Litsinger Enterprises, LLC

Owner: Russ Litsinger

Boaz, KY

Application Date: 2021-08-19

General Information

Please briefly tell us why you are applying to have your apiary be part of the Certified Naturally Grown program. *
The core ethos of the CNG program aligns with our own philosophical approach to apiculture and tree fruit production.
Is the land on which your apiary sits currently certified (by CNG or another organization)? *
Has the land on which your apiary sits ever been Certified in the past? *
How did you hear about Certified Naturally Grown? *
September 2021 American Bee Journal article.
Please check all markets where you sell your honey. *

You may use this space to specify where customers can purchase your honey (this will be displayed on your profile to help customers find you).
We are not currently selling honey but are preparing to do so this Fall. Our initial effort will be via word of mouth.
How many hives are in your apiary (or apiaries)? *
For how long have you been keeping bees? What has prepared you to do this successfully according to CNG standards? *
I kept bees as a young adult in the 1990's before returning to beekeeping in 2018. Over the past three years we have established a treatment-free apiary utilizing swarm stock from the local area, employing foundationless frames and working diligently to identify the underlying mechanism(s) which confer disease resistance.
Before continuing, please take a moment to review the 5 steps to Apiary Certification. (You may do this by clicking the link below.) Are they clear? *

Apiary Location and Position

Some beekeepers seek certification for more than one apiary. Please provide the location (or locations) of the apiary (or apiaries) for which you seek certification. *
We currently operate a single apiary located at our farm.
Briefly describe the landscape where the apiary is located. What surrounds the apiary? What are the nectar sources? *
Our farm is immediately surrounded by oak/hickory stands. Further out within the flight radius we are surrounded by a mix of creek bottoms, woods, horse pasture and conventional corn/soybean fields. Predominant nectar sources include, but are not limited to: early tree blooms (i.e. maple and elm), Eastern redbud, tulip poplar, white clover, blackberry, sumac, partridge pea, boneset and goldenrod.
Do you own or manage the land on which your apiary is located? (If at least one of your apiaries is on land you own or manage, answer yes.) *
Do you agree not to use on this land any synthetic materials that are not allowed under the CNG produce or honey programs? *
I agree.
Use this space to describe any land management practices you use to support the honey bee population. *
The surrounding woods are actively managed for forest health and wildlife benefit. All open pasture surrounding the apiary is maintained in a mixture of warm-season conservation cover with a pollinator component and four dedicated pollinator plots maintained with a mixture of forbs for full-season blooming.
Within each apiary for which you seek certification, do you manage any hives "conventionally", using practices or substances that are not allowed under the CNG apiary standards? *

Hive Construction, Components, and Brood Comb Removal

Do your hives have any paint or chemical treatment on the interior surface of the hive? *
Do you have, or will you develop, a labeling system and schedule to ensure removal of at least 20% of brood frame per year, such that there is never brood comb present that is more than 5 years old? *
Please briefly describe your brood comb removal practices to date, and your plans for the coming seasons. *
We maintain an unlimited broodnest with a systematic method of comb renewal via a combination of nadiring and Rose Hive Method to rotate comb up and out the colony on an approximately 4 year cycle.

Apiary Transition

Does your apiary contain brood comb that A) is from another beekeeper (including from purchased nuc), or B) has been exposed to Tylan, or C) has been exposed to three or more treatments of fluvalinate (Apistan, Mavrik) or amitraz (Miticur, Taktic, or Mitak)? *
Has any wax or comb in your apiary ever been exposed to coumaphos (CheckMite+) or fenpyroximate (Hivastan), or more than six indirect exposures of coumaphos (CheckMite+), hydramethylnon or fipronil (Max Force Gel roach baite) as closed trapping for SHBs?

General Bee Maintenance and Care

Describe how you maintain your bee population from one season to the next. Do you rely on survivor colonies, incorporate feral colonies, purchase new bees every year, or some combination of these and/or other practices? *
Our apiary is entirely made-up of local swarm stock. It began in 2018 with two feral swarms, grew to 12 in 2019, rose to 27 last year and now stands at 39 to-date. We make-up all losses with swarm stock either from within the apiary or from the surrounding area.
Do you sometimes feed the bees when honey supers are on the hive, or within two weeks before honey super addition? *
If and when your bees require supplemental feeding, what do you feed them? Please be specific and include all ingredients. *
In past years we have fed both liquid and solid cane sugar feeding as required to close the season out. We now have enough surplus built up to support new swarm starts with comb honey from overwintered colonies.

