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Please join me in welcoming Leo Sharashkin, editor of Keeping Bees with a Smile: Principles and Practice of Natural Beekeeping



Read the book reviews here!

Leo will be hanging out in the forums until May 29th, 2020 answering questions and sharing his experiences with you all.

At the end of the week, we'll make a drawing for 4 lucky winners to win a copy of his book! From now until Friday, all new posts in the honey bees forum are eligible to win.

To win, you must use a name that follows our naming policy and you must have your email set up to receive the Daily-ish email. Higher quality posts are weighed more highly than posts that just say, "I want this book!"

When the four winners are selected, they will be announced in this thread and their email address will be sent to the publisher, and the publisher will sort out the delivery details with the winners.


Please remember that we favour perennial discussion.  The threads you start will last beyond the event.  You don't need to use Leo's name to get his attention. We like these threads to be accessible to everyone, and some people may not post their experiences if the thread is directed to the author alone.


Posts in this thread won't count as an entry to win the book, but please say "Hi!" to Leo and make him feel welcome!
COMMENTS:
 
steward & bricolagier
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Welcome Leo!!
I was honored to be one of the people who got to review the book. OH WOW!! I just bought a copy :D My review
I have a thread here on permies asking about top bar hives, because I have health issues, no way I can move a full super. Top Bar Hives vs health issues
I went to a beekeeping class locally, and came away from it thinking about some neat things, but also thinking a LOT of "That just doesn't feel right, those bees are not happy."
And then I read this book... There we go! THIS makes sense! This is something I will do.
Thank you SO MUCH for this chance to learn, I'm ordering a copy of the book, and Welcome to Permies! :D

Edit: I ordered the book on a holiday (Memorial Day) from Dr Leo's site Horizontalhive.com and got a shipping notice a little over an hour later. Awesome customer service!! :D  
 
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Leo,

I was happy to see you've stopped by permies! I hope you enjoy your time to share more about bees and that others are as inspired as I have been to dive into the great world of natural beekeeping. Thanks for showing up here and sharing your passion!

I am honored to have learned a lot from Leo in person and have had great success so far using the natural beekeeping he has taught me. The strongest swarm I've caught yet showed up on our property last week of April. I loved how easy it was to transfer a 7 frame Layens swarm box into the permanent 19 frame hive. Thanks for teaching me Leo!
 
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Hi Leo!

I just found out about your horizontal hives a month ago. And I have the read the Ringing Cedar series several times so seeing your name brings joy to my heart!
 
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Hello Leo,
Welcome I was very happy to see this post as we just received a bee hive present from a friend and I feel kind of overwhelmed by the responsibility for such a great number of these valuble little creatures and by the lack of knowledge.
Marie
 
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Good morning Dr. Leo,

We built the de Layens hive per your free online plans, then ordered unassembled frames from you.  Thank you. The bees are installed and doing well.  We also built a horizontal Langstroph hive using
similar concept.  We repurposed some hollow core closet doors filled with paper shards.  We installed a package of bees in it as well to run a comparison.  Both seem to be doing well.  The two hives
we installed from nucs last year in standard Langstroph hives, barely survived the winter and are struggling.  It will be an interesting experimental season for us here in the foot hills of the southern Rockies.
We also ran a package of bees in a Warre hive last year.  They did not survive the winter.  They left 8 pounds of honey in the hive, so did not starve.  I believe they either froze or smothered.  There were 40 degree
diurnal swings which confused them as well.

 
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Welcome Leo.
Appreciate your support of our most critical natural resource - our bees!
I live in a climate with harsh winters and most of the beekeepers in the area use Langstroth and experience winter loses sometimes as high as 90%.
So I had begun looking at the poly hives for my start into beekeeping, but would be really interested in your insights.
Thanks!
 
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Hello Leo,
Wow! My mother has wanted bees for years and now I'm going to get working building a bee hive with your plans.  She will be so surprised next year.  Thanks.
 
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I so look forward to finding out more about this style of keeping bees. Thank you.
 
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Welcome, Leo!
I will be beginning my beekeeping adventure this summer and I am so glad an email introducing you and your work popped up in my inbox today.
 
Posts: 109
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Good Day to you Leo-
I have wanted to keep bees for decades now but living in the city prevents that. Soon enough I will be on some acreage somewhere far east of this west coast of the N American continent, and I hope to start there as I love honey and need the wax for products I make. So to that end I have been viewing and reading what I can find regarding their care and welfare, how-tos on harvesting honey and even how to capture a swarm. I am fascinated by bees. I used to be deathly afraid of them as a kid, and have only been stung once in my life and recently at that.

