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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
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    Default A visit to Bush Farms

    I visited Michael Bush this past week. I wrote about it on my blog, you can follow the link in my signature if you want to see the pictures, but the text is mostly the same.



    It was an excellent opportunity to see how another beekeeper works and to experience the methods he has written about first hand. I thought Iíd explore them and discuss some pros and cons for an up close view of his methods. Like many beekeepers familiar with Mr. Bushís work, I was one who had read his website, viewed his pictures, and pondered his results, but had never seen them in person. Now having seen them in person, I can more accurately decide which of his ideas to try and to weigh the options in a more enlightened fashion.


    First, Iíd like to discuss Mikeís use of eight frame mediums almost exclusively for all his normal hives. His standard configuration is eight frames of PF-120 (Mann Lake Ltd.) and a single frame of Perma-comb. This results in a box in which there is no space for the frames to move around and everything fits near perfectly. Also with the PF-120ís are foundationless frames but theyíre not quite as numerous.


    The first thing that struck me about this method is the way the hive is setup in units. In my hives with ten frame deeps, a frame is a unit. In Mikeís hives, a box is a unit. Therefore, his walkaway splitting technique is to make two bottom boards empty and deal the boxes from a hive back and forth on those two bottom boards. So each hive now consists of every other box from the original hive. To make up the size, he places a few empties on the bottom, or sometimes on the top. With this method, one doesnít look at the individual frames, nor does one need to. I had to have a look just for funsies, but it wasnít necessary. I doubt splitting has ever been faster.


    The PF-120ís contribute fantastically to Mr. Bushís method. His method requires far less work than the standard beekeeping method. There is no frame wiring or foundation installing. If a hive has died out and sat around for years getting full of wax moths, all you need to do is pull the frame out, and peel off the layer of webs. Itís almost exactly like removing the lint from the lint trap in your clothes dryer. The foundationless frames are just as easy. The Perma-comb frames need almost no care at all. Put it back together, and the box-unit is good to go.


    Mike also has a couple of top bar hives of which one was in operation when I was there. It has a beautiful and prolific Carniolan queen heading it up, and the hive was beautiful.


    Mr. Bush has also experimented with just about every other standard and nonstandard equipment style there is and he has plenty of scraps of old hives and equipment to prove it. I saw a Dadant-deep style hive in person for the first time, as well as such others as 12 frame deeps, observation hives, several types of pollen traps, long hives of 40 frames or more, nucs from 2-10 frames, and just about everything Iíve ever read about on his website.


    So, after trying Mikeís 8 frame medium system, I have a few criticisms from my perspective. Firstly, an 8 frame hive must be stacked especially tall for higher honey production. Mike canít do this, nor can I due to high winds, especially for him. But his focus is not honey production, itís queen production, so it works very well. I do like the way a box is a unit that doesnít need to be messed with, but I prefer the ten frame style for the stacking ability. Also, since the frames are packed in pretty tight, itís hard to pull them out without rolling a bunch of bees. Again, this works well for him but not for me.
    One other downside is the cost. Medium boxes and frames cost only slightly less than deeps, and the same goes for 8 frame. All the same cuts need to be made on each piece of woodenware and only slightly less wood is used, so there is no cost benefit, and in fact, the reverse is most often true. For a certain amount of money, you get more square inches of comb with a ten frame deep hive than pretty much any other configuration.

    I am considering eventually making the switch to ten frame mediums. I like them because they are lighter, and because splits can be made without concern for where the queen is. Mike was even so gracious as to let me borrow some ten frame plastic mediums and frames to try out. Someone gave them to him to evaluate, but since he doesnít use ten frame equipment, he hasnít yet. So, Iím going to try them out and build some wooden ones and see how it works. If I like them better, Iíll switch. I donít enjoy lifting or carrying deeps full of honey, and my extractor only holds 9 deeps but 18 mediums. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that mediums extract much better than deeps and blow out less. I also think theyíll have fewer problems with foundation buckling.


    Overall, his system is perfect for what heís doing. The rapidity with which his out yards can be processed is amazing. The heaviest boxes donít require straining to move. Splitting is straightforward and speedy. When I convert, it will be far easier to convert from deeps to mediums than it will be to convert from 10 frame to 8 frame. Furthermore, I really think ten frame is what is right for me, and thatís what each beekeeper needs to decide for themselves. What is right for you? Spend the time doing the research and figure out exactly what you want and need. My advice for all is to never get your bees in the same year you decide to become a beekeeper.


    Aside from the boxes and frames, the most important thing Mike is doing is keeping bees treatment free. His bees are treated with nothing, absolutely nothing. He is the most visible and vocal proponent of treatment free beekeeping, and he has shown for years that it works and even works on a large scale.


