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PEP1: Beekeeping  RSS feed

 
Joshua Smith
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Location: Yamhill County Oregon
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Let's get the conversation going about bees! All bee lovers join in on the requirements for this badge. Here are my initial thoughts.

White:
Read Abbe Warre’s Beekeeping for All (free download)
Read one organic beekeeping book
Watch documentary Queen of the Sun
Take Sacred Apiculture (or other bee class) from jacqueline freeman at Friendly Haven Rise Farm
Taste at least 5 types of honey
Eat propolis
Observe a bee hive for 1 hour

Green”
Build a Warre or topbar hive
Collect a bee swarm
Plant bee forage/create a bee garden
Collect at least 1 pint of honey from your own hive
Have total of 10 hours bee observation

Brown:
Collect 4 additional swarms
Make and sell bee’s wax candles made from your own hives
Sell 5 gallons of honey from your own hives
Have a total of 30 hours bee observation
 
paul wheaton
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I think a white belt would include caring for one hive for one year, including the honey harvest.


And green belt would be two hives in a bee hut. Maybe two gallons of honey. Straw bales around the hives in winter. I like the part about collecting a swarm. How about providing a whole lot of three season nectar harvest?


Brown belt: build a bee hut, build two hives, manage three hives, four gallons of honey .... how about getting a swarm to just show up in your hive?

 
Patrick Mann
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There are a bunch of different natural bee-keeping approaches. Requiring e.g. taking a course with a particular teacher in a particular location is way too restrictive.
Instead how about this:
white: observe hive inspection at natural beekeeper's yard
green: assist natural beekeeper for 5 hours with hive maintenance tasks
brown: complete 1 year of mentoring with natural beekeeper
 
David Dodge
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Location: College Station, TX
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Patrick Mann wrote:There are a bunch of different natural bee-keeping approaches.


I agree. I am treatment-free but I use Langs to maximize honey production. Hopefully that doesn't make me un-natural. I'd like to experiment with other hive styles like top bars or Perones but I'm not sold on Warre hives for my situation. I'd like to see a badge focus on bee basics - build a hive or at least some components like tops and bases/stands/huts, make splits and increase your apiary, make and successfully use a swarm trap, research and plant locally adapted forage for pollen and nectar, and for brown belt level maybe queen rearing.
 
john giroux
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How about building of hives, Top bar warre etc. Extra credit for using wood from your own land. That would tie into milling of wood, carpentry. .
 
David Livingston
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I have a couple of thoughts about this

Firstly I dont think that getting hung up on what size box you have is that important . All beekeeping is local and what works for you and the bees where you live might not work for me and the bees where I live .
So for me Top bar hives , Warré, Perone , Sun Hives ,Einfachbeute potentally would all be ok plus other hives converted to be foundationless or reducing foundation to a minimum .
I could even see someone using a WBC hive ( Although they are a bugger to build ) or a skep ( to provide swarms ).

Secondly remember the department of Sad . There are laws out there depending on where you live defining what type of hive you can have . Although how this is supposed to work for wild bees no one has yet explained to me . Just because you have to have removalble frames does not mean you have to have foundation .

Thirdly I would recognise that a swarm is better than a nuc and a nuc is better than a package

Fourthly Does the size of your harvest matter ? Is this about the bees or the honey?
David
 
Cj Sloane
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David Livingston wrote:
Thirdly I would recognise that a swarm is better than a nuc and a nuc is better than a package

Fourthly Does the size of your harvest matter ? Is this about the bees or the honey?
David


I've been thinking about this for a few minutes. The quality of the harvest is much more important than the quantity of course. With a Perone hive, you're not supposed to harvest at all till the 2nd autumn. If you got 1 gallon without feeding sugar syrup & another person got 2 gallons with feeding I don't think the 2nd person really did "better."

You'd need to lay down some rules and the 3 ethics have a great role to play here particularly the dreaded 3rd ethic. If you do it "right" there are so many ways to "return" surplus. Thriving colonies return surplus by:
making enough honey for you and the bees
making extra bees to create new hives
increasing yield (surplus) of other plants

So, I don't think size of harvest matters but it's probably a good indicator if you're not feeding them syrup.
 
David Livingston
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Ok how about this for an idea

white level

Keeps Bees organic treatments only , limited sugar feeding , organic foundation , organic wood hives, sells or exchanges honey , no queen manipulation or Royal Jelly production.

