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Author Topic: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free  (Read 138 times)

Offline The15thMember

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How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« on: January 03, 2018, 04:05:03 pm »
I would like to be treatment free, but it seems that people who are treatment free took a while to get to the point where their bees were successful, and I'm not sure how they got there.  I read so many things that say you need to be proactive with varroa, or your bees will die.  If my goal is to be treatment free, should I start out that way, just monitoring to see how many mites there are, and then do something if it gets out of hand?  Should I do nothing if it gets out of hand, and just let the bees die and try again with different bees?  It seems most people are told to rein in the idealism and just get a year or two under their belt, but how should I go about getting a year or two under my belt?  Basically my question is, with the goal of being treatment free, what should my treatment plan be going into my first year?         
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Offline gww

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2018, 08:08:13 pm »
What I seen was a little differrent.  Several just started and it worked.  I have heard many that went the other way also.  On a differrent forum though, I saw 4 new members this year alone that joined that had already had bees for 3 or 4 years and had never treated.  I am in year two and have not treated yet.  I don't know what the future is and have heard the horror stories which I also take at face value.  I do believe more new people try it and if they fail, they become convinced it is not possible.

  I even believe that it may not be possible in some places.  I only know one way to try it and that is just to do it.  I also think that you can kill bees in other ways when new and mites could be the cause and other mistakes could be the cause.  My view is to try what you want to do, watch your bees and adjust if you need to and look at what others are doing and pick the things you want to try.  The risk with live things is that they may die.  If too many die, you have to adjust some more.

I try and learn what everyone is doing and experment and if the cost becomes too much, will probly treat but it hasn't yet.  Lots of new bee keepers lose hives treating or not and it might not even be that bad if you can pay attention and see what it looks like and then adjust for mistakes.   

I did buy the only bees I have bought from a very small time long time bee keeper locally that doesn't treat and caught some swarms.  I went into it expecting the hives to die and they haven't yet but that does not mean they won't.  I am not doing mite counts and will probly let the hives that die, die and see what percentage it is adding up to and then decide if I want better or if it is good enough.  Remember, I am a new bee keeper and am more giving my view and where I am putting my skin in the game then advice.   

I have 9 hive/nucs that were alive the last flying day and may be dead the next flying day but so far so good.

I do know a guy from my state that did keep bees 4 years and not treat and now does treat.  He also went to foundation.  I don't think it was cause his bees were all dieing but more because he wanted even more out of them and I think it worked. 

You have to decide for yourself.
Good luck
gww

Offline cao

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2018, 08:19:11 pm »
Whether or not you treat expect that at some point in time you will loose some hives.  I tell people that want bees that you need to be flexible with the number of hives they have.  If they want 2 then expect to have 0-4 hives at any one time(hopefully they can keep it at the upper range).  I started with 3 nucs 5+ years ago.  At last count I have 38(two of which are in observation hives in my house).  All treatment free from the start.  The only "treatment" I do is oil pans under screen bottom boards to catch SHBs.  I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging because I have had my share of losses.  Most of them were due to the learning curve involved(even the best beek will loose hives).  Knowing when they are queenless, how much they need for winter, robbing issues, SHB, etc.  The last two were hives that swarmed and failed to get a mated queen to return that I didn't catch in time.  My main reason for not treating is that that adds another variable that I didn't want to have to learn all the do's and dont's. 

My advise is to got treatment free from the start if that is your end goal.  You can monitor the mites if you wish but that could lead to more worrying than is necessary.  The only mite checking  that I do is when they build drone comb between boxes that get tore open when inspecting the hive. 

Get bees from someone local that doesn't treat their bees if at all possible.  I was naive when I started and didn't know what questions to ask the guy that I bought my nucs from.  So I don't know whether he treated or not.  But they were locally raised bees which I think is more important.

gww posted before I could but I would have to agree with what he said.


