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Author Topic: success of natural and organic methods?  (Read 8627 times)
eri
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« on: June 13, 2008, 09:17:32 AM »

Greetings, all.

I am a first year beekeeper and last night had the opportunity to attend a county beekeeper's association meeting. Guest speakers were our state's 2 hive inspectors. I had lots of questions, and was met with the proverbial "ask 12 beeks, get 13 answers" dilemma.

Not one of the 30 or so attendees volunteered advocacy for or experience in keeping bees without chemical intervention. Much time was devoted to reviewing various mite and hive beetle controls. Apparently folks here are now or soon to begin harvest, and the suggested next step was to attend to mites. (I started late April with a package, so will not be harvesting). They did say that Mite-Away (formic acid fumigation) is the only (commercially available?) treatment that qualifies as certification for 'organic' honey.

I asked specifically about sugar-shake treatment and small cell rearing, but the presenters digressed into sampling an inch of bees in a jar covered for several minutes in powdered sugar and then shaken through a screen onto a sticky board for a mite count. One surprise was the recommendation that if, during an early spring inspection (here they suggest as early as January if there is a warm day, which there often is) the count is 2-5, that treatment is recommended. Also to use a frame of drone cell foundation during the season. The scary part was they said a colony could perish within a week in the fall if the mites were left untreated. They did say mites and beetles seem to appear in fewer numbers in hives in full sun than those in shade.

On the question of feeding, they did not think that thick syrup (2:1 or more) as compared to 1:1 had any effect on the nutrition of the stores for the bees. I guess I don't understand the thick vs. thinner syrup; I assumed the thicker syrup meant both more comb production and more nutritious stores.

An elderly beek who had been keeping bees for 50 years had strong opinions: solid bottom board made of red cedar, no feeding at all, whatever it took to kill the mites, etc.

I started with the local advice to use normal wax foundation in double-deeps for brood, which I have done. As I have read of the success of many of you here on the boards, I plan to avoid the chemical route, do the best I can this year, and start another hive with small-cell or top-bar next season.

I guess I need some reassurance that those of you who have chosen the natural routes that, with proper and timely monitoring, hived bees can survive without my having to suit up with goggles and respirators and expensive chemicals. If you've tried both routes, can you offer some data (even if anecdotal) for comparison? Do you know of any controlled studies?

Thanks in advance. Next week I plan to attend a meeting in another county, which I expect to be a bit more on the organic side of things (lots of organic farms in the county). I'm hoping to find some local people with whom to consult on local successes. I don't even know what all to ask yet!

  -- eri (aka Jane)




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eri
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2008, 11:20:55 AM »

After going through some more recent posts here I did find references to experimental data, so no need to repost that unless someone wants to add to the list.

Thanks.
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On Pleasure
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qa33010
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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2008, 12:12:36 AM »

eri!

    Hi.  I hope I'm not being redundant for you.  I always recommend this site as well as others for groups and discussions and varied opinions and  http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm and  http://www.bwrangler.com/bee/index.html as a couple of  sites for starters for various info.  I have a list of favorites that I've printed off for folks around here as well as recommending bee clubs.  Both bee clubs I'm a member of here have various beliefs in chemical and IPM and totally none poison/acid/ect... treatments.  I've heard of some clubs where someone may be 'left out' if they voice opinions different than the more vocal members.  You mainly just need to figure out what will work for you in your area.  Sounds wishyashy, doesn't it!?!

     I think it's great you had the ask 10 get 11 and also know how frustrating it can be also.  I use the rule of thumb of who winters the most bees successfully and orders bees only to bring in new blood or due to minimal losses.  Take all the opinions, read the books and here, online, as well and make up my own mind.  Fortunately the bees have survived despite me. 

     I wish I could remember where I first heard it, but I believe a sugar shake takes a little while between shakes and in a larger type of jar to successfully get a mite count.  I just sprinkle it over the top of the hive and brush it down then pull the board and count the mites after a while.

     2:1 sugar is easier for the bees to dehydrate than 1:1.  I use 1:1 or 1:2 thin syrup if I want to try and stimulate brood rearing in the spring.

   I use starter strips and let the bees build what they need.  I do use small cell foundation for the strips and get ten strips from a sheet.  I may try popsicle sticks next year.

    Yes I do interfere with the bees but I don't think I coddle them and if they can't survive all they have to now a days they don't.  So far I've been fortunate and gotten some good genetics.  That helps the most IMHO.

   Well did I over do it? grin

    Doggone it!  I knew I forgot something.  Welcome to a most addicting hobby!  Enjoy, we've got some great folks here, much more experience and info than me...
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eri
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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2008, 09:47:39 AM »


You mainly just need to figure out what will work for you in your area.  Sounds wishyashy, doesn't it!?!

2:1 sugar is easier for the bees to dehydrate than 1:1.  I use 1:1 or 1:2 thin syrup if I want to try and stimulate brood rearing in the spring.


