Skip to main content

Evaluating Beekeeping techniques

With So much new information available you could easily be led into a false sense of informational accomplishment. The utube, websites, online libraries, and countless avenues of blogs and forums can leave you overwhelmed.
A very simple way to navigate through the maze of intel is to ask yourself a few questions. 
 First off, what and why are you looking for this?
Secondly, try to figure out a few things about the author. Tried and true, well versed in beekeeping, and respected by their peers. Perhaps not here.......

Thirdly and most importantly, evaluate the location of the author, type of equipment, and the type of bees he/she is presenting in the material. What works in the South doesn't work up here in the Hudson Valley and vice versa. 

The differences in species of bees is profound and generally not really understood by a lot of folks. 
There are many ways to keep bees in a box and many ways to hurt them as a result of misapplied intel gathering. 
I enjoy watching the videos, love the spirit and enthusiasm of the people who took the time to make a video and post it. its awesome. The variety and ingenuity of our beekeeping community is to be appreciated. 
You can learn a lot, and in many ways bees are bees, with similar behaviors, be they Italian or carniolan. the difference is in the subtleties and the finer points.  The later is a lifetime of observation.
What works for Italian bees is far from ideal for carniolans.  Italians over winter well in three deeps, Carnicas  do well in 1 deep. Russians have gotten a bad name here  due to a local supplier, and no one is running black bees as far as I know. The best bee for the Hudson Valley is the Carniolan in my humble opinion.

The genetics evolved as a result of localized environmental stresses. Easy to see why an Italian bee with 10 months of foraging  in its native location has no real reason to be concerned with the size of the brood nest. generally warm and no need for storing vast quantities of resources for its 2 month long winter. Brood rearing goes along almost all year. 
Carnica, on the other hand, ventured off into the colder mountain areas of northern Europe where it faced a 7 month period of no fresh food imports. Carnica learned over time, how to be frugal and how to build up for its localized flows early in the spring, and how to quickly drop brood rearing at the slightest indication food sources were drying up.  Two very different strategies. Another factor is to consider the magnetic fields of the earth, weaker at the equator and very strong at the poles, so the further north you go the more measurable the Gauss. Carnica mate at 60 feet off the ground and Italians at 30. The magnetic fields are a discussion I will post later but for now they are very much a key to the health and well being of the honey bee. 

Recently, with the rise in usage of insulated hives, we have yet another variable in our evaluation of material. Insulated Hives are a different management strategy than wood. 8 frame, 10 frame, nucs, resource hives all require a bit of understanding of your species and your environment before being successfully utilized.

The Ontario Beekeepers use 1 deep box for winter. In NY the old timers recommended three deeps. this is quite a difference. Makes no sense as Ontario is way colder than NY.  They use queen excluders all season and have a 1 deep box brood nest. A fellow from one of the clubs here tried to copy the Ontario strategy, and was not successful, his mentor came along and said such a thing would never work and redid the box as he thought was proper for the bees. By the time I heard about it, it was all done, and that was that. But, I wanted to know what inspired this fellow to try this out. Well, basically it looked good and seemed sensible on the vids and this was a good source, University sourced. Very good so far.  So why did it fail for him? I asked him what  he thought, well he wasn't sure. I asked him what kind of bees he was running and it was mostly a mongrelized Italian, as is common enough here. 
I asked about the equipment and it was very similar to the video. Made the modifications to the brood box in june, so timing was ok earlier would have been better but not a game changer. Its obvious, why it didn't work right? Obviously bad beekeeping. Well perhaps an intermediate level, but not a bad beekeeper.

Not so obvious, unless you have spent some time with the various species of bees in your yards and have had them for at least 3 yrs to acclimate locally.
The university of Guelph has a great program for Bees. They have an island where they can mate undiluted, and a great instructional program for the province. I think the Canadians are like the Europeans and are about 10 yrs ahead of us in their beekeeping abilities, and support networks from education to inspectors.
Anyway, back to our adventurer who tried the single deep brood box. The reason why it works is for at least 5 decades they have been breeding bees ( buckfast, a unique hybrid of 4 source genetics) and doing the same management province wide.
They are like a clockwork army, with everyone doing the same chores and routine at the same time. Being it treating for mites or feeding syrup they are all on the same clock. So over a few decades they got their stock Apis Melifera  buckfast Guelphian acclimated not only to the local climate but also their management strategy. A model example of how to do a province wide program. its not only Ontario, but it is country wide. The beekeepers in Alberta have different needs and have their own program for that province, equally successful.
Our adventurer, didn't read the clues in the video, didn't ask a few key questions, and fell short.  I think he should try again, but this time with a bee more suited to a smaller brood nest. I over winter a lot of hives in one deep but I use poly hives for this, and I am quite successful. I prefer Carniolans, but have a fair amount of mongrelized carniolans.

Another example of misapplied conceptual information was the Kenyan Top Bar Hive.  RIGHT AWAY  like a warning sign, disaster train coming, do not cross etc. I mean dead give away  SPOILER ALERT .................KENYAN some place far far away in Africa, birthplace of the 44th. This would be funny, if we didn't lose so many bees in these hives.
So this young feller figured out that there was a nice little niche for outside the box thinkers of the I don't know Jack about bees hobbyist crew just lining up to be different, in their personal protest to what traditional beekeepers had  done to the wee darlings and here is our chance to be different, not just to be beekeeping cool, but beekeeping kool on steroids. Woohoo, I am dat I am so kool.

So the kenyan hive is a horizontal box with tapered sides and virtually no way to interface with with the rest of the beekeeping world in simple things like adding a frame of brood or extracting honey, two basic procedures a beekeeper might do ( like a lot). This revolution was doomed from the start, but let me explain further how this bit of ignorance kills the bees.

