I've started my experience as a beekeeper last spring with two 3-pound packs and Italian queens. Starting with new equipment - plain wax foundation on 10 frames per box - I first dropped the packs in medium size and gradually replaced the med frames with small sized. FYI standard foundation measures 5.4mm - med 5.1 and small 4.9. Smaller foundation imprint leads to smaller cells drawn out. Eggs develop to adult insects in 19 days in small cell versus 21 in standard cell size.
At the end of the season I have all frames with small foundation but I guess that my bee population is now rather a mix of med - small bees. I'm following a small group of bee keepers who are trying to reduce the bee size, shorten the egg-adult development to disrupt the life of the varroa mite. As this parasite develops in the cell in 21 days and then rides on the adult bee until ready to lay more eggs in the cell after the queen has laid her egg. Smaller bees collect less pollen and may produce less honey ... but I have harvested 11 gallons of honey from two hives and certainly would not want more.
As a biodynamic gardener I'm keeping bees without any chemical. At the end of the season I've sprinkled powder sugar once a week for 4 weeks. As the bees lick the powder sugar off each other, the practice increases the grooming habit ... bees that groom remove more mites.
I'm very happy with my first season! I can report 2 very strong hives with lots of honey to go into the winter season (two deep boxes each) + experimenting with one additional super - picture shows hives as they went into winter.
Next year I hope to find a good survival rate and be able to split the populations to create local queens. I would be glad to keep in touch with other bee keepers that are interested in natural honey production (no chemicals) and local queen rearing with small-sized bee populations.
Are you saying that you collected 11 pounds of honey off of 2 new hives this year (i.e. you started them in the Spring of 08)? I would call that nothing short of spectacular. You have found your calling, to be sure.
With regard to the sugar, did you open up the bottoms of your hive boxes? I also am going the 'no chemical' route, but had not heard about the strategy to reduce the bee size/gestation period. How long have you been trying this? Do you have any results to report yet?
After 6 weeks of temps below 32 - we are expecting above avarage temps this week. I hope to be able to inspect the hives! I know they are both alive but hope the colonies have enough food left - most colonies that don't survive the winter have run out of food ... cold weather is not a concern.
I'm not able to report on the success with bee size reduction at this time. I guess the strength of a colony is measured over several years. I'm planning to divide the colonies and rear new queens before they swarm in the spring. I'm curious to compare if the small-cell bee colony will generate a smaller queen.
caro amico cipriota ... no, certo non ne sono sicuro. I don't have personal evidence that the cycle is 2 days shorter (this is a claim I found in something I've read about the benefits of small foundation) ... nor I can certify that my two hives are healthier than traditional sized bees. The only claim I can make at this time is that you can definitely tell my bees are smaller. Both hives survived the winter so far. The queens are Italian. I'm planning to split my hives and rear new queens. Are the new queens going to be smaller as well? Are my colonies of smaller bees going to survive many Wisconsin winters? I'll be able to tell you in a few years If my management choices have been better than my neighbors. Please stay in touch. ciao, Curzio :O)
Hi my friend,
I have now 100 beehives for honey production and also 100 mini nucs for Queen production.
I used 4.9 small shell foundation for 3 years. Unfortunately there is no positive results against varroa mites.When you split your hives you will just live them alone too build Queen cells ? or you will raise Quees by your self?
I'm a biodynamic gardener (deep organic method) and I'm studying Rudolf Steiner's theories of beekeeping. I'm not using any chemicals in my hives. As I only have 2 colonies my financial risk is quite limited.
As you may know, in USA we have a State Inspector who comes and checks on our hives twice a year. He predicted that I will not have any bees if I don't do something. So I have decided to use powder sugar in the fall - 4 applications of one cup of powder sugar per box. The idea is to get the bees to lick the powder sugar off each others' back ... and by doing so train them to groom (as they lick powder sugar they all remove mites). I shall repeat the treatment again in the spring and would hope to report some improvement by the time the inspector will return in the fall.
