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Author Topic: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?  (Read 613 times)

Offline charentejohn

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TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« on: September 08, 2020, 09:39:42 am »
Thought I would pose this question as mine are started in this year (May from 5 frame Nucs) and are basically Warre format.  My first year keeping bees.

I keep reading about TF hives not making it through winter in their second year.  Set me thinking this may be related to larger hives and honey harvesting as much as TF.  What triggered it was a new keeper posting on FB showing the small amount of honey in the supers since may.  I thought I am sure that these should not have been expected to produce supers of honey in year one. 
This tied in with the number of new keepers failing over their second winter which can be put down to inexperience.  They weren't TF as far as I know but shows a potential problem.

I can see starting with a swarm that has been treated and now is going 'cold turkey' is not the best start.  However putting them in a larger hive and regularly messing with them would not help.  In the second year people will expect a harvest so will mess with them again and may misjudge stores etc.  As a result they just have one too many hills to climb and fail.

Regardless of hive size I would guess that year one TF would be install and leave them alone.  Minimal checks to see they are building up ok then leave them to it.
Spring of year 2 they will hopefully swarm, brood break new drone blood etc, and they can start the year nearly new.  Having been allowed to swarm they may then produce enough to harvest but play that by ear.

A keeper near me has had the same (or similar) set of bees cycling themselves round in his Dadant brood box for over 7 yrs.  He just adds supers as and when and harvests, otherwise he has never removed a frame or messed with the main hive.  So this obviously can work as he gets his bees from swarms, and has been doing this a while.

Just wondered what advice or thoughts such keepers on here had on this.  Basically how to make sure they make it into year 3 and onwards.     

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Offline The15thMember

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2020, 01:03:47 pm »
I'm not a non-intervention beekeeper, but I am an organic/mechanical only treater and I am entering my third winter.  I'm sure there are those hives that suffer from overzealous harvesting in year 2, but I think in a lot of cases, it's simply the fact that the mite load really maxes out then.  If you start off in your first year with a swarm or a package, even a nuc in some cases, the hives just doesn't get large enough to cause the mite/bee ratio to become a real problem.  But if the hive is successfully overwintered and enters year 2 at a decent size, now the mites are off to a good start too.  The mite problem in the second year can also be compounded by the fact that hives sometimes aren't strong enough to swarm their second spring.  I think that the hive's performance with regards to mites in its first year can give new beekeepers a false sense of security, which causes hives to crash in the second year when keepers assume that the situation will be the same as the first year.  In my area with my bees, I must do something about mites, or I'll lose too many hives.  I sincerely doubt that anything but consistent losses and breeding would get me to the point of total non-intervention, and depending on what surrounding beekeepers were doing, maybe not even then.  Just my two cents though.  Just because it would be hard for me, doesn't necessarily mean it'll be as hard for you.   
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Offline charentejohn

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2020, 07:14:19 pm »
Good point of not swarming year 2 as not sufficiently strong.  I may have one of each, both doing well but when I got them one had 3 frames covered and starting the others, the other nuc was 5 frames built solid. 
Next year I will nadir another warre box to make 3 in all and remove the dadant to warre adapter.  Basically acting as a 3rd warre box at the moment.  Doing this may make them less likely to swarm so I will check regularly.  I am and will continue to do sticky board counts just to see any trends, next year will be especially important.

So far, despite asian hornet harassment, they are doing well, mite count of 20 or so / day is ok so winter should not be a problem.  Winter should be the usual not too bad affair, no snow and mostly above zero temps.

It is just that I see the, TF fails yr 2, cited lots of places like it is certain.  I am realising with bees there are few definitive answers as so many variables.  That said there must be some things to avoid, as an example leaving them unmolested in one box until yr 3 if TF may be one?
Experienced keepers must have seen this.  Like Scot Mc Pherson said a lot of TF keepers probably fail due to lack of help with the basics (like when not to harvest) from more experienced keepers of all persuations.         
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2020, 09:53:18 am »
This thread is thought provoking because I am TF and about to enter my 2nd winter.
My hives are long lanstroths, foundationless from the beginning. I have not treated, and do not even check mite count. I know that it may seem irresponsible, but I decided at the onset that I would be completely TF or not keep bees at all. Even so, my hives are better off than feral colonies in the wild. I supply room and oil traps for SHB. They certainly are no worse.
I plan on continuing to leave them all the honey they need, and so reduce or eliminate the need for feeding, but i can do that as a hobbyist.
It will be interesting to see what happens this winter.