Green level

Treatment free , no sugar , no foundation outside of origional nucs , propagation by Nucs ,splits and swarms. Sells exchanges honey and wax ,local bees only

Brown level

No foundation , propagation by Swarms only , makes own bee hives . Sells exchanges honey wax pollen propalis makes candles

Black level

obtains 10%+ of income from Bee products - Honey , Wax products ( candles , polish etc ) medical products ( pollen, propolis, tictures, bee stings ) Hives ( with and without bees ) splits and swarms .

David

 
David Livingston
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Plus for the Black level ( er second Dan ? ) teaches others about beekeeping

David
 
Cj Sloane
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David, I think that qualifies as return of surplus! Surplus knowledge.
 
David Livingston
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TMI is never a bad thing .


David
 
Tom OHern
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I do like the idea of requiring certain reading for the White Level. In addition to Beekeeping For All, I think both Honeybee Democracy and At the Hive Entrance were both integral for me moving to treatment free beekeeping. Also, having them identify their major local nectar flows would be a good exercise. And for Brown or Black Belt level, learning Bee Lining as a way to find wild hives so you can place out swarm traps is an important skill also.
 
David Livingston
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I hear what you are saying Tom but I worry about being prescriptive as there are lots of good stuff out there. Two of the books you suggest - honey bee democracy and "at the hive entrance" are great but are more descriptive of bee behavior rather than how to keep bees. Should we differentiate between such books and those that talk about a type of hive such as Abbé Warrés' , "Apiculture pour tous", David Heafs " Natural Beekeeping with the Warré Hive" ( frankly a much better read ) or the Bare Foot Beekeeper by Phil Chandler ( Top bar Hives ). The latter two are about encouraging people not only to keep bees but in such a way to put the bee at the" centre" of bee keeping not honey production . What should be included in reading and what does not matter will depend on where you live what sort of hives you will have and who you have found to mentor you - if anyone . For instance I am not aware of anyone writing a Book about Oscar Perones hives although something may be available in Spanish
Who would be foolish enough to keep bees without reading up on the subject first ? ............. ok .ok I accept there are fools out there but they are quite obvious if you know what I mean .
What did you think of my other suggestions ?

David
 
Ludger Merkens
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David Livingston wrote:TMI is never a bad thing .


David

TMI?

is this somthing I missed in the permaculture newbie term thread?

--- Ludger

 
David Livingston
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TMI = too much information

not really permiculture more like English humour

David
 
Cj Sloane
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TMI is often used to stop people from divulging to much, usually gross info. Like, supposed you started to tell me about your food poisoning symptoms. At a certain point, I'm going to say, "Stop, TMI!"
 
Ludger Merkens
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got it - thanks
 
Tom OHern
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David Livingston wrote:I hear what you are saying Tom but I worry about being prescriptive as there are lots of good stuff out there. Two of the books you suggest - honey bee democracy and "at the hive entrance" are great but are more descriptive of bee behavior rather than how to keep bees.


The reason I suggested those two books is exactly because I feel that modern beekeeping has become too much about "keeping bees" and not enough about "observing bees". The first permaculture principle is to observe and interact and I think that is what we should be teaching new permie beekeepers to do. To many books jump right in to hive manipulations and doing so, before you have really observed the bees, is not good for the bees.


Should we differentiate between such books and those that talk about a type of hive such as Abbé Warrés' , "Apiculture pour tous", David Heafs " Natural Beekeeping with the Warré Hive" ( frankly a much better read ) or the Bare Foot Beekeeper by Phil Chandler ( Top bar Hives ). The latter two are about encouraging people not only to keep bees but in such a way to put the bee at the" centre" of bee keeping not honey production . What should be included in reading and what does not matter will depend on where you live what sort of hives you will have and who you have found to mentor you - if anyone . For instance I am not aware of anyone writing a Book about Oscar Perones hives although something may be available in Spanish


Now that you mention it, I think it would be good to have the requirement that they try Langstroth, Warre, Top Bar, and Perones hives at least once each. I am not so much advocating for assigning reading material that will teach them how to keep bees, but give them the tools so they can learn from bees on how to best integrate them into our systems.


Who would be foolish enough to keep bees without reading up on the subject first ? ............. ok .ok I accept there are fools out there but they are quite obvious if you know what I mean .

What did you think of my other suggestions ?


