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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Guatemala
    Posts
    244

    Cool

    I am a first timer in this forum. I live and work in Guatemala, but learned my beekeeping at Ohio State U. under James Tew. Since we have mostly tropical conditions, some topics are more important than others when it comes to bee management. Hive ventilation is one major concern with me, although most beekeepers underestimate its importance. Most are convinced that the best cover is a piece of poliurethane plastic under the wood top. This to me is entirely harmful to the colony, as it prevents ventilation and suffocates the bees. It is impressive how some beekeepers claim their brood would otherwise chill, even if outside weather is hot.
    Surprisingly enough, we now hear of screened bottoms left on year around in the central US. I would like to hear comments on these bottoms, regardless of their mite fighting effectiveness. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,797

    Post

    If I was in a tropical area, I'd leave it open all year around. But I'm not, so I close it up except during the summer.

  3. #3
    jfischer Guest

    Post

    Even in temperate climates, humid weather
    prompts one to consider "extra" ventilation.
    Here in Virginia, there are nearly as many
    different strategies as beekeepers, but
    screened bottoms are common here. (Our
    average minimum winter temperature does not
    go much below 32 F, but extreme lows can be
    as low as 0 F.)

    But don't just slap your colonies on screened
    bottoms and call the problem "solved". Watch
    the bees, and let them show you if your change
    was good, bad, or indifferent.

    During very hot dry weather, bees have no problem
    keeping the brood area cool enough and moist enough
    for proper brood raising (which implies a fairly narrow
    range of temperature and humidity), but they do this with
    water, so if the air is humid, there is a limit to what
    their strategy of cooling (identical to the old "swamp
    coolers" used before air conditioning was available) can
    achieve. The answer is more natural air FLOW, and you need
    both an intake AND an exhaust for this to work.

    I'd submit that one first would want to consider
    increasing the amount of ventilation at the TOP
    of the hive before increasing the vent size at
    the bottom of the hive.

    If you look at a standard beehive as a "thermal
    chimney", you have a lower "intake" vent (the entrance),
    and an upper "exhaust" vent that is much smaller.
    The heat engine is both the bees themselves and the
    solar gain on the exterior of the beehive.

    While the bees can (and will) line up to fan air in
    on one side of the entrance and out the other side,
    this is clearly "extra" work. At least half the fanning
    bees could be doing something else, or getting more
    tangible results from the same amount of fanning in
    the form of more evaporated honey if they did not have
    to work against the basic physics of "hot air rises".

    Given a lack of bitter cold winters, step one would
    be to consider creating an "exhaust vent" of equal
    size at the top of the hive to the "intake vent" at
    the bottom (the entrance size).

    One would have an optimal set-up when one sees a
    minimal number of fanning bees lined up at the
    entrances during the worst-case hot and humid
    weather.

    The possible drawback would be that cold breezes would
    force more bees to cover brood and keep it warm, but we
    can assume this scenario to be rare in subtropical locations.
    But, if one starts seeing chilled brood, one clearly has
    gone too far, and needs to cut back on the ventilation.


    There are differences of opinion on screened bottoms,
    but most of these views address only the utility of
    a screened bottom as a way to control varroa, or the
    special case of "overwintering" where the bees are
    clustered, and perhaps exposed to too much cold and
    damp air.

    So, if it is hot and dry, a screened bottom or any
    other "additional venting" may not yield any tangible
    advantage in terms of brood area or honey crop. If it
    is humid and cool, it might have a tangible negative
    impact in terms of "chilled brood". But if it is humid
    and hot, vents start to look like very good ideas.

    The best part about a screened bottom is the ease with
    which one may monitor natural mite fall with a board
    slid in under the screen.



    [This message has been edited by jfischer (edited November 16, 2004).]

