Crane Meadows on Chemical Free beekeeping

In November 2014, I attended a seminar "The Truth About Treatment Free Beekeeping for the new Beekeeper" at the Texas Beekeepers Association(TBA) 2014 Annual Convention. The session was presented by Greg Hannaford from Tulsa Ok. What a great presentation and message Greg presented.

The main point was that treatment free (chemical free) should be a goal. He went on for well over an hour about working towards that goal, explaining the numerous things you need to do to help your bees survive. Greg presented many good activities involved in a good intergraded pest management approach. One of the big parts was monitoring your varroa mite levels, checking Small Hive Beetle levels and inspections for diseases and checking the health of your bees... then treating (medicating) your bees as a last resort. I could not have agreed with him more.

If you are working towards being chemical free you have to help by putting in hive beetle traps, use one of the various methods to help keep your varroa mite counts down. If you are not monitoring your mite load, how do you know if you are doing enough to help the bees survive? If you want to be successful at reaching the chemical free goal, you have to work with bees that are being breed to survive. VHS, NWC and Minnesota Hygienic are all good choices. We've been working with Minnesota Hygienic bees this past several year and they have really impressed us with how calm they are and how fast they built up in the spring.


Beekeepers use different terms to describe how they are approach or managing their hives. I've learned there are some gray areas or varying viewpoints.

Here is a clip from an article I did for the TBA Journal (their newsletter) about different types of beekeepers:


Type: Bee-Haver, Chemical-Free, Organic or Traditional?
A bee-haver is sometimes used in a derogatory sense. It refers to someone who keeps bees with very little or no intervention. In other words, “Just let the bees be bees.” However, most beekeepers feel that keeping bees is a responsibility. Caring for those bees is like having a dog or cat. You need to make sure they have food, water and a flea collar or some other method to help them deal with fleas.
Chemical-Free Beekeeping: I recently read that 90% of beekeepers treat their hives with chemicals. In recent years, there has been a movement towards chemical free beekeeping. I see two levels to these beekeepers. Some take the approach to not put ANY type of chemical in the hive while others have varying levels of what they will put in the hive. For example, some beekeepers use poisons in a hive beetle trap and some use essential oils. I’ve heard beekeepers say they are chemical-free beekeepers but use formic or oxalic acids because they are “organic acids.” Thus, there are varying levels of being chemical-free. Being chemical-free, at whatever level you decide, requires more active management and more learning. A best practice is to choose a type of honey bee that is more hygienic and can tolerate chemical-free management.
Traditional refers to beekeepers that typically treat their hives with chemicals for pests and diseases. Many treatments are done in the spring and fall before or after any honey supers are placed in order to not contaminate the honey stores the beekeeper is going to harvest. Keeping bees in a standard Langstroth hive is also considered traditional. 
Organic: This is a matter of how one defines organic. It is my understanding that there is no place in the US that will support a hive that the bees would be isolated from getting into pesticides from neighboring plants and field in their foraging range. Thus it is my opinion that those bees or the honey are not truly “organic”, as the general consumer perceives the term organic as it is applied to certified organic farming. Other definitions vary.


CRANE MEADOWS practices TOTAL chemical free beekeeping.

Cameron Crane


Crane Meadows - Our approach and why

At Crane Meadows, we understand commercial beekeepers have to maintain their livelihood through keeping their stocks up and alive. When the pest known as the Varroa Mite jumped species and took on Apis Mellifera (European Honeybee) as a host , our bees were not suited to deal with this new parasite. As the US bees got infected with Varroa Mites and they spread, we lost 80-90% of our feral bees in the 1990s. Commercial beekeepers treated their bees with first one chemical then another as the mites built up a resistance and now there is a third choice. They have to treat or lose too many hives and go broke. Most traditional beekeepers follow the same. The typical beekeeper does not have the time or resources to breed and develop a bee that can survive being a host to the Varroa Mite. Government and University researchers, through selective breeding, have been developing bees that have various hygienic traits combating Varroa Mites. In the last 5 or so years there have been groups across the country continuing to breed and select for these traits, working towards a bee that can survive well without needing chemical treatments.


Crane Meadows is joining the fight. Obtaining various genetic lines of hygienic bees, we are raising a better bee to supply our areas’ beekeepers. We have been and chose to continue as TOTALLY chemical free beekeepers.  Our stocks have to prove themselves as survivors. We’re willing to take some loses to be left with the best of the best.

In 2018 we will have a limited amount of Nucs and some queens to sell. These will go the members of Liberty County Beekeepers and a few other key members of other beekeeping Associations in the area.


So you want to treat your bee hives with chemicals?

No problem. That is what most people do. We are not going to judge or condemn you for taking the traditional path. If I had cancer and the Doctor thought he could get rid of it with Chemo-therapy, I would have the treatment- even though I know it will make me very sick- I'll get better.