Offline charentejohn

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2020, 07:22:46 pm »
Bob, thanks for that on two levels.  One is that it is good to find someone running a year ahead of me and so far so good.  Second is knowing there are others doing this when I am tempted to give in and do something.
There are a couple of new keepers like myself here in france that I am a year ahead of, they will have TF bees next year.  So I am their Canary in the coal mine.
On the mite counting I am doing it for the first year, and maybe second, just so I know what is happening.  The count would have to be someting massive to worry me and counting once you have confidence in your bees seems unnecessary.  The voice of reason on such things is Scot McPherson (also ok facebook)  As he says some people need to count but others don't.

I had a load of bees in a bird roosting box for 7+yrs, which is what got me interested, and they had no problems.  Local mixed stock, what David Heaf calls 'very mongrelly mongrels'. The box they wer in was way too small and made of 14mm (1/2") ply so they can survive most things. Box size is not a direct problem more 'overtaxing' them by messing them about in the early stages ?
One thing we are spared in France is SHB, we just have Varroa and Asian Hornets.  I think Scot mentioned he moved from US west coast to east coast and from SHB to varroa as main problem.

My current mite count is under 20/day so not worrying me.  I did consider a one-off treatment just in case as they are bees previously treated but only when necessary, I really don't want to as they are active and busy. One good thing about sticky boards is I found some things other than varroa.  I found some 1wk+ pupae they had ejected, tubular open floor, so obviously they had a problem with them and sure more went out the entrance.  May or may not be hygenic behaviour but tending that way ?
I use top bars with a 7cm (2.5") foundation strip between two end dowel rods, well I did have.  They took a dislike to it and ripped it all out which is something I applaud :) Was worrying at first to see the huge pile of shredded wax under the hive.   Since the bird box bees made it and likely they came from a local keeper I hope these will with a little help and encouragement.

   
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2020, 11:50:00 pm »
John. Glad to hear the bird box bees are doing well. I am sure they swarm every year, and so have picked up the genetic material of feral bee drones.
I believe my first hive was a swarm from another beekeeper. Since then, the bees have become smaller and darker building their own comb and cell size, and swarming. I am still working on how to keep the brood nest open in my long hives.
I am still learning a lot of the basic concepts of beekeeping, and still have a lot to consider, especially on issues of varying opinion.
Some are adamant about everyone needing to treat for mites. Time will tell if I can succeed TF, but I am committed to this purpose.

Online Ben Framed

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2020, 01:03:33 am »
TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?

Treat. lol just kidding. Wishing y'all the best. I understand the romanticism and other views of non treating. As Bob stated, his bees are better off with him than in a feral setting. Lets not forget Cao. Very successful except for SHB this season.
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Offline charentejohn

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2020, 05:25:21 am »
It does need nerves of steel Bob   :smile:  A few times I have been weakening and thought just a bit of a treatment won't hurt, then I toughen up and stick with it.  Look at Scot's video as he covers some of the problems.  He is a TF commercial keeper which is unusual.  When I listen to people like Leo Sharaskin it helps with my resolve.  I figure once year two is passed and they start swarming then that is success.  The swarms are of bees that know how to survive and the one's left get a new queen with part of that ability, and on and on.  There will come a time when they fail naturally, queen predated on a mating flight, exceptional cold but that's ok as their work is done and I now have a space for a swarm to occupy.

For people like myself with two hives there is a risk of losses but we have the time to devote to minimising that risk. I am planning my 'wild' hive in a stand of trees so that any swarms from these, or anywhere, can be put there and left untouched.  If I do have a hive that dies out I would hope a swarm from there (long term plan this) would repopulate it, or one from the hive next to it.

