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Author Topic: Attention "Natural & Organic" Beekeepers  (Read 13586 times)
Robo
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« on: November 05, 2009, 02:07:55 PM »

One week from today is the next WpN podcast  and we will be having Corwin Bell as our special guest talking about bee guardianship and top bar hives.   Even if you keep bee in Langstroth hives, I'm sure you will find Corwin's discussion on bees guardianship both interesting and applicable.

Quote from: From BeeGuardian.org
A Bee Guardian is interested, in aiding bees as a species in order to recapture their genetic vitality and diversity. Bee Guardians utilize beekeeping methods that respect the honeybee and oversee the local environment, ensuring it to be safe for the bees.

The Bee Guardian is committed to the nature of the bee, allowing the bees to maintain a strong immune system through organic practices and methods that do not overly stress the colonies. In this way our local strains will begin a process of natural selection, building up immunity against diseases and adapting to changes in local climate. The bees will have a consistent home and environment enabling them to reestablish genetic diversity by reallocating fitness resources toward adaptive evolution rather then hanging on the thread of pure survival in a extremely demanding mechanized beekeeping industry.


Here is a video of Corwin Bell talking at the 2008 Organic Beekeeping Conference in Oracle, Arizona.

CorwinandKelly.WMV


Check out all the details of the podcast here -> http://forum.beemaster.com/index.php/topic,25093.0.html


Don't miss next month's podcast with Monica Warner, as she takes us through an overview of making soaps, lotions, and balms using products from our hives.

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David LaFerney
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2009, 10:47:50 AM »

You know I love the concept of natural and organic, but I really don't get the "let 'em die" philosophy.  What is the logical argument against requeening instead?  What we really need is for some of these people who claim to have varroa resistant hygenic strains to raise and distribute queens for that purpose.  Interesting discussion though.
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2009, 12:12:23 PM »

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What we really need is for some of these people who claim to have varroa resistant hygenic strains to raise and distribute queens for that purpose.

That is part of our objective where  I am.

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« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2009, 12:22:07 PM »

I'm still listening - very interesting discussion about how hives go into build up (rather than swarm) mode in the early spring because they are small at that time - like your (Robo) overwintered nucs or the hives that have had a "simulated bear attack"  - more confirmation of my emerging theory that I (and other small bee keepers that want to be sustainable) need to learn to raise queens and keep several nucs going all the time.
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"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." Samuel Clemens

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« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2009, 12:38:41 PM »

You know I love the concept of natural and organic, but I really don't get the "let 'em die" philosophy.  What is the logical argument against requeening instead?  What we really need is for some of these people who claim to have varroa resistant hygenic strains to raise and distribute queens for that purpose.  Interesting discussion though.

How did I get my varroa tolerant bees?    I had to separate them from the non-tolerant bees and the only way that I knew how to do that was let those that weren't tolerant perish.  By the time you determine they are not going to make it, it is too late in the year and requeen is not feasible.   How do I add diversity to my bees?   All the removals/trapouts I do get put in an isolated yard and are left untreated for at least one year before I move them into my queen yards.   If I just requeened them, I wouldn't be adding to my diversity which I believe is key to maintaining the strongest, healthiest bees.
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« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2009, 01:37:22 PM »

 By the time you determine they are not going to make it, it is too late in the year and requeen is not feasible.


If you monitor mite population of all hives it seems to me that you should be able to have at least an idea of which hives are more and less resistant so that you can take action before all is lost.  The same SBB/oil trap that I'm using for SHB allows constant monitoring of mite drop as well.

BTW, if you have a queen, can you not requeen just about any time that weather allows you to open the hive and remove the old one?  In my neck of the woods that is likely to happen for a few days every single month.

How do I add diversity to my bees?   All the removals/trapouts I do get put in an isolated yard and are left untreated for at least one year before I move them into my queen yards.   If I just requeened them, I wouldn't be adding to my diversity which I believe is key to maintaining the strongest, healthiest bees.


If you raise open mated queens why would you not be getting all of the genetic diversity that is available in your area?  The queen is only 1/2 of the genetics - unless there is something that I don't know yet about bee genetics.  Of course if you are in an area that is saturated with commercial bees it would be a problem, but in that case your feral stock would probably be mostly Italians anyway.

I'm not arguing - I'm confident you're knowledgeable.  I'm just thinking there might be more than one route to arrive at the same destination.  One that doesn't involve just letting them die.
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« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2009, 01:52:45 PM »

david, i don't know what robo does, but i have pretty much quit doing mite counts.  i do look at the boards when i pull them, but even when the mite counts are high, i usually take no action. 

i want not only mite resistant bees, but the best survivor genetics i can get.  you are on the right track thinking about raising your own queens.  before you do that, you want to make sure you have good stock from which to raise them. 

i have gotten my best stuff from cutouts.  swarms are a crap shoot.  just lost one hive that was a late spring swarm.  they probably came from a pollination hive and they never did build up well.  they were not worth saving.  could i have requeened them?  yes.  would i want drones from that hive going into my stock?  no.  better to let them go if they were not going to do well.

i have nothing against treating hives, or trying to save them.  i have just decided that i want to try to propagate survivor stock.  i don't have to worry about loss of income, etc. so i can experiment. 