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Guatemala
    Posts
    244

    Post

    To both Mike and Jfisher thanks so much for your truly useful input. Besides ventilating for proper internal atmosphere, I am pretty sure that honey ripening can be accelerated with adequate air flow to disopse of H20 saturation due to evaporation from nectar. Actually, most beekeepers in the humid tropics complain that their first crop is highly humid as compared to later crops. I have access to a demo yard and will do some ventilation arrangements. Hopefully we´ll be able to notice the difference.
    Also, stress from too humid and warm colony environment may be a cause of disease and therefore an invitation to unnecessary use of chemicals.
    The Housel positioning of combs is another thing I want to try out, because it simply makes a lot of sense. For years the fact that cells on both sides of the comb are NOT THE SAME was underestimated, if not ignored. Now that feral colonies have been carefully "dissected" ,we beekeepers should again pay attention to nature´s way of doing things.
    one more issue: coffee blooms explosively for 3 to 5 days. Vast acreage blooms at once, and there is not a beekeeper that can say he´s got pure coffeee honey. Here is my proposed strategy:
    * get hives ready, that is, strong and crowded right before the coffee flow.
    *the very day the first blossoms show up, romove all supers and replace with ready-built comb in shallow supers (may be one or two per hive)
    *most nectar stored in those combs will be coffee blossom nectar, and hopefully combs will be filled, although not capped since time has been too short for honey to ripen
    * when bloom dissappears, remove supers to avoid bees from filling them up with something other than coffee nectar
    *here is the tricky part, where I need lots of advise and educated opinion: how to achieve properly ripened and capped honey without it being mixed with other incoming nectars ?
    *could nectar filled combs be dehydrated artificially at low cost ?
    *could these shallow supers be placed above an extra empty super for the honey to follow its natural process inside the hive, until bees cap it ?

    I think the technique would be useful for other quick, short flows. What do you think ?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,797

    Post

    I've never tried pulling honey that is all uncapped. I prefer to let the bees take care of it, but I have pulled honey that wasn't entirely capped and dried it in my kitchen by propping the boxes up so air can come up through it. Depending on the humidity and temperatures you can probably come up with a method involving a dehumdifier or a small heater (on very low of course). But it may take some trial and error to work out a system that works in your climate and it may be it won't work at all.

  6. #6
    jfischer Guest

    Post

    > most nectar stored in those combs will be coffee blossom nectar, and hopefully
    > combs will be filled, although not capped since time has been too short for
    > honey to ripen

    The time required to ripen honey can be shortened by giving the bees lots more
    drawn comb. If you think about it, with less nectar in each cell, the bees
    have a better chance to evaporate out the water, as there would be more surface
    area for the same amount of nectar, and more evaporation possible.

    > when bloom dissappears, remove supers to avoid bees from filling them up with
    > something other than coffee nectar

    Even "monofloral" honey is sure to have a few other things in it, so most people
    are not so picky about trying to produce a true 100% single-flora-source honey.
    Most places the legal limit to call a honey one thing or another is a mere 50%
    of the total, based upon things like pollen analysis.

    > how to achieve properly ripened and capped honey without it being mixed with
    > other incoming nectars ?

    The "simple" way would be to move the bees to an area with nothing blooming, and
    let them finish ripening the honey.

    The next level of complexity would be to place the supers above an 8 mesh screen,
    well sealed against all entry, but still able to take advantage of the airflow in
    the hive. I'd just staple some 8-mesh to some queen excluders, and place one at
    both top and bottom, but I have a ton of queen excluders lying around looking for
    a purpose. But keeping the bees away from honey would be an open invitation for
    all sorts of mischief, starting with wax moth eggs hatching out in the supers,
    and ending with ants finding a way into the supers. The price of honey is
    eternal vigilance.

    > could nectar filled combs be dehydrated artificially at low cost ?

    "Dehydrated" yes, "low cost", no. That said, one could set up a solar "greenhouse"
    and circulate air through the supers with fans, but this would take electricity,
    which is never a low-cost input. One could build small "solar chimneys" to fit
    atop each hive, and let the heat rise in the chimney draw air up through the
    bottom of each stack of supers to eliminate the fans, and run a "solar-powered
    ripening operation", but I don't think that this has ever been attempted with
    honey. Solar chimneys do work very well, and were common in South Florida from
    Vero Beach south back when the last "energy crisis" made for high electric bills.

    One could also move colonies inside a screened area, provide them with water
    and maybe even pollen, and let them finish off the honey, but with no nectar
    coming in, they will consume some part of the "crop" while they "finish" the
    honey crop. Maybe if one took the supers from 3 field colonies, and stacked
    them on one "screened enclosure" hive, it would "make sense". But with nothing
    to forage upon, the foragers will likely start investigating other hives, leading
    to a big risk of robbing, fights, etc. (Here, reduced entrances and screened
    bottoms start to look like a very good idea, don't they? You want more "vents"
    but you need "defendable entrances".)

