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Author Topic: Q&A with a Treatment-Free Beekeeper  (Read 5327 times)
Solomon Parker
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« on: August 09, 2013, 08:48:52 AM »

Here's your chance to have any and all serious questions answered by a genuine treatment-free beekeeper of high caliber. I want to be available especially for new beekeepers or backyard and hobbyist beekeepers. This thread is for you. Do you want to start treatment-free? Do you want to go treatment-free? Find out what you're in for.

If you are a commercial beekeeper or have no intention of being treatment-free, this thread is not for you.

My background: I have been keeping bees more than ten years and currently have ~32 hives, all 100% treatment-free and always have been. I call myself an avid hobbyist, I am a small time queen breeder and nuc producer. I try to do it all on a slightly bigger than backyard scale. You can also check out my website for frequently asked questions.  parkerfarms.biz
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Solomon Parker
Parker Farms, Fayetteville Arkansas
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2013, 06:34:23 AM »

Solomon;  Great posting!  I've just begun checking back into Bee master now that the summer is winding down and was very surprised and happy to find your thread.  I rarely am on the computer during the summer,,, but winter IS on its way and with the woodshed filled up along with our huge garden winding down and my wifes canning I've got some time.

My bees have been treatment free since 2007 and foundationless since 2009.  My survivor rates are above 50% more or less (mostly more) and I am satisfied with that rate considering our long/cold winters.  I look forward to discussing treatment free beekeeping with you.  I currently have five colonies going into winter and am anticipating a strong goldenrod flow to take them through.  My bee yard has room for about 15 colonies without moving the electric fence and that has been a good amount for us (the most we ever went into winter was 9).

To clarify;  The only thing I put into my hives besides bees is sugar and/or sugar syrup when feeding is needed. 

THANKS for starting this thread!
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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2013, 08:53:03 AM »

I haven't had my hives that long i would love to hear how you deal with varroa mites with out treating them.   I really don't like all the idea of using acid and things in the hive.   How would you like it if someone did that in your home and expected you to live in it.   

Note my hives have a fixed bottom so from what i understand the powered sugar method wont work as they will just then crawl back up onto the bees again.   Yes i know hives should not have a fixed bottom but i have trugstader which are quite popular here in Denmark and look nice in my garden but have a fixed bottom. 

Linda

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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2013, 09:19:42 AM »

There is an ever growing movement that simply allows the bees to figure this issue out without trying any and all so-called "quick" cures.  Honeybees will continue to die and IMO treating them with more crap will not help in the long run and may very well be adding to the problem.  

Unfortunately, our increasingly polluted environment does not/can not prevent bees from bringing stuff home that will often make them weak, sick and/or will kill them.  Hard to control this important factor of current life and its impact on us and our bees.  Sad

JUST DON'T DO IT!   Smiley  

Nothing 'wrong' with solid BB.  I used them for quite a while with OK results and many still do, but admittedly, all my hives currently have SBB, primarily for ventilation........and.....counting mites once in awhile  grin
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Solomon Parker
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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2013, 07:51:56 PM »

Simply put, I don't deal with varroa mites, the bees do.  What I do is multiply the bees that are able to survive far beyond normal honeybee capabilities producing new hives that are able to better compete against the mites.  After a couple generations, I get bees that don't have a problem with varroa at all.

Caveat:  I do use small cell foundation.

On the question of bottoms, I don't use SBBs.  I did ten years ago, some, but at a certain point, I realized that they should not be necessary because the bees should handle the problem themselves.
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Solomon Parker
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« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2013, 05:51:38 AM »

Never tried small cell foundation.  I always figured, why bother? 

My bees know precisely what size cells they want, so I just let them chose by giving them primarily (95%) foundationless frames.  I'll use drawn comb or 'rarely' a foundation frame just to keep things straight. I do keep some around just for that purpose.  The foundation frames are marked and removed ASAP.

In my own observation bees will draw out new 100% natural comb on their own inside an empty frame faster than on any foundation. 