If I had one question to ask, it might be what sort of hive is both best for the bees, and easiest to harvest from. It probably reveals just how little I really know. Guess I need to read more!!  ~~
 
Pearl Sutton
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Cindy Haskin wrote:
If I had one question to ask, it might be what sort of hive is both best for the bees, and easiest to harvest from. It probably reveals just how little I really know. Guess I need to read more!!  ~~


You need to read this book! That's exactly what it's about! :D
 
steward
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Hi Leo! I'm glad you're here and thanks for coming to hang out with us and do a book giveaway!
 
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HELLO  AND  WELCOME  LEO:
I'm assuming that since you're in the Forum that you might answer a few questions also. IF you can answer - THANK YOU!!!

1. My hive died, per my mentor, of too much moisture and freezing during the winter. I had 3/4" blue insulation around the hive except the entrances. SO, is this a common problem?

2.  I was surprised outside one day seeing a bee. The next day I was curious and checked the hive and a swarm had moved in. Is there a high probability that these bees will swarm again - or will the left over stash of honey keep them home?

3.  I was interested in the "V" shaped horizontal hives, but, they take oddly shaped frames too! I'm assuming that standard extraction equipment is not going to work on extracting the honey. NOW WHAT?  Do I need to stick with standard hives?  Maybe I could just make a horizontal and leave that hive alone for keeping bees going around here.  I'm much more interested in their pollination capabilities any way not necessarily just for the honey they produce.

JayGee
 
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Thank you all for your posts and your kind words!  Those of you catching swarms (Ian, thanks for the update!) - congratulations on your new colonies; you are off to a good start. If there's one thing that is the most important in natural beekeeping, it is working only with LOCAL honeybees that are acclimated to your location and have high level of disease resistance. You get both when you catch a local wild swarm.

Cindy - the best hive I recommend for both bees and small-scale beekeepers is the Layens horizontal hive.  It has the size of the frame and hive layout similar to what bees experience in a tree hollow in the woods; and all frames being on the same level, you never have any 70-lb boxes to lift!  There are free plans for building these hives on my website HorizontalHive.com  and please read the 2020 edition of Keeping Bees with a Smile (hope you win one from the giveaway) for the most comprehensive and accessible look at how to make beekeeping good for the bees and the keepers.
 
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We are new beekeepers and I can tell from reading all the posts that we have so much to learn! Also looks like we have to make some changes too. (probably a lot of changes)
We keep a very natural habitat here and want to stay natural with our bees and chickens too. I am very interested on learning about catching swarms. That seems so sensible!!!
We are planting/growing native plants  to support the habitat , it just makes sense to use bees that are acclimated to the area.
Hoping to get your book of course, but will be looking for it soon. Thank you for all your wisdom and encouragement Leo Sharashkin !
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Jesse,

Happy to answer your questions:

1. My hive died, per my mentor, of too much moisture and freezing during the winter. I had 3/4" blue insulation around the hive except the entrances. SO, is this a common problem?



Did you also have insulation ON THE TOP? This is the most critical part of the hive to insulate (so condensation does not drip down on the bee cluster) - preferably a couple inches or more. In nature, bees have several FEET of tree trunk above them, so it's important to put as much insulation above the cluster as you can (Keeping Bees with a Smile has a special chapter of good overwintering and how to prepare the bee nest properly, the bee's way). Interestingly, L.L. Langstroth (inventor of the movable-frame vertical hive most American beekeepers are using today) was writing in his 1853 book that moisture problems result from LACK OF INSULATION. He described burying your hive under a mound of wood chips for the winter (using a small pipe for entrance ventilation) - these hives were VERY dry during the winter as moisture could not condense on the walls. Essentially, the idea is to create a well-insulated cavity like what bees have in nature.

Another consideration: if you insulate with blue board, all the seams should be taped to prevent air infiltration.

The Styrofoam insulation is not ideal, though - it has high insulation value (IF installed properly with no gaps), but it traps moisture.  The more natural alternative delivering excellent results is NATURAL WOOL (if you build double-wall hives) or the traditional mixture of straw, cow manure, ashes, and clay (stucco the hive walls with 1.5" of this mixture - we did it even in Montana with great results).

Finally, winter survival depends on the KIND OF BEES you have in the beehive.  Local swarms have much greater chance to survive compared to package bees or nucs with queens that carry non-local genetics (and, thus, lack of adaptation to your environment).

