Natural Beekeeping

Top Bar ApiRevolution has begun! Lets make some inexpensive 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! What kind of teaching have you got if you exclude nature?

Monday, December 31, 2012

How NOT to manage a Top Bar Hive

I would like you to see this video. This beek never learned how to properly inspect a top bar hive and as you will see he is making a few cardinal mistakes;
1. he is not brushing off the bees before tossing the comb into the bocket, killing many bees and pissing off those who survived the drop
2. he is starting to pull out top bars from the middle of the colony instead from one end.
3. he is not detaching the comb braced to the walls before pulling out the top bar comb
4. top bars in a Kenya Top Bar Hive are not spaced but are tightly fit together forming a closed roof underneath the actual roof. In his case you can see the bees gluening the top bars to the roof. As he takes off the roof some of the top bars follow with the roof braking away from the comb which later collapse causing much stress to the bees and possibly can kill the queen.
I have never seen such bucher-style-top-bar-hive-manipulation before!
Please dont follow his example!

If you want to learn how to manage Top Bar Hives go to youtube and search for OutOfaBlueSky , he makes very good educational videos on top bar hive beekeeping.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The making of Che Guebee Apiary

Welcome to my bee-less apiary ;) I placed the hives today outside just to see how they fit into their surrounding. The hives are not varnished yet so will be brough back indoors. This is just for the show and to see how much ground leveling is needed for streightening the hives.
 So far I'v got one vertical hive (which will be resized), two hTBH's, one top bar nuc and two framed hives for transporting framed nucs Im to buy in May. All nucs in Sweden come on frames.
 View from our summer house window  ...
The bees will be flying up the hill towards South-East. In this shot one can see how much ground leveling is needed to streighten the hives.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tinder Fungus as a Bee Smoker Fuel

Tinder Fungus is a very good material to use as a fuel for the bee smoker. This fungus can be found often on Birch trees especially the ones which are dying or are already rotten. Tinder Fungus burns slowly and produces fine smoke which is not hot. Once the fungus pieces stop smoking just ad more fungus to the fine embers they have made.
 Tiner Fungus
Chopping it into smaller pieces
 Gathering the equipment; The smoker, smoker insert which is made from a metal tin with many holes which are to feed the fuel with constant oxygen, tinder fungus pieces, newspapers to start the fire but dry grass can be used for this as well, and matches.
 Fill the smoker with paper and ignite it...
place the fungus pieces on top of the paper and start pumping the oxygen ...
 close the smoker and start smoking some bees ;)
 I left the smoker outside and after about 15 minutes it was still smoking. The fungus eventualy will stop smoking but it creates such fine embers which last long. It is enough to place a few more Tinder Fungus pieces into the smoker and the smoke is on again.
I will use the smoker only if Im doing a deep inspection or if dealing with a very angry colony. Otherwise I will use a water spray for quick inspections.
Just make sure not to cut your self with the ax when chopping the fungus!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping

I am very happy to have got this book for christmas! One of the rare books on treatment free beekeeping. As a novice beekeeper who is willing to follow the treatment free way, overwhelmed by the conventional beekeeping mentality which dogmaticly treat their bee colonies, I find this book very reasuring and supporting which is a BIG deal for me at this time.
Thanks to such books the honey bee might just have a chance to survive!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Learning From Bees by Phil Chandler

"Learning From Bees: a philosophy of natural beekeeping" is a collection of short essays on bees and beekeeping by the author of "The Barefoot Beekeeper" Philip Chandler.

The author's first book, The Barefoot Beekeeper, set out a challenge to the world of conventional beekeeping and offered an alternative paradigm. It soon became apparent that other people had been thinking along similar lines, and when bees were headlined month after month in the national press, following the outbreak of so-called 'colony collapse disorder' in the USA, many more people became interested in bees and what became known as the 'natural beekeeping' movement began to emerge.

Learning From Bees is a collection of short essays on bees and beekeeping, many of which are published here for the first time.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Framed Beekeeping World

I feel frustrated again! As soon as I start speaking to a fellow (conventional) beekeeper about what hive I have he starts shaking his head. They usually ask what frame size do I use, and I say "None, I use top bars in a Kenya Top Bar Hive". "I should buy my self a "normal" hive with frames" they say.
Also they say that all local beekeepers "behave" and treat their bees with Oxalic Acid against Varroa every year and that I should do it too so we all can keep Varroa down. I'm afraid to even mention that Im willing my colonies to be treatment free.
Im starting to be tired of getting such replies and not having someone who is like minded. Top Bar Beekeeping is a lonely realm here in Sweden :(
And for that reason I have built two boxes with frames. Its a standard swedish hobby size frame 39x36x22cm called Low-normal. I will need them anyway when buying two colonies next year which come on 10 frames each.
I will also need these boxses if Im to sell some nucs to beeks having frame hives in the future. No one sells packages in Sweden. Of course these frames of mine will be foundationless!
If the conventional (or should i say conservative) beeks ask me now what frames do I use I can answer "Low-normal frames" without feeling alienated :) (I dont have to mention top bar hives)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Super Nuc

