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?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Splitting hives and Unbelievable News !!!!

The air outside is filled with a nectar smell from various flowers: Dandelions, Cherries, Plums, Canola, various bushes and tress like Maple ... So much forage, the nature is exploding into life :)
Bees are flying very well bringing in lots of nectar and pollen. I have decided to split all the colonies and let them build new Queens.
Papa Dusko working the Che Guebee Apiary consisting of Top Bar Hives
I do the first splits always in the same fashion: I take out the old Queen and move it into a new empty hive with 3 combs of capped brood and 2 combs of nectar/honey. I give them a cup of water since they mostly have house bees and I place a tree branch in front of the entrance to force the bees to re-orientate so they don't fly back to their mother colony. This worked for me well last year and I have got this tip from Michael Bush (use google).
I have placed a tree branch infront of the entrance of new splits. This way bees
cant just fly out but must struggle to get out of the hive. This cause them to re-orientate (orientation flights)
and learn that this is their new entrance. 
Now about the Unbelievable News :))
I decided to open the hives which suffered during the transport from Sweden just to check their status and to see if they have begun building Queen Cells since there was no way Queens could have survived that catastrophe (previous posts). Once I started inspecting the combs I quickly realized that they DO HAVE A QUEEN :)) capped brood, and eggs and larvae in all stages AMAZING!
Then I checked the hive which suffered even more and had only 2 handfuls of bees left and out of 10 only 2 combs didn't collapse. They had started building some more combs but everything looked like a very weak colony and then I saw IT :)) Eggs, new eggs but no larvae! Anyway they sure must have a Queen in there right so I looked more and found her in great condition! How is this possible!?!?! This colony was one of my biggest before the comb collapse during transport. Thousands of dead bees, me shaking out the bees onto the ground in front of the hive, all bees dead and alive covered in nectar. total catastrophe YET :)) she survived, WOW and thousand time more WOWs :)) Im totally over my head :)) yeah!!! I gave them a few more combs from a stronger colony but Im not worried since they will sure build up fine this summer.

One of the hives is starting to boom with bees and I can see queen cups but no larvae in them. I wanted to split this colony too but could not find the queen. I inspected the combs 4 times to no avail, so I just close the hive. This is the only colony which started building combs in the super above them. Im sure they will start making new Queens soon. I might split them in about 2 weeks or let them swarm and collect the swarm instead.

The one colony which survived the winter queen-less is indeed queen-less and they are not going to make it if they dont get a new queen so I might give them a ripe Queen Cell from another colony of mine.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The swarming season is closing in

 Che Guebee Apiary is buzzingly settling into this forest garden of ours. Lots of wild forage for the bees :)
I was sitting beside the hives today and drinking coffee. Sunny day and very warm. Buzzing bees have ensured me that all the horror of yesterday is entirely gone and that "nowness" is all there "is" :) I feel at peace thanks to my dear bees.
 In our locality Dandelion bloom means swarming season is about to start :)
 Honey bees are being very busy collecting quality pollen and nectar from Dandelions
... and the Drones are back in town :)) this is a sure sign of swarm preparation :))
Lets catch some swarms this year!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Horror Story

I went to our summerhouse in Sweden to move my bee colonies to our new farm in Denmark. Once there bee inspector came to inspect the colonies and he found no issues, so I've got documents for the move :) By the way all 6 colonies have survived the winter :) Great! One of the colonies had no Queen but they are alive. The bee inspector said that they maybe have an unmated Queen since they are so calm. I dont treat my colonies against Varroa.

Next was to move the colonies from the long top bar hives into smaller nucleus hives for easier transport. My trailer isn't that big and there is no way to get all the long hives into it hence the need to transfer the bees into the nucleus hives. Once I begun the transfer I quickly realized that my new nucleus hives are a bit smaller than the original long hives so I had to chop'n'crop the comb which was a bit messy. During the transfer I could not find Queens :( which made me worried because I shook each comb into the hive before cropping it. Queens can get lost this way and even get damaged because of the fall.

Transport hives on top of the long hives

I have waited until 20 h for all the bees to return to their hives for the night and once they stopped flying I sealed the entrances with aluminium net and moved them into the trailer. The journey was a bit bumpy even though I was driving on asphalt roads all the way from Sweden to Denmark. The journey took 2,5 hours.

