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?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Colonies are evicting bees with DWV

I was surprised today to see some colonies evicting bees with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV). I mean I am glad they are removing them from the hive its just that I have not seen so many bees with DWV before in my hives. I could see at least dozen bees with DWV so there could also be more of them which I haven't seen.
Note the shriveled wings. This is called deformed wing virus or DWV and is caused by either Varroa Mites or by Chilled Brood. So late in the season I would say its the Varroa.
A healthy Worker Bee evicting a bee with DWV
Note the shriveled wings and the abdomen is also much shorter and the body hairs have fallen off.

I don't treat my hives against Varroa because I would like to breed bees only from survivor stocks. I can't wait to meet the survivor colonies next year to increase their strong genes. I find that treating weak colonies will only weaken the future colonies through weak Drones mating with local Virgin Queens. Such stocks will only be able to survive with treatments which is far from sustainable. That said bees located in mono-crop agricultural environment can easier succumb to DWV and other diseases because they lack healthy and biodiverse forage and in this case treating maybe the only way to keep them alive until the day comes when we abolish mono-crop agriculture and start practicing small scale organic farming based on biodiversity. 

Right now it is of utmost importance to feed them well for the winter and I hope they can find enough pollen which they need to create "Winter Bees" which can live up to 6 month or more. Summer worker bees live up to 4-6 weeks only because they lack fat bodies filled with Vitellogenin aka "Bees' Fountain of Youth".

Friday, August 29, 2014

Teaching Top Bar Hive Beekeeping at the University of Copenhagen

For those of you who missed my earlier posts I have started teaching Top Bar Hive Beekeeping at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). We teach every 14 days and the hive is located beside the university in their kitchen garden area where they also keep Danish Landrace Leghorn Hens. This whole project is called "Oasen" and is a fabulous thing teaching students about organic gardening methods. As far as I know this is the very first official course in Top Bar Hive Beekeeping in Denmark (could be the very first course in total but not sure).

Whats up with your bees Che?

My bees are still being fed with sugar syrup (5:3) and it seems that they will need much more since the hind combs are still very much empty. So far I fed 30 kg of sugar (which gives more syrup of course).
Note the cell rims coated with propolis which makes the comb stronger and since the bees walk on the rims it makes sure they don't spread disease throughout the hive. It acts as a disinfectant.
There are no stores at the back of the hives. But there is some bee activity there so I'm hoping they are working the sugar syrup there.
Eventhough my Buckwheat has been blooming for a few month now I could not see any Honeybees working it until now. Im guessing that Buckwheat makes little nectar during dry summer time. 
I see bees working the perennial Rucola I planted this year. Will make sure to plant some more of this edible plant since it is also very tasty in salads. Note the mustard-yellow pollen!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Jerusalem Artichokes are Blooming

We have 2 large patches of Jerusalem Artichokes in our forest garden which have begun to bloom now :) Such a blessing for the bees when fresh pesticide free pollen is needed to create winter bees. Bees use pollen to create fat bodies (Vitellogenin) in their abdomen which makes them live long up to 6-12 months. I can see bees bringing in orange, yellow and white-grayish pollen at this time. Not much pollen though but still better than nothing.
 Bees are eagerly collecting nectar and pollen from Jerusalem Artichokes flowers

The Great Willow Herb is still in the bloom. Note the whiteish pollen

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Melting Wax

I use a juicing pot to melt wax with
I add some water to the plastic container so to separate clean wax from the "dirt". 
Here you can see clearly the clean wax on top and the dirty water bellow. Once the wax has cooled down take it out of the container (do this over the sink)

Winter feeding sugar syrup 5:3

Since some of my colonies didnt make enough honey for the winter I started feeding them with 5:3 sugar syrup mixed with Camomile-Nettle-Yarrow tea and Apple Cider Vinegar (organic). I mix these to soften the syrup because our tap water is very hard GH 24 and pH7,2. The tea adds extra trace elements and other goodies.
Sugar 5:3 boiled water, Apple Cider Vinegar and Camomile-Nettle-Yarrow tea
I feed the bees behind the follower board in inverted glass jars. This jar was emptied after only one day :) Time to refill ;) 4 out of 10 colonies din't want to take the sugar syrup which is a clear sign that they have enough honey. I knew that already but wanted to double check just in case. The other 6 colonies emptied the jars in just one day. I will feed until they stop taking in.
It is not easy being a Wasps inside a Honeybee hive :) At this time Wasps and other bees are trying to rob honey from bee colonies but my ladies seem to be very good at holding their ground ;) I did reduce the entrances to help them defend it better.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Modest honey harvest

My bees didnt make much honey in this mono-crop agri-landscape this year. Some of the new splits and new swarms didn't even make enough for them selves. So I decided to equalize the colonies by taking some honey comb from the strong and giving it to the weak colonies. Now they all have 8-10 combs for the winter. Still most combs in this years splits/swarms are empty so feeding sugar syrup will be a must if I want them to survive. Next year I will have to find another out-apiary so to spread my colonies. For that I need hives which are migratory friendly. I will have top bar hives only in my apiary on the farm.