Management of Pests and Disease

Varroa Mite
Please briefly describe what measures you take to suppress the Varroa mite population in your hives. *
No active management is employed to suppress varroa mites.
How do you monitor mite population levels? When and how often? *
Yes- four times annually via a 72 hour mite drop count.
Before treating any hive for Varroa mites, will you monitor the Varroa mite infestation level to determine whether it exceeds the treatment threshold set by your local network? (If you run a survivor colony, and you never treat, please answer Yes.) *
If you choose to treat colonies infested with Varroa mites, will you keep records of treatment methods, along with pre- and post-treatment monitoring results? *
American and European Foulbrood
How do you prevent and treat American Foulbrood (AFB) and European Foulbrood (EFB)? *
To-date we have not experienced AFB. If found, the colony will be euthanized and equipment burned. We have only found very slight EFB symptoms in some colonies early in the year- we monitor and to-date no further action has been required that sunshine and good forage has not been able to fix.
How do you prevent and treat Nosema? *
Fortunately, we have not had to deal with Nosema on an acute basis. That said, we have worked hard to develop stable hive stands which allow for adequate air movement and have avoided the use of supplemental feeding / protein additions to allow hive population dynamics to better align with seasonal cues and natural forage availability.
Other Diseases
What has been your experience with other diseases (such as chalkbrood, viral diseases, wax moths, small hive beetle)? How have you dealt with them? How will you deal with them if they recur? *
Our first year we purchased two packages to go along with our swarm stock. With the packages we were unfortunate enough to observe the classic disease progression of PMS so we have seen the symptoms and results of acute viral infection. In these cases we allowed nature to run her course but in the future we would install robbing screens on all hives that appear to be struggling under a mite load and euthanize them if their demise appears eminent. We also deal with SHB on a regular basis. Currently we utilize Freeman beetle traps on all our production hives and install food-grade vegetable oil in them when the beetle load appears to be reaching a damaging threshold.
What measures do you take, if any, to protect the hives against pests such as mice, skunks, possums, raccoons, and bears? *
We construct permanently-installed hive stands which are substantial and stable. We utilize latches or ratchet straps to positively affix all hive components together. We employ permanent entrance reducers at the standard Eastern reducer height (3/8"), and we install a CMU weight above each telescoping lid.
Please describe any other practices you follow to help strengthen the bee population under your care.
We practice unlimited broodnest, foundationless, systematic comb renewal, small entrances, limited supplemental feeding, stationary operations and limited frame-by-frame inspections.

Colonies Engaged in Pollination Services

Are your colonies engaged in pollination by contract? *

Local Networks

Are you a part of a local network of beekeepers using natural methods? This could be a formal network like a county beekeepers association, or it could be an informal network of beekeepers in your area with a commitment to using natural methods. *
If this is a formal network please indicate the name of the network below. (If it is not a formal network, please simply write "informal".) *
Formal- We participate in networking with both local beekeepers in our area and also in an online forum dedicated to Treatment Free Beekeeping. We maintain a blog presence there which chronicles our efforts and also outlines relevant scholarship relative to resistance breeding, genetics, chemical-free management efforts, etc. https://www.beesource.com/threads/treatment-free-bungling-2018.351015/page-98#post-1882000
If this is an informal network, please indicate below the names of at least two other beekeepers who participate. They do not need to be CNG beekeepers, but they do need to have some commitment to and knowledge of natural practices. (If you're part of a formal network, please simply write "see above") *
See Above


Please indicate your agreement with the following statements by entering your name/s in the spaces following the statements.
I/we will only use the Certified Naturally Grown name and label on apiary products (honey, pollen, propolis) that are in fact from the CNG apiaries described in this application. *
I/we understand that CNG beeswax certification is a separate process (not yet available in 2010), and that the basic Apiary Certification doesn't confer CNG status on beeswax. *
I/we understand the CNG work requirements: A) To complete at least one certification inspection of another CNG apiary in my area each year. B) To arrange an annual inspection of my/our apiary, to be carried out by a qualified inspector as outlined in CNG informational materials. *
I/we have reviewed the Certified Naturally Grown standards, understand them, and will abide by them. I/we understand that if I/we have any questions I/we may contact CNG for clarification. *
You may use this space to tell us anything else you think we should know about your farm:
We are also in the third year of developing a commercial tree fruit orchard and will likely look to pursue certification of this operation as the orchard comes into maturity.