If you’re needing a dose of good news from Texas you’ve come to the right post. I’m so pleased to report the snow and ice have been replaced with spring temperatures virtually overnight. One night with snow is already considered a lot here and we had it for a week.
Once I realized the piglets, sheep and goats were faring just fine, my worry was for the bees. We’d covered as much as possible in the garden but I had little hope anything would survive. It’s only the lightweight row cover, which in normal times would be enough here.
It’s certainly not rated for 4 inches of snow and ice, for a week, and for the second time this year. I expected rows of dead onions and lettuce but was pleasantly surprised.
Best news Today: All 6 colonies are alive and seemingly thriving! I couldn’t be more thrilled because, of course, I’d considered the worst, but prayed for the best.
I’m so glad now that my instinct in fall was to not take any honey, even though I waffled for weeks about it. I think sometimes procrastination is actually a 6th sense at play—an inner voice hinting to you that the time is not yet ripe. Or at least in hindsight that excuse is marvelous for reassuring youself of your keen judgement, which only works if it indeed did turn out to be keen, which with gardening in Texas these days is more like Russian Roulette than Old Maid. (Bad pun intended, if you can catch it!) 😉
Or, ignore my babbling (wiser choice) and offer yourself one full minute of BeeZen. That’s today’s happy bees, feasting on the Chinese cabbage I’d left to go to seed just for them, which survived our week-long ‘Arctic’ blast (meanwhile, the Arctic has Texas temps, go figure), now a welcome treat! Along with the henbit, which survived in bloom under the snow for a week. WOOHOO!!!
Now, deep breath, and . . .
Hubby camped with all 4 dogs in the living room so he could keep the wood stove burning, that’s our only heat source. And, unlike so much of the state, we only lost electricity for one night and had prepared the water pipes, kept the faucets running, which is the common hack around here, and hopefully also saved some perennials with tarping, but time will tell.
The best thing that could come from yet another weather disaster, not just here, but anywhere, is that folks get prepared. It’s not fun, it’s not comfortable. But without it the lesson is always the same and should be neon-level obvious by now: Self-reliance is FAR greater peace of mind than relying on collapsing structures. Food, water, energy, folks, time to get back to the basics!
I observed unusual behavior in one of our hives yesterday afternoon. Lots of activity at the entrance, too late in the day to be food-related, in my opinion, but clearly demonstrating communication efforts.
I’ve only read studies and opinions from scientists and beekeepers about the bees’ waggle dance as a communication for food sources. Lots and lots of opinions and studies about that! That may be all that trickles down to the layman, however, so I keep searching the books. Here’s a new one, once again, about food.
“Social communication systems are predominantly multimodal and can combine modulatory and information-bearing signals. The honey bee waggle dance, one of the most elaborate forms of social communication in animals, activates nestmates to search for food and communicates symbolic information about the location of the food source. Previous studies on the dance behaviour in diverse honey bee species demonstrated distinct differences in the concurrence of visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile signals produced by the dancer.” “Similarities in dance follower behaviour across honey bee species suggest a conserved mechanism of dance communication” Elsevier, Science Direct, Animal Behavior, Volume 169 Nov. 2020 https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/animal-behaviour
But, non-expert that I am, my hunch tells me this bee behavior was not about food at all, but rather about warning the forager bees that a storm is coming and to not go back out. Shortly after this observation, where the weather front moving in from the north is visible in the distance, all bee activity at the entrance stopped.
I believe I lost a hive early last spring due to either a quick-moving storm, or pesticide poisoning. This new observed behavior tilts my pondering toward the latter. In that particular colony, which was quite large, I checked on them because their entrance activity suddenly slowed to almost nothing. When I opened up the hive I found loads of drawn comb, a healthy number of nurse bees and even larvae, no disease or infestation to speak of, but bars of activity as if flash-frozen in time. Loads of nurse bees in the process of working, heads in cells, dead. My assumption is their foragers never made it home. So, when the temperatures dropped that evening, they hive didn’t have enough thermal mass for their survival.