I believe that bees can learn to live with mites! ... and grow to become stronger insects without medication.
natural queen rearing - Rudolf Steiner predicted in 1923 during his seminar on beekeeping (Gotheanum, Dornach, Switzerland) that the "modern" method of beekeeping would not survive more than 80 years ... that it would come to an end (sic)!!!
Well, I agree that keeping colonies going in an "unnatural" way and keep introducing foreign queens puts a lot of stress on the colonies, and prevents the genetic transformation that is necessary for adaptation to the local environment.
So, to answer your question, yes, I'm planning to pull a few frames with fresh eggs, plus frames with pollin/honey for nourishment and let the bees do their own rearing in the spring ... as soon as I feel pollin/nectar becomes available.
double queen - Instead of transfering the frames into a nuke, I'm today in the process of building a double hive. I'm planning to divide a traditional deep box with a sheet of thin wood, with a second box with the same separator to be added on top.
Eventually I shall put a queen excluder on top of the second deep box and place supers for honey collection that the two colonies will share. The idea is to have two colonies build supers that will be removed, while the limited deep box space (half of traditionsal size) should keep the colonies smaller in the summer and let them end the season with less food requirement. Plus the hibernating clusters may be able to share the heat through the thin wood division.
I'll keep reporting on this blog about my progress and look forward to exchange thoughts with beekeepers worldwide.
Do you think that Biodynamic gardening and organic beekeeping
is compatible with double queen hive? You think that this method is natural and normal for the colonies?
And something else, what about to use screen bottoms for varroa control?
Dear John, good point you made! What is completely natural and how far can the humans stretch it? Certainly domestication is not natural.
So I admit that the double queen hive is not natural, as not natural are most of the activities that humans have forced on animals (or plants through breeding) for domestication.
I have started to modify standard deep boxes for this experiment. I have 3 deep boxes for this purpose. Usually in this area, beekeepers will have 2 deep boxes for the queen to build her colony. With a double queen set up, the room is cut in half. So, I'm going to try to stack 3 deep boxes over the spring season for the colonies to grow. Finally with 3 boxes (cut in half) each queen will have about 1.5 the space allowed in 2 standard boxes. The smaller space will likely keep the colony a little smaller and require less food for the winter.
But the biggest question will be answered at the end of next winter to see how these colonies will have survived our long winters.
An other big difference in this double queen set-up is the greater vertical space. Our frames measure 9.5 inches or about 24 cm. Most standard hives go into hibernation with 20" of vertical space. 3 boxes would offer 30" of vertical space or about 70 cm.
John, have you observed comb build in the wild? Aren't bees more likely to build longer comb pieces, if not restricted by the wooden frames?
sorry, I missed to add ... I have screened bottoms to control the number of mites that fall. The screened bottom is a way of keeping records (number of mites falling per square inch), but makes no difference in changing the status of the infestation.
I think that screen bottoms help a lot to reduce varroa numbers
especially during Summer time when temperatures are high.
Here at Cyprus during Summer months (June , July, and August )
temperatures are between 30 - 40 Celcius and some times even up to 45 Celcius.Those months during day time hours the drop of varroa mites is very high. I think that mite populations reduce more than 20%.So in combination with your sugar ice method results are much better
Hi evryone, nice to find a beekeeping discussion on Daves Garden. I am tooling up this year to have my own bees after just helping out some folks previously. I will be keeping bees without chemicals and taking my losses !! The screened bootom board certainly helps to minimise mites as they can't get back in, it does also give you a count on how many mites you have in your hive. I looked into the small sized foundation, but the jury does seem to be still out on it, google Michael Bush bees to find a supporter. After a lot of humming and harring I have decided to go very unnatural and get plastic frames ! I will also be using green plastic drone frame. A drone frame is replaced every couple of weeks in a colony, frozen to kill mites and then used to replace the new one on the 2 week cycle. This process can be made easier by putting 2 hives together and stacking supers on top in the middle. The drone frames are on the outside of the brood hive bodies which are covered by a 2 pieces of wood. It means you don't have to take all the supers of to get them out all the time. Theres also a lot more power in your bee population to fill supers. I'm thinking about a run at comb honey with this method. An article on this with supporting data is in this months bee culture magazine. Thats all for now, Chris.
