"Natural Beekeeping" - Am I wrong?

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by PerryBee, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    I just finished reading a rural magazine up here featuring and article on natural beekeeping.
    I found myself getting truly annoyed and am wondering if I am out in left field (more so than usual) on this.

    Disclaimer: I am not trying to open the debate on treatment versus non-treatment, and if this thread starts causing problems it is truly not my intent. Mods. have your way with it if it appears to go awry!

    The story begins with Mr, X and Y. They take over a 120 hive operation that has 1 hive left alive. One of them has a little experience with keeping bees over 20 years ago, before varroa.
    They start out by deciding they will go treatment free. Their research has led them to small cell sites, natural cell sites, etc.
    They start the summer of 09 with the one living hive (strong) and 4 purchased nucs and an observation hive. No losses over winter.
    Late spring and summer of 2010 they allow bees to draw their own comb. By fall they start seeing lots of mites. "Once or twice we removed some drone brood from some of the hives to give them a little boost". They continue to expand (split) and by fall of 2010 they have 18 hives.
    By early spring 2011 had lost only 1 small nucleus hive. "Although summer of 2011 was exceptionally wet we were able to split enough hives so that we now have about 30 hives. By the fall of 2011 we saw almost no signs of mites and did not remove any drone brood. Clearly, the bees are overcoming the mites without any treatments".
    It ends with, "We have learned to love natural beekeeping. It lets the bees live the way nature meant them to be. It propagates strong bees but discourages mites. In 2012, we hope to start selling treatment-free nucleus beehives."

    It also includes a table titled:
    Key Elements of Natural Beekeeping include:
    - giving no treatments of any kind;
    - locating bees near a good, uncontaminated water source;
    - moving the hives as little as possible, other than in the spring and late fall;
    - providing windbreaks year-round;
    - using only medium-sized hive boxes;
    - using a top entrance as opposed to a bottom entrnce, and provide ventilation;
    - useing a screened bottom board;
    - avoiding the use of a queen excluder;
    - letting bees raise their own queens;
    - feeding sugar syrup only as necessary;
    - taking only excess honey that the bees won't need for winter;
    - giving bees access to acres of organic pastureland;;- where possible, propagating flowers that bees like.

    That's it folks, all you need to be succesfull in beekeeping.
    While I appreciate the intent of these folks, I feel the article paints an unrealistic picture.
    First, (IMHO) it is simply not as easy as it is being portrayed in this piece. Could the fact that they have obviously split the living beegeebers out of their hives in 2 years, probably disrupting the varroa life cycle have anything to do with it? Will the people buying these "treatment free" nucs have the same success when they take them home and set them in their backyards and find themselves dealing with an uniterrupted explosion of varroa?
    Looking at the list of "Key Elements of Natural Beekeeping", it does not appear to be much different than what most beeks try to provide for their bees (exception being treatment or not). If all I had to do was stop treating to be succesful (and I am not saying I am succesful by any stretch of the imagination) I would be first in line to do it.
    I am annoyed that an article featuring a couple of folks having kept bees for a shade more than 2 years is suddenly presented in this fashion. How many people are going to read this and end up dissapointed with their own results?

    "Clearly, the bees are overcoming mites without any treatments".
    That is some conclusion to draw after having kept bees for little more than 2 years.
    Am I being picky when I say I feel annoyed at this article? Is it time for PerryBee to lighten up a little?

    P.S. If I have offended anybody with this "rant" I apologize in advance, it was not my intent to do so!
     
  2. sqkcrk

    sqkcrk New Member

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    You are correct in your reaction. Keep in mind that this is a newspaper article or magazine article, not an educational tool. There is a lot of interpretation going on. The beekeepers are interpreting what they are seeing and experiencing and the reporter is interpreting what the beekeepers are telling her/him.

    I always go by the "Did they spell your name correctly?" test when articles are written about me or something related to me. Sometimes that is all one has control over.
     

