Natural Beekeeping

Top Bar ApiRevolution has begun! Lets make some inexpensive Top Bar Hives and let them be pesticide free on their own natural comb! Che Guebee is a rebel bee fighting for the survival of the Biodiversity we all depend on and which is seriously endangered by deforestation and mono-crop agriculture! What kind of teaching have you got if you exclude nature?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Magical Orientation Flights

As soon a new Bee hatches it takes on a house work, like cleaning, feeding larvae, turning nectar into honey, etc ... once it becomes 3 weeks old she will spend another 3 weeks as a Forager Bee. Worker Bees live no more than 6 weeks (much longer during the winter time).
The first day of flying the Bee will perform something called an Orientation Flight, scanning the hive and the immediate surrounding to memorize where it lives. After that she will begin to forage for nectar, pollen, water, propolis and minerals (one can often see bees collecting something from chicken or cow feces, even wet soil).
Each time they do orientation flights I make sure to sit near the hive and let their magical buzzing fill my mind :)
I hope you will enjoy this video;

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Queen Cell opened at the end tip and the side - Explained

I believed that all Queen Cells opened at their side are the ones where that virgin Queen was killed by the Queen which emerged first or killed by the bees in case they don't need her.
I also found in most bee books and net that a QC opened at the end tip indicates that a young Virgin Queen has emerged. But this is not entirely so :)

In one of my nucleus hives I assumed after seeing the QC being destroyed/opened at its side that they have killed the young queen and I gave them another comb with fresh eggs but as it turned out they already had a Virgin Queen.

I was puzzled until I went to my beekeeping friend last week and looked at his Queen Mating stations. He breeds Queens in small cassettes which have glass walls on two sides for easy inspection and MOST of the Queen Cells were opened at their sides !!!
I don't get it! Why would worker bees release the queen through the side wall which is much thicker than the thin end tip wall???

This experience have shown that bees can release their virgin queen in both way; through the end tip and through the side wall.

This was a great lesson learned for me so I felt to share it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fireweed is blooming

Hive Inspection June 23rd

I have inspected all 6 Top Bar Hives 2 days ago but had no time to blog about it so I'm going to do it now.
Both mother colonies which have lost their old Queens due to me making splits have raised new Queens :) They are not virgins anymore since they have started laying eggs :) so happy about it :) They look very long and absolutely beautiful :)

The first two splits have 3 year old Queens and they are developing nicely. I gave them more space (empty top bar on each side of the brood nest and spacing in the honey area).

I have also made 2 queenless nucleus hives and one has a gorgeous Virgin Queen (not yet mated) and the other one has a very short Queen which very much looks like a Worker Bee. Such Queen is called an Intercast Queen which was made from a worker larvae older than 3 days resulting in a inferior Queen. Such Queen can start laying only Drone eggs but in some cases beekeepers report that she will also lay worker eggs and the bees will supersede her after a couple of month. I will get a few 2 year old Queens from my bee inspector for free and will very likely re-queen this nucleus and make one or two more depending on how many mated Queens I get from him.

All in all Im happy with the results so far :)
 Here you can see how I rearranged the honey comb to encourage the bees to continue building them faster. I always try to have one whole honey comb at the end so to avoid cross-combing. Usually I would place one empty top bar just before the last comb but this time I spaced the brood nest also so I didn't want to create too much work for my ladies
 Borage has begun to flower. I hope the bees will find it
 I have found this flowering plant on one field nearby and decided to plant it around our property. I have seen a few bees on these flowers. I don't know this plants name but it seems to be a perennial plant?
Betty seems interested in the flowers ... 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Apparently Honey Bee stings are very healthy

I forgot to report that I've got stung a few ... well dozen times yesterday while helping the Mykorrhiza group to move bees from their frame hive into the Kenya Top Bar Hive. I'm not go into the details why bees got pissed off with us but they were VERY PISSED OFF indeed :) at least a few hundred bees were in FULL ATTACK! Here are a few photos of some of the worst stings (I've got one in the head and a few more on the body which didn't cause much redness) By the way I was fully dressed; bee suit, veil, rubber boots and thick rubber gloves which stopped at least 30 more stings to get to my skin. I know this because I took them out of the suit and veil later on.