I apologize for my lack of video skills, still, it’s on the to-do list. And, that whimper at the end is because I got stung by a fire ant, not a bee! Then the dogs came over to check out what I was doing in the grass, which to them always means playtime. Impromptu mission aborted due to attack. 🙂
Related to the psychological term ‘cognitive dissonance’ this new Eco-socio-scientism-conspiracy term describes the thermometer and related mechanical device-reading temperatures that refuse to align with the visual and sensory data which would otherwise assure a concerned individual that the season is indeed changing.
A lunch of freshly foraged chanterelles and lactarius indigo—lucky for me, I chose wisely. These are not beginner’s mushrooms and I was really nervous! (Hubby didn’t dare, citing the obvious need that, just in case, someone must live to tell the story.)
Persimmon seeds in the feral hog scat is a better indicator than that blazing 90 degrees Fahrenheit that’s frying the kohlrabi and beet seedlings before they’re a centimeter above the soil’s surface. Don’t fool yourselves, it’s not just ‘Mother Nature.’
This is that tricky New Micro-Season in East Texas, thanks mostly to weather engineering I’ve no doubt, where no crop, or handler, understands what’s actually happening.
The days are far too hot for the cool season, the nights far too variable for any season. The hungriest and most prolific garden pests are still proliferating, long from dead from potential threat of frost, but the hungry chickens are unable to benefit because said voracious insects are conveniently barricaded with the young greens and seedlings they so covet within the garden gates where there‘s narry a predator to be found.
If the past few years of weather whiplash are an example, we’ll go from shade cloth over our boxes to in need of frost protection within a few days. Maybe this time we’ll be ready for it?
The bees are as excited as if it’s spring, which gets me worrying. I plan to do some honey harvesting very soon. I have a mean colony who I’ve been giving the benefit of the doubt for well over a year now but who might get the permanent boot very shortly. I got stung in the eyebrow, again, just trying to maneuver around their hive, gently. Just in order to weed!
There’s just no call for that level of aggression around here; they’re clearly asking for some serious retaliation. Sure, the golden rod they’re feasting on was not my doing, but that tree groundsel, excuse me, a meager toll is in order, considering I planted that expressly in that very position for their exclusive benefit.
2nd favorite thing I’ve planted this year: Thai Red Roselle, makes my favorite Kombucha, another favorite discovery of 2020!
First favorite, check back to summer posts, Trombetta squash. We are still eating it!
Just another loungey Sunday on the wee homestead and sharing some of the love with y’all!
The dogs are off for a swim in the pond, their favorite time of day, right after breakfast and dinner. The pastured pigs come up to greet the group, hoping we brought treats, no doubt. They are looking much more slender now that they are only foraging.
Papi’s back on track, thank heavens! After a big scare, where we were planning for his death, a great resurrection now follows. We took him back to the vet, they replenished him with fluids by IV, and coaxed out a football-sized hardened stool. I know this issue was caused by the prescribed meds, so this time when he got home with a new set of pills, we threw them all in the trash.
He’s again his old sassy self and it really does seem like a miracle after how despondent he was—wouldn’t eat or drink, was vomiting and not pooping, would hardly move, wouldn’t even whine or bark, though he’s normally very expressive—we really thought he was checking out for good. He’s back and still trying to lead the pack.
The garden is growing great, the green beans and melons are looking particularly impressive this year (so far that is, never count your melons before they hatch). I’ve just harvested our first cucumbers, with tomatoes soon to follow. The bees sound as pleased as me!
Speaking of bees, I can now confirm with a fair degree of confidence that my high-risk hive split last month was successful. What made it high-risk, in conventional beekeeping protocol, was that there was no queen, I didn’t re-queen at all, rather I intended that the small split-off colony should raise their own queen themselves. There was not even queen cells present in the brood I transferred, only capped brood and larvae.
My beekeeping goal is replicating genetics that suit our needs and desires here on the wee homestead: semi-feral colonies whose first purpose is pollination, second purpose is sustainability and study, third purpose those glorious products—honey, wax, propolis, pollen, etc.
For this goal I choose to split from our “ninja” hive, but don’t let their nickname fool you. They are not ‘mean’ like the nickname might suggest, and two other hives here are FAR meaner.
Rather, they are natural warriors. Maybe this is because during the ‘tornado’ last spring their home was turned upside down. Or maybe because I experimented on them with a screen bottom board, which meant they had to fend off attackers constantly from multiple fronts all summer, the warm winter and early spring. Or maybe because they are right next to our house, where there is constant traffic from critters, mowers and us.