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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 #7 on: November 30, 2009, 01:55:54 PM »



i have nothing against treating hives, or trying to save them.  i have just decided that i want to try to propagate survivor stock.  i don't have to worry about loss of income, etc. so i can experiment. 



Yeah, I'll probably be more like that when I have more than 1 hive and 1 nuc. Wink
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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2009, 03:05:30 PM »

If you monitor mite population of all hives it seems to me that you should be able to have at least an idea of which hives are more and less resistant so that you can take action before all is lost.  The same SBB/oil trap that I'm using for SHB allows constant monitoring of mite drop as well.
I use solid bottom boards and the extent of my mite monitoring is uncapping 10 or so drone brood cells a couple of times a year (not each hive, but just a couple times across all my bees)

Quote
BTW, if you have a queen, can you not requeen just about any time that weather allows you to open the hive and remove the old one?  In my neck of the woods that is likely to happen for a few days every single month.

I don't bank queens, so to requeen I would have to sacrifice a nuc.  I'm more confident with keeping a strong nuc in tact then risking introducing a good queen in a failing hive.  Furthermore,  I like to have a queen go through 3 brood cycles prior to winter to build the hive.

Quote
If you raise open mated queens why would you not be getting all of the genetic diversity that is available in your area?  The queen is only 1/2 of the genetics - unless there is something that I don't know yet about bee genetics.  Of course if you are in an area that is saturated with commercial bees it would be a problem, but in that case your feral stock would probably be mostly Italians anyway.
I'm fortunate enough to have my main rearing yards in isolated areas with no commercial or hobbyist beekeepers in the area.  I have a four mountains of state land behind me and a large reservoir in front. So although I do open mate,  the majority is with my own drone yard and perhaps some feral survivor stock which is a plus.   But I like to expand my genetic pool by continually bringing in other survivor stock every year.

Quote
I'm not arguing - I'm confident you're knowledgeable.  I'm just thinking there might be more than one route to arrive at the same destination.  One that doesn't involve just letting them die.

I'm not arguing either,  and I'm sure there are other ways than what I do.  Everyone must weigh their options and exposures and determine which is the most efficient and productive method for them.    Personally,  I seemed to make no headway on establishing consistent survivor bees until I stopped nursing weaker bees along. 

I understand your thoughts and desires based upon the small number of hives you have.  I struggled through the same dilemma years ago.  It is tough to deal with when loss of a couple hives hits 50% or better of you apiary.  You feel like you will never break out of the cycle.
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« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2009, 04:00:25 PM »

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If you monitor mite population of all hives it seems to me that you should be able to have at least an idea of which hives are more and less resistant so that you can take action before all is lost

and this does not always hold true.  the hive i just lost did not have a high mite count.  they may  have had other issues.  they may have needed a new queen and i just didn't do it.

i had a hive with a very high mite count earlier this year.  it's one of my cutout hive and the one i have used the most for requeening.  i did not treat it.  they overcame the problem and i got the most honey from this hive......not that it was a great honey year   Undecided
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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.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2009, 05:34:51 PM »

Sure Kathy, I know that no matter what there will be losses.  Also mite counts aren't everything - it's just relatively easy to see compared to other diseases.  Just be glad you don't have hive beetles yet - They're sure easy to see. Hopefully they won't survive in your climate. 
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« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2009, 06:58:00 PM »

As long as you keep treating, you keep propagating the bees that can't survive. This is the opposite of what we need. We beekeepers need to be propagating the ones that CAN survive. Also we keep propagating the pests that are strong enough to survive our treatments. So we keep breeding wimpy bees and super pests.

You really need to raise your own queens from local surviving bees. Only then can you get bees who genetically can survive and parasites that are in tune with their host and in tune with their climate. As long as we treat we get weaker bees who can only survive if we treat, and stronger parasites who can only survive if they breed fast enough to keep up with our treatments. No stable relationship can develop until we stop treating.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2009, 11:33:10 PM »

I agree strongly with Michael, Robo & Kathy, but I would like your opinion to a question.  I keep around 15 to 20 Italians (with some mix of Germans showing up).  I haven't treated for anything in 4 years & have few losses and good harvests, etc.  But, I feel like I need broader genetics ASAP.  How would you advise I do that: 1. Buy VSH/Minn Hyg queens  2. Find survivor ferals  3. Trade with area beekeepers with untreated colonies?
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« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2009, 06:29:35 AM »

I prefer survivor ferals, just make sure they are true survivor ferals and not just swarm from some commercial pollinator or other beekeeper.   I have had much better luck sticking with localized bees than purchasing hybridized or bees for the south.
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« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2009, 06:35:16 PM »

>But, I feel like I need broader genetics ASAP.