My bird box hive died out due to Asian Hornets as too small to withstand the attack or they may well still be there, new hives are better protected. I was sad when they died as I thought (having no idea about bees) all my bees I have had for so many years are dead.  Then as I learned I realised they would have swarmed at least once a year maybe more as a too small box really.  So the bees at the end were probably 7-10th generation and the original bees and their descendants had swarmed elsewhere long ago.   Some photos in the links.   
The box itself, on a garage wall in full 40c sun sometimes (hence the sunshade) 
Bees in the box on a garage wall, got so rotten I had to repair it, note the shelves meant for birds.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/GmsnGhbwzWiqKfcz8 
What was inside when they died out, warre body next to it (about 1.5x warre box volume  https://photos.app.goo.gl/WKVtpai1btREBAxd8
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2020, 06:52:37 am »
John. I would imagine that your bird box put off several swarms a year. Not just one. It is very small.
So you are keeping warre hives? People seem to like those. My long langs hold 32 deep langstroth frames in a row like a file cabinet. Each one is 4 feet long and equivalent  to 3 deep langstroth boxes. They are working great for me, a hobbyist.
Michel Bush also works to be TF, although he does treat some, I believe. You can find his website at Bushfarms.com. It has a LOT of great info from TF to foundationless frames to feral genetics. He is very practical and keeps about 200 hives.

Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2020, 08:00:40 am »
CORRECTION.
Michel Bush at bushfarms.com is completely TF. He keeps ahout 200 hives and makes some compelling arguments about treatment free beekeeping on his website.
We are creating our own mite problem by purchasing inbred, inferior queen stock rather than feral, naturally selected bees, that survive and breed/swarm in our own local area. These feral populations are not sickly and inferior to purchased stock. They are often superior to sugar raised, treatment dependent queens bred in very different climates than our own areas. Meanwhile, healthy feral colonies grow and swarm without treatment in the wild, which displays mite resistant qualities.
Mite treatment weakens the colony, often is only partly effective, contaminates the commercial wax pool, and breeds stronger mites.
The best mite control is to let treatment dependent colonies die out in favor of naturally resistant bee genetics. It is a difficult initial cost to pay, but is the best way to overcome the mite problem.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2020, 12:09:10 am by Bob Wilson »

Offline Acebird

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2020, 08:24:32 am »
Treatment free has a lot to do with location.  If the bees are subject to a high density of hives that are treated their chances of survival decrease.
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Offline charentejohn

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2020, 09:57:42 am »
I am in the countryside so have a mix of hives but all 3km from me (as far as I know).  One lot untreated the others may not be as some are on the edge of a woodland, about 5 hives.  I have seen some people advocating Oxalic, formic and such as organic treatments, which they are.  Problem is they do damage and I am always surprised when people say safe to use may kill weaker queens (whatever that means) but will be ok if used as directed.  What I see there is may kill weaker queens and weaken strong ones.  Formic is a favourite here but needs to be used with care (most warnings cover people not bees) as it too can kill queens.

I think a lot of this is irrelevant if you replace queens with bought in stock each year as people do.  So a damaged queen coming into spring is no problem as the intend to replace her anyway, all current bees will be replaced by her offspring so what happens to the current bees doesen't matter.

For those of us letting nature take it's course, swarm and renew internally this is a different situation.  We have to live with any damage done.
Just took a look at mine and very busy, pollen arriving at 2pm, no idea where from. 
I think they will be fine because the 'hive scent' and all antiseptics etc inside remain as not opened without good reason.  This being the case it is possible the bees can sense problems masked by opening hives and also chemicals dulling senses.
A couple of interesting documents are below, heavy going but basically they believe mite reproduction rates reduce in some hives, just hard to figure how.  Sounds likely a combination of the bees removing infected brood and hive odours suppressing mite pheromones ?  Not a fan of deeply technical documents but.
Not sure about needing specific breeding if it is a pheromone suppressant but https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4450/11/9/595/htm
Next to last paragraph in the Discussion bit at the end https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0223236   
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Offline FloridaGardener

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2020, 10:23:48 pm »
     It's my opinion that location REALLY matters.  I'm treatment free in NW Florida.  Here, hives don't die out, they just swarm out/abscond if you don't watch them.  Or...maybe the queen is not successfully superceded. 
     
