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?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Top Bar Hive to Heaven

This hive design is a breath taker :) I just LOVE it! What say you? Hive of the day? ;)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Saying goodbye to my hives in Varmland

Today was the last day of my 8 month course in Self-Sufficient Homesteading. I was the one who started the Top Bar Hive project and had the responsability for the hives. I have built the hives and looked after them. We started with one Split hive and then I managed to capture a Prime Swarm so we ended up with two hives. This year was very rainy resulting in poor honey flow. The bees didnt make enough winter store honey so i fed approx 25kg of sugar in total to both hives in a form of sugar syrup (sugar 5:3 water) which was served in an inverted jar. They managed to fill approx 12 combs. The hives are winterised by placing extra planks on the North walls and by reducing the size of the cavity with a follower board and by placing rock wool on top of the top bars. I also filled the windows with raw wool. I think this will do. I wish the ladies to have a swift winter and a bountyful spring and summer next year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bee Wisdom by Sam Comfort

Fixed Comb

There are of course no poor or misguided questions. Though an absurd one is “How to keep bees.” Rather than just “had,” bees started being “kept” when we followed the egotistical urge to “help” them and shortcut their natural inclinations. Bees need but a hollow space and clean forage. We’ve already gummed up the latter with misdirected chemicals and mundanity, and the former is an art form lost in a bizarre world of expensive gear, intricate manipulations, artificial crutches, and supposition of a divine role.

Outlawed in many parts of the world, a relationship with once popular, impenetrable natural comb hives, skeps, gums, and Warre-style hives, is liable of fine, condemnation, and scoff from peers and professionals. We mustn’t have uncontrollable freedom; imagine what all those bison would have done if we hadn’t stopped them... Who knows The History of Abolishment of Wild Beehives in the US and Europe?


These are indeed exciting times to bee. During the Irish potato famine, eating clover saved countless from starvation. The hardy dandelion will certainly blossom into a similar partnership for us in the coming storm. Bees honor strong allies such as dandelions.

Ok, dandelions.

This country is waging war against the weeds. Dandelions are so beneficial to humans and bees. We look ignorantly suicidal in their eradication with the use of toxins - for just the point of doing so!

Dandelions, honey bees, and humans are not considered long term natives to North America. Yet we rage against new invasive species with the same emotional material that builds prejudice, hate, and blindness. We point a finger at a plant for disrupting the ecosystem, while agriculture creates nitrogen imbalances, vulnerable monocultures, overgrazing, disrupted pollination corridors, compromising an ecosystem’s immunity and allowing opportunists to bask in the warming climate. And we go ahead and blame the plant.

The most invasive plants in this country and the world are corn, cotton, and soy. All the US thinks about these days is corn corn corn. In 2008 the USDA released the info that by 2012 the US will be importing 40% of its produce, mostly from China. This is the USDA talking, not some radical environmental group. This is the way it is, not the country’s “plan.” It doesn’t sound like we are building an infrastructure resilient to the energy problems we all foresee.


There are 140 some known honey bee diseases. The first wave of CCD research, mostly sponsored by beekeepers, revealed the bees in this country exhibited all the known diseases and then some new ones. What to do about this? Find a chemical and nuc em all? Hmm. I’m gonna write a tear-stained letter. That’s what I’ll do.

It is possible for hives to thrive without chemicals or special treatments. Just as this starts sounding all hogwashed and harebrained, we will look at how the commercial applications, competitive mentality, and groupmind forged on control and fear affect its place, including its pollinators, as oppose to the collective mind (or shared gene pool) of the diverse symbiosis of an ecosystem. We approach the hive as its own BALANCED ecosystem of over 6000 microbes. We will learn to trust what’s going on with all that.

Hive Stewardship

Screen Bottom Boards

Many friends, etc., claim success using a screen, so that mites drop through and can't reach the cluster again. I don't use em. Why? Because varroa destructor will not be stopped by any active human manipulation. This is a wise arachnid. It inbreeds every generation. A generation is short- each bee brood cycle. Varroa breeds, mutates, and adapts much faster than the bees. High breeding rates give them a genetic answer to any treatment or manipulation (as do the bees themselves). Even formic acid, a very effective "organic" treatment, IS NOT WORKING by itself in many southern apiaires. Not all the mites are killed. The survivors exhibit behaviors they pass to their offspring. So sugar dusting and screen bottom boards promote varroa mites that hang on better. Drone brood removal favors feisty varroa that successfully reproduce on worker brood. However, a parasite that repeatedly kills its host will die with its host. Leaving a group of hives "alone" will allow the development of less aggressive mites and stronger bees. I know that many hives in the world have reached this balance.

Ok. You say you have one hive and you really don’t want it to die. Your bees are failing. What do you do?

We are setting up several forums for all these ideas and others. Look for bee clubs in your area, read the magazines, listen to them as well as question their foundational beliefs. Better yet, bee a new way yourself.

The Bee Myth

Joining hives with Dowels instead of Screws and Nails

I will stop with using un-sustainable materials for making top bar hives. I will stop making mesh floors totally.  Reused and Recycled screws and nails are just fine but under no circumstances am I to buy new ones :)
Instead I will learn hot to join hive planks with wooden dowels and wood glue. I have lined up to make a few top bar hives for my Apiary this winter and I see no reason for not joining them with wooden dowels.
Stay tuned ;)
This set costs under 3 Euro in Sweden. Note the 4 dowel centers to mark the exact position of the previously drilled holes onto the other one, NICE ;) I think I have a hand drill too, happy days!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Temperature go Up - Bees go Out

We had very cold frosty weather lately and the bees went silent, clustering in the hive. Today it is cloudy but the temperature went up and the bees got active again. I left the outside feeder station untouched from before which is filled with 3 inverted jars containing 5:3 sugar syrup. The ladies immediatelly went to work it and man they are emptying it.
Important to note is that only the prime swarm hive is working the sugar and the split hive is not active but clustering in the hive. I wonder if the periscope entrance has anything to do with it, stopping the smell of the suagr syrup of reaching the hive. The prime swarm has a top entrance through which the outdoor smell can easily get into the hive.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pallet Timber can be safe if marked HT but not if MB

I acquired some pallet wood and remember reading it was not safe for making beehives with, so I researched a bit further;

Wikipedia writes this about ISPM 15;

International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15) is an International Phytosanitary Measure developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) that directly addresses the need to treat wood materials of a thickness greater than 6mm, used to ship products between countries. Its main purpose is to prevent the international transport and spread of disease and insects that could negatively affect plants or ecosystems. ISPM 15 affects all wood packaging material (pallets, crates, dunnages, etc.) requiring that they be debarked and then heat treated or fumigated with methyl bromide and stamped or branded,[1] with a mark of compliance. This mark of compliance is colloquially known as the "wheat stamp". Products exempt from the ISPM 15 are made from alternative material, like paper, plastic or wood panel products (i.e. OSB, hardboard, and plywood).

It seems there are two ways to make sure the pallet is treated;

- HT is the code for heat treatment to a minimum of 56°C (133°F) for a minimum of 30 minutes
- MB is the code for methyl bromide fumigation.

I have checked the pallets I got and they have the mark HT which means Heat Treated and is safe to use for building a bee hive in my opinion.

I couldnt find any pallets with MB (Methyl Bromide) so far and it could be Sweden which has regulations about this sort of pesticide. This could be on an EU level too. Check on the wheat stamp before using the pallet timber.

A gorgeous Pallet Wood Top Bar Hive;
How to dismantle a pallet - video

Ameriacan Foulbrood (AFB) is not contagious according to Les Crowder

I am reading Les Crowder's new Top Bar Beeking book (which I love) and found something extremelly interesting about the American Foulbrood which I must quote here for educational purpouse that is;

He said, "Son, I looked up those bacteria and those bacteria are not pathogenic bacteria; they are putrefactive bacteria. I dont believe they cause the disease; they just decay the dead larvae."
I asked him what he thought caused the disease and he responded with, "the old black combs in the hive, particularly in the brood nest, arelike us trying to stay healthy in a house full of sewage. Those old combs get tick and heavy full of molds and bacteria."

I jumped over a part to this;

"The books all say that if you find a hive sick with foulbrood, you should sterilise your hands and hive tool before you open the next hive so you dont spread the disease. I want you to try to spread the disease! Take combs full of sick larvae out of the sick hive, brush most of the bees off, and put the whole stinking comb in a healthy hive. Whatch what happens to the healthy hive. Keep trying if you want. I bet you won't be able to spread the disease, providing you dont fill up the hive with old black combs.."