IMO; foundation isn't always the best or most natural thing to place inside a bee hive unless using your own wax, which can also be laden with who knows what.......so it goes.

Many, if not all the "problems" that bees (life on Earth?) suffer began and continue with us humans.  As a Beekeeper (emphasis on 'keeper') I feel it is my job to contribute as little to their suffering as possible, but HEY, that's just me.   Wink
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« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2013, 06:32:37 AM »

I'm going to test out foundation less next year I like the idea of letting the bees figure things out themselves.    I'm pretty sure the wax foundation i use is small cell, but i think i should measure it. 

Linda
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« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2013, 07:06:09 AM »

The only downside to using foundationless I've noticed, if in fact its a downside, is that it requires more frequent inspections.  Once things go wonky it doesn't take long for it to effect an entire super.  My beeyard is only 100' from my front door so I don't mind at all. Sometimes I visit the yard several times a day  Smiley.
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Solomon Parker
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« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2013, 08:25:51 AM »

I don't begrudge anyone their foundationless, it's just not utilitarian enough for me because of the frequent inspections.  I use small cell not because it is "natural" but because it is more natural than what is available.  And what can I say, it works.  As to which thing works that I do, I don't know, but I'm having a great time beekeeping with no treatments.
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Solomon Parker
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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2013, 08:55:30 AM »

What kind of survival rate do you get in your hives that don't get treated for varroa?

Do you split your hives, and if so how, and how often, or let them swarm?


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Solomon Parker
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« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2013, 09:08:50 AM »

Edward,

This last winter, I lost 1/23.  The previous winter I lost 1/11.

I don't split in the traditional sense, no walk away splits.  No splitting for mite control.  What I do is raise queens with a strong hive using a queenright cell builder and finisher technique.  The cells are then added to mating nucs (queen castles) made of the brood and stores from the dink hives from the last winter that fail to build up sufficiently for spring.  These nucs are then allowed to build up naturally (without feed) into five frame nucs and ones that don't successfully queen or don't brood up quickly are merged with better performers.  Some nucs are sold, some are used to requeen, and some grown into full size new hives, largely by combination with poorer performers.  In my area, I need at least single deep hives and preferably double to survive the summer.  Winter can be done in a single if necessary, but I prefer three to five deeps.

Hives that I see are doing well and are likely to produce honey are left alone to do that, usually half or more of the total number of hives.  If there is insufficient brood to make the number of mating nucs and queens that I want, I will rob some brood from some of the good hives, sacrificing a substantial proportion of their honey production capability.  Some bounce back quite well though.
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Solomon Parker
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« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2013, 08:07:11 PM »

Solomon,
Do you feed your bees sugar syrup?
Or just leave them be with their honey?
Also do you ever used Pollen Patties/ pollen sub?



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« Reply #12 on: September 11, 2013, 09:29:58 PM »

Very interesting to me. I would like to intervene as little as possible. I just started last year and lost 2/3 of my hives, one I believe drowned, the other one went on a honeymoon flight and just never came back. The third one I fed "bee tea"through our very mild winter and they really took off. Got 2 more nucs in May and agin fed them "bee tea" and those 2 went like gangbusters, one swarmed within 3 weeks, thankfully they didn't go too far, so now I have 4 hives, 3 with double deep hive bodies, one (the old one) with 3 hive bodies. I also added "Apisome" to their bee tea several times. They seemed to really love this. Will do some more essential ouls this winter.
Anybody have any experience with Wintergreen frease patties? It's too hot still yet here to do this, unless I wrap the patties in paper towel....
Thanks for all of the interesting and helpful postings!
Andrea
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Solomon Parker
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« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2013, 07:54:09 PM »

Glen, I do my best to leave enough honey for the bees to make it through winter with plenty to spare.  A well stocked hive is better than any stimulative feeding.  I have not fed syrup in two years.  I fed granulated sugar to a few hives last winter.  This year I plan to go sugar free.  I have never used pollen sub, like I said, a well stocked hive is better than any stimulant.  Also, sugar and pollen sub do not provide proper nutrition for my needs.

Andrea, I don't have any experience to share with you, I have never used treatments.
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Solomon Parker
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« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2013, 05:26:09 AM »

I still have the "unopened" containers of  various treatments from 2007, not sure where they are, around here somewhere. 

We STOP taking honey in August, leaving the goldenrod for our bees.

QUESTIONS:  What the heck is BEE TEA?  huh
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« Reply #15 on: September 13, 2013, 08:54:52 AM »

Sounds like another treatment that doesn't work.

One thing that has had me curious for a little while is why so many people use essential oils?  Is there any evidence they work?  I know they smell nice and all, but do they work?  And what are the side effects?
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Solomon Parker
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« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2013, 09:20:18 AM »

I goggled Bea tea

seems to be sugar syrup with tea in it??

I don't know why , or what it is good for?


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« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2013, 06:19:09 AM »

Syrup w/ tea?  Go figure  huh  I wonder what kind of tea?  Pekoe (bees supposedly like caffeine) or herbal?

Not sure about any "known" benefit to adding essential oils but our bees do love our large herb garden, spending considerable time there. 

IMO they like the various thyme and oregano flowers  best and likely bring home plenty of essential oil without my help  cool.
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« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2013, 08:30:31 AM »

This web page uses a recipe from Ross Conrad.

 beekeeperlinda.blogspot.ca/2010/10/ross-conrads-bee-tea.html
Sorry I'm still not allowed to post clickable links yet!

Apparently Bee Tea was brought to light by Rudolf Steiner in 1923 at a lecture. 

"Here's the recipe:
 16 cups white cane sugar
 6 cups hot tap water
 2 cups Chamomile or Thyme tea (already brewed)
 1/2 tsp natural sea salt with minerals"


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« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2013, 10:27:46 AM »

I make my bee tea with 1:1 sugarsyrup and add tyme leaves, dandelion tea and chamomile tea. I haven't added any salt. I live out in the country and don't have a herb gardeb, s I figured anything I can do to help them is ok. It is supposed to strengthen their immune system. I only fed last year because the girls didn't have that much honey and having lost 2 of 3 hives I guess I wanted insurance without going to chemical stuff. They seemed to like it better than the plain sugar syrup that I gave them first. Again, I am very new at this but enjoy my girls and as best I can I want to support them. I fgure since we live in an unnatural world I might as wellgive them what I can. Unfortunately the people around here seem to be very pro-chemistry...makes me worry....
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« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2013, 05:06:03 AM »

Oh me Oh my  Undecided  Sad  Cry

A common mistake;  believing that "anything we can do" to help is OK.  Its not!

Sometimes (most times) doing NOTHING is the best thing "we" can do.

There is nothing "natural" about dumping substances "we" assume or were told are going to assist our bees.

BEES ARE THE ONLY EXPERTS.  Resist all the so-called "help" provided by humans and GROW a Garden instead.  

What is killing bees?  WE ARE KILLING BEES  Cry
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« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2013, 10:20:37 AM »

From a real newby. I'm in upper Wisconsin, nestled in on the shores of the Great Lake Superior. Just 15 mile south of it....My ambition is to raise totally natural, Lake Superior bees that can totally keep going, year after year, with very little help from me....My yard is 45'x45' and will soon have a electric fence around it...

One question I have is how far to space the hives apart?

Appreciate this thread greatly. I know T Beek is only about 75 miles SW of me and has a lot of the same winters and am very encouraged by his natural methods of keeping...Looking forward to future posts here and will be asking questions, a lot, when I get started this coming spring.

Hoping you all have a great overwinter success. I am very impressed and hope I can say the same, 1/23 loss. My hope is to go into the winter of 14 with 6 or more hives.
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« Reply #22 on: October 30, 2013, 10:57:04 AM »

Hi charlie b-How's the weather? Smiley

Proximity is the Beeks choice.  Some have their hives right next to each other (overwintering this way seems to help).  Some prefer to space them some distance apart, mine are roughly 6 ' apart, but I've got the room. 