I do feel ok though, just itching is present today.
Apparently bee stings are considered very healthy if not allergic to it :)

"Bee venom therapy is the part of apitherapy which utilizes bee venom in the treatment of health conditions. Apitherapy is the use of beehive products, including honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, bee venom. It has been used since ancient times to treat arthritis, rheumatism, back pain, skin diseases and in this modern age as an alternative therapy to treat multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. Bee venom comes from the stingers of honey bees who use it in defense of the bee colony.

Bee venom is a rich source of enzymes, peptides and biogenic amines. There are at least 18 active components in the venom which have some pharmaceutical properties. The effect mechanism of the venom is not entirely know yet. Scientists believe it can modify the way the immune system functions in the body and contribute to increased cortisol production.

Traditionally, bee venom was administered with live bees by stimulating them to sting in the affected area, trigger points or acupuncture points. Depending on the nature of the disease, the standardized venom can be used in a cream, liniment, ointment or injection form. Bee venom is most effective when it comes directly from the live bee during the late spring to early fall season when bees have a good pollen source to produce potent venom. Their venom during the winter period is less potent. Next to the effect of a live bee, injectable venom solution is considered to be a standard method to administer bee venom. Venom solution is prepared from pure bee venom (Apis Venenum Purum) and is a homeopathic preparation. It is administered intradermally just between the skin layers or subcutaneously under the skin to imitate the effect of a bee sting. Each injection is equivalent to or is less than the average dry venom sac content of a honey bee. Bee venom is also used topically in creams, liniments and ointments. The application of venom solution with electrophoresis or ultrasonophoresis is practiced in Europe and China.

Bee venom therapy is practiced by health practitioners and lay apitherapists. There are treatment protocols available to follow. In general, the therapy starts with the determination of whether the patient is allergic to the venom by administering a small amount of venom intradermally. If no allergic reaction develops within a certain time, the therapy is continued with the administration of one to two bee stings or injections. The therapy is carried out every other day (three times a week) by gradually increasing the number of bee stings or injections. The length of the therapy is determined by the nature and severity of the condition.

There is discomfort associated with the administration of bee venom including pain, itching, swelling, inflammation and redness. Symptoms like redness, swelling and itching are desired effects of the therapy showing the response of the patient to the venom. The more severe the reaction, but not anaphylaxis, the faster the recovery. Anaphylactic reactions which can be life threatening are also reported from bee venom, but they are rare.

The literature of bee venom therapy is very extensive and lists over 2,000 titles. There are basic guidelines of the therapy which need to be followed. The education on the part of the patient and the therapist is critical and the obtained result is proportional to the knowledge and experience of the administrator of the venom.

Bee venom therapy is an alternative form of healing. In the hands of a licensed practitioner, it is considered to be safe and can be used when the patient does not respond to conventional treatment methods."

Network Mykorrhiza moved bees into their Kenya Top Bar Hive

It has happened :) Network Mykorrhiza moved a Queen-right split from their frame hive into their first ever Top Bar Hive :) which we have built several weeks ago. Not many keep bees in Top Bar Hives in Sweden. I know about 9 beeks doing so which is not that many so this was a very important day for the bees indeed :)
We placed this hive in a small shrubbery behind the University of Agriculture in Alnarp.
Kenya Top Bar Hive in action
After we moved the Queen with 5 combs into the Top Bar
Hive we assembled the frame hive
The ladies are inspecting their new top entrance
After we finished with transferring the bees into the Top Bar Hive we
went back to the gardening lab to have a chat about what has to be done
next week. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why do I keep bees?

Let us whisper now ... contemplate ... why do I keep bees? ...
I remember last year reading in The Barefoot Beekeeper book by Phil Chandler about honey bees being in great trouble thanks to the overuse of pesticides and thanks to the bee unfriendly conventional beekeeping practice. Since I am interested in living on a farm as a self-sufficient homesteader I quickly realised that without bees there will be no food. They are way too important to just ignore this fact!

So I looked into this so called Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives (TBH) which is bee friendly. I have built 2 TBHs last year and bought one colony and caught one prime swarm. My beekeeping journey had begun!

But am I a beekeeper really? The word "beekeeper" in my opinion has a very negative connotation, mainly focusing on honey production, making money from pollinating mono crop fields and bee unfriendly manipulation. I just can't call myself a beekeeper!

