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:
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...
Seeing as it is still a little too early to go into full-blown hive inspections, I am taking this week to throw a fresh coat of paint on my unused and new wooden-ware. I'll switch them out as needed as I go through my bees in the next couple weeks when the weather is nicer.
This year I'm going aqua-ish and orange-ish. Think Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, and Don Shula, the Miami Dolphins Baby! Actually, I don't know what I'm talking about, I hate football, I googled those guys on line. What I really meant to say was: Think Steve McQueen's Porsche in the movie Le Mans.
But be ready...
One of the few hives I was able to get a look into this year -ONLY quick peak- will need a little room in the brood chamber and a couple frames above for nectar stores. I think that early heat wave we had a few weeks ago got the bees started slightly ahead of schedule. You can tell this colony, a swarm I picked up on White Hall Lane last year about this time, is ready to go by the fresh, new bridge comb they are building above the frames. The bees have nowhere else to build so they are headed up into the open space of the top feeder that was above them.
Okay, here's the deal. My intention was to chronicle each day's beekeeping adventure, but here I am 3 days later. So,
I'm not getting off to a great start since I still haven't posted from
yesterday-- oops, make that two days ago. Working in flashback, here's
what's going on..
* Met with Michael after dropping our kids at the Waldy School -- discussed trading bee work in exchange for Davis going to Spring and Summer camp at Connolly (flash forward to today when he actually was at the camp, when he got in trouble one time during the day and my wife was late for pickup -- good exchange).
* Received a call from Anita on White Hall lane about a swarm, her husband Dave was a great help.
* Went by a "trap out" I am working on, also on White Hall Lane in Saint Helena.
* Cleaned out the bee stuff in the back of my truck.
* Hived the swarm from White Hall lane.
* Met Nate regarding bees he has had on the property he manages. The bees have been there roughly 6 years now. They look really good considering they have not been managed in years. The weird thing is I pulled out the monitoring tray and there was drawn comb and nectar on the bottom. The hive stands are for sided wooden boxes on end, so it would make the perfect place for a second colony to live. Curious, more later...
As a reference, I put football sized swarms on three frames. I offer some drawn comb. I do my best not to offer swarms honey and pollen unless I absolutely have to, not to say that you can't spread disease from sharing just drawn comb. I'm sure there are pathogens bees can pick-up from sharing any part of the hive that is sanitized by heat. I know in the last post I was going on and on about the "goodies" I offered the storm swarm but sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures. The two extra frames in the above picture are plastic foundation being used as follower boards. Not only is the hive body beat-up, but I'm needing followers too. Hey! It's all I had around alright?..
I cut and removed the entire limb the swarm was hanging on and lowered them in a 5 gallon bucket perfed with 1/16 holes. I easily slid the entire colony and the olive branches out of the bucket into the hive.
I added an empty deep on top of the bees giving them the space and privacy to get started on their wax production.
About 7 hours later the bees shifted to the far right side of the hive -- most likely the side the queen decided to go towards. Tomorrow I'll go in and gently move the bees to the center. So much for my theory that bees will automatically jump on drawn comb.
In this "trap out" we are trying to re-route the bees from coming around the post. Their hive is behind the pole occupying the space between two interior walls. The owner, Tom, has made a plywood cover that will act as a hallway for the bees to go an extra 4' towards a hole closer to the end of the porch.
Cleaning out the back of my truck meant taking my bike out. Check out my rack...
More later on our zero emission honey bee tree removal last week.
Check out this salamander we caught by Nate's bees. Gorgeous but slimy, Davis loved it.