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looking at the google terrain map for clarksville it appears there is a fair amount of wooded lands around. it's very possible there could be wild-type or feral colonies surviving in the area. it sounds like you and your friends are experiencing fairly good success managing off treatments so far.

if you are going to be doing a lot of splitting to generate nucs for sale mites will be even less of an issue for you. for your potential customers, you can let them know the history of what the bees are doing in your area and they can always treat them if they are so inclined. by not treating your nucs will appeal to wider range of customers.
 

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If they have some mite resistance, its irresponsible to mess with it by treating. Its not yet clear to many beekeepers is that caretaking of genetics should be on the list of responsibilities we have. That means selecting for mite resistance even if one is too scared to be treatment free. Prophalactic treating does long term harm to population genetics.
 

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So, are their bees naturally taking care of the mites? Second, if I treat the new bees will that mess up what is already naturally taking place in these hives?
What to do - Treatments with OA and take a chance on messing up the natural progression that seems to be working, or not treat and see what happens?
Who knows.
the answer is nobody really knows for sure.

from what you report about colonies in your area surviving off treatments and given what appears to be favorable habitat, it's quite possible that you and your friends are working with bees exhibiting some resistance to mites.

the answer to whether or not you can mess up what may be naturally taking place is possibly yes. it's hard to beat making more queens from a colony that has survived a few winters off treatment and and consistently yields a good honey crop.

one other not entirely understood factor when it comes to treating is the degree to which the treatments alter the microbial life inside the hive.

we don't know for example if the fact that the mites and viruses are getting more virulent all time, which results in lower thresholds at which colonies show ill effects, and causes the need for more treatments more often...

may have something to do with the alteration of the normally occuring microbial life inside the hive, perhaps due to the elimination of beneficial organisms needed for the bees to have natural immunity against viruses ect.
 

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What evidence do we actually have of this statement when it comes to honey bees?
none that i know of psm1212.

although it's what one would expect thinking about it intuitively,

and it's not a big stretch to infer considering how a commercially produced package of bees that comes with a history of prophylactic treatments and then left untreated fares compared to populations of bees not receiving treatments that have been found successfully co-existing with varroa.

science has some catching up to do.
 

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none that i know of psm1212.

although it's what one would expect thinking about it intuitively,

and it's not a big stretch to infer considering how a commercially produced package of bees that comes with a history of prophylactic treatments and then left untreated fares compared to populations of bees not receiving treatments that have been found successfully co-existing with varroa.

science has some catching up to do.
Fair answer SP.

And until that science catches up, I wish we would be a little more careful about what actions we call "irresponsible" when it comes to this subject.

The OP is suggesting purchasing packages to jump start his growing apiary. Is it a responsible practice to purchase and place package bees and withhold treatment, right next to apiaries that are deemed to be resistant stock? Sounds like a very good way to bomb out everything that those neighbors may have been working for.

For those that are diligently selecting for resistant traits, I think this would be their worst-case scenario.
 
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