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?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Aster; The Autumn Star

Fantastic plants which gives so many flowers which bees adore. I call these daisy-like flowers Aster because they are in the same Asteraceae family but not all are called Aster. Not sure of their actual name though but it matters little. What matters is what my lady bees are telling me :) They are saying "propagate these fine flowers so we have nectar and pollen in Autumn". I will do so.
One interesting thing I observed yesterday; I saw a honeybee on a Solidago plant! Solidago was flowering very strong all the summer and I could not see even one honey bee on its flowers only hover flies. Now I saw one plant with a few honeybees working its flowers :) I don't think honeybees like this flower that much but now there is little to be found in the nature so they are using all they can find.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bee-friendly Super Top Bar Hives got legs

I have made tall enough legs for my Bee-friendly Super TBHs so I can work without bending my back. I find this very comfortable indeed and will always have this feature in my apiary.
Now that they have legs I hope they wont run off ;)
In case you wonder why I didn't paint the top bar hive body with red paint 
its because I already varnished them this summer with Linseed oil and beeswax.
The red paint is the left over from painting our cottage.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stop killing Varroa! Instead let Varroa and bees co-adapt to each other!

Thomas D. Seeley 

Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA

(Received 21 January 2006 - Revised 23 April 2006 - Accepted 23 April 2006 - Published online 29 November 2006)
Abstract - Feral colonies of European honey bees living in the Arnot Forest, a 1651-ha research preserve in New York State, were studied over a three-year period, 2002 to 2005. This population of colonies was previously censused in 1978. A census in 2002 revealed as many colonies as before, even though Varroa destructor was introduced to North America in the intervening years. Most colonies located in fall 2002 were still alive in fall 2005. The Arnot Forest colonies proved to be infested with V. destructor, but their mite populations did not surge to high levels in late summer. To see if Arnot Forest bees can suppress the reproduction rate of mites, colonies of Arnot Forest bees and New World Carniolan bees were inoculated with mites from an apiary and the growth patterns of their mite populations were compared. No difference was found between the two colony types. Evidently, the stable bee-mite relationship in the Arnot Forest reflects adaptations for parasite (mite) avirulence, not host (bee) resistance.

Prof. Seeley is the leading expert in swarm behaviour and feral bee biology. As you can see from his study above Varroa and bees can develop a stable relationship with each other if we let them do so. But if we disrupt it every year by trying to kill Varroa with so many different methods we only breed a stronger, more virulent mite.

Study in Kenya showed that most colonies had Varroa in the hives yet not even one beekeeper EVER noticed any issues. So we can conclude that it is not Varroa that is the culprit but the virus introduced through Varroa presence. Not all Varroa mites are virulent as both the Kenya case shows and Seeley too.

Many experienced "treatment free" beekeepers have come to the same conclusion. The more one treats against Varroa the more virulent it gets. A perfect example are beekeepers who treat every year yet many of their colonies die anyway! Is this not so?
My last years mentor treats every year with Oxalic Acid as most beeks do around Scandinavia yet last winter he had 50% losses and year before that 80%. One treatment free beekeeper in his area didn't have any losses in the last 5 years.
I know of others who treat every year and still lose colonies every winter.

Whats great with feral colonies is they are free from human manipulations. No one ever opens their cavity. Instead of wax foundation with mono-cell size they build natural comb with various cell size. They can have as many Drones as they feel like yet still as the study shows Varroa and bees co-adapted.

There so much wrong with conventional beekeeping I don't even know where to begin! Drone culling, mono-cell size wax foundations, "religious" anti-varroa treatment every year, overworked bees for honey gain, migratory pollination of mono-crops, sugar feeding, swarm suppression, artificial insemination of queens, etc etc etc ...