Think like a bee, perhaps the most difficult part of beekeeping, but it really helps.  Bees in the wild would never think of building their nests right next to each other but that is how we generally do things as keepers.  I think over saturating an area is more problematic, but then I never hear my bees complaining  laugh.  Keeping several hives, say 20-25 in one area likely saturates that area.  Nectar collections seems to suffer when there are more IMO.

So......spacing is really your choice.  As long as you can work on one colony and not disturb the one nearby...that is what I'd try to accomplish when spacing.
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« Reply #23 on: October 30, 2013, 11:13:31 AM »

Thanks Beek. Oh, I believe my weather is about the same as yours. laugh As for the spacing, I have planned on about 5 feet or so. I am going to take pics of the yard in it's present state. You'll see how much work I have to do yet, BUT!! I have a vision.

All ready talking to people about bee yards on their property when mine get saturated....Have some really good spots. Thing is, when I build a new yard up here, I need to put up am electric fence for the bears tongue Cost? Solar would be around $250.

Looking forward to keeping with a great passion. bee bee
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« Reply #24 on: October 30, 2013, 12:54:20 PM »

Here are a few pictures of our present (future) yard that we will be keeping our bees. It is roughly 45'x45'. Any thoughts? I hope this isn't getting off subject, but I'm hoping to let you get a feel of how I am getting started in Natural bee keeping with the start and layout of the yard......https://www.facebook.com/charlie.beyersdorf/media_set?set=a.10152167173497454.1073741840.793507453&type=3
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« Reply #25 on: October 30, 2013, 02:13:16 PM »

I've been hit by bear twice since 2007.  Completely wiped me out the last time.  That was with 6 strands of electric surrounding the yard.  I caught him in the act one night, he ran right through the fence as if he'd done it before to some other beek.  We eventually trapped him, an old boar with bad habits and no fear.

Lesson;  there are few ways to ward off a determined bear.  With my electric I've also been using those 'niteguard' lights, advertised in bee mags for $20.00 a piece-I've got 8 of them all around the beeyard.  They do seem to be working.  I've since had bear in the driveway eating garbage (my fault) and in our compost pile, but none have touched the bees since I put the lights up 2 years ago.

Your yard looks great!  BIG!  Didn't notice we had gotten off topic  Wink  Leave that to others...........
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« Reply #26 on: October 30, 2013, 03:18:22 PM »

Beek. Ever try hanging raw bacon on your fence? Just a thought as I heard that it works really, really good! At our last club meeting, the DNR said that they would come trap any problem bears. Lord willing, I won't have one. Sorry about your loss.
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« Reply #27 on: October 30, 2013, 04:42:00 PM »

Beek. Ever try hanging raw bacon on your fence? Just a thought as I heard that it works really, really good! At our last club meeting, the DNR said that they would come trap any problem bears. Lord willing, I won't have one. Sorry about your loss.


Bacon goes rancid or dries out rather quickly.   The best thing that I have found is slathering peanut butter on small pieces of #8 hardware cloth and bending it over the hot wires.   Alternatively,  if you fold aluminum foil over the wire,  you can put peanut butter inside the fold and it is protected from the sun and rain.

I have a couple Niteguards, but they only work best in one direction,  so it gets quite expensive if you try to get all directions covered.     I have two driveway alarms that I purchased from Harbor Freight on sale.  The are motion sensor activated and I have but them on the outside of the electric fence facing each other on opposite sides.   They not only flash red LEDs, but also set off an alarm.   I purchased two of the same channel,  so if either detects, they both sound off.  I have had them 2 years now and "knock on wood" no bear issues.   I know there are bear around as I routinely see neighboring houses with their garbage cans tore open on my way into the bee yard.

http://www.harborfreight.com/wireless-driveway-alert-system-93068.html   you can get them on sale for $12-$13 on occassion
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« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2013, 05:29:41 AM »

Agreed;  Bacon gets rancid.....AND.....its also very attractive to BEARS  shocked.  Much depends on the bear if bacon is used as bait.  A young one may get shocked and move on.....an old determined one, one that knows what is waiting beyond the fence will not be detoured.

