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Hi! My name is Abby and I run a website/blog all about environmental sustainability! I love to write about issues that are important for the earth. I'm beginning a new article about the importance of bees, and I'm looking for someone experienced who'd be able to answer a few questions I have. If anyone's up for it, that would be great! I'm looking to spread good information to people who have been mislead in their understanding of bees.
 

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Two 8-frame Langstroth hives
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Hi Abby, out of curiosity in what ways do you think people have been mislead in their understanding of bees? I thought that bees have a pretty good reputation amongst the general public apart from the stinging bit.
 

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Hi Abby. You don't need to find just someone, ask your questions and I am certain you'll get more discussion here than you anticipate.
 

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6a 3rd yr 5 production hives 1/ 2 q resource hive
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Hey there Abby- I'm 3rd year so not really what you're looking for. Some of the best are posting right now. Their season has mostly ended and they are wrapping things up. So if you're going to get anyone's attention it will likely be the next couple of months (at least in this hemisphere). After that the pros at least will be minding their operations. Michael Palmer has been on the boards. Ian Steppler is still bringing his hives to winter storage but may be on the boards after that. Both are great businessmen and supremely practical. Be careful about what you think you know. Beekeepers can tell you a lot about the natural world and how agriculture can fit within it.
 

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Good advice above. Also, make sure you understand that "bees" is possibly a much broader topic than "honeybees." The two do not need to be in conflict, but they are not necessarily the same thing.
 

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I know quite a few people who seem to think that if you take honey from the bees' hive, it will kill them, or that it has a negative affect on the bees. This leads to them actively fighting against beekeepers, and saying that bees should be left alone to care for themselves. They are also highly against the idea that beekeepers use smoke when harvesting honey. They don't seem to know that the smoke doesn't hurt them. How do you think I should help them to understand differently?
 

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I know quite a few people who seem to think that if you take honey from the bees' hive, it will kill them, or that it has a negative affect on the bees. This leads to them actively fighting against beekeepers, and saying that bees should be left alone to care for themselves. They are also highly against the idea that beekeepers use smoke when harvesting honey. They don't seem to know that the smoke doesn't hurt them. How do you think I should help them to understand differently?
 

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6a 3rd yr 5 production hives 1/ 2 q resource hive
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I know quite a few people who seem to think that if you take honey from the bees' hive, it will kill them, or that it has a negative affect on the bees. This leads to them actively fighting against beekeepers, and saying that bees should be left alone to care for themselves. They are also highly against the idea that beekeepers use smoke when harvesting honey. They don't seem to know that the smoke doesn't hurt them. How do you think I should help them to understand differently?
Short answer is- you can’t. People who don’t do what we do will have many opinions. Let them have their experience. The only thing you can do is offer an education about why a certain technique is used. For instance Ian can’t leave Canola honey in the hive for winter. Why? It crystalizes and becomes difficult if not impossible for the bees to use. His bees would starve otherwise. So he spends a lot of money in the fall feeding them supplemental feed.

Unfortunately the academic community has not been promoting free speech for some time. So different ideas are viewed as a threat because there are no forums for regular debate. Broadening ideas and listening to people who don’t think like you is the answer. Open forums can be invigorating. Its in those times that a person can freely choose or not choose to believe a certain way.
 

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AbbySater "if you take honey from the bees' hive," - Qualifier -I am going into my 7th year and still learning. I think you have to identify the various categories of honey bee beekeeping before making a judgement or establishing a factual statement based on associated details. So far I have identified several categories beekeeping and honey bee survival. The one most fitting for the comement "if you take honey from the bees' hive, it will kill them" is for "feral" hives especially in the late Fall in a northern climate. It also matters how much you take. Take all the honey from a northern feral hive in late Fall when they will not be able to forage for 5 months is a death sentence. They will be forced to go "robbing", weather permitting or die. I am not sure of the effect of a colony on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In contrast I consider my 8-10 hive apiary on my small farm a farm annimal, part of my environemnt. I take all my honey from "supers" during the Summer and Fall. I weigh my hives in early Fall to see if a hive has sufficient resources to survive the long winter; 80 lb. net and hte hives seem to do very well. This year my area had a bad drought for three months which eliminated mid-summer and on for any significant honey bee foraging. I have fed about 600 lb. of cane sugar in 2:1 syrup form to attain, my define as necessary, over-winter weight which will be verified around Nov. 2. If I did not feed, a 9 month dearth would be very damaging to hive survivals. I suspect feral hives, if any are out there around me, will have a difficult time. Feral hives are typically much smaller than "farmed" hives and can live on less. 25% failure rate? I expect all my colonies to survive winter and prosper.



Now that is just two situational honey bee colonies. There are tens of thousands of traveling commercial pollinating hives, tens of thousands of commercially farmed hives for honey and beeswax, thousands and thousands of backyard hives, and thousands of first year beekeepers with one or two hives. It is very probable these categories break down into two or more subcategories.

In my experience "single point statements", unqualified, should not be used to make final judgements. The truth is in the details.

I hope I helped you.
 

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Abby, good on you for seeking information. There was a time in commercial honey production when all the honey was taken from a hive in the fall and the bees were left to starve. This was decades ago and back then bees were cheap so from a purely economic point of view it made sense, take all the honey and buy new bees in the following spring.

Things are very different now. Bees are much, much more expensive so the old business model of taking all the honey and buying new bees every year is history. The most valuable asset any beekeeper has are healthy bees and strong colonies. Nothing moves without strong colonies so any apiary hoping to make honey is deeply concerned about the health of the bees.

Bees are enormously productive and normally produce far more honey than they need. We as beekeepers take the excess and are careful to leave enough honey for the bees. We often feed when needed to help build the colonies up.

Bees are 'free range.' They are not held captive and will up and leave (abscond) if they are not treated well. Our equipment mimics a natural hive respecting their needs. After all, they are the bosses, we just try to keep them around and keep them healthy.

Domestic honeybees left to their own these days would likely perish. A parasitic mite called Varroa Destructor will kill most colonies in months. Most treat for these mites and many are working towards solutions through selective breeding and searching for mite vulnerabilities. I lose a swarm or 3 every year and, frankly, they have little chance of survival without the care of a beekeeper.

Feral bees are my greatest concern. Feral bees are suffering from pesticides, loss of habitat, and disease. Feral bees are often better pollinators than honeybees and the loss of these other pollinators will hurt us all. Not all bees can pollinate all flowers, tongue length being a large part of it. We need these feral pollinators. In addition to honeybees I keep leaf cutter and mason bees, they provide me with nothing but helping them is the right thing to do.

Lee
 
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