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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Sorry if I missed one of the 1,650 different topics under this forum but I can’t help but see so many people confounded about treatment free beekeeping. I rarely see anyone using methods by those individuals who are easy to find and have excellent documented success not treating in anyway to include artificially feeding your bees.

If you aren’t regressing your bees to bring them back to a natural size found in the wild then there isn’t even a reason for you to go treatment free.

• Regressing your bees to at least true 4.9mm foundation or smaller.

• Use Housel positioning of frames

• Give them an insulated hive just like your boy L. L. Langstroth told you to do. He also said, “Such is the passion of the American people for cheapness in the first cost of an article, even at the evident expense of dearness in the end, that many, I doubt not, will continue to lodge their bees in thin hives in spite of their conviction of the folly of doing..."

• Or just go horizontal hives. It doesn’t get any cheaper than a tbh! If you aren’t a commercial beek and don’t plan on moving your hives then there really is no point. Most commercial beeks don’t over winter their hives anyways as they are always on the move when fall comes to some place warmer ready to pollinate something. Even dumping them to sell and never making it back home. Even if you do plan on moving hives you could still go horizontal. Wayatt Mangum (top bar hive master bar none and professor of biology and statistics at University of Mary Washington) owns over 200 tbh and moves them by himself with a small pickup truck easier then anyone could with a regular Lang. He offers pollination services and doesn’t use any tool or machinery outside of a small pickup with no trailer to move a thing.

The concept of success to a commercial beek is dollar signs. Requeeing ever year to every two years, varroa treatments, pollination services, contaminated honey & wax extractions, selling of contaminated honey and wax, selling artificially sized bees and queens living in a pesticide filled home ready for you to buy = weaker immune system and shorter life span. This has been proven.

There is a reason why the cosmetic industry only gets their wax from Africa. They are all about the money too and they obviously know something about contaminated wax and the chemicals used in treatments. Being about the money they will avoid any attempts of a lawsuit from someone applying lipstick then having an allergic reaction to some bug spray chemical used to kill mites.

When the varroa came to Africa they had a meeting on what to do. They looked at the rest of the world treating and said, “If we don’t do anything the issue will solve itself in a year or two.” They don’t use foundation and their bees aren’t artificially huge. They have no problems.

The scientific mentality that humans can consume small amounts of poisons (examples: fluoride, pesticides, aluminum, etc) and they will do no harm should not be the same mentality towards your bees. They obviously do harm no matter the amount. It’s all about the effects. If they show no effects then it does no harm but surely long term effects aren’t ever studied beyond a few years.

Spain, nearly the size of Texas has such an epidemic with varroa that they have become resistant to all treatments except checkmite. That’s a sad story.

So then why is it that with 30 years of resistant bee breeding we still haven’t got anywhere yet those who truely have success in treatment free beekeeing never went the route of mixing genetic stock to get some VSH behaviored stock bees?

It’s all in the small cell sizes. Smaller cells are more compact which naturally keeps the brood warmer. Which causes less work for the bees to fluctuate the temperature.

Is is proven that varroa naturally seek the larger drone brood due to the longer incubation period and their ability to mate prolifically with such a longer incubation time is what leads to a hive being over run. Therefore when you are using jumbo sized foundation or foundation less but your bees are making jumbo foundation because that’s all they've ever known, every single cell becomes a drone cell to the varroa.

Small cells shorten the incubation period for worker brood by a full day which ruins the varroas day.

Then you have VSH behavior. Why? It’s not because of genetic breeding for resistance because feral swarms aren’t artificially inseminated yet exist and are also smaller and build smaller cell sizes. Also, so many people are quick to requeen their hives when they see checkerboard brood. They assume, because they’ve been told, that the queen isn’t a prolific layer and needs to be replaced. If you have VSH behavior in your hive then you will have that checkerboard effect. Do not kill your queen. Just leave your queens be. Your hive will replace her and kill her themselves when it’s time.

VSH has to do with more bees for the same amount of work. Contrary to what anyone may think I’ve seen one hive clean out deformed wing virus brood which triggered every hive in the apiary to do the exact same thing. In a week it was over and it looked like a gravesite outside each hive and every hive is fine and thriving. It would appear as if the bees have the ability to learn the behavior from each other regardless of genetic makeup.