Its all about our own deformed perspective really. We humans seem to be the ones behind all major issues on this planet. We are to treat our own minds with something rather than Varroa. We have indeed disconnected from the Natural with our "American Dream" lifestyles. I dont know about you but Im ready to re-connect. I will let my bees lead me back home, I'm sure they know the Way.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvelous error! -
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

- Antonio Machado
(1875 - 1939)

Honeybees feeding on Apples

Honeybees don't just feed on flowers. They are also known for feeding on the Honeydew from Aphids but also on ripe fruits like Apples which are rich in fructose. Since Honeybee mandibles aren't as strong as those in Wasps or Hornets they feed on apples which have fallen to the ground and are broken.
Honeybees feeding on a ripe Apple in September

Pollen creates Vitellogenin fat reserves for the winter

I am learning alot about bee friendly plants, shrubs and trees this year. Bought some books, read web pages, planted some, tested some but the greatest teacher so far are the bees, showing me the flowers they prefer in nature. I let some of my kitchen garden veggies go into bloom so to get seeds for the next year and bees seem to like some of these.
Amongst them are Radishes and bees seem to love their flowers.
Radish flowers are great source of nectar and pollen in Autumn
Radishes are easy to grow and I will collect many seeds this year for the next season. Brassica family is another late bloomer. Our Mizuna Cabbage is blooming now as well as Broccoli and I see bees pollinating their flowers. 
Aster is another plant which flowers in Autumn. Not to forget the fabulous Himalayan Balsam which seeds I started collecting big time :)
Honeybees on Aster flowers at the end of September (shade temperature 9'C)
Autumn is the very last train for bees to collect pollen and nectar before the cold of winter. For that reason I will focus a lot to plant what's blooming between the August and October. According to some studies bees which have good Autumn source of pollen are the ones best fit to survive winter. Without pollen bees can't "fatten up" for the winter. 
"Bees not only store pollen and honey in the combs, but they also store food reserves in their bodies. This is done mainly in the form of a compound called “vitellogenin.” vitellogenin is classed as a “glycolipoprotein,” meaning that is has properties of sugar (glyco, 2%), fat (lipo, 7%), and protein (91%) (Wheeler & Kawooya 2005). Vitellogenin is used by other animals as an egg yolk protein precursor, but bees have made it much more important in their physiology and behavior, using it additionally as a food storage reservoir in their bodies, to synthesize royal jelly, as an immune system component, as a “fountain of youth” to prolong queen and forager lifespan, as well as functioning as a hormone that affects future foraging behavior!"

Thanks to Vitellogenin bees can live long throughout the winter. No wonder that beekeepers have huge winter losses in apiaries close to mono-crop agriculture using Neonicotinoid pesticides. Such pesticides affect the bees ability to create fat reserves. Without fat reserves in their bodies they have very little chance to overwinter successfully.
So its not just honey/sugar they need to overwinter but ample amounts of pollen too to build up fat reserves in form of Vitellogenin. Can bees find enough pollen in Autumn if surrounded with mono-crop fields which give no pollen at all at this time of the year? I don't think so! And because of this it is of great, ney, alerting importance to plant for the bees as much as possible personally but also to try and make our politicians understand how important it is to create a sustainable biodiverse environment. Farmers will not change their habitual perspective of only thinking about profit so we must have a program to assist farmers to plant around their fields bee friendly plants, shrubs and trees to sustain the bees throughout the whole year. Large scale mono-cultures as seen in California Almond fields is to be banned in my opinion. They represent Eco-cide on grand scale and are showing us year in, year out that they are nothing more but deserts for the insects and birds.

So join your local environmental group and try to make a difference in your locality, your village, town, county. We are on the verge to destroy life on earth as we know it! Lets not fool ourselves by ignoring this fact and running away from it into our TV shows, PC games, various hobbies and other entertainment, etc ... Even if you choose to ignore them, facts still remain (I think Huxley said that).

Read more about the importance of Vitellogenin HERE

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bee-friendly Super Top Bar Hive

As I already mentioned in one of my earlier posts I'm designing a new bee hive one that in my opinion suits well the bee biology and my needs as a householder. I'm not after large amounts of honey otherwise I would be keeping bees in those conventional hives which overwork bees, making 70-100 kg of honey. Im more after a modest amount of around 10-15 kg per hive. But first and foremost Im into giving my bees a cavity which suits their natural biorhythm.

The main starting point in my personal beekeeping is the fact that bee swarm prefers to settle in cavities which have a volume of 40 liters. Dr. Seeley's study of swarm behaviour demonstrates that swarms, if offered cavities between 15 to 100 litres always chose 40 litres cavities. There must be a good reason for that and Im intending to respect that preference. Im not sure what the exact volume of my short Top Bar Hives is but there are 10 top bars and each can hold a comb with close to 2 kg of honey so Im assuming it is around 40 litres because Seeley noticed that swarms in such a cavity can collect around 20 kg of stores before winter. 