Peanut butter, wrapped in some tin foil and then wrapped around a few strands of wire is said to work.  I've tried it a few times but have given up since adding the niteguard lights.  IMO for about $100.00 its been cheap insurance. 

The 8 I have are certainly cheaper than replacing even one of my hives.  I have them placed behind my hives, in front and to the sides, pretty spread out.  A BEAR wondering into my yard will feel like he is surrounded....so goes the theory of how and why they work so well.  I'll likely buy 4 more by Spring, although the originals from 2 years ago are still working fine.  I wonder if they sell stock in the company  Wink

Bottom line;  we live in BEAR Country and I can only attribute these little flashing lights that our bees haven't been bothered (they've been keeping the skunks away too)
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« Reply #29 on: October 31, 2013, 08:08:19 AM »

Robo and Beek....Some good thoughts to ponder there guys. Thanks.
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« Reply #30 on: October 31, 2013, 08:13:42 AM »

Agreed;  Bacon gets rancid.....AND.....its also very attractive to BEARS  shocked.  Much depends on the bear if bacon is used as bait.  A young one may get shocked and move on.....an old determined one, one that knows what is waiting beyond the fence will not be detoured.


My experience has been different.   Older bears seems to get shocked and move on,   it is the yearling males that cause the biggest issues.  Once they get into a yard,  they are next to impossible to stop.   I have had them climb up the back of a building and go over a 20ft peak roof to get to the other side where the hives where located.  Once a yard gets hit,  the best recourse is to move the hives immediately.  

For a secondary precaution, I have all my hives ratchet strapped.   At first I was skeptical when I was told about this,  but have become a true believer through experience.   If/when a bear gets through your fence,  they will knock over a hive or two and it they don't break open,  8 out of 10 times they will give up and move on.  

BTW, If you're looking for the best bear attractant,  it would be dirty diapers.
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« Reply #31 on: October 31, 2013, 08:30:06 AM »

I Think a Finnish studies showed that only a Small amount of bears (black) become honey bears, about 3-5%

But once they have started they wont stop + they also teach there cubs to be honey bears.

The only way to stop them is with fast moving hot lead  Jerry

Once they have started eating a be yard they will stay until they have eaten all the hives or if a fence i installed, but if they want it bad enough it wont stop them and the bee yard will have to be relocated.


mvh Edward  tongue
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« Reply #32 on: October 31, 2013, 09:15:52 AM »

QUOTE from edward;  "if they want it bad enough it wont stop them and the bee yard will have to be relocated"..........or the Bear will Wink  to my freezer if necessary.  In my own experience bears ate mostly bees and brood leaving most of the honey.  I've heard tell they can smell brood a mile away  Undecided  I agree on the % of bears that disturb bees, if were any higher we'd likely have more issues.  We are literally surrounded by bears and relatively speaking we have minimal problems........until one gets nervy.

Robo;  "dirty diapers"  lau lau I agree, I agree, they love em......oh my, my jaw hurts now........Unfortunately my only grandkid still in them is living on the west coast.......maybe I'll place an ad in the local paper. grin
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« Reply #33 on: October 31, 2013, 10:19:15 AM »

Ratchet straps....I find that as a confirmation to my thoughts on my hives. I have them on my "shopping list" when I start ordering bee yard equipment in March of 014. I have seen a lot of beeks using them and being in bear country, I do plan on using them.....I am going to put two heavy duty eye screws into the pallet, one on each side of the hive and ratchet it tight....
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« Reply #34 on: October 31, 2013, 10:22:36 AM »

In the spring time when they wake from hibernation they need protine, larvae are a great source.

