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Author Topic: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free  (Read 2272 times)

Online 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.
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Offline 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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Online 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: 
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Offline SiWolKe

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2018, 02:51:22 am »
The 15th member:

are you still here to update?

I have started with treated bees and they died. The treatments were professionally done by my former mentor. So I see no sense in treating.
This year I treated one colony because I did not want a mite bomb exploding in my beeyard in season. Not to save them.

After 4 years of tf I observed that treated bees act differently than tf bees, comparing mine to friends who treat their hives. Theirs have what I call "livestock behaviour", mine are more acting like "ferals".
If it comes to some traits. I do not mean honey harvest or aggressive behaviour against the beekeeper.



Online The15thMember

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2018, 04:04:35 pm »
The 15th member:

are you still here to update?

I have started with treated bees and they died. The treatments were professionally done by my former mentor. So I see no sense in treating.
This year I treated one colony because I did not want a mite bomb exploding in my beeyard in season. Not to save them.

After 4 years of tf I observed that treated bees act differently than tf bees, comparing mine to friends who treat their hives. Theirs have what I call "livestock behaviour", mine are more acting like "ferals".
If it comes to some traits. I do not mean honey harvest or aggressive behaviour against the beekeeper.



Hi there.  Yep, I'm still around.  I was unable to get completely treatment free bees like I was planning actually.  The apiary that I was planning on purchasing from had higher than expected winter losses and didn't have enough bees to fulfill the preorders, so they were all cancelled.  I was able to purchase 2 packages from an apiary that only treated with oxalic acid though, so that seemed good enough to jump on for me. 

I treated both my hive with powdered sugar starting in about June (I think), but like a classic rookie I didn't monitor my mite counts well enough, and one of my hives crashed and absconded in Oct. from heavy mite load.  If you'd like more information on that, take a look at my thread "Unsure What's Going On In This Hive", apparently it was a textbook case for a mite crash.  After my one hive died, I treated my other hive with formic acid (sold as Mite Away Quick Strips here in the US, I don't know if you guys have those in Germany), to avoid a mite bomb, like you mentioned.  The remaining hive seemed to take the treatment well and seems to be doing well at this point into the winter. 

This upcoming year I'm going to certainly monitor my mites better than last year.  I'll probably try sugar dusting again, and if I do, I'll certainly be more proactive about it than I was this past year. 

As far as temperament goes, my bees seemed really calm last year.  I don't really have anything to go off of, since it was my first year beekeeping, but just by the way other people talk, my bees are really nice.  I was only stung like 4 or 5 times last year.   
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Offline SiWolKe

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2018, 12:13:43 pm »
Ah, thank you for answering!

Yes, those experience is common.

Last winter I thought I had high losses, maybe 100% and ordered package bees to have bees in spring. I had to order in late summer. If I had some survivors from the others I could use the bees for splits and introduce survivor genetics. Well, I had more surving than the year before, but I?m rather glad I have 15 colonies right now giving me the hope to have something left.

The package bees come from a breeder who considers VSH, but I?m not trusting this to make the bees resistant. I know how much more resistant stock struggles in my locale.

So I plan to watch for the mites and do sugar shakes too, to the susceptible package bees splits and cull all capped broodcombs before winter bee breeding starts.

In Germany formic is used in summer. I decided not to use chemicals again but cull broodcombs. It?s hobby reseach and breeding I do so I have no need of the honey and may weaken a hive somewhat a short time. Formic is a treatment which is very dangerous to the queen, if she is not outright killed she lives shorter, treaters tell me. Plus, I have to take out the honey while treating and be careful about the food situation. We had a drought this summer.

It would be nice to go on discussing if you like to.

Online The15thMember

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2018, 01:45:14 pm »
In Germany formic is used in summer. I decided not to use chemicals again but cull broodcombs. It?s hobby reseach and breeding I do so I have no need of the honey and may weaken a hive somewhat a short time. Formic is a treatment which is very dangerous to the queen, if she is not outright killed she lives shorter, treaters tell me. Plus, I have to take out the honey while treating and be careful about the food situation.
Hm, that's odd, I thought formic wasn't an issue with honey.  Maybe the concentration or application is different in your country.  I think most people use formic in the summer in the US too, timing dependent with the local weather of course.  I'm going to really try drone trapping this year too.  I sort of tried it once or twice last year, and I'm hoping to really try and crack down on that this year.   

