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D & M; Best hive type for backyard?

 
Josef Theisen
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Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
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Dave and Matt,

I am on one acre in temperate SE Wisconsin. We are looking at getting a bee hive, possibly next year, and are trying to figure out what is going to be the best setup for us. I am leaning toward a warre hive, as that seems like one I could build myself and I like the idea of the bees being able to chose their own cell size and comb shape. We are interested in getting some honey and wax, but just for ourselves and to share, nothing on a huge scale. Our main goals are to improve pollination and provide a safe haven for a colony or two.

A few questions I have:

1. In your opinion, what is the best hive for a backyard setup?

2. What is the esssential equipment a beginner should invest in?

3. What are some strategies for keeping children, pets, and bees all safe in a backyard setup?
 
David Heaf
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Josef Theisen wrote:1. In your opinion, what is the best hive for a backyard setup?


There are so many factors that I do not think it is possible to say what is universally the best hive. The generally low intrusion level of Warré management makes it a front runner for hobbyists, especially as it is relatively cheap to make/buy.

People often comment how docile bees in Warrrés seem to be. This is probably because they are not being opened for weekly swarm cell inspections. I've just nadired fresh boxes under 11 Warres. I dis not bother to light the smoker. The bees got on with their foraging, taking no notice of me.

However, there are common sense things to do:

1. Arrange for the flight path to be deflected upwards away from where most
human traffic occurs. This can be done with fences, hedges, hurdles or
windbreak fabric. People have hives on allotments (small plot of public land allocated for growing veg/flowers).

2. Tell your neighbours of your plans. If they are in any doubt, you could
mention that there are about 3,000 hives in central London. When bees swarm
they are generally at their most docile. Finding a new home is at the top of
their list of priorities.

3. Work the hive when they are not all out in their gardens.

4. Have an out apiary available to which you could take a hive if it became
consistently over defensive. This happens rarely and is usually due to
queenlessness. Learn in advance how to pack up your hive for removal. You may never need to do this, but it is good to have a plan in place for your peace of mind.

Josef Theisen wrote:2. What is the esssential equipment a beginner should invest in?


For Warré beekeeing: hive, smoker, hive tool, veil, dishwashing gloves, outer wing of goose or other large bird, or, failing that, a bee brush, bit of beeswax, rye flour, corn starch, hessian/burlap sacking, pice of 4 mm fencing wire to forge a comb knife, cheese wire. More nice-to-have things are in Natural Beekeeping with the Warré Hive -- A Manual, which should be out as soon as the publisher (Northern Bee Books) sorts outs some issues picked up in the trial print run.

Josef Theisen wrote:3. What are some strategies for keeping children, pets, and bees all safe in a backyard setup?


My wife used to keep bees in a WBC hive. She worked the hive unveiled with her children looking on. I'm not suggesting you do this, but I understand it is possible to reach such a rapport with one's bees that veilless and gloveless management is possible. On the other hand, it makes sense to avoid any stings to the eyeball. Some tips given above may also help.
 
Josef Theisen
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Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
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Thank you for taking the time to give such detailed answers, very helpful. Never heard of using a goose wing for a brush but what a great idea. I am going to have to talk to some hunters I know....
 
David Heaf
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Josef Theisen wrote:Never heard of using a goose wing for a brush but what a great idea.


My former mentor drew my attention to this. He saw my nylon bristle purpouse-made bee brush bought from a beek supplies and said somewhat sneeringly 'What you got that for?'. When I sheepishly told him 'for brushing bees' he replied that they hate it, it drives them mad. And on the rare occasions I used it I saw that he was exactly right. The fractal nature of a bird feather is much kinder to the bees as it does not send stiff fibres like little daggers under the bee's tergites. However, I have occasionally had sight of bee brushes that look better designed, possibly made out of split natural fibre. I'm currently using an outer wing from a buzzard found dead at the roadside. My first feather 'brush' was a single wing feather found by a swan's nest. This was the best, but it wore out relatively quickly.
 
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