• Small cells warmer compact brood nest

• smaller bees proven to live longer by weeks

• 7000 large cells on regular Lang frame vs 8600 small cells.

• smaller bees are able to reach more flowers

• larger population

• more bees for the same amount of work = VSH

It’s strength in numbers not strength in bee size and the more numbers the better.

100 years ago a man decided bigger bees means more honey and farther flights. Then came the new standardization of large foundation. That was fine and dandy but now we have varroa and we’d have to look at why certain people and certain places in the world aren’t having trouble. It comes down to cell size.




Dee Lusby, Michael Bush, more than enough European scientist and plenty of European beeks have done enough of their own research with their own experiences to make sure you don’t have to go through what they did to get where they are today. It’s much easier because you have all the answers on what they did. With the exception of the first paragraph and these last two, none of these words are mine. They are from those who have had the most success and came forth about it and to them I say thank you for all your hard work and to let you know there are beeks who truely take what you say and apply it.

You may never completely get rid of varroa, you may have losses in the beginning but overall the amount of stress to your bees will be greatly reduced and it would appear as if nothing can stop them. I digress and apologize if any of you take offense. The majority of beeks who learned everything from looking through the eyes of a commercial beek laugh at treatment free beekeeping. So prove them wrong, study and apply. These people aren’t just lucky. They all use the same methods. I leave you with the most, in my opinion, informative video jam packed with reused information from Michael Bush and Dee Lusby from an Austrian beek. We are lucky to have someone kind enough to voice it over in English. It may seem slow and its an old video which should be a testament to how long its been working for him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTFs7wv4F2s&app=desktop&persist_app=1
 

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Housel positioning is a thing, again? Oh, boy!

Do you do this successfully, year after year, or are you just repeating what you have read or seen on a video?

BTW, when I examined the combs from a 20-year plus feral location, I found no correlation to any particular cell size. It was all over the map. And I counted thousands and thousands of cells over many square yards of natural comb.

Nancy
 

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BTW, when I examined the combs from a 20-year plus feral location, I found no correlation to any particular cell size. It was all over the map. And I counted thousands and thousands of cells over many square yards of natural comb.

Nancy
Keep in mind those so-called 20-year old cells have a variety of ages in them.
Some cells are 20 year old maybe (consider the cocoon build up in them too, while at it).
Others maybe only 1-2 year old (these cells could have been destroyed and rebuilt upon the location dead-out and the following re-occupation... and again.... and again).
The re-occurring swarms can be all over the place (escaped Italians; actual ferals; whatever odd mutts)..

Also, what bees were the founders of this place?
Large-cell escapees?
Small-cell ferals?
How many times dead-out occurred?
How many re-occupation occurred?

The very original founders had a chance to set the very original cell size - be it large or small (the cells that still could be present, depending how long the vacancy was in there during the warm season - see wax moth....).

So, I would not consider these cells in this "20-year plus feral location" as indicating anything.
In fact, the cells in this 20-year location totally should be - "all over the map".
Only makes sense.
 

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It’s all in the small cell sizes.
While I am in your camp, I am will NOT advocate for things like standardized "small cell".
Artificial standardization is bad.
Short and simple.

Instead, I feel running away from standard cell size as quickly as you can is part of the formula.
It seems to me, variety of cells in a given colony has a reason.
Important reason at that.
Depending on sizing, bee cohorts in a given colony may be performing somewhat different functions too (outside of ages, obviously).
Larger bees could be more efficient foragers, but smaller bees could be better in the colony hygiene.

Notice, for example, how is the late season brood placed on the combs - in the lower part of the comb which tends to be smaller cell (IF natural comb, of course).
This means that the winter bee tends to be smaller.

Summer bee, to compare, is raised across the entire comb up and down and across.
This means larger peripheral cells are used also.
This means, in turn, that summer bees will contain cohorts of larger bees (good for foraging).
None of these points even come to mind IF you run standard cells - totally unnatural.

See cohort specializations in other social insects - ants, wasps, termites.
Unsure why this same idea is absent in bee research.
At least I am not aware of anything significant in this area.
 

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hmm.

i went back through your 8 posts and don't see much reporting on your personal beekeeping experience. that would be helpful with respect to knowing how much or how little credibility we should give to your comments.

fwiw, i'll be starting my 10th season keeping bees off treatments. my successes/failures for the past 4 years are chronicled here:

https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?306377-squarepeg-2015-2018-treatment-free-experience

you'll notice that i don't employ much of that 'proven' methodology you laid in in your opening post.

we are truly interested here in reports of actual hands on treatment free experiences. to date there are only a handful of us taking the time to do that. what can you report?
 

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This is all old news. I think I was already misguided by it all way back in 2003. If Housel Positioning, Small Cell, Treatment Free, and all the teachings of Dee Lusby and Michael Bush were valid gospel truth, they would have swept across the beekeeping world, all beekeepers would have adopted them and no problems would any longer exist. I applaud FreeBee and all others spending time on Housel Positioning and small cell because it will waste a lot of their time,money and effort thereby making them much less competitive to me.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Housel positioning is a thing, again? Oh, boy!

Do you do this successfully, year after year, or are you just repeating what you have read or seen on a video?

BTW, when I examined the combs from a 20-year plus feral location, I found no correlation to any particular cell size. It was all over the map. And I counted thousands and thousands of cells over many square yards of natural comb.

Nancy
Of course Housel is a thing. The literature of the Y in regards to comb has been there since the 1800’s and well documented. Michael Housel merely observed it, researched it, and implemented it. Once you mark your frames the way they are built success is based on putting them back the way they were. It’s as simple as it sounds.

To disregard how a feral swarm would build its hive and just place them however you would like is like telling the bees they don’t know what they are doing and you know best. Feral bees don’t need us in case you forgot and if you don’t want to use them you don’t have to. It’s been proven, with hot hives prone to swarming to make them workable, calm, and less prone to swarm.

How and why does the largest organic beekeeper in the United States have the greatest success bar none and uses it?

We tend to disregard those who buck the norm and it’s unfortunate.

As Greg answered the other half just because I setup swarm traps and catch bees doesn’t mean I have a feral swarm. Just because I find a hive in the wild, doesn’t make it feral either.

Cell size in the Philippines are found to be 3.6-4mm. The warmer the climate the smaller the bee tends to be. The colder the bigger, not exceeding 5.2mm. Dee Lusby put her bees on 4.9mm foundation. Her foundations are so old and they are black as tar. Overtime from use, her bees keep getting smaller and smaller from the buildup inside the cell. Good thing to think about in regards to “feral” comb in the wild.

Also, larger artificially sized bees that swarm and do survive start to regress in size on their own. It’s natural. Might also be a reason for the different cell sizes to go along with what Greg stated.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
It’s all in the small cell sizes.
While I am in your camp, I am will NOT advocate for things like standardized "small cell".
Artificial standardization is bad.
Short and simple.

Instead, I feel running away from standard cell size as quickly as you can is part of the formula.
It seems to me, variety of cells in a given colony has a reason.
Important reason at that.
Depending on sizing, bee cohorts in a given colony may be performing somewhat different functions too (outside of ages, obviously).
Larger bees could be more efficient foragers, but smaller bees could be better in the colony hygiene.

Notice, for example, how is the late season brood placed on the combs - in the lower part of the comb which tends to be smaller cell (IF natural comb, of course).
This means that the winter bee tends to be smaller.

Summer bee, to compare, is raised across the entire comb up and down and across.
This means larger peripheral cells are used also.
This means, in turn, that summer bees will contain cohorts of larger bees (good for foraging).
None of these points even come to mind IF you run standard cells - totally unnatural.

See cohort specializations in other social insects - ants, wasps, termites.
Unsure why this same idea is absent in bee research.
At least I am not aware of anything significant in this area.
I understand your stance and I do advocate for going foundationless but shaking them down first to 4.9 cell size to give them a jump start is what I believe is best to correct what has been done. They may even need to be there for a season to ensure that they build correct comb size.

If you don’t shake them down eventually they will regress themselves to the size they see fit, if they survive that long, although in some cases it could take years.

Cohort specializations - Could it bee that with bees it’s not the same?
 

