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.
Yanko Design created this beautiful observation hive but...
They could have really used a balling beekeeper that knows observation hives on this project.
From the outside the hive looks awesome, but the bees would make an absolute mess out of this thing in about a week. During the nectar flow that thing would be a nightmare of burr comb.
Their comb is in the wrong orientation, bees build according to gravity not horizontally.
And what's up with the glass shell "filtering light to let through the orange wavelength which bees use for sight". Not sure I'm buying that... I'd have to look into that one, curious -- it's a question for Eric Mussen.
Smoke can be released into the hive to calm the bees before it is opened, in keeping with established practice. I guess the hive doubles as a vaporizer?.. Epic!
Regardless, I still want one.
Scroll down to about half the page:
Why is it every time I see bee hives that don't belong to me I'm drawn to them like a moth to a flame? Even if they're not my business, I can't help it. I should be MYOBB - Minding My Own Bee Business.
It's a sickness, I'm all-consumed by wanting to open them up and check out how the bees are doing; well that, and more importantly, how is the beekeeper managing the hive? I'm not talking about pulling a bunch of the frames, checking the brood and all, just a little peek at the top bars to see the size of the cluster. Okay, I lie, it's not past me to pull a frame or two especially if I have a hive tool handy, and in a pinch I've done it with a pocket knife too. It's bad, really bad. Don't hate me, I'm only thinking...why not? We're all in this together, no one should have anything to hide, right? Don't worry, I'll let you know I've been there. And sure, if you want to pop into one of my colonies, I'm all good. Just don't roll my queen. Truthfully I had never dreamt of opening someone else's hive, at least without asking, until that one day I ran into a small group of colonies off the side of the road while I was out riding bikes with the boys. Okay, so I'm the ring leader, but they're all beekeepers too, they know the drill. These particular green hives were pretty ghetto -- no inner covers, the top covers were all but falling apart, and all the boxes were straight up - jacked up - the whole nine-io -- nasty! What kind of beekeeper keeps their bees in those conditions? Why is it against the law to mistreat a dog or cat but a beekeeper can keep bees on old janky diseased gear with no regulations, right..? That's what I'm saying. My boy Jason Beeman said it best, "It's better to be a honeybee hero than a honeybee zero". Whoever owned these hives were plain negligent. That day we didn't open the hives, it was too cold and drizzling so we rode away...but only 'til the next sunny day. Yeah yeah yeah, so you're not down..? Just don't slip up off your bee path. Be a bee keeper not a bee haver. For all the bee ballers out there trying to do the right thing we're already looking at a long uphill battle, we don't need anymore obstacles from the beeks not up on their game.
Giving it the squeeze...
I am processing more and more of my honey through a little tabletop wine press. It kinda sucks cause, my God, it takes forever and my kitchen is perpetually sticky, but well worth it!
I'm over forcing my bees on foundation -- predetermined cell size is counterproductive to what the bees know and want to build themselves. Beeple < bee people > LET YOUR BEES BUILD THEIR OWN WAX for crying out loud.
As for filtering, all I use is a utensil consisting of a wire or plastic mesh held in a frame, used for straining solids from liquids, for separating coarser from finer particles, but not separating pollen from honey. Oh,I guess it is generally referred to as a sieve...!
Okay, if you don't believe me, check this out:
This year we went BIG sunflower at the Montessori School.
They are such a great late summer nectar/pollen source.
I planted about 4 rows - 300 foot long mixing varieties.
I have a lot of mouths in that apiary to feed.
I know, I know, you're thinking "yeah-yeah-yeah - the busiest guy, right..." but really, the last few weeks and the next few weeks are going to be, and have been, complete bee mayhem. Toutsweet, Chez Panisse, Connolly Ranch, and the Heirloom Expo. I'm not sure if any of you out there attended the Open Restaurant event at BAM last weekend, if not, hurt yourselves 'cause you missed one hella celebration. In conjunction with Chez Panisse's 40th birthday and the unveiling of the Alice Waters portrait headed to the National Portrait Gallery, Open put on an amazing event at Berkeley Art Museum.
I feel completely humbled by all of the other vendors that were invited to participate in the celebration.
