Posts Tagged ‘bee’

Imidacloprid – systemic pesticide, systemic problem…

April 6, 2012

Today’s CATCH THE BUZZ email, published by Kim Flottum of Bee Culture magazine offers two completely opposing statements concerning the use of the systemic neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid.

http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2012.04.05.17.00.archive.html

There’s just something really WRONG with a system that can say this:

“This is a key part of our wider commitment to ensure the safe and responsible use of pesticides.”

When will we learn to SCREAM when we hear a sentence so inexplicable – so illogical – so completely  WRONG???

 

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Ground bees? They are not always wasps, hornets, yellowjackets…

April 6, 2012

A lovely and informative post about “ground bees” from Soulsby Farm’s blog by Denise Ellsworth – honey bee and native pollinator education from The Ohio State University Department of Entomology.

With great pictures too!  Check it out…  http://soulsbyfarm.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/native-bees-welcome-springs-arrival/

 

 

The resourcefulness of beekeepers…

January 12, 2012

Recently I read a response to a blog post on Dennis Murrell’s Natural Beekeeping blog.  Dianna wrote to describe how she had recycled oak fence boards into a Warre hive with her circular saw, for next to nothing in $$$ and happily, still has all her fingers!

We thought she was pretty smart, and the oak must look awesome!

Here’s what we said back to her:

Dianna – What a great example of recycling and resourcefulness!  We would love to see a pic of your Warre hive – maybe you could post it on our Facebook page?  It’s here: http://www.facebook.com/goldstarhoneybees and we love to see pictures!  (We also love it when you click “like”if you like our Facebook page!)

There are a lot of extremely resourceful beekeepers out there – and many of them with a very well developed woodworker “gene”.  They also understand the value of having interchangeable parts – so that beekeepers can work together.  They understand that “a hive can save a hive” – an open bar of brood is the natural solution to a queenless hive.  But the parts have to fit between hives!

So in addition to our  “bells & whistles” Deluxe TBH hive ($495), which comes as a complete kit,  we also have the plans for a Gold Star hive kit in both of our DIY kits —  DIY#1 ($50) AND DIY#2 ($295).

The Deluxe kit contain all the wood, the glass window, the hardware, painted roof – everything – and goes together with nothing more than a screwdriver and a staplegun –

But with the DIY #1, YOU do ALL of the woodworking, and you are building the same box you see for sale on the website – and you know that it matches up with all existing Gold Star hives.

With a DIY #2, you build the box, roof and legs, but you GET the top bars.  And if you’ve GOT the top bars, then you want to be darned sure it all works together, so we also include the follower boards.   We like to call those follower boards “the keys to the kingdom” – because if you build the box to be a fit to the followers, then the top bars will also be a perfect fit.   Voila!  Gold Star quality, and hive interchangeability!

Both DIY kits include all the hardware as well.  This is our response to the “Big Box Bubble Pack” – where you have to buy a plastic bubble package containing 60 of something you only need 14 of.  Or a 100 foot roll of hardware cloth/screen that you only need 4 feet of.

And as Dennis mentioned – it’s very nice to have all your fingers – we think beekeepers should be able to count to ten!  You can read Dennis’ blog (in its new format!) here: http://beenatural.wordpress.com/

There’s a video about our different kits here:  http://youtu.be/AR_yaFnLnkU

You can find our website here:  http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com.

And you can ask us questions here:  info@goldstarhoneybees.com

Thanks for listening!

Christy Hemenway

Gold Star Top Bar Hives since 2007

About honey bees and January… and April…

December 31, 2011

About honey bees and January… and April…

Beekeeping is funny, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a spring thing, right?  The flowers are blooming, gardens are growing, bees are buzzing, it’s an exciting, growing time. But to understand how “things bee” get started up in the spring, you have to go backwards into the winter, to see how things arrived at spring. For instance, honeybees finish up the summer season and go into the hive in the fall, where they cluster, and they do something akin to hibernating all winter long. Continuing beekeepers have to force themselves to sit on their hands all winter long–you can’t open up a hive in freezing temperatures, at least not with happy results.

New beekeepers, on the other hand, who are just getting started in the spring, have been planning for their brand new hives since the dead of winter. So these beekeepers discover that ordering bees should be done in January! The honey bee suppliers that I talk with are, like me, usually sold out of package bees by mid-March at the latest.  So new beekeepers are usually johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to ordering their first bees.