Well did I over do it? grin

   

No, not wishy-washy -- wise, I think. I much prefer someone tell me WHY do this or that than to tell me that I HAVE TO do this or that - or else! Before I got the bees, someone referred me to a local beek who was more than happy to chat on the phone for 1/2 hour. One of the first things he said was, "Don't let anyone tell you, little lady, that you don't have to use chemicals because you do!" You might imagine my reaction to both the 'little lady' and the 'have to.'

When I went to pick up the package bees, a woman from a bee club was there to give instructions. Contrary to every video and written description I'd read, she said, "Just remove some side frames, put the open package in, and take it out the next day." "What, no shaking bees onto the frames?" She laughed and explained she always did it that way and the bees would be eager to get out of that little box so not to worry. It worked great! All I really had to do was remove the sugar can, and hang the queen cage. I didn't have to shake bees, which I was dreading. So at the very last minute I got advice that made sense from someone I knew was experienced.

So the thinner syrup is for more immediate feeding to the brood, and the thicker for stores? Or is it for comb production? The easier dehydration of the thicker syrup makes sense to me.

No, you didn't overdo it. I appreciate your time to respond, and thanks!


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On Pleasure
Kahlil Gibran
....
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.
People of Orphalese, be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.
qa33010
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« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2008, 09:38:22 PM »

    My wife would have had a "charming" reaction to 'little lady'...


     What I've read in Walt Wright's Pink Pages is that the 1:2 sugar:water syrup is supposed to simulated a nectar flow and stimulate brood rearing.  The 1:1 is also good, but they both can spoil quickly where the 2:1 lasts longer and is normally used to build up winter stores in the hive.  Some folks use 2:1 all the time.  They will use all for comb production, but there is more for them in the 1:1 and 2:1 for all purposes.
    This was the first year I used 1:2 thin syrup in February to stimulate brood in two boxes for about a week.  They did start laying.  We had some pollen out there but not as much as this time last year so I added Mann Lakes Bee Pro in the carport.  This also helped with brood rearing.  I am finally able to trap pollen this year so I hope I can use it next spring to help build up brood rather than the fake stuff.  If nothing else I may try the new http://www.jesterbee.com/Beebread.html as some beeks I know were going to try it and I haven't asked them about it yet. 

     Like you I prefer to have it explained why to or not to do something, as well as how it positively or negatively affects the hive.  Not just it's been that way for twenty years. 


      I do ramble on so.  Sorry about that grin little lady evil
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Everyone said it couldn't be done. But he with a chuckle replied, "I won't be one to say it is so, until I give it a try."  So he buckled right in with a trace of a grin.  If he had a worry he hid it and he started to sing as he tackled that thing that couldn't be done, and he did it.  (unknown)
Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2008, 08:30:18 PM »

I've been a beekeeper for 50 years and I won't tell you that you have to use solid bottoms boards, although I will agree that cedar makes a better and longer lasting hive component.  I have tried lots of things in my 50 years trying to find an easier, more natural, or more productive way of keeping bees. 
Here's what I've found:
1. Keeping bees in as near to feral conditions as possible works best for both the beekeeper and the bees.
2. One size of box is best as it allows more options and solutions than several sized boxes.
3. Ventilation is 1 of the more overlooked aspects of beekeeping.
4. Chemicals are not necessary and actually due more harm than good over time.
5. Darwin's "Survival of the Fitest" makes for healthier, stronger, more hygenic bees.
6. Letting the bees build their own comb (foundationless) keeps contaminants mixed into foundation wax from getting to your bees and making them sick.
7. Use methods that assist the bees natural tendencies (slatted racks, Open or Screened bottoms, vented tops or top entrances)
8. There is at least 100 ways to solve every problem, just because one worked doesn't mean it's best, experiment.
9. Ask 12 beekeepers for their opinions and use their 24 answers to arrive at your own solution.
10.  The more you learn about bees (or anything else) the more ignorant you realize you are.
11. If you're not making mistakes, you're not learning or thinking.
12. Weather changes everything, year to year, season to season.  Each summer only comes once, it will never be repeated so something new will crop up next year.

I'll turn my soap box over to somebody else now.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2008, 11:27:41 PM by Brian D. Bray » Logged

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qa33010
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« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2008, 09:44:17 PM »

eri there was one other thing I was going to suggest.  The person that was giving you instructions at your bee pick-up sounds like a good possible mentor.  I would find out what club she was with and maybe attend a meeting or more.  Anyone who can guide you, be a sounding board or even devils advocate is someone who will help you grow in knowledge.

     I also find that if I start taking myself too seriously (I do it a lot) the bees will take me down a notch.  Hey, if I don't make mistakes I'm not trying.  The bees are also great mentors.

