Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Treatment-Free Beekeeping Podcast - Episode 3 - Mite Control and Winter Prep

In this episode, I talk about what to do to help the bees along with mites during the first year or two and then I talk about some preparations that can be made for winter.

http://www.parkerfarms.biz/Podcast/TFBP-Ep3-Mite%20Control%20and%20Wintering.mp3

Friday, July 18, 2014

Treatment-Free Beekeeping Podcast - Episode 2

In this week's installment, I talk about "Expansion Model Beekeeping" and how that leads into my method of raising queens and creating nucs.

http://parkerfarms.biz/Podcast/TFBP-Ep2-Expansion%20Model%20Beekeeping.mp3

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Moving Pains

Friends, Beekeepers, Lend me your ears!!!

I have emigrated to Colorado.


Check out that view from the Dakota Hogback (Dinosaur Ridge, where the first stegosauruses were discovered).

So, now that I'm in Colorado, you're probably going to see a few changes, the pictures I've been posting of my apiary in my back yard are no more, those bees are not there anymore.  But I forgot to take a picture of my new apiary, so you'll have to wait a couple weeks to see what it looks like.

I have also started a beekeeping podcast which will soon be available over there.  As soon as I have the appropriate links and such, they will be posted.

Thanks for your forbearance in this move.  Now is an adventure in learning how to keep bees in yet a new place.  This is now the third place I have kept bees.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How to be Successful at Treatment-Free Beekeeping



Very often, I hear of people who have "tried treatment-free beekeeping" and failed.  However, when I look into the situation, what I've found is that they've tried conventional beekeeping without treatments and failed.  This post is something adapted from just such a case, a guy who lives in Maine and bought Texas treatment-free bees.  He lost all but one of them and all but one in his treated apiary as well.  So I want to explain how it's done so people are not confused.

The solution is using local bees and breeding like a mad person, ferals, swarms, any bees that survived your last winter, (this guy has at least two hives that did that, these are now your local stock) and you multiply them.  You take those two hives and turn them into five or 20 or 50 if you have the ability and then you try again next year.  And when you get bees that survive consistently, then you work on other traits.  Many have tried what he tried, either with BeeWeaver's bees (outside of BeeWeaver's climate) or any other, dropped hundreds of dollars, and blew it.  All the time, I hear the argument "learn the basics and then try treatment-free" but in treatment-free, what I've outlined just here is the basics.  That's how it has to be done because that's just about the only way it really truly works.

If you want to know how to take two hives and make 50, I suggest grafting into a queenright cell builder (http://parkerfarms.biz/queenrearing.html).  The limiting factor is equipment and brood donors.  My equipment limits me to 27 nucs at a time.  Two hives will probably put a hard limit at about 10 nucs.  But if there are other hives to donate brood, the sky is the limit.  At this stage, you want unnatural increase (why this is treatment-free beekeeping and not "natural" beekeeping), to get as many new bees into your area as possible and let them figure out how to survive.  Many of them won't at first, but the more years of adaptation you have, the greater the strength of the result.

I say this year was great.  I lost all the bees that aren't going to survive a tough winter.  And since I'm moving to Colorado, that's an important trait to have.  It happened to this guy and many other beekeepers too.  The mindset that all hives should survive every year is conventional thinking and treatment-free is never going to stand up to that metric.  That's not how it works in nature and it doesn't work that way in treatment-free.  There is and must be an ongoing winnowing process that does and must kill some hives every winter and every summer.  And some years, both summers and winters, are particularly harsh, but as this case has shown, there are always some that survive somewhere.  It may be very few that take years to repopulate the area (naturally) but you as the treatment-free beekeeper use these things to your advantage and use your methods of rapid increase (I call it "Expansion Model Beekeeping") to give the process a kick in the hind end.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jim Tew - Bee Diseases - NEOBA Big Bee Buzz

This is a real conventional treating sort of presentation and I'm not much interested in repeating it here but there are usually some bits of wisdom here and there.

Don't do the same thing and expect different results.  [Many things you can do differently, source, management, hive style, etc.]