But consider the continuing beekeeper whose bees don’t overwinter. April is said to be the cruelest month in beekeeping, at least here in New England. Sometimes you see these hives flying in February, and again in March–but come April that hive is dead. That beekeeper did not even stand a chance when it came to ordering bees; and so, it’s not unusual for experienced beekeepers to order some packages of bees in January as “insurance”. Yes, that seems counterintuitive – if you think that’s odd, you’re right. January by rights is the month for sitting by the fire, and thumbing through your seed catalog, not for ordering honeybees.

The thing to know is this: if you are just beginning your beekeeping journey, be prepared to order package bees as early as possible. January is not too early. And if you are continuing your beekeeping journey, it is not a bad idea to order an insurance package, in the event that April does you wrong. The thing about having ordered a package in January, and then not needing it–is that now you have a cause for celebration! And a sad beekeeper, who didn’t order bees but then learned that their hive was gone in April, will celebrate too – and will be grateful to you when it turns out that you don’t need that package of bees.

So the moral is: order early, order often! It’s far more frustrating to need bees and not have them, then it is to have bees and not need them. I can almost guarantee you that somebody will be happy to get your “insurance package” when April rolls around. Of course, if your bees successfully overwintered, and now you have an additional colony, well – what part of this is a bad plan?

But when it comes to planning–if you think you *might* need bees–order bees. You’re not likely to be sorry. And besides, it’s a cheerful thing to think about bees when you’re huddling by the wood stove in January!

 

**For quality top bar beekeeping equipment, be sure to visit our webpage at http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com!**

A Christmas beekeeping blog…

December 25, 2011

Beekeeping.

Just what IS beekeeping? Is it art? Is it science? Is it magic? It’s notoriously difficult to define… Is it a hobby?  Is it a habit?  Is it an obsession?  Just what is it?

And what about those funny little bugs? Just what is it about bees?  They sting, yes – so it’s prudent to be cautious when you’re around them – but they only sting when they’re defending something?  Who knew? And it’s a kamikaze mission, that once-in- a-lifetime sting of a honeybee.  They never do it frivolously – it’s a life or death proposition for the honeybee.

Yet beekeepers can be seen standing, sitting, lounging in the vicinity of their hives for hours, and just… watching. That’s it – just watching the bees flying in and out of the hive. It’s mesmerizing.  It’s as if we think that if we watch long enough, we’re going to figure out their secret.

Truly, what we humans really know about honeybees is pretty limited. We cannot see inside the hive, we cannot see inside their minds, we barely even believe in a concept as advanced as a hive mind or a holistic super organism.

That’s probably one of the reasons that so much damage has been done – not only to the honeybee, but to our food system over the course of recent history. Because we don’t necessarily believe in magic or in a hive mind. We’re used to living isolated and alone, so how could this humble insect know, and live by, something so community-oriented, something so complex that we humans can’t understand it?

The honeybee has much to teach us about cooperation. Living and working together, taking only what we need, never damaging the planet that sustains us–but only ever helping and supporting it. We could go a long way on the things that we could learn from bees.

My Christmas wish to all of us would be this–that we take a lesson from the honeybees. That we learn to live in connection with the world around us–supporting and nurturing it, instead of industrializing and destroying it. That we learn to live in harmony with each other, recognizing the importance of each to the whole.

And as we take steps in that direction, we will find a sense of peace, of joy, of good will towards all men.

And that would make for a pretty good Christmas gift.

4th of July Message from Gold Star Honeybees

July 1, 2011

Hello Fellow Top Bar Beekeepers —

Well, here we are – it’s almost the 4th of July.  I know that all of you first year top bar beekeepers  have had some interesting experiences since becoming a beekeeper this spring, some good, some bad, all of them different – and I just thought I’d offer a few insights to you all about the way beekeeping season progresses from my point of view as a beekeeper, bee school teacher and equipment manufacturer.

In the early spring, there’s a great deal of excitement – making plans, buying equipment, going to bee school, learning everything you can, waiting for your bees.  We interact a lot – school is fun, questions are interesting, lots of anecdotes get passed around.

Then your bees come!  Everyone is SO excited, and you all go home and put your bees in their hive, then wait and worry and wonder.  You discover questions you hadn’t even thought to ask – how to do this or that, why are the bees doing x or y.  Then your bees get their bearings and start doing what bees do.  It’s fun and we all enjoy it.  You tell your friends about your new enterprise.

At that stage, it gets pretty quiet at Gold Star Global Headquarters.  I don’t hear from anybody.  Sometimes I check to see if my phone is even getting a dial tone!  Then the season progresses – to right about now, when folks have had their bees for somewhere between 4 – 8 weeks – and then I start to get a different set of questions.

