Ludger Merkens

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since Dec 10, 2013
Deutschland (germany)
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Recent posts by Ludger Merkens

Michael Cox wrote:
On that basis I find the idea of individuals planting "a lavender bush for the bees" rather laughable.



That probably would be laughable. I'm thinking of rebuilding hedges with a variety of flowering perennial shrubs and bushes. Integrating late flowering Trees into a food forest and doing some consulting with the local forester, as well as keeping this aspect in mind in any action in the garden. It is by no means limited to a zone 1 garden, or a small urban lot, but needs to be kept in mind when structuring zone 4 any beyond.

---Ludger
4 years ago
Well definitely a commercial beekeeper,

but his conclusion is something, which points into a good direction:

It may be time for the beekeeping industry to shift its paradigm from managing boxes to really thinking about good husbandry of the critters inside. Think of each box as having a living animal inside. Don’t be afraid to invest in their nutrition, either by moving them to better pasture, or by feeding them in place.



My approach to investing in their nutrition would be: plant a good mix of bee forage plants - pollen matters!
But I see the dilemma of a conventional pro beekeeper - my approach is probably difficult to scale to several 1000 hives.

interesting read - thank you.
---Ludger
4 years ago

Michael Cox wrote:IN which case... why not go for a conventional Langstroth or similar and just leave well alone? Put on enough boxes that they have the option to expand to a good size, introduce a swarm and let them sort it out for themselves.



Michael has a point here. It probably matters more, how you manage the hives, than the actual geometry of the hive. One argument more to start with the warré hive, your brother already has, observe and learn from the bees. The warré as well as the langstroth hives, have the big advantage, that you can adjust their size, according to your bees demands. All beekeeping is local...

--- Ludger
4 years ago
Hi Marty,

habitat - congratulations, important steps done!

Warre Hive - might be a good way to learn about bee keeping. If you have some experience with this, you have a better starting point to reduce the amount of work that needs to go into bee keeping, to keep them thriving. With bees it takes a true master to do (almost) nothing.

Wood types - appreciated!

Ludger
4 years ago
Hi Marty,

if it is pollination you are after - why focus on 'honey' bees? Are the systems you are designing really dependent on the pollination services from the honey bee? What about building habitat for other pollinators? Pollination from honey bees is only needed, if you have a lot of crop flowering very early in the year. A cherry or an apple orchard might be such a case. The honey bee as a pollinator has the one big benefit over other pollinators, that they winter in huge numbers and thus can provide massive pollination services very early in the year. Bumble bees on the other hand winter as Queen only. They take some time to develop their numbers, but bee by bee they have the better pollination ratio.

In a STUN hive scenario, as discussed, you very often will loose this essential quality of the honey bees. There are no huge numbers of bees very early in the year, if they don't make it through the winter. Instead you will have to wait for the first swarms in may. Depending on your orchard, thats a little late in the year.

I compare keeping bees without a honey harvest, to keeping chicken without eating them. If you ignore one of the main aspects of a design element, you probably are running into trouble.

Ludger
4 years ago
Hi Marty,

the question about the hive type suitable for something is actually depending on what you want to achieve. If you are going for STUN (with total), there is no need to observe the hive, or have the ability to analyse what is going on in it. The moment you go for strategic or minimal invasive, or some other not so absolute non interference, the hive becomes a tool for the beekeeper to achieve some goal. E.g. chemical free bee keeping. Both the bees and the beekeepers needs should thus be reflected.

A hive for STUN (with total) will provide no honey harvest (but pollination), and will look much like thomas seeleys swarm boxes. It will have a volume of 40-50l, all natural comb, no means to open it for the bee keeper, neither frames nor movable top bars. The entrance will be small and at the bottom of the hive. Good insulation and good ventilation will help the bees. The wachs moth will deal with old comb and if the bee density is high enough in your area, swarms from your neighbours will populate this box every one or two years. You will put it at least 5m high up into a tree and there is only one every 150m. This hive type would be probably illegal in many regions.

If you are going for something more productive (in terms of honey), the answer is much more complex, will probably also include natural comb, probably a brood chamber of 40-50l volume. It probably will be splitted like a perone hive, into a bees part and a beekeepers part. But you will want at least movable Top-Bars to inspect the hive and help the bees if needed. The beekeepers part, might actually contain traditional frames, to make honey harvest less destructive for the bees and less stressfull for beekeeper and bees.

But hive design is influenced by what you want to achieve, thus the discussion, if a STUN approach is possible at all, and if it is desirable.

What do you want?
Ludger
4 years ago
Hi David,

that would give us an upper bound, a maximum number of hives that can survive without drowning in "little darlings". The actual number of surviving swarms is probably even lower, since a real healthy colony can produce way more than one or two swarms, and a really healthy queen can live for more than one year.

The claim, that there are stable populations of wild bees in the UK (sadly) is most probably wrong. According to Catherine Thomson, there are only three locations in the UK, where it is likey that feral honey bees could survive till today. (Bee Craft Article from 2010). Theese are Ennerdale Forest, Tywi Forest and Wark Forest near Kielder. Only in Wark forest, she actually could find bees. All other known unmanaged bee hives (a whopping 20 in the UK) seemed to be escaped swarms from beekeepers in the area, where different swarms repeatedly inhabitet the same location. (No surprise in our tidy environment, where good locations for bees are rare)

I'd be glad to hear from france, if the situation is better there. In germany it certainly is not.

--- Ludger
4 years ago
Hello David,

thats the first time I hear about this number of 50% - do you have a source on which you base this seemingly wild claim?
According to gene typing of collected drones from drone aggregration places in europe, the density of wild bees is very low, close to zero. Almost to a level, that we have to think about them as beeing extinct, so please give me your source, I'd be very happy to learn about wild honey bees in europe.

Ludger

4 years ago
Well actually STUN has been done with bees. But it is nothing that can be done by the inexperienced.

One of the best known examples of something similar to STUN is the "Bond Method" (Live or let die), by John Kefuss. A Method to select for bees that can survive chemical free bee keeping.
To avoid the massive losses he experienced (and which have been experienced everywhere in the world, where something similar has been done) he later proposed the "Soft Bond Method"

Even under best conditions, you have to face the fact, that you will experience huge losses. I quote Kefuss: “I would have been happy with 10% survival.”

-- Ludger
4 years ago
Hi Jeremy,

if you get a split from an existing hive, make sure the split receives one comb full of honey from the parent hive. This should be enough to get them going.

--- Ludger
4 years ago