I spend a lot of time out at the beekeeping forum at reddit.com, and far too often I see threads of people saying something like "I saw a youtube video on catching swarms and I caught this swarm of bees... now what do I do?" There are way to many people who are getting the advice of:

1)buy a begginners kit
2)order a package from California/Florida
3)feed sugar/medicate
4)YOU ARE A BEEKEEPER!!!

I would like to see this PEP1 be an alternative to that. And in as much, I did like your suggestions. I think the only thing to add would be the inclusion of more permie skillset development at the White Belt level so that they are set up to succeed at the higher levels. I know from experience how frustrating it is to go from treating bees to being treatment free.
 
David Livingston
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Hi Tom
I know what you mean about keeping bees but I translate that as getting honey I see many folks who get into the spiral get bees get honey get equipment get bees etc etc spiral .
Yes I agree about the observation books but unsure how it could be included apart from insisting people read those two books .
I find observing bees an almost spiritual experiance, are you suggesting starting without bees ? Like the white belt should be before the bees ? I am not saying your are wrong rather than being practical . Natural beekeepers are alas a rare breed and subjecting someone to a beekeeper who may not be in tune with bee centric approach might be counter productive . Difficult .desision .
As for Langstroth whilst I agree people should try a couple of types of hive for many of us Lagstroth are impractical .
Firstly there is the foundation issue and this for me is a biggy . I dont think that foundation is a good idrea and think it should be discouraged . I could go into detail why if you want but . I dont have time now
Secondly they weigh a tonne
Thirdly I have never tried a Langstroth because they dont have them here in France We have a similar hive called a Dadant ,in the UK they have mostly Nationals Have you seen a WBC hive

But I agree people should be encouraged to try more than one hive .

David
 
Tom OHern
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Langstroth hives don't have to be any heavier than other hives. If you only use medium or shallow boxes, rather than the deeps, then they aren't any heavier than a Warre box. And you can run a langstroth hive with or without foundation the same way as any other hive. The fact the people commonly don't know these things is one good reason to make people use each type of hive. They all have their pros and cons, and exposure to each is the only way one would know what will work in any given situation.

We all made the decision to become beekeepers before we had bees, so the journey does start there. I think what the White Belt level should represent is what we all think the right starting point should be. For me, that is knowing how to observe bees without prying into their hive and how to care for bees without treatments. If people have those tools before they get bees, they will be far better off. I think the White Belt level should end with them getting bees and observing them through a full year. Since you don't obtain a yield from a hive until the second season anyway, this shouldn't be hard.

We should also thing of calling this PEP1: Honey Beekeeping, since we are not covering anything about the other types of bees here (unless we want to make that part of the levels also).
 
David Livingston
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I made some changes to refect Toms ideas

white level

Keeps Bees organic treatments only , limited sugar feeding , organic foundation , organic wood hives, , no queen manipulation or Royal Jelly production or drone culling, at least one year on observation mode with referance to works such as " at the hive entrance " researches bee centred beekeeping

Green level

Treatment free , no sugar , no foundation outside of origional nucs , propagation by Nucs ,splits and swarms. Sells exchanges honey and wax ,local bees only, trys more than one type of hive , reseaches bee centered hives .

Brown level

No foundation , propagation by Swarms only , makes own bee hives . Sells exchanges honey wax pollen propalis makes candles

Black level

obtains 10%+ of income from Bee products and teaching- Honey , Wax products ( candles , polish etc ) medical products ( pollen, propolis, tictures, bee stings ) Hives ( with and without bees ) splits and swarms .

Anyone any other ideas about what I am suggesting ?

David

 
Ludger Merkens
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Biobees has a free copy of At the hive entrance by H. Storch as download.
 
Peter Ellis
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David Livingston wrote:

Black level

obtains 10%+ of income from Bee products and teaching- Honey , Wax products ( candles , polish etc ) medical products ( pollen, propolis, tictures, bee stings ) Hives ( with and without bees ) splits and swarms .

Anyone any other ideas about what I am suggesting ?

David



10% of income is very imprecise. One person has a hobby farm, in addition to being a partner in a law firm. They might need a very substantial operation to generate ten percent of their income from beekeeping. Another person has a much lower income situation, operates one hive and makes the ten percent mark.

I have a basic discomfort with putting dollar targets on any of these things, but aside from my philosophical issues, I do not think a percentage of income is a good tool for measurement. Perhaps a percentage of "income generated from their land" where it is understood that "their land" refers to land under their stewardship, not necessarily land that they own?
 