All I know is, this team is tight, because they’re so busy with all their other tasks, they leave me in relative peace in order to meddle in their ranks.
And speaking of queen bees, at least in the canine kingdom, Buttercup is exercising her own maternal instincts, on our new chicks. It seems she doesn’t trust her brother, Bubba.
Whereas once upon a time Buttercup crawled in submission from 20 paces, then rolled over immediately once within sniff-range of current Queen Tori, I expect there will soon be an active rivalry.
I wonder when someone will finally come to rival this old queen? Someone once asked me when we first moved rural, “Why do you need so much land?”
Just another loungey Sunday on the wee homestead. And just wanted to share a bit of it with y’all.
Peek-a-boo, I see you, hiding in the geranium!
Handy Hubby crushes again crafting a chute for loading livestock.
I’ve just tried my first hive split of the season, fingers crossed! And I came across this excellent document, for any beekeepers, or wannabes, transferring a typical nuc/ hive into a TopBar. I’ve not tried it yet, but it looks very do-able on paper. I really like topbar, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons, like esthetics, lack of upper body strength and general laziness.
As much as I can appreciate spiders, this one had to be evicted from a bait hive, sorry little fellow, but I know the bees don’t love you like I do.
The garden is looking fabulous, fingers crossed again. With just a bit of good fortune, this will be our most fruitful year yet. After last summer, with almost no garden due to a shoulder injury and gaping miserably at large downed trees all over our property, it’s hard to even express how wonderful that feels.
Two antique roses I planted about 7 years ago and have no time to bother with, yet they still do their thing. On the left is Apothecary, a rambler great for rose hips. Behind Buttercup, our most agreeable model, is Chestnut, needing some serious pruning. Ain’t got no time for that!
Moving to the veggie garden, a friend gave me seeds of cardoon, a great heat-loving alternative to artichokes (which I’ve tried to grow every year we’ve been here, with no success). I’m hoping the cilantro will bolt more slowly tucked tight under the eggplant. I’m trying a new supposed cilantro substitute this year called papalo. We will see if it’s even remotely as delicious as the real thing.
One of my favorite herbs, chervil, aka gourmet parsley, with a hint of anise flavor, already bolting because it’s a cool season crop. And one of my favorite wild plants, mullein, because it’s really cool looking, but survives the heat just fine, not to mention it’s many medicinal benefits.
I’m enjoying a YT permaculture channel new to me, a bit high on the marketing for my taste, but loads of good info for the beginners or the old hats, nonetheless.
This is so hard, because it is so good.Kinda like when Elon Musk says, “It must be real, because it looks so fake.”OK, never mind, hopefully the opposite of that.
It’s just, well, here on the wee homestead things are really good.But, it’s hard to talk about that when I know so many are really suffering.I don’t want to boast, or say I told you so, or wag a shaming finger, because it’s not like that.It’s really not.I don’t want, like, intend, wish, prefer, or otherwise conspire to see others suffer.
Well, maybe once that happened.But he totally deserved it.
But, it’s not hard at all to talk about how good things are with many of those in our local community, because they get it.
(Or with the crew on James True’s livestream, whoever and wherever they are.) Lord, or God, that is the question.
We still greet with hugs and hand shakes.We’re not wearing, or home-making, masks, for the most part.Few noticed the restaurant closings or curb-side only service, because most of us can cook.Folks miss their churches, sure.Some miss the libraries.Some get annoyed at the grocery stores.
But otherwise, those I know mostly think this is all much ado about nothing.
And just as I refuse to pretend it’s good when it’s bad, I also can’t abide saying it’s bad when it’s good.That would be like pathological empathy.Been there, don’t intend to go back.It’s a road to nowhere.
Hubby’s employer has delivered their second round of layoffs, so he’s probably next to lose his job. (Note to self: Be careful what you wish for.)
Our nearest neighbors finally started a garden of their own, and even got St. Croix sheep, like ours.And livestock guard dogs.On our one little dirt road there’s now about 12 dogs, that’s about four per household.How fun is that?!
