To Treat or Not to Treat – Bee Vlog #149 – Sep 6, 2014


Ok, so I finished all of the mite counts on all of the other hives and here are the results The worst hive, Queen Helen, you saw on the previous video had a count of 52 mites doing the sugar roll method and that is well above what we would consider a threshold for treatment And the other 2 hives that overwintered, Elizabeth and Jezebel both seem to be looking fine Elizabeth only had 2 mites and Jezebel had 9 And you can see that this sugar roll method does seem to correlate well with using the sticky boards The other 3 hives that were swarms this year Karma, Louise, and Natalia Karma only had 2 mites doing the sugar roll Louise I found none and I didn’t actually test Natalia The hive population is so small I didn’t want to bother them too much, they really need to stay strong While I was in there I also took measurements of the cell sizes You can also see on this chart down at the bottom next to the hive names Elizabeth had a cell size of 5.3 Helen 5.3 Jezebel 5.2 Karma 5.3 and Louise 5.2mm I didn’t measure Natalia either Why is cell size significant or why am I bothering measuring? Well, there are some people who believe that having smaller cells will help the bees to deal with mites because they don’t gestate as long in the cell so there’s less time for mites to build up If you understand a little bit about mite biology and how mites reproduce it makes more sense I’m actually planning on doing a video all about how mites reproduce and the biology of Varroa mites I just haven’t gotten to it yet because I plan on doing some animation and I’ve never done animation before so it might take me a little bit of time to figure that out and put it all together So with Helen having the worst mite count well above the threshold for treatment the question is: What am I going to do about it? And my answer is: Nothing And what I mean by that is I’m not going to do anything different than what I’ve already been doing for the past 3 years As a treatment-free beekeeper I don’t apply medicinal treatments or chemicals or any kind of treatment to a hive to deal with mites or whatever problems they might be experiencing That doesn’t mean I don’t do anything at all There are things I do year round as an Integrated Pest Management solution I use screened bottom boards to help the mite drop fall through the hive instead of being able to crawl back up on to the bees I don’t use foundation so that bees can build whatever size cell they want Plus there are no other contaminations coming in from wax of unknown sources I don’t feed with sugar syrup or artificial pollen patties Allowing them to bring in their own food and not stimulating them helps them to stay in cycle with the seasons and gives them better nutrition And interfering less in the hive with inspections and other types of messing around helps to keep them in a more natural state so that they can have a stronger immune system and hopefully fight any pests and disease on their own That’s really the goal of treatment-free beekeeping is to try to help the bees do things in their own natural way Last year I shot a video explaining why I’m against using treatments in my hives and there are several reasons First of all, treating is not a guarantee that the bees will be able to overcome whatever is ailing them and survive There is not a 100% success rate for treatments Also treating interferes with the natural environment of the hive There are other things living inside the hive that are beneficial like beneficial microbes and bacteria that the bees need for good health and applying medicines can actually kill off those things and put the bees in a vulnerable state Many treatments can contaminate the wax, the honey and the equipment and I don’t want to do that to any of my hives I’m actually trying to raise local survivor stock and that means that they’re bees that come from this area, are able to over winter in this area and fight all the disease and pests on their own without any kind of medicinal treatments and if I were to treat then that really is contrary to my efforts in raising survivor stock Plus, when weak hive dies that’s really actually helping to clean the gene pool of weak genetics Part of the effort of raising survivor stock is making sure that the gene pool of the area is strong So the bees that I catch each year from swarms, they have to prove themselves to be able to overwinter successfully on their own If they die they provide me with drawn comb sometimes honey that I can use the following season in catching more swarms If they live then the following year they’ll be split and divided and possibly even do grafting I haven’t tried that yet, but that’s something I do want to plan on doing sometime in the next couple years Learn how to graft larvae and raise my own queens So the hives that overwinter successfully are multiplied and that is how I develop a survivor stock But this year, since I am participating in this pilot study to understand more about Varroa mites and how we can help bees overwinter in our area We are doing treatments on some hives So what does that mean for me, a treatment-free beekeeper? Well I do have a plan and it does not involve using any kind of traditional treatments I’m actually going to do a placebo treatment And that is, I’m going to play music to one of the hives There have been many studies that have shown that playing classical music for babies or for plants helps development and helps them to improve their immune systems, help them to grow better So this is a placebo test that I’m going to be trying on one of my hives Now I need to pick one of my hives, and in order to avoid selection bias, I’m going to do that randomly If I were to just pick my favorite hive, or the hive that I think needs the most treatment then that would be a bias in the experiment and it could influence the results So I’m going to roll a die and I’m going to pick one of the hives based on the die roll I have 2 groups of hives that I’m going to be testing One is the survivor group, there are 3 hives in that selection and the other is the group of swarms this year And since I don’t have a 3-sided die, I’ll just roll a 6-sided die and use the modulo, or modulus mathematical function to calculate a die roll of 3 If you’re not familiar with how modulus works, it’s just a division remainder I’ve numbered the 3 hives of the survivor group, number 0-2 and I’ll roll a die to see who gets picked So that’s a 6, 6 mod 3 is 0, because the remainder of dividing by 3 is 0 So that means that Queen Elizabeth will be the hive that gets music played And Karma, Louise, and Natalia, also numbered 0-2 Rolled a 3, 3 mod 3 is also 0 So Karma will get music played to her I’m not very knowledgeable with classical music So if you have a selection of classical music that you think I should play for one of my hives leave a comment below and I will take the one musical selection that gets the most votes or if there are too many and they don’t have any kind of consensus I’ll just pick one But leave what you think should be the classical music that I should play for one of my hives

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