If kicking around ideas is teaching then I guess we are all teachers. My idea of a teacher is someone who is paid to instruct people on proven concepts. I haven't seen too many proven concepts in bee keeping that aren't already taught by individuals that get paid to do so.
Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping
I couldn't edit this into my #55 post, spose I was offline too long for the edit timer but I am going to use old timers method of producing queens next year for any potential splits we do. This is the thread I was referring to: http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...thout-Grafting.
That's a fantastic method, Oldtimer knows his stuff. I haven't yet tried it, but it's on my list. It simplifies several pertinent aspects of producing queens, no worries about finding the right age larvae or how to scoop them out of the cell. It's a straightforward method, but there are still many things to learn about timing, and recognizing what are the best conditions for queen cell building. After I try it, it will appear on my website. I don't want to write about things with which I don't have experience.
I want to try grafting first because I can make daughters of several queens at the same time. Also, I don't want to cause too much disturbance in the mother hive. Michael Palmer says leave your production colonies alone, let them do their job and produce honey for you.
In the future, I think this will be a great method given the right timing and more hives among which the new queens can be spread. With the few hives I have now, I don't want to replace many queens with daughters of one mother. Actually, I'm not in the habit of killing queens at all, just relegating them to nuc duty unless they're just unbearable.
Well, I've read this whole thread now, as a total newbie, and after getting past all the "stinging" remarks, I've found the thread helpful, both Solomon's ideas and the feedback from others. Thanks for the thread!
Thank you both Sarge and honeyshack for your inputs.
It's not my intention to reinvent the wheel, but if I thought doing the same thing everyone else is doing was working, I wouldn't be suggesting something different. I don't think it's sustainable small. I know at least two single colony beekeepers whose bees died this year, and it's not even winter yet.
And it's just a plan, not a system, I'm not selling it. Nobody is laying out a ton of cash on my system. I think that makes a huge difference.
Thanks for your time.
Nice write up. I like the approach. Would you modify anything for those of us in northern/or mountain environments? Particularly the nucs versus hives.
I am taking this approach. I added 5 hives this year, up from 1 last year. I have lost one (a split that never took off and lost the queen late in the summer). All Tx free.
Thanks for the time you took on this.
4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.
Our honey flow and build up may be shorter and more intense than yours. The balance between not enough bees in the cold of late May, and 5 frames of brood and swarms from crowding in late June is difficult for an experienced beekeeper. A nuc in this environment would require much more management than a 2 lb package installed in 3 deeps. They have enough bees to keep warm in May, and enough room not to swarm in June.
Is a swarm a bad thing for someone not making honey?
I think your article will be very helpful for those it is targeting.
I also think that a swarm is likely very much a bad thing, even if one is not managing for honey production:
I am managing for increase, and not for honey. I would certainly be disappointed to lose a substantial part of the livestock in my hive to a swarm!
I think that the only beekeepers who would not be disappointed with swarming would those who intentionally let hives swarm to encourage a particular genetic line in local feral colonies, and those who keep bees only for the entertainment the activity provides and don't care if they produce anything.
But I also think that if one is going to learn to keep an apiary in a sustainable way, nucs are essential, particularly for those of us who live in the north.
It surely may require more diligence to prevent swarming and be more challenging, but it is important, IMO.
In my treatment-free philosophy, swarming is not a bad thing. Healthy hives swarm.
Rather than being strictly prevented, the swarming impulse should be channeled to produce increase or honey. Frankly, I believe that the idea that swarming must be stopped is simply an untenable position and further selects bees that are reliant on human intervention for survival and propagation of the species. A hive that doesn't swarm or won't swarm is a hive that cannot reproduce, and is like one of those thanksgiving turkeys which must be artificially inseminated to lay an egg.
Naturally, a 'swarmy' stock is also a bad thing because all drive is pointed toward reproduction and none to honey production and that's the sort of thing that is consequently reduced if we breed for honey production. But a newbee as a learning experience needs to see a swarm, they need to be able to identify swarm cells vs. supersedure cells, and they need to properly contextualize the reproductive urge of honeybees.
One of the things that I see as detrimental to freshman beekeepers is the idea that they must from day one operate like a commercial beekeeper. They are supposed to prevent swarms and kill their hives and requeen with commercial stock and space nine frames per box and make honey and feed protein patties and syrup and reverse brood chambers and do all sorts of things that they don't need to do and that the bees don't need done to them. And they're supposed to do all these things before they've had time to assimilate and observe exactly what bees do. The methods of a beekeeper must come from an understanding of the natural ways of bees, and how to cope with them, manipulate them, and subvert them to do what is useful for humans.
Further clouding the issue are arguments over terms like 'beekeeper vs. bee-haver vs. bee-meddler.' I find it most useful to have bees first without trying to keep them too hard. "I wanna KEEP BEES, I wanna KEEP 'EM, so they DON'T GET AWAY!! I want them to go get honey and COME BACK HERE!!!" - Eddie Izzard
My plan focuses on having them first and increasing them so as to have a better chance of survival over the first winter treatment-free. It gives the newbee a chance to get their hands dirty, to get in and look at the hives all the time which with normal hives is a detriment, but more necessary with nucs. And if they do swarm, so much the better. There needs to be more swarms. We're low on bee population in this country, remember?
