Posted by Rob Keller on February 09, 2013 at 07:29 PM in Airstream 67 Overlander, Bee Class, Bee Feral, Bee Fun, Bee Gear, Bee How To, Bee Meta, Bee Theory, Bee Think, Books, Clients, Hive Management, Mobile Bee Observatory, St. Helena Montessori Bee Class, Tips From the Hive - Nimbus Bee Blog, VW 61 Splitty | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
I know I have been over it a zillion times, but man, do I love the idea of letting my bees build their own comb. We don't have to go into it here, but it's super biodynamic to let the bees create wax and construct their hive. Gunther Hauk talked about it in his book, which I can't find my copy of right now, but you should really spend five and check it out -- it changed the way I'm managing my bees. I guess the main reason I'm embracing it is because fundamentally it's right for the bees. Why use foundation imprinted with a pre-determined cell size -- whether it's plastic or wax. Let the bees decide what cell size they want -- 4.9mm, 5.4mm, or whatever...quit trying to muscle them with your agenda. You know, I really can't stand people telling me what to do, why should I tell my bees what to do? Another reason I'm sold on foundation-less hive management is because if for any reason you need to cut a chunk of comb out of a frame it is like cutting butter. Don't get me wrong, I've heated a knife to red-hot with a torch, it will cauterize straight through plastic foundation, but there are easier ways to get a queen cell off a frame safely.
Last year I was working with my boy Serge on rearing queens using the Hopkins method. Most of mine failed but the one thing that was a major success was how easily I was able to access those day-old eggs by simply and effortlessly cutting only straightup comb, no foundation. Maybe next spring I'll go into it more, but don't trust me -- seems like some of these other guys like Serge, Randy Oliver, or Michael Bush are much better at it.
Here is the biggest reason I choose to let my bees build their own comb:
Keeping it real, I'm not a hater I just crush a lot.
One-being - an undividable entity
Wax and comb are the only visible substance in the Bien. The individual bees are something like a reflection of tissue of the one, thier honey like blood. Can it become a window to a different kind of understanding of life and the world as we know it? Can bees be so deeply ingrained in your body that the two become one? It may be opposite from the way we live our life in general but have you ever thought to invite the bees into your body, or at least your heart? Maybe all we can do to understand and communicate with the “Bien” is to stay open. See what happens when you read too much Steiner...
The next few Images are from a series of works I created to help Kana Niccolini understand the "Bien". He has been working on a report about drones for the St. Helena Montessori.
I want to let you know about a couple bee classes and events coming up that you, or someone you know, might be interested in:
Urban Beekeeping with the Solar Living Institute
in San Francisco
This Saturday, August 28th I am teaching an Urban Beekeeping class through the Solar Living Institute in San Francisco. We’ll cover all aspects -- or as much as we can in a day! -- of introductory beekeeping. Topics include how and where to get bees, sustainable hive management, and a little bee biology. This is a one-day class and I always look forward to it because of the fantastic location. My long time honey homeboy Michael Emery opens his beautiful Union Street flat to us for a full day of bees, art, and incredible views of the bay and Alcatraz. After all the bee talk and lunch in North Beach we finish the day with a hands-on hive inspection of Michael’s roof top hives.
GA 102: Urban Beekeeping
Aug 28 2010, 9am-5pm
In this introductory course, students will learn the basics associated with starting and managing a sustainable bee hive in an urban setting. Though a somewhat unlikely setting, cities are excellent environments for keeping bees if permitted by municipal code. This course will introduce students to the basic concepts and terminology associated with urban beekeeping, as well as the equipment necessary for keeping a successful hive. Students will learn what steps are necessary for establishing their own hive and ensuring its success over the ensuing beekeeping season. This course will be a mixture of lecture, discussion, and hands on.
Beekeeping and Preserving Your Bounty with Michael Lauher
at Connolly Ranch
A little more on the local Napa front, Michael Lauher and I are starting our next class at Connolly Ranch, which will be a series of 4 Thursdays starting the 2nd of September. We’ve decided to mix it up slightly as far as conventional beekeeping classes go. One thing we have seen happening over the past few years is that to be successful at beekeeping one has to be a good gardener too, and the same for gardeners – they need too to have a clear understanding of honeybee husbandry. To get the most out of your garden it takes having healthy, productive bees in the immediate vicinity. Michael and I have been looking very closely at what our bees are pollinating and how we can best utilize their efforts. Last year for one of the beekeeping classes we had a canning and preserving night that was so popular we decided to up it a notch this season. The Connolly Ranch kitchen is perfect for large scale canning projects; last year we canned amazing peaches in honey, local pickles that were unreal, and canned tomatoes that my Italian mother cried over! So...this session we’ll offer a class in beekeeping where we will visit local beekeeper’s apiaries for group hive inspections, and double back on exactly what the bees are providing – local produce we can harvest and put up for later consumption. So, if you have hives that need attention or an orchard that is dropping fruit this might be the class for you.
