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, December 29, 2014

Proper Scandinavian Winter gives birth to strong colonies

 The December has turned snowy and very cold. Temperatures can go down to -11'C but apparently this will change soon and we will get back a more mild winter. I wish we had a normal freezing Scandinavian winter to help wipe out the weak colonies since last year there were no colony losses in Denmark thanks to the mild winter 2013.
 I just love to see hives covered in snow :) That snow acts as extra insulation
This is the magical view from the hives :) This is what bees see first when they exit the hives :) But behind this idyllic small forest garden of ours mono-crop fields stretch far and wide. Such forests are truly acting like Noah's Arks or like an Oasis surrounded by a desert. We need to plant more and to force our governments to protect more areas from pesticides, deforestation, urbanization and mono-crop agriculture.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Let there Bee snow

The snow has arrived at last :) Winter came late to the Scandinavian shores as it happened last year also. I was a bit worried because Snow Drops started blooming in some parts because of the mild weather. Last year the early spring flowers bloomed in January and the bees have missed some of them entirely! I honestly hope we get some proper winter cold. The minus will keep the plants dormant and certain amount of pests will also die in the cold of the winter. Another good thing is that those bee colonies not fit for survival will die and give space to those colonies with more adaptive genes.
Che Guebee Apiary in a white Christmas mood  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Middle of December +10'C !!! Where is the cold Scandinavian winter gone?!

Today is the 19th of December and usually at this time we have snow and minus weather in Scandinavia. I was out in the apiary and the bees are flying as its Spring time. It was +10'C today and yesterday! Very unusual weather for December must say! I wonder if they will have enough stores since bees are very active in warm weather and of course eat more.
 Here you can see the forecast 
 We had a few nights with frost but mostly it was mild and rainy. In this shot you can see our heavy clay soil saturated in water.
Throwing out dead bees is normal to see in mild winter days

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Apiary December news and new frames

I was knocking a bit on the hives to see if the colonies are still alive. After each knock I would get a short buzz from the hives :) They are still much alive.
 Two of the colonies are staying on the first comb infront of the entrance. This is good I guess because they have much more stores at the back. In top bar hives each brood comb has a honey arch above it. 1/3 or even 1/2 of the brood comb can be filled with stores so there is no chance they can cut them selves off of the honey area at the back in case of very cold spells. 
I was a busy bee lately. I made 6 supers and made 12 frames for each. I will make many more before spring arrives. These frames are meant to be foundationless with only a small wax strip hanging from the top as a comb guide. I will of course use my own wax to make the strips.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mushrooms Can Save the Bees! Save the Forests!

This might be one of the most important video I watched. Another would be Back to Eden which is a documentary about wood chip gardening.
I have never heard before of how Mycorrhiza can help the bees combat viruses but I was not surprised when I heard about it in this video. Mycorrhiza can transform deserts into forests (Green Gold) so why not help the bees ;) Bees need wild biodiverse nature to thrive and so do we. Please do see this video, it will be the best 30 minutes spent I promise!

Monday, November 10, 2014

New table saw and building supers with frames for TBHs

I just realized that I haven't blogged about my new toy :) I've got a new Bosch PTS-10 table saw which can be used for ripping and cutting. It really is multi-functional! I am so happy I've got this present for my 40th birthday! Well my b-day is in January so I've got it early. My wife asked me if I want something special for the birthday present and I couldn't think of anything better than this! Now I can easily build new hives and what not!

So I have started building shallow frames and supers for my nucleus top bar hives. I plan to focus on the short nectar flow we have from April to Jun and supers will force the bees upwards during that time. Once the flow is over the supers will be removed and the bees will focus only on the top bar hive body. After that I will very likely let them swarm or/and do splits.
 I have opted for shallow supers which are only 12,5cm tall. It is a coincidence that Langstroth frames fit lengthwise into these.
 Shot from above shows the 24mm top bars in the hive body with a queen excluder on top
 I can place 12 frames into these supers
This queen excluder is too small for this hive and will be used in my 8 frame vertical hives. I will need to buy a few new queen excluders for my TBH nucs. 

There is more to it than just working the hives

Most people think of honey production when they think of beekeepers. But I feel there is more to it than just working the hives. Beekeepers, at least those who consider them selves as natural beekeepers are not only managing their hives naturally but they also manage and look after the environment. They use no pesticides and encourage others to stop using them. They favor biodiversity over mono-crop agriculture and they always, year in year out, plant new bee friendly trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Such beekeepers understand that Nature is bees external metabolism and without it they simply cant make it. It is of the utmost importance for beekeepers to learn not just about beekeeping but also about bee-friendly gardening especially so in areas where mono-crop agriculture is killing the biodiversity!

