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Author Topic: Attention "Natural & Organic" Beekeepers  (Read 12906 times)
David LaFerney
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« Reply #20 on: December 02, 2009, 12:42:00 PM »

...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 a swarm.  

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. Smiley

BTW, I've been an organic gardener for years,  and I do hate the idea of putting chemicals in the hives.
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« Reply #21 on: December 02, 2009, 01:15:23 PM »

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.

anyone keep track of how many first year beekeepers from their local bee school lose their bees?  those kinds of statistics generally aren't kept simply because they aren't impressive.  michael palmer has some such stats from a club (which, interestingly indicates that requeening a package with a good locally bred queen greatly improves success), and it aint good.

i have this discussion all the time with beekeepers in our club...there is a hard coded mentality that the most important thing is that a new beekeeper has bees that survive.  i'm more inclined to agree with michael bush in that a first year beekeeper should keep an observation hive, even though it is likely to die over the winter.  there is just too much to learn and understand to get it from a book or a web forum.  experience and direct observation is so important to learning and long term success...i'm not sure it's fair to put that kind of pressure on a new beekeeper.  i think if you are a new beekeeper starting with 1 or 2 hives, there is more value in learning more (observation hives, more hive inspections than are ideal for the bees) than there is in taking all measures to keep them alive.

Quote
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.
that is what most are trying to do....but there is no good way to select what stock to breed your queens (or drones) from, and you have contaminated equipment.  if the microbial culture in the hive is important (which it is), how do you establish or maintain a healthy one if you are treating?

again, we couldn't keep our bees alive without treatments until we went to small cell...and this is much easier to achieve from a package than from a 1 or 2 year old colony.

Quote
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. Smiley
well, that's a tall order.  start with 2 packages with "factory queens", and using only those bees to establish a small apiary.  you will have much better luck if you start with better genetics (feral, local breeder with good practices).  in our experience, we also needed to regress them.  but the issue is time.  if we assume a net colony number gain of 100% a year, then it takes 4 years to get to 16 colonies by this method.  sometimes some money (or "sweat equity") is worth spending.  if you start with 8 colonies instead of 2, you have much less chance of losing all of your hives, you have resources to rear queens and make splits, you have more genetic diversity in your yard (hopefully you followed the above advice and got some kind of local queens), and you get to 16 colonies in one year.  these numbers are just examples of what a few hundred dollars can save you.  ...most importatnly, you will learn more faster with 8 hives than with 2.

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« Reply #22 on: December 02, 2009, 01:23:59 PM »

i think what you are doing is fine.  i would rather have people be successful in beekeeping and keep at it, than feel they must go treatment free, and fail.  

it took me some time and effort to replace my stock.  my losses now are no greater than i had with packaged bees, and most losses can be attributed to either my inattention, or swarms picked up from questionable sources.

the major advantage to me is that my bees take less work and less money.

david, swarms are easy.  cut them down.  pop them in a box.  done.  easier to hive a swarm than a package smiley
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« Reply #23 on: December 02, 2009, 02:25:44 PM »

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.

Although I had more than 2 hives, that is exactly the plan that ended up working for me after years of trying other methods.  I lost a bunch of hives trying all the different incantations of essential oils and FGMO treatments that came through in the early 90s but never had consistent results. The only thing that worked consistently for me was OA. Tried regressing but never got fully there.  Then decided to make it happen with HSC at the same time I started collecting moving towards feral stock.  Thought that was the ticket until I got a run on ferals and couldn't get HSC,  so had no other choice but to put a few of them on some 30 year old large cell and kept an eye on them with the assumption I would need to do OA.  Never happened and they made it through the winter.  Haven't had to use OA in around 5 years now.   I now have quite a few hives doing just as well on large cell as those on natural or HSC.   Have even more with a mix of large, natural and HSC rolleyes
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« Reply #24 on: December 02, 2009, 03:30:13 PM »