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Are you kidding me? You are trying to school Nancy on raising feral bees? That is like you trying to teach MP how to overwinter nucs in Vermont. Instead of telling us what others have done, how about telling us about the outstanding success you have had adhering to these ideas. Do you even have bees?
 

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I could write a small book on this. First of all artificial feeding has nothing to do with being TF. Organics, sure but TF nope. I’d rather feed then have dead bees. It’s just good husbandry to take care of your livestock. Housel theory was never anything more than that. In all my observations I have yet to see such a thing. 4.9 is no magic number. I will concede that today’s 5.4 foundation is enlarged. Having regressed bees to 4.7-5.0mm cells size for over 16 years. The majority of all my colonies when allowed foundationless reverted to 5.0 to 5.2 cell size core brood nest. I could go on a rant at this point but won’t. Genetics play a bigger roll on varroa survival than cell size does. Believe as you wish. Good stock with the right traits will go farther than using 4.9 foundation. I think you will find there are a number of us here who have been down the small cell road.
 

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Cohort specializations - Could it bee that with bees it’s not the same?
Correct answer at this time - we do not know.
While it is clear bees do not have such distinct specialization as termites do (talking of totally different morphology), it is also possible that bees could be similar to ants (less of clear morphological differences, but the ant sizing often determines what they do - smaller workers vs. larger soldiers).

Why not the bees be similar to the ants in some way?
I do not see anyone paying attention to this.
Clearly, bees are harder to observe in action than ants.
I am only theorizing and googling at the moment, but I feel this is a worthy idea.

Still, a clear, indisputable fact is - natural combs will produce bees of different sizing (bigger variation in summer bees; smaller variation in winter bees).

Shaking onto 4.9mm - I will not spend the time and effort on it (and $$ for 4.9mm foundation - nope).
So far, after 3-4 comb rotations I keep seeing 5.1-5.2mm in my own bees (still mean to measure this winter when I can).
Next spring will show, but I am bullish that some of my 5.2mm bees will be with me still.
 

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A hundred years ago someone decided to make bees larger. Before that nobody had ever had a problem with varroa.
Thirty years ago 100 percent of Michael Bush’s conventional bees succumbed to varroa. Once converted to small cell he’s never lost another hive to varroa.
These are the indisputable facts! Why is this all so difficult to comprehend?
 

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Greg, I with you on comb sizing. My answer to oversized foundation cells is to go natural foundationless comb in the brood nest. I think trying to force the bees to a smaller size is just as ridiculous as trying to force them to be bigger.
 

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Of course Housel is a thing. The literature of the Y in regards to comb has been there since the 1800’s and well documented. Michael Housel merely observed it, researched it, and implemented it. Once you mark your frames the way they are built success is based on putting them back the way they were. It’s as simple as it sounds.
Poppycock!
 

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Greg, I can assure you I have measured 100’s if not in the 1000’s of combs over 16 yrs of small cell. 5.0-5.2 is what carniolan type bees produce on average. They are of the larger body type with Italian bees on the smaller side. I have also done full shake downs onto both 4.9 starter strips and full foundations. It is quite demoralizing to bees, can cause abscondings. I don’t recommend it at all. Progressive regression of combs is a much safe route. If anyone was inclined to do so. For foundation use I strongly recommend dadants 5.1 wired foundation or pierco 5.2 plastic foundation. Nothing wrong with foundationless either but that can have its own issues.
 

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Re Housel and getting the Y in the right place relative to the opposing comb.

Below is a pic of a brood comb maybe 4 months old and had a few cycles of brood through it. The cocoon build up is making the cell bottoms go round, some of them are already perfectly round. Another few months and all the cell bottoms will be completely perfectly round, as beekeepers with older comb will have observed.

The question - When the cell bottoms are perfectly round, how do the bees tell if the Y is the correct way up that Michael Housel said it should be?




This next image (not my own picture) shows cocoon build up.

 

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Discussion Starter #19
A hundred years ago someone decided to make bees larger. Before that nobody had ever had a problem with varroa.
Thirty years ago 100 percent of Michael Bush’s conventional bees succumbed to varroa. Once converted to small cell he’s never lost another hive to varroa.
These are the indisputable facts! Why is this all so difficult to comprehend?
My point exactly. That is a George Forman TKO fact right there.
 
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