One local friend just gifted me three high-quality top-bar hives, since she’s decided to go full Langstroph after an overload of frustration. Lucky me!She has the cutest kids I’ve ever had the honor of knowing, homeschooled, unvaxxed, growing their own gardens and whipping through the fields on 4-wheelers at 5 years old. Beat that, Gates of techno-hell!
She also lent us her prize, papered, top-notch breeding ram, for free.He’s just been introduced to his latest harem, ours, and he was ON like Donkey Kong.We’ll have a meadow full of little lambs in no time.
Another nearby friend sold us her little old stock trailer for a good price and gave me seeds of a squash she loves that I’ve never tried before, Trombetta.Can’t wait to taste them.
I gave a SCOBY to another nearby friend, and now she’s as totally into Kombucha as I am, and along with the ram-lending friend, we are trading tips and recipes as excited as girls of the old Matrix trading Charlie’s Angels cards.
Sunday here is same as it ever was.
A walk in the woods. A gander into what’s coming out good this year (berries are abounding!) A dip in the creek. A tour through the gardens.
A lounge in the hammocks.A full scale effort to exhaust the dogs.
What an exciting day, indeed!I can hardly contain myself. Not only did I catch my first swarm, but it was in my own garden!Soo, another miracle?
Like I said in my first Wheel of Fortune posts, I think miracles are mostly amazing synchronicities that turn out in one’s favor.The distance between it becoming a tragedy or a miracle is 33 degrees, give or take. Or so I’m guessing.
What had to come together for the easiest, beginner’s luck swarm experience, perhaps ever, in the history of East Texas?!
First, Handy Hubby had to be not only home, which happens only half the year, but also helping me in the garden, which happened this morning for the first time in months.He’s been very busy finishing the fencing for the expanded pasture, which he did just finish, and it’s a beautiful accomplishment for which I’m also excited and sending him big applause.Then, he outdid himself, once again, in his usual non-chalant manner.
He said something incomprehensible to me from the back of the garden, I said what, he said, again, something incomprehensible, followed by ‘swarm’, which I did hear, but that was still confusing because the likelihood of a bee swarm at the back of the garden didn’t register at all, so I assumed he meant more ants, that is fire ants, that are so bad this spring we’ve succumbed to poisoning them, with manufactured chemicals. No, I’m not proud.
“Just come here,” he urged, which made me think it must really be an exceptionally impressive ant hill, not that surprising.
But no!A decent sized swarm, right there, ripe for the picking. And, Handy Hubby right there to help, and their discoverer.
We maneuvered them from the fence to the hive without a hitch.
Might it have been from one of our own hives?Possibly, but that doesn’t diminish the joy even slightly.They are now happily re-nesting in a top-bar hive which had mysteriously died a month ago, very much to my disappointment.I never found the time to post about that, though I’d planned to.
I know they mean well, but the podcasters and bloggers and various other ‘social influencers’ who at the moment are espousing some variant of “make the best of it” really just don’t get it. Don’t think of it as quarantine. Click past the media hype and overcome the social distancing, they say, through ‘personal growth’ work.
Such utter nonsense. Use this as an opportunity to take up a new hobby, they repeat, learn something new, organize your closets, take an online class, and loads of other banal advice that demonstrate unequivocally how disconnected they really are from the core of the issue. Throw someone into solitary confinement and then insist he’ll be a better person for it. Adversity builds character, right? Occasionally it does, but more often, it does not.
Stop thinking, and start feeling, I’d advise them, if they were listening to me. It’s a very different beast to choose isolation than to have it forced upon you. It feels different, because it is like the exact polar opposite.
We were avid travelers, Hubby and I, before and after we met. Being forced to evacuate, twice, was absolutely nothing like the feeling of choosing one’s own time and place of adventure. That I was somehow expected to smash these bipolar feelings together was actually really offensive. I got that advice constantly, too. Think of it as an opportunity, I heard from everyone who claimed they cared. Go volunteer. Be the bigger person. You’re not really homeless. Show them what you’re made of. Seriously? And you label this empathy? Give me a break, pronto, please! The perfect opportunity presenting itself to me then was, and still is, to drop those self-righteous idiots like hot potatoes.
