Inspiration from across the pond

There are many facets of beekeeping.  Some are fun, exciting and rewarding while others are tedious and boring.  This year I have assembled and wired hundreds of frames already and need to do about a hundred more.  It makes me a little stir crazy.  While doing this necessary (tedious) work I often times listen to podcasts about various subjects that interest me.

Phil Chandler

This week I finally got another installment from The Barefoot Beekeper Podcast by Phil Chandler.  This episode was audio from a talk he gave earlier this month, What can we learn from bees? Talk at Trill Farm, Dorset May 11 2012.  Mr. Chandler is a champion of the top bar hive.  I don’t run that system, but hope to give it a try some day.

At one point in his presentation (~23:45) he begins to talk about natural selection in bees and how honeybees over time adapt to certain geographical regions.  He continues about the British Black Bee a native race that was highly adapted to the weather and climate of Britain .  He speaks of the shortcomings of importation of bees and goes on to say “local bees are the best bees by and large.  The bees are adapted to the local climate.

Bee Tree 2011-07-23

A bee tree found on a friends farm. They report it has been there for years.

I agree with the statement put forward by Mr. Chandler.  It is well documented that bees have only been in the US since the 1600’s, but feral genetics play by the rules of natural selection.  This is yet another reason to be putting up swarm traps in your area.  I am aware that some people are nervous about swarming bees, but we really need to find a way to educate them so that we can allow them to reproduce naturally.  Langstroth writes about production hives and swarming hives in – On the Hive and the Honeybee.

My hive may be used as a non-swarmer, and may be made more effectually to prevent swarming, than any with which I am acquainted: as in the Spring, (See No. 34. p. 104,) ample accommodations may be given to the bees, below their main works, and when this is seasonably done, swarming will never take place.

There are certain objections however, which must always prevent the non-swarming plan from being the most successful mode of managing bees. To say nothing of the loss to the bee-keeper, who has, after some years, only one stock, when if the natural mode of increase had been allowed, he ought to have a number, it is usually found that after bees have been kept in a non-swarming hive for several seasons, they seem to work with much less vigor than usual. Of this, any one may convince himself, who will compare the industrious working of a new swarm, with that of a much more powerful stock in a non-swarming hive. The former will work with such astonishing zeal, that to one unacquainted with the facts, it would be taken to be by far the more powerful stock.

I know that I am lucky in that I live in a rural area where the largest potential problem I could have from swarming bees would be a colony choosing a hive site in someone’s home or other structure.  I will deal with that problem when and if it comes up.  I feel the benefit of genetics that overwintered in my area, with the unique challenges presented here are worth the risk.  Packaged bees from Georgia will not have endured the same selective pressures and thus will be ill suited for survival here.  Not only is it not fair to the beekeeper spending $100 bucks on the package, what of the unfortunate colony made to live in a climate it may be unable to cope with.

With all of the press that honeybees are getting today we at least have the ear of a large section of general public.  We need to take the opportunity to educate them on the importance of allowing bees to be bees before they forget and return to watching Survivor and Dancing with the Stars.  Agricultural chemicals and loss of forage are undoubtedly playing a part in bee losses.  What if swarm prevention as well as other common beekeeping practices are contributing as much or more?  I don’t know this to be the case, but we cannot look for reasons elsewhere unless we are looking at our own practices with scrutiny.

Get some traps out!!!!  🙂

P.S. – Interestingly enough please note what the reverend suggested.  It is different than the common practice of reversing hive bodies promoted today “to prevent swarming”.  I will elaborate further on that in a future post.  I followed his advice this year with 14 hives, all of which are in people’s yards.  Guess what…..  No swarms as of yet.  I will keep you posted.


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14 Responses to Inspiration from across the pond

  1. Anita says:

    Can’t wait to put my new swarm trap to test. 🙂

    • Jason says:

      Neither can I. I sent one to Jason at TheSelfSufficientGardener and he still hasn’t caught anything to my knowledge. I want to tell him… “I promise I’m not making this stuff up!!!”

      It hasn’t rained here in ~ two weeks. That really seems to slows down swarming activity. I only need two more to get up to 21 hives of my own. That is if both of my trapouts fail. I still have orders for 3-4 more from new beeks. Murphy’s law tells me that the next time it rains I am going to have 10 traps full. 🙂 Sounds like a good problem to have. I just don’t want to have to put any more frames together.
      Time to go mow grass before my landlord kicks me out…. REtCh!!!!!