     I'm by a brackish-water state park and a military base with many lakes and natural vegetation.  The food chain is active from seeds, berries and bugs to predator species like bears, wild hogs, bobcats, coyotes, eagles, etc.   Not saying nature is in perfect balance, but there are feral honey bee colonies everywhere.  No one is treating them with chemicals. Some colonies will get bigger and bigger if there is enough space.  Feral bees will chew down the black brood comb and put new white wax cells onto it if they run out of space in the cavity.

     Colony removal service is in high demand.  I've seen a couple feral colonies with mites, but most without mites.  In many spaces the cavity is so big that the bees don't seem to take out the "trash." They just let some trash kinda pile up in a drift, or in the insulation.  So when I open up a wall cavity and find hive trash with no apparent dead mites on the floor of the cavity...I assume, no mites, and I see no mites on bees.  When I put them in a hive, no mites in the oil trap.  SHB, yes. SHB will tip the scale here if I don't use mechanical controls in a hive. 

       I agree with Ace that it depends on what's around you.  I have heard from some local beeks that a wave of mites will come through, sort of like migratory insects, and the bees will fight them off and then the mites aren't there anymore.  That's only hearsay of course.

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2020, 12:55:38 pm »
I did not find just not treating to be effective.  Here are my four steps:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoursimplesteps.htm
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm  em portugues:  bushfarms.com/pt_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2020, 11:28:25 pm »
Michael. I am just winding up my second year, and have come to agree with your conclusions.
1. I use only foundationless frames.
2. I am letting them keep all the honey they need instead of feeding them.
3. I am putting in no mite treatment at all.
4. I am reproducing hives from local caught bees which are acclimatized to my area.
I really look forward to seeing how it works over this second winter.

Offline charentejohn

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2020, 10:12:44 am »
What they said.  :happy:  Mine are the same in general.
Cell size doesen't matter for two reasons, one is they can build their own comb off the top bars.  Second is I did have 5mm cell wax foundation starter strips but they spat them out.
They can keep all the honey so I will not have to worry about feeding.
No treatments and I hope to never open the hives if at all possible.  My part is the fun of checking on them and learning about what I see.
Bees are local from a supplier who has built their apiary from caught swarms.  They can swarm if they like so make their own queens.

Only things I will add are unfortunately the Nucs have frames from (admittedly) lightly treated hives.  So will contain contaminants etc so the sooner they are removed the better.   I think that will have to be next year now bus asap in spring.  They will then be on their own comb.   
I am putting two 'wild' leave alone hives in nearby trees (mine and a neighbour's) to install any swarms into so there will be untouched bees nearby just in case.
If they are really productive I may try the small Warre 'super' idea to take a couple of kg, maybe.  Fitting a super doesen't mean I have to let them fill it, when they have done enough I can just remove it.  I will see how it goues but won't be considered until yr 3.
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Offline Acebird

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2020, 06:22:33 pm »
My only caution is an un-managed hive can be more difficult to manage.  Thinking you are going to rob from it should the need arise might be harder then you think.
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Offline charentejohn

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2020, 07:06:00 pm »
Acebird, not sure what you mean re robbing.  I assume it is about taking honey from a hive untouched for a couple of years, probably true they won't be happy.
That said I learned my lesson many years ago with my old bird box hive when I thought i would do some work on it when they were asleep, bad idea.  I now know to do it when they are out at work  :embarassed:
My one advantage would be the warre being smaller and a top cloth instead of a cover board is quieter.  Less cracking than loosening a wooden one.
Probably won't bother just a thought that I might consider it.
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Offline Acebird

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2020, 08:25:53 am »
I was thinking bees more than honey.  Trying to get a queen out of an unmanaged hive especially one without frames is not easy.
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Offline charentejohn

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Re: TF hives often die out in yr 2- how to avoid it ?
« Reply #19 on: September 18, 2020, 04:24:10 pm »
Not a problem as non intervention too.  The bees can re-queen themselves as I am sure they know when it is time, either swarm or supercede, their choice.
I have read about drone laying etc but am convinced that if left alone they will deal with it.  If they do die out due to some miscalculation on their part it will be the natural way as would have happened in the wild.  As they would leave an empty bee smelling hive it should get new tennants soon.
All I would have to do in that case would be to check to see it wasn't a disease, but if I have been paying attention I should have noted that, I hope.
 
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