Rob Keller's Napa Valley Bee Company is a sustainable honeybee organization that recognizes the importance of strong genetics in our local indigenous bee. Breeding from survivor stock in our area is a way to solve some of the problems with European Honey Bees.
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:
Super excited about this rain, although it's really putting me off my hive winter preparation. But hey, if it's any indication of the winter, we'll have a bumping spring for our bees. Just because it's raining doesn't mean you don't have to think about your bees. Start figuring out what you're going to plant around your yard or apiary to help contribute to the year round nectar & pollen sources you all ready have. I personally will be looking very closely at California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum foliolosum). But for now here are a couple great book recommendations for this rainy day...
I have been revisiting a fabulous book Michael Theile (http://www.gaiabees.com) told me about a year or two ago. Michael has made me re-think a number of my beekeeping practices. I knew Buzz had to be good because he believes it to be the new Bee Bible, replacing The ABC XYZ of Beekeeping. Don't bee put off by the silly name, the pictures are amazing and the text left me dreaming about bees as I fell asleep reading in bed. Also when I went to order the book on Amazon Michael had written a raving review, the only reviw, but it was raving! I figure if he's behind a book enough to spend time writing the first review about it, it's gotta be good enough for me. And I'm convinced it's a good enough book for you. Few books really change to way I manage bees but between The Buzz about Bees and Gunther Hauk's Toward Saving the Bees I am a changed - more informed - beekeeper.
It even comes in Arabic!
هل لديكم الكثير النحل تزدهر منك قراءة هذا الكتاب
May your many bees prosper from you reading this book.
Here's what Kim Flottum has to say about The Buzz - in English not Arabic. I definitely agree with him on this one!
This is a great read too. A little BD wooo-wooo, but he has a lot of information that just makes sense, although I am being told by my father-in-law that Biodynamics are a hoax and Rudolf Steiner was a complete nutcase, a flimflam man with a tremendous imagination, a combination if you will, of an LSD-dropping Timothy Leary with the showmanship of a P.T. Barnum. Hummmm, we'll have to get him to drop in here for a little guest blog sometime soon.
Here is another book that has been recently recommended to me by none other than our local cover crop cowboy Mark Griffin. In an e-mail he says "Rob, I just got a killer book called Honeybee Democracy, have you seen it? Bomb"! At the time I hadn't seen the book, but subsequently with a lil' help from the information super highway I found a link to Bee Culture's site where you can read Chapter 3. From the 10 page pdf the book looks really great, kind of a hybrid... with the knowledge in The Buzz and the real life experience I've read in the books of Sue Hubbell. Honeybee Democracy looks like it's well worth the cover price and it appears you can order it from Princeton University Press where you can catch a read of chapter 1. So between Bee Culture and the publisher's site all you'll need to come up with are the Prologue, Chapters 2, 4 thru 8 and the Epilogue -http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9267.html
As a quick side note speaking of Bee Culture, I'd highly recommend you all sign up for Kim Flottum's Catch the Buzz. To get you the very latest information from the world of beekeeping and all the things we touch as fast as possible, Catch The Buzz.
Although last time I tried to subscribe it didn't take, I've been ripping off the link every time I see it posted on the Sonoma Beekeepers Yahoo group. Ettamarie Peterson is the best for disseminating information.
Till the next rainy day.... feel the democracy and catch the buzz.