Thank you, Russ.
Thank you, Russ.
My preferred smoker is a Dadant 4x7 with a heat guard. I was working on a Kelley and a Dadant side by side today. The Dadant has better fit and finish. I have a Dadant 4x7 and a 4x10. The 4x7 is a little more stable and handy than the 4x10. Heat guards reduce mishaps. I carry the smoker in the back of my truck in a stainless pot salvaged from a scrapyard with a 2" section of heavy gauge 4" iron pipe in the bottom of the pot so it won't tip over. I use a propane torch with a push button igniter to start the smoker. I mostly burn scrap wood shavings and dry punk wood for fuel.
The reason that the bees of the Arnot Forest are famous is not because they are unusual, but because of their proximity to Dr. Tom Seeley. Nature selects for survival. That includes productivity, but, unfortunately, not docility. If the bees in one of my colonies are overly “twitchy” they experience Sudden Emergency Queen Cell Syndrome. Fortunately, that has not had to happen very often.
“First catch your rabbit.” To keep bees treatment free, consider starting with a swarm or cutout with “good form”, that is, reasonable provenance of several generations of treatment free feral pedigree. Starting with bees that already have the uncommon characteristics of varroa resistance and virus tolerance and then breeding toward commonly found desirable domestic traits, such as gentleness, is easier than starting with common desirable traits and trying to select for the uncommon trait of strong varroa resistance.
If there is a background feral or drone rich treatment free population in your area and you allow your colonies to naturally supersede their queens, then you will be leaning into traits of survivability. By eliminating aggressive queens and making increase from good colonies, you can select for such qualities as gentleness, productivity, and non-swarming as you choose. As a bonus, the population buildup of longstanding local feral stock will be reasonably synchronized with local nectar flows.
If you’re not confident about what is going on, then do nothing right now or wait awhile and then do nothing. Whatever the bees are doing, most of the time there is a good reason for it. They know a good bit about being a bee. Show them some respect. They have good instincts for things like arranging their winter stores and superseding queens. Most of the problems of relatively new beekeepers are either (1) imagined or (2) self-inflicted. If you do something with the hive, then do it. Don’t do it half way because you’re not sure whether you should do it. If you’re not sure, then you probably shouldn’t do it or you should at least check with an experienced beekeeper before you do something. Not after, and certainly not after you’ve done it half-way. Or do what you want. You probably know more about it than I do anyway.
Last edited by Riverderwent; 10-21-2019 at 11:17 PM.
Having some treated commercial hives in the area is fine as long as they don’t crowd out feral bees by over foraging. Typically, because of commercial practices, there are relatively few drones in a commercial colony compared to a feral colony of comparable size. So feral hives have a disproportionately large influence on the genetics of colonies that have naturally superseded, locally raised and mated queens. This, along with the commercial practice of frequent requeening, is likely why some studies show disparity between the gene pools of feral and commercial colonies in the same geographic area.
If you allow natural drone rearing by using foundationless frames in the brood area, over time your treatment free hives will also have a disproportionately large influence on local genetics. And anyway having drone congregation areas with some commercial influence combined with some sound and simple husbandry helps bend the curve toward positive traits such as gentleness and productivity. Depending on local conditions, the beekeeper can nurture the positive influence of both feral and commercial colonies by eliminating queens in aggressive colonies and allowing them to naturally replace the queen and by making any increase and replacement stock from healthy, productive, and gentle colonies.
Last edited by Riverderwent; 10-23-2019 at 09:32 PM.
Good post, David. As always, I enjoy reading about the thoughts you have about the genetic environment you are working in- it provides good insight for us mere mortals.
I noticed this weekend that there is a remarkable amount of goldenrod blooming in central and southwest Arkansas right now.
This afternoon, having more or less recovered from my fractured hip, I decided to inspect some hives and pull queen excluders and any unused supers. The weather was cool (60 degrees) and cloudy. When I pulled up to the first bee yard I expected to see some bees flying, but there was almost no activity. As I worked through the hives, despite my smokescreen and judicious and efficient (almost ninja like) movements, the bees decided that foul play was afoot and became more and more disturbed and defensive. They really don’t like being meddled with when their larder is full and the days are getting short. By using a sophisticated technique of lifting the back of the hive I determined that their larders were, in fact, full. After nine or so hives, we came to a mutual understanding that I would leave and come back in a day or two. They also not so kindly let me know that my jacket was not completely zipped up, and they had a few score of their finest guard bees escort me off the premises to avoid any misunderstandings.
I proceeded (or as we say around here, went) to the next yard and made about the same amount of progress. I did determine that we had lost one colony over the late summer and fall, and we have around twenty-one production hives and a couple of nuc size colonies going into winter.
Btw, glad to hear your recovery is going well.
"People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney
For me, a beehive consists of a bottom board, eight-frame medium hive boxes, twenty-four foundationless frames (placed in the bottom three hive boxes), frames with plastic foundation with standard size cells (placed in the fourth and higher hive boxes which function as honey supers), a metal queen excluder placed above the third hive box, an inner cover with an approximately 2" hole in the center and a ⅜" by 1" notch in the upper front rim for ventilation, and a telescoping outer cover. The bottom board has a ⅜” rim on top (which makes the entrance ⅜” high by about 13˝” wide). In my location with my bees, this prevents rodents from entering the hives in winter, is defensible, and is not overly crowded during flows. The bottom rim of the bottom board is roughly 1˝” high. I purchase frames, but the other equipment is handmade from cedar and unpainted. The decking of the bottom boards and outer covers is cedar. The decking of the inner covers is thin scrap luann or interior plywood. The outer covers are covered with aluminum flashing. Construction is with Titebond II and staples, with screws for any repairs to honey supers. I use welded metal hive stands about fourteen inches high and about ten feet long.
I place the queen excluders above the third box and remove them or place them above the top hive box in winter to avoid isolating the queen from the warmth of the cluster. My bees are derived from local, generally frugal, feral stock, and they winter in three or sometimes four eight frame medium boxes with no supplemental feeding.
Last edited by Riverderwent; 10-30-2019 at 05:15 PM.
Good report, David. I think you are where many of us hope to be someday.
Thank you for outlining what is working for you.
When I walk from the truck to the hives, two of the things I carry are a cast aluminum frame grabber like this: http://www.amazon.com/Frame-Grip-Hol...t_feature_div;
and a stainless steel hive tool like this: http://www.amazon.com/KINGLAKE-Beeke...Y8MG5FZFH2W137.
I spray paint them with hi-vis fluorescent yellow paint.
Right now they’re both sitting on top of a hive at one of my bee yards because they’ll stay but they don’t heel.
Last edited by Riverderwent; 11-01-2019 at 10:48 AM.