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"Treatment-Free" Doesn't Mean We Do Nothing

bee-centered beekeeping beekeeping chemical-free beekeeping holistic beekeeping natural beekeeping organic beekeeping preservationist beekeeping sustainable beekeeping treatment-free beekeeping

Someone recently asked a question about treatment-free "methods."  If I understood their question correctly, they were asking, "Even with a commitment to treatment-free beekeeping, what do we do to help our honey bee colonies thrive (meaning, typically in this context, not be overwhelmed by Varroa)?

For myself, I believe that the bees are teaching me that the question I need to be asking myself is not "what do I do," but, rather, "what do I provide?"  What do the bees need from me in order to successfully reach symbiosis with Varroa?

So, I am constantly trying to learn the answer to that question.  A smaller hive cavity?  Ventilation they can control?  A better insulated hive?  Less disruption?  Foundationless frames (contributes to natural cell size among many other things)?  A rough interior surface that stimulates a propolis coating?  Leaving their propolis and burr comb intact?  Leaving them all their honey?  An eco-floor?

As humans, we may not be able to see a direct correlation between any of these things and their possible effect on mite loads in hives.  But what if some, or all, of these things allow the bees to better control the micro-climate and micro-ecology of the hive so that they can reach the symbiosis they're striving for with all of the other organisms in their hive?

We need to remember that a hive is not supposed to be a sterile environment.  In a healthy hive, the bees coexist with thousands of other organisms.  If we give the bees the ability to successfully superintend that ecology, that may result in all kinds of differences that help the bees reach symbiosis with Varroa mites - differences that we cannot see with our naked eye or even measure with scientific equipment.  There may be countless differences we have not yet imagined.

Here's just one example.  Honey has a pH value of around 3 or 4, and sugar water has a pH value of around 6 or 7.  Guess which pH range Varroa mites thrive at, and which one not so much.


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  • Scott Sailors on

    Barbara, I am not currently selling plans for Bee Tree Hives. One solution that comes to mind, in your case, is that you might purchase one BTH and use it as a template to build more of your own. You could have it shipped unassembled, if you like, and that would save on shipping costs as well as make it easier to measure the pieces in order to duplicate them. Just a thought, and thanks for your question!

  • Barbara Neebel Meier on

    Oops I see some typos in my previous comment. To clarify, I am asking if you sell plans, not seek plans.

  • Barbara Neebel Meier on

    I agree wholeheartedly with your philosophy and am so happy to know what you are doing and how you are doing it. I have several questions.
    1. How are your bees doing with Varroa management? Is your system indeed proving to be successful at providing the bes with whT they need to self manage Varroa?

    2. Do you or would you seek plans for your wooden ware? We recently were gifted with 6 Langstroth hives with 6 10frame mediums for each hive. We are considering modifying them to serve as top entrance hives. We have been listening to Michael Bush who explains that he creates a top entrance by slightly wedging the top cover open and blocking the bottom entrance, thereby allowing ventilation as well as access. Your system seems very thorough from top to bottom. So we are thinking perhaps we should pass on this Langstroth wooden ware to a friend and start from scratch with your system My husband is a building trades professional with cabinet building experience. Now that he is retired he would like to build the wooden ware for me, hence the reason I am asking if you seek plans for your equipment.


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