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!
Relatively speaking, we had an excellent year. I’m not the type to gloat, really. It comes as no surprise to me at all that my experience is pretty much the polar opposite of most folks most of the time. I accepted that ages ago and prefer to think I’m perfecting this ‘gift’ bit by bit, year by year.
Following are some highlights, some whys and hows and so forth, not meaning to boast or give advice, but rather to contrast previous years with my rosy 2020 perspectacles.
I perfected sourdough bread. I’ve been getting failures regularly for years without understanding why and thanks to one farm friend and her new guru, Elaine Boddy, I got the bitch slap needed to learn I was doing it ALL wrong. Not only was I making it infinitely more difficult than it had to be, I had a flabby starter and was creating needless waste. We’ve entered into higher consciousness sourdough on the wee homestead, praise be.
I have also become a Kombucha master. Really, a master. It’s easy to say that for a number of reasons, but especially because so few folks drink it around here, or like it once they try it, that it’s in the realm of ‘acquired tastes’ and only needs to appeal to Hubby, and two nearby friend-aficionados. I’ve been working on signature blends for months, using seasonal herbs and fruits, have Kombucha vinegar in a few flavors and am now aging Kombucha champagne. It’s the funnest thing ever. Or, I’m just a real geek like that.
Of course, no one becomes master without help, and in Kombuchaland, this is Scripture:
Three great gardening successes overshadow the multiple failures—like a second year of sweet potato perils and a fourth year of melon miseries. I leave those to ponder in an upcoming post. For now, it’s Cranberry hibiscus, Blue coco beans and Trombetta squash. I really can’t praise them enough and they were prolific and worry-free and I can’t wait to plant them again in profusion.
But I once said that about the sweet potatoes and the melons, so I’ll shut up now.
Extra-special mention goes of course to the best news of the year, Hubby’s layoff-rebranded early retirement, a somewhat unexpected miracle that has improved my reality already in very unexpected ways. Sometimes the true weight of a burden isn’t fully realized until it’s lifted.
I knew he’d take over most of my animal chores leaving me more time in the garden and the kitchen, where I most prefer to be. And that he’d build more and relax more and check off items on the to-do list at a more satisfying pace. We’ve added two large asparagus beds, coop 3.0 has raised the bar once more in poultry housing, the orchard looks positively professionally and my promised potting shed is in the planning phase finally.
What I had not expected was how good all of that would feel and that it would come so early and that he’d be so glad about it and that we’d be prepared enough for it to not miss the income much in the foreseeable future.
There’s incredible empowerment and peace of mind in preparing, and not just financially. It has gone in a single year from “Prepping” being something we heard mocked for a decade in the mainstream to now feeling like we were choosing wisely all along—not the easy road for sure, but the right road for us and the many others doing likewise.
And with that a wee bit of a boast.
And another. Still, mask-free, with no need or intention to alter that reality or any of the layers horse shit coming down the pipeline with it in future. Have I earned the right yet to say what I really think about these fucking vaccines? Decker, at Dispatches from the Asylum, says it best so far: vials of battery acid.
Just mark me down in your permanent ‘anti-vaxx’ file and if they send the goons to our house, warn them they’ll be given a good ole-fashioned goose chase. (hmm, bravado before breakfast, I must be feeling good!)
Food for thought for the New Year:
“Ignorantly worshiping our own being on the theater of the external world leads to pathological behavior and neurosis. We are ensnared and enslaved to the will of despots in all sorts of guises. We are wide open to irrationality, manipulation, mania and insanity. As parents often work to deliberately undermine our will and identity, the world’s leaders and misleaders use our psychic dissociation to their advantage. In fact, our estrangement from ourselves is the main reason for the rise of all tyranny. However, the deadly predicament ends the moment we heed the inscription at the Oracle of Delphi – “Gnothi Seuton” or Know Thyself. No other instruction is needed on the journey toward enlightenment.”
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. 🙂
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.
We must thank our lucky stars once again. Last post we caught our first swarm right in the garden, and if that wasn’t easy enough, this one flew right into our trap, as if guided by the Divine!
Positioned high in a pine tree with lovely views of open pasture, lightly seasoned with a few drops of lemon grass essential oil, move-in ready with two frames of fully drawn comb, and violà, our first volunteer tenants.
Apparently they were not privy to any shelter-in-place sort of order.
Guess who else is not abiding by the social distancing commands from their government . . .
And these crazy rebels, well, it’s just shocking how little they care . . .
Bubba does not respect their Authorité!
Buttercup doesn’t know what psy-op even means! Whaaaa?!?
Last night Tori came to me in a dream and stated matter-of-factly, “I’ll take ‘em all down, easy-peasy, just lemme at ‘em!”
And I replied, “No, each must choose for himself, otherwise we just get more tyranny.”
“LORD Technology is Saturn Worship. It’s the religion of slavery and narcissism. All academia, governments, and courts are Saturn worship. Christ is real. But people are worshiping a human sacrifice. He was the Passover Lamb. To give him your prana is to feed it to the owners of the ritual. The True Cross, or Christ, is a spiritual astringent – the most crucial archetype you can have to survive Saturnism. Christianity is a government trauma cult made by Saturnalians to keep you docile, meek, egoless, and dumb. The Bible was a relic of LORD Technology written to gaslight you. The book sucks all of your cosmology about God into the black hole of scripture. It’s a vacuum where your creativity and prana are sucked into deep space where it can do nothing forever.
I hope this clears things up. After all – this is the Apocolypse.” James True
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.
Not only do I show my age with this line, I also show my very poor taste in music during my university years. But, I did always love that line from the Beastie Boys: “Slow and low, that is the tempo.”
I repeat it to myself now because I know after a year like we had last year, this year for us on the wee homestead needs to be less work, no new projects, and more deep diving into those tasks, learning and activities we deem most necessary for the critters and the gardens, and most conducive to our own personal well-being.
This morning I stood for a while under our beautifully-blooming old pear trees bursting with lively buzzing—so much noisy activity was actually soothing, peaceful, motivating— there’s such a calm diligence in the bees’ seeming frenzy.
Winter’s not over yet, and we had what seems to be now the new-normal of continual weather whiplash, still I’m thrilled to report all our hives have made it so far, on a completely treatment-free program. Yippie!
In slow and low tempo we make a big stink of every success, small, medium, or large. 🙂
This is my favorite time of year for making pesto and chimichurra from foraged ‘weeds’. Making pesto in summer when everything else in the garden is demanding attention is not nearly as pleasant as crawling through the flourishing green beds snipping chickweed, violets, henbit, and more. Here’s an old post with links and recipes, if this is the year you want to try it for yourself.
Handy Hubby is soon on vacation for six weeks—the best time of year for us here! He’ll be wrapping up the fencing for the second pasture, and helping me redo the garden drip irrigation (neither being his preferred jobs by a long shot, thanks lovey, our greatest and most necessary trooper!)
In tough times it helps me to focus on the big picture; it helps Hubby to put his proverbial nose to the grindstone—that’s a damn good recipe for wholesome collaboration, and the perfect environment for talking past each other. All the more reason that slow and low will be the tempo.
Philosopher-homesteaders, don’t know this man yet? Appalachian wise man for deep thinking.
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)