Tom OHern
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So here is my suggestions based on everything I've seen from people here:

White level:

* Have at least two hives of Bees
* Organic treatments only, limited sugar feeding only at installation, organic wax foundation or foundation-less, organic untreated and unpainted wood hives
* Minimal hive manipulations and no queen manipulation or Royal Jelly production or drone culling
* At least one year of weekly hive entrance observation notes
* Researches bee centered beekeeping (Suggestions:At The Hive Entrance, Beekeeping For All, Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive by David Heaf, The Barefoot Beekeeper by P. J. Chandler, Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley, Watch documentary Queen of the Sun, Take Sacred Apiculture (or other bee class) from Jacqueline Freeman at Friendly Haven Rise Farm)

Green level

* Treatment free, no sugar feeding, and no foundation outside of original nucs
* No smoke during hive examinations
* Make two splits from your existing hives.
* Capture at least one swarm in a bait hive.
* Produce enough honey and wax to meet your own annual needs
* Tries at least two types of hives
* Researches bee centered hives
* Put up a Mason Bee nesting box or other habitat for native pollinators

Brown level

* Tries at least 3 different types of hives
* No foundation in any hives
* Locally bred or wild survivor bees only
* Propagation by swarms only; catch at least three swarms in a season
* Produce enough honey and wax to meet the annual needs of two households
* Be able to describe all the different major nectar flows in your area and know the characteristics of each type of honey.
* Put up at least one Mason Bee nesting box for each honey bee hive you have.

Black level

* Have at least one hive that has survived 5 seasons without any treatments or queen manipulations.
* Produce enough honey and wax to meet the annual needs of five households.
* Have at least one beekeeping apprentice
* Use Bee Lining to locate a wild bee hive and use bait hives to capture at least one swarm from it.
* Provide and maintain natural spaces for native pollinators.
 
Seth Peterson
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Loolong good, some thoughts

I really like the hours of hive observation

I think maybe a white belt doesn't have bees yet, and just observes hives, reads books, takes classes, joins a beekeepers group and or gets to know local beekeepers, researches local laws, finds a been mentor/mentors and makes a plan for their bee yard including sourcing. Uses green materials for smoking bees, Assists in hive inspections and honey harvests. Plant pollinator habitats and learns about local native bees. Can find the queen, Assembles a hive from a kit or by scratch, has an epi-pen at hand, gets sting at least once to determine allergy, uses a bee suit, understands honey flows for their area, recognizes a few basic bee behaviors, Plus what was said by others...

Green belts have hives of their own, treatment free, etc. and don't lose them all every winter, harvests a moderate amount of honey appropriately, can identify common bee diseases and knows natural 'treatments', uses only a bee veil and gloves. Doesn't always use smoke, Catches a swarm. Knows what forage is available throughout the year, Harvests wax, recognizes many basic bee behaviors,

Brown belt, no gloves, splits, queen raring, swarm capturing, has used three or more systems, has high winter survival rates, captures various yields beyond wax and honey, begins to create surpluses for sale or barter. Rarely smokes bees if ever. Os on a local swarm list, teaches neighbors and children about bees, Can identify most bee behavior on sight, supplies self maybe others, prepares value added products from honey and wax, has a black belt for a mentor, engages the public around bees,

Black belt has interns, teaches people about bees, multiple bee yards, years of experience, maximizes yields, collects swarms, grafts queens, regularly, supplies self and others, builds hives, helps run a local beekeeper group, spreads the love of bees far and wide, is known for beekeeping, is identified by other local black belts as a black belt.


