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 29, 2014

Magnificent Autumn day

Today is 18'C and the bees are flying busy bringing in lots of pollen. The winter is just around the corner so make sure my dear beeks to spend as much time with your ladies because this coming winter might be long and cold and we will not be able to enjoy their busy flight for a long while. So out to the Apiary we go :)

 Heavy pollen load, very likely from Solidago
Observing the bees through special wax comb glasses ;)

Feral bees in a hollow tree with lots of Stratiolaelaps mites on the combs

Authors of this video do not discuss the Stratiolaelaps sp. mites on these feral combs since they have not paid attention to it. If you look carefully at 3:50 of this video you will see whiteish almost see through small mites walking over the wax combs. Stratiolaelaps mites are not Varroa (which is brown-reddish). Stratiolaelaps mites are known to be feeding on Varroa mites as you can see in THIS post of mine. Feral colonies are not being treated by beekeepers and therefore Stratiolaelaps mites can establish them selves in such a colony. All Varroa treatments (except sugar dusting) are strong enough to knock off Varroa mites, and since Stratiolaelaps is also a mite it most defenetly get hammered by it. This alone is already a good enough reason for me not to treat bees. Bee colony (aka Super Organism) is a delicate and most complex system depending not only on the live bees but also on all sorts of micro-organisms, fungi and yeast within the hollow. As a matter of fact the hollow it self is the organism and combs are parts of it too.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stratiolaelaps scimitus mite as Varroa bio-control

Soil dwelling predatory mite Stratiolaelaps scimitus
This mite is known to feed on the Varroa mite which creates lots of issues in Honeybee colonies around the globe. Most beekeepers treat their colonies against Varroa mites and by doing so they are very likely killing off all the other beneficial mites, microbes and yeasts within the colony. One thing is sure, treatments are not efficient because varroa is still a huge issue in the world.

This video pretty much sums up that treated hives dont do well in comparison to the hives where Stratiolaelaps scimitus was introduced. Is it possible that this mite or other native mites can actually control Varroa much better than our conventional Varroa treatments? I feel it is, but we must understand that the bee colony is not just made of Workers, Drones and a Queen but also of micro-organisms and that treatments (even soft ones) will cause unbalanced conditions.

Bio Control for Varroa Mite from Electric Dreams Video on Vimeo.

Phil Chandler the author of The Barefoot Beekeeper is experimenting with the so called Eco-Floors in his hives. These are simply deep floors under the bees filled with aged wood chips which contain all sorts of micro-organisms. This is still work in progress but it seems that such eco-floor can provide proper environment for other micro-organisms which could start feeding on Varroa.

New pollen, winter feeding and varroa

Im am still feeding the bees 5:3 sugar syrup for the winter. Some of the colonies have slowed down with taking the sugar syrup. I would usually re-fill up the glass jars every day but now it can go 3 days before re-filling. That said, some of the hives are still emptying it daily.
 I see bees with white line on their backs which is a sure sign that they have been pollinating Himalayan Balsam.
 For the first time I see bees bringing in Purple pollen. Note the flying bee in the center of the photo (click to enlarge)
There is also yellow (Solidago) and orange as well as Brown pollen coming in (probably White Clover)
I am seeing every so often a bee with deformed wing virus (DWV). This bee has deformed wings due to Varroa and one can clearly see a Varroa mite on this bees back (the light brown button) I have decided not to treat so to be able to breed only survivor stock. I have never seen so many bees with DWV while living in Sweden. It seems to me that even though all Danish beekeepers treat against Varroa they simply can't get rid of it that way.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I know where the olive-yellow pollen comes from!

I have mentioned in my previous post that my bees are bringing in olive-yellow pollen and I was not sure from which plant that is. Today the bees revealed its source to me  :)
 To my surprise I have seen a few Honeybees on the Potentilla fruticosa bush working its flowers. I have never ever seen Honeybees on these flowers before and I have been observing it for the last 3 seasons. I never even saw a Bumblebee on it. Only flies and syrphid flies. If you look carefully you will see the pollen basket containing olive-yellow pollen. So thats where it comes from! :)
Honeybee gathering late pollen from Potentilla fruticosa
Sedum is also in the bloom

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bees getting ready for the winter

It is sunny today and the ladies are flying in search for pollen and nectar. 4 of the hives are full with stores and the other 6 hives are getting there very soon.
 The bees have found a new pollen source which is olive-mustard color.
There is lots of ti coming in but I'm not sure what it is?
I have spotted a very black worker bee. Probably a very old forager since it has no hairs left on her body.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Incoming Autumn Pollen