    For those of you that have been asking for Mike to write a book, never fear. It will soon be here. Heís spent a lot of time organizing what heís written online into book form. You can still find the vast majority of it online though, and heís happy to tell you that. But, thereís nothing like having something solid in your hands to read. I was helping him proofread it this week, and it is quite good. Look for it in hardback soon and in a three part Ďbeginner, intermediate, advancedí paperback edition as well.


    Mike was kind enough to host me and another beekeeper this week. He put up a tipi for us to stay in. I enjoyed it.


    It was a great opportunity to see Mikeís operation, as limited as it is in scope at this time. Next year, heís going to be ramping up into full time queen production. His queens are expensive, but Iíd say theyíre well worth it and I plan to be proving it with my wallet. Next year, Iím planning on going back and learning his queen rearing techniques. Thanks again Mike!


    Oh, one last thing. The area around Mike's place is beautiful. I mean, other than the corn and soy beans.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Garland, Bladen County, NC, USA
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    3,088

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Thank you for this well written article. Now I believe I will go off to your blog and look at the pics and study it a little more.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Kingsport, Sullivan, Tennessee
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    789

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    It's official. I envy Solomon Parker. I am looking forward to that book. -james

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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    499

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Quote Originally Posted by dixiebooks View Post
    It's official. I envy Solomon Parker. I am looking forward to that book. -james
    Myself as well. I'll be ordering and advance advance copy.

    Mike, consider me volunteered to beta-test a first draft - Rest assured, I'll still be buying several copies once it gets printed.

    Solomon, thank you very much for the review - You're a lucky fellow to have made the pilgrimage.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    27,805

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    I am jealous that you got to spend a night in Michaels' teepee. I bet that was nice.
    Last edited by sqkcrk; 07-03-2011 at 01:27 PM.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
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    Denver, Colorado
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    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    No need to be jealous or envious. It was a 14 hour round trip.

    I forgot to mention his top and bottom boards. For tops, he uses plywood with shims to create an entrance at the front. Across that, he nails a strip of wood with a single nail so it can be rotated to be open or to reduce the entrance down to about an inch and a half. Many of his bottom boards especially in outyards are simple screened frames with no entrance. That's right, screened bottoms with upper entrances, and year round too. However, many of his bottom boards are solid with a syrup dam and a screen so he can feed syrup in the bottom if necessary. You'll have to consult his website for concise details.

    The important thing is the economy and simplicity of his systems. I myself use upper entrances and block off lower entrances during colder seasons. It's pretty effective and virtually eliminates condensation problems.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Stillwell, KS
    Posts
    647

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Very cool, thanks for posting. Very much looking forward to Michael's book.

    Don

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Pensacola, FL
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    140

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Add me to the list of those who are looking forward to Michael's book! Anyone know when and/or where it will be available? (Here's hoping for a Kindle edition... )

    Brian

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,384

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    > So, after trying Mike’s 8 frame medium system, I have a few criticisms from my perspective. Firstly, an 8 frame hive must be stacked especially tall for higher honey production. Mike can’t do this, nor can I due to high winds, especially for him.

    Which is why my stands are only 3 1/2" tall and the hives are up against each other.

    > But his focus is not honey production, it’s queen production, so it works very well. I do like the way a box is a unit that doesn’t need to be messed with, but I prefer the ten frame style for the stacking ability.

    Take out the 8" blocks and you've gained another super. Put them up against other hives and it won't matter anyway.

    > Also, since the frames are packed in pretty tight, it’s hard to pull them out without rolling a bunch of bees. Again, this works well for him but not for me.

    You could add one follower easily and still do eight frames. You can add two if you have 1 1/4" frames.

    > One other downside is the cost. Medium boxes and frames cost only slightly less than deeps, and the same goes for 8 frame. All the same cuts need to be made on each piece of woodenware and only slightly less wood is used, so there is no cost benefit, and in fact, the reverse is most often true. For a certain amount of money, you get more square inches of comb with a ten frame deep hive than pretty much any other configuration.

    True. The difference may cover your costs for back surgery after the insurance company covers their share... but probably not the pain and suffering or the missed work...

    >When I convert, it will be far easier to convert from deeps to mediums than it will be to convert from 10 frame to 8 frame.

    I don't think so. It's easier to mix eight and ten frame boxes even on the same hive than have a mixture of frame sizes. Cutting one box down from eight to ten is less work than cutting ten frames down from deep to medium...

    >Thanks again Mike!

    You are welcome.

    The book will show up on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com when it's available which with luck should be within a month from now.

    As Sol pointed out, it's not a lot of new material. You can basically read it for free. The Kindle everyone keeps asking for, but it's already available electronically for free...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
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    Denver, Colorado
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    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Something I was just thinking about today, I might like to use both deeps and mediums so I can offer both sizes in nucs. Of course, I'm not worried about supers and brood boxes, and I have no compunctions about putting a medium frame in a deep box.