Why?  They seem to be doing well enough.  You may end up killing the goose that laid the golden egg.  Smiley  Shotgun brood patterns would be the symptom that you need broader genetics.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2009, 10:03:20 PM »

>But, I feel like I need broader genetics ASAP.

Why?  They seem to be doing well enough.  You may end up killing the goose that laid the golden egg.  Smiley  Shotgun brood patterns would be the symptom that you need broader genetics.

My brood patterns seemed worse this year than they used to be: now maybe about 10 to 15% empty cells in most of the hives.  I have one consistently great hive: 4 supers of honey per season and I am fairly certain it's not swarmed in 5 years. The others swarm most every spring and then produce less honey.  If I raise queens from my best hive, the drones will be from the others and I won't get the genetics I want.  Am I shooting for too much or thinking I will have more control than I will?
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« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2009, 06:12:12 AM »

If you think the brood patterns are a result of genetics (a real likelyhood) then, yes, you need to bring some in.  But they could also be from chewing out Varroa.  The main difference is the genetic one will be removed sometime between when the egg is laid and shortly after it hatches.  The Varroa get chewed out several days post capping.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #17 on: December 02, 2009, 09:58:51 AM »

You know I love the concept of natural and organic, but I really don't get the "let 'em die" philosophy.  What is the logical argument against requeening instead?  What we really need is for some of these people who claim to have varroa resistant hygenic strains to raise and distribute queens for that purpose.  Interesting discussion though.

well, a couple of thoughts:

1.  in order to know what hives must be "requeened", one must measure something.  mite counts, removal of frozen brood, etc are things that are easy (and cheap) to measure...but are these metrics that we actually care about?  personally, i'm worried first about survival (which is easy to measure...dead bees didn't survive), and productivity (which is also easy to measure).  mite counts and frozen brood removal are _assumed_ to represent survival, but are flawed.  if you use dna analysis to look at pathogens in a hive, you will near 100% of the time find dwv, sacbrood, efb, and if you look closely enough, probably afb.  is the presence of these pathogens what you want to use as selection criteria?  i don't, i want bees that survive and perform...and i don't care if they are carrying dwv or not.

2.  the idea that treatments can be eliminated merely by buying "magic queens" is flawed.  in fact, i don't know of anyone that has gone cold turkey from treatments simply by purchasing "proven resistant queens".  approach (ie, "success in beekeeping is based on not losing any hives") and managment practices also must be changed.

3.  feral populations of bees that show resistance to varroa (including ahb) are not terribly "hygienic"....indicating that "hygienic behavior" is not the mechanism of resistance used by bees when left to their own devices.  of all these lines of hygienic bees that are touted, i know of no one who has purchased them and stopped treating.  basically, you can get some resistance from selecting for hygienic bees, but no one buying them has demonstrated the ability to use these bees to get off of treatments.  yet, there are lots of beekeepers that started with all kinds of different stock who changed their management practices, started selecting for survivor stock, were willing to lose those that didn't cut the mustard, and who don't treat.  this seems like a "transferable" way to get off treatments..the pure selective breeding has failed for 20 years in this regard.

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« Reply #18 on: December 02, 2009, 10:44:23 AM »

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yet, there are lots of beekeepers that started with all kinds of different stock who changed their management practices, started selecting for survivor stock, were willing to lose those that didn't cut the mustard, and who don't treat.  this seems like a "transferable" way to get off treatments..the pure selective breeding has failed for 20 years in this regard.

this was my method...if you can call it a method  grin

i should also say that it was not because of the religion of 'natural' beekeeping.  i just didn't want the expense and hassle of treating.  i can't claim success.  every year i hold my breath to see what survives and try to replace what doesn't. 
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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.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2009, 12:31:19 PM »

i don't see this as a "religion", anymore than i see the belief in a spherical earth "religious".

when we started keeping bees, we were also gardening quite a bit, and were using ruth stout's methods (in a nutshell...mulch with hay...cover weeds with more hay....let the hay decay into the soil and then add more hay).  there are several excellent books on the subject, but this is really the entire method.

we hated the idea of putting chemicals in the hive...used apistan and menthol the first year....miteaway2 the year after....vaporized oxcalic acid the next...and then we stopped treating all together.  we only stopped losing all of our bees when we regressed to small cell.

but the more i learn, the more i think, the more i see, the crazier it seems that the bulk of beekeepers want to improve the genetics of honeybees by propping them up with chemicals, organic acids, and essential oils.

fwiw we are currently doing a daily market.  there is a farm there that is selling local honey with handwritten labels.  we are selling non-local treatment free honey, we are all beekeepers at our booth, we talk about bees to everyone that comes by, and we offer generous tastes.  i haven't seen a single jar of the other honey sell (i'm sure some did, but not much), and we are doing very well....at twice the price.

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