Friday, August 29, 2014

Treatment-Free Beekeeping Podcast - Episode 7 - Scott in Central Arkansas

Today, I talk to Scott, a friend of the Treatment-Free Beekeepers group on Facebook who is a freshman beekeeper in Central Arkansas.  As a former Arkansas beekeeper, I have some tips and tricks for him.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Treatment-Free Beekeeping Podcast - Episode 6 - Anita in Massachusetts

Meet Anita in Massachusetts.  She is a treatment-free beekeeper who has accomplished much in the last few years.  She talks with me about the challenges and successes she is is having keeping bees in the northeast.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Treatment Free Beekeeping Podcast - Episode 4

Back from vacation.  In this podcast, I answer a bunch of questions including some on winter prep, equipment, and a proposal for a new format!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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 (  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.