  3. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

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    When you put bees in a box it's not what nature intended. :mrgreen: Not to say natural beekeeping can't be done, but it's not for someone just starting beekeeping(IMO) I don't recall them saying anything about shb only mites, The days of setting out a hive, and the only worry you had was wax moths and foul brood (i've never had or seen a foul brood case) are gone. Bees nowaday have to many things out to get them and without beekeepers being vigilant back in the 80's(when we got mites) i think the bees would be more endangered than they are today.Natural beekeeping and organic beekeeping is a lost dream (IMO) Like the indians say, only rocks are forever. Jack
     
  4. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    All people can do is describe what worked for them.
    There are treatment free BKers who have very few losses and there are some who lose many hives. The exact same thing can be said for BKers who treat their hives. It's important to realize this!
    I see nothing bad about the article. The authors described something that worked well for them. People are always writing articles about what they feel is the best way to keep bees. Should I be upset by an article advising me to use antibiotics and miticides?- no, I can just read it and then decide what I want to try- and that's exactly what I did as a brand new BK with no experience- i read and read and realized that I would need to make a choice about what path I wanted to take.
    For every article like this one that Perry cites, there are just as many articles (if not more) that promote regular treatment use and assure people that their hives will only survive if they are treated. There are newbies who will bring home a nuc, follow EITHER article to a T, ...and lose their first few hives no matter if they treat or don't treat. I personally know several new BKs of BOTH persuasions who have lost one or more of their first hives. Frankly, from their descriptions to me, two of them lost their hives not because of varroa but because 1) one didn't know how to recognize when they were queenless, nor know how to fix it by adding eggs from their other hive 2) another lose his first hive when he opened it in sub freezing weather to check on whether they were still alive. (they were, but ...not for long!) He had treated diligently for varroa, by the way.
    I feel it's a new beek's responsibility to do some learning and read about several ways of keeping bees if they are to make an informed decision about how to keep their own bees. We shouldn't blame any one article that advises this or that- after all there are thousands of beekeeping articles advising everything under the sun. And according to my first BK teacher, (who has a lot of experience mind you) my bees should have been all dead 2 years ago already because I haven't used fumagillen and Terramycin on them twice a year whether they needed it or not. Every time I run into him somewhere in town, I say "They're still alive!" and he replies "they'll die if you don't treat them, just you wait!" I guess we all die if we wait long enough! lol!

    I myself feel new BKs often lose hives whether they treat or not (I include myself here), but their biggest turning point towards success is to learn how to make new colonies from their old ones- learn to split and to make queens and new nucs, that's key to longterm sustainable success, more important than whether you treat your bees or not, or whether you treat a little or a lot. Making three new colonies out of last year's hive is learning a skill for how to recoup, renew, and survive as a beekeeper.

    Everyone loses hives, whether they treat or not. The national average is now a 33% loss each year- that includes treaters and non-treaters, commercial BKs and hobbyists. Newbies are obviously at higher risk because they don't have much experience and because they typically have only 1-3 colonies. Someone who has only one hive has 'failed' if they lose it over winter. If they lose 1 or 2 out of 5 hives, they have not 'failed'.
    Beekeepers who know how to make extra nucs and who know how/when to split their hives and make more queens are much more likely to be the ones who won't wind up beeless in the Spring.
     
  5. Robo

    Robo New Member

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    I'm with you on this one Perry, the best way to combat varroa is breaks in the brood cycle...

    What a bunch of bull. My advise to you is don't renew your subscription. I surely wouldn't want to take any advice from it for a subject I wasn't familiar with.

    First of all there is nothing natural about beekeeping. Feral colonies don't have frames, build comb the the walls creating pockets of trapped air. The colony is never opened up so it retains heat and scent. Very few are forced to build emergency queens and I'll go out on a limb and say those that find themselves in that predicament have a far less chance of survival through the winter than those that don't.


    It also includes a table titled:
    Key Elements of Natural Beekeeping include:

    - giving no treatments of any kind;
    Removing drone brood and using IPM techniques isn't treatment :roll:

    - locating bees near a good, uncontaminated water source;
    Bees will find the best water that meets their needs. Ever wonder why they prefer swimming pools and mud puddles over a bucket of clean water?

    - moving the hives as little as possible, other than in the spring and late fall;
    Feral hives are never moved. How about staying the heck out of the hive too.