We had a drought this summer.
 
We had the opposite of a drought this summer!  I had mold in my hives, mold in my house, it was so wet here this year!  My family got a new barn in like July and it was a miracle we had a few dry days to paint it.  We had a pretty bad drought here a year or two ago though.  We actually had some wildfires around us.  Nothing as bad as in California or anything like that, but you could see big swaths of burn damage in places on our mountains.  It's amazing how fast the forest grows back after a fire though.  Already this spring those areas were mostly green again.   

I know how much more resistant stock struggles in my locale.
Why is that?  Lots of people treating?   
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Offline SiWolKe

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2018, 03:45:05 pm »
The formic thing won?t work if you have too much honey stored and so beeks take the supers off. Too much space. You have to use more acid and this is more dangerous to the colony.
The organic acids do not contaminate much I believe.

It?s a schedule here: harvest, treat with formic, feed syrup for winter stores.

The formic is done mostly by vaporising liquid formic acid on a sponge cloth or with a vaporiser.
Often we have a cold weather spell when bees need the treatments formic works not very well, some use 85% formic now which is very dangerous and you need a prescription from the veterinary. It?s dangerous to the beek too, he has to protect himself very well. After a shock treatment the bees are vaporised for three weeks.

After 30 years of constant treatments the mites are very strong and the bees very weak.

Treatment schedule is: drone frame culling in spring, formic in summer, sometimes combined with technical methods like a "Brutscheune" which means the treating of all capped brood of hives combined with formic ,without the queens ( which are in danger, so separated for a time with some bees and one comb) or artificial broodbrakes using queen cages. In winter OA dripping, now substituted by OAV. OAV will be done more than once in future plus all other treatments.

I know there are some who cull drones once in early spring and then continue no treatments. It seems to work in some areas. The bees breed drones again which they need.
I?m not culling drones because it?s my belief epigenetic behaviour of the mites promoted by such a management will become genetic trait of the mites and draw them into the worker brood.

Offline blackforest beekeeper

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2018, 04:26:26 am »
we got four yards at the moment. on 3 mite count was very low (majority) to pretty moderate. 95% of the hives where in good strength.
on 1 yard mite count was surprisingly high and formerly strong hives had dwindled. One had died. That hasn`t happened to me for quite a while!
I don`t have to tell that I "treat" (treating and handling) all hives the same?
This 1 yard, I heard this spring, is in an area of a loose group of non-treaters. We did have problems with mites there from the beginning of wintering bees there. Obviously, these non-treaters don`t have there s...t together unlike the non-treaters on this forum.

Offline Acebird

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2018, 09:25:09 am »

After 30 years of constant treatments the mites are very strong and the bees very weak.
Quote
I?m not culling drones because it?s my belief epigenetic behaviour of the mites promoted by such a management will become genetic trait of the mites and draw them into the worker brood.
But they did Si.  They got stronger and bred more profusely to survive in the worker brood.  Just like chemicals, the weak die and the strong carry on to breed a stronger mite.

It makes more sense to me to use the same plan for bees, kill off the weak and let the strong multiply.  And then the thought comes to me hey, nature is already doing that so just step out of the way and let it happen.