He said we can't select on the varroa end of the occasion.  I completely disagree with this as treatment-free does exactly that.  He does admit that there is some selection going on, but he doesn't admit that we have anything to do with it and I see that we do, but only if we eschew treatments altogether.

Pulling frames gives you experience and you'll start evaluating it automatically after three years or so.

PMS (parasitic mite syndrome) became BPMS for obvious reasons.

I really must tell you how entertaining Dr. Tew is.  Though he seems to hate speaking, he is very interesting to listen to and keeps your attention easily.  If you have a chance to hear a presentation by him, do it.

You really need a mentor.

Bees are like an 18 month child.  They don't make plans, they just react to stimulus.

We need to get away from pest destruction and toward colony asstance.  [Of course I disagree with both.]

Treatments only work 40-60% of the time anyway.  Most don't work anymore at all.

Search for old book, American Foulbrood by White.

45 years of anti-biotic use, probably no better.




Grant Gillard - Sustainable Beekeeping in an Age of CCD - NEOBA Big Bee Buzz

It is really  much harder to keep bees now than it used to be.  Whether it's true or not, it is said that 80% of beginners will quit within two years.

He makes a big multi-point comparison between the conventional methods and the modern methods.

Mentions that Diane Sammataro has said that the worst thing we ever did with mites was start treating for them.

Grant likes keeping bees treatment-free but is not feeling the "let them die" method.  He's very convincing, he is after all a pastor, a group of people whose job it is to speak persuasively in public.

"I want to save the bees" is not a solid reason to keep bees.

Young beekeepers have all the answers without any idea what the questions are.

Need vision, focus, passion, purpose, and faith.  Believing you can do something often gives you the ability to do it.

Knowledge is power.  Lots of people swear by many things that don't work for other people.  The discontinuity there is the knowledge to keep bees in those ways.

Mite drops will change with different conditions.  It's totally arbitrary.

He explores a lot of treatment methods, from true treatments to soft to manipulations.

The right way to keep bees is the way that works for you.  [Totally disagree.  The right way is the way that is most sustainable for the bee population at large and that is treatment-free.]

You don't find time, you make it.

Don't fail because you didn't work hard enough.

If you're going to lose 30% of your bees, then make 30% more replacements.

Commercial beekeeping is dominated by chronologically challenged white males.




Jim Tew - Making Colony Splits, an Inexact Procedure - NEOBA Big Bee Buzz

Jim started out by talking about how he came to be working in Ohio while being from Alabama.

Jim talked a bit about being a young beekeeper and finding out that one day he was old and didn't know so much as he did when he was younger.

Jim repeated the fact that the days of yore are over, the old days of beekeeping with no diseases and no mites are gone and aren't coming back.  Old guys like him just need to step back out of the way and stop comparing now to then.  It's not coming back.  It doesn't work that way anymore.

Splitting is completely unnatural.  Need to learn to speak bee.  We can pick up where they would be had they done it on their own.

It's better to get or raise local queens.  Southern producers used to bring down northern queens, but he's pretty sure they don't do it anymore.

It's not as bad as you think to keep dead bees.  No requeening, no losses, no swarming.

Sugar syrup, no where near as good as comb honey for packages.

Modern bees require a lot of babysitting.  [I disagree.]

The bees haven't read the book, so they're going to be a bit confused when you do all your splits.

They're not bird feeders, they're animal feeders.

If you have a hive you can't control, leave town for a few days, it will resolve itself.  (Swarming)

You  can divide a colony to nothing, it just depends how many hives you want.

All sorts of things can go wrong, robbing caused by a pheromone field.  You're taking big colonies and make them weak, splitting them up an dconvusing them.

50 days from splitting day is when you get your first workers emerge.  The hive is losing bees that entire time, and will require feeding.  Splitting with pre-made queens gets things going much much quicker.  Feeding leads to robbing.





Ed Levi - Rethinking Beekeeping, Back to Basics Through Beeology - NOBA Big Bee Buzz

Bees that have a lot of propolis in hives don't have to work as hard to deal with disease.  It woulld be better if we didn't used planed lumber on the inside of hives.  [Gives me an idea to use a wire brush in the side to rough it up a little bit.]

We've copied the bees' methods but we don't do it exactly right because of our need for convenience.

