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Walden Ponderer

Apey for Apiaries: a Surly Beekeeping Thread

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Any other beeks out there?

Among my 1,001 other projects at the new homestead, I am putting in two Warre (vertical top bar) hives this spring.

They're a lot like Langstroth hives, actually, except the bees build out the comb themselves, with no foundation.

Ordinarily, I prefer building from scrap, and capturing wild swarms, but to save time, I bought kit hives (bonus! They have observation windows!) and a couple of packages with queens.

If you've got bee stories/advice, share away.

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Oprah.gif

Do they have knees?

I remember having a discussion on TOS about this and you recommended the ones that live in holes drilled in wood. I never got around to doing that but it seemed like an easy way to have bees around during the season and then just popping them into the fridge during the colder months, iirc.

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1 hour ago, El Diablo said:

Oprah.gif

Do they have knees?

I remember having a discussion on TOS about this and you recommended the ones that live in holes drilled in wood. I never got around to doing that but it seemed like an easy way to have bees around during the season and then just popping them into the fridge during the colder months, iirc.

The Carolina Botanical Gardens (where James Taylor used to wander back before he got famous) have a ton of those feral bee colonies set up all over the place. I'm probably going to do something similar just for show, but it's not really necessary here in the woods. There's enough fallen logs lying around that the bumblebees, Mason bees, and carpenter bees are all pretty happy as is.

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Just now, HouTex said:

So how much honey do you plan to get out of one of those contraptions?

The beauty of the vertical top bar hive is that I can put a queen excluder between the top box and the bottom -- the top box will be where the brood comb is, and all the honey up there will be the bees' property exclusively, but I can raid the bottom at will. And bonus is, it will be pure comb honey, not like Langstroth hives where you have to harvest from the frames.

I don't know what the local production values are like, being new to the area, but we'll just have to wing it once I see how much they can produce per acre of forage. I've noticed there's a lot of buckwheat production as winter cover crop around here -- I'm hopeful that means there's plenty of forage year round.

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Don't remember if I ever posted this on the poopsnowcone site.

 

My grandfather kept bees from when he got back from France at the end of WW I till he died in 1983. At one time, he had an apiary of close to 1000 hives. Here's pic from 1938 with his honey truck. My dad's the youngest on the left.    In the summer of 1980, at the age of 87, Grandaddy Pete mentioned to my Dad that he might need some help with taking of his honey. Dad figured he only had about 15 or 20 hives left and we would get it in one day. Turns out the old man still had close to 100 hives, spread out over most of the county. We worked the weekend, then Dad left me there for the rest of the week and we took off close to 6,000 lbs of honey. I was 15 and the old man worked me into the ground.

On the far right of the pic you can kinda see some boards and scaffolding where he was building what we call the Honey House.  Its a two story building that housed his beekeeping equipement on the bottom floor and a bunkhouse on the top floor.   The bottom still contains a 60 frame extractor a couple of 100 gal tanks along with probably 10 or 15 hives worth of supers amid a bunch of others items dad has put in there for storage.  We still use the upstairs for sleeping when we are over at the family place during the cooler months.  Will probably spend this Saturday night there.

 

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41 minutes ago, davidg said:

On the far right of the pic you can kinda see some boards and scaffolding where he was building what we call the Honey House.  Its a two story building that housed his beekeeping equipment on the bottom floor and a bunkhouse on the top floor.   The bottom still contains a 60 frame extractor a couple of 100 gal tanks along with probably 10 or 15 hives worth of supers amid a bunch of others items dad has put in there for storage.  We still use the upstairs for sleeping when we are over at the family place during the cooler months.  Will probably spend this Saturday night there.

That's awesome. Reminds me of the setup a friend of mine from Turkmenistan showed me of his dad's mobile set-up; long before tiny houses became a thing here, his two-story "Honey House" was rigged up on one end of an 18-wheeler flatbed trailer, and the remainder of the flatbed was room for all his hives. In Turkmenistan, beekeepers move from national park to national park (it was communist at the time my friend was growing up there, so all rural land not actually being farmed was a "national park"), and so it was pretty much more a home to my friend's family than their home address was.

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Good thing the search function worked - I was just about to start a thread on bees.

I might be buying some land, and I've always wanted to get some bees.  I won't have the minimum 5 acres for the Ag exemption, but that's not why I want bees.  Pollination, honey, they're cool, etc.  I love working in the garden with the bees buzzing around me.  

A few years ago at a farmer's market, I saw a guy that would rent out hives.  He would set them up on your land, check them periodically, and then harvest the honey, which you got to keep (at least some of it).  I don't remember the guy's name or business.  Does anyone know of a service like that in central Texas?  It seems like that might be a good intro to doing my own beekeeping. 

 

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Here's some of the wild bee houses at the Carolina Botanical Gardens that I was talking about:

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...and here's one of my old "do it yourself" horizontal top bar hives:

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The horizontal hive is "easier" to work, because you just remove one lid, and that's it, but it's also harder to work, because the brood is not separate from the pure honey comb, so every time you harvest, you have to pick a bar that will do the least damage to the colony as possible, in terms of lost brood for the next generation of workers.

Also, the vertical (Warre) hive is more compact, and just looks spiffier.

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Is there any advantage other than getting honeycomb for that Ware hive? You mentioned excluders but you can put one on a Langstrom hive. Grandad typically had 2 deep bodies, a queen excluder, then 2 or 3 medium supers or some shallow ones for comb.

For comb honey, he would buy prepared pure wax foundations and had a Hotwire setup where he could met stainless support wire into the base foundation to hold it in place.

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43 minutes ago, davidg said:

Is there any advantage other than getting honeycomb for that Ware hive?

For the beekeeper, no, no other real advantages (I suppose maintenance is less, but that's debatable).

There's some pretty strong advantages for the bees, however. In nature, the bees decide the size of cells to create based on a ton of environmental factors. With the Langstroth hive, that decision is made for them, because the foundation has a pre-set size. The beekeeper gets to determine what will maximize honey production for the hive, but maximum honey production may not necessarily be the healthiest thing, again from the hive's point of view, based on what is going in in their microclimate.

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Saw this in my Facebook feed:

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This was in a Langstroth hive where they didn't have the frames in (they had it "retired" for a season, but bees moved in anyway). The comb  was designed entirely by the bees for maximum effectiveness given local temperature and humidity conditions.

A top bar hive attempts some of this, but is still a little bit more structured for human needs. Long story short, there's no way to give the bees everything they want AND harvest the honey. Some sort of compromise is necessary.

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Strange contradiction in that I find hive mind behavior in the animal kingdom to be fascinating, but disgusting among humans.

Also: always wondered if apiarists exclaim, "Hi, honey, I'm home!" after a long day's work.

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You should try raising Africanized bees.

OK but seriously I was walking around in rural Northern Italy and there was a lady selling honey. I bought a couple of small jars, 5 euros each. I say got damn that was some good shit. You don't appreciate the flavor of natural products if you just buy industrial shit at the grocery store. I believe the honey was labeled as lavendar. Real hones is a little like venison, it picks up the flavor of what the animals eat and so there are dramatic differences between products sourced in different environments.

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