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?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Time to plant bee frienly bulb flowers and trees

This is it! :) The perfect time to plant all sorts of bee friendly bulb flowers, shrubs, trees and even flower seeds.

Bulb Flowers: Snowdrops, Eranthis, Anemones, Siberian Squill, Daffodils are a few bees adore.
Snow drops bloom very early, end of February and beginning of March
Eranthis is another early bloomer
Siberian Squill starts flowering after the Snowdrops
Daffodil is another early spring flower
Autumn is the right time to plant all sorts of flowering trees. I will be planting Cherry trees, Black Locust, European Spindle, Siberian Pea Shrub and Apple trees. It is possible i will go around local nature and get some Rowan, Maple and Linden trees and plant them at this time.
I will be stratifying Quince seeds in pots outdoor since they need to be in cold to be able to sprout in spring time.

Many self seeding flowers can also be planted now.

At this time of invasive mono-crop agriculture it is of alerting importance to plant bee friendly plants as much as we are able to. Lawns are useless unless covered in Clower. It is best to create large flower islands on a large lawn. This also means less need to mow the lawn = less petrol needed to feed the grass cutting machines.

Friday, November 8, 2013

European Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus)

Another good bee shrub is European Spindle. The flowers are green and bloom in late spring.
Flowers turn into rose colored pods which break and expose orange seeds. This shrub is a fine display in Autumn. I have collected a handful of seeds to plant on our new farm. Note; these seeds are poisonous to humans so make sure to explain that to your kids!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Che Guebee Apiary Summary 2013

Che Guebee Apiary in Autumn 2013
Those of you who followed my last years beekeeping journey through my other blog called Chop Wood Carry Water Plant Seeds know that I gave my 2 top bar hive colonies to the course of Self-sufficient Householding Kretsloppshuset.
Thanks to this the course got an actual teacher of Top Bar Beekeeping :) This is the first official course in top bar beekeeping in Sweden. This course is part of the Klarälvdalens Gymnasium. Im so happy to have played a role in this! Goodness knows the bees need it and so do we, a more bee-friendly approach to bee-keeping.
A good friend of mine, Patrick, who keeps bees in top bar hives is the teacher. He also runs a blog called Småbruk på ett berg i Värmland (in Swedish).

After finishing the course last year I moved to our summer house in south of Sweden. In May I bought 2 strong colonies from a local conventional beekeeper. They came on 12 frames each. Both colonies had 2 year old Queens which was perfect for me. I was after survivor stock.

During the 2012-2013 winter I have built 6 top bar hives. A few days after I've got the colonies I made 2 more splits and after the mother colonies developed Queen Cells I made 2 more smaller splits to make use of the extra Queen Cells.

The top bar hive Che Guebee 1 (CGB-1) housed the 1st mother colony which was on 12 combs. A few days after transferring the frames to this hive, using chop'n'crop, I made the first split. I took out the old Queen, 3 combs of cupped brood and 2 combs of honey and pollen and placed it into the CGB-2 hive.
I also brushed 2 combs of house bees into the new hive to ensure there are enough bees in it to care for the brood.
CGB-1 hive started building queen cells as soon they figured out the Queen has left the hive, but they figured this out too late. For some reason they didn't notice the queen is gone and they passed the 6 days window to raise a new queen. Queens can be only raised from larvae max 3 days old. After that the eggs have hatched into a worker bee larvae. 
When I inspected this hive after a week I could not find any Queen Cells! I immediately borrowed one comb of fresh eggs from their original queen which was placed into the new split and after a few days I could see Queen Cells in making :) 
Soon enough they cupped 8 QC'c. I left 4 QC's in this hive and removed 4 to make new splits. I placed 2 cells in a new hive called CGB-5 and 2 cells in the CGB-6 top bar hive.
The new virgin Queen emerged and killed the other 3 queens which were still in their cells (cells chewed on their sides), mated successfully and begun laying eggs. This colony had no other issues during this season. It developed very strong and I even harvested a few kg of honey from them.

CGB-2 hive is the split made from CGB-1 hive. This hive has a 2 year old Queen and this is her 3rd year. Fantastic egg layer. This colony had no issues. Growing strong all season. They started off with 5 combs.

CGB-3 hive is the other mother colony which started on 12 combs. I made a new split from them by moving the 2 year old queen, 3 brood combs and 2 honey combs into the CGB-4 top bar hive.
This hive immediately raised couple of Queen Cells. 
I inspected this hive and found a new large queen which was laying eggs :) so happy I was, but after a couple of month I noticed that this hive is starting to be less and less active. I inspected it again and found the queen still laying lots of eggs but there were no larvae and no cupped brood cells which was indicating that there was something wrong with this Queen.
My local bee inspector re-queens his hives almost every year and he kills the old queens so I asked him if I can get one of his old queens. He was happy to give me one of the best one sin his opinion, so I re-queened this hive I think in August. The young queen I took out and killed her instantly and after 6 hours I placed this new, 1 year old Queen, in the hive. She was inside a cage with 3 attendant bees. After a couple of days I checked if she was released and found her still in her cage, so I removed her by hand and placed her on a comb. The colony took her in immediately and a couple of weeks I found eggs, larvae and some cupped brood too :) Happy days. The colony developed nicely afterwards.