It’s very different believing something intellectually, taking steps toward verifying that belief in order to quantify it as knowing, and the spin cycle that’s required for the Positivity Virus to see every insane challenge as an opportunity. Don’t panic. Get resilient. Don’t fret over your lost job. Don’t contemplate the doom of mandatory vaccinations or the gloom of martial law. No pain no gain. Think of it as a character-builder. Rise to the Occassion. Raise your vibration. Find the silver lining. Dig deep. Help others. Why? Because we say so. Because that’s what it means to be a good person. So, the slave class abides.
If you ask, but, how do you know this? I did ‘the work’ they reply. The Work. The Great Work. That means, They know. They got to choose it, or at least, not to choose it. Now they insist everyone become as enlighten and evolved and woke, by saving your friends and community from your fatal invisible germs. Good for you, good for them, good for all.
When the so-called free-thinkers start to cooperate with the government mandates, and insist you do to, it might be the right time to unsub.
Personal growth work, by force. The beatings will continue until moral improves. Personal growth work, through shaming tactics. Become a better team player through home quarantine. We couldn’t get you to evolve yourself to fit our agenda in the easy way, so really, it was your choice. We’ve been trying to breed and mold the ideal global hive for a century, we’re nearly there, there’s just a few million more pesky free-thinkers we need to convert, that is, convince. Everything we do is for your own good.
I told that to my bees today when I went to inspect their colonies. I said, “Hi my bees! I’m from the government and I’m here to help!”
They were not convinced. One colony actually crafted themselves a very unconventional upside-down foyer, apparently because they called mutiny on my restricted access portal. The brazen nerve of them! I told them they would get robbed mercilessly with this approach. They did not abide! And they were robbed mercilessly, just as I’d predicted.
Now those frightful rebels have created a super strong colony by virtue of fighting off all those thieves. They’re like ninja warrior bees!
How dare they successfully trump my sub-par, ignorant efforts at micro-management!
A quick look at their valiant efforts, please excuse my poor video skills!
Continuing from my new line of questioning on this blog, Science’s G.O.D. (https://kenshohomestead.org/2019/11/29/sciences-g-o-d/), or the Great Organizing Dynamic, here’s some more speculation.Please volunteer any thoughts, facts, references, opinions—I’m really searching for direction and substance in this series of posts.
A bit of bee background:
The way honeybees communicate has been historically termed ‘the waggle dance’.There are at least 9 different dances that have been observed and recorded. (v. FRISCH, 1965)
1) The round-dance is a call to search for food in all directions within a radius of 25 m. 2) The waggle-dance describes the direction of the destination in terms of the respective position of the sun and defines the distance. 3) The Rumpel-dance describes a conspicuous type of movement made by suc- cessfully returning foragers. They hastily make their way across the honey- comb, bumping into colony members and informing them that something is going on, e.g., that food is available. 4) The Ruck-dance is carried out by foragers that are emptying their honey sacs and involves intermittent, directed tail wagging. It serves more to indicate a general dancing mood than to impart any specific message. 5) The sickel-dance has been observed in every bee species (with one exception) in the transition between the round-dance and the waggle dance (figure-eight). The opening of the „sickel“ in the dance pattern denotes the direction to the feeding site. 6) The buzzing run is the sign to disperse. Scouts barge through the interlocked bees in the swarm in an undirected, zigzag course and audibly buzz their wings. 7) In the Putzlauf the bee shakes its body from one side to the other. 8) In the vibration-dance, one bee takes up contact with another, whereby it rapidly vibrates its abdomen. The meaning of this dance has not yet been deciphered, although their is strong evidence that it involves a communication form combining dance and acoustic signals. 9) Finally, the Zitter-dance is an expression of neurotic behavior and is disregarded by the surrounding bees. Research has shown it to be a result of a traumatic experience such as severe impact, poisoning, injury to appendages, or extreme state of alarm.
What researchers draw in copying these dance moves has been described as a ‘squished figure 8’.More current research focuses on not only what can be observed visually, but precisely how their communication works acoustically.
The first time I saw the figure of this ‘squished figure 8’ drawn by my beginning beekeeping teacher, I recognized it, and being the diligent student I sometimes can be, I raised my hand and questioned, “You just drew a torus, the bees must be communicating through a toroidal field?”No one had any idea what I was talking about.
But I’ve got a strong sense that those who study UFOs know exactly what I’m talking about.
