View Full Version : Sustainable beekeeping

Mar 16th 2009, 11:49 AM
There are a lot of opinions expressed about keeping bees, especially about keeping hives healthy.

Some are proponents of organic methods- organic in the sense that powdered sugar treatments and essential oils are natural treatments for disease. Others say these treatments don't work and use the 'chemical treatments' found through beekeeping suppliers. Some argue that excessive management and 'chemical' treatments lead to weak hives. Still others use no treatments in order to raise bees that are 'naturally resistant'.

I don't know what to do in my own small apiary in regards to treating for disease. I am interested in pollination as well as managing colonies for honey to sell and keeping bees healthy, both in my hives and sustainable in the wild. I don't want chemical buildup in the hives or pesticide resistance buildup in varroa, etc.

What are your thoughts on this?

Mar 16th 2009, 01:53 PM
I use no chemicals on my bees and never have. I used to go with FGMO for varroa but got lazy last year and still the sticky board count in 24 hrs was under 5 in all hives. When I did my spring management this year I accidentally broke lots and lots of drone brood open and still saw no varroa. My hives are strong with lots of bees, brood, pollen and honey. One hive has 9 frames in three of its four boxes! I attribute it to helping the bees do what they want and have what they need rather than trying to get the bees to do what I want.

Mar 16th 2009, 02:56 PM
You are lucky then. I've read where many have weak hives or have lost hives altogether from fall to early spring. The strength of my hives is mixed, one is strong, several are smaller but building brood.

What management practices do you use?

Mar 16th 2009, 05:48 PM
this post will end up being a great read i bet - for me i did treat with strips this past fall but after going to more meetings and reading more my wife and i have decided no more treating other than powdered sugar and oils - i did cover them several times with sugar and i put the lemongrass and spearmint in their sugar water each time i feed - thats about all i have read on doing for them that might help - i am eager to read about other non chemical things to do - i have 3 hives - 1st is a swarm caught last year and it has several bees in it the 2nd and middle hive is a package bought from BM last year and i got it on the same day as the swarm !!! and its huge - its full of bees and then the 3rd is a nuc that i got really late August i believe - it made it through the winter too - not so many bees but they must have enough to have survived the winter and they are growing too - so best i can tell they are healthy - all 3 sure do keep the dead ones pulled out and they come and go on a warm day - i have not been all through the hives yet but that day is coming soon :D

Mar 16th 2009, 07:45 PM
Your post is a bit hard to read and understand, how can one of your hives have only several bees but you consider it doing ok?

Mar 17th 2009, 02:41 PM
i guess i need to define several - well thats hard to do so i might say it has enough bees in it to survive and raise and keep warm some brood - because the number of bees in the hive has grown since february - hows that - i would say it has more bees in it than when i got the nuc so thats a good sign i would say :D

Apr 1st 2009, 03:39 PM
Hello Ginger,
I have not treated in 6 years. I use management, good genetics, equipment choices, and natural mite controls such as brood breaks, doing summer splits, making sure I have young queens, etc. I think going treatment free involved a broad IPM management program. All of them feed off each other and one or two of them will not get the job done. But together, they allow you to get your winter kill down to an acceptable level which is manageable. It's like asking "why have screen bottom boards if you have bees not hygienic in the area of grooming?" It all goes together.

Apr 3rd 2009, 03:50 PM
Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, gingerbee. My management practices are to make sure the girls are happy. While a lot of beekeepers manage their bees so that they do what the beekeeper wants, I manage my girls in accordance with what they want. My original purpose for getting bees was pollination and I really didn't care if I got honey or not. So the only things I use on my hives are Honey B Healthy and FGMO. SBB's, of course and slatted racks as well. . .I find they keep the girls cool in the summer and ventilated in the winter. I have not had a problem with bearding since using slatted racks.

I've bought only 2 queens in seven years, letting the girls raise their own. I have chickens for SHB, but the problem isn't great here and my bees are very strong.

I read somewhere that the brackish water in the marsh (right across the street) is very beneficial to bees and strengthens their immune system, so that might have something to do with it as well. I'll tell you one thing. . .some deeeelicious honey comes out of that marsh!

Also, last year when I found out about all the pesticide residue in foundation (if I had thought about it, I would have realized), I stopped using foundation and started letting the girls make their own. I think the comb is much more beautiful and they build it quickly if they need it.

First spring check found that three of my hives had four or five beautiful brood frames. The fourth had nine (!) frames of brood. I will split as soon as I get some time.

I have checkerboarded and added supers since the girls were full of honey, so hopefully that will keep them from swarming. But I have put swarm traps in their favorite landing places just in case. A few orientations outside the hive made me nervous but all is well so far.

Hope this answers your questions.