Beekeeping and Preserving Your Bounty
People seem to be using any available land to grow vegetables, fruits, and keep bees. With all this food being grown in your own backyard, what are you doing with all that excess produce? The logical thing is to preserve the bounty for later use. This class will focus on beekeeping and zero emission honey production but will also cover canning and making preserves from locally grown fruits and vegetables. Get hands-on experience with bees, honey, and canning in Connelly Ranch Kitchen. 4 weeks
Summer Hive Check-up at Nimbus Arts
When it comes to beekeeping, “what’s good for the Napa goose is good for the St. Helena gander”. Join Nimbus Arts and the St. Helena Montessori School when we open their amazing apiary for a series of classes to assist the up valley beeks with their hives. Starting September 28th for four consecutive Tuesdays I’ll be hitting the north valley highways and byways visiting apiaries of students that want to make sure their bees are on track for successful over-wintering. Remember, September and October is the time your colonies are raising the bees that in-turn will be rearing the winter bees. The winter bees are vital to the hive during winter for a productive hive in the spring. Let’s catch any problems early while we can still remedy the situation before our bee hands are tied and there’s not much we can do later in the fall. My experience has been that primarily one of two things kill bees in the winter; the varroa mite, or small colonies that just don’t have the numbers to get them through the cold months. Both those things we will be able to clearly diagnose and address during this class.
Summer Hive Check-up
Instructor: Rob Keller
Wondering how your hives are doing? Want to see how other beekeepers in the valley are keeping their bees? Nimbus is scheduling apiary visits to Napa's top beekeepers. Don't wait until it's too late - have a hive check-up before fall, and learn from each other! This course will cover a fall hive inspection with a written record and photos of each student's apiary. We will cover wintering preparations and building stronger colonies going into winter and other suggestions. A great class for new and experienced beekeepers! $85
BEE-3 Teen/Adult | Tues, Sept 28 and Oct 5, 12 and 19, 6:30-8:30pm
Solfest September 25 and 26th at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds Ukiah, Ca.
September 25 and 26th I will roll my world’s largest mobile honeybee observatory up to Ukiah for Solfest. Long before I started working for the Solar living Institute I heard about these unbelievable green festivals they held yearly in Hopland. Since that time the green gala has gotten far too big for SLI to hold at their compound and has had to move it to the much larger Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. Admittedly, this is my first year attending the celebration but if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it big. Solfest is the perfect venue for my converted 1966 26-foot Airstream showing off the secret life of bees -- by way of an 8 foot high two-sided observation hive. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the trailer yet do yourself a favor and hop on over to Ukiah and check this out for a day... or two. I’ll be there with my Apis posse Michael Lauher, my neighbor Dave with his balling tow vehicle, and my 6 year old beekeeping son Davis. Who knows...maybe even Jason Beeman will join us. We’ll be causing a ruckus, rocking the big silver bullet full of bees. I think I’m even meant to give a lil’ seminar for an hour sometime Sunday. Really, it’s all about me and my bees – oh, and keynote speaker R.F. Kennedy, Jr.! Drop by, say you read this and we’ll give you a beer.
As we move into the next decade we look for sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions to guide us into the future. At SolFest we bring together a world class selection of speakers and panelist to discuss both local and global issues.
Come and be a part of the change for a better world, discuss and share your ideas.
My son Davis when he was a wee beekeeper.
Dorthea Mcfarland- not sure what she's smilling about, I killed two colonies of her bees. Okay, maybe it wasn't me, but I was there checking them both shortly before they died.