It seems that it would be advantageous for us successful non treatment beekeepers (I am fairly certain I am in that group) to sell cheap or give away queens or packages to beginning beekeepers in our area.  If beginners did not have to treat from the start, they would be more likely to continue beekeeping.  Also, if all our neighbor's bees were "hygienic", it would prevent the nonhygienic genetics from getting into our hives.   
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David LaFerney
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« Reply #25 on: December 02, 2009, 05:51:36 PM »


david, swarms are easy.  cut them down.  pop them in a box.  done.  easier to hive a swarm than a package smiley

Thanks - I hope to do some swarms or removals next season, and I've been putting out the word that I would do that.  I need to make a helmet cam this winter.
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« Reply #26 on: December 02, 2009, 05:59:34 PM »

it would be nice to give away bees to beginners, but there is a problem.

if i'm joenewbeekeeper and someone gives me a nuc of treatment free bees, what do i do when i see my first mite?  when the local inspector/expert tells me i need to treat?  i do what most people do, i put apistan in the hive hoping they will at least make it until next year....and then the comb is contaminated, the microbial balance is disrupted, i'm well down the road to breeding apistan resistant mites, and i'm firmly on the treatment treadmill.

now, what if i paid 2-3 times for the treatment free nuc than most get for a conventional nuc?  first off, i've already decided that being treatment free is worth something more than treated bees.  the demand is high for such bees, and the supply is low (which supports high prices in the marketplace).  now, i see my first mite.  if i put apistan in the hive, i no longer have what i've paid a premium for (treatment free bees)...treating litterally costs me something, even if i "save" the bees.  i'm invested in keeping the bees without treatments.

don't misconstrue this to mean that i've never given away bees or a queen...i have.  but it's the exception, not the rule.

human nature is very consistent in this regard.  if you give away your best bees (especially to beginners who are not likely to be breeding their own, and are looking for the "magic queen"), they are likely to be requeened with some name brand queen with a color advertisement in the magazine.  good queens and good colonies can be quite profitable in your own operation.  if you can't make them produce enough that you are reluctant to part with them, then why would someone else want them?

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David LaFerney
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« Reply #27 on: December 02, 2009, 06:02:49 PM »

By The Way.  The only reason that I've been able to form a plan for how to go forward is because of all the information that I've been able to get from here.  Even though everyone doesn't agree on everything those of you with experience who are nice enough to give real information are really helpful.

So thanks.
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« Reply #28 on: December 02, 2009, 08:38:02 PM »

I hope to do some swarms or removals next season, and I've been putting out the word that I would do that.  I need to make a helmet cam this winter.

you need a test yard for swarms, I have been having a test yard for about 4 years now for swarms I get calls for, now if one of my hives swarm I will just put them in a box in the same yard but if you are looking to see if a swarm will make it you will need a teat yard, depending on the year I get about 5-25 swarms from around, the survival rate on swarms is about 50 percent here, now I leave my in the test yard for 2 years then I move to another out yard and raise some from them, when I see a very good rate of survival from those hives offspring then I move some of them to a brood yard and raise from them, Like others have said above, I to have my bee's on regular cell foundation, I have been doing hive removals since I started and these are the bee's I raise from and have been having great success.

 I gave away a nuc last year to a young couple (it was their first hive), I been knowing the young lady since she was about 12, I told them all about mites and what I was doing and not to ever treat the hive, since they live about 10 miles from me they call and ask question when they have some and I dont mind helping them out, one thing about having and keeping good survivor bee's is location, I can have 10 of my best hives and if they swarm and cross with a migratory treated bee's or queen producers treated strains then there is a good chance to get the survivor traits breed out of my bee's. you need to have some good location to be successful. The area I am in I would say I didn't see a honeybee for 13 years, there were none here, since I have been here I have had a few swarms get away from me but when you think about it, thats a good thing because it is my bee's that are in the surrounding area and a good way to help flood the area with drone from hives I like. Raising from certain stock has its borders and limits, it takes time and patients and expect to lose hives you get from swarms, its just part of the selection.

