Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bee Vlog - August 25, 2012

Hive weigh-in:
Queen Anne - (Too heavy to get a good reading, but I got individual readings of the boxes)
Boxes 1 & 2 together containing the brood nest, some food storage, and the bottom board: 72.4 lbs
Box 3 alone: 62 lbs (about 50 lbs of just honey)
Box 4 alone: 43.6 lbs (about 30 lbs of just honey)
Queen Beatrice - 84.6 lbs (+4.2 lbs from 2 weeks ago)

In today's inspection I talk a little about my efforts in treatment-free beekeeping. I do some cell size measurements and explain the importance of cell size to maintaining a healthy treatment-free hive. Queen Anne's cells are still measuring at 5.4mm...the same as the foundation they came from. Her daughters are the 1st generation to be raised in a foundationless hive, so they are still drawing out cells to the same size. It's going to take a few generations to get them to regress to a smaller cell.

Queen Beatrice's cells are a little smaller though - ranging in size from 5.1 to 5.4mm. This tells me they were either a feral hive, once managed a few generations ago, or came from a managed foundationless hive that has had a few generations since they have used foundation. Either way they're likely from strong survivor stock. A very good sign.

Housel positioning seems to be a controversial subject. Here are two differing opinions/resources.

BeeSource: Housel Positioning – How I View Its Importance To Beekeeping!
Bee Natural Guy: Housel Positioning – Seeing is believing. Or is it?

Some beekeepers swear by it while others seem to notice no difference. I was curious to see if I could observe my bees creating a Housel pattern naturally. But that just doesn't seem to be the case. I saw on a few frames that the pattern can vary across a single frame. There doesn't seem to be any uniformity. I believe that the bees don't really seem to care about such things. I suspect there's some placebo effect at play for the beekeepers that notice improved behavior when positioning their foundation in a Housel pattern.

Video Link

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Highlight - A Plea for Bees' Needs: Dr. Elizabeth Elle

In this video, Dr. Elizabeth Elle gives a great lecture on what we (all) can do to support backyard biodiversity. Her talk includes 4 important points:
  1. Why should we care about bees?
  2. Are the bees in trouble?
  3. What is a bee anyway?
  4. What can I do?
One thing I really liked about the talk was how much information she gave about, not just the honey bee we're most familiar with, but about the other native bees and how we can support their populations as well.

It's nearly an hour long, so grab some popcorn and enjoy!

Video Link

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bee Vlog - August 11, 2012

Hive weigh-in:
Queen Anne - Unknown, too heavy for scale
Queen Beatrice - 80.4 lbs (+7.4 lbs from last week)

I put out a call to some of my friends to see if any want to host a hive or 2 for me next spring. I had a few responses. One of the families was with me for today's inspection so they could see what typical hive activity looked like. The kids were really interested so I wanted to also give them a chance to see inside a hive and learn a little about bees. Knowing that I wouldn't be doing a full inspection, and that nobody else would be suited up, I went ahead and tried this inspection without a suit or veil (I had one in the car just in case things went bad though). No problems at all. Nobody was stung and everyone enjoyed seeing and learning. Queen Beatrice's hive is finally growing really well and they've been making good progress expanding the brood nest.

Video Link

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bee Vlog - August 4, 2012

Hive weigh-in
Queen Anne: Unknown (very heavy)
Queen Beatrice: 61.5 lbs before adding the 2nd box (+2.9 lbs from last week)

It's been a few weeks since I checked the brood, so a full inspection was done today. Even though they're really back-filling the brood nest in the 1st box (bottom) with bee bread (pollen), the brood nest in he 2nd box is looking very good. Lots of honey coming in still. The 4th box (top) is starting to fill out even more. And this time I get a little taste of their honey and comb from some burr comb they built between boxes.

Video Link

Queen Beatrice had a population boom and has finally filled up the 1st box. The comb I straightened up last week has been re-attached very well. Now everything is nice and straight and orderly. I pyramided up the brood nest like I did with the other hive previously. I moved 3 of the brood frames up into the 2nd box in a checkerboard pattern, replacing the removed frames with empty foundationless frames. My previous concerns about the relatively slow growth of this colony are now gone. They're bringing in plenty of food and are functioning very well. Even though I didn't see the queen I can tell from the brood pattern that she is healthy and doing well. Also, the site of eggs in new drone comb tells me that the bees are also feeling confident with their situation.

Video Link

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Highlight - Sam Comfort, Anarchy Apiaries

I just discovered, through Anita at Beverly Bees, a (new to me) beekeeper, Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries. He's a big proponent of the top bar hive and treatment-free beekeeping. After seeing Anita's post I found a series of videos where he gives a talk about his origins, learning experiences, and benefits of a top bar hive (posted below).

While he states early on that there is no right or wrong in his world view, he does seem to have a strong distaste for the Langstroth hive and the frames that go with them, claiming "they tend to cause the disease." A statement that I fail to understand. Particularly because his argument is mainly against foundation and not the frame itself. However, he makes some very good arguments in favor of treatment-free and foundationless beekeeping.

Although I'm not using top bar hives currently, I'm not really against them either. I think they have their good and bad points, just like Langstroth. Maybe in another year or 2 I'll give the top bar hives a trial and see how I like them. Some of his points in favor of the top bar are certainly very appealing to me.

Unfortunately the video series cuts off the talk. I'm not sure how much longer he goes on, but it's still worth the watch. So here you go:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4: