Treatment Free (TF) beekeeping is not based on faith, it's based on scientific premise that nature knows how to select survivor bees. This is important because it may not be obvious to those just starting out. Treatment free beekeeping happens through genetics, breeding and evolution via one of these following methods.
- You purchase bees from a Treatment Free supplier. There is a growing map of treatment free bee suppliers here - http://parkerfarms.biz/map.html - This is the route I would expect most new and expectant beekeepers to follow, as it will provide the easiest way to quick wins. Going to your local supplier of Italian bees that get dragged up from who knows where in Georgia, that have never had to fend for themselves and have been raised on a chemical cocktail for survival, and then going treatment free and expecting them to live, is not a route that has a high chance of success (not to mention likely being ill equipped to deal with a winter further north). It's also important to note that buying treatment free or VSH bees from a reputable supplier is also not a silver bullet, it's simply the first step in the right direction. Your bees still might die, from lack of overwinter food, pesticides from the next door neighbour or the farmer a mile up the road that napalms his crops with insecticide. It simply means that the bees you buy from that TF supplier will be better equipped to deal with the current mite and disease challenges that are prevalent right now. When the next "varroa" comes along all bets are off again. This is not a def
- You decide that you want to breed for resistance yourself. This will involve raising new queens based on survivor stock, selecting for resistance and other useful traits, splitting, requeening, and a bunch of other stuff that is probably best discussed in the Advanced Beekeeping forum.
- You catch a swarm or buy bees from a local beekeeper. The local bees will likely be much better equipped to deal with your local weather and conditions (assuming that they're not first season bees from a southern supplier that just swarmed from a neighbours hive!). There's no guarantee that they're resistant to mites and other annoyances, but as I said, that's only a part of the battle
So, what I'm saying to summarise is that if you want to be successful at starting out TF and staying TF, you need to start with bees that have those traits. TF bees aren't usually any more expensive than treated bees, just harder to find right now.
The map above is not an exhaustive list of TF bee suppliers, but the start of a list, of completely TF suppliers. To clarify I buy my bees ( the ones I can't catch) from a guy that treats with Oxalic once or twice a year, mostly because he doesn't want to ship a nuc full of mites to customers that may have other less sturdy stock in their apiaries. That's a compromise I'm willing to live with, because I know that I don't need to treat them once they arrive, as they are bred as VSH (Varroa Sensitive Hygiene) bees.
Hope this helps.