I harvested no more than 6  kg of honey so far for our household. 4 kg during the summer and now 2 kg. It makes me sad the fact that our environment is so heavily laden with mono-crops and pesticides, neatly cut road sides, horse pastures (have no flowers) and perfectly mowed lawns. Only the near by town offers some house hold flowers :(


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wasps are helping the Honeybees

We often hear how annoying wasps are. They attack bee hives and people. But they are not all that bad;
Wasps have much stronger mandibles than honeybees and thanks to that they can penetrate the hard fruit skin. Once the fruit is opened the honeybees can also part take in feeding on the fructose sugar from the fruits.Wasps are very beneficial in the nature. In my locality they are the ones pollinating Black Currants, they feed on pest insects and they provide food for the honeybees by opening the fruits with their strong mandibles.
I have planted a small patch of Calendula in our garden which is blooming now. Bees work Calendula flowers readily. Im soon to start preparing a large area for our kitchen garden and there I will plant lots of Calendula, Asters, Borage and other bee friendly plants.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Suppress mono-crop agriculture instead of Swarming!

I have inspected my hives yesterday to see how much honey they have stored. I was devastated when I saw empty honey combs :( Two of the new splits and this years swarms have not stored anything :( they have a bit honey but that is only enough to sustain them during the brood raising season. Two of the other splits have stored much and I assume it is because they have got extra empty combs from the Laying Worker colony which died. Instead of using honey for comb making they have simply stored honey all the time. The mother colonies have stored enough but they also had more combs.

This environment is very much a desert for the bees since mono-crop fields are all over! How can I keep bees naturally in an unnatural environment?! It seems that after July there simply isn't anything left for the bees to forage on! What have we done to our environment?!! This is sad! Very sad.

No wonder conventional beekeepers dont talk much about the environmental issues since they aren't even aware of it! I mean how can you be aware when you force the bees to make large amounts of honey by suppressing swarming and supering?! Not allowing bees to express their biology so you could make honey and after the nectar flow is over (this year begging of July in my locality) you feed them sugar instead! So you are not concerned with the lack of forage because of the convenience of sugar feeding. You will feed it to them anyway, so it matters little if you do so in July or in September, no?! What will you do if there is no sugar?! What will you do if there is no money?! How will you get the sugar then?! Ah, am I boring you? Would it be better if Im to blame Varroa instead?!! You would rather like me to say that Varroa is the sole problem of the Honeybee, am I right?!

Human ignorance and greed is very sad indeed ...
Honeybees and all other pollinators are at great risk of dying out if we don't start suppressing mono-crop agriculture (instead of suppressing swarming) and expanding wild forage! Mark my words! And leave Varroa in peace, it is just another Earth's creature trying to survive in this desert of mono-crop minds!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Zinnia good bee plant

I have planted only a few Zinnia seeds this year and they have began to bloom recently. The bees seem to like them and will sure plant more next year. When you move to a new house there is lots of things to be done first and for that reason I didn't focus much on planting more for the bees but this will change next year. 
As a matter of fact I will be planting various perennial  plants this autumn which need cold stratification. Our farm is ment to be created as a Bee Sanctuary flowering from early Spring to late October.
Mono-crop agriculture is damaging our eco-system and bees indeed need all our help in form of planting lots of flowering plants, bushes and trees from them. This is not our end task but rather an action of conservation until we ban mono-crop agriculture and have an agriculture system based on local small-scale farming based on biodiversity and no pesticides and no tilling. Remember that all bee issues stem from the industrial mind! We need a paradigm shift, utter paradigm shift! Direct knowledge is the best tool toward awareness! To be aware humans must see it with their own eyes. Make sure they see it, but be gentle with the ignorant :) We were all ignorant at one stage and still are for certain aspects of life, death and the Universe :) 
May you bee buzzingly happy at heart!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stevns Klint - Pollinator's Paradise

My last post was very much negative about the Danish environment which indeed is destroyed by the intense mono-crop farming. Some might say "its too late for a change, the mega agri-business is too strong to fight " but even if there is only one wild flower left there is Hope :) and I'm not going to give up the fight and so should't you :) Pollinators need us to change our life styles. That is the only way we can actually help them. Yes, this is a tricky one since we live in the "Mind-world of More and More" instead of "Mind-world of Less is More".
Stevns Klint World Heritage Center - this is the place where a huge Asteroid has hit the
Earth 65 million years ago. Yes, the very one which killed all the Dinosaurs.
Today I visited the new World Heritage Center called Stevns Klint (Denmark) and I literary "felt at home" there :)
After seeing this huge wild meadow my heart felt warm and joyful. I was so happy for all the buzzing pollinators which call this place home. My bees sure will be very jealous when I tell them what I've seen here today since my lady bees mostly have huge expanses of wheat/canola/oat fields. The biodiversity here is just breathtaking! So many flowering plants it just feels like haven!

 Hawks Beard
 Eventhoguh Tansy is not rich in nectar the bees sure are interested in it
and so are Ladybirds and various flies

Huge amounts of Great Knapweed :)
There are many more plants here like Wild Marjoram, some wild onions and all sorts of clover and bushes like Hawthorn and Sloe as well as trees like Maple etc ...
Denmarks used to be like this before the World War II and I dont see a reason why it can't look the same today. There sure is a way to base our agri-culture on Biodiversity. We just need to fight for it since there are many people in power which are greedy and ignorant and there are also those who are just waiting for you and me to fight along for a better, biodiverse nature :)

My bees at home are still scavenging any flower they can find which is mostly on the roadside;
 Hawks Beard
Giant Willowherb Ebilobium hirsutum
White Clover (note light brown pollen)