Supered hive is not a new thing. Far from it. It was used for decades. Most beeks these days keep bees in such supered vertical hives. They are designed so to give as much honey harvest as possible. Design for the benefit of humans rather than bees. In such hives bees are obviously overworked by filling all these empty supers above their heads. Bees dislike empty space and will do their best to fill it with combs and stores. I would not say that the colony is trying to make a surplus of honey but rather they are trying to thermo regulate the entire cavity. The honey comb is not just their food but also a material which is very good at preserving heat, so we might say bees heat up the wax comb which preserves the heat and reflects it back onto the colony keeping them warm. Hive is a wind break and a protection from predators and rain.

I also mentioned in my earlier post that one swedish beek tried this design and got good results with it. He got 24 kg of honey from his super top bar hive but Im sure its because he had frames in his supers so he could easily extract the honey and return the empty combs for the bees to keep refilling them so to harvest again. Im more into crush and strain where honey comb is crushed entirely to extract the honey. For this reason I will harvest only once a year.

You might wonder why Im testing this design since I keep bees in horizontal TBHs which are already bee friendly. Good question :)
Yes they are indeed bee friendly and for that reason I have chosen to keep the top bar hive model for the Primary Colony Body/Cavity.  As mentioned above Im trying to give bees a cavity of about 40 litres (Dr. Seeley) and all horizontal Top Bar Hives are much larger than that. Yes one could make them smaller with the follower board but where will the bees store the surplus honey then?

You see, bees do feel their cavity/body size and act/plan according to that volume. My local inspector overwinters small splits on only 2 combs every year. These small splits seem to adapt to this small cavity and raise just enough bees and store just enough honey to pull them through the winter until the first pollen and nectar source in early spring. His small splits survive the winter on 2 combs. Fact.
But swarms do prefer 40 litres cavities and that is my starting point in designing this new hive (new for me that is).
That said bees in the regular size Top Bar Hive can sense that large space and will begin raising a lot of brood which is to fill that space with comb and stores. And here is my dilemma; how do I know what is the surplus honey that I can harvest for my own needs? You see, bees can store the same amount of honey on 10 combs as on 15 combs. On 10 combs they will store maybe 2/3 of the comb with honey and on 15 combs 1/2 of the comb. Bees always store honey in the upper part of the comb leaving some empty space at the bottom part (brood raising?). So if I believe that bees need only 10 combs to survive the winter I will very likely have to feed extra since the hind combs are the ones with most stored honey, hence called the honey area. These combs can be filled entirely with stores, not so in the brood area. So how do I know for certain that bees have enough stores if I harvest the combs with most honey in them? Bees sure arranged the whole cavity/body so its set up for the wintering yet I took away that which I believed was surplus.

A colony in a 40 litres cavity will raise less brood than those in a conventional hive and will very likely backfill the brood nest faster than those in conventional hives and for that reason will very likely go into swarming preparation much earlier. That is fine with me since early swarming also means more time for the new colony to build up before the winter.
Bee-friendly Super Top Bar Hives
 So why do I call this hive "Bee-friendly Super Top Bar Hive"?
1. its a top bar hive where bees have freedom to build natural comb with various cell size
2. the colony is not exposed to the super above since the top bars are not spaced as is the case in framed hives, and hence is not forced to fill it up with comb and stores pronto
3. there is no queen excluder
4. when the super is removed the brood nest atmosphere is preserved because the top bars aren't spaced
5. the bees feel there is a primary larger cavity and there is smaller/shallower secondary cavity. They will choose the larger (40 litres) cavity and will make sure to organise that cavity so its ready for the winter (filled with enough stores). This cavity will also dictate to a certain extent the swarming urge and the amount of brood raised during the flow and before the winter (less brood).
The secondary cavity (super) can be closed off by propolising the two 1 cm slits (second photo bellow) or if Receiver Bees (which receive nectar from foragers) decide there indeed is some surplus honey they will store it there. Im sure the bees will have more choice in such a design. If bees decide that they have better things to do than to fill that secondary cavity with honey they can easily close it off with propolis.
6. the primary cavity is never changing in volume. Supering, Nadiring and Spacing (comb manipulation in most hives) changes the hive volume all the time which forces changes on the colony level. I will do no spacing manipulation in this kind of hive.