    Brian, great nutshell!
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Everyone said it couldn't be done. But he with a chuckle replied, "I won't be one to say it is so, until I give it a try."  So he buckled right in with a trace of a grin.  If he had a worry he hid it and he started to sing as he tackled that thing that couldn't be done, and he did it.  (unknown)
tillie
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« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2008, 07:03:03 AM »

I like your summary, Brian - covers all the points that matter.

eri, I think most of the country's bee clubs are dominated by the chemical group.  I find the most support here on this forum and have learned more here than in my bee club. 

While my bee club is full of wonderful people, I think some of the things they do (chemicals, etc) are not for me.  Even at the U GA which has a great entomology department, headed by Keith Delaplane, they are now doing research on natural cell size and other "organic" approaches to beekeeping, but even three years ago when I started, the people who came to talk to our club from U Ga were still advocating treating chemically for various bee ailments.

I just was part of a panel at my bee club on harvesting honey.  I talked about harvesting by crush and strain, with video and pictures of the process.  Members were horrified that I don't have drawn comb but destroy my comb every year, but they listened and some of the new beekeepers came up afterward, glad to have heard a different approach.

When I have a problem, I post it here and on Beesource and while you still get the 12 beekeepers giving you 24 answers, usually the answers reflect where I want to be with my bees.

Good luck and welcome to this forum,

Linda T in Atlanta
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qa33010
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« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2008, 09:45:53 PM »

      Did you ever find a mentor or a local group that 'fit'?  Hoping you have. 
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Everyone said it couldn't be done. But he with a chuckle replied, "I won't be one to say it is so, until I give it a try."  So he buckled right in with a trace of a grin.  If he had a worry he hid it and he started to sing as he tackled that thing that couldn't be done, and he did it.  (unknown)
eri
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« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2008, 07:34:26 AM »

No, I have not yet found a 'fit' but I'm still looking. Went to meetings in 2 different counties, went to a local ag bee exhibit, read, read, read. Hope to make the meeting next week, which is going to be a 'quiz show' format that apparently they did last year with great success. Meanwhile, my bees seem to be doing great -- lots of them, lots of bearding, slurping down sugar syrup. Many of the posts in this forum keep me encouraged!
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On Pleasure
Kahlil Gibran
....
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.
People of Orphalese, be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.
kathyp
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« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2008, 04:27:19 PM »

every time i post in this section someone jumps my hide....  grin but i'll give you the advice i was given and that i now give.  i think it was good advice.

do what works for you.  if you can keep your bees without using anything, that's great.  it is the goal we all should have, if for no other reason than the expense of treatment.  keep an eye on things.  if you find that you are having problems with whatever, and you are at risk of losing your hive, don't be afraid to try something different.  there are treatments that use 'natural' ingredients and work.

so far this year, i have not used anything.  i hope to be able to continue this way, but will not hesitate to use a treatment if the alternative is the lose of an otherwise good hive.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

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« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2008, 07:16:49 PM »

>I guess I need some reassurance that those of you who have chosen the natural routes that, with proper and timely monitoring, hived bees can survive without my having to suit up with goggles and respirators and expensive chemicals.

I've used no treatments for anything since 2004 and many have not been treated since 2001.  I also used nothing from 1976 until 1999.
http://www.bushfarms.com/beescerts.htm

http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm
http://www.bushfarms.com/beespests.htm

The last time I tried treating with chemicals they all died anyway.  So what is the point?  I'm doing better not treating.
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« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2008, 07:17:43 PM »

You also may be interested in this:
http://www.bushfarms.com/organic_beekeeping_meeting.htm
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2008, 09:24:43 PM »

Is there any natural method for dealing with tracheal mites though?

Uh, scratch that question... I remembered grease patties later.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2008, 04:45:42 AM by SgtMaj » Logged
annette
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« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2008, 11:18:29 PM »



I asked for time off of work to attend this meeting and I think I may be able to go.
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« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2008, 11:22:14 PM »

Wow, travelling from CA to NE for a beek meeting... now that's what I call dedicated.
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« Reply #16 on: July 23, 2008, 11:27:07 PM »

Wow, travelling from CA to NE for a beek meeting... now that's what I call dedicated.

No just that I can easily get the time off of work then, and I am extremely interested in these speakers. It all depends on what the air fares will be like and accomodations, etc. I hope it turn out
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« Reply #17 on: July 24, 2008, 07:56:19 AM »

Is there any natural method for dealing with tracheal mites though?

Uh, scratch that question... I remembered grease patties later.

Better yet,  just breed tracheal mite resistant bees and be done with it for good.
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« Reply #18 on: July 24, 2008, 08:00:17 AM »

When starting over with new bees costs $60+, now might not be the best time for that...
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« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2008, 08:05:51 AM »

When starting over with new bees costs $60+, now might not be the best time for that...

It can only get most costly to do when your hive numbers go up.  If I where you, I would be more intent on getting tracheal mite resistant bees than worrying about which race will draw comb quicker.   Not only are grease patties not 100% effective, but they attract SHB which I think you would be concerned about as well.
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