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Beekeeping - where to start?  RSS feed

 
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I am planning on getting into bee keeping next spring. Right now I am leaning towards the top bar hives because of their ease of construction and honey flavor varieties available through frequent harvesting. I am also interested in the warre hive and the perone. But Ill probably make a bunch on top bars to get started and a couple warre and perone hives to compare. Can someone with the experience please advise me as to the difference in yield from the top bar and the warre hive. Also any tips to maximize yield (without sacrificing quality or hive health) from the top bar hive would be appreciated. I have read that you can expand the brood by placing empty top bars next to the brood, the bees then fill this area in with brood instead of honey and you get a bigger work force. Is that correct? If so would it be best to do this at the beginning of the pollen season. Does this help prevent swarming?
 
steward
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James Colbert wrote:I am planning on getting into bee keeping next spring. Right now I am leaning towards the top bar hives because of their ease of construction and honey flavor varieties available through frequent harvesting. I am also interested in the warre hive and the perone. But Ill probably make a bunch on top bars to get started and a couple warre and perone hives to compare. Can someone with the experience please advise me as to the difference in yield from the top bar and the warre hive. Also any tips to maximize yield (without sacrificing quality or hive health) from the top bar hive would be appreciated. I have read that you can expand the brood by placing empty top bars next to the brood, the bees then fill this area in with brood instead of honey and you get a bigger work force. Is that correct? If so would it be best to do this at the beginning of the pollen season. Does this help prevent swarming?



well, you might run into the phrase "all beekeeping is local." you're going to get different results with different hives in different years in different geographies. having said that, I've got some ideas for you.

if you're after ease of construction, I would recommend Warré hives. with the exception of the fancy roof (which some folks don't bother with), all the angles are square. horizontal top bar hives aren't exactly difficult to make, but the angles involved do complicate things a bit.

for ease of harvest, at least since it sounds like you would like to harvest frequently, I think you've got the right idea with the horizontal top bars. individual combs can be harvested from Warré hives whenever they're capped, but it does involve opening the top of the nest and is a bit more disruptive than with horizontal top bars.

for ease of management, I would say that Perone hives are likely the very simplest, with Warrés close behind, and horizontal top bar hives requiring a fair amount of fussing to thrive.

maximizing yield: that's a tough one. my guess is that Perone hives will yield the most, but perhaps at the expense of some bee stress. there are many folks who believe that supering is detrimental to the colony, though it does stimulate increased honey storage. yield might be a toss up between Warrés and horizontal top bars, but I think a Warré would come out on top for labor:yield. Warré hives also have the advantage of being modular, so that they can theoretically be expanded indefinitely. there's a nearly parabolic relationship between colony size and honey production, so a larger colony is advantageous for maximizing yield. so I guess if you're after maximum yield with a horizontal top bar hive, you could make it bigger than the standard plans to accommodate a larger colony. depending on your climate, thicker lumber, shelters to keep hives dry and out of intense sun, and windbreaks should all help reduce winter consumption of stores, leaving more honey for you. a Warré style quilt on a horizontal top bar hive might be something to consider, too.

brood nest expansion: depends on the hive. in a horizontal top bar hive, you might have to rearrange combs or harvest to prevent honey-binding. honey-binding occurs when there is no room for the brood nest to expand because adjacent combs are filled with honey. in Warré hives, honey-binding is rare because the brood nest is allowed to expand downward basically forever. in areas with intense nectar flows (think Alberta rape and clover fields), honey binding can be an issue in Warré hives. Warré beekeepers in those regions super to avoid honey-binding. in a Perone, the thing is so huge that I can't see honey-binding ever being an issue. not much experience with that hive, though.

have fun.
 
James Colbert
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Thanks for the informative response Tel. When dealing with a warre hive why would honey binding ever occur? I think I have read that you harvest them once or twice a season is that the reason? Could more frequent harvests or more boxes help prevent honey binding? Will creating a larger warre hive increase hive population and production. For example if I made a Warre with the dimensions of a Perone would there be any harm or additional benefit? I plan to plant some fields just for my bees so high nectar flow could be an issue. I also live in a warm climate with a long season.

Last question, why is supering bad (how does it cause stress) and how does it increase honey production?

Thanks Tel!
 
tel jetson
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James Colbert wrote:Thanks for the informative response Tel. When dealing with a warre hive why would honey binding ever occur?



it's not a problem at all in most regions. in areas where there is a very intense and brief nectar flow, the foragers can bring in nectar faster than comb can be built downward. so as soon as a cell is built or vacated by emerging brood, it is filled with nectar and can't be used to raise a new bee. the space available for brood rearing shrinks until it isn't enough to maintain the colony's population which then dwindles rapidly. again, this is only an issue in a few places.