In the fall they need to build up fat stores, then they go for the honey.


mvh Edward  tongue
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« Reply #35 on: October 31, 2013, 10:36:14 AM »

Charlie b,

I love your yard - I could not tell the composition of the forest from the picture, but I hope you can make quite a bit of "forest" honey like linden or locust.

I am glad, though, that I don't live in bear country.
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T Beek
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« Reply #36 on: October 31, 2013, 11:20:25 AM »

In the spring time when they wake from hibernation they need protine, larvae are a great source.

In the fall they need to build up fat stores, then they go for the honey.


mvh Edward  tongue

We've had no bear issues in the Fall.........yet!  Likely because we're much more on guard by then. 

#1 Garbage cans go into the garage upon the first sighting and #2 Lots for them to forage on by Fall both naturally and as the area Resorts and Snowbirds start closing up for the season, leaving packed dumpsters all around our lakes they feast. 

Ever seen a Bear feeding frenzy?  There's folks up here who make videos of them rolleyes.  Fill a dumpster with some smelly stuff and wait.......It'll make one appreciate open feeding honeybees or at least put it in a different perspective.
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« Reply #37 on: October 31, 2013, 11:38:01 AM »

Merince.

We have a lot of 40, 80 acres fields around here within 1 1/2 mile radius which is planted in clover. Some, like immediatley across the road, within 100 yards, is a 40 wich is pretty much left to it self. They "hay" it once a year but havn't planted it in more then 10. All pretty much native wild flowers...

The woods consist of Maple, Birch, Bass Wood, Ash, etc. If I do harvest any honey for myself, I wonder what color it will be and what it will taste like? The honey is for the bees to overwinter on. It's a long season up here. Winter that is. Golden Rod is over in Sept. and then, comes Late March, and April.
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« Reply #38 on: October 31, 2013, 11:40:58 AM »

Charlie B:

Both clover and basswood make light honey. Keep us updated how it goes next year!
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« Reply #39 on: October 31, 2013, 02:47:19 PM »

Will do Merince
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« Reply #40 on: November 04, 2013, 08:15:48 PM »

Hello I have been beekeeping about 1.5 years. I have three hives and have been not using foundation. So my hives are langstroth boxes. with standard frames with comb guides. I am excited to join this forum as my work schedule does not allow me to go to my local beekeeping meetings.
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« Reply #41 on: November 05, 2013, 05:11:03 AM »

Welcome Brother Dave! 

I'm nearly two hours from the closest beekeeper meetings so can appreciate the inability to attend them.  This forum can often take the place of a meeting or many meetings, depending on how much one can absorb at a sitting.  Having the ability to come and go is a real pleasure.
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« Reply #42 on: November 05, 2013, 08:16:33 AM »

Hello Bro. Dave,
Welcome to the forum and I am excited to hear that you are also foundationless. Have you had a good experience with them? I  have recently bought used hives and have roughly 1200 frames, which I am cleaning and putting starter strips in. Getting ready for the 014 season. Excited!
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« Reply #43 on: November 05, 2013, 03:14:05 PM »

Hi Brother Dave!

Welcome to the forum. I use a mix of foundation and foundationless. Usually, when putting a new super, I will use foundation to reduce the risk of having to do a "cut-out". I use foundationless if I have enough brood frames to interleave the new super.

Good luck and remember to keep the hives level!
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« Reply #44 on: November 05, 2013, 08:07:02 PM »

Hello Bro. Dave,
Welcome to the forum and I am excited to hear that you are also foundationless. Have you had a good experience with them? I  have recently bought used hives and have roughly 1200 frames, which I am cleaning and putting starter strips in. Getting ready for the 014 season. Excited!
    I have had good luck so far It helps to really crowd them together in the middle of the box for me also adding a new frame between two good strait ones works. I did put some effort into leveling my hives that also may have helped. I also do not expect perfect looking comb.   good luck Dave
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« Reply #45 on: November 30, 2014, 07:59:22 PM »

Wondering if Solomon is still on the forum and ready to answer questions.  Seems the thread got way off topic last year.  Did Solomon give up on it?
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