  I do buy packages and have a out yard for those also, the reason I buy packages is to help with bee populations in early spring when queen rearing and also drawing out new comb, at the end of the year I will re queen these hives with mine unless I get the Russian hybrids from Hardemans, I will leave those in a out yard to overwinter, and yes I have 9 out yards, a few are empty but will not bee this coming spring. Ok I am tired of typing, later!
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« Reply #29 on: December 04, 2009, 11:19:52 PM »

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?

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. Smiley

BTW, I've been an organic gardener for years,  and I do hate the idea of putting chemicals in the hives.
I'm completely with you, David. I don't like "chemicals" for anything in my life, including my hives. I swore I wouldn't do a single thing to prop up my bees, but I started with 2 commercial packages, learned a lot through this year and went into winter with 1 strong split and 2 weak twice-swarmed hives. I ended up doing a lot of sugar feeding.

It IS tough the first year to consider losing the bees. I'm swearing all over again that next year I will do absolutely nothing, including sugar. We'll see. I bet if my good hive is weak come spring I will be out there with sugar after all.
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« Reply #30 on: December 05, 2009, 01:10:18 AM »

I'm completely with you, David. I don't like "chemicals" for anything in my life, including my hives. I swore I wouldn't do a single thing to prop up my bees, but I started with 2 commercial packages, learned a lot through this year and went into winter with 1 strong split and 2 weak twice-swarmed hives. I ended up doing a lot of sugar feeding.

It IS tough the first year to consider losing the bees. I'm swearing all over again that next year I will do absolutely nothing, including sugar. We'll see. I bet if my good hive is weak come spring I will be out there with sugar after all.

if you are going to be taking honey from your bee's then sometimes you will have to feed or just let them die, unless someone is in the desert miles away from anyone I dont think they would be organic anyway, to many pesticides in this country and some they don't make anymore that will be around for 100 years or more, feeding your bee's is not treating in my book, when you take your bee's honey you need to replace it at times when they have no other source, what I call treating is when you add chemicals to your hive to rid them of mites or disease's (chemicals and Meds)
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« Reply #31 on: December 06, 2009, 02:17:58 PM »

No matter what you management plan is, the weather may have other plans.  Sooner or later, if you keep bees, you will have to feed, and the next best thing to honey, is syrup made from white granulated sugar.  Anything else has too many things that bees can't digest.
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« Reply #32 on: January 05, 2010, 04:21:49 PM »

Regarding genetics, My hive is in the city, and I'm pretty sure there aren't many other hives within 6-8 miles that didn't come from the person who gave me my hive. 

With a dearth of bees intown, how do I get new genetics?  I want to split my hive, but if they just mate with each other, that's not so good is it?

I would like to build up to only about 4-6 hives, but I really like the whole paradigm of not treating to build resistance (I only take antibiotics if I'm absolutely sure I'm not going to beat it otherwise, or as a post-surgery infection prophylactic).   After reading about bee stomach enzymes, I don't even know if I want to use that Honey-Bee-Healthy stuff everyone recommends.  But I'm stumped on how I will ever be able to do this without (what seems like) no access to feral or long term local colonies.

Any thoughts on this?  Ideas, experiences?

Thanks!

ziffa
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« Reply #33 on: January 05, 2010, 04:52:40 PM »

Purchase queens for your splits from someone in your area , other than the guy you got your hive from if your concerned with diversity.
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« Reply #34 on: January 05, 2010, 09:32:38 PM »

Ziffa,

I bet there are some ferals around in people's attics or walls of old buildings or in trees.  They are survivors that will be excellent for providing the drone side of genetics you are looking for.

Does the guy you got your hive from treat?  If not, then you are in an excellent location.  The only genetics that can effect your bees are from hives that don't need treatment.  A lot of beekeepers trying to go natural would envy you.

