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, July 30, 2014

Denmark's environment is a desert for pollinators

I was talking to a local conventional beekeeper today and he told me that he is about to start winterizing his hives; feeding with sugar syrup and "locking up" the hives which means leaving only 2 boxes in total and removing the supers.

I told him that this must be too early since it is only end of July but he said plants will not be able to produce much because of the drought and there isn't much forage left in this locality anyway because of all the mono-culture which already bloomed long ago in form of Canola.

Im shocked indeed! So there is no Autumn Honey in my locality!

I was thinking to harvest some honey from my strongest colonies end of July but now I'm worried to do so, unless I decide to feed them with sugar which I really don't want to do. My plan was to let them overwinter on their own honey and only take a few combs for myself from the strong colonies.

What I can do is equalize stores between all colonies and have none for myself. I guess I can go to my local conventional beekeeper and buy some from him ... sad really. His honey is only Canola honey which he could make thanks to swarm control by supering at that time and drone and queen cell culling which I dont do.

He suggested that I start migrating bees to better pastures around this part of Denmark as he is doing. There are those who grow White Clover for example.
I didnt have these issues in Sweden (South of Sweden is the same as Denmark though).
Mono-crop agriculture is the end of us no doubt.

I will need to do my best to create a bee sanctuary on my farm. It is needed indeed! I can see this now. So far my farm looks like on this photo map;
The sheep pasture has been already sown with white clover and grasses and I'm waiting for it to start growing. The kitchen garden area will be organized next year and this autumn and will also be planted with bee friendly flowers (click on photo to enlarge it)

It would be easy for me to just let the bees be (as I already do) if I was a person with a "regular" job and bees are just a hobby. But I'm trying to make a living as a self-sufficient homesteader and some honey would sure help this life style somewhat. I mean I love working with bees and I would love to strike a balance between my household needs and bees needs. I mean I have people asking me to sell some honey to them and I have none! Sad even my wife is asking if we are going to have some honey at least for us this year?

How do I do that in this mono-crop environment and with natural practice?

It's obvious that letting bees have a brood break will resulting less honey but that is one thing I can't take away from them! This means my bees will either swarm or be split in May/Jun when the swarming impulse is strongest.
My bees will always have freedom to build natural comb that's for sure!

This locality is fairly good in Spring and early Summer. Lots of Willow, Maple, Hawthorn, fruit trees, dandelions, thistles, some white clover and of course there is always some Canola around here. But after thistles are done it seems dead.

So it seems that the only way to make some honey is by joining two colonies after the splitting in the same hive but separated by a tight follower board and placing a super on top so they both share it. Queen excluder might be necessary here so queens don't mix.

I could do that in a TBH I suppose or in a long Scandinavian hive. I should also feed new swarms with sugar syrup so they buildup comb faster. I rather feed sugar during comb building season than later.

It's seems I must ponder ...
Here is a video showing our mono-crop environment. Sad really :(

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Lack of natural nectar sources will very likely trigger robbing. It is not just Honeybees robbing Honeybees but also Wasps and Bumblebees can be seen within the hive trying to rob the stored honey. We are experiencing an extremely dry season for the last few weeks. Without water flowers can't produce nectar. So even if there are flowers around one can't see any bees on them. Bees and Wasps need food to feed their growing population and if there is nothing to be found in the fields they turn to robbing other colonies. Robbing can also be expected in late Autumn when nectar sources become scarce. The only thing a beekeeper can do to minimize robbing is to reduce the entrance size. I have only one 30 mm hole on all my hives which could be sufficient for strong colonies but a bit too big for small colonies. I might start reducing the small colony entrances to just half the hole to reduce robbing. The smaller the entrance the better the bees can guard it. I have not observed full robbing attacks and hope not to see any. 
In this photo one can observe bees trying to evict/kill a Wasp
Here you can can see 3 bees trying to evict/kill a bee which doesn't belong to this hive and
is very likely there to rob some honey. I have observed at least 8 bees being attacked by
 the colony through the observation window

Friday, July 25, 2014

Foraging has turned into scavenging

I can see bee activity slowing down after the Thistles stopped blooming. It seems there is nothing mush left out there in this mono-crop agri-landscape.
Honey bee on Yarrow which is a poor source of nectar and pollen but better this than nothing
Once you see bees working flowers which aren't good sources of nectar and pollen foraging has turned into scavenging. They trying to squeeze all whats left in this locality.
Honey bee working a Tansy flower which is not rich in pollen nor nectar