2.  I was surprised outside one day seeing a bee. The next day I was curious and checked the hive and a swarm had moved in. Is there a high probability that these bees will swarm again - or will the left over stash of honey keep them home?



First, note that if you left honey in the dead hive (which is not a good idea, you want to remove the honey - it's safe for your consumption because even if the hive died of viral or other infection, these diseases are not transferable from bees to humans) - so if you left honey in the hive, all this mass of bees you see inside might not be a swarm but ROBBER BEES (which will be gone as soon as the hive is emptied of honey).  But if the swarm moved in (congratulations), they will usually stay long-term.  Eventually, if they outgrow the box, they may swarm again - but you can manage them as a new colony to prevent swarming and do an artificial swarm instead.


3.  I was interested in the "V" shaped horizontal hives, but, they take oddly shaped frames too! I'm assuming that standard extraction equipment is not going to work on extracting the honey. NOW WHAT?  Do I need to stick with standard hives?  Maybe I could just make a horizontal and leave that hive alone for keeping bees going around here.  I'm much more interested in their pollination capabilities any way not necessarily just for the honey they produce.



The V-shape horizontal hive is a "top-bar hive" which I do not recommend for temperate climates. It was developed for use in the tropics, and its elongated shape, relatively small size of comb, and lack of insulation creates problems; plus top bar hives require more skill to run properly, to forestall excessive swarming, and to avoid comb cross-combing and collapses.   If you wish to make use of the equipment you already have (the standard Langstroth frames) you could build a horizontal hive box compatible with these frames - this way you can use your existing extracting equipment etc.  I've use this kind of "Long Langstroths" for year, but eventually converted everything to the Layens horizontal hive whose deeper comb (16" deep instead of just 9" deep in the Langstroth) is much better for overwintering and strong spring buildup.

Thanks for your questions - and you will find even more detailed answers (including full-color pictures) in the new edition of Keeping Bees with a Smile.
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Lisa,  catching a swarm is really the way to go!  Just think about it: for thousands of years beekeepers were not buying bees (and there was no FedEx to deliver you a package of bees from Florida or a queen from California).  And for as long as people used exclusively local swarms as their bee stock, they had tremendous thriving apiaries and the current bee health problems were simply non existent.  In addition to the swarm-catching guide in Keeping Bees with a Smile, see one on my website: http://horizontalhive.com/honeybee-swarm-trap/bait-hive-how-to-catch.shtml

Only, in all seriousness, please be prepared for the swarms when they DO arrive!  (I.e., have permanent hives ready to transfer the bees to.) Here's an email I received this morning:

Good Morning Leo, Here I am a week later, and have caught four more swarms! That’s five in one week! This blessing is a bit overwhelming, and definitely a lesson for me.



It's all to easy to kill a swarm if you don't follow the best practices or don't have the equipment ready. So please trap responsibly and educate yourself before setting your swarm trap out!
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Conrad,
I really prefer hives made of natural materials. Yes, today many hives and frames are made of plastic or other synthetic materials. Yes, they work, but has certain properties very different from the way bees are programmed to live (for example, they routinely make holes through their combs, for ventilation and access - see color photos in Keeping Bees with a Smile - but they can't create these pop holes if you use frames with plastic foundation). Eventually, too, the plastic hive equipment ends up in the landfill, whereas a hive made of natural materials such as wood can fully biodegrade.  So the hives I make only use materials that can biodegrade (wood, wool insulation) or be recycled (aluminum flashing for hive roof cover).
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Laura,
It's good to experiment and compare different hive models.  My prediction is that after running the Langstroths along with Layens, you'll eventually switch over to the Layens (I did so completely two years ago across all my apiaries). The shape of the Layens frames is more natural and better for overwintering and colony development, and the Layens frame's top bars that touch help minimize heat loss and disturbance during inspections. I wish you a successful beekeeping season!
 
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  Dr Leo I was so excited to see you on Permies. I have watched many of your youtube vids and have learned so many valuable tips on bees. I really like the horizontal bee hives. For me they would be so much more parctical.  I have a very bad back and can not lift much. So Having to lift the square stackable bee hives would be imposible for me.
 And I think this design is better for the bees.  I like that  you can see the whole hive at once and get a better Idea of how the whole hive is doing. And it looks like it would be easier to harvest the honey as well.
 Also really enjoyed seeing how to collect "wild" bee swarms. Having bees that are already living in an environment is practical on so many levels. I was very amazed at the differences in the bee hives on the vid from Off Grid with Doug and Stacy.
 I feel so bad for the bees shipped around the world and for the ones constantly moved from crop to crop.
 Hopefully one day I will be able to have  my own hives.  Thanks for sharing all your wonderful knowledge with others!!!  
 