So what am I then? I'm not in it for the honey or money from pollination, nor from selling nucleus hives nor Queens.

Some people call themselves Bee Guardians. They mainly focus on preserving the bees, both honey bees and solitary bees. Just like me.

Words are very important for us humans and words bring energy with them. Energy which can bring you up or down. Words like idiot and darling will create different effect in a person when spoken to them, no?
The same can be applied to calling oneself a Beekeeper or Bee Guardian.

Bee Guardian has a clear purpose; creating a bee friendly environment both in the hive and in the environment. Bee Guardian does not rob bees off honey and then feed them with sugar syrup. Bees are to live as natural as possible in any given locality. We live in a era of large pesticide laden mono-crop agriculture so talking about bee friendly natural ecosystem based on healthy biodiversity is part of a fairy tale these days.
But Bee Guardian does plant for bees constantly to enrich their diet.

So next time someone asks me are you a beekeeper I will say with a smile on my face "No, Im not :) I am a Bee Guardian :) "

What are you?

Why are my bees on the ground?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Planting for the bees

I've got some flowering plants from my neighbour :) They are perennial and I will do my best to propagate them every year. Honey Bees prefer to forage on flowers which are in abundance so growing just a few plants of same specie will be ignored (not wasted though since Bumblebees will take care of it).
Bumblebee foraging on the newly introduced European Columbine both white and blue :)
The second addition is a beautiful and hardy Italian Bugloss

Bees on the ground ...

Im not sure what is going on ... Im seeing bees on the ground for the last few days :( Besides the non-organic Peas fields there are two fields nearby with flowering non-organic Canola/Rape/Raps which Im sure both contain Neonicotinoid pesticides which were banned this year by the EU Parliament. The ban will be enforced from December this year. Im guessing they want farmers to get rid of all the seeds coated in Neonics this year ... and where do they get rid of it? They use it on their fields!!! What a joke of a law!!! They banned Neonics because they poison bees YET the farmers are allowed to use up what they have!!!
Here is a short video about my bees crawling and hanging on the ground;

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rose Colored Pollen

 I have spotted rose colored pollen being brought into the hive. 
Im not sure what plant has rose pollen?
 More pics of rose pollen and of course the inevitable Oil Seed Rape yellow pollen
 Guard Bee keeping a watchful eye
 Yellow pollen is for sure coming from the fields of Rape/Raps/Canola :(

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Virgin Queen dead in her Queen Cell

I inspected the nuc in question which had one capped Queen Cell which long passed the 16th day and didn't hatch. For some reason they didn't want to let her out.

So I assumed she is dead in the cell and gave this nuc a new comb with fresh eggs. I came back to check this nuc in about 3 days and found one Supersedure Cell (capped) of a very nice size (long in the middle of the comb).

I reported this on the Bio Bees forum two days ago and Bernhard (bio bees respected member) suggested I look it up today and see if the Queen is still in the cell or, as it can sometimes happen, the cell cap can close itself down after the Queen gets out looking as if the cell is still occupied.

So this is what I've found;
I opened this cell very gently with a tip of the knife making sure not to touch the Queen. I could see her head and she was not moving. She was dead :(
I understand that its a "bad practice" to let the nuc raise a Supersedure Queen (apparently not very good Queens) but I decided to let them do so this time and see what happens and learn from this experience. If the Supersedure Cell was tiny I would destroy it and recombine the hive with its mother colony but this cell really looks nice

I will now leave all hive in peace and not inspect until the 22nd of June when the urban beekeeping group Mykorrhiza Malmoe is to come and visit my apiary to get insight into Top Bar Beekeeping

Virgin Queens Piping and Quacking

When swarming honey bees build several Queen Cells and the first one to hatch makes a Piping sound which provokes the Quacking sound made my those Queens still closed in their Queen Cells. Like this the Piping virgin queen can find them and kill them.
Here is a very fine recording made by a biobee forum member Paz;

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I think I should listen better to my Intuition

I get these strange intuitive outbursts every now and then ... Not sure how to explain them better than a "call" to do or not to do certain things. I'm not sure if this makes any sense...
This morning I got this "call" to inspect the nucleus hives, too check if the Virgin Queens have emerged. One can see this by how the Queen Cells look and by seeing the Queen itself.