    - using only medium-sized hive boxes;
    :confused: I have yet to find a feral hive in anything close to a medium. They will build comb as long as the space will let them. I've seen comb as long as 5 feet.

    - using a top entrance as opposed to a bottom entrance, and provide ventilation;
    Every feral colony I have removed had attempted to seal of any crack or crevice they could. Why is it that everyone insists on providing all kinds of ventilation when the bees, when left to their own, do everything they can to preserve heat and scent.

    - useing a screened bottom board;
    Isn't this an IPM treatment? Of course that assumes that the mite drop off rate is significant, which I don't buy into. It also contradicts the studies that show varroa thrive better in a cooler/dry brood nest, which you get with SBB.

    - letting bees raise their own queens;
    Sure, but don't force them to raise emergency queens. Emergency queens are the exception in feral colonies, but for some reason many beeks make it the norm - http://robo.bushkillfarms.com/can-you-a ... cy-queens/

    - giving bees access to acres of organic pastureland;;- where possible, propagating flowers that bees like.
    Better own a lot of land if you think your going to plant enough to support your hives and keep them from straying to other areas.
     
  6. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    the second year bee keeper's syn-drone (or is it sin-drone?)... shortly thereafter disaster arrives.

    i want to know what happened to that one hive from the original 120?


    is it unethical not to treat a sick beehive, a cat, a dog, a horse?
     
  7. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Two things I see right off.

    1... Buy a nuc this spring, it will likely NOT die from varroa this year or next. It will, untreated, die the third year if the strain isn't already resistant.

    2... Because of #1, they are going to have many angry nuc buyers in 3 years.

    Their success is from new hives every year, NOT from being treatment free.
     
  8. djdhays

    djdhays New Member

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    I am constantly seeking advice on things I don't know. This discussion has been very a very interesting one so far. All I have to add is that I share Perry's frustration. It's not just beekeeping sources where this happens so much but the internet in general. I try to tell everyone I know, "If you don't know the answer to a question, shut up." (I shut up a lot.) I can't tell you the number of times I've forgotten how to do something and searched Google only to find 8000 blatantly wrong answers and 40,000 ads trying to sell me the answer. So far, thankfully, most of the answers I've gotten here have included an IMO or something to that effect. Several members of the club have already told me, "If you ask 3 beekeepers a question, you'll get 5 different answers."
     
  9. Marbees

    Marbees Member

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    :goodpost:

    Can't agree more
     
  10. Zulu

    Zulu Member

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    Not very talkative your bee keeping friends,

    3 beeks down here would have at least 12 opinions.. :lol: :lol:

    And in the far north, if you get Perry going, that's 5 opinions right there :Dancing:
     
  11. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a snip...
    It also includes a table titled:
    Key Elements of Natural Beekeeping include:
    - giving no treatments of any kind;
    - locating bees near a good, uncontaminated water source;
    - moving the hives as little as possible, other than in the spring and late fall;
    - providing windbreaks year-round;
    - using only medium-sized hive boxes;
    - using a top entrance as opposed to a bottom entrnce, and provide ventilation;
    - useing a screened bottom board;
    - avoiding the use of a queen excluder;
    - letting bees raise their own queens;
    - feeding sugar syrup only as necessary;
    - taking only excess honey that the bees won't need for winter;
    - giving bees access to acres of organic pastureland;;- where possible, propagating flowers that bees like.

    tecumseh:
    sounds like they lifted this from the organic bee keeping rules.

    ones like this (if I am reading this properly???)... 'letting bees raise their own queens'... doesn't really conform to modern day breeding practices.
     
  12. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    The fact remains that most beekeepers think their own way of keeping bees is the 'right' way and the other way is 'misguided'....whether they are pro-treatment or anti-treatment. This is true in so many things in life- religion, politics, child rearing, taste in music, you name it. We all choose to educate ourselves a little, or a lot, and we get to make our own decisions.
    Perry says:
    Well, we moved (very predictably) into that very debate almost immediately. I'm trying to figure out the purpose of this thread if it's not to start a debate about treatment vs. non-treatment. Perry, what exactly is the purpose then? Mind you, I'm not upset in the least, I'm in a good mood :wave: and I don't mind discussing this stuff and I don't get riled about it.... but tell me again what exactly are we supposed to be discussing?
     