Even though some people believe that we humans and bees are "One" (and this can be true in a mystical and spiritual way) Im approaching this hive design as if we humans and bees are not "One" but rather two different species entirely. For that reason I find it highly appropriate to have two separate cavities, one for the bee colony and one for the wretched human, my-little-self :) so none of us get confused with my hive management.
One hive with the super off and one with a super on. You can see that I placed
planks on top of the super. I will use no frames nor top bars. Bees will be able
to build wild comb in there. The planks are not fixed to the super box so its to
remove them when harvesting/cutting out the honey combs.
I have made a frame on which to place the super so bees cant propolise
the super to the top bars. The frame is 1 cm above the height of the top bars.
I decided to create 2 slits, one before the first top bar and one after the last top
bar. The grey top bar to the left is the follower board. The entrance is on the
right side of this photo.
As you can see from the back the supers are shorter than the top bar hive
so I placed another plank behind it to close the cavity. The roof is long
enough to cover the entire hive. The super is shallow only 16 cm tall.
Shallow super will discourage Queen from laying in it. Bees seem to prefer
having the brood nest in deeper spaces. Hence no need for the queen excluder.
All of the written above is simply a hypothesis of a simpleton (me) which started keeping bees last year (2012), not a scientist, not an experienced wise beek, so please if you are getting an idea to try this design take into consideration that this all might just backfire and turn into a fiasco :) I will test this next year and update you via this blog of mine. Make sure to stay tuned!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My bees collect Urine and Blood

While some worker bees collect nectar, pollen and propolis other collect urine. Yes urine :) human, dog, cow, horse ... any urine they can find. Many beekeepers have noticed this but to this date no scientist ever came to the idea to test why (at least I don't know of such a study). I have even seen my bees licking fish blood from the outdoor table I use to clean the Pike I catch during the fishing season (salts, Iron ?)
Worker Bees collecting something from the urine from our composting toilet
We have a composting toilet in our summer cottage which releases the excess urine onto the ground. This is the area where I see daily at least several bees collecting urine ... or collecting something from it. I never see them collecting the liquid itself but rather licking something in the vicinity of it. Many assume they are after the salts also known as electrolytes. These include Sodium, Potassium and Chloride.
In human bodies their function is this:

  • Sodium helps digest proteins and carbohydrates and keeps your blood from becoming too acidic or too alkaline.

  • Potassium is used in digestion to synthesize proteins and starch and is a major constituent of muscle tissue.

  • Chloride is a constituent of hydrochloric acid, which breaks down food in your stomach. It’s also used by white blood cells to make hypochlorite, a natural antiseptic.
While some assume salts are being collected others say its the minerals. Urine indeed is very mineral rich.
Human urine properties are these:

Alanine, total ..... 38 mg/day
Arginine, total ..... 32 mg/day
Ascorbic acid ..... 30 mg/day
Allantoin ..... 12 mg/day
Amino acids, total ..... 2.1 g/day
Bicarbonate ..... 140 mg/day
Biotin ..... 35 mg/day
Calcium ..... 23 mg/day
Creatinine ..... 1.4 mg/day
Cystine ..... 120 mg/day
Dopamine ..... 0.40 mg/day
Epinephrine ..... 0.01 mg/day
Folic acid ..... 4 mg/day
Glucose ..... 100 mg/day
Glutamic acid ..... 308 mg/day
Glycine ..... 455 mg/day
Inositol ..... 14 mg/day
Iodine ..... 0.25 mg/day
Iron ..... 0.5 mg/day
Lysine, total ..... 56 mg/day
Magnesium ..... 100 mg/day
Manganese ..... 0.5 mg/day
Methionine, total ..... 10 mg/day
Nitrogen, total ..... 15 g/day
Ornithine ..... 10 mg/day
Pantothenic acid ..... 3 mg/day
Phenylalanine ..... 21 mg/day
Phosphorus, organic .....9 mg/day
Potassium ..... 2.5 mg/day
Proteins, total ..... 5 mg/day
Riboflavin ..... 0.9 mg/day
Tryptophan, total ..... 28 mg/day
Tyrosine, total ..... 50 mg/day
Urea ..... 24.5 mg/day
Vitamin B6 ..... 100 mg/day
Vitamin B12 ..... 0.03 mg/day
Zinc ..... 1.4 mg/day
(Your Own Perfect Medicine? - Natural Health and Longevity Resource Center)
The following are the average quantities of various substances, in 100 milliliters of urine as reported in Introduction to Biochemistry by Dr. Pharon:
Substance Milligrams
1] Urea nitrogen 682.00
2] Urea 1459.00
3] Creatinin nitrogen 36.00
4] Creatinin 97.20
5] Uric acid nitrogen 12.30
6] Uric acid 36.90
7] Amino nitrogen 9.70
8] Ammonia nitrogen 57.00
9] Sodium 212.00
10] Potassium 137.00
11] Calcium 19.50
12] Magnesium 11.30
13] Chloride 314.00
14] Total sulphate 91.00
15] Inorganic sulphate 83.00
16] Inorganic phosphate 127.00
17] N/10 acid 27.80
Some other important urine constituents are:
Amylase (diastase).
Lactic dehydrogenate (L. D. H.).
Leucine amino-peptidase (L. A. P.).
Catechol amines.
Adenylate cyclase.
Sex hormones.

As you can see urine is like a shopping center for the bees ;) lots of goodies to find there. What does this tells us? Do bees find all the minerals they need in the natural nectar? I'm not sure they do even though there are small amounts of minerals in nectar. Lets not forget that bees raise brood which needs much more minerals and electrolytes for bodily cell production than a grown up bee for consumption.

Many beekeepers also assume that feeding sugar syrup is wrong since it lacks minerals found in natural nectar. I agree with the part that bees are to feed on their natural diet but lets assume for argument sake that bees enrich the sugar syrup with all these minerals and salts found in urine. They maybe even enrich the natural nectar with it. This is possible. I dare to think so because I can see my ladies spending lots of time every day on this urine from our composting toilet. There must be a good reason for that since we all agree that bees are highly resourceful creatures and do not waste time on what is not needed.

So next time you say with confidence that you never tasted urine, please do remember that teaspoon of honey you just ate for the breakfast ;)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My bees have a white stripe on their back - Himalayan Balsam

I see at this time of the year on beekeeping forums new beekeepers asking a question like "My bees have a white stripe down their back. They look like ghosts. Are they sick?" :) Far from it :)
As you can see in this photo the white stripe comes from the Himalayan Balsam pollen :) thats all, 
no big deal :)
The ladies dig the blondie look at this time of the season ;)
 Most countries find this plant specie "invasive". I have no clue what they
are talking about since they a TERRIFIC source of nectar and pollen for 
both our Honeybees and Bumblebees. I find mono-crop agriculture highly 
invasive yet our governments aren't doing much about it.
 That said, I will be propagating this fabulous plant which is 
flowering so late in the season when very little is. They are 
priceless for the bees. I started collecting seeds from it :)
I'm guerilla, invading the planet with bee friendly plants ;)
These seed pods explode on the touch and for this reason
I gently close the pods into my palm where they explode, otherwise
they scatter all over the place.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Che Guebee Drone won the contest in the Danish Bee Magazine

My photo of this gorgeous Drone won the contest in the Danish Beekeeping magazine Biavl this year :)

Strong September Flow

Despite the good weather and strong honey flow this summer I decided to feed the bees with sugar syrup. I begun feeding them in August with 5:3 sugar syrup mixed with Nettle Tea and a tiny amount of Apple Cider Vinegar, and by now their combs are filled up with stores. So far I fed my 6 colonies with 88 kg of sugar.
 These pics are taken today and as you can see the returning bees are numerous
There is lots of orange (Hawksbeard), yellow (Aster and Water Lilly) and light grey (Himalayan balsam) pollen coming in.
This comb is clearly totally filled with stores. The cells are cupped to the edge of the comb from top to bottom.