James Colbert wrote:I think I have read that you harvest them once or twice a season is that the reason? Could more frequent harvests or more boxes help prevent honey binding?



because the issue is comb not being built quickly enough, and not an issue of available volume inside the hive, harvesting and/or adding boxes doesn't solve the problem, unless comb is re-used. this can be done, but one of the advantages of Warré hives is that comb is cycled out relatively frequently so toxins don't build up.

James Colbert wrote:Will creating a larger warre hive increase hive population and production. For example if I made a Warre with the dimensions of a Perone would there be any harm or additional benefit?



Warré boxes are sized to be reasonable for a single person to handle when full of honey. much larger, and they would become unwieldy. Perone-sized, and it might take a boom crane to harvest, and something larger to add empty boxes underneath. to be honest, unless you're in agricultural areas of Alberta or Manitoba, honey binding is very unlikely to be a problem with a Warré hive. it's more likely in a horizontal top bar because the queen is more likely to encounter a honey barrier, but management of those hives commonly takes the possibility into account and deals with it by rearranging comb.

James Colbert wrote:I plan to plant some fields just for my bees so high nectar flow could be an issue. I also live in a warm climate with a long season.



because you've got a long growing season, the bees will also have a long season to build comb and raise brood, so a high nectar flow will be nothing but good for you. honey binding shouldn't be a problem for you in a Warré. it's the short, intense nectar flows that cause the problem.

James Colbert wrote:Last question, why is supering bad (how does it cause stress) and how does it increase honey production?



when honey bees occupy a cavity, they build from the top down. this way, it is a simple matter for the bees to maintain their desired atmosphere of warm, humid air rich in pheromones. an empty space above the colony is not something that bees are adapted to encounter. it greatly diminishes their ability to maintain the atmosphere, which has a variety of negative consequences. to remedy that, the bees go into a sort of stressed-out frenzy to fill the empty space with comb, and then honey. this is a primary reason that conventional frame beekeeping yields are generally higher than more bee-friendly methods. re-using comb can ameliorate the stress somewhat, but that comes with a whole other range of consequences.

James Colbert wrote:Thanks Tel!



no problems at all.
 
James Colbert
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Thanks so much Tel. Based on this information I plan to do 3-5 warre hives, 3-5 horizontal top bar hives, and 2 perone hives. I plan on buying a few packets of bees but the rest I will try to capture wild swarms. The warre and perone hives will be my bulk honey hives and my top bar hives will be my "monofloral" hive. Probably won't actually be monofloral but they will have distinct flavors depending on when I harvest. Now to research catching swarms
 
tel jetson
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James Colbert wrote:Thanks so much Tel. Based on this information I plan to do 3-5 warre hives, 3-5 horizontal top bar hives, and 2 perone hives.



that doesn't sound terribly out of line. keep in mind that it is quite possible to over-stock honey bee colonies, which can have detrimental consequences for their health. most notably, tracheal mites are more prevalent where colony density is high. also keep in mind that you might not be the only beekeeper close by, and that there may be feral colonies to think about as well. it's hard to know just what a reasonable number of hives is for a given area without a lot of observation and knowledge of the pollen and nectar sources close by, so I'm certainly not saying that 12 hives of various design would be too many. I am, however, recommending that you keep stocking density in mind.

James Colbert wrote:I plan on buying a few packets of bees but the rest I will try to capture wild swarms. The warre and perone hives will be my bulk honey hives and my top bar hives will be my "monofloral" hive. Probably won't actually be monofloral but they will have distinct flavors depending on when I harvest.



a lot of folks have had good luck with packages for starting colonies in Warré and horizontal top bar hives. it can get expensive in a hurry, but sometimes it's really the only way to get started without a lot of luck or an awful lot of patience. it's also not ideal from a local adaptation standpoint, but again, sometimes it's the only reasonable option. just don't buy a nuc on accident, unless you find someone who can supply it in a Warré box, which is becoming more common, but still very rare. otherwise, you'll have to cut the combs down and attach them yourself to the top bars.

Oscar Perone believes that only prime swarms are suitable for hiving in hives of his design. others have had luck uniting several cast swarms in Perone hives. I've not heard of anybody starting with a package, but I haven't heard everything.

