Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bee Guardian

After years of thinking about it, I finally took the plunge and bought a beautiful handmade top bar beehive from a wonderful company called The are out of Boulder Co and promote beekeeping to improve the plight of the bee and to help increase feral bee populations in a time when bees are in dire need of help. I encourage everyone to check out their website. Their video is amazing too and will have you wanting to purchase your own hive.

I have been unable to take advantage of any of the numerous beekeeping classes offered in the Denver area because of my weekend work schedule, so I began researching and reading about beekeeping in my usual one-track, obsessive way.
I found Beekeeping for Dummies, Stories Guide to Beekeeping and even Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture all were informative, but I think the best source for me was The Barefoot Beekeeper by P J Chandler.
He also has a great site, and there are other good sources on organic beekeeping such as, and of course
Silence of the Bees is also well worth watching.

What all these books videos and sites have in common is NOT the desire to obtain honey at all costs to the bees, but the desire to raise bees in a natural organic fashion that causes less stress to the hive and will hopefully help them survive without the use of chemicals.
When it came to making the decision about which type of hive to choose, it was not difficult. A little background...
Conventional Langstroth hives have been around since the mid 1800's and were produced in order to optimize honey production. Today these hives are used around the world, in both commercial and hobbyist apiaries. They utilize a rectangular box with preformed comb that the bees must utilize to make their own comb.
Bees make comb for 2 purposes.
1) to raise their "brood". The queen lays hundreds of eggs a day in the combs.
2) to store honey.

The Langstroth beekeeper thus can manipulate the size of the comb as well as manipulating the percentages of drone cells he or she wants to hive to bear.
In the spring with the budding of pollinating flowers and trees, bees collect nectar and pollen and then create honey. This honey is used to raise the young bees, but is also stored in hives and dried by the bees to be used as food to help them survive the cold winter. It's thermal mass also helps keep bees warm during the winter. That is how wild bees survive northern winters. It is estimated that bees need 40-60 lbs of honey to get them through the winter, more or less depending on temperature ect.
Commercial beekeepers as well as many hobbyists will harvest that honey and feed the bees sugar syrup. This is NOT something I could ever be comfortable with.
The top bar hive is constructed to allow the bees to make their own comb along wooden bars laying atop a box. This allows for a more natural method,
and since there is less disruption of the hive during routine inspections, you do not need to "smoke" the bees.
Smoking is a method used to subdue bees. Perhaps you have seen images of a beekeeper donning a white suit and veil with a small metal smoker in his hand. Scientists believe that smoking the bees causes them to gorge on honey believing a fire is imminent and that they need to flee. They are not interested in stinging since they are panicked and there alert signals may be missed due to the smoke. S0me organic beekeepers feel this is not necessary and that it causes undo stress to the hive.
I hope that the more information people have about these amazing creatures, the more likely they will be to want to help them.

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