“The craft was able to displace gravity through the propagation of magnetic waves controlled by shifting the magnetic poles around the craft so as to control, or vector, not a propulsion system but the repulsion force of like charges.[p100]
raced among themselves to figure out how the craft could retain its electric capacity[p100]
The air force discovered that the entire vehicle functioned just like a giant capacitor. In other words, the craft itself stored the energy necessary to propagate the magnetic wave that elevated it, allowed it to achieve escape velocity from the earth’s gravity, and enabled it to achieve speeds of over seven thousand miles per hour.” [p101]
I’m not a scientist by any stretch, I’ve never been good at science, or math, or any technological field.I could be completely wrong in trying to make this connection.
But, I do think I’m right in assuming there are some far more intelligent minds out there who have also considered this connection. And I’d really like to find them.
“The results indicate that the wagging run is the “master component” of the dance. The figure-of-eight dance path does not seem to convey information. Both sound and wagging must be present in the dance, but no specific roles were found for these components. Both sound and wagging convey information about distance and direction, and they appear to be largely redundant.”https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00166696
Redundant?Kinda like the bee version of ‘junk DNA’ the scientist have tried to sell us? Come on now.
“It is also not known how the dance followers detect the dancer’s movements in the darkness of the hive where visual cues can not be used.”
The popular wisdom has been the bees communicate their navigation paths using the sun, but I’ve seen bees out foraging on overcast days and even in light rain.
Which makes me wonder, could the bees be demonstrating Ampere’s Law?
The magnetic field in space around an electric current is proportional to the electric current which serves as its source, just as the electric field in space is proportional to the chargewhich serves as its source. Ampere’s Law states that for any closed loop path, the sum of the length elements times the magnetic field in the direction of the length element is equal to the permeabilitytimes the electric current enclosed in the loop.
Furthermore, do you think all this research is being done for the love of bees?That’s what many bee-lovers believe, I’m sure.
Naïve folks think it’s all about making life easier, and more enjoyable for everyone, and learning all about the bees, just because they are fascinating creatures and honey is delicious and we all love nature.
Sorry to try to burst that bubble once again, but the global military industrial complex doesn’t give a crap about your comfort, or the bees. They want better weapons.
Acoustic weapons are all the rage.“Simple high-intensity sound causes the inner ear to generate nerve impulses that register as sound. Since the inner ear also regulates spatial orientation, saturation of the inner ear by high-intensity sound may cause spatial disorientation. For example, loud music was used by American forces to drive Manual Norriega from the Vatican Embassy in Panama in 1990. High-intensity low-frequency sound may cause other organs to resonate, causing a number of physiological results, possibly including death. Acoustic weapons pose the hazard of being indiscriminate weapons, potentially imposing the same damage on friendly forces and noncombatants as on enemy combatants or other targets.” GlobalSecurity.org
Bees dropping from the sky confused around cell towers. Hmmm . . .related?
If you plan to join the growing number of hobby beekeepers the very first step should be to define your goals.I learned that the hard way.
It’s a wonderful thing to see the popularity of beekeeping keeps increasing.I love beekeeping for many reasons, but when I was first starting out the learning curve was very intimidating. And that’s coming from someone who usually adores learning.
Not only was there loads to learn about the bees themselves, but also about how to manage their colonies, which changes depending on your hive type, which is dependent on what your goals are as a beekeeper.
The first question to answer for yourself as a newbie is if you are interested in beekeeping as livestock or as habitat provider, or maybe both.
I had several mishaps in my first years because I hadn’t asked myself this most fundamental question.I hadn’t asked myself this because in all the books, forums, courses and club meetings I’d attended, no one asked this question.The general assumption is always that the beekeeper is interested in bees as livestock, because that’s what most want.
In this case, follow the commercial standards, using their Langstroth hives and peripheral equipment, their treatment schedules for pests and diseases, and their feeding programs and supplies, and you should be good to go.You can buy nucs (nucleus colonies) in the spring, and if all goes well you’ll have some honey before winter.This is by far the most popular route to take in beekeeping.
But it’s not for everyone, including me, which took me a few years to figure out.Honey, pollen, wax, propolis, royal jelly, queen rearing, and other processes and products from beekeeping are the main goals of this style of beekeeping and there’s lots to learn from the commercial operators who have mastered many of these skills for maximum efficiency and profit.