See what you all think,

Seth Peterson
permaculture chef
 
David Livingston
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Hi Tom
I'm cool about most of what you have said . However I have two quibbles
1 Why not Organic wood and wax ? Both seem no brainers to me.
2 Why not encourage people to make there own bee hives ? Even I can make a Warré , or a TBH or Perone evidence below . I think that it is as important as having local bees It takes you out of the whole mechanised honey producing industry ,makes you independant . I just made two Warré out of wood and screws salvaged at a cost of zero $ £ €
Hi Peter
I hear what you are saying I wanted to put a marker down that it was an important income / life stream for that person . I am happy with what Tom has written .
Hi Seth
Most of what you have said chimes with the stuff Tom and I have been bouncing around
However it seems more beekeeper centred rather than bee centred . Should what a beekeeper wear be important ? Do we encourage those with an allergy to keep bees. I say no to that . I am not sure about making a hive from a kit is that much a skill set to be mentioned . What about those who have no organic/natural/bee centred beekeepers near them ? Inflicting a new beekeeper to the whole shiney metal toys, bees as slaves , chemical,honey is everything , conventional bee keeping methods cannot be a good thing in my opinion.
I was interested you mentioned queen rearing . What is your rational for this ? If you proagate by swarms and Splits etc why would you need spare queens ?
I am more of a trust the bees person on the issue of Queens and manipulation . So for me no marking , wing clipping nor queen rearing . If my bees die its bacause either their genetics were not strong enough for the enviorment or I cocked up and its my fault . As for packages I would not make nor sell such an un natural mess frankly, for me it would be immoral .

David.
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Ludger Merkens
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Hi David,

I'm with you regarding the clothing of the beekeeper. In a way it is a tradeoff. If you want to go easy with the smoke and stop selecting for calm bees, you will need protective gear. Gentle handling of the bees alone will go a long way, but there are limits. So a clear No to 'no gloves' and 'no other protective gear'. (Even though I avoid gloves, because I feel clumsy with them)

No queen manipulation on the other hand, is probably a dead end. No marking, ok. No wing clipping, very ok. No controled propagation on the other hand, is definitely not the way to go.
If you want to run an apiary and don't want to be dependent on buying queens, you need to raise your own. To depend on buying packages/nucs, or on catching chance swarms, or beeing presented with a hive from a neighbour, even bartering for one is not sustainable.

To have healthy bee hives, which can provide a surplus (of honey, pollination, propolis - you name it) you need the best nurture for the queen bees you can get. Queens from swarm cells are fine, queens from supersedure are fine, queens from splits - not so much - unless they had a swarm cell to start with. But the second I transplant such a (swarm) queen cell, I do manipulate a queen. (literally)

I would like something like - 'no introduction of foreign stock' (to keep or increase stock numbers) in the brown belt and above (yes - no catching of swarms, except your own). And make experience with different queen rearing techniques a part of green belt.

--- Ludger
 
David Livingston
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Hi Ludger

Controled propagation . mmm a tricky one when I was talking about splits meaning talking about splitting a top bar hive when there are queen cells or moving whole warré boxes with the same idea . Not activly choosing queens .
There have been many people trying to " improve" bees I am not altogether convinced for example either by the efforts of creating the" Buckfast bee "nor the results of attempts of crossing european and african honey bees . ( I admit to pulling your leg by using the last example .)

Bees are not the same as mammals gentetic wise nor in predictability of progeny . My thoughts are a queen mates with a number of drones kills them and stores the sperm to use during the rest of her life time how can you tell that the traits you are selecting for will be passed on to future queens.

also what is the best ? Who decides ? I am content to let the darwinian approach work out ie the weak ones die the strong ones survive . If we are talking about having local bees then that is the only logical way I see things going . How would you select queens ? I favour those swarms that survive winter best . Its the only was of scoring .

I dont see any sign of adaptive evolution or co evolution in the relationship between man and bees . They are truly wild . I think bees know bees best .

David
 
Joseph Walker
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There is no replacement for time. After many years what have I really learned from helping bees take care of themselves? I am involved is because I want products from the hive. But unlike other animals,insects, birds and forces of nature I seek to get theses products without destruction of the hive. Spending time in the apiary is something that gives me great pleasure. It is an atmosphere like no other.
There are bee keepers and bee havers.
The havers have trouble with disease and swarming year in and out. Talking about it often. And know exactly how much honey was taken each year. And their expectations for next.
The keepers roll with the punches, select their best , develop queens, build them well, separate and combine them and keep a strong genetic apiary as a standard, a good atmosphere for mating and nuc development .
I have observed that site selection is underestimated by a lot of folks. If one gets some basics right, the bees will do quite good if there is forage . One can have a clear sense of the flavour of the honey by knowing the land the apiary will work. And if this is the case one will know when help is needed and when not.
So much has been written on the subject, I recommend to read everything you come across. Seek out local keepers , it can save you years of trial and error.
Winning badges and promoting oneself beyond another in stature seems a path unfocused in regard to the tradition of the hive. As farmers we are opportunists and in bees there can be no greater advisors to the local we seek to exploit.

............."If you don't like chickens, but are determined to have fresh eggs, things are not going to work out to well for the chickens."................
 
