Sunday, June 28, 2009

Inspection #5

Hive is running since 2 1/2 months. Two mediums are full, and the bees are working on the third one, the fourth medium is still empty.
During today's inspection, I added a 5th body, so they have more than 2 medium hive bodies of free room. I expect not to open the hive in the next month.
I pulled out a frame from the third box, and my wife took a picture:

This was frame #3. All the other frames closer to center were cross-combed. Talking with other foundationless beekeepers, it appears the Lang is not suited to foundationless, because of its excessive frame spacing of 35mm. Some Warre beeks space their top bars by 32mm. At 35mm, the bees will likely crosscomb, even if the combs are started as nicely centered in the frame as the one in the photo.
I also noticed that I have some bees that are smaller. The bees may be regressing, which would make the 35mm standard spacing oversized.
Beside that, the hive is doing great. I found the smoker works better with dried grass, I actually smoked too much this time.
Next inspection should happen early August, unless some event required intervention.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nadiring vs Supering

Nadiring consists of adding supers at the bottom of the hive, instead of at the top, as is usually done with supers.
Giles Denis, from France, does both, adding one supper at the top, and others at the bottom.
Here is a great post about this from John on an online Warre beekeeping forum:

>Have you thought about top supering a portion of your hives so as to split test your apiary?

That's what I did last year, sort of. I top-supered two of my 11 hives. These hives gave me 7 of the 11 boxes of honey I harvested. Mind you, they were two of my strongest hives. The lower yield of a nadired hive vs a topsupered hive is just simple mathematics. Since the bees will only store honey above and to the sides
of the broodnest, then brood must hatch and vacate cells in order for the bees to have room for honey. As the bees will only hatch out at the rate at which a queen can lay, the it follows that new storage room becomes available for only a kilogram or so of honey per day. With top-supering, bees will store 20 lbs + of honey daily in a hive during the peak of the clover/alfalfa flow, at least here in Alberta.

So the question that immediately comes up is "Why, then wouldn't you top super?" The answer to that question is crucial, in my opinion, to understanding how bees change focus as the season progresses in order to ensure their survival over the long dark cold winter.

Take care-

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Foreign bees !

The 3 bees visible near the hive entrance at the end of my last post are likely foreign bees begging for acceptance in my colony. I saw more of these every day, always a few of then at the entrance, with guard bees fighting them, biting their legs, wings, dragging them back. They don't fight back. Their hair appear normal, particularly on the thorax, so I don't think they are robbers.
When one of my bees is on top of one of these foreign bees, then the difference in size and color is more evident. I have seen a few managing to enter the hive, but they were dragged back. They usually end up dead near the entrance, killed by the cold of the night.
What makes bees leaving their colony? I noticed these bees since June 19th, but it may have started before that.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Update, previous inspections.

May 22: Feeder is empty. I did not replace the empty feeder, eventhough the bees were still taking some sugar water. I removed the entrance feeder support.

May 29: Full inspection, with the intent of removing at least one brood frame with my new frame tool. This was a warm day, and the hive was very active. Here are pictures of entrance activity just before the inspection:

After removing the roof, quilt and top cloth, the top bars were exposed. I smoked the bees just before this shot. What we don't see is how the combs are all inter-connected, and un-removable. What a mess!

The top Medium is heavy. After removal, here is the top bars of the second body:

The second medium also has its combs all braced together. I didn't even bother trying to remove combs. It is lighter than the top medium.
The third and fourth boxes do not contain combs at this time.

Next inspection in 2 weeks.

June 13 Inspection:
Top box REALLY heavy.
Box 2 somewhat heavy, but lighter than box 1.
Box 3 has some combs, finally. No brood yet. The frame tool allowed me to easily lift the frame. All the frames were set closer to each other (touching) to minimize brace combs.
Box 4 is empty. All frames set next to each other.
No picture of open hive, but here are pictures of hive entrance activity before the inspection:

June 19: At the Hive entrance.
Today is rainy, not a day for an in-hive inspection. A quick check at the hive entrance reveled 3 bees staying put, with wings looking abnormal, and a slightly darker color than the other bees:

Here is a close-up:

One of them was flapping her wings, but she apparently could not fly. I went later at night to check, and two of the 3 bees were still there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Bit of Langstroth Hive History

Here is another great post from Scot:

The hive type is called a Langstroth named after the Reverend Lazurus Lesley
Langstroth who developed it in the mid 1800s.

The frame is actually called a Hoffman frame, also named after the man who developed it. Langstroth's original frames were quite a bit different and more like boxes, and Hoffman developed a way for the frames to provide the spacing, ensure parallel orientation but still allow the bees to walk around the edges of the comb from all sides (minus the two short shoulders at the top). Further Chaz Dadant (who immigrated from France to Hamilton, IL) developed the foundation that became popular after the fact. Langstroth and Hoffman both developed their frames before the advent of foundation and their frame designs were both foundationless originally. CC Miller (who gave up a career in medicine to become a beekeeper instead) is often credited with experimenting with these and various other developments and getting all these guys talking.
Call me picky if you like, and I am sorry about it, but I think it's important that we learn our history in beekeeping to honor those who made these developments. Does it really matter one wit to the practice of beekeeping? No not really, but now that we are in the days of beekeeping trial and invention again and I believe it is important to know our history and the proper terms for different sorts of similar equipment. Besides, there is a LOT of reading material from back then and it's quite
educational. In fact, I don't read any modern beekeeping material anymore. It's all geared towards chemical beekeeping management and missing all of the wisdom of following the bees.