James Colbert wrote:Now to research catching swarms



actually catching the swarms is generally the easy part. in my experience, finding them is more difficult. if there's a local beekeepers association, you could join up to get on their swarm list. that risks drawing attention to your somewhat unconventional hives, but if you don't have a problem keeping your mouth shut, you should be find. you could also call around to local pest control outfits, health departments, fire and police departments, animal control agencies and contractors, and golf courses to ask them to contact you when swarms show up. I'm fortunate to have a very dedicated swarm coördinator close by, which simplifies things dramatically, but the rising popularity of backyard beekeeping has thinned out the pickings quite substantially.

I would certainly also recommend that you set up your hives in likely spots to act as bait hives. this pdf has some good recommendations for increasing your odds there. if a swarm occupies one of your hives on its own, your job is much easier.

after you've got some colonies, starting new colonies in subsequent years will be a lot simpler. set up bait hives, observe your existing colonies for signs of imminent swarming, and watch where they land when the day of departure arrives.


the hard part now is going to be waiting.
 
tel jetson
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one other thing I though of, James. the success of Perone hives could be very dependent on the prevalence of conventional agriculture in your locality. because the comb in the brood nest is renewed only very slowly, pesticides and other toxins can build up to deadly levels if they are present in high enough concentrations close by. one more thing to think about.

the other two hives you're planning involve cycling comb out fairly frequently, so this is less of an issue for those hives.
 
pollinator
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Thanks Burra
So Basically they manage the Cork hives like skeps in the rest of europe . I have skep making down to try some time
I had hoped it was possible to make a Warre out of cork but it looks like it is not structurally suitable
Although if I could get some it might make a great roof for a hive

David
 
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Since this topic is how to start, and the discussion went in another direction I would like to respond to this really important question.

First, start by hanging around somebody that already has tons of experience. People with 60+ years tend to be beekeepers for some 40 years so catching an old-timer is a first thing you need to do.
Second, get him to adopt you and share his knowledge with you.
Third, buy the type of the hives that he also has. Why is this? Because he is specialized in that type of the hive.
Forth. Build a small shrine for him and start sacrificing small woodland critters on it. Why? Because his word is equal to word of a prophet. You may never go or do anything against what he is saying. Else, the wrath of the nature will catch you.

On more serious note: beekeeping is an empirical thing. Be a good apprentice to somebody you can trust. Listen to him, learn from him for at least 5 years.
Too many had failed on the "standard" mistakes and too many had bees for just a year or a two.

Important thing to know is that the "Master" may not be able to explain why he is doing some things and that some things are not logical to do. Yet, over 40 years he had accumulated "the know how" since he is still doing it.
 
tel jetson
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Martin Miljkovic wrote:
Important thing to know is that the "Master" may not be able to explain why he is doing some things and that some things are not logical to do. Yet, over 40 years he had accumulated "the know how" since he is still doing it.



unfortunately, a lot of old-timers in my region have learned a lot of bad habits. most started keeping bees when invasive chemical treatments and disruptive hive manipulations were all the rage, so they treat those methods as the only possible way to keep bees.

on the other hand, there is a growing crowd of new beekeepers in these parts who are challenging the prevailing orthodoxy and having great success while treating bees with respect. for the most part, the old guard isn't at all fond of these upstarts, though a few are so fed up with losing colonies every year that they're even open to trying things they would previously have considered heresy.
 
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Burra Maluca wrote:

tel jetson wrote:nestduftwärmebindung



That's the word to describe the bees ambient air conditions? Can't someone come up with a more, er, understandable-if-you're-not-German one?



actually this term is complex. Even for me, a geman hobby bee keeper, it is difficult to get its full meaning. I didn't read Warrés book, but from what I read in german bee forums, this term tries to argue for an undisturbed bee living space. (apologize, if I have difficulties to express bee specifics in a foreign language)
'nest' means 'brood nest' (in a lesser degree the honey storage also)
'duft' is a positive term for 'smell'
'wärme' is a positive term for 'heat'
'bindung' is a term to describe the buildup of a connection between the bees.

In short - bees need to have their own smell and temperature in their nest to feel well and at home in their box. Thus you should avoid to open the box, because you might compromise the 'nestduftwärmebindung'. Especially 'mis'adjusting of frames, inserting empty frames, even opening and looking to closely into the nest, is considered to be harmful for this reason.

--- Ludger
 
Mother Tree
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peronehive.com seems to have been replaced by Keeping with the Bees.

I highly recommend that anyone interested in Perone hives takes a look.