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Hello Leo, doing good work! Bees need help.
Interesting, i like the idea to leave the bees in their natural way and not squeeze out every last drop of honey. I have five hives, two empty topbars and three dadante. Tomorrow, i'm going to help my friend who teaches me beekeeping to harvest honey at his place. He gave me some bees. I'd love to learn to catch swarms passively. 3 weeks ago i helped the same guy, he was on the ladder and i had to pull the rope to swing the tree. It was theatre, and dangerous. He did manage to catch the queen though.
What is appealing to me is just leave the bees be. I've got to check on them all the time now, look if the queen came out of the cell, look if she is laying these tiny larvae i can hardly see etc. It's very stressful for them. Much easier just to let nature be , catch the swarms, they're complete, put them in a new hive which mimics nature as close as possible, leave them be.
Beekeepers seem pretty rigid in their ways here, you have to have the same hives as they do and do it the same way at the same time, i like that someone re-evaluates things and puts things back to what bees need!
Aren't local bees much more aggressive than the passive bees?
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Yes, Lyda, anybody who witnesses the qualities of local bees and how superior they are to what's sold commercially only shake their head in disbelief that these superb local bees are so hard to find for sale!  But there's a simple explanation for that: you can rear bees in the south much earlier and at lesser expense than in the north; besides, after the almond pollination in California in early spring, many commercial beekeepers are looking to unload these bees used in pollination (and exposed to heavy doses of chemicals in the process), to they can sell packages at low prices and ship them to the north earlier and cheaper than local bees could be raised here.  This creates a big problem: if you buy package bees with non-local queens, not only your hives will be struggling (unless you give them all the support), but you are introducing genetic pollution that undermines the local bee population (the drones from these non-local colonies will mate with local queens, and their progeny will not be as viable anymore).  This is why I (and any beekeeper having experience with local swarms and bees) cringe every time when somebody says "So I ordered a package of bees..."
 
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welcome Leo,

I love honey bees. What is your favorite type of lid? I’m needing to replace some falling apart loss on my langstroth hives. Always like hearing about other crazy natural beekeepers. I’ve had bees for about 20 years here in indiana. Haven’t used chemical for about 10 years. With our cold spring they got off to a slow start. But I had two large swarms on a semi warm day.

08DED074-575F-41B5-A6DE-EB66F18244C2.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 08DED074-575F-41B5-A6DE-EB66F18244C2.jpeg]
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Bonjour Hugo,
France has wonderful heritage of natural beekeeping. Georges de Layens was already urging beekeepers 130 years ago to only use local bees and hive models that are simple, non-stressful for the bees, and easy to manage for the beekeeper. You may want to find Jean Hurpin's great book (only available in French for now): La ruche de Layens modernisée: le maximum de rendement pour le minimum de soins et d'entretien.  And attracting swarms to swarm traps (also called bait hives) is to easy that this is pretty much the only source of my free bees: for the same amount of time I will have more new colonies by hanging swarm traps than by trying to chase and collect swarms (and if you do, please be safe - you are totally right saying that trying to collect a swarm from a high branch of a tree can be dangerous).
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Pete, I really like the simplicity of a flat telescoping hive lid with ventilation ("Layens-style") - see free plans on HorizontalHive.com  On top of that, I place a piece of corrugated steel to create 4" overhang on all sides to further protect the box from the elements.  The gable-roof (pointed) hive tops are very pretty (and for horizontal hives you can make them opening on hinges) but they are more difficult to make and transport, which is a concern when you have a larger number of hives.
 
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Hi. Perhaps you can give an answer on this-  We have an older hive and one that was established last year from a swarm from the original. This year ( so far!) we’ve caught and hived  6 swarms, apparently all from the first two. Are we just lucky? Thanks. Tom
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Tom, you ARE lucky to have caught all six swarms.  It it not that uncommon, though, for very strong colonies to issue two or three swarms each.  If you got any small swarm - 2 lb of bees of less, you may want to combine them in pairs for best results. Congratulations!
 
Tom Moran
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Thank you. Most were rather large. I’ll keep your advice in mind for the next,  but now we’re out of hives!! We’re trying our first top bar hive, made in two hours for the last swarm.
 