Some people asked me how much honey did I harvest this year and I say 8 kg from 2 colonies. When they hear about me feeding them with 88 kg of sugar they question the type of Kenya Top Bar Hive.
What some don't understand is that I bought this year 2 colonies and divided them into 6 colonies, by making splits. This weakens the mother colonies a lot in the "excess honey making" aspect.

If I decided not to do splits I would have had honey to harvest but instead of honey I have 4 more colonies and let me remind you each colony cost 2000 swedish crowns which is approx 200 Euros so even if we are to look at the economics of beekeeping I have won much this year. 

Just for the record I made splits for the bees sake not for my own monetary gain. The world of bees is being hammered very hard at this time thanks to our use of pesticides and mono-crop agriculture and they need all our help to get them back to health. Bees swarm every year naturally and that is what I did, I swarmed them so they have a bigger chance to survive the coming winter and other environmental challenges.

Top Bar Beekeeping is by far the best way to give actual freedom back to the bees on a colony level. Bees don't build mono-cell combs as offered by the conventional beekeepers. In my hives I see all sort of cell size from 5,6 mm to 4,6 mm. Only bees know why they prefer such biodiverse cell structure and we must respect their very biology. And since bees prefer biodiversity I think its time for us humans to change our mono-crop fields which are nothing more but deserts for bees, into agriculture based on biodiversity.

Its time we get our shit together! We must act now and make pressure on our governments to make the change but also be the change ourself.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Preparing the new Supered TBH

I'm trying to find a design which suits both the bees need and my needs as self-sufficient homesteader. I love honey but so do bees. If sugar is much better than honey then why don't we choose sugar over honey ;)
I just find it wrong feeding the Honey Makers with sugar syrup so looking for a way to satisfy both my self and my ladies.

As I mentioned earlier I have a feeling that constant supering/nadiring/spacing has the effect of creating large colonies. Beekeepers know this and look at it in a positive way. I don't. Not anymore.

The more bees in the hive the more stores they need to overwinter. Some beeks overwinter small colonies on only 2 combs (under 4 kg stores). Dr. Seeley finds in his swarm behaviour study that bees prefer cavities about +/- 40 litres not bigger nor smaller. Our hives are usually much bigger throughout the season tricking bees into feeling the colony body is large so they try to fill it with extra bees to do the excess work. This results in too many bees going into winter. These are only my hypothesis, I could be wrong.

Any way, I have started preparing 1 suoer per each TBH in which bees can store the excess honey. This super is not "aggressive" since it has only one opening so bees in the brood area doesn't feel the space above being empty. This will make sure bees focus mainly in the bottom part to prepare it for the winter and if the honey flow is very strong the house bees will have the choice to fill the super with honey ... or not.

 This super is too tall/deep. I plan on making 10 cm tall super because
Queen dislike laying eggs in such a small space.
1cm Spacers for the entrance into the super making sure the sides are
closed so no robbing can occur. 
 This opening is placed just above the actual top entrance.
Im still not sure if Im to have the opening at back, or front 
or both. The most important thing is that the brood nest is cover 
at all times. I feel this kind of super is not forcing bees into
storing nectar into it but rather using ONLY if the honey 
flow is truly strong. Lets test this next year.
Our chicks guarding the Apiary :)
I have spotted one Hornet snatching a flying bee every now and then.
One can still see the pollen on this poor bee's legs.

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Holma Forest Garden" & "Urban Gardening Network Seved" visiting Che Guebee Apiary

My ladies and I had a visit yesterday :) The fine folk of Holma Forest Garden came to see Che Guebee Apiary which consists of 6 colonies in horizontal Top Bar Hives.
Holma Forest Garden are interested in this (for Sweden) strange way of keeping bees and have decided to give top bar beekeeping a try in their forest garden next year.
I will help them build their first top bar hive on the 6th of October.
There were also two persons from the Urban Gardening Network Seved showing interested in this method, especially because they have a few people in the network which come from Somalia were top bar beekeeping is very normal.
Welcome to Che Guebee Apiary :)
Talking about top bar beekeeping
Newly started natural top bar comb
careful top bar comb manipulation
Normal kitchen bread knife as a hive tool
This comb is from a conventional hive which was introduced
into the TBH via Chop'n'Crop. For some reason bees didn't
feel like building it into the shape of the cavity. The spray bottle
is used instead of a smoker.
Inspecting comb for eggs and larvae
photos by Martina

