Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Busy as bees

The same week we got our pigs we also got our bees! We strongly believe in barter as means of trade so we made a deal with a friend to board two of his ewes over the winter so they could be bred by our ram, and in exchange he gave us two of his beehives! These are top-bar hives, which are cheaper than the conventional Langstroth hives. They are a bit easier to work for the novice beekeeper like ourselves, but they yield less honey and more wax.

My local farm friend keeps top bar hives so last week I went over to her place to get a crash course on how to take care of my new hives. Here we are with a makeshift smoker because hers was on loan to her dad.

She showed me what to look for in each hive to be sure it is healthy and growing. She showed me how to maintain the combs to be sure they are growing straight. I learned how to identify workers, drones, eggs, larvae, capped honey, capped brood, and the queen. The next day I got into our hives and found that they are doing well!

The most fun part is seeing the little honeybees out and about on the farm. Last night I was planting beans and there were bees foraging in the clover nearby. I can see why people get so excited about beekeeping! It's really fun.


Danielle said...

Too cool! You look quite lovely, and we can actually tell it's you and not some stunt double, unlike my crazy suit. ;) I like that your veil seems to offer peripheral vision.

I find the top bar hives fascinating. I'd never heard of them until you told me of them. The comb looks nice!

Do you know if your bees are small cell? I'm hoping to transition to foundationless frames next year once I get the cell size down.

Jenny said...

I'm afraid I don't know much more than what I posted about. I'm really winging it with this one--hoping to learn as I go. So is the cell size dependent on the kind of bee, or can you "train" them to make smaller cells?

Danielle said...

Supposedly, there was a movement to make larger size bees by increasing the cell size. Historically speaking, this shift coincides with increased Varroa mite problems. Some folks believe that reducing the cell size back to the historical/ feral size aids in the control of Varroa mites, but there seems to be significant disagreement as to why. There have been few formal studies to try to back up the anecdotal claims, but organic beekeepers have had good success with the small cell size.

Yes, they can be "regressed" back down to a smaller cell, which is what I'm going for before shifting to foundationless frames. Bees will continue to draw whatever size they're used to, so I needed to transition them to small before going to natural comb.

You can read a lot more about it at Bush Bees. There's also an organic beekeeping yahoo list that's a wealth of information. I've learned a lot just by lurking.

I'll be checking my bees again this weekend, but they seem to be drawing the small cell nicely.

Ren said...

I like the Bush Farm site too. It's really interesting, though I think I'm going to switch to Russian bees before I regress the cell size.

Yay! Another beekeeper.:) I only heard of the top bar hives this last week. It looks really bizarre.

I made a really great lip balm with beeswax this year! I bet you'll have a few candles too?:)