When I opened the hive and found the Queen Cell I was surprised to see it destroyed on the base of it;
Worker Bees do this when they don't want a new Queen or when the Queen which first emerged is trying to kill the ones still in their cells. This nucleus hive had only one Queen Cell, so I'm not sure why they killed her while still in her cell??? Totally puzzled I am...
This is how a Queen Cell looks when a Virgin Queen emerge from it. It is opened at the tip of it so she can crawl out of it. Worker Bees help her chew the tip off.

I gave them another chance to raise a new Queen by moving one comb with fresh eggs from their mother Queen which is laying eggs as we speak. They have enough honey stores and pollen and I placed a water bowl behind the follower board. I will inspect the nucleus hives in 3-4 weeks not to disturb them too much.

I also inspected the second nucleus hive and the one Queen Cell is still capped !!! I don't get it !!! Why didn't she get out? The 16th day have passed a few days ago! For some reason she didn't emerge. Yet the bees didn't remove her body??? Another puzzle!
But I did found a new Supersedure Cell which was in the middle of the comb. Not a very big cell but a Queen Cell nonetheless. So I will leave them to it and see what happens.

The thing is I made a mistake with this nucleus hive, or maybe I simply didn't listen to my Intuition. I actually planned to make this nuc hive with the Queen Cells from another Queen but that bee hive had only 2 Queen Cells which I didn't want to  move. So I made 2 nucs from another mother colony which had 8 Queen Cells. When I inspected this hive they had very few Worker Bees and I had to give them some more, so I moved a brood comb with house bees on it from the Queen I originally planned to split into this nuc. Well, not the old Queen itself but the Queen Cells with her genes. The thing is this comb had freshly laid eggs in it and for some reason they decided to make a Supersedure Cell from the eggs in it. Since the actual Queen Cell is intact (not destroyed) I'm guessing that Queen died in the cell and the bees sensed this immediately making a fresh Queen Cell from the available eggs. Maybe this would not have happened if I followed my Intuition and had split the 2 Queen Cells from the mother hive I first intended to propagate. Any way, it ended up as I planned. Now I just hope they actually raise this Queen and she mates successfully so this colony has a chance to build up before winter kicks in. It's an early season so still lots of time to fix things. I wish them all the best :)

One thing I'm puzzled with is how come they have already capped the supersedure cell since I moved this comb from a Queenright hive 3 days ago??? I moved it with house bees on it so I possibly didn't spot it. Is it possible that the Queenright hive is trying to supersede their old Queen? I honestly hope that Queen is still in the hive and laying eggs otherwise I just ruined their chance to raise a new Queen :(

Monday, June 10, 2013

Drones Buzzing

I woke up this morning and went out of the house hearing loud buzzing from the apiary behind the cottage. I immediately suspected swarm is on the move!!! So I ran behind to see what's happening and saw loads  of Drones flying about :) They are sensing the new Virgin Queens which have very likely started to perform their mating flights :) Exciting times indeed! May they mate with success :)
Drones are much larger than Worker Bees and have huge eyes
Worker Bees working hard at this warm summer day

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Apiary Update

Today has been exactly 16 days since the bees begun making Queen Cells :) Queens emerge on the 16th day :) Now its time to wait and see if they have mated with success which I will know in 2 weeks. I will open the hives and check if there are freshly laid eggs in the cells. If so all is well and if not I will have to give them another brood comb with fresh eggs from an established hive so they can make new Queen Cells or abort the Queen raising program and unite the nucleus bees with an established colony.
A few images from Che Guebee Apiary;
Colony working hard
Bringing in pollen
Traffic jam at the entrance of the hive
Drones preparing to fly out of the hive in hope to mate with virgin queens
Incoming ;)
Gorgeous creature :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The bees have discovered Rose flowers

 Rosa rubiginosa flower visited by Honeybees
Lupin is flowering and so is ...
White Clover :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

4th Split made

After pondering about whether to use or not the extra Queen Cells I have in one hive for making one more nucleus hive I decided for doing it. They had 4 very nice Queen Cells and the first emerging Queen will very likely kill the other 3. This is a waste of such fine resource.
This time I used only 1 brood comb with maybe 20 capped brood cells (that was the only brood comb with brood in it) and 1 honey comb. I placed a bowl of water behind the follower board so they don't dehydrate until they start foraging in a few days. I even obstructed the entrance with branches which have leaves so to force the bees to re-orientate. If they don't do the re-orientation flight they might return to their mother hive. This method seems to be working well for me.