Funny that you should tell a story that you bought more bees because you thought they would perish and yet they all didn't.  This proves to me that man/woman as smart as he/she is cannot predict nature for the most part.  Better to work with nature instead of trying to predict it.  Let nature do the culling and you do the propagation.  For the most part commercial breeder are just selecting traits that are desirable.  Unfortunately their selection criteria is weighted towards honey production and defensiveness.  Unlike the commercial beekeeper the hobbyist would like longevity to be higher up the priority list especially if you personally do not even want the honey.
You will have to find a balance for yourself between longevity and defensiveness because I think these two traits cannot be completely separated.
Good luck.
Brian Cardinal
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Offline gww

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2018, 10:40:35 am »
Blackforrest....
Quote
This 1 yard, I heard this spring, is in an area of a loose group of non-treaters. We did have problems with mites there from the beginning of wintering bees there. Obviously, these non-treaters don`t have there s...t together unlike the non-treaters on this forum.
I don't know if there is merit to statements like this or not.  It infers mite bomb, which could come from many places.  If there are 7 times more treated bees being kept then there are untreated and they lose 20 percent of their hives, it would mean that untreated hives would have to lose 7 times more bees to come out even as being the cause of more mite bombs then treated hives are.

So to say the non-treaters must not have their s..t together would only be true if they were losing more bees then the treated hives that are supposedly being affected by these inferred bad bee keepers.  Can this be true if it is the treated hives being affected adversely?

I am not inferring that the treated bees are unaffected but more that what the problem is could be being miss-interpreted.

In the end, a person probably has to decide what is going to his bees and react appropriately for his bees rather then looking at others as his cause of not doing well.
Just an opinion of mine when I think about it the best I can with what I think I know now.
Cheers
gww

Offline SiWolKe

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2018, 12:36:24 pm »
@ BFB

Quote
on 1 yard mite count was surprisingly high and formerly strong hives had dwindled. One had died. That hasn`t happened to me for quite a while!

that?s interesting! Just today I read in the bee magazine ( Biene und Natur) that this is a this years phenomena. Not only with you!
The weaker hives are humming, the stronger ones have difficulties.

You told me yourself that it?s very difficult to keep your bees alive in your setting, but since you take care of them rather good I suggest this is a bad location, it must not be reinvasion coming from the outside.
Perhaps your hive 5% got some spraying out of the forest. Forest plantages use much spraying and you know how difficult this year was because of the wood beetles.
Spraying: short lived bees, dwindling broodnests, more mites in brood.

There are places which have mites with higher and different virus levels or mutated virus, there are places with nosema present. Can be many factors.
It can be a pool of cold and humid air.
Bees that struggle or are weakened by virus or nosema have no defense against mites at all, so treatments might come too late.

I know of some tf beekeepers in black forest. They count mites and cull broodcombs not to have their hives crashing. Believe me they do not want losses too.
But tf beekeeping is almost not possible in an area with so many migrating commercials. So perhaps it?s a myth and it?s a commercial near you who sets free the mites because he has not such a well done schedule like you have.

Mite reinvasion comes mostly because of drifting, I learned from the swedish resistant bees breeder. He will use robber screens on all hives next year,got the idea from me.
You will have no reinvasion from the bad tf beekeepers then  :wink:  except your hives have no defense at all. But if your bees are the ones that rob...mmh.

@ Ace

As you know I use small cell and a cut out drone corner, following Dee Lusby. I monitored the mite infestation by opening cells. The drone cells are much more infested in my hives than the worker cells.
So the mites are still using the drone cells more, but IMHO they go into worker cells when bees expel the drones in summer.
This expelling does not happen in most of my hives. They have drones all season and to me this is a trait I want to preserve.
My breeding goals will be drones until winter, entrance defense, mite biting,VSH. This I want to propagate, if I have survivors.

I think this developement to lure mites into worker cells by culling drone frames can be returned to a better management if beekeepers would follow. That the drones eat too much honey is a myth in my opinion. Drones are valuable.

@ gww
hello, nice to meet you again.





« Last Edit: December 29, 2018, 01:03:00 pm by SiWolKe »

Offline gww

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2018, 12:59:39 pm »
Siw.....
Hi.  Off topic, I got mushroom spores for xmas.
Cheers
gww

Offline SiWolKe

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2018, 01:05:30 pm »
Siw.....
Hi.  Off topic, I got mushroom spores for xmas.
Cheers
gww

And I got mushrooms before first frost but later snails et them!
 :cool:  :cry:

Offline gww

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Re: How to Start, With the End Goal of Being Treatment Free
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2018, 01:39:10 pm »
Siw
Cool.
gww