>I know I have posted in on this topic before but...as a newbie beekeeper, what or how do you recommend I go natural in beekeeping.
Small cell has been sufficient for me.
> I like the idea of using no chemicals if possible, but my mentor disagrees about this as a basic practice. I've read discussions of small cell, which I don't think I am ready to try yet
Why? All you really have to do is buy small cell foundation and start feeding it in as you get the chance. It's standard beekeeping. Or quite buying foundation. http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htmhttp://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm
> and I recently put a screened bottom board on one hive with a sticky board under it, what other natural options do I have?
There are, as Ian has pointed out, things are perhaps are not natural but are effective and don't build up in the wax. Oxalic acid, I think, is the most promising.
> Is a screened bottom board the same function as a slatted rack?
It creates some of the same effects but not in the same way. A slatted rack controls ventilation and keeps a path open for ventilation. The SBB provides more actual air coming in. The slatted rack will not help with the Varroa. The SBB might help somewhat, but at least will help you monitor and see how you are doing with the Varroa.
> Day two into my apistan/formic acid treatment I found around a hundred varroa mites on the sticky board!
That's very few. Either you don't have many varroa or they are resistant to the Apistan. Apistan is worthless here in Nebraska as all the mites are resistant.
> That was only a few hours after putting on the screened bottom board...Is there something else to deal with varroa that is natural?
The only thing I would consider "natural" is to give the bees a natural environment so they can deal with the mites. Everything else is a treatment. But as Ian pointed out, there are treatments that are much less dangerous to the bees and don't build up in the wax.
> I did a sugar shake last week before the sticky bb was on so I don't know how effective that was.
Powdered sugar is fairly effective.
> Is it only small cell and screened bottom boards that you use to keep mites at bay, and ventilation to control other disease?
I do ventilation because I get more honey and less swarming. I do small cell because it gives me healthy bees and keeps the mites under control. That is all I do.
> Is there something else I missed here?
You didn't miss anything I do. I did use FGMO fog while regressing and followed up with Oxalic acid vapor to see how the FGMO did. By the next year I had them regressed and have done nothing since in most hives. Occasionally I inherit a hive of large cell bees and I have treated one of those with Oxalic acid vapor.
> My mentor says this many mites indicates a problem if not dealt with, so I treat until november when outside flight stops...I know you have both mentioned in previous posts that you used oxalic acid in the past, do you still?
> Do you consider it natural or just a step in transition to what you do now?
For me it was just a transition. But if I was not going to go to small cell Oxalic acid would be my second choice.
> or something to use if mite levels get too high?
Since I haven't had the mite levels get too high since I regressed, it hasn't been an issue. I suppose if I thought a hive was really high on varroa I might treat with Oxalic, but I would also check to see that I have 4.9mm or smaller in the core of the brood nest and I would probably requeen, because they should be able to handle the mites on their own. But I have not had that happen.