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Treatment Free Beekeeping
If bees are not treated against any disease or parasite, they are treatment-free. This is when bees can normally defend themselves and live well without the beekeeper giving them chemicals or manipulating them to overcome challenges from pathogens or parasites.

This website explains how you can select your bees to become treatment-free gradually. You can also decide to stop treating all at once (i.e. not gradually) or never start treating.
To begin with you maybe measure the infestation rate in spring, summer and fall and apply 5 grams of (the home made type described on this website) "thymol pad(s)" within a week after the 3% threshold is exceeded. You replace queens in the least good 30% of the colonies.
Read more about Thymol here:
After a number of years when colonies are judged not to need more than a single 5g thymol pad in late summer, then you can stop treating these colonies completely.
Instead study the hard board in front of the entrance every 7-10 days, preferably in the morning. Look for any wing-damaged bees that may cause a measuring of mite infestation levels, if there are more than a few at a time. Read more in previous articles on this site.
Treatment Free Apiary
If you are surrounded by apiaries with treatment-free bees, it is advisable to acquire bees from your neighbors to quickly become a treatment-free beekeeper. This is the case in some parts of Sweden, for example in Hallsberg. There they are at least 15 beekeepers with about 800 colonies that are treatment-free.
When planning to start a treatment-free apiary, there are some things to consider that will make it easier to achieve results.
A. If possible, place the apiary at least 2 km (1.5 miles) from other bees.
B. Ideally, do not place more than 3 colonies in the apiary to begin with.
C. A good start is to use bees from a treatment-free strain or stock bred in that direction - splits, whole colonies, queens or queen pupae ready to hatch (to replace queens in colonies, splits and for use in mating nucs).
D. Use small entrance
E. Preferably use small cell foundation/combs, about 4.9 mm in width per cell, at least in the center of the brood nest.
F. Make splits if possible in May or early June.
G. Breed queens early in the season.
H. Leave 12-15 kg (26-33 lb) of honey for winter.
I. Feed for added winter food 12-15 kg (26-33 lb) sucrose solution in late summer/early autumn.
A. With at least 2 km (1.5 mile) to other bees, you avoid getting mites from visiting bees from other apiaries. It also avoids your own bees causing problems for other apiaries. Ideally, the distance to other bees should be at least 3 km (2 miles), so that the matings of virgin queens can take place with a sufficient number of drones from treatment free bee colonies. The matings of virgin queens should take place in your treatment free apiary as far as possible from non-treatment-free bees. Sometimes as little as 1 km has though sufficed, at least for a couple of generations.

What helps to ensure that virgin queens have a good chance of mating with drones with good genetics is that there are bee colonies in and near the apiary that are not treated for varroa, where drone brood is not removed and where colonies are allowed to have drone brood.

Bee colonies treated against varroa do not have as vital drones as treatment free. The closer to the time of treatment when drones are sexually mature, the less vital they are. Untreated colonies are vital and can have sexually mature drones in large numbers early in the season. Especially with drone comb where the brood nest is developed in spring.

This may explain why there are examples for example of an apiary with 3 colonies managed without treatment being able to live like that, increased in number to 13 colonies and managed like that for 4 years without winter losses. In spite of an apiary at a distance of 1-1.5 km (0.5-1 mile) with 15 colonies not treatment free.

Drones in treatment-free bee colonies are not to be fought, they are an asset. Bees can and do reduce both too many mites and too many drones.
B. If you start a prospective treatment-free apiary with few colonies, there is smaller risk of losing any colony due to mites and/or virus. If a colony in this apiary were to experience problems with mites and/or viruses, there is less risk of a domino effect spreading mites developing so that one colony after another gets problems as the first more severely affected colony negatively affects the others. This applies both if you reduce the treatment gradually or do not treat at all.

Make splits every year from as many as possible of the colonies that are strong and good enough. Let these splits produce their own queens, or introduce queen cells or queens from other treatment free beekeepers. If possible, establish a new apiary 1-2 km (0.5-1.5 miles) from the first one so that both apiaries can contribute a larger area together.

C. You can start your efforts to produce treatment-free bees with any kind of bee stock. But you will speed up the process if you obtain bees from places where treatment free bees exist.

