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Starting Treatment Free in an Area Crowded with Treated Bees

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  • Starting Treatment Free in an Area Crowded with Treated Bees

    I was not sure where to put this, to please redirect my post if this is the wrong place.

    Dear successful treatment free beekeepers,

    does anyone has experience with starting out treatment free to gain resistant bees in an area where the density of treated hives is very high? (I am located in Austria, and beekeeping is quite popular here.) I want to start treatment free again, since in my opinion keeping bees which can not keep themselves alive is kind of pointless.

    If I am right Solomon talks about this and says that he thinks that is no problem. But does it also work getting the bees to be resistant when you have to start from zero in an area where the treated bee density is really high?

    Although I totally believe in Solomons approach, I got a little bit concerned because of what I read in the ResistantBees.com forum. There are reports of having problems to get resistant bees in areas with high density of treated hives (like Austria). And in this forum the general guideline is to have at least 3km distance to treated hives. Which seems quite impossible here without having your bees somewhere up in the mountains.

    Admittedly they have an approach where they try to get the bees to small size first and on the way treat them with powdered sugar if the mite load is too high. So this is a quite substantial difference.

    Anyway. Please, if anyone has experience with starting treatment free in such an crowded area I will very much appreciate to hear about your opinions and experiences.

    Thank you and best regards,
    Christian

  • #2
    Hello Christian,

    I am from Belgium and in pretty much the same boat as you are, only I don't even have mountains to go put my bees in.

    What I have done is spread my bees around my main yard (and I'm still expanding).
    My main yard is at my place at home, that's where I let my queens out to be mated.

    The rest of the yards are about 5 km away from my home and from each other. - Although I have some that break this rule and are more like 1,5 km away.
    I know buying bees is not the best way to go, so I split whatever survives my winters and spread them around - to be honest I now have some F2 Queens and they are more likely to sting.

    I also catch swarms and am invested in a AMM project (bringing black bees back to Belgium) although this is not my main goal. So I do buy bees to requeen them with my queens that show promise.

    In the future I hope to be able to select towards more friendly bees again, but for now, they're bees, not flies. So survival is my only selection.
    I don't do mite counts or anything

    To bring some numbers to my reply - last winter I had 13 colonies, this spring only 4 survived. Now I'm back up to 15, I also have 5 mating nucs that I have to check - all that made it will get the chance to grow. I do feed these smaller hives to help them grow before winter.
    I only started out the year before that with 5 going itno winter and 3 surviving. Of that 3 only 1 is in the 4 that was still alive this year. - I have not split this hive yet this year to see if they can handle a full year without splits. If they can, they'll be the colony to provide my queens for 2021.

    Hope this gives you some insight into how I do it. I am open for more questions or your train of thoughts - only if we work together we'll accomplish anything!
    Waregem - West-Vlaanderen - België (Flemish/Dutch)
    Waregem - West-Flanders - Belgium (English)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    My Blog
    https://beekeepingwithbob.blogspot.com/

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    • #3
      Hello Bob!

      Thank you for your reassuring answer!

      So to understand you correctly, you are separating your own apiaries by 5km and pretty much don’t care about the others is that right? What is the reason that you spread your own apiaries so far?

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      • #4
        That's pretty much it. I do my thing and let others do theirs. Just keep your amount of hives per apiary relatively low (I have 2 6-framers and 3 large colonies at most)
        Waregem - West-Vlaanderen - België (Flemish/Dutch)
        Waregem - West-Flanders - Belgium (English)
        -------------------------------------------------------------------------
        My Blog
        https://beekeepingwithbob.blogspot.com/

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Christian I had the pleasure of listening to John Kefuss speak live at Apimondia last year in Montreal. Kefuss took an interesting approach to flood his area with bees to create a "black hole" of weak mites and strong bees. My video is not complete but someone else posted it here on youtube if it's helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iF9CWIRhVrM

          A few other points I want to make: The epigenetics of hygienic or resistant bees (or balanced or infertile mites) is much more complicated than focusing on one super-organism (colony) as you are. The potential for good traits in bee lines is there for many colonies from years of evolution. The reactions bees (and probably mites) will have to stress or pressures are recessive. They come to the fore-front in times of stress pressure when these RNA elements are "turned on". Yes, even commercial or urban bees have this potential. And that's really the message that TFB keeps are trying to get out there.

          You mention the word "successful" in your opening line. My definition of success can vary from the conventional. Conventional success is "70% or more of my numerous colonies survived the winter". That is so far from what sustainable beekeeping looked like even 100 years ago. Beekeepers frequently captured bees, one or two for the backyard to provide their sugar fix, and allowed them to die and then caught another the next year. It was in tandem with nature. Even if 100% of my bees die every year in the frigid mountains of Montana where I live, it will not change that I have bees (free) every year via splits and swarm captures. It will not change that I keep bees every summer. It will not change that I harvest honey every year. I am a beekeeper. I am successfully beekeeping without spending money on them. I am successful even though I am surrounded by commercial bees retired from the pollination circuits.

          Don't stress so much about developing the perfect bee. Nature will always strive to balance out. All organisms are victims of predation or they become pests and destroy the balance. Even the perfect bee has weakness. You are trying to capture the ocean wave in your hands. Maybe just lay back on a surfing board and enjoy the ride
          Angela
          Kalispell, Montana Zone 4a
          Third Year Journeyman Beekeeper

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          • #6
            Hello Angela!
            Thank you for your reply and thanks for the John Kefuss pointer.
            I find your points very insightful and interesting though I have to say that my vision of success with keeping bees is different.
            Regards, Christian

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            • #7
              If you raise your own queens and offer free queens to your neighbors you should be able to get some control.
              Nehawka, Nebraska. My website: bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm em portugues: bushfarms.com/pt_bees.htm My book: ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
              -----"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin-----

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              • #8
                Thanks, I will try that.

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