A week later I did find American Foulbrood in one of my hives. I decided to try Dr. Lyle's experiment. I shook most of the bees off and gave the comb full of dead, decaying larvae to a small, queen mating nucleus hive .... it had a total of four combs and now one of them was filled with foulbrood-infected larvae.
.... .... ....
.... One week later I looked inside there were no dead larvae or any other indication of foulbrood on the healthy combs, and the foulbrood comb had very few sick larvae left. I thought that perhaps there might be an incubation period and that I hadnt waited long enough. When I checked again in another week, the hive seemed disease-free. I gave it another infected comb and watched it all summer. It never got sick."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bees can bite as well as sting

Scientists have discovered bees not only bite enemies that are too small to sting, but paralyse their victims with a snake-like venom.

The insects use their tiny mandibles to bite animals that are too small to sting, like the wax moth and the parasitic varroa mite.

Like the snake bite, the bite contains a natural anaesthetic to paralyse the victim so the pest can be dragged out of the hive.

The finding, in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, could help scientists develop ways to help bees fight off viruses that are affecting the wider population.

Dr Alexandros Papachristoforou, of the University of Thessaloniki in Greece, who led the team, said the finding will cause “a complete re-thinking of honeybee defence mechanisms” and could lead to the production of a natural, low toxicity local anaesthetic for humans and animals.

“It is amazing that this second line of honeybee defence has gone undetected for so long. Beekeepers will be very surprised by our discovery and it is likely to cause a radical rethink of some long-held beliefs. It will probably stimulate honeybee research in many new directions,” he said.

Scientsits found 2-heptanone (2-H), a natural compound found in many foods as well as insects, in the bite.

They discovered for the first time that the compound has anaesthetic properties.

“Somewhat like a snake, the honeybee uses its mandibles to bite its enemy and then secretes 2-heptanone into the wound to anaesthetise it. This enables the honeybee to eject the enemy from the hive and is a particularly effective defence against pests, such as wax moth larvae and varroa mites, which are too small to sting,” stated the report.

The team of researchers from Greek and French organisations worked in collaboration with Vita (Europe) Ltd, the UK-based honeybee health specialist.

Dr Max Watkins, Technical Director of Vita (Europe) Ltd said “We are very excited about our findings on at least two levels. Firstly, the revelation that honeybees can bite enemies that they cannot sting confounds some existing ideas and adds significantly to our biological knowledge. Secondly, the discovery of a highly effective natural anaesthetic with huge potential will be of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry eager to develop better local anaesthetics."

Poem of a Dying Bee

Don't cry for me human!
Out of wrong view
Your tears flow now.

Feeling sorrow
For one dying bee
Yet mourning you are not
Your own dying cells.

Vibrating within each cell
The honey bee colony is
As in your body
Cells die all the time.

With each dying cell
A new bee is born.
Continuation of the Universe.

Potentilla fruticosa Shrub

It is middle of October in Sweden and its clid and rainy. The bees are clustering in the hive.
I have noticed this shrub all over this area, planted arround houses and its still flowering despite the frost. A little reasearch on the net and most sources say it is a hardy plant flowering from May to October and Honeybees love it. I will be planting this one.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Sleeping Beauty

The sound of the Bee Yard had gone to sleep. Chilly wind and grey clouds paint this moment in time. The busy buzzing sound of the summer Apiary is fading into a memory. May you ladies have an easy winter. Remember that Spring loves you. Thank you for all you thought me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Queen Cell

I removed this collapsed comb which has this beautiful Queen Cell on it a few weeks after this hive swarmed last July. This must be the cell from which the current Queen emerged since it is uncupped from above. The Queen Cells which are killed by the first born Queen are destryed from their sides.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Result from the recent TBH Workshop

As some of you already know from my other blog (which will not contain anymore info on bees) i held a 3 day top bar hive workshop where 4 participants have built their top bar hives. We didnt have all the roof materials and for that reason we could not finish in time, but today Sofia finished her very first bee hive :)
Sofia filling the roof quilt with wood shavings for insulation
Happy face after completing the hive :) All the best with Bees Sofia

The Bees are not giving up

Last two night were frosty and to my surprise the bees are still flying out and feeding on sugar syrup which I placed into an inverted jar. Surprised because the outside temperature is 6'Celsius and bees aparently need 12'C to fly. The Sun was shining all day today and this must be the factor inducing flights.
Here is a short video;

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Secret Life Of Bees

"Place a beehive on my grave
And let the honey soak through.
When I'm dead and gone,
That's what I want from you.
The streets of heaven are gold and sunny,
But I'll stick with my plot and a pot of honey.
Place a beehive on my grave
And let the honey soak through."