Carl from Napa State Hospital
This guy looks like he should be committed to Napa State hospital
Jimmy who took my class ages ago
This bee-blog thing is time consuming. Looking back I haven't gotten much done 'round here since the 8th, feels like just yesterday. What I'm going to try <--- key word try --- to do is up load some of the images I take out there while I'm rustling bees and make comments on them rather than doing longer posts less frequently. Certain times of the year it gets really difficult to manage the blog and bees because I'm either working with bees or talking about them all day -- the last thing I want to do at night is come home and type about them too! This time of year I am in 5-10 colonies a day checking them for brood and stores before sending them into winter. I'm talking going deep here, not just a pop of the lid for a quick looky loo. On my mother colonies I'm not overly concerned, they have shown me over time that they are decent producers of both honey and brood. It's the new colonies I have introduced into my apiaries I want to check-up on. Enough excuses....
Hop in, let's see how this rolls:
For the past month or two I have wanted to get a business card. It's always a little funny when people ask for a card and I don't have anything with my contact info. You guys know where to get me, right here at the blog, but not everyone is so bee savvy. For now I didn't want too get crazy - only the basics - my splitty and the bees... They should be ready in 7-10 working days. Lemme know and I'll hook you up with one fresh of the press.
It's a desert out there in the rural landscape, look at how hungry they are... That 1:1 hadn't hit the deck for a second before they were all up on it. Be careful, not only are some of my less foraging bees in a tight place right now but desperate x's call for desperate measures, robbing is rampant! Make sure you have all the gear needed on hand before you start working your bees but also keep the cover on them while you're not in the hive. Move quickly but efficiently and for the love of god don't leave any honey laying around.
I ended up feeding some of my bees - not my ideal scenario but what's one to do when there's follower to follower brood and no nectar or honey? I guess I could have thrown them a couple frames of the sticky icky from another colony but that's not the safest option either. You tell me. At least I'm brewing them up the Rudy Steiner, nothing is finer recipe... 1:1 sugar - water, whole chamomile (I was using just bags, but have since stepped it up thanks to Clay) and a pinch of salt. Not sure if it was Steiner or Gunther Hauk that said to also add Comfrey. Dunno about that but I have added some lavender blossoms in the feeder when I have them. Remember to ALWAYS reduce the entrance when feeding. I leave a very small opening at the far opposite side to discourage robbing. Actually, this image shows an external feeder but really if you have to feed your bees I'd use a method from inside the hive like a top or frame feeder. This particular feeder is a custom design made by a student of mine that has a long straw that goes down into the brood chamber. It's an experiment... Feed your bees inside the hive!
Working the bees at Billy G's. Take note of my VW head badge... I met a cat named Don in Napa that wrenches v-dubs. He did me a fat solid by not only putting my badge on but installing seat belts, and adjusted my valves. We talked about doing a lot more to my car so stay tuned... If you need aircooled assistance you should call Don's VW Repair 707.363.4779, he's the Volkswagon shiz-nit!
Working Roger's bees and making an Andy Goldsworthy-inspired entrance reducer. Don had just done the work on my truck the night before so I emptied it and forgot to bring proper reducers. The bees were a bit pissy so I decided to wear my gown. Sadly I just threw it in the bed when I drove off and It must have blown out in transit. So if you happen to come across a Dadant veil with the Napa Valley Bee Company logo on the back - it's mine..
Anytime is a great time when you're hangin' round Arnie but the ultimate bee bliss is working the girls at his place. Michael and I took our beekeeping - bee garden class that is normally held at the Connolly Ranch out to the Bunter's for a little bee fun and yum-yums.
I went through my freezer this weekend and found a bunch of pollen I had forgotten about that I stashed away over the summer. The problem is that when you freeze wax it makes it really brittle and because of my lack of freezer finesse a lot of the frames that didn't have that plastic foundation broke apart. Not the end of the world, you can rubberband it back into a frame but why not have a little fun while your at it?
This one was too obvious.. I know, I know, how cliche but what am I meant to do? The shape presented itself and I couldn't deny. I hope the bees don't think it's as corny as I do. I wouldn't eat pollen out of heart shaped comb based on principle.
Once I was doing a hive removal where the bees built around all these twigs in a building. It was truly one of the coolest things I had seen bee do in a long time. I decided to try and recreate that while also securing some loose comb by harpooning the pieces together with sticks from around my yard.
I even put an acorn in it, corny.....! Can't wait to see what the bees do with these wax constructions. I don't suspect much will get done on them until next spring as I'm not seeing a lot of wax production this late in the year. I was thinking I may incorporate them into my over-wintering protocol in the upper box, so as the cluster moves up through winter they will run into some extra pollen treats along the way. Yum!