I have got a call yesterday from a local beekeeper telling me that he is about to remove some of the young trees from his land and if I would like to plant them on my farm. We talked about it earlier this year that I plan to plant heavily for the bees. Of course I was very happy to say YES :))

 I've got 4 Linden trees which I planted beside the main road. I mulched them heavily with wood chips.
 He gave me 18 Acacia (Black Locust) trees :) boy oh boy will my ladies be happy once these start blooming !
I also got 30 Hawthorn trees, 6 Horse chestnuts and a few small leaved Maples. I decided to plant the Hawthorn along this incomplete hedge which is separating my land from the conventional mono-crop agriculture behind.
Don't worry my dear ladies, I am planting a lot for you. Next Spring I will plant all sorts of bee friendly herbaceous plants. Next year this farm will provide lots of organic pollen and nectar for you. Cluster tight and keep warm.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I do understand conventional beekeepers

I am observing my bees daily and some of the hives are evicting many bees with deformed wings. Some bees even have a living Varroa mite on their backs;
It seems to me that the bees are not only evicting their sisters with the deformed wing virus but also the Varroa mites stuck to their back, which will result in many Varroa gone from the hive.
I do understand those who treat their bees, I really do. I mean my heart is not made of stone you know :) I too feel the impulse to "help my bees" and treat them with some organic acid against this beast sucking on them. But I also feel that saving those weak colonies which can't co-adapt with Varroa, will only weaken the gene pool for the next generations. Their Drones might mate with future virgin queens and what will happen then?! Isn't it better to let nature vanish those who cant make it and  excel those who can? I think so. Nature has been doing it for so long and I feel we must respect that. Besides pesticides and mono-crop agriculture, breeding weak genes is a serious issue for the bees. We must find a way and energy to reform all 3 aspects mentioned.
But not all sounds gloomy in Che Guebee Apiary :) Some hives are flying strong even now and I see not many bees with DWV being evicted. Now this might be a good sign or ... a bad sign. The winter will decide and I will see next Spring which of them have proven to be worthy to pollinate Nature and spread their genes next year.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Honeybee thermo-videos in winter and summer + Homeostasis

In this video you can see how bee heat the cluster. You can also notice that the ambient hive temperature goes down to -15'C demonstrating clearly that bees DO NOT heat the hive it self but the wax comb within the cluster. Wax comb is great at retaining heat which radiates back at the bees. Smart indeed.

In the second video you will see the bees in summer

You can read about this German study here;

Another interesting study on Homeostasis - Humidity and Water Relations in Apis mellifera 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Warmest October in more than 100 years

Yes, this whole year was the warmest year in more than 100 years in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. As a matter of fact I read that even UK and other EU countries say the same.
2 days ago it was 17'C which is END of October and I was out in a T-shirt and the bees were foraging like its Summer time. The climate change is most differently NOT a MYTH :) For the first time we are getting some serious flooding in the coastal areas of Denmark, so serious that the government is making plans to build protections around the coast. Soon we will look like Holland ;) and Holland ... well if the sea continues to raise will have to be evacuated!
 Honeybees foraging on the Mexican Aster

Bees gone missing ???

I was visiting my father-in-law this week and we went to check on his bees in the out-apiary. He has 3 colonies there together with another beek who has 2.
We opened 2 hives and found many bees in there, very strong and healthy looking. Then we opened the 3rd one and we were faced with a life-less hive :(
No bees between the frames. No buzzing, no life :(
He treated these hives in september so he is sure they were very strong and looking good, lots of brood and lots of stores as well as pollen. He is puzzled. We opened the hives of his fellow beekeeper too and found that one of his hives is also empty of bees! Lots of pollen, honey but no bees at all!
There are no dead bees nor chewed wax on the bottom board which would indicate robbing or even disease. Its most defently no CCD because in that case there would still be some dead bees in there or even a Queen with a small amount of house bees.
I checked the brood comb and found many small white spots, which are Varroa feces, in the cells indicating high Varroa load. There are also a few capped brood cells which I have checked for AFB but that was not the case. My father-in-law thinks they have absconded because the Varroa load was too great. This is the only colony he never culled drones from (integrated pest management). I told him that I never cull drones and for the last 3 years I did not have such issues.
The hive had plenty of stores. Not sure why the ladies left so much food just to swarm into certain death? We also considered that someone stole these colonies but after inspecting the frames we quickly realized that is out of question because all frames were propolized and braced with wax. If someone did steal them the propolis and wax would have been broken. One of his hives was stolen from this place last summer which was the reason we suspected someone stealing them.
We are both very much puzzled with this mysterious bee disappearance 

On the positive side I am soon turning 40 and he gave me one of his traditional Danish bee hives as a birthday present :) sweet!
This horizontal hive is traditional in Scandinavia and is called Trugstade in Danish and Trågkupa in Swedish. It is a very well insulated hive.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cell Size

I have got a few pieces of feral comb from a hollow tree. Some comb was for brood and some for honey storage. The photo beneath shows a honey comb with extremely long cells :) Some cells are up to 35mm deep !!!