When we arrived to our farm I moved the hives to their permanent location and noticed nectar/honey leaking from two hives :( That didn't look good at all! I was sure some comb collapsedso I opened the hives to see whats going on;
Hives placed in our forest garden. Notice the first hive bearding. That is one of the hives where honey was leaking from. 
When I opened the hive this is what I saw :( collapsed comb and many bees squashed! I moved all the undamaged comb into a new hive body and placed the collapsed brood comb at the back in hope the survivor bees will care for it.
Once all the undamaged comb was moved to a new hive I shook all the bees dead and alive onto the ground in front because it was impossible to take the living bees out. Most of the living bees quickly found their way into the new hive and the rest were dead bees :( too many have died :( After an hour this colony begun to fly as if nothing happened.
The second colony had only 2 undamaged combs. 8 combs collapsed :( This was a total horror! Seeing all these bees dead and dying  crushed my heart and for once I wished I had conventional hives and not top bar hives. This cant happen in conventional hives because all comb is within wooden frames. Top bar hive comb is free hanging and hence a bad candidate for transport. Most of the bees on the ground are dead and those alive moved up into the new hive which has only two combs. All the collapsed comb I've placed into the hive with no Queen. I simply placed them against the walls at the back in hope they will know what to do. Since they have no brood I'm sure they will be happy to get some.

The other 3 hives were flying very strong today. They are totally undamaged because they are smaller colonies which didn't collect much nectar and hence the combs were very light. The 2 colonies which got damaged where my strongest colonies which filled combs with lots of nectar and even had 2 combs with capped honey. Im so sad I cant even find words to explain it :(

All this collapse would not happen if I went to Sweden earlier to get them before they had the chance to fill the combs with nectar. I should have known better because we had a very mild winter and everything started blooming sooner this Spring ... :( lesson learned ...

As soon bees calmed down for the day I cleaned up all the dead bees to reduce chance for disease and attracting local bees to my apiary since all the dead bees were covered in nectar. Very messy move indeed.
What hurts me most is that they made it through the winter and now got great suffering just because i wanted to move them :( I am so sorry ... I am. I hope never to move bees again.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Last preparation before moving my colonies from Sweden to Denmark

I have re-positioned the hives a bit to protect them as much from the strong South-West wind. I have also build a proper base for the hives. I had some concrete blocks on the farm and I imagined this to be their best purpose. The whole stand is leveled properly. It is very important to level the top bar hives otherwise the comb might be angled once build by the bees. Bees do follow gravity so should we ;) This stand can hold 8  nucleus hives. Im trying to prepare the apiary for the incoming bee colonies of mine which are to be moved on the April 20th from Sweden to our farm in Denmark (3 hour journey).
I keep on building more top bar hives for the splitting/swarming season which is arriving very soon. I hear some colonies in Germany and England already swarmed!!! Get you r boxes ready dear friends of the bees :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The importance of being stung

Large amount of beekeepers have at least one family member who is allergic to bees because they never get stung but they do breath in the bee venom from the beekeepers suit. Bees often sting into the bee suit and the venom dries in there. This venom spreads around the home in form of dust and the family members develop immunity E-cells which can not cope with actual sting hence developing allergy to bee stings. The Beekeeper on the other hand gets stung frequently and his/her body develops T-cells which can handle bee venom. It is either good for the family members to be stung every now and then or for the beekeeper to keep his/her bee suit away from home and wash it him/her self to avoid spreading venom dust in the home.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Visiting my new friend in Copenhagen

Im very glad I've got to know Cristian Damgaard, a bee guardian using Warre hives in the city of Copenhagen. Im also happy to say that we have started creating the first Danish Association of Bee Guardians (??? we have not entirely decided on the organization's name just yet)
Cristian's urban Warre Hive 
Cristian explaining about the Warre hive
Some very interesting old tomb stones with Skep hives
depicted in stone
Close up of the sculpted Skep
Cristian is also the main force behind the "Dyrk" organization which is all
about urban roof top farming :) gorgeous place!
They have build a nice solitary bee hotel
Roof top beekeeping on the roofs of Copenhagen :)