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Drone Wars 2014 have begun

2 days ago I have seen many Drones in front of hive entrances not being allowed to re-enter the hives. This morning I have seen dead drones under the entrances on the ground which is a clear sign that Drones have been evicted in my colonies. Let me notice that this happened before the end of July which is not the case in most conventional hives because they suppress swarming impulse of their colonies and do drone culling and all sorts of manipulations which puts bee biology on hold, hence even drone eviction takes place later in the season. Its a known fact that Varroa prefers to breed within Drone cells. Less drone brood = less Varroa, naturally. So instead culling drone brood at the start of the season when bees need all their drones for mating with virgin queens, I let my bees evict drones after the swarming season is over.
By the way I have noticed a very interesting plant in a near by town which started blooming in late spring and is still blooming now end of July! :) The bees are working it with great enthusiasm :) I must find its ID and get some for our forest garden.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Danish Government is close to slaughtering their wild nature!

I went for a run the other day and decided to run a 6 km round. This is roughly the radius where my bees forage so it was a great opportunity to see what they can harvest in July now. The realization that there is nothing for them to actually forage in the sense of Honey Flow was frightening. Even though it was very hot out side I felt a sudden chill down my spine! "How can bees and other pollinators survive in such a dead environment.?" I asked my self. Pollinators can do nothing else but scavenge everything they can find in this highly agricultural environment. 
On this map you can see our small farm in the middle of the black circle which roughly represents a 2 km radius around my apiary. To the right you can see the near by town of Hårlev which has domestic flowers within households. All the red circles represent forests and fields which are not used for mono-crop agriculture of wheat, oat and canola. Not many grass fields and if there are some most are used for hay for the horses which has none white clover or dandelions. 

The forest parts are beneficial in the spring and start of summer but later nothing much except for honey dew to be found there. The hedgerows are far too poor to offer anything at this time. There are hardly any wild grass fields or  meadows except in our forest garden and in the red circle between our farm and the town to the right. There is one wild field to the left too but that is where another beekeeper keeps up to 12 hives so his bees sure take the most out of it. Apparently beekeepers here have problems with bees from other apiaries robbing their colonies. No wonder they do that since there is nothing much else to do to get ready for the winter. I now see why conventional beeks say "you must feed with sugar syrup for the winter". I also now see why they dislike swarming which leads to brood break at the time of Canola flowering. They don't want their bees to have this because this is the only time they can actually make some honey for them selves it seems. Very sad indeed.

Instead of trying to change the environment towards biodiversity we try to adapt to this mono-crop agriculture by feeding sugars and not letting bees express their own biological needs! 
Im not sure I can keep many colonies in this locality. Its time to seek for an out apiary somewhere where organic white clover grows.

I have read in the newspaper today an interesting article stating that "Danish Government is Slaughtering its Nature". So true once you see the fact with your own eyes. I mean for me it is easy to see how poor this environment looks since I have kept bees in parts of Sweden within a bio-diverse environment. 
From the article; " The wild nature in Denmark has way too little space and is starved by the intense use of pesticides and fertilizers. It is so bad that a large part of wild flowers and butterflies are disappearing. Denmark is in need for wild nature like never before", sais biologist Michael Stoltze.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our Forest Garden will be called "Bee Sanctuary"

It is absolutely beautiful to see so many different pollinators congregating in our wild forest garden. This place must be an Oasis in this enormous mono-culture human created environment. I think it is time to call it a Bee Sanctuary;
Anthidium florentinum is a gorgeous Mason Bee which I have never seen before
Mason Bee and a Syrphid Fly
Various butterflies can be seen on Thistles
Various Bummblebees
Ebilobium hirsutum Giant Willowherb

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bearding in July

It is mid of July and I see all of my colonies today bearding at the hives entrance. We had a few hot weeks with temperature up to 30'C which is very hot for Scandinavia and the nectar flow was good enough I would say. Since yesterday it is raining heavily. I went to the apiary when the rain stopped for a minute just to find bees on all all hives (except 2) bearding infront of the hive. I can also see ventilator bees at the entrance which is a positive indicator, meaning they are evaporating the nectar.

 Most of the bees hanging outside are with warn wings and with bold black thoraxes which indicates old forager bees. This can mean one thing; young bees can evict older foragers once the main honey flow is over (which can happen in July) and are keeping them outside to make more space for the nectar evaporation inside and to have less mouths to feed. Such old bees will die soon anyway.