    > could these shallow supers be placed above an extra empty super for the honey to
    > follow its natural process inside the hive, until bees cap it ?

    I'm not sure that the bees would "do the expected" in reaction to this move, as
    they would tend to view the set of supers as one contiguous storage unit, and move
    nectar around to evaporate it, combine cells, and generally manage their "warehouse"
    as a single entity, without regard to which nectar was which.

    That's all I can think of off the top of my head.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Eagle Creek, Oregon
    Posts
    289

    Post

    Please excuse my ignorance (I'm really not trying to be a smart*** !), but, are bees able/inclined to harvest nectar from coffee flowers?
    George

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Guatemala
    Posts
    244

    Post

    Thanks again Jfisher. You really put a lot of thinking to bee stuff.I guess one wishes to have so much extra time and money to actually carry out all sorts of experiments and sense-making ideas, but reality does not always match. Currently I am having a hard time with basic income, so I will pass your criteria on to fellow bee men who con try some out. Anyway, it is always so encouraging to share ideas and challenges with others in the same boat. Thanks again.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Guatemala
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    Post

    Hi George. You are right in asking the most basic question: will bees forage on coffee ?
    Quite frankly, I have not stood in a blooming coffee field to assess its attractiveness.I am reding in "insect pollination of cultivated crop plants", Agr.handbook 496: ...nectar is secreted at the base of the tubular corolla, but accessible to honey bees and other insects.Both nectar and pollen are attractive to many insects.
    Coffee is not greatly benefited from bee pollination. Lots of coffee plantations have apiaries, because shade trees are very good nectar bearers. For warm climates trees of the Inga family are planted, and on higher elevations (4000 - 6000 f) grevillea robusta is more common. This tree is native to Australia, and it yields a dark, exquisite honey. Very unfortunately, local consumers tend to associate this honey with mollasses, so selling it is difficult. Moreover, grevillea is a late bloomer (April) so many beekeepers use it for winter stores.

  10. #10
    jfischer Guest

    Post

    > I guess one wishes to have so much extra
    > time and money to actually carry out all
    > sorts of experiments and sense-making ideas

    Time, yes. Money, not really. I consider
    my tinkering around with bees to be about
    the cheapest science one can do, as the
    equipment is nothing but wood, and the
    primary measurement tools are one's own
    eyes. After a hard day in a real lab
    fighting with expensive and balky equipment,
    a few hours with the bees is a great
    relaxation.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Guatemala
    Posts
    244

    Post

    Beekeeping is puzzling and of course relative to one´s expectations and interpretations.

    In other parts of this forum I´ve tried to summarize what I beleive are the four principles of beekeeping today:
    1. Regress to 4.9 cell size
    2. Provide bottom and top ventilation
    3. observe Housel positioning
    4. feed bees with natural honey and pollen whenever possible.
    Two more added:

    5. Do breed from colonies that do better than others under the same conditions,but Beware of in-breeding!!
    6. Do not compulsively re-arrange the brood nest to match the book. Let bees follow nature´s plan (God´s plan, if you will) and respect it. God isn´t selfish. He has made plans for us, the bee-keepers, to have a generous share. Let´s be thankful.

    These principles re nothing but a head-first plunge back into Nature . . . so we can again move forward.

    Guatemala´s beekeeping does not apply any of the above principles, except maybe No.6 on occasions, and mostly not out of heavenly wisdom but because of "ignorance and neglect". Ironic huh?
    Beekeepers are still getting a crop; sometimes 30, sometimes 60, sometimes over 80 punds of honey. Yield is important because most beekeeping done in this country is intended to help family survival. It is not a hobby that may run on red figures.
    I am truly wondering what will happen if I can bring the other principles into practice.

    Time for some action. Bye.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,797

    Post

    I agree with your points. Some will not. Good luck.

  13. #13
    Atardecer Guest

    Post

    Hola!

    I am a hobbyist beekeeper in Canada but I did live in Guate. (I miss it!) What departamento are you in?

    Buena suerte con las abejas!

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