Monday, June 3, 2013

3rd Split made today

The mother hive (CGB-1) which I've split already once in May has built 8 valid Queen Cells. All of them on the one brood comb I introduced from their original Queen which was split into a new hive (CGB-2).
CGB-1 failed to move eggs into empty queen cups after their Queen was removed (split) so I gave them another brood comb with freshly laid eggs from their mother Queen (to keep her fabulous genes).
In this image one can see 3 Queen Cells. There is another one just behind the lowest one. Total of 4 Queen Cells on each side of the same comb. I have heard from my last years beekeeping mentor that bees can move eggs into queen cups if they feel their Queen is gone. Now I can second this from my own experience. They can move eggs into queen cups and raise Queens indeed :)
Since these cells were so close to each other I didn't want to cut them out so I left all 4 and took the other 4 out from the opposite comb side.

I asked my local bee inspector how to create a nucleus hive and what is the minimum of combs needed. He told me that 1 comb of capped brood and 1 comb of honey is enough but to make sure to place a small dish with water behind them since its warm now and this nucleus hive will have no forager bees for at least a week.

I did as he instructed me BUT! The mother hives had no capped brood combs. Well there was one but not with that many capped cells so I took that one (future will tell if this was a bad idea). I planned to use all 4 of the cut-out Queen Cells and make 2 Nucleus hive (2 in each) but after seeing that there is not enough capped brood to give them I settled on making only one.

With a knife I carved out a chunk from the side of this brood comb and placed the 2 biggest looking Queen Cells into that space. I fastened the QC with 2 metal pins. I hope the bees will attach the QC to the comb in no time (they are good at that) since the pins are not holding QC that well.

After moving 2 frames of honey and one frame of brood with the attached Queen Cells to it I shook some house bees into this nucleus hive (CGBN-1) from a Drone Comb. House Bees are usually found on brood comb and are the ones which can't be easily shaken from the comb so I brushed the off into the new hive. This is to make sure this nuc has enough worker bees to care for the brood and the new Queen. All the older forager bees will return to the mother hive.

I didn't know what to do with the extra 2 Queen Cells. They looked smaller that all the other Cells. I was contemplating the idea of making another split from the other mother hive (CGB-3) which already has a new Virgin Queen and give them these 2 QC. I know the new Queen has emerged because I inspected it today just to make sure they are Queenright. I've found 2 Queen Cells; one open at the bottom and one ripped open on its side. I immediately knew that the one Queen which emerged from the cell with an opening at the bottom killed the Queen in the cell with a ripped hole one the side of the cell.
I blogged about this hive earlier and saw only one valid Queen Cup with Royal Jelly and a curved larvae. I must have missed the other one.
I didn't see this Virgin Queen and I wasn't looking for her since virgins are very fast at hiding and very shy, they dislike light. What I didn't want to do is to shake this virgin into the second nucleus by accident. That would make the mother colony Queenless and the Queen Cells would be destroyed by the worker bees.

So I destroyed the 2 cups :( This made me very very sad :( As I write this I actually feel like crying :( I dislike culling Queen Cells, yet I did just that :(

The newly made nucleus hive (CGBN-1) is made. I have reduced the entrance so other hives don't rob it. I even placed a few branches with leaves in front of the entrance to force them to re-orientate before flying out so less foragers fly back to the mother hive. Michael Bush writes about this on his web page.

I will have to check this hive in a week or two and see if it has enough worker bees to assist the new Queen until her offspring starts emerging which can take up to a month or more. In case they are short on worker bees I will have to shake some house bees into it from the strongest hive.

NOTE; CGB stands for Che GueBee. I name all my hives CGB and then add number to it.
             CGBN stands for Che GueBee Nucleus. All nucleus will be named CGBN with a number attached to it.
This makes it easier to follow the hives/colonies especially if one has a few.