Natural Beekeeping

Top Bar ApiRevolution has begun! Lets make some Top Bar Hives and let them be pesticide free on their own natural comb! Che Guebee is a rebel bee fighting for the survival of the Biodiversity we all depend on and which is seriously endangered by deforestation and mono-crop agriculture!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Honeybee Super-organism is not a "Colony"

When we think of Honeybees we mainly picture Worker Bees, Queen Bee and Drones but is that all there is to this being we call the Honeybee "Colony"?

First and foremost we are approaching this organism from a wrong perspective; we think of them as a "colony". But are they really a colony? If Honeybee Super-organism is a colony then our very human body is also a colony.
Our body is made of millions of cells and bacteria, all sorts of microscopic phenomena like neurons and atoms forming molecules which all interact with one another and all that without our will or control. Of course our body is not a colony but an organism.

Now, if you place dozen humans into a collective they would be a colony. If we place dozen Honeybee families together that too would be a colony (we call that an Apiary). But unlike humans those separate "colonies" do not help one another as humans would do in a colony.

That said, Honeybee "colony" is rather a Super-organism made of many "cells" we call Queen, Workers and Drones but that is not all of it. We know today that various beneficial yeasts, bacteria and mites are part of Bien (Honeybee Super-organism).
Bees can not survive without yeasts because they are the ones creating the so called "bee bread" which they feed to their brood and which is made from pollen-honey and is fermented by the yeasts.
There are over 8000 bacteria associated with Honeybees and over 170 different kind of Mites like the beneficial Stratiolaelaps scimitus which feeds on Varroa mites.
Stratiolaelaps scimitus mite
Worker bees are very much like our cells feeding and building the body and protecting it. Queen and Drones are like our sexual organs. None of the mentioned can survive on their own. Humans can leave the colony and still survive but if a Drone, Queen or a Worker bee leaves the "colony" they sure will perish very fast. Hence "colony" is not the name for them since it is misleading and creating so much confusion about Honeybees today. One of the confusion are the Treatments against Varroa mites. By trying to kill the Varroa we also kill beneficial mites and micro-biome hence creating unbalanced condition within Bien.

Wax Comb is another aspect of Bien; It is their very skeleton, womb for raising brood, storage for Honey and Pollen, it is used for thermo-regulation and bees use it as a telephone line to communicate with each other via vibrations. Take out the wax comb and bees will not be able to survive.
The hollow cavity is their protection from predators and ever changing weather. The hollow conserves the so called hive scent and is used to condense the humid air into water which is used by the bees. It also helps thermo-regulate the inner atmosphere. The hollow cavity is very much like our own skin.
Jurgen Tautz, a very well known Honeybee biologist from Germany (book; Buzz About Bees) compares the Bien to a mammal rather than a colony of individuals for a good reason.

So next time you approach your hive try and look at it as a complex organism rather than a "colony" and see what happens in your mind.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Top Bar Hive Workshop with Che at Makvärket in Denmark

Makvärket is an old abandoned brick factory which is now occupied by a passionate group of visionary people. People who believe in sustainable living on all levels; forest garden, permaculture, natural beekeeping, etc ... 
They are investing a great deal of creative energy into this place
 This place is huge! So much potential!
 The conference room
 They are making their own pressed apple juice which they sell. They dont have an orchard but instead they go around the neighborhood and collect apples which people dont want to use. Smart :)

 Out door pizza oven made from Cob, nice one :)
 Art studios

 In case I didnt mention :) this place is HUGE!

The conference room
I was asked to run a Top Bar Hive workshop to help them start their first Natural Apiary. They plan to have 5 hives in total. 
 New top bar hive beekeepers in action, building their first top bar hives
One hive got legs :)
I will very likely hold a power point presentation about top bar hive beekeeping in February next year and in Spring we will try to start the practical beekeeping part.
 And the vegan food they make here is so tasty :)
Eating in a fine company
We talked a lot about bees of course and in the midst of discussion one young lad said that they have bee colony inside of their wall! I was so excited since this is the first time I have witnessed a feral colony :D In this image above you can see the red circle marking the very small entrance in the wall. The hole is no bigger than 2cm. And sure, the bees were flying in and out of the wall :)) If this colony survives the winter we will make sure to catch it and hive it into the Top Bar Hive. Feral colonies which survive on their own are great candidates for treatment free beekeeping. 
6 meters under the entrance there were a few old bees crawling on the ground. They sure are feral Honeybees :) So exciting!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The never ending flowering of Heutchera Firefly

I am truly amazed by how long this marvelous plant can flower :) Its name is Heutchera Firefly and it started blooming in Spring and still doing so now in October ! :) I am truly amazed and so are the bees it seems :) I must buy some seeds and get them growing on our farm next year!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The newly sown White Clover is growing strong

We have sown 1 Hectare with White Clover and grasses for our Sheep and Bees. Im happy to see it is growing very well and I can expect some serious nectar flow next year. White Clover flow never really fails because Clovers need humid climate to be able to make enough nectar and we always have humid summers.
Some Clover has already started to bloom :)
 Field on the South side of our young forest
and field on the West side. In this shot you can see a long row of Willows :) my bees will be so glad when they discover those next Spring :))

By the way this land was used for mono-crop agriculture for a few decades and Im sure there are some Neonicotinoid pesticides still active in the soil. I hope Im not doing more damage than good for my dear bees. I could have waited 2 more years and then plant because it take 3 years for them to break down. Time will tell. Any who this land of ours is to become a Bee Sanctuary from now on so all the local Bumblebees and Solitary Bees as well as Butterflies and Syrphid Flies can find refuge here.
A nearby farmer has sprayed his field with Roundup before plowing it. When you see the plants changing color from green to reddish-yellow its Roundup for sure. How come this can be legal. Im not sure I trust our politicians anymore.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

DIY inexpensive two frame honey extractor and wax strips as comb guides

Another reason for me deciding to go with shallow frames in the supers is the DIY 2 frame honey extractor which cost almost nothing to build;

I have cut grooves into the top bars of the frames to be able to insert wax strips which will act as comb guides. I will use this technique to make the starter strips

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

(Non)Nature is changing my beekeeping

It is interesting how nature can influence change. I mean the nature is in constant change, it is its very nature after all. But in case of my beekeeping it is not the nature which is causing changes but the non-nature, the "nature" turned into mono-crops by our modern agriculture led by the idea of "progress".

As I already mentioned in my previous posts, it is not possible keeping bees naturally in an unnatural environment. Our flow lasts only from April to Jun and after that there is not much blooming. So if bees are let to follow their bio-clock and swarm as they should they will miss the opportunity to collect enough honey for the winter. I simply can't imagine feeding bees sugar (which cost money) and have no honey at all, not even for them. So I have to do something about it. I will have to super the hives to force the bees upwards so they delay the swarming and keep on making honey during the 3 month flow.

I have already started building supers for my nucleus top bar hives. I didn't know how tiring it is to build frames, oh boy! So many small operations to make a frame and so much more materials needed. Without a table saw there is only the option of buying ready made frames which are expensive in my opinion.
It took me several hours to build 12 frames; to cut the bars, cut the groves for the wax strips and to nail them together. And this is only for one super. I need frames for at least 16 supers :(

Messages From Bees - Japanese documentary on Pesticides