    I'm going to be setting up my first outyard this week. I'm going to use a custom pallet system not too dissimilar to Mike's stands. I've discovered I have far too many bees on my property here. Anyone ever have their strongest hive robbed out by all the smaller ones? It happened to me.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Harsens Island , Mi , USA
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    241

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Well done ...all around . Every word was worth the read . Thank you both for taking the time . I did get better queens ..TY ...i already lent it out to another old boy . For sure i'll get the new book the day i see it . If i may .. id like to see a vid on Jay's method ..some parts where kinda hard to follow . Thanks again ..

  12. #12
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    May 2011
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    Pensacola, FL
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    140

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    <snip>

    As Sol pointed out, it's not a lot of new material. You can basically read it for free. The Kindle everyone keeps asking for, but it's already available electronically for free...
    I understand that most of the content will be the same as what's on your web page. But I'm guessing that in book format it will be a bit more organized. And if you give it to me in Kindle format, then I can carry it with me to read when I hit the road for days at a time for my 'real' job.

    But the Kindle thing is just a suggestion. I'm getting a copy either way.

    Brian

  13. #13
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    Nov 2010
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    Postville, Iowa, USA
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    380

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    What works fine for me is this:

    Save the document as a Filtered HTML file via MS Word or equivalent, if the book is in a word processing format. Tweak the HTML to suit. Save HTML to mobi (kindle format) or other e-book format of choice using Calibre (free e-book cataloging software).

    I don't let Calibre convert a non-HTML file directly to an e-book format -- I don't think this works well the times I've tried it, compared with doing the conversion to HTML by hand.

    As a learning exercise, I converted a pdf of Storch's At the Hive Entrance to mobi (kindle) format ... for personal use only, since it's still in copyright. Worked very well.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    1,976

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    ...Anyone ever have their strongest hive robbed out by all the smaller ones? It happened to me.
    Your video showing this on your blog is stunning. I've never seen anything like it.

    Adam

  15. #15
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Sol I checked out your robbing video. While top entrances have some pros, robbing is one of the cons.

    Bees will more easily defend an entrance next to the brood. An entrance on top of several boxes of honey, if the hive population drops for any reason, is an invitation to robbers. If I need to have 2 entrances to a hive I'll have the standard bottom one, then put chocks about 1/2 inch thick on top of the front two corners of the second box to make an entrance there, between the second and third box. That will normally suffice for even the strongest hive.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
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    4,471

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    I've discovered I have far too many bees on my property here. Anyone ever have their strongest hive robbed out by all the smaller ones? It happened to me.
    I may be off topic but you did pose the question. Yes I have seen robbing like this (unfortunately many times) but no I havent in a large 5 story colony without some reason. Give us some background, robbing events like this are usually preceded by some sort of colony manipulation, in an overpopulated area particularly if it involves essential oils. Are the top supers, perchance, "wet" extracted comb or "sweaty" comb that had been sealed up somewhere? Were several of the boxes just put on above an excluder? Had the base hive been recently tapped of bees and or brood? Had a new or much larger entrance been recently installed on the top box, is it a different set up than your smaller hives? Is there the possibility that a large number of hives been recently moved into the area? The best clue you give is that you feel there are too many hives on your property and I am assuming some flow recently shut down. Please enlighten us inquiring minds want to know.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  17. #17
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    May 2011
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    Pensacola, FL
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    140

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Quote Originally Posted by DeeAnna View Post
    What works fine for me is this:

    Save the document as a Filtered HTML file via MS Word or equivalent...
    <Snipped for brevity>
    Thanks very much! I'll give that a try.

    Brian

  18. #18
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    Dec 2002
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    Denver, Colorado
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    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Give us some background.
    I hadn't touched this hive in several weeks, the deeps had been on there for over a month. The only thing I had done was replace the bottom box and a round entrance with what you see in the video a week before. That day, I had checked several walk-away splits to make sure they were queenright. From one hive on the other side of the yard, I accidentally left a frame out when I was working. That frame got cleaned out pretty quick but the hive it came from was fine. That little mistake may have kicked off the robbing, but I have never seen the strongest hive in the yard be the one who gets robbed.

    There is also little to no flow going on. The hives are not losing weight, but they're gaining little to no weight at this time. This is how it happens here this time of year. I've already moved four hives away, and I'm planning to move four more as soon as I can find a place to put them. There are currently 13 hives in the yard. I'm going to be posting about that here in a few minutes.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  19. #19
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    Mar 2011
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    Utica, NY
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    9,862

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    I have a question about height for 8 frame mediums. How high is too high? Let's assume a 60-70 mph wind (single hive).
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,384

    Default Re: A visit to Bush Farms

    You winds are the issue. I have had six full sized mature trees snapped off at the trunk in the last two years. We have HIGH winds. The winds take a shingle or two off my roof every storm. I put them against each other and stack them up as high as I can reach often and before I went with lower stands, have put them on with a step ladder. Putting them on isn't so bad, but carrying a full super DOWN a step ladder is not fun.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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