I continued working on the hives today and ripping a few more top bars so to cover them all. This nuc has 8 frames + 2 (the last two are the divider top bar and one empty behind it to give me comb manipulation space). I made two more dividers from hessian cloth. I've been told over at biobees that the bees will chew up and propolise the hessian cloth. I asked an old beek (30+) if he ever saw his bees chewing up the hessian cloth he puts behind his bees in the horizontal swedsih hive and he said NO. Only mice eat the hessian, or rather make a hole in it. But sure the bees will propolise it so to seal any holes which is absolutely fine with me.
This nuc hive got two supers and a metal roof. Cute! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Drum Top Bar Nucleus Hive

As you already know I have built two round top bar hives from reclaimed cable drum timber. I had some timber left so decided to make one nuc hive. It is made in the same way except the legs are shorter because I used up all the long timber.
I already started ripping top bars for these hives with my newly acquired table saw. Im happy with it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

EU Petition on Pesticides - Please Sign!

Please sign this petition on stopping neonicotinoid pesticide use in EU. We need all of your voices to save the bees!

Mitre/Table Saw for Top Bar Ripping

I found this multi table saw by accident today and it was a very good price, too good to let it go. Yes I bought it and tried to cut some top bars with it and it works good enough. This saw is not ment to rip huge planks or very long ones but short top bars go through it like knife through butter.

Rip Saw vs Crosscut Saw

I tried to rip top bars with a hand saw and it didnt work well. It was way too exhausting and took ages to do just one bar. What I didnt realise is that I used a crosscut saw to rip planks. I didnt know about this difference before.
I now bought a new rip saw and the difference between them is shown on images bellow:
Rip Saw teeth

Crosscut Saw teeth

I will update this issue as soon I try this new rip saw. I will also redesign the saw gude I made. It just isnt ergonomic. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Top Bars vs Supers

Must beekeeping cost lots of money?
If you check beekeeping shops you will notice very high price tags. I would also be put off beekeeping but thankfuly I discovered this hobby via the The Barefoot Beekeeper book which explains well that beekeeping doesn't have to cost much if at all. In my case I found that reused wood pallets can be used to build free top bar hives.
With top bar hives beekeeping becomes very relaxed because one cant loose anything in the economical sense and one can focus more on the wellbeing of the Honeybees instead. Conventional beeks have invested money and are therefore dependent on the profit made by honey production and pollination as well as selling Queens and colonies so they fall pray to using miticides and other treatments to save their money making property.
Not to mention all the space one needs to keep all the supers and extra hives, expensive honey extractors etc  ...
a massive pile of conventional bee equipment not in use, at my beekeeping menthor's farm

In top bar hives one pretty much has all one needs in the hive itself in form of top bars which are removed carefully by a long kitchen knife. In case of need for hive space reduction or expansion one is simply to move the follower board which is mobile, hence no need for extra supers.
I am glad I've chosen Top Bar Beekeeping

Che Guebee Apiary Salve

I made my very first salve from Olive oil, Spruce resin and virgin bees wax from my top bar hives. This salve is more like a first aid for small cuts, dry skin, insect bites since there is lots of resin in it.
Im very proud of it. Will soon make a hand salve with Olive oil, Bees wax and Lavender EO. Will make sure to plant various herbs next year in my garden so to prepare different oil solutions for new salve.

Seeley, Honeybee Democracy and Bait Hives

Thanks to Thomas D. Seeley's book called Honeybee Democracy I feel very comfortable to build a few bite hives and position them around my summer house next spring. According to his research bee swarms moved into 50% of his bite hives each year. Not all reagions are the same and some have more or less swarms than others but its worth a try to acquire some free bees.
I can warmly recomend this book to all interested in bee biology and those willing to learn how to capture a wild swarm with the use of bait hives.
Since I have Top Bar Hives I will make such bait hives to match the existing ones. Biobees forum member Tomas has the kind of Top Bar Bait Hives I will also build.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Drum Top Bar Hive got a Twin

Even though it was freezing cold outside I enjoyed every minute of making this second Top Bar Hive which is made from a reused cable drum pallet.
I just finished the body and the legs. Soon to rip some top bars, make a divider with a hessian cloth, and make a roof.
Can't wait to introduce colonies next year into these Twin Drum Top Bar Hives :)
I have a few more planks left from this drum pallet but not enough for a big hive, so will make a 10 frame nucleus hive for making splits etc ...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Happy to have not developed the habit

I read how many beekeepers which have kept bees in frame hives have problems with handling the fragile top bar comb. They have developed a habit of handling the comb strenghtened by the frame, wire and wax foundation which is not the case in top bar hives were comb hangs freely from a top bar.

Frame hive beeks find it problematic that bees fasten the top bar comb to the sides of the hive. Such brace comb must be detected and cut before managing the top bar comb. Such comb management needs patiance and frame hive beeks have developed a habit of taking out frames fairly fast not having to worry about it braking off.