  13. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    Hi Omie:
    I am glad that no one is going over the top on this (yet).
    To me the discussion is not so much about being treatment-free (or not), or "natural beekeeping" (or not). To me the issue is more about information, (or lack thereof) that is presented as something other than what it is. Do you not feel (I'm just asking for an opinion here) that many people may read this article, buy nucs, and end up with completely different results? I realize that everyone keeps bees differently so I will assume that the results they have will vary accordingly as well. But the way this is presented does not reflect that. It gives the reader the impression that merely ceasing to use treatments of any kind will be met with success and produce healthier bees.
    I realize that none of you has the benefit of reading the entire article to form your opinions and I must accept that.
    I guess my beef is that when a publication choses to print something, perhaps they should not accept everything at face value. IMHO this piece was a one-sided debate that gave the illusion that this was a "superior" or more "ethical" way of keeping bees (again, my interpretation). I myself have stopped using Oxytet and Fumadail for some time now but I would never chastise those that feel it neccessary to do so. If I feel like my hive may die without intervention, I will intervene, but I do not need to be made to feel bad or unethical about doing so.
    I am glad that you are questioning this thread, there is no way that everyone should possibly agree :thumbsup: . I worried when I started it that it might illicit some strong opinions on the treat/not treat debate and that was not it's purpose.
    Perhaps my problem has more to do with journalism, and that opens up a whole different can of worms! :roll:
     
  14. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    I see exactly what you mean Perry. I agree! But I also have to say that the issue here is not that the people who wrote the article are anti-treatment. The issue is apparently that they wrote an article implying that if one does the same thing they did one will have the same success. Unfortunately there are just as many people who go around telling newbies that unless they use this or that and the other medication and miticide twice a year their bees WILL DIE. This happened to me. That's just as biased.

    I think the overall fact points are that:

    1) EVERYONE has their own strong ideas on what the 'best' way of keeping bees is. BK methods vary greatly- always have, always will.

    2) Newbies like to ask established BKs for easy all-in-one instructions on how to keep bees rather than doing a whole lot of balanced reading and hands on mentor-finding. They also tend to make mistakes in their first several years, regardless of the advise they've been given.

    3) Most people who write articles have their own firm belief about the best way to keep bees (see #1), and want to share their advise to help new BKs.

    4) When a person reads an article about BK methods they agree with, they see no problem in the BK advise that is given to newBees. When a person reads an article they don't agree with, they feel it is misguiding newbies and spreading 'bad' BK advice.

    So then, are we to be disgruntled by every BK article we read that does not promote BK methods we agree with? There's a whole vast SEA of such articles out there! I can tell you one thing for sure- the articles I might get disgruntled about will definitely not be the same ones that some other BK will get disgruntled about.
    Again I come back to my own method- read everything, then simply toss aside what you don't want to try, and use the stuff that seems to jive with your personal views. If that doesn't work then try one of the other methods.
    Want a shortcut?- go visit some real BKs, talk to them, see first hand how they do stuff and decide if that might work well for your style too...or not!

    :D
     
  15. Zulu

    Zulu Member

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    Perry you are right on the money .

    As a new beekeeper, the challenge was to find acceptable information.

    The Internet has 1000's of ideas , and opinions , seldom backed up by scientific data.

    However by looking for published books and white papers, I was able to sift through the chaff, and I think get a solid idea of realistic methods, that had been proven in a particular area.... As the older beeks know a lot of common sense ultimately plays a big role in being succesful with your bees, but I think we're breeding out common sense in kids these days.

    And lastly with every hobby or endevor I have been involved in, you need to find a mentor, someone who knows a bit about local lore, and can help when the chips are down, and give you a path to finding the wisdom to correct the issue, and teach you how not to fall into that trap again in future.

    Most bee issues are of our own making in the final analysis, something we did not do, or were late doing.
     
  16. RE Jones

    RE Jones New Member

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    I have to agree with the above post. When I first started, I asked several beekeepers the same question and what did I get, different answers.