      • Sam says:

        Oh man frames, I have to build about 200 of the things..

        • Jason says:

          I have about that many more to put together. The worst part I think is inserting eyelets and wiring. I am getting quicker. I am just glad to have a radio to listen to while I do it.

  2. Sam says:

    Lolz the dear reverend is dead wrong on that account, if he is providing building space for his bees below and they NEVER swarm, I have done the same thing. One hive had two empty boxs below it and still swarmed, then it swarmed again! Anyway I really respect the work Mr warre did with his observations. Bees will swarm, its what they do, dogs will breed, flies will multiply ect, once our bees truly stop swarming then we are screwed. My goal is to give them enough space to make honey as well 🙂

    • Jason says:

      When did you place your boxes blow your colonies? I did mine back in March. There are two colonies here at the house that I was certain were both going to swarm. They were so full of bees. My wife and daughter are not here every minute of every day, but they haven’t heard them or seen them swarm. I agree words like NEVER are poor choices when discussing biology.
      In your Warre boxes do you always add more boxes below, then remove the upper boxes at the end of the season for your honey crop?

      • Sam says:

        Yea I always under super. I put more boxs vary early in our season might have been late march. That italian hive wintered with an empty box below it then swarmed early may 🙂

        • Jason says:

          How much honey do you take usually? Just one Warre box a year? Do you disassemble all of them to assess how full they are then decide? I started under supering last year. It worked so well that is all I am doing this year.

          • Sam says:

            I try to leave three warre boxs for them to winter in, but like I said before I have had other winter in only one box, I check each box for the brood location, starting at the top. I ordered a “crane scale” so I can weigh each hive in place, this should give me an idea how much honey is in each hive. This would be the first year in warres with more then one strong hive, last year I removed a single warre box from #5 it was badly cross combed so no manipulations were possible was 100% honey 0% brood.

          • Jason says:

            What do you hook the scale to? Do you have a loader tractor or some type of engine lift contraption? Got any pics of this thing in action on your site somewhere?

            You’re a mad inventor Sam. You’ve got some neat stuff going on in that apiary!!

  3. Sam says:

    No tractor, I have yet to receive my scale, still in the mail, I plan on using a system to weight one side of a hive on site for a moderately accurate total. Will defiantly be pics, I have wanted something like this for a while.

    • Jason says:

      I am interested in seeing how you pull it off. I am moving towards managing my hives in a Warre style only using Lang deeps. Using three deeps for the main chamber then bottom supering a fourth one every spring. Then I hope to remove the top deep every year in the fall. That is the plan anyway. I know that the bees here can make at least 100# of surplus . Every year I have consistently gotten 120-140# off of top hives, but that is top of the tier. Don’t know if it will work yet, but I know I am not looking to make comb honey and the system of management that Warre devised makes the most sense to me considering the biology of the bee – have brood in an area – the brood moving down and as the brood emerges the bees pack honey above and through that area. Then they make comb and put brood in it below. I think it will make it easier to do comb management that way too.

      When I get enough hives I hope to use it as my management method for stock selection. If I keep records of which hives produced well and aren’t too mean, the previous year and will try to induce them to swarm by NOT bottom supering them the following year. I may be able to get future breeding stock from those lines. The ones I take my 100# from the previous year that don’t overwinter will free hive equipment to put better producing stock in as well as brood comb to put in swarm traps. Again… That is the goal, I am many years from that now. I haven’t written about it because it is “theory”. We shall see.

      • Sam says:

        I think there might be more going on then what warre concluded from his observations. One thing I know for sure is the bees are quicker to build comb below starting from the top, especially if their numbers are low, it seems harder for them to fill a box (no comb) above themselves then one below. The broodnest does seem to move very slowly, for one reason or another france seems to have an extremely low nectar production rate (from what little I have read) compared to much of our area, this might account for the under supering working the way it did for warre, thats why I was only going to try putting one new box under each of my hives once a year for brood comb renewal with the rest going above during a flow, still a work in progress though, I will know more in a couple of months.

  4. Mil says:

    I’ve not listened to Phil Chandler. I have a hard time with British accents as it’s hard for me to understand.

    I’ve given up on the Organically Managed Beekeeping Podcast. It’s sad as it was one of my favorites. I was hoping he’d interview my teacher, Serge Labesque and even gave him Serge’s contact info.

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