Tuesday, October 25, 2011

LESSON 110: Top 7 Myths of Natural Beekeeping (Long Lane Honey Bee Farms 217-427-2678)

LESSON 110: Top 7 Myths of Natural Beekeeping
What does natural beekeeping really mean? Simply put, it means to keep bees naturally. Hobby beekeepers are quickly moving over to more natural beekeeping and to most this means little to no chemicals in the hive. Larger operations such as commercial and migratory beekeepers find that chemicals are essential to the success of their operations.
Years ago, we made a commitment to not use chemicals on our bees and instead focus our attention on raising queens that tend to be better survivors. It’s painful at first, but eventually pays off.
I’m a little bothered by saying I’m a natural beekeeper even though I do not use chemicals. Why? Because a truly natural hive is one that is in a hollow tree in the middle of a forest, or a hive in a tropical climate. Certainly we have learned to take really good care of bees in our boxes in our environment and in some cases we have saved colonies that may have died out on their own, from various pests and diseases. My point is that there are various levels of natural beekeeping.
An important part of natural beekeeping is natural comb, that is, allowing the bees to build their own comb without foundation. Ultimately, regressing bees (aka smaller bees) enter into the discussion and I promise to address this in a future lesson but not today.
Sheri and I have a beekeeping philosophy that we’ve embraced:
What we are doing is leaving the bees alone to a great extent, to do their own thing, in their own time, in their own way—as much as possible while we ask them to stay in OUR environment, in OUR boxes, and to share their resources with US. This is about as natural as we can get. You may choose to be even more natural or you may choose to be less natural, maybe using some mite treatments here or there.
To help explain what natural beekeeping is or isn’t, we’d like to share our Top 7 Myths of Natural Beekeeping:
1. All natural beekeeping can only be done in a top bar hive. This is not true. Especially if you are wanting your bees to make their own wax without foundation. This can be accomplished in any type of hive. In a Langstorth hive, let the bees build their foundation simply by not putting foundation in the frames. Police their growth carefully to prevent the combs from being built in the wrong directions, through the frames instead of on the frames. 2. When bees are allowed to make their own beeswax, it is and remains chemical free. True and false. Studies have shown that at first new comb is chemical free, but over time, wax may have slight traces of beekeeper’s chemicals, carried in by drifting bees from hives where beekeepers are using chemicals or just from the environment. We recommend replacing your oldest comb. Each year remove 3 of your oldest frames of comb and let them build new comb. 3. Organic means that the final product (honey) from a top bar hive is more pure than honey from a Langstroth hive. 4. Natural, sustainable beekeeping means I will not have pests and diseases in my hives. Pests and diseases are part of nature. However, preventing, reducing and getting rid of pests and diseases is workable in any type of beekeeping operation. 5. You can’t harvest honey from a top bar hive. It is very easy to harvest honey from either a TBH or a Warre hive. Certainly not as easy as a Langstorth, but still not difficult. 6. You can’t overwinter in a top bar hive. Healthy bees overwinter well provided they have enough pollen and honey in store for winter. 7. You can make money on a commercial level from natural beekeeping. Certainly money can be made from a top bar or Warre hive, but not on a commercial level. Langstroth’s hives transport and stack nicely and the ability to change boxes is a big plus. However, most people do not keep TBH for commercial reasons but for enjoyment, pollination and a little honey on the table. There are so many ways to keep a strong colony by using Integrated Pest Management techniques and holding off on chemicals.
See you next time!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
Fairmount, Illinois

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Winter Preparation: Candy Frame Feeder

Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms!  We’re David and Sheri Burns and we are hard at work gearing up for the 2012 beekeeping season. It is shaping up to have tremendous interest, especially more and more new beekeepers getting in line to buy equipment and bees. Already some equipment is becoming harder and harder to get due to demand. We are so excited!
We are also excited about a new product that we just had to share with you.
Winter-Bee-Kind For Winter Feed For Bees
In The summer of 2011 we introduced our Winter-Bee-Kind after several years of studying overwintering hives. We could barely keep up with production they were in such demand. We still make them right here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms but we've expanded our production methods to keep up with demand. So many beekeepers told us that these were the only thing that got their hives through the winter. This year, it's time for the 2014 production year. We even mix the sugar and pollen and right here and pour the candy into the Winter-Bee-Kinds. WHAT IS A WINTER-BEE-KIND? It is a one piece candy board that provides food, ventilation, upper insulation and an upper exit/entrance to help bees remain healthier during the winter. Someone said it insulates, ventilates and feed-i-lates. With the built in upper vent, you don't have to worry about snow covering up your hive's lower entrance. The bees can still go in and out through the top vent spacing. We avoid shipping Winter-Bee-Kinds in hot weather and start shipping each September-March. You can place our Winter-Bee-Kinds on your hive anytime, even in the winter. Because it goes on top of the hive in place of the inner cover, and you are NOT removing any frames, it can be placed on the hive in cold weather. Just do it fast. Open the top, remove the inner cover and place the candy side down and the vent slot toward the front of the hive and you're done. Click here to order your Winter-Bee-Kinds Some form of a candy board has been around for a long time. Beekeepers of long ago placed candy in their hives to provide enough food for their bees to survive the long months of winter. There are various mixtures and receipts for candy boards. Some are made with soft candy and some with hard candy. The end result is still the same. The bees will consume the sugar as they need it. We've always been concerned about the amount of condensation that can develop in the hive during the winter. The bees produce heat within their hive and as the temperature is very cold outside the hive, condensation will develop on the warm side, just above the bees on the inner cover or top cover. This condensation can accumulate and drop down onto the winter cluster of bees below. Bees can stay warm in the winter but they must remain dry. If this cold water drips down onto the bees, it can reduce their ability to keep their cluster warm. The insulation on our Winter-Bee-Kind helps reduce the excessive moisture and even puts some of that moisture to work, as it accumulates on the candy and makes it easy for the bees to consume the sugar. Thus, a Winter-Bee-Kind can help lessen two winter stresses, the lack of food and excessive moisture. We make our Winter-Bee-Kinds with sugar and a healthy amount of pollen powder. Many beekeepers make the mistake of only feeding their bees sugar in the winter, but the bees also need protein which they obtain from pollen. Our Winter-Bee-Kinds come with pollen mixed in with the sugar.. Click here to order your Winter-Bee-Kind today. We recommend that you place candy boards on your hive any time between Oct-March.

Commonly Asked Questions
Q: Which way does the candy face in the hive?
A: The candy faces down just above the winter cluster. Normally, this means that the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on the brood box that contains the cluster. For example, if you overwinter your bees in a single deep hive body, the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on this deep hive body with the candy facing down toward the cluster. If you are using two deep hive bodies to overwinter, then the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on the top deep hive body. It is best to disregard the use of an inner cover, and simply place your top cover over the Winter-Bee-Kind.

Q: What about winter moisture?
A: Moisture can develop in the winter from condensation, a contrast of the heat the bees produce in the hive and the extreme cold temperature outside the hive. Condensation accumulates on the warm side, which means moistures collects on the inner cover or top cover above the hive. This can drip down on the bees and chill them during the winter. A Winter-Bee-Kind takes the place of an inner cover and any moisture that develops from condensation aids the bees in consuming the candy.

Q: How long will a Winter-Bee-Kind last on a hive?
A: On average about 3 weeks. However, a colony that has ample stored honey may not consume the candy board as fast or not at all until they need it. A colony close to starvation may consume a Winter-Bee-Kind within a week or two.

Q: Since Winter-Bee-Kinds are placed or replaced on the hive in the winter, can I open the hive up on a cold day?
A: It is best to place the candy boards on a hive when the temperature is above freezing and try to place the candy board on and have the hive sealed back up within 1-2 minutes. It should not take over 1 minute. Do not remove any frames in cold temperatures, only place your Winter-Bee-Kind on and off quickly. If you can choose the warmest day during the winter, that would be best. Try to avoid very cold, windy or rainy days.

Q: How do I refill a candy board?
A: It is best to send back your candy board and we will refill it for $7 plus shipping. If you are a good candy maker, you can do it yourself.

Q: How do I get one with a pollen?
A: Our Winter-Bee-Kinds contain pollen as well.

Q: Can I make my own?
A: You can, but you must experiment, because you do not want the candy to be too hard or too runny. The exact mix depends on your altitude, heat source and other conditions so it will be different from one location to another.

Q: Why was some liquid sugar dripping out of my Winter-Bee-Kind when I received it?
A: It is the nature of candy boards to be a bit on the dripping side even though the top may be hard. Do not be concerned if you see liquid sugar dripping out of your boards when you receive it. It usually means it was left on end during shipment for a prolong period of time. The bees will clean everything up and enjoy this soft liquid.

Q: How much sugar is in one Winter-Bee-Kind?
A: Approximately 5 pounds

Q: When do I put a Winter-Bee-Kind on my hive?
A: Any time! Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb are good months to place on the boards.

Q How often should I check my Winter-Bee-Kind?
A: Every three weeks, take a peek.

Q: Do you make Winter-Bee-Kind for 5 frame nucs or 8 frame hives?
A: Yes, check out our website to order, but carefully read the description to make sure you are ordering the correct size and type.

Q: Can the candy break loose from the board on the hive?
A: It rarely happens, but during extreme winter weather, the candy and separate from the board while on the hive. This is not a problem. The bees will continue to consume the sugar.

Q: When I place it on the hive, do I use my inner cover. Just how does it go on?
A: Winter-Bee-Kind takes the place of your inner cover. Simply place the Winter-Bee-Kind on the top of your upper hive body or super with the candy facing down, then place your top cover on top of the Winter-Bee-Kind. Be sure to use a rock or brick to make sure the wind does not blow your top cover off. There is overwhelming enthusiasm about our Winter-Bee-Kinds. Click here to order now.