    I am going to try and not treat with chemicals, however, if all else fails, I will use them.

    I still read a lot of books and try and get information off of the internet. With that information, I pull what I think will work and try it. If it does not, try something else. What works for you, may not work for me, but I have to find that out for myself.

    I would not let one of my pets, dog and parrot, get sick and do nothing about it. When they need food, I give it to them. I feel the same way about my bees, not my pets, but they are animals(insects actually).
    Robert
     
  17. djdhays

    djdhays New Member

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    So if I understand, as long as I split all my hives every year, my mite problems should be minimal. Cool. And the only down side is that I never get any honey. In 20 years I could have well over a million hives and hardly any mites. Now I just have to figure out how to pay the help.
     
  18. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    djd, There are various ways to discourage mites, but few things are ever as simple as you describe. I suspect there are ways to split and still get a good honey crop- I like reading about the MDA Splitter methods, but I may never be able to try it on a significant scale because I need to keep small on my tiny property within the village zoning. I'm far too small to 'prove' anything in particular with my smalltime attempts.
    Timing is an interesting tool. According to some beekeepers, if you put on supers and remove the queen to a nuc right when a flow is starting (which is not splitting in half, but accomplishes much the same thing), the hive can make a honey crop at the same time they are raising a new queen. They will take advantage of a good nectar flow yet would have no brood to feed for a few weeks. Meanwhile, mites will decline during that same month-long broodless period. Then you can harvest your honey, and either let them keep their new queen or remove it and recombine the old queen's now-booming nuc back into the hive again. Or sell the extra nuc or queen, pinch her, or whatever you want. I would have tried this last year but I was too busy all year making 6 hives out of one survivor. I was pretty surprised that i got a gallon of honey in spite of all that splitting- I didn't expect any!
    You could also try splitting after the big Spring honey crop.
    Lots of cool options to try out I think! I love to experiment, and I'm not afraid to try something different. Needless to say, if I were depending on bees for my livelihood I would be restricting my experiments to a small segment of my hives, ...but always testing out a few new and old ideas. :D
     
  19. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    good post Zulu...

    the science folks tell us that many of the 'treatments' work and the 'treatmentless' folks are establishing headway (genetic adaptation to varroa) also. for beginners I suspect there is a larger risk in obtaining stock that has been treated, treated and treated and then attempting (with little bee keeping experience) to go treatmentless.

    I would not attempt to argue treatment vs treatmentless since I think (backed by what the science folks tell me) that both can be made to work. how can you argue againist anything that works?

    although largely treatmentless myself I still play around with some 'organic' varroa treatments. that part is large experimental. fumidillian I will continue to use in individual case where nosema is the culprit (not many of those anyway) and in queen and nuc production... but primarily the queen rearing end of things.
     
  20. djdhays

    djdhays New Member

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    I'm sorry, I employ sarcasm quite a bit in an effort to amuse. As far as treatment or no treatment, I have to get bees before I worry about that. I would say the possibility of me getting treated bees is quite minimal. I don't intend to buy bees. I did some beelining last fall an I'm fairly certain I have three feral hives nearby. I'm hoping to catch swarms. I've been telling everyone I know to call me if they see a swarm and to ask their friends to do the same. I'm on the swarm list in my club and the one colony I do have, for those of you who don't already know, came from a five gallon bucket in my friends tree stand. I suspect that anyone who would take the trouble to treat their bees wouldn't let them swarm. I could be wrong as I've proven on way more than one occasion. The nuc thing I still have to research. I'm starting from scratch and I want to build as much as I can. That's in part because I want the satisfaction of knowing I did it all myself but mostly because I'm cheap. I should probably start a new thread but I'm already here. If I give my bees a full brood box with foundationless frames are they likely to die next winter? Will they leave? Will they fill it up and need more? How long does a captured swarm take to outgrow a nuc? I still have a lot of reading to do but you're welcome to answer any of these questions. If I should be putting my swarms in nucs, (I'm an eternal optimist) I saw somewhere someone split a regular deep with a divider and made two nucs in the same box. If I won't need full size equipment until next year I could double my capacity. So much to learn.