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Welcome, Leo!

Before we moved north, my remaining colony died. I am looking forward to having more bees soon and anticipate that adapting the principles articulated in your book can help me address the challenges of sub-arctic beekeeping.

Be(e) well!

 
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For the first time; I have a 50' row of sunflowers. (the 12' tall with one-foot wide flower type) Half of the plants came up and are already 4' tall so it seems they will reach maximum productivity. I would very much like to assure they have good flower production and wonder if adding bees to the mix would help?
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Donald, it depends on how plentiful your natural pollinators are. If you have sufficient wild/organic habitat, no additional pollinators may be needed. But surely having bees on the farm helps with pollination big time.  I have one of my apiary at a certified organic vegetable farm & ranch, and they have been overjoyed to see their yields grow even further after I put my hives there.  If your primary interest is pollination rather than honey, it makes keeping bees simpler still as you won't be under the pressure to increase management in order to boost honey production (but you WILL get quite a bit of honey if the nectar resources are there).
 
Leo Sharashkin
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El - subarctic beekeeping sounds like a challenge indeed! Being well beyond the natural range of the honeybee, it may require taking the bees south for the winter!
 
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Welcome Leo!

This is a subject that fascinates and terrifies me. I am allergic to bees, they used to make me keep an epi-pen (spelling?) when I was a child after an incident when I was about a year old, however I quit bothering in my adult life as bees and wasps rarely are a problem. Then last year, I got stung not just once but twice! One time was my own fault, I grabbed something that had a wasp on it where I couldn't see. The other, actually chased me down and I have absolutely no idea why, I saw it coming toward me from about 20 yards away and altered my path and knew I was in trouble when it veered as well but being out in the open like I was, there was no escaping. That second one almost did me in too! Even after going to the hospital I had to cut the sleeves of several shirts my arm stayed swollen to about twice its normal size.

And yet, despite that I still really want to keep bees. I just figured I would keep them without stealing the honey, the bees love my farm in Missouri anyhow. Now I am in Australia though and will have to learn all about the bees native here. Does your book cover the types of native bees found around the world and their different needs?

Thank you for adding to the rich and diverse permies community!
 
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Hi Leo and welcome.

I will be embarking on my first foray into beekeeping next year on my land in Matarraña, Spain.  My aim is to attract the bees as pollinators for my almond trees and of course provide a safe haven for these wonderful creatures.  I look forward to reading your book.

David
 
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Leo, welcome! I've heard such good things about your book; I would love to have a copy.

Several years ago I tried my hand at bees. I had three Warré hives but had a lot of trouble with wax moths and skunks. Very discouraging. I still have the hives and look at them longingly every time I pass them, but I have a lot of concerns about trying again. I'll ask some advice in another thread.

Wow, so many good topics and questions in this forum! (had to come back and edit this to say that. :)
 
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Welcome to the forum, I appreciation your time and expertise.
I have a hive that I was taking the honey from, they had been so productive that the honey was everywhere in the hive between the combs, between the layers of boxes. It was a royal mess. So I took the boxes the best I was able, but the bees were very angry. These bees are in my 3/4 acre food garden. Since then, every time I enter the garden the bees come after me. It has been a week since I tried to clean up the hive. Any suggestions?
 
Leo Sharashkin
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Aimee,
Keeping Bees with a Smile deals with the European honey bee - the species that is our familiar "bee" making honey, introduced around the world. If you want to learn about other honey-making species around the world, I have another book:  Honey From the Earth: Beekeeping and Honey Hunting on Six Continents - it has sections on Australia, and even covers Australia's honey-making ants.
 
Leo Sharashkin
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David,
Spain is the world leader in the use of the horizontal (Layens) hives that you will read about in Keeping Bees with a Smile. Spain is an excellent place to keep bees: many beekeepers keep bees away from commercial agricultural crops, on mountain wildflowers, and it produces some of the most flavorful honey's you've tasted.
 
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Leigh,
You can keep bees successfully in any hive model, but some require more skill and experience than others. The Warre hive (which I've used) is in that second group - it is often promoted as a hive for complete beginners, but it is actually more challenging to run properly than a Layens hive (from which Warre derived his comb size) or even a Langstroth.  I'd encourage you to read Keeping Bees with a Smile (which covers hive choices extensively)  and start again with a Layens hive which is BOTH beginner friendly, bee-gentle, and very simple to operate.
 
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