David Livingston
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Hi Ludger

Another thought about Queeen selection is the amount of work involved,are you also advocating swarm surpression ? A full frame by frame inspection every two weeks for three months is a hell of a lot of work effectivly fighting nature . How is that permiculture ?
Plus I am not convinced it does the bees a lot of good espicially with the loss of what Thur called Nestduftwärmebindung ( I always wanted to use that word ) and the loss of heat will aid verroa plus the scent signal the hive to small hive beatle . ( latest news from Italy not good on that score )
Also if you use Sun Hives or Perone hives such inspections are impossible .

Hi Joe
How do you select queens and what do you do with them ?
I agree with you on keepers and havers .

David

 
Joseph Walker
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Hi David,
I choose which queens I like the best, production, propolis but most of all temperment. Calm ,hardworking and clean. Some queens are just not nice, not calm on the comb or lazy. From the groups I admire, I use a feather to procure the most recently laid eggs I can find and place them on a rail fitted with queens cups, each rail has two rows of six, one below the other. This rail goes back to a large strong group for development and on the 17th day I detach each queen cup from the rail and place in a tiny nuc with a supply of fondant and literally a "cup" of bees. This nuc I close up for five days and allow the queen to emerge under the care of the cupful. I line up all these tiny nucs in the apiary and keep an eye on them and it is not difficult to tell over the next two weeks which are nice or mean, lazy or hardworking. I let mating take place naturally within the gene pool of the apiary. I then take the nicest of them and transfer to normal size nucs and continue to let them develop threw out the summer to a size that can make it threw the winter. Sometimes I combine these nucs by eliminating a queen. Sometimes I use them to replace older queens in the apiary. All in all I normally narrow down to the best four or five for the next season as I like to keep my apiary in the 10 to 15 hive region.
In regard to swarming...... I always make sure there is plenty of room in the brood box in the spring. And queens that have that tendency are always high on the list of those to be replaced. Also I put bait boxes around the property, for a lure I simply use a piece of brood frame that a queen has walked on in an old nuc box. This works very well and have noticed over the years that the bait boxes that work best are the ones that are placed on higher ground than the original hive and within the working radius of the apiary. If sometimes the group is totally determined to fly, I let it rather than chase it and try to force it to my will. And most years I have no swarming but collect swarms from the bait boxes that have been attracted from the wild or wherever.
By making queens each season I have more than enough and with the good atmosphere of the apiary the vast majority are happy and willing to stay. Also I do not inspect just for the sake, I have a lot of fruit trees and harvest the spring honey separate from the summer in the form of cut comb, so when I am doing this I just have a peek and this gives me a really clear view as to who is happy and content and who is not. All in all I try to leave them be, as the one thing I know for sure is that they know best.
In regard to varroa I use screen floors which give the group the oppertunity to help themselves and some groups are much better at this than others, the ones that are not are I often replace the queen and this always helps and if not simply put them down before a long slow winters death, but this does not occur to often. I also use 1 frame in the brood box that is from a super in the middle of the brood. This creates a gap that the bees do not like so they fill it with wild comb. For some reason the group likes to utilize this wild piece of comb for drone production and as the drones take longer to emerge than the rest, the varroa prefer to incubate in these cells. It makes it very easy for me to simply cut out this section and feed it to the birds and the varroa numbers stay very low.
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 235
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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David Dodge wrote:I agree. I am treatment-free but I use Langs to maximize honey production. Hopefully that doesn't make me un-natural. I'd like to experiment with other hive styles like top bars or Perones but I'm not sold on Warre hives for my situation. I'd like to see a badge focus on bee basics - build a hive or at least some components like tops and bases/stands/huts, make splits and increase your apiary, make and successfully use a swarm trap, research and plant locally adapted forage for pollen and nectar, and for brown belt level maybe queen rearing.


Be able to explain the difference between organic and treatment free. Be able to explain the significance of foundation vs foundation-free.

Read The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally by Michael Bush; The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping by Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer
 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Dear John
"All in all I try to leave them be, as the one thing I know for sure is that they know best "
On that point we are in total agreement however I would go further than you on this philosophy, a lot further .