Here's one of their videos on Biodynamics and Permapiculture in Spain

 
David Livingston
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For some reason about a year ago Oscar Perone took all his stuff off the net . I am not aware why .
I am interested in this hive Is any one who posts here using it ? There was some doubt recently expressed on the Yahoo warré site about how effective it is It was said by a beekeeper from Uraguy that the bees did not fill up the space for the harvest .

David
 
tel jetson
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David Livingston wrote:
I am interested in this hive Is any one who posts here using it?



I've got seven Perone hives, but they were all populated last year so I can't yet report on how productive they are. the size, date, location, and makeup of each swarm varied substantially, so I'm guessing the bees' performance will also vary. I also populated one with a small-ish cutout.
 
David Livingston
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I lookforward to hearing about your results this summer

David
 
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This is a good book to start with: http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Beekeeping-Organic-Approaches-Apiculture/dp/1603583629

We're getting ready to release a video course called Apitherapy: Health and Healing From the Hive with Ross Conrad.

If you want to be notified when it becomes available, you can join our email list on this page: http://organiclifeguru.com/blog/
 
David Livingston
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I enjoyed these and they are free

http://www.biobees.com/how_to_start_beekeeping.php

http://www.users.callnetuk.com/~heaf/beekeeping_for_all.pdf



David
 
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Chris, what kind of hives will you be showing?
 
Cj Sloane
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Here's a cool blog by someone who set up a perone hive this spring.
 
David Livingston
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Thanks for that CJ I noticed that the bees had not moved up into the Top Honey Part Yet . It will be interested to see if and when they do .

David
 
Cj Sloane
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I'm starting to look into making a Perone hive. I'd like one with a window like the blog a few posts up. Here's a pic:


So my question is this: this window is the "bee's space" but my pdf for making a Perone Hive shows the "bee's space as being made up of 5 distinct supers equaling 57cm x 57 cm - is this OK to make it one big space?

What's the difference between 1 big super and 5 smaller ones?
 
Martin Miljkovic
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You should think this way: Supers are used for honey so I may have some problems lifting it up
when it is filled. Also moving it around, and tripping on a root. The possibilities are endless...

I know tons of beekeepers that got hernia. They all got it at the time of harvest. It is problematic
because then you rush to keep the bees away from the suppers. If you dont move fast you can have robbing!

Anyways calculate the weight of it yourself and see if there will ALWAYS be somebody to help you with it.

This may be only letters to you now but please be careful.
 
Cj Sloane
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Martin Miljkovic wrote:You should think this way: Supers are used for honey so I may have some problems lifting it up
when it is filled.



Hmmm. Well, with the Perone hive the bottom 5 supers (or 1 big super) is supposed to be for the bees. The beekeeper is only supposed to take honey from the top 3 supers.

Would there ever be a need to move the bee's super? Or to take honey from the bee's super?
 
Ludger Merkens
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So my question is this: this window is the "bee's space" but my pdf for making a Perone Hive shows the "bee's space as being made up of 5 distinct supers equaling 57cm x 57 cm - is this OK to make it one big space?
What's the difference between 1 big super and 5 smaller ones?



Well according to perone - the "bee's space" is meant as one big space, not to be disturbed. I quote from http://www.biobees.com/library/hive_perone/Making-a-Perone-Hive.pdf page 9 where it is put like so:

How you get that 57 x 57 x 57 cm is really up to you. Technically,
if you have a board that’s 57-some cm. high, you could assemble the bees’ part by building just one really big box.


Thats the bees perspective.
From a carpenters and a bee keepers perspective, there are probably good reasons to split the box in 3-5 boxes. To minimize warping. (You will find it difficult to come by a 57cm board, that doesn't warp or bend. Or from a beekeepers point of view. (If you need to relocate the hive).

One last sentence to the big window. It is nice to have the window, for watching the bees, and to show the kids the bees. But bees don't like too much light in their hives. So make sure, you build some nicely closing shutters to close the windows against light.

 
Cj Sloane
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if you have a board that’s 57-some cm. high, you could assemble the bees’ part by building just one really big box.
Thats the bees perspective.
From a carpenters and a bee keepers perspective, there are probably good reasons to split the box in 3-5 boxes. To minimize warping. (You will find it difficult to come by a 57cm board, that doesn't warp or bend. Or from a beekeepers point of view. (If you need to relocate the hive).

One last sentence to the big window. It is nice to have the window, for watching the bees, and to show the kids the bees. But bees don't like too much light in their hives. So make sure, you build some nicely closing shutters to close the windows against light.



Thank you. That is soooooo helpful!
 
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