 It is not windy so Im sure they are not protecting the entrance for that reason. Im almost certain this must be the eviction of older bees, but with bees one can never know.
Here you can see a slug trying to enter the hive but to no avail

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Bee Group Mykorrhiza" visiting Che Guebee Apiary in Denmark

Today my bee ladies and I've got visitors from Sweden :) Our bee friends from the "Bee Group Mykorrhiza" came to see how we are doing! It was great to see some of them, pity not all could come but we hope to see the rest some time soon!
Of course we had to check few hives and see how the new swarms are settling in
One of the new swarms have lots of brood which is a great sign. Maybe
the brood pattern is a bit "shot gun" but this could be due to an old Queen.
... and after the hive inspections we continued to talk
about bees beside the BBQ ;)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Which flowers do bees prefer in my locality?

Before I say anything else I would like to say that on many occasions I have seen bees work Phacelia flowers like mad but in my locality they seem to ignore it. I did see Bumblebees working it but not even one single Honeybee. I didn't plant much of it. I planted a small plot with Phacelia and Borage and Honeybees are only working the Borage for some (only to them known) reason. This is very interesting for me since Im trying to help the bees and planting something they don't prefer is useless. Well not entirely true since Bumblebees work anything really. If I'm to plant large plots with something it sure will be Borage and Calendula. We already have a wild plot with lots of Thistles so that is kind of giving lots of great quality pollen and nectar.
Honeybee working Borage flower
Why I think Borage has something important for the bees is the fact that there are thousands of Thistles which bees already work yet they still didn't ignore the small plot with a few Borage plants. Yet they did so with Phacelia.
Ah, I almost forgot to mention; I also planted Buckwheat and I could not observe not even one Honeybee on it! (confused). It seems it is important to find just those flowers which bees prefer within your locality. They always go for the "better".
Bees are also working White Clover at the moment which is a fabulous
source of nectar and pollen.

New Study finds Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide 125 Times More Toxic Than Regulators Say

I feel heartbroken today :( I went to a near by store to buy an organic weed killer for around our home and they said that they had none but they do have something very good called Round Up! I was immediately agitated and replied how dare they try selling me this bee killer Glyphosate which on top can cause cancer! They just looked at me and said "but no one wants the organic stuff". I told her that I used to be a salesman, a damn good one too, and that I could sell what ever to my customer if I believed in the product. "How can you sell organic herbicide if you have none on the shelves??!! This simply means you don't care! " I replied.
I aslo said that I am a beekeeper and homesteader and I can not imagine exposing my chicken and Ducks as well as bees and other insect life to this poison! 
And while I was leaving I saw a woman with a child buying a bottle of Round Up even though she heard me talk :( How sad, how sad, how sad .... :(

Organic weed killing alternative to such poisons is white vinegar which can be obtained in any food store. Simply spray a few time a week over the weeds and they will stop growing.

For those of you interested HERE IS A LINK to the fact that Round Up is 125 times more toxic than regulators say! Our politicians are utterly ignorant to allow this stuff to be used!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Where do Che Guebees forage?

In case you wonder how this locality looks like forage wise for the bees here is the map to illustrate it. Our farm (and the apiary) is the red spot marking Alminde 19 and the near by city Hårlev is to the right. There are some small forest areas but most of them are planted forests so we can rather called them plantations which dont offer much, maybe bees can find lots of Aphid Honey Dew there which is better than nothing. All the fields you see in this photo represent conventional mono-crop agriculture which is sprayed several times a year with pesticides/fungicides/herbicides. I wonder how many colonies will make it through the winter with such poor and poisoned forage??? Time will tell ...

Humidity and bearding

Today is extremely humid in our locality after the brief rain it increased even more. It is hard to breath outdoors and one of my strongest hives is acting accordingly to regulate internal humidity and temperature by "bearding" infront of the hive entrance. It is very common that newbee beekeepers immediately assume that this means swarming but it is far from it. If bees are swarming they are pouring out the entrance in a cloud of bees settling nearby the hive either on a tree branch or a tall-ish structure in the hive's vicinity.

Strong colonies have way too many bees between the combs and when humidity increases their bodies act as a barrier so the humidity is kept inside. There is also to take their respiration increasing the inner humidity levels. So the best way to deal with this issues to get out of the hive and let the ventilator bees reduce the internal humidity and bring it down to desired level. Hence bearding.
Thistles are in full bloom. "Lots" of good forage for the bees in this
danish mono-crop barren landscape

Friday, July 4, 2014

University of Copenhagen is officially buzzing

We have introduced bees yesterday into the University's top bar hive. We have bought a conventional colony and performed a technique called chop'n'crop so to fit the framed combs into the sloped sided top bar hive. All went well and the bees are happily buzzing in their new home :) All students seem to be happily buzzing too :)

Teachers Christian and Dusko with students from the
University of Copenhagen
Christian and his cute daughters watching bees through the observation window