I noticed you talked about providing some space for the bees to build wild comb and that you discovered that this was where the bees built drone comb but were unsure as to why . My thoughts on this are that it's obvious . If you examine a wild hive you would find that the bees make not just one size of cell but a whole range of sizes , you should see this in your wild comb also . Drone cells being larger because they the drones are larger than workers . Obviously if you use foundation it is more difficult to build a range of sizes thus when the bees have the chance and the need they utilise this space where the size of cells is not confined to build drone comb .

Many beekeepers do not see the point of large drone populations thinking them a drag on honey production and usless mouths to feed. I do not see it this way, the fact that we do not know what other functions they may have in the nest does not mean they do not have a function it just means that we do not know what the drones do most of the time , bit like teenagers really I also think the more drones you have the more chance of the strongest in the Darwinian sence being chosen by the queen .

I also carry this philosophy over into going foundationless . There are three reasons for this
1 Wild bees make a range of sizes of cells to suit the needs of the nest having a one size does not quite fit all I believe disadvantages the bees . If one size was best I am sure in the millions of years that bees have been around they would have done this by now.
2 Where does the wax in foundation come from? what pollutents does it contain?
3 We dont need to and its an extra cost in time and money

I hear your care for the bees in the way you write about them but I judge them not and let winter do the pruning not my judgement of how clean or nice they are to my eyes , after all the bees know best .

David
 
Joseph Walker
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Hi David,
I take your points well. I tend to use foundation as it makes assessment and harvest easy ,especially with a cut comb product .In the past when I have not, both issues become very different prospects .
In regard to the culling , again it is often to do with an issue that has inhibited some aspect of the nuc's development. Some sets of genes are just not as viable as others.
As far as the drones go, in a healthy apiary there are so many that the few I lose to varroa control seems a bargin.
On the foundation point I have made my own but with the time involved and so much else to do, I trade in my excess wax and buy pure sterile foundation in return. This stores very well and allows me the freedom to easily exchange frames between hives and nucs, making it very easy to feed or expand or reduce as needed. And most importantly it allows me to exploit a really large colony to draw out new frames for smaller groups that might find it much more difficult, this little helper looms large as many new queens have great laying power but their overall numbers would be under great stress to draw out or build sufficient comb to satisfy their queens ability. This one usage makes the difference between a young queen being able to fill a brood box in one summer as opposed to 2 or 3 frames worth left on their own. I have also found that a young newly mated queen will lay at the rate she first becomes used to. If she is waiting around for comb to be drawn or built she will often lay at that rate her whole life. If the first thing she sees after mating is an overabundance of clean polished cells she will fill them all with remarkable speed, maintaining that as her "habit".
 
Dane Larsen
Posts: 13
Location: Texas, Blackland Prarie, Zone 8a
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For context, I meet most of the requirements for the various versions of Brown Belt outlined here except for the versions that are manipulation or sales heavy. My thoughts are that this is PEP[aul] not PEC[ommercial production]. I think that PEP standards would likely be treatment free (except feeding during initial installation, or if trauma to the colony is your own fault, i.e. a late but necessary cutout, or stupidly robbing too much honey). I don't think the type of hive should matter (since some local laws require removable frames) as long as the management style allows for the building of natural comb at the bees own preferred cell size (foundationless), along with cyclical renewal of the comb. Warrés, Japanese multi-tiered boxes or gums, and HTBHs do this automatically, and the Rose Hive method will work for Langs if you standardize on mediums or shallows. Perones or Holzer style gums might be allowed exceptions to that rule. I also suspect that PEP[aul] would prefer natural propagation, therefore no queen rearing, no splits, no shook swarms, but concentrating on recovery of swarms from one's own apiary, as well as baiting local survivor stock.

There are many traits we might select for the beekeeper's convenience (low use of propolis for example) that may actually be a disadvantage for the bees themselves. Here in Texas we have a huge problem with small hive beetle, especially when we have a warmer winter. Opening the hive less often and allowing the bees to propolize the heck out of things lets the bees manage the beetles on their own with beetle traps. Treating propolis as a nuisance, opening the hive and scraping it off (releasing trapped beetles), or selecting for "clean" bees, puts the colony at a disadvantage, requiring more input and management from the beekeeper. Almost any undesirable trait can be viewed this way, and only by allowing bees to evolve on their own can they they meet the selection pressures of an unstable environment.

The book lists look good. I second Beekeeping for All, At the Hive Entrance, and Honeybee Democracy. I think Seeley's book is a crucial read if you want to rid your head of all the dumb ideas about bees you picked up watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore is nice for some deep historical context, and fun for those who want a purple tinge to their brown belt.