 I did not photograph the brood comb but the cell size is 5,3mm-5,4mm.
Cell size in my hives is 5,1mm in the brood. When it comes to small cell Im sure Africanized bees build small cell naturally but this might not be the case with European Honeybees. Its known in Sweden that Dark Nordic Bees build 5,1mm in the center of the brood nest.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Honeybee Super-organism is not a "Colony"

When we think of Honeybees we mainly picture Worker Bees, Queen Bee and Drones but is that all there is to this being we call the Honeybee "Colony"?

First and foremost we are approaching this organism from a wrong perspective; we think of them as a "colony". But are they really a colony? If Honeybee Super-organism is a colony then our very human body is also a colony.
Our body is made of millions of cells and bacteria, all sorts of microscopic phenomena like neurons and atoms forming molecules which all interact with one another and all that without our will or control. Of course our body is not a colony but an organism.

Now, if you place dozen humans into a collective they would be a colony. If we place dozen Honeybee families together that too would be a colony (we call that an Apiary). But unlike humans those separate "colonies" do not help one another as humans would do in a colony.

That said, Honeybee "colony" is rather a Super-organism made of many "cells" we call Queen, Workers and Drones but that is not all of it. We know today that various beneficial yeasts, bacteria and mites are part of Bien (Honeybee Super-organism).
Bees can not survive without yeasts because they are the ones creating the so called "bee bread" which they feed to their brood and which is made from pollen-honey and is fermented by the yeasts.
There are over 8000 bacteria associated with Honeybees and over 170 different kind of Mites like the beneficial Stratiolaelaps scimitus which feeds on Varroa mites.
Stratiolaelaps scimitus mite
Worker bees are very much like our cells feeding and building the body and protecting it. Queen and Drones are like our sexual organs. None of the mentioned can survive on their own. Humans can leave the colony and still survive but if a Drone, Queen or a Worker bee leaves the "colony" they sure will perish very fast. Hence "colony" is not the name for them since it is misleading and creating so much confusion about Honeybees today. One of the confusion are the Treatments against Varroa mites. By trying to kill the Varroa we also kill beneficial mites and micro-biome hence creating unbalanced condition within Bien.

Wax Comb is another aspect of Bien; It is their very skeleton, womb for raising brood, storage for Honey and Pollen, it is used for thermo-regulation and bees use it as a telephone line to communicate with each other via vibrations. Take out the wax comb and bees will not be able to survive.
The hollow cavity is their protection from predators and ever changing weather. The hollow conserves the so called hive scent and is used to condense the humid air into water which is used by the bees. It also helps thermo-regulate the inner atmosphere. The hollow cavity is very much like our own skin.
Jurgen Tautz, a very well known Honeybee biologist from Germany (book; Buzz About Bees) compares the Bien to a mammal rather than a colony of individuals for a good reason.

So next time you approach your hive try and look at it as a complex organism rather than a "colony" and see what happens in your mind.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Top Bar Hive Workshop with Che at Makvärket in Denmark

Makvärket is an old abandoned brick factory which is now occupied by a passionate group of visionary people. People who believe in sustainable living on all levels; forest garden, permaculture, natural beekeeping, etc ... 
They are investing a great deal of creative energy into this place
 This place is huge! So much potential!
 The conference room
 They are making their own pressed apple juice which they sell. They dont have an orchard but instead they go around the neighborhood and collect apples which people dont want to use. Smart :)

 Out door pizza oven made from Cob, nice one :)
 Art studios

 In case I didnt mention :) this place is HUGE!

The conference room
I was asked to run a Top Bar Hive workshop to help them start their first Natural Apiary. They plan to have 5 hives in total. 
 New top bar hive beekeepers in action, building their first top bar hives
One hive got legs :)
I will very likely hold a power point presentation about top bar hive beekeeping in February next year and in Spring we will try to start the practical beekeeping part.
 And the vegan food they make here is so tasty :)
Eating in a fine company
We talked a lot about bees of course and in the midst of discussion one young lad said that they have bee colony inside of their wall! I was so excited since this is the first time I have witnessed a feral colony :D In this image above you can see the red circle marking the very small entrance in the wall. The hole is no bigger than 2cm. And sure, the bees were flying in and out of the wall :)) If this colony survives the winter we will make sure to catch it and hive it into the Top Bar Hive. Feral colonies which survive on their own are great candidates for treatment free beekeeping. 
6 meters under the entrance there were a few old bees crawling on the ground. They sure are feral Honeybees :) So exciting!