Im so happy to see all 10 of my colonies bringing in pollen. Pollen is of the utmost importance at this time when the colony raise winter bees. You see winter bees are those who have fat bodies in their abdomen where they transform pollen into a substance called Vitellogenin also known as their fountain of youth. Summer bees lack this because they need more space in their bodies to collect nectar. Winter bees dont need to forage so all they need now is to feed on a variety of pollen to store enough Vitellogenin in their fat bodies to be able to more than 6 month which ensures many bees survive the long cold winters. One can easily say that bees dont only store honey and pollen for the winter but also Vitellogenin within their bodies too. Not all pollen has the same properties and for that reason bees collect an array of pollens from different plant species.
 Orange pollen
 Yellow pollen
Creamy pollen
Bees seem to be seriously interested in the Nasturtium flowers
and for the first time I see them working the Lettuce flowers in our garden
 Wasps are trying their best to get into the hives and rob the honey
As you can see I have reduced the entrance size to 1/3 and the Wasp had no chance to enter.
During today's feeding of sugar syrup I peaked behind the last comb and saw that most hives have started to fill it with sugar syrup. Soon to stop winter feeding I hope. So far I have given 60 kg of sugar to 8 colonies (2 colonies had enough of their own stores).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bee update

This is the first time I see Honeybees working the Nasturtium flowers. I'm not sure if they are taking nectar but I can certainly observe them collecting pollen from it.
Some hives are still empty at the back. Here you can see the last comb from one hive which is totally empty. I guess I will have to continue feeding them with sugar syrup.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Borage still in flower

Borago has a very long blooming season and is loved by the bees. It is known for the bees to ignore Clover if there is a substantial amount of Borage in the locality. I will be planting lots of it from next year on.
According to a German study (Maurizio & Grafl) Borago can give 59-211 kg of honey per Hectare, 200 kg according to a Belgium study (Janssens et al.) and 360-400 kg per hectare according to a Russian study (Pel'menev et al.). Since Borago is sensitive to drought we can assume that bees get less honey if the soil is dry and more if its wet, hence these huge differences in studies mentioned above I suppose.
Note the light greenish-creamy yellow pollen.
In the Norwegian book "The big bee plant book for beekeepers" they write that Borago is a very rich plant in both nectar (3 starts out of 3) and pollen (2 starts out of 3).
The nectar has 19-54% sugar.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Autumn planting for the bees

People mostly think about Spring time when planting for the bees but indeed one can also plant in Autumn. As a matter of fact most trees, bushes and bulb plants need to be planted in Autumn, because if planted in Spring they might easily dehydrate since their roots are too short and bulbs need cold stratification period. So get out into your garden and go on planting, but make sure to avoid pesticides of all types :)
I vowed to be planting every year (Autumn) at least 10 trees and bushes and 300 bulb (Crocus, Scilla and Snow drops). Some ideas on bee friendly gardening; The Pollinator Gardening

I have visited my parents in law last weekend. They have a small shrubbery which is a bit overgrown so they were happy to hear that I would like to plant some of the trees they had for bees on our new farm. So I grabbed a shovel and started digging up Hawthorn, Rowan, Oak, Aronia and plants like Asters and Marjoram. I even bought 10 Blueberry bushes and spring blooming Cotoneaster bushes in a near by shop. I needed a trailer to get all that back to our farm, some 200 km away.
I ordered 300 bulbs from ebay very cheap. 100 of each: Crocus, Scilla and Snow Drops. I made sure they are not sprayed with pesticides. The supplier reassured me that they use no pesticides since I am keeping bees this was of utmost importance for me and they respected this.
Spring bulbs of Crocus, Scilla and Snow Drops

This video explains about planting bee friendly gardens;

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Apiary of an old Dansih beekeeper

We visited my parents in law this weekend. My wife's father is a conventional beekeeper who at one stage had 24 hives but with age and less strength he now keeps only 6 colonies. Most of his hives are the traditional horizontal Danish Hives aka Tråg-hive.
Of course he always makes sure to bring me out into the apiary to show me his bees :)
 he makes sure that first things come first ;) lighting the smoker!
 Most of his hives are the traditional danish hives also used in Sweden. Some hives are supered conventionals.
 Tråg-hives can be supered that is why they look so tall.
 He also makes sure I too inspect at least one hive
 Here you can see the double walls in the brood part.
 He introduced a new Queen from another beekeeper last week and is trying to find her ...

And here she is :)