Offline gww

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2018, 08:30:43 pm »
cao
Quote
My main reason for not treating is that that adds another variable that I didn't want to have to learn all the do's and dont's.
In the beginning, this was also my reason.  Starting the way I did give me time to look at the other stuff incase I ever decided I need it but also gave me time to see if I needed it and slowed down the rush to have to know everything right off the batt.  At some point and time you just have to jump and take what comes and try and learn from it.  So far "knock on wood" I am learning a little about the other side but have not needed to use that knowlage yet.  I am in no hurry.
You are doing well.
Cheers
gww

Offline Acebird

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2018, 08:30:11 am »
It is my belief that newbies kill more colonies than varroa based on the number of newbie posts on two forums.  Even the beekeepers that insist you treat say if you don't they will only last 2 or 3 years.  What they don't say is if you do treat they will only last 3 or 4 years and some replace the queen every 1 to 2 years.  So if you are like me trying to maintain 3 hives you split them and will end up with more than 3.  It is only when you lose 2 out of the 3 that it is harder getting back to 3.  But of course you could lose all 3 in one year.  The sad story is you could have 20 hives that you treat and lose all your bees.  It is only when you have a large number of hives that you are pretty safe that you don't lose them all in one year whether you treat or not.
Here is the thing if you get new equipment and treat you will have contaminated your equipment.  I don't think treating and then going to treatment free works but you can try it.
Brian Cardinal
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Online iddee

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2018, 08:51:45 am »
Although there are no guarantees, it will likely help with tried strains rather than just run-of-the-mill. Weaver's American, VSH, and here's one here in NC.

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Offline Michael Bush

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2018, 09:48:44 am »
>I would like to be treatment free, but it seems that people who are treatment free took a while to get to the point where their bees were successful, and I'm not sure how they got there.

As Acebird said, lack of experience is one of the reasons new beekeepers lose bees.  It's not just Varroa mites.  If you look at the statistics that the Bee Informed Partnership collects, there is not much difference in losses between people who treat and people who don't.  Some years the treaters lose more and some years they lose less.  If you keep bees you will lose colonies sometimes.  There are several aspects to having bees that can survive.  Some of that has more to do with climate than Varroa.  Southern bees don't do well in the north, in general.  That's not to say that SOME of the bees you get from the south won't survive the north, but in my experience the majority will not.  You are sort of in between.  You're not in the far north but you probably get more winter than Georgia where a lot of the bees you would likely buy would be from.

>I read so many things that say you need to be proactive with varroa, or your bees will die.

I have done nothing for Varroa since 2003...

> If my goal is to be treatment free, should I start out that way, just monitoring to see how many mites there are, and then do something if it gets out of hand?  Should I do nothing if it gets out of hand,

That is one option, but keep in mind that sometimes things get worse before they get better.  Sometimes right when the Varroa get bad is when the bees get motivated to do something about them.  Here is a quote from Kirk Webster on his observation:
"...when 150 queens were introduced into nucs with brood untreated for 18 months. This brood had a normal outward appearance when the nucs were made up, but four weeks later about half of them were starting to decline with PMS-type symptoms. But after another three weeks, almost all of these colonies appeared normal and healthy again."?Kirk Webster

That is not to say that all your bees will always recover, but if you monitor you are likely to just decide to treat when it may or may not be helpful.

>and just let the bees die and try again with different bees?

That is another aspect.  Multiplying your colonies from the survivor colonies is one aspect of treatment free beekeeping and if you start with treated southern bees you many have to go through some to find bees that can survive in your climate and bees that can survive without treatments.

> It seems most people are told to rein in the idealism and just get a year or two under their belt

By then you have wasted two years where you could have been moving towards natural cell size and treatment free bees.

> but how should I go about getting a year or two under my belt?  Basically my question is, with the goal of being treatment free, what should my treatment plan be going into my first year?

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Offline The15thMember

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2018, 01:45:23 pm »
Thank you all so much!  You made me feel so much better.  I'm the sort of person who likes to go into something knowing exactly what to do and when, and beekeeping seems to require a different approach to learning.  I was fearing being underprepared, but it seems like that's just part of the game.  I'm sure it will be an immensely educational experience, both from a scientific standpoint and from a personal learning standpoint, and I'm feeling now like I can jump right in and take my best shot at it.  Thank you all!   :happy: 
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.