CGB-4 hive is the split I made from the CGB-3 mother colony. This hive got the 2 year old queen, 3 capped brood combs and 2 honey combs to start with. This colony grew strong this year. This is the only colony showing small amount of aggressiveness. They refuse to go down into the hive when I try to close top bars. I tried to spray them but they ignored this, so I had to push them down with the dull side of my hive tool (normal bread knife). I will see how aggressive they are next year. In case they show much of it I will no doubt re-queen.

CGB-5 hive is a short TBH. This is one of the small splits which ended up on 8 combs before the cold autumn weather. I had a very interesting issue with this hive. After I gave it 2 Queen Cells and inspected it in a couple of weeks the cells were chewed on their sides and I could not find a virgin queen in it. No eggs, no signs of a queen, but the worker bees were calm. I read in many books and web site that if the queen cell is chewed on its side the queen has been killed so I assumed this hive is queenless. 
I immediately gave them a new comb with fresh eggs from their mother hive but after inspecting this hive in a week I found no Queen Cells!
And then I saw the new Queen laying eggs :) She was not killed as I first thought. Lesson learned :) cell chewed on its side does not necessarily mean a killed virgin queen. Apparently bees can re-seal the queen cell after the virgin emerges and then start destroy the queen cell by chewing its side off.
After this the colony developed nicely.

CGB-6 is another short top bar hive. This hive got eggs from the CHB-1 mother colony and combs from CGB-3 colony. This colonies virgin Queen looked very short so I presumed she is an Intercast Queen raised from a larvae older than 4 days but after a month I could see her abdomen being very long and she gave birth to a very fine colony.

All colonies got sugar syrup in September. I fed them in total 88 kg sugar syrup. This is just far from being sustainable so next year will try to do something different. I have created a new hive design with a super on top called Bee-friendly Super Top Bar Hive. Will blog about it next year. All colonies will be moved to our new farm in Denmark next April.

The bee suit is hanging patiently on the wall waiting for the next season :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Once upon a time ...

Once upon a time - not so very long ago - all farming was 'organic'. The soil was fed with manures and compost; pests were managed by multi-cropping and rotation; crops were grown according to their suitability for the local climate and soil type. Farming and food were the focus of seasonal celebrations, and haymaking brought everyone into the fields.

     In those days, the air was alive with multitudes of birds and insects, each with its ecological niche,  dependent on one another and ultimately on the living soil, full of bacteria, fungi and myriad creatures that silently maintained its fertility. Farmers knew that healthy soil was everything; neither plant nor beast could thrive without it.

     When mechanization made it possible to plough faster than a horse, farmers were encouraged to rip out hedges to make bigger fields. Instead of a few acres of a variety of crops, they began to grow hundreds of acres of the same crop, attracting insects and birds that found a monoculture of their favourite food irresistible. Chemical manufacturers found a new market for poisons that could be spread on the fields to kill these 'pests' and crop rotation fell out of fashion in favour of the 'modern' way: short-term fertility induced by drugs, turning farmers into junkies at the mercy of agri-chemical pushers.

     Now, there are many fewer farmers and almost none who knew farming before chemicals. They sit in air-conditioned tractors, high above the soil, heedless of the lack of life below. Or they sit in front of a screen, viewing satellite images of their land, looking for patches in need of yet more artificial fertilizer.

     Where there was  once a thriving community of worms, nematodes, beetles and countless other creatures, there is now a sterile wasteland incapable of supporting life. Soil has become merely a support medium for plants, which are utterly dependent on synthetic chemical inputs, supplied by the same companies that manufactured poison gas for the Nazis.

     Bees, once integrated into the farming economy and respected and nurtured for their pollination of orchard fruit and hedgerow, now struggle to survive among the systemically-toxic crop plants. Insecticides are now added to the plant's vascular system by means of seed coatings - like putting a nicotine patch on your arm - so every part of them is now poisonous to bees and any other creature that dares to nibble a root, a leaf, a stem, or drink its nectar or take its pollen.

     For the sake of glossy, out-of-season fruit and vegetables on supermarket shelves year-round, we have put at risk the very survival of the species on which we - and the health of the planet - ultimately depend. If we continue to allow a handful of super-rich, trans-national corporations free rein to peddle their poisons, regardless of the devastation they cause, then we will be held as culpable as they when our grandchildren ask why we, knowing what was happening, sat back, watching TV, while their planet slowly died.

Phil Chandler