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Conventional Farmers ain't all bad

Natural beekeepers are known to dislike conventional farming practices but in this case some of the stuff they do seems helping the bees at this time of the year in my locality.
At one stage the farmers have cut down all the grass on their fields for hay production, cutting down the Clover flowers as well. This made me sad because at that stage Clover was the only one flowering a lot.
The bees have considerably reduced flying after that. 
Another thing happened when farmers cut down the grasses; they have cut down the Hawkbit and Hawksbeard plants as well which were just about to start blooming. This have only postponed their flowering and the fields now are all yellow. It feels like the beginning of Dandelion nectar flow back in May :)
fields covered in Hawkbit flowers
Lots of pollen
Honey extracting nectar with proboscis 
Bee flying from one flower to the next ...
Sisters in action
But not all looks great on the farmers fields. Most of the farmers till their grass fields once covered with Dandelion and Hawkbit plants because they believe that such plants give no benefit to their cattle. They only want grass and to make that possible they first spray the field with poison called RoundUp which kills literally all plant life. After that they till the land and after some time they saw new grass seeds. Such fields will not offer anything to the pollinators until Dandelion and Hawkbit seeds find their way back onto those fields. This can take several years.

And here we see the problem arising from not keeping landrace cattle which can thrive on flowering fields. The swedish landrace cows are small and give less milk than the imported ones but they also need no extra feeding, no need for high quality grass diet.

Think about it. We will buy a farm soon and I will make sure we only have landrace animals, which are adapted to this climate and nature.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Farmers Awakening

A farmer wept one tear
in form of a bee
opening his heart
with the long lost key

Deep is the ignorance
placed behind his eyes
because of his greed
the little bee dies

"How did it come to this?"
the farmer asks in despair
"Because of my greed bees die
That is not fair!"

"I must find the way
to save the honey bees
I will turn my mono-crop fields
into bee friendly trees."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Feeding bees with Nettle Tea and Sugar Syrup

I dislike feeding white refined sugar to the bees, I really do and I'm trying to find a way to manage some amount of honey for our household and to leave enough for the bees. I am trying to manage this by not expanding the Body of the Colony = the hive by excess supering, nadiring, spacing.

But since I'm feeding them with sugar now to prepare them for the winter I decided to mix Nettle Tea with the Sugar Syrup to enrich it with all the minerals from the Nettle leaves.
In the photo above one can see that the sugar syrup is colored now by the Nettle Tea. All Honey has some kind of color to it because of all the minerals in it.
 I'm observing my ladies daily on the hive entrance and through the observation windows. They are so powerful, they have such strong sense of purpose unlike us humans who seem to be lost most of their life.
I think naively that I'm helping them but in truth it is them helping me find The Way.
 They are utterly enjoying working on an entirelly naturally built comb. It is how they wanted it to be. It is them who decoded what cell size is placed where on every single comb and there are so many different cell sizes on those combs. Why do beekeepers keep placing mono-cell wax foundations into their hives? Makes me sad.

Bee Group Mykorrhiza Inauguration Day

Bee Group Mykorrhiza decided to open its doors to new members again. The door was closed for a while for the need to re-organize the groups goals.
The group started keeping bees in a conventional hive last year and when Top Bar Hive beekeeping came into the picture some members started showing resistance towards it. This created a very unpleasant situation within the group. Some people left, some stayed and others joined in.
Since then the group reorganised and got two more colonies but this time in horizontal Top Bar Hives. The conventional hive is also still in operation and the group decided to keep it for comparison.

Yesterday was the Inauguration Day of the Bee Group Mykorrhiza and quite a few new people interested in keeping bees showed up :)
 Viktor proudly presenting the swarm colony he caught this year
which was placed into this top bar hive built by him.
 Some of the visitors are looking for the first time into a top bar hive colony 
being amazed by the white natural comb hanging freely from the ceiling :)
This colony is developing nicely

Besides checking the top bar hives we also extracted some honey from the conventional hive and afterwards we watched the movie "Queen of the Sun".