If he/she does treat, then your hive will need to be treated and it will be risky to stop treating with just one hive.  You might want to look into purchasing a queen from someone as local as possible who doesn't treat or purchase a VSH/Minnesota Hygienics queen or a Russian queen. 

Then like Robo said, every few years, purchase a queen from the nearest person you can find that doesn't treat.  This will keep bringing in diversified genetics and you will be in great shape.

That's my 2 cents worth.
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« Reply #35 on: January 06, 2010, 09:49:50 AM »

personally,  I feel one of the best ways to begin beekeeping is to help another beekeeper for a season before getting your own bees.

Of course, that is subject to how many beekeepers are around in an area and how willing they are to share their time and let others help.

This is one of the reasons  I am starting the conservation yard here.  First and foremost, it's purpose is to be a place to bring those bees that are "rescued" via swarm collections and cutouts.  However, we are allowing people who want to become beekeepers  (or those that already are) to come and gain experience as part of a group before they go to the expense of buying hives and frames, etc....

I would like to encourage more people to open "conservation yards" that take in bees that might otherwise get poisoned or killed as well as provide opportunities for a shared experience.

Big Bear

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« Reply #36 on: January 06, 2010, 10:19:23 AM »

Thanks Robo and heaflaw, I guess I hadn't thought about just purchasing queens.  I am pretty sure the person I got my bees from treats some, but only when necessary, I'll have to check for sure.  I did not treat this year, because a) I'm new and had no clue how to and b) when I did a fall mite count I didn't see any mites (course this may be an outcome of "a". lol)  They seem strong and healthy but I guess we'll see.  I guess I'll have to go to a bee club meeting and see if I can find someone raising natural queens.

And Papa, you are probably right, I think apprenticing is a great idea.  Unfortunately, my husband agreed to get these bees from the lady, but he is very laissez faire (sp?) so I had to jump in and then I kinda fell in love with them, so I was kinda just thrown into the fire Smiley  Good think I like it hot.

We will see how it looks in the spring.  And go from there.  Even if I lose them, I know I'll try again. Never been excited by something as much as this (except maybe my husband ;p).

thanks for the advice.  I just found this part of the forums, looks like I have a lot more reading to do!

ziffa
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« Reply #37 on: January 07, 2010, 12:49:46 PM »

There are feral bees all over the place.  Queens will fly as much as six miles to mate.  Drones seldom fly more than a mile.  I wouldn't worry about it until you see shotgun brood patterns.
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #38 on: January 08, 2010, 04:08:05 PM »

I'm not sure I understand, Michael, (if your post was in response to me).  Do you mean that even if I split and let them make their own queen, I have a good chance of getting some feral drones mating with her, thus getting local genes into my pool?  This would be ideal for me, because I love my queen.  She's strong and the hive is just about as sweet and calm as can be.

I know you are probably right about there being feral hives about, but it is hard for me to believe, because I have never seen any or even heard of them in the city.   But I guess if you think about it, there would really be no reason for me to see them.  Hmmmm.  Then again, if the queens fly up to 6 miles to mate, they can mate with anybody, so I would have no control over the treatment-less-ness of the drone genes.  This is getting complicated. Sad

Maybe the plan would be to split next summer and let them make their own queen.  Then the following year, purchase a queen from someone local to start my 3rd hive with, hopefully introducing some new strong gene stuff.  Does that sound ok?

All of this of course is winter rambling to relieve my worry over my poor southern belle queen who is suffering through an inch of snow and prolonged temps in the teens!  God I hope she makes it!

Thanks for listening and advising as always.
ziffa
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bigbearomaha
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« Reply #39 on: January 09, 2010, 09:14:31 AM »

typically, queens don't fly all that far as long as there are drones relatively close.  Drones from her own colony, drones from other, nearby colonies, including ferals, all find the same Drone Congregation Areas that Queens will fly to.

Big Bear
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