Poem from the movie The Secret Life Of Bees

The last Winterising bits

The Frost Giants have invaded these Nordic lands once again and the minus had hit the fan. It was time to put the bees under the duvet :) so to keep them safe from the cold draft.

- Top Bar Hive No1
wrapping the brood nest area where the honey is now stored for the winter.
top bars back in place to close the hive body
I have placed aluminium rock wool into the black bag on top
I stuffed the windows with raw wool. Note the blue cover being placed behind the follower board
This is my first Top Bar Hive which I've built and housed my first bee colony in. It has a very special place in my heart :)
I screwed a few 25mm tick (old grey) planks on both hives from the North side only, which makes a 50mm tick wall.

- Top Bar Hive No2
same here ... placing the cover on top of the honey comb chamber and then wrapping the follower board to close any cracks.
aluminium rock wool on top
securing the roof so not to be blown off. Top entrance will ensure the snow not clogging the entarance for the bees,
Good bye my dear ladies. May you have an easy winter. Hold on tight to those honey combs. This is the last time we will meet since these hives now belong to the Kretsloppshuset school of Self-sufficient householding in Varmland (Sweden).
Much love to you and may you bee happy at heart

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Its not CCD its PCD !


To put the qualms of anthropomorphizing aside, the short answer (for the folks making chit chat): Bees are fed up with the way we treat the dirt and not gonna take it anymore! They are pissed!

Longer answer:

It's not CCD colony collapse distortion we are dealing with, it's PCD: People Collapse Disorder.
You can tell the world! Collapse Disorder is from having no interest in the foundation of our ecosystem. Rather, our history is a longstanding anthropocentric domination of the landscape. Science got shafted. We all did! This sucks! Everything is this illusion of control. The goals of our technologies are not conducive to the well-being of our species or life on the planet but founded on the phony idea of profit as the only success in life.

Land is simple because it is just everything out there. We try to make it complex by being just one thing. It's a cultural definition of “food” or “lawn.” The time to keep it as such is money. The acknowledgement of our surroundings wastes time. Be afraid. Are you really gonna sell me "Sterility is the answer?" Something mediocre that provides income right now? We don't know anything. Every action is a futile effort. coumaphos foomafoss. Fight the mite and say goodnight! Protect the bees and buzz with ease. " ... continue reading
How did Sam Comfort save his colonies?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Borage - Borago officinalis

Borage is one of the easiest and best bee plants that I have found.  It has many advantages for both gardeners and beekeepers:
For gardeners

Borage is a herb and the seed packet will tend to tell you that the cucumber leaves taste nice in a Pimms. This is true but greatly undervalues the plant;

grows very easily from seed – just push the big seeds into the soil and off they go
plants grow to about 2ft with masses for beautiful blue 5 petal flowers from May to October – employ the ‘Chelsea chop’ to some plants in June to keep them tidy and flowering well.
because bees love them they are great for attracting pollinators to your veg or soft fruit patch
they self seed so, as long as you avoid weeding them out, you will get a good crop free next year in either flowerbed or veg patch
For Beekeepers

Borage provides high levels of both nectar and pollen and flowers for 3 months or more providing:

food supply from late spring/early summer, through the June gap, into late summer
depending on how much is available, can produce a very high yield of honey
the honey is pale, runny, delicate and slow to set – may be able to off-set some of the fast setting effects of rape if both are present in the area
if planted around the hive as a forage boost, it will out-compete weeds if planted early.

Sugar syrup feeding behind the follower board

I feed my hives with 5:3 sugar syrup because the nectar flow failed this year. I feed them behind the follower board because even if its raining they can work the sugar syrup undisturbed.