Frame hive beeks find it irritating when bees start building cross comb and soon find themselves on the way back to keeping bees on wax foundations were bees have no other choice but to draw comb which includes one cell size (usually 5.4mm which is too big).

Frame hive beeks never had issues with collapsed honey comb. I hear of those who gave up top bar hives and went back to keeping bees in frame hives after just two seasons. Instead of finding the reason of comb collaps and fix it they give up into their habit of combs supported by frames.

I am happy to have never developed the habit of managing framed comb. I started keeping bees in horizontal Top Bar Hives and have developed the sensitivity for managing the free hanging comb.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Lady of Bees

"Though located at the back of the park, the most buzz generated by any exhibit had to be Pierre Huyghe’s Untilled. On your way into this wooded area you passed piles of concrete tiles for construction, raw asphalt, aphrodisiac and psychotropic plants, and an uprooted Joseph Beuys’ oak tree, while two white Spanish greyhounds—one with a leg dipped in magenta paint—frolicked, then disappeared. In the center of it all lay Our Lady of Bees, a reclining nude that featured a beehive crawling with live bees for a head. The effect was stunning."

Read more:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Top Bar Beekeeping by Les Crowder

It aint easy starting beekeeping in Kenya Top Bar Hives in a world still filled with conventional beeks which only speak about frames and foundations. As such a new beek I found it frustrating being without a menthor. I did ask on forums but there are so many views one has to cut through. Some say this others say that ...
Any way,
I was very happy when I got this book. The best part is absolutely the visual explanation on how to manage top bar comb through many illustartions. All the combs are marked with numbers for easy explanation, one clearly see where which comb goes if doing a:
spring hive management, honey flow management, strong honey flow, combining hives, hive removal, brood nest maintenance, Queen-cell building hive, two Queen system, making a divide/split, etc ...
It does it for me since I am avery particular person and like to know exactly how things work. Les Crowder did great job with this book since I feel very comfortable to use his teaching next season. They are very clear.
Highly recommended book!
L. Crowder in his top bar hive apiary

200 Top Bar Hives Beekeeper

It is so nice to know that there is someone out there who is operating many apiaries with Top Bar Hives. 200 top bar hives for the last 25 years. And not just that but aparently treatment free. Plus the beek in question does all the work himself. He is not just a beekeeper but also a scientist and now author of a new book called "Top-Bar Hive Beekeeping:  Wisdom & Pleasure Combined"
His name is Wyatt A. Mangum and I am reasured by his exampel :)
p.s. aparently the book is only sold in the States and is very expensive to ship to Europe otherwise I would realy LOVE to order this book (some say 70 dollars)

Saturday, November 17, 2012


To be licked
For she is
Down the comb
Laying in the spiral
Cells filling
To continuously be
In the arising and passing
Of the natural
Breath of Universe

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Drum Top Bar Hive

Today I decided to rip the top bars with a hand saw and that is exactly what I did ... hrmhmm ... well I did 3 top bars that way and man its hard and time consuming. One would need a whole day or two to rip all the top bars for this hive. So I pondered what to do ... and after a while I managed to fasten my old circular saw  my new work table and this is what it looks like (BEWARE!!! circular saws are very dangerous tools);
The saw is very old and very liley needs sharpening. It went slow buts still much faster than ripping by hand. I guess its not the fact that I had to invest so much energy to rip the top bars with a hand saw but that the mind knows that there is an easier way. The mind already ripped many top bars this year on a circular table saw and it was a piece of cake. I bet 100 years ago I would not even think about it and would simply carry on ripping the top bar with a hand saw since there was no other way of doing it.
The result is satisfying. All the top bars are 38mm wide and 450mm long
Then it came time to make a follower board ... well in my case its called a follower hessian cloth ;) I have seen a few beeks using this in long hives without solid dividers just a hessian cloth. I decided to nail it to the top bar.
this side is facing the bees ...
and this side is the one opposite to the bees where the feeding station will be. To let bees get to the inverted syrup jar only lift the cloth a bit.
zoom into the conection
I did not cut the cloth to suit the round shape of the hive. Like this I get extra cloth to make it bee tight
The roof is made of some white plastic sheet I have in the garage. The sheet is screwed to the wooden frame. I placed blue insulation under the roof.
Since this hive is oval and bees are known to attach comb to the walls I will need to use a very elastic knife for detaching the brace comb with. I have a perfect one for it ;)
Now its only left to coat the hive with wax and linseed oil and to apply wax guides onto the top bars with a soldering iron. One hive ready for the next season. I will start another one tomorrow. I also need to make a few swarm traps which will also be used as nucs (8-9 frames)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cable Drum Top Bar Hive

I have recently found a dismantled wooden cable drum in a skip. So I collected it in hope to make another top bar hive. And thats what dark cold days are for ;) building a beehive.

I dont have many tools but so far all i did is the hive body and the legs. Since I have only a hand saw ripping the top bars will be done by hand. Lets see how tough that is. They will all be 38mm wide. I will have no follower board but a follower hessian cloth. The planks are 29mm thick.