 
Michael Cox
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Dane Larsen wrote:Perones or Holzer style gums might be allowed exceptions to that rule. I also suspect that PEP[aul] would prefer natural propagation, therefore no queen rearing, no splits, no shook swarms, but concentrating on recovery of swarms from one's own apiary, as well as baiting local survivor stock.


There are always trade offs in systems - In permaculture we try to always lower the demands of time on the practitioner, through careful design and implementation. Ultimately a human usable yield is what we are after.

Now relying on natural swarms may be the ideal, but active swarm catching requires constant vigilance through the swarm season and passive swarm catching through bait hives is very hit and miss. In traditional step based beekeeping the beekeeper literally sat in the apiary through swarm season watching the bees swarm, following them and catching them.

I would view taking an occasional split from colonies as a minimal necessary evil - just as we occasionally need to do some chop-n-drop mulching in our growing systems. With a well thought out setup splits can be done quickly and with minimal fuss, or a taranov swarm can be taken under the Beekeepers own time frames. You can still let the bees do their own thing regarding selection of queens.

Personally I'm not sure yet where the optimum amount of intervention lies for a permaculture version of beekeeping. Foundationless would be good, minimal intervention would be good, treatment free would be good - but for a viable commercial venture (commercial here meaning a reasonable yeild for trading off farm) I think we need to allow more intervention than was proposed in this thread.
 
Dane Larsen
Posts: 13
Location: Texas, Blackland Prarie, Zone 8a
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Michael, that may be the best approach: start from a bare minimum and add a limited repertoire of manipulations as needed based on the size of the apiary. I can chase down the swarms from my four hives easily, but for 100? Impossible. As to where those limits are, beekeepers with more experience that I would have to speak up. But really, that's more about best practice than this proposed PEP1 certification system. So the question is, do splits belong in PEP1? Maybe, but at what level, and why (meaning, under what circumstances is this acceptable)? Does queen rearing belong in PEP1? Probably not.

Within beek culture there seems to be a subset of people with a strong tendency to get in there and fiddle with the hive. PEP1 should actively discourage that, at least in my opinion.
 
Michael Cox
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"Queen rearing" can be as simple as taking a frame with a few queen cells from a favoured hive and making a nuc with them. This is simply akin to seed saving and selection as we would do in a vegetable garden... essentially allowing a landrace of good genetic to form but given our own nudge in direction. I agree that it might be wise to avoid excessive fiddling, but making a split can literally be as quick as putting half the frames in a new box, filling gaps with foundation and walking away - 5 minutes per hive max.

Queen grafting on the other hand is a fiddly and invasive system that messes with the bees systems to raise lots of queens... I don't see that there is anything wrong with it per se, other than it is labour intensive. As long as the right genetic traits are being selected for then everything is peachy still. Think about it this way - if you get the perfect queen which is immune to varroa and aggressively hunts and traps SHB you would damn well want to breed as many queens as possible from her so that you don't risk losing those genetics to circumstance. Lets say she swarms away and you lose her. Bam... there is your breeding program set back 20 years or more if you are using solely natural pressures.

I'm not saying advanced techniques should be in PEP1, but as someone who didn't know how to make splits or control swarming when I started out, I was totally at the mercy of the bees for making up winter loses. I don't think that is a resilient position to be in, hence why some form of artificial increase should be considered.
 
Michael Cox
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Dane Larsen wrote:I can chase down the swarms from my four hives easily, but for 100?


That presumes that your apiary is in zone 1 where you can have almost constant supervision of it. Even tracking down the swarms from 4 hives if they are out of sight is impossible. I had a swarm call on sunday for a bunch of bees in a friends garden. Turned out they had swarmed from an apiary 200m away, and the owners were oblivious, despite being in the house at the time. They swarmed again the following day and again the beek missed them.

Apiaries belong out on the fringes of the farm... to be visited perhaps once per week, not camped in every day through the summer.
 
Dane Larsen
Posts: 13
Location: Texas, Blackland Prarie, Zone 8a
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To pull this back to the proposed PEP1 standard, I'd be "brown" by most of the lists, but my experiences beekeeping are still insufficient. Michael, if you have time, I'd like to see your white green brown lists (I realize that's a lot of homework, and writing curriculum is a miserable task). I ask because your posts are from the top three or four people I scan for when I'm looking for sensible advice in these forums.
 
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