However, if you are interested more in providing habitat and learning from the bees, and creating truly sustainable, long-term, self-sufficient colonies in your space, following commercial practices is really not the way to go, and can lead to a lot of expense, confusion and frustration.
In the hopes of encouraging more beekeepers to become honeybee habitat providers rather than livestock managers only, here are a few tips and resources.
The conventional practice is to keep all your hives in a ‘bee yard’ for reasons of convenience and space.This is antithetical to bee colonies’ natural proclivity to nest far from one another. It creates problems of diseases and pests that spread rapidly in conditions of overpopulation, which is why so many treatments are needed, and then feeding when nectar/pollen flow is scarce, as well as being hyper-vigilant in your regular hive inspections to find issues immediately before they spread.Now that I have spaced my 6 hives out around a very large area I’m having far more success. But, only time will tell!
What else I’ve learned:
The typical Langstroth hive is made for easy transport and standardization purposes for the industry mainly, but they are not ideal for the honeybee habitat provider, because they are made with thin walls in order to be lightweight. This means they are poorly insulated and so not suitable for the long-term stability of the hive—getting too hot in summer in southern climates and too cold in winter in northern climates. Our top-bar hives and nucs have thick walls and insulated roofs.
If you want your bees adapted to your area and climate you don’t want to do the conventional practice of buying new queens every couple of years.Ideally, you’ll want your colonies to produce their own queens.Queen-rearing will remain an essential skill for a more advanced beekeeper, because occassionally you may still want to make splits to increase your numbers or to replace weak colonies, or to re-queen another hive displaying poor genetic traits.
When the colonies are weak, depending on the issue, they may need to be culled. This is rarely suggested by professional beekeepers who promote regular treatments on which the weak colonies then become dependent, while still spreading their weak genes on to subsequent generations and their diseases and pests to other colonies.
Just like the faulty logic of ‘herd immunity’ in the vaccine debate among human populations, many commercial beekeepers use the same complaint about those of us who want go au naturel,that is, treatment-free, with our bees.
Many scientists and researchers are trying to raise public awareness that this is not how herd-immunity works, not in livestock or in humans, and I applaud their efforts. I personally find referring to populations of people as a herd to be insulting. I think it actually trains individuals through neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to think of themselves and each other not as unique and separate individuals, but rather as cattle to be managed.
You’ll also want to mostly forgo the conventional practice of swarm prevention.The goal is for the bees to become self-sufficient, as in the wild, where colonies can live for decades with no hand from man to aid or to disturb.Some of these colonies are enormous, like one we found in an old oil barrel, there for over 15 years and thriving with multiple queens in the same colony, which most likely swarmed annually.
Swarming is a natural, bio-dynamic process performing many different functions for the colony, hygiene being an essential one. Everything the beekeeper takes away from their natural processes is a stress on them which must then be alleviated by other, most likely artificial, means.
Plant perennial and annual crops the bees like for your area and climate.Here in the south there are plenty of plants that bloom at different times most of the year, giving free bee buffets from early spring to late fall, like: bluebonnet, white clover, hairy vetch, wild mustard, vitek, morning glory, trumpet vine, yaupon, and lots of garden herbs and crops, too.It is my greatest pleasure to harvest cucumbers, peas, beans and arugula surrounded by forging bees—they love them as much as we do!
Experimenting and observing is the most fabulous feature of the honeybee habitat provider!
I know a homeschooling homesteader with an observation hive in their house that the children treasure.Not only do they learn from these fascinating creatures about how they operate in the hive, but how they are connected to the seasons and to their environment.They’re learning constantly from the colonies’ successes as much as from their failures.
I practice slightly different techniques with each hive to discover which methods work best here on the wee homestead: one hive has a screened bottom board, one I keep with a reduced entrance all year, one’s in full-sun and another partial shade, and so on.Not that this will necessarily solve the mystery of colony failure, but every bit of data helps!
Some unconventional resources:
The Shamanic Way of the Bee: Ancient Wisdom and Healing Practices of the Bee Masters by Simon Buxton (2004)
The Dancing Bees: An Account of the Life and Senses of the Honey Beeby Karl von Frisch (1953)
Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health by Les Crowder & Heather Harrell (2012)
Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture by Ross Conrad (2013)