...every year i hold my breath to see what survives and try to replace what doesn't.
Thank you. I think "what we have here is a failure to communicate." Kathy - you're saying that you sometimes (often?) have substantial losses - hopefully not total loses. You catch swarms and do removals every year and can replace your losses, and in the process you might gain some good genetics. That sounds like it works for you, and for those who can do removals/catches.
But If first year bee keepers (like me) with one or two hives of commercially produced bees take the "let them die" approach how many of them will still have bees in 2 years? How many of them will just get discouraged and give up? How many of them will start over with another commercial package, and fail again? How many will have enough success to even learn what they are doing at all? Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think many would.
How many of the people with years of experience and don't treat started out that way? Did anyone who doesn't treat start out all natural
with a couple of hives and are still in business after 5 years? Anyone? How many hives did you lose in that time?
What I'm saying is this. I'm a (fairly typical I suspect) first year beekeeper. I've never handled bees before so I didn't consider swarm catching or removals an option. I've never even seen
I started with one mail order package of Italian bees from Georgia. At the end of my first summer I had 1.5 hives (I did a trap out for the .5) and both colonies had some degree of infestation of both varroa and small hive beetles - I never saw a mite until they showed up in the oil traps I built for the SHB. I had
to make a choice - do nothing and probably lose both hives, or intervene. I did oxalic acid vapor treatments and I think I have a good chance of still having bees in the spring. At which time I know I need to improve my genetics.
Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems that it would be good for beginners to be advised that when they go treatment free they are likely to have substantial losses, and more than just a couple of hives will probably be required to sustain an apiary from year to year - and for that matter to make any progress genetically.
In my case, I've decided to monitor and only treat when I think it is necessary. To use the lowest impact (on the bees) treatment that I can perceive - oxalic acid at this time. Raise my own queens from the best stock that I can find - and build my hive numbers to some reasonable level using local genetics. Then
try to get off of treatments. Yes I know that if you want to quit, sooner or later you have to just quit.
If anyone has a sustainable plan that they have used
to go from one or two hives to a small apiary without using any treatments I would really love to hear it - seriously I would. Sustainable to me means that yearly increase is equal to or greater than average loss. A little bit of honey every once in a while would be good too. :)
BTW, I've been an organic gardener for years, and I do hate the idea of putting chemicals in the hives.