Scot McPherson, CISSP, MCSA
McPherson Family Farms
Le Claire, IA, USA

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Natural Beekeeping

This is a great post from Bernhard, that I picked up in a discussion board:

An interesting discussion. See:\

My answer:

Yes, I think that is the problem nowadays, that such appoaches can't be practised because of the pressure applied by strong lobbyists and other beeks.

I know of many cases, where all the other beekeepers stalked people going natural. I know of cases where the hives were knocked over, where the entrances were sprayed with an insecticide spray (=all bee colonies dead), where hives were opened up and queens were killed regularily. Quite shocking, like a war between beekeepers. The researchers, the lobbyists of the chemical industries, some (=not all) authors in bee journals and other cause fear of natural beekeeping. Natural beekeeping spreads diseases and such. Natural beekeeping is evil. Same with ferals.

So fear usually turns into hate. Hate turns into violence.

On the other hand I see many many people interested in beekeeping. Especially newcomers and new beeks are interested in natural beekeeping. More open minded.

I wrote a little text which was turned into a book by someone elses. I got an E-Mail last days, where that person thanked me for my lines. She also told me, that she and a lot of friends started naturally beekeeping. They never would start beekeeping without that Warre/natural approach, because conventional beekeeping wasn't their liking. She told me, that this little book she created was very helpful when talking to conventional beekeepers.

Because without the book, she only got strange looks with questionsmarks in the eyes ("Ah, another newbie with silly ideas. I stick with my own experiences and there is nothing next to it"). But with the book the other beeks grasp what the concept is. Hey, there are pictures which help to imagine things. (Today very few people train the art of imagination).

So here we are with a start.

We have those five groups opposing our approach of natural beekeeping. It still is an approach, no more. Has to be emphasized, I suppose. Lower expectations, rise results is usually a good advice. (sorry roughly translated from German)

The five groups are:

1.) print media (journals and books)
2.) large and medium-size bee businesses
3.) farmers needing pollination services
4.) markets demanding regularity of supply
5.) pharmaceutical/chemical companies + researchers/scientists

So that is the path laying before us.

First we should write books and we should establish an own journal, international and national. The biggest bulk of beekeepers don't have internet/web access! We should write articles in conventional journals, too. There is some interests, even if it is the slightest. Do it.

To get more confidence there should be a network of natural beekeepers. Because the natural beeks are so scattered the network should have newsletters written monthly. A newsletter where every beek can write his thoughts. It shouldn't be electronic only, it should be printed.

Secondly large and medium sized bee businesses should get informed, that there are much more bee products than honey and pollination. Beside that there is much potential in apitherapy! Those people live from the bees, we shuĆ³uld show them that there is much more diversity in bee products. When honey and pollination plays a lower role in income, those beeks will be much more open to natural ways of beekeeping. In apitherapy the following bee products are used:

- propolis
- bees wax
- bee bread
- bee pollen
- bee larvae
- gelee royal
- honey
- hive air (to breath it; good for a lot of pulmonary illnesses)

So many products from one hive! Those products can be transformed to a huge range of end products! You can't imagine! From shower gels, tooth paste (with propolis), to many more. This is a huge potential for those making a living from and with bees.

Maybe there are more ways to make an income with bees. We should discover them and offer them to the professional beeks.

Third the farmer's need for pollination. Actually farming and beekeeping is interconnected since the very beginning of farming. Thus a farmer should be a beekeeper as well. Every farmer should be encouraged to have bees. This can be achieved when beekeeping is teached in agriculture schools and education institutes. Beekeeping should be a compulsory subject like in the old days.
Beekeepers should stop moving bees to big monoculture fields, because they shoot themselfes this way. A round table, where beeks and farmers talk about ways to a more natural agriculture are discussed are needed.

Fourth the markets. The markets should be re-localized. That way the demand for huge amounts are splitted into pieces. Local production will serve the needs by producing little but many amounts. The first thing to do is to cut the license for big companies to sell their honey with the national bee association stamp on it. (This is the case in Germany. The bee associations' biggest income comes from the honey "bottlers" companies, which use the license of the stamp "genuine German honey").

Fifth all the chemicals should be driven out of beekeeping practises. There should be voluntary agreements between beeks and farmers of not using chemicals and genetic engineered stuff. This can be achieved locally only. But if it spreads from region to region you'll take the nation.
Live and let live is usually a good advice. So we beeks should think about ways to get the companies into the boat. There is a lot of knowledge and powers in those companies. In permaculture such a force is turned from the bad to the good use of such energy. I'm very unsure if that works with the concept of such companies, producing 25% more every year. But one should try. Why don't let them produce organic fertilizers? Why not let them produce organic solutions for pests? They have much knowledge about pests which can be used for new organic solutions. Why not turn the chemical production into consulting products? Those companies already consult farmers. Now they could consults how to produce organicly and how to ensure soil health with natural methods? Just a crazy idea, but worth the try?

Same with the research. We can't fund those researches against the chemical companies. So we have to turn the thinking of those companies. So research is done for natural ways, which still can be profitable. Why not?

This are the things which have to be done. The tasks are our tasks. We have to do it, every single one of us have to take action. Because we are like a bee colony. We are all bees. The mission is our queen.

Let's swarm!