Drone frame method surely is very usefull and give good results.
But unfortunately small foundation is useless.As I said before I worked with 4,9 cells for 3 years but with no results.What about to try Oxalic Acid treatment who is accepted for Biologigal Beekeeping?The above with combination of artificial swarming during treatment gives excelent results
Hi John, that was a very quick reply. Cyprus sounds very nice on a cold WV, USA day. I was actually born in England but never been down there.I've never heard of the oxalic acid, artificial swarming, I will do some research and find out more. Any pointers ? Bunging a few pealed onions into any sealed room should usually clear most things out ! The sugar treatment is also good for bees to self groom. It seems that the general idea is to keep mites at a managable level, by good management practises. Counting mites with the screened bottom board is a good indicator. After that if things are getting out of hand you have the leave it to nature approach and raise the survivor stock or use mite away 11 or api life var. I'm assuming you have italian stock in Cyprus, Russian bees are supposed to be good but I don't know anyone who likes them ! I like carniolian bees, Chris.
Spring is here in Cyprus !!!
Today was 20 Celcius.Already bees are working with full engines!!!
Just write Oxalic Acid Varroa Treatment at Google and you will find many results.
Our stock here is Apis melifera cypria ( Cyprus Honey Bee ).
No Italians.I think that is impossible to survive the long , Hot Summers ( Day temperatures above 40 Celcius )
The trickle oxalic acid treatment might be something to think about next fall/winter if needs be. Like I said earlier it seemed to me from my reading that small cell didn't pass stringent tests. That said if I could have found some a cheap conveniant supply of foundation I would have gone for it. I ended up getting a few cases of black plastic pierco frames, from someone I didn't have to pay shipping on, I think cell size is 5.2 or 5.4. guess what I got a catalogue today from mann lake, a US distributor with plastic 4.9 cell frames at a very good price like nearly 50cents cheaper per frame. anyway maybe next year if I have any desire to get up to your 100 colonies John, I will be buying it !! If you didn't find Michael Bush heres a link: http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm I think as with most things its a case of you get your information and then you make your choice.
IN READING ABOUT USING CHEMICALS IN MY OPINION,( NATURE WILL ALWAYS WIN OVER THE PROBLEM) OR THERE ARE NATURAL SOLUTIONS. (NOT CHEMICALS)THAT POISON THE BEES AND OUR ENVIROMENT.
CHEMICALS AND (WHITE SUGAR) IS A POISON TO THE BEES AND HUMANS THAT LOWER THE IMMUNE SYSTEM ,THEREFORE WE CAN NOT FIGHT OF THE DISEASE.
SO JUST KEEP IT SIMPLE AND ALWAYS GO BACK TO THE WAY NATURE INTENDED IT TO BEEEEE.
FOR EXAMPLE, DID BEES LIVE IN A WHITE PAINTED HOUSE THAT IS TOXIC? (NO NO NO )THEY LIVE IN A TREE OR A LOG ,SO WHY PAINT THE BOXES ?JUST USE ORGANIC LINSEED OIL FROM THE FLAXSEED FLOWER TO PROTECT YOUR WOOD PRODUCTS. IT WILL RETAIN THE COOL WHITE YELLOW LOOK TO KEEP THE HIVE COOL,PLUS YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO SCRAPE THE PAINT AND LET IT FALL ONTO THE EARTH. JUST WIPE ON LINSEED OIL(DO NOT BUY THE CHEEP BOILED KIND FROM THE STORE )IT HAS TO BE ORGANIC.