Everyone there was absolutely tight on what they did and I was utterly fascinated with them all. I didn't even get to every one of them, but the ones I saw blew me away. The Edible Schoolyard peeps were grinding wheat with a bike-powered grinder, Digger Bread was baking loaves of bread in tin cans, and Urban Gardens was pickling it up big time! It was hard for me to stay put pimping bees at our base camp with all the other great stuff going on. Thank goodness Michael, Jim Cummesky, and even Neighbor Dave were there to man the 0-hive.
We met bread baker Chris who I'm sure we'll hook-up with again someday. The tin can bread loafs they made were incredible, and not just because they used our honey in them! They told me they busted out over 200 loafs.
We were even invited to be in the procession that walked right by Alice after they unveiled her portrait. I was all caught up in the moment and I walked right past, but Michael was on her like veggie velcro.This is an image I made as we went over the walk-way.
I met the cobbler who made these amazing shoes out of pig skin. It had something to do with Werner Herzog living up to his promise that he would eat his shoe if Errol Morris ever completed the film Heavens Gates . I don't know a whole lot about what went down with the bet, but I do know a lot about Bubbling Well, the pet cemetary Morris made the documentary about. Ask me later...
Everyone was using my honey
I think that is Steve Sullivan from Acme Bread mixing our sweet amber love into his bread dough.
Awesome Stacey. The bees turned out to be a major ordeal for her, we originally wanted to have the mobile observatory down there, but opted for plan bee using the 0-hive from the trailer with the Splitty as a back drop.
(For those of you who don't know, I have a 7 year-old son that has always been into bees. I'm pretty sure "bee" was the first word he learned how to say. I have been taking him out to my apiaries since he could barely walk. Now all of a sudden he really wants to help and be more than just the "smoker kid".)
Spent the last few days working bees with Davis, I figure in another decade or so he'll be able to take over this menagerie I'm creating. He has totally stepped it up with the bees. Last week Davis was giving the tours to the guests who came to visit the trailer at the Napa Valley Museum. He told me he wants to teach them everything he knows about bees. I'm blown at how accurate he is. Check him out:
(I'll explain why I'm marking queens later.)
A few Davis took of me:
So your mostly getting pictures this time:
I guess there's a place in Napa called Beehive Peak. How awesome is that? How la-may is it that I've never heard of it or been there? Really.... I saw it in Chuck O'Rear's new book Napa Valley.
Teak hives on their new deck:
Moving the teak hives with a refrigerator dolly
Gorgeous aren't they?....
Father's Day swarm removal:
These guys were absolute bee ballers, seriously, they did a stellar job wrangling bees for the first time. That big kid got half the swarm dumped on his head and stayed true. Not that it matters, but they are from Colorado.
I know, I was just on about those guys from Colorado being the bee ballers but really... Check me out. The following night after I hived the swarm, I shuffled that fatty double decker hive, zero emission style, on my bike. While your at it, check those bling bling tires!
Light didn't work so well for seeing in front of me while riding home, but it sure made for great photos.
Bees at the bed and breakfast:
Not too big - not too small - but all and all they're in the wall.
Long narrow comb with cocktail mermaids holding the pieces together. I caged the queen cause I didn't want her to split, litterly!
I picked up Barret and Brian hitchhiking in Rutherford, dropped them off a day later and 7 miles closer to their destination. Learned a lot about thumbing it and jumping the train.
Last week I decided to ramp up my "zero emission beekeeping" a notch by doing a swarm removal on my bike. Now, I've already done several hive removals with my crew on bikes before, but this is the first time I actually rode a swarm home on two wheels! Towards the end of last season I found that the only chance I had to get in any spin time during the week was if I started peddling to some of my clients apiaries. It's pretty nice zig-zagging up and down the valley between Highway 29 and Silverado Trail. I'm loving it so much that now I am offering it as a service through the Napa Valley Bee Company. Yep, I'm committed to living the beekeeper-cyclist dream through sustainable living. Literally, that's how we roll around here! Wait 'til you see the trailer I am having made to tow behind my hoopty for the project...The bees from this particular swarm flew from a massive, old oak tree in North Napa behind the old Red Hen, you can see the tree from the freeway. Every year we can count on a primary and secondary smaller swarm splitting from this beautiful old oak. Last year the colony we collected did astounding, so well in fact, we put them in our indigenous bee breeding program after just one season. This year's swarm appears to be doing just as well, currently up valley at the Montessori Farm.
Here is a quick little video my neighbor Dave made as we rode home:
Take home message here is:
Ride your bike whenever you can...