A lot of the diseases we have have been swapped back and forth from Asian bees to European bees which eventually make their way here to the US.

This presentation is an exploration of the way bees operate, basic lifecycle, castes, swarming, and a precursory comparison of how the bees operate and how we want them to operate.

A lot of basic beekeeping info, biology, in-hive operations, etc.

Ed Levi - Bee Informed Partnership - NEOBA Big Bee Buzz

Ed was disappionted in the survey returns from last year from Okahoma.  Not many people participated.  [I participated and posted in several places encouraging other people to participate too.]

Very large losses this winter.  [I concur.}

Any state that has 300 participants will get its own set of statistics.

However, he was using the statistics incorrectly, saying that if you used a certain product, you'd get a certain result.  That's fundamentally incorrect.  You can only say what happened, not what will happen.  This is especially important when looking at the range of results, not just the average of the results.  You could use any or every treatment and lose all your bees but you would not appear in the results because you'd fall outside the statistical variation and therefore would not be included in the range of responses.  You'd still affect the average, but not much in a survey of thousands of beekeepers.

All the information is on the website, please do take the survey, and look at the results.

Iowa thinks they lost 80% this year.

At the end of the prpesentation, Ed played Marla Spivak's TED talk which I will embed in this space when I get the opportunity.




Friday, March 28, 2014

Les Crowder - Langstroth Beekeeping Skills Transferred to Topbar Hives NEOBA Big Bee Buzz

Les started out with a slideshow of some interesting pictures of his trips to south America and Jamaica.

He talked about how in many places around the world, beekeepers are revered.

Placement of the entrance changes where the brood is kept.

Idea:  Topbar super on a Lang hive, would make a good conversion plan.

Honeybees are ventilation experts.  Capable of full two way ventilation through a 1" tube.

Experiment with different types of hives, don't just assume that "this is the way we keep bees."

Les is the "Permissive Beekeeper."  He lets them build as much drone come as they want and whatever cell size they want.

Animals have become a cog in our industrial machine.  it is hard on them.  It's amazing that they do as well as they do.  Let's let them do what they like to do as much as possible.

Talk to older local beekeepers for insights into local issues like specific nectar flows.

Drones are kind of a "cheaper way to reproduce."

He has actually pollinated in Modesto with topbar hives, but he had a lot of bees die, so I'm not sure he still does it.  He talked earlier about how the bees were crawling out of the hives due to some fungicide that was sprayed.

Treatment-free is the future of beekeeping.  We don't need the treated bees.

Genetic diversity in the US is relativley low.


Grant Gillard, Reccord Keeping, Big Bee Buzz

Why keep records?

Can''t remember stuff.  Breeds inefficiency.  Need to keep on schedule.  Planning.

What information to track?  How to keep it?  Is it accessible?

Nothing important merely happens.

Use sheep ear tags to number the hives.

Google "hive inspection sheet" or some variation to find bookkeeping sheets, or build your own and print them out.

Keep "what I did, what I saw, what needs to be done next time and what to bring?"

There is a lot in this presentation that really doesn't translate well to blogging.  Suffice it to say this is an excellent case for keeping records.  It reminds me that I need to get back to keeping records for breeding purposes. 

Jim Tew, The Stressed Bee Nest, Big Bee Buzz

We have a high benchmark for today's bees.  We keep comparing to a world that doesn't exist anymore and won't exist again.

We cannot sustain such a high loss rate as we're having.

 Mr. Tew went through a number of aspects of how our hives are artificial approximations of natural hive construction and dynamics.

Everything we do has an effect.

Hives are usually high giving them opportunity to get rid of detritus.  We keep hives with entrances at ground level.

A colony surviving in perpetuity is our idea not the bees'.

Bees resist domestication.  [I say they are not domesticated, just slightly controlled.  Too much domestication is badly detrimental.]

The modern hive is for us, not for the bees.  Have we selected for bees that can only live in modern hives?

Insulation can work against you, will keep the coldness in the hive at times.  Wintering help died during the early '60s.

Hives are not close in the wild.  They hate each other.

Frost in the hive proves that bees only heat the cluster.

You are their primary problem.  Those bees hate you.