The fastest way is to obtain 3 treatment-free colonies, of course. Then everything is already in place and you can just keep going treatment free with that apiary. You can also get 3 splits from treatment free bee colonies, including egg-laying queens mated in such apiaries. Strong enough to grow suitable for wintering.

You can buy mated treatment-free queens and introduce them to own colonies or splits. You can also buy mature queen cells about to hatch and introduce them them to your own colonies, or give them to mating nucs. Those mating nucs you maybe can take to a place where the virgins will meet treatment-free drones, such as Hallsberg or another suitable place.
D. Small entrances make it easier for the bee colony to hinder intrusion by visiting bees from "alien" apiaries, e.g. to rob and thus share mites and/or viruses. A high bottom under the entrance facilitates e.g. the overwintering of the colony.
E. Small cells, about 4.9 mm (maybe 5.1 mm contribute enough) will enhance the bees' hygienic behavior. Maybe 4 frames in the center of a brood box is enough. See more about small cells elsewhere on this site. Small cell foundations are placed near the brood early in the season to help the bees to follow the cell pattern. If necessary, you can put a box with wax foundation under the "first" box of the colony. The further away from the brood sideways and upwards the foundation is placed, the easier it is for the bees to get the idea that they should build bigger honey storage cells and not the smaller cells of the wax foundation to be used for brood. This is roughly how the bees build different cell sizes.

Bees that are born in small cells have been shown in experiments to be more hygienic, with all the implications of helping colonies to stay vital and healthy.

Because an area of small cells has more brood cells than an equal area of large cells, small cell bees have a greater capacity to warm and prepare more cells for egg laying. This allows them to develop faster in spring, especially smaller colonies.
F - G. There will be the best chance of correct mating with early splits that are allowed to make their own queens. Just make sure there are enough of both field bees and nursing bees as both are needed for the bees to make good quality queen cells.

And you need to see plenty of hatched or capped drone brood. These can then become sexually mature when the new queens are ready for mating (5 days after hatching). Virgin queens are most likely to be well mated within 14 days after hatching.

H. Honey provides nutritious food for bees to keep them healthy and strong. They also need stored pollen in the colony. If there is little of stored pollen in the colony or if pollen supply in spring is low, it can be beneficial to provide pollen/sugar fondant especially in the queen builder colonies and colonies that will supply good mature drones for the mating of virgin queens.
I. Feed sugar solution enough to fill upp for a good winter supply of food. Bees need honey/sugar not just to survive winter. They need a good supply so that they are strong and can feed as much brood as they want. Otherwise they might cut down on brood to save food, or they will starve in late winter/ early spring even to death.

You don't need to check the food supply in bee colonies very often and you don't need to spring feed them with sugar or honey solution, which is swarm inducing. Aim at providing a strong colony with at least 27 kg (60 lb) for winter, only honey or a combination of honey and sugar solution.

But some odd colonies may need to be fed sugar fondant in 2.5 kg plastic bags in early spring due to maybe being robbed in late autumn. Maybe replacement of the queen in such a colony is a good idea.
Checking the varroa level, % mites/100 bees, is the first point in a 4-point check, 3, 2 and 1 time(s) a year. We worked according to this in Hallsberg when we gradually increased the varroa resistance of our bees. 1 dl of bees, about 300 bees were shaken in about 2 dl of technical alkohol in a shaking jar. The best may be the one called EasyCheck at the bee equipment dealers. Other variants also work well.

When the bee colonies in an apiary are treatment free, mite numbers vary over time like a sine curve. But the variation is not consistent between colonies, in such a way that it is lowest at the same time in all of them (at different levels). They have different rhythms.

It is also the case that since in treatment-free beekeeping the colonies are not "restarted" at the same time to approximately a minimum level of varroa through treatment, measuring the varroa level at the same time does not provide figures that allow the colonies to be ranked according to the lowest varroa level.
Measuring the varroa level becomes of secondary importance. It can be used if other observations of a colony make it a valuable observation.

Checking the varroa level disappears so that the checklist becomes a 3-point check on varroa resistance. Instead, the reading of e.g. any DWV-bees on the hard board in front of the entrance now is the most important point on the 3-point list. An easy and quick control.
In addition, as usual, 2 other important observations are made about the colonies, the honey crop and the temper.