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Author Topic: Q&A with a Treatment-Free Beekeeper  (Read 4918 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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LindaL
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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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Official bee stalker of the bee yard
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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
Parker Farms, Fayetteville Arkansas
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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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LindaL
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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
Parker Farms, Fayetteville Arkansas
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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?


mvh Edward  tongue
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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
Parker Farms, Fayetteville Arkansas
Glen H
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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?



Glen
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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
Parker Farms, Fayetteville Arkansas
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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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"Trust those who seek the truth, doubt those who say they've found it."
Solomon Parker
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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
Parker Farms, Fayetteville Arkansas
edward
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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?


mvh Edward  tongue
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T Beek
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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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Glen H
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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"


Glen
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Andream
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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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