 Heat rises. again I repeat for those who say blasphemy, HEAT RISES. It is easier to move up than horizontally for a cluster of bees. From October to end of April its 7 months of cool to cold to really cold to cold and back to cool.  Seven months of no fresh food, no pollen, no nectar. Seven months of uniting in a cluster shivering their wings off to generate enough heat to keep the queen warm, warm up the neighboring frames of honey, especially the frames above the cluster, in a 3/4 inch pine box, perhaps wrapped up in some tar paper, for lol SOLAR  gain during the occasional day when we have sun in the winter. Really? Not once did one of these pinheads think about insulating the hive. The deck was stacked, the outcome predictable, and in the end more bees meet their maker.

The whole Top Bar (kenyan) thing stinks, especially wrapped up under the disguise of NATURAL beekeeping. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, this is as far from a tree as you can get. We use the tree as our go to model for what the bees prefer. In  Kenya they did too but the trees are dead and laying on the ground horizontally. Okie Dokie, I am sure this works in Kenya with the native bees from Kenya. Apis Scutarella, the most defensive ( the best defence is a good offence), prone to weekly swarming, small colony size, I am sure doesn't mind the horizontal hive, in fact it may serve them well in the heat of the Kenyan sun, or protect them from anteaters or what ever the  predators are there.
News Flash, your gonna have a really hard time making it work in the North. So why would you do a Kenyan top bar hive, without that climate or local bees?
If you wanted to be uber cool in your horizontal thinking, you should look at the northern European horizontal hives. I hear they are insulated as well. Have a frame size ( 18 inch) deep enough for them to store honey on each frame above them, and as their heat rises the honey is nicely warmed for consumption.  Imagine that.

Back to evaluating .....

Latitude is key.  See what is happening at your latitude worldwide. This is your greatest clue. Accidental beekeeping is expensive. Natural beekeeping is a myth, organic beekeeping is a farce, and whats left. Somewhere, you will have found a management system of bits and pieces you picked up along the way, that works for you and your bees. You will know if its working, if your bees live year after year. If not, why keep doing the same thing. It changes every year and yet somehow its all same. Our job is to keep  the colonies alive. That's hard enough. While we may get inspired by something that looks quite interesting, if we apply the Lattitude and Species filter to it, we may find its not for us. Perhaps a bit of tweaking will make it work, you wont know until you try. Thinking is good, tweaking is good. It means your in it, your seeing it, through the hives eyes. Accidental Beekeeping is not seeing it, no plan, just doing it like you probably do a lot of stuff in your life, because someone at the club, a local expert suggested it doesnt mean its right or good for your situation. Beekeeping is not easy, nor inexpensive, so try to see it in your minds eye. Remember, your living in a marginal area with less than ideal conditions. You will need to take extra steps and precautions based on practicals , not philosophicals. This applies to supplements, treatments and management.

Your imagination will be so ignited by what people are doing, in the videos, and websites. Like me, you will be inspired to reinvent the beekeeping wheel, but you had better check yourself, and apply the above wisdom in your evaluation.

Remember, there were a lot of smart people here on Earth before you came along, some were even beekeepers, some may been smarter than you. Just saying.............


Popular posts from this blog

Yes Grasshopper there is more to it.........

I think we make our own luck. I think the more prepared we are the more luck we have. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. The 5 P's of any endeavor.
If you are one of the newcomers to beekeeping you probably didn't have a real mentor, if you were lucky you had a club or an association where you could get some information, maybe.  I used to watch in the spring all the same people with the same results year after year.  The results from overwintering were not good. So what do you think happened, I would ask people. I tried to make it a learning experience, it surely is what I do when I look at my dead outs. Figure out a lot of stuff... the cause, the reason, is it a trend in my yard like a virus, was it just a brutal winter or did I fail in some way.

The first few years I had hives I was death on wheels. No questions asked you landed in my back yard you died. It wasn't until my third year I took this all seriously, and evaluated my sources and realized I was better o…

Products I Use

A few people ask me about the purpose of additives and supplements in the hive, and what I use...........................
Generally speaking, they are to improve conditions in the hive. Remember, I live in a marginal area. Some years things are fine but the last 4 years have been different.

Its like the timings of the rain and the blooms are all off. Unseasonably cool springs, serious gaps in the pollen availability has forced me to reconsider my management.

Just like convincing some to insulate their hives, supplemental feeding is not required but can be of significant help if your watching whats missing in your hive.

Until i find something better I use the following.
Dominos sugar for syrup
SUPER DFM pro-biotic formulation which adds lactic acid to the hive which is key for pollen digestion, bee bread. Additionlly 8 other key bacterias are in the formula. The formula also supresses nosema, dysentary, brood diseases, and lately im thinking it can have an effect on virus loads especia…

Blessed are the Bee Makers

To all of the great and aspiring queen rearers and breeders, past present and future, I humbly submit my thanks and appreciation.
Just one question I have as it pertains to my own quest for the perfect queen. Have you ever felt like you were domesticating a feral life form into something that could not live without man's intervention? I think that we have placed not only our bees but our planet in such great jeopardy through our ignorance and short-sighted gains. The apiary is a microcosm of all that is wrong mixed with all that could be right with our world. This is the rub,  the chasm, the canyon. The discontent of honest effort with shortsighted anticipation, and the results of such efforts. What am I doing I ask myself over and over?  What is our end game and how are we ever going to achieve it.
I would like a bee that lives through the difficulties of my marginal environment. I would like my bees to be vibrant and healthy. Docility is nice but not required, hygienics an absol…