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, December 6, 2013

My beekeeper doesn't understand me!

I have found this illustration on facebook and I like it even though it is a bit misleading. Bees deserting the hives is known as CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) and is caused by pesticide poisoning. Pesticides responsible for CCD are called Neonicotinoids.

What I like about this illustration is the little bee saying "My beekeeper doesn't understand me". So what does this little bee actually refer to?

Conventional beekeepers are focused on profit. This is the starting point of conventional beekeeping. The whole world seems motivated by profit so why should beekeeping be different. To be able to make lots of honey the conventional beeks use all sorts of methods:

1. Swarm Control

- They do this by clipping Queen Bees wings so she can't fly. In case the colony swarms they soon realise they don't have a Queen and they return to the hive.

- They super the hive with empty boxes over the brood nest. Bees dislike empty space above their heads so they, instead to swarm, are building new comb and filling it with honey. They force bees to produce more honey which bees otherwise would not do!
Dr. Seeley is a famous scientist researching swarm behaviour. He found that a swarm of Apis mellifera always choose hollow space which is approx 40 litres, even if offered larger space. So if bees are preferring 40 litres hive the conventional supering method is disrupting their biological clock.
What is colonies biological clock? The bees have Spring, Summer and Autumn to do all their biology requires them to do and that is:

Harvesting pollen and nectar, propolis and water - they do this throughout the whole warm season

Raring worker bees and Drones (males) - they need Drones to mate with the virgin queens.

Prime Swarm - old Queen leaves the mother hive with half of the worker bees and finds another cavity. This is the natural procreation of Honeybees.

Raising Virgin Queens - making several Queen Cells

Cast Swarm/s - when Virgin Queens emerge some of them might leave the hive with a small force of worker bees to find a new cavity. Cast Swarms are much smaller than prime swarms and have less chance to build up before winter.

Mating of Virgin Queens - to be able to mate successfully a virgin queen must mate with dozens of Drones on her nuptial flight

Brood Break - is something bees don't get often in conventional hives. Conventional beekeepers usually suppress swarming by supering and re-queen the colony once the virgin queens have mated. So they simply take the old queen out, kill her, and place a newly mated Queen into the hive. Like this there is no Brood Break since brood production is continuous. Varroa mites can breed only if there are brood larvae in the combs. Without brood they cant multiply. And conventional beekeepers wonder why they have so much issues with Varroa in their hives. Brood Break creates a break in Varroa breeding also resulting in less Varroa. There is also the possibility that bees do other thing within the hive during the brood-less cicle like grooming one another maybe?

2. Varroa Control

Conventional beekeepers treat their hives against Varroa with all sorts of chemicals and organic acids and by doing this they are standing in the way of Bees and Varroa finding the way to co-adapt to each other. The treatments seem to be only creating more virulent Varroa mites and weaker bees otherwise how can we explain conventional beekeepers still having huge winter loss?

Drone Culling - for me culling Drones is the most stupid and cruel thing beekeepers do to their bee colonies. The bees invest large amounts of energy to raise Drones. They need Drones to mate with Queens. Only the most fit Drones mate with Queens. There is no way to tell if we have culled the strongest Drones. Then they wonder why their Queens are not mated properly.
It is true that Varroa prefer to breed in Drone cells which are larger and the Drones metamorphosis takes longer than that of a worker bee enabling the Varroa to multiply more. Treatment free beekeepers have noticed that bees still survive even if they don't practice Drone Culling, and many conventional beekeeper's colonies still die even if they practiced Drone Culling.
Just for the record; I don't cull Drones and my hives have a Brood Break. My colonies evict Drones already in July and refuse any Drones from entering the hive after that. Like this there is no way Varroa can enter the hive via Drones from other colonies in the area. The reason my colonies evict Drones this early is maybe due to uninterrupted biological clock. In conventional hives the beekeepers remove/cull the Drones and bees must raise them again which takes time and disrupts the biological clock of the colony resulting in later drone eviction.

3. Migratory Beekeeping

Migratory beekeeping coupled with mono-crop agriculture and the use of pesticides is the main source of CCD (colony collapse disorder). Bees from all over country intermix on pollination stations and spread disease to one another. Pesticides weaken the bees and the mono-crop offers only one source of protein food weakening them even further. What I don't understand is how come this is not labeled as "ANIMAL ABUSE"?!!! Ask your politicians!

4. Mono-cell size Wax Foundation

Conventional beekeepers use wax sheets known as foundation which have a mono-cell size of 5.1mm- 5.3mm cells. If bees are allowed to build their own comb they clearly demonstrate large variety of cells size ranging from 4,6mm all the way to 6,5mm. Only bees know why they do it, we don't.

It seems this little bee has right to say "My beekeeper doesn't understand me"

I could go on but I feel this is enough for now. I will say that opposing to the conventional beekeeping stands Natural Beekeeping where bees are largely let do their thing, naturally.


  1. It's funny you should mention brood break. This is only about the second time I've read about it and it's very possible that the first time was here also. :-) I've gone to the county bee meetings where they talk about inspecting your hive often so you can make sure the queen is laying. If she isn't, then replace her. I've heard the club 'heavies' say you've GOT to keep that queen laying...then they talk about how often they replace queens to get maximum honey production. The Master Beekeeper program also never mentioned brood break. So I'm very glad you are writing about it. I don't replace queens...I like the idea that the bees can take a little break in brood care.
    A more controversial question is this...if the bees build combs that are not straight, is it our responsibility to make them straight? This is one beef I have with the TBH. When I built my first hive it was a Kenyan top bar hive. My mentor says you've got to inspect at least every 21 days, preferably every 14 days so you can keep that comb straight. But that means interrupting them a lot. I decided to go to Warre hives so you don't have to cut the combs apart if they get cross-combed. Some people say the bees build comb so get the air moving the right way. I don't know about that, but what if there was something to it? Maybe we wouldn't have so many moisture problems. On the down side, the inspectors need to inspect, and they want to pull frames out. I don't have any answer to that...but the bee hives in trees don't get inspected so they don't necessarily have straight comb and they seem to survive for years.

    1. Hives with a top entrance have no moisture issues hence me drilling one 30 mm top entrance hole on all my hives.

      Many treatment free beeks have streight comb and good results so im not sure if that is very important. It may be.

      Brood Break will be my main "treatment" method for Varroa "control" coupled with natural comb which has various cell size. I will also try not to space top bars and let bees decide how large the brood nest will be.

      I am turning towards short 10 top barsTBHs which is in the 40 litres range. I will place one shallow super on top and see if bees can fill that for my use and still fill up the main hive body for winter. Will test and see

    2. I agree with what you wrote about the current practices. I can't make much sense of it - recycling comb, wax foundation, poisons, etc. Here in the USA, they are planning to introduce a form of agent orange since roundup isn't killing the superweeds anymore... it may even be in use already. Just insane...

      Did you try both top and bottom entrances and see what the bees preferred? I've been thinking about doing that on my hives, but I usually decide against putting any more holes in the hives. I think I would try it if I noticed any mold or excess moisture inside the hives. So far, they seem fine.

      I've been harvesting honey in the spring instead of the fall since I feel better not trying to guess how much honey they will need over the winter.

      Take care,