Yep, I remember hearing a lot that we are low on bee population in this country!
But isn't the subject of this thread feedback on your educational article? The existence of the article kinda implies a desire to increase the population of successful bee keepers in this country.
One who loses a substantial part of his bee population to swarming is one with a motive to add to the population of former bee keepers.
Most of us keeping bees are not absolutely altruistic about it: we want something, whether it is honey, nucs to sell, more colonies, or something else.
Roland presented a challenge he perceives we up north are likely to face that is a little different to raising nucs in Arkansas. Your response is asking if swarming is a bad thing of you are not raising bees for honey, instead of directly addressing the concern.
To be more concise than my first observation on that question:
"Yer darn straight it is! If I wanted bees in the trees, I'd hollow out trees and leave bees alone."
No matter how we manage there will always be population loss to swarming among inexperienced beekeepers. It's been said that bees make better beekeepers than beekeepers make bees. If Man died tomorrow, creation would still function to promote increase, and the bee population would recover. (It's not dependent on poor management inducing swarming.)
A short intense flow does present a challenge that requires more management than a less intense one to prevent swarming.
Perhaps an observation to that effect with an exhortation to increase awareness of the sign that a colony may be nearing swarm commitment would make your article more valuable to northern beeks and others likely to encounter intense flows.
Neither buying packages nor being content waving good-bye to swarms are acceptable if one is beginning to build a sustainable apiary that is as self sufficient as possible.
Last edited by Beregondo; 11-15-2011 at 08:32 AM. Reason: typo
Is a swarm a bad thing for someone not making honey?
1. You have just lost your queen that was of a known quality, and the genetics that you worked to establish. Her replacement may not be of the same quality.
2. You just lost a large number of bees. This resource could have been ussed for other purposes, what ever your goal is.
3. You have just polluted the feral gene pool.
4. There is a potential that the swarm will become a nuisance in someone's residence. Is that socially responsible?
Swarming is not to be stopped for it's own sake. With proper management, the bees will be worked in such a manner that the total population of the Apiary can be greater that if the bees are allowed to swarm. Giving the queen plenty of room to lay keeps the bees away from the swarm impulse. In the end, you will have more of something, bees or honey or both.
There needs to be more swarms. We're low on bee population in this country, remember?
Agreed, so lets all try to manage out bees the best, to make increases. If the feral situation was the best chance for survival, we would have more feral bees than managed colonies.
There it is in a "nutshell" folks, read posts #74 and #76. Two entirely divergent viewpoints. Read them and decide for yourself who you agree with more. I know which side I am on. Yes I am a "commercial guy", my goal is to be treatment free and we have made huge strides towards that end in recent years, another goal I have is to be profitable. I am not knocking the decisions that many have made to be treatment free, I'm just giving my perspective. Be treatment (or in this case management) free if you choose, but if another goal is to try to make your investment give you a monetary return, then be prepared to face the reality that there are times those two goals can be mutually exclusive.
"Ve are too soon olt und too late schmart."- A nameless German philosopher
One thing that is apparent to me is that most endeavors are not immediately profitable. Especially given that most who are treatment free have been through significant losses on some scale...this may help explain why those that are treatment free say it's possible (they were willing to take losses to get there) and why those that are focused on short term profitability don't seem to see it as viable (note that I'm not against short term profitability).
There are other ways to fund a breeding program other than making it immediately profitable.
On the other hand, raising bees in Northwest Arkansas (not like the rest of Arkansas) may be more similar than you might imagine. There are no commercial beekeepers around here, nobody that sells honey wholesale that I know of. And the reason is that there isn't much. Prime nectar season ends in June. Then it's a long hot summer where hives are run dry of honey by efforts to cool the colony. Finally, there's a short flow in September and October that nets a few frames of honey per hive. I have every need to have bees out collecting as early in the season as possible, just like you do. The main difference is that I have a shorter winter but in truth, my net nectar flow is less than most of the country.
The other thing is that I haven't gotten to writing year two. Year two is when we start becoming a real beekeeper. Year one is getting your feet wet and deciding whether or not to press the abort button.
At this point, I'm not entirely sure (very fuzzy on this one) whether or not it is possible to operate as a commercial migratory beekeeper and be treatment-free. I won't put it past the realm of possibility, but it seems to me that it may very well be just too stressful for the bees to do on their own at this point in time. I know it is done for honey production, but in no way in nature were hives ever meant to move that far and that often. So my focus is not on commercial beekeepers (please don't any of you think that I'm against you because I am not but the issue keeps popping up) my focus is on backyard beekeepers, hobbyists and stationary sideliners.
It's one of my goals as well to become profitable. But I don't have to spend money on treatments, and less so on sugar (optimally none). So I have a low overhead, especially if I quit buying things I don't need yet. Ultimately though, it's not about profitability so much as sustainability. Personally, as a hobbyist, I'm not doing this as a career or with the intention to make a wad of cash. But I would like to get it to the point where it doesn't cost a wad of cash.
You make a very good point Deknow, I guess I'm saying I'm also not against short term profitability, it's just not my primary focus, nor would it be that of a newbee either.