And what I can generally tell by the 4th of July is that everyone is a little worried.  Everyone would like a little reassurance.  Everyone would like it if I could come and inspect their bees.  Some of you even offer to pay me to come and inspect your bees.  I appreciate it that you see me as such an expert!

But I hope that I have been able to get it across that the reality of beekeeping is that bees do what bees do – they are not machines, and they are definitely not predictable.  We want to see them build a brood nest, and store honey.  We inspect them and try to keep them making their combs straight so that our top bar hive remains a “moveable comb” hive.  But other than offering them sugar syrup to supplement what nature provides, or providing a new queen, or the means to make a new queen if needed, or monitoring for mite levels – there is not much we can actually do to change the course of things happening in the hive.  Nature is in control of that process and it is for us to watch in wonder.  That means that sometimes we will see things thrive, sometimes not.

Nature is awesome and in the face of her wisdom, we often feel powerless.  I get it.  Sometimes it’s thrilling, sometimes it’s heartbreaking.  Often it makes me feel small and inadequate.

So I know how much you want that reassurance.  There are days that I want it too.  I wish I could provide it.  But as Gold Star Honeybees grows – that becomes less and less feasible.  Which is truly bittersweet for me – I would love to stay personally connected to each and every one of you and see all of your bees.

But this growing is also a good thing.  Because it means that together we are building a larger community!  It’s getting more bees onto natural beeswax and into treatment-free lifestyles, and away from contaminated wax foundation and “Big Ag” style manipulations.  For most of you, that was the reason you gave for starting this journey – to keep healthier bees – for the bees, for beekeepers, and for the planet.

So I just want to remind you that what you’ve done is take a very bold, brave step.  You’ve become an iconoclast – breaking with established systems and practices that no longer make sense, and you’ve struck out and begun doing this very different thing, and I know that you sometimes feel very alone.

But all of you are Thinking Beekeepers – and I just want to repeat to you what you may have heard first at the end of a Gold Star Weekend Intensive class:

“Walk on, Beekeeper – this journey matters.”

Thanks for listening.  All the Best to you and your bees.  And have a great 4th of July weekend.

🙂
— Christy

I’m sorry about the bags….

November 24, 2010

I’m sorry about the bags….

Those damned plastic bags.  Boy, I remember well when those became the rage at the grocery store.  I hated them!  I hated the way they just hung there, jumbling all your groceries against each other.  I hated the way they fell over when you sat them down in your car and all your groceries rolled around on the floor.  I hated the way they sounded (and I had a cat that used to love to chew them so I know that sound really really well).   But most especially I hated the way they blew down the road and got caught in the branches of trees – flapping and flapping there – some sort of sick banner set out in tribute to our inability to treat the earth gently.  I really truly hated them.

And being the kind of person that is rather known for “telling you how I really feel”, one day I walked into the office at work and accosted the office manager with my hatred of plastic grocery bags.  I ranted and railed and raved.  He was amused.  He could not for the life of him understand what I was so excited about.  I was exasperated.  I spluttered and explained it again.  He was still nonchalant about the whole thing.  I left in disgust.

Today, there are places where those plastic bags are banned.  They are literally against the law.  I love that.  And if they aren’t banned, it’s at least likely that you’ll see reusable shopping bags for sale right beside the cash register – so it’s as easy to purchase one on an impulse as it is to buy a pack of gum, or a copy of People magazine, or the National Enquirer, on a last minute whim.  One local health food store in Brunswick, Maine: Morning Glory Foods, even keeps a basket near the register for a “bag swap” – it works kind of like a penny cup – Need one?  Take one.  Got one?  Leave one.  I find this a fantastic idea – good spirited, eco-friendly, sort of a “share the wealth” concept.  And I’ve left bags there – both paper and the reusable kind – but there must be a lot of people out there like me – because lots of times, you hit the checkout, and the basket is empty.

Lately it really grates on my nerves that if you aren’t ready with your reusable bag, the baggers mostly don’t wait to ask you “paper or plastic?” anymore – they just sort of assume that plastic is the bag of choice.  Many times I have un-bagged and re-bagged my groceries right there at the checkout, leaving the now intractable wisp of plastic bag quivering and floating there on the checkout counter – explaining that I hate the plastic bags and while I would really rather be using a reusable bag, at least a paper bag that knows how to get soggy and mushy and fall apart in the rain and begin to decompose is better than those hideous plastic things.

And speaking of reusable bags – for a long time now I have made it a practice that if I forget my reusable bags – I buy one.  Every time.  No excuses.  It’s only a buck, and it matters.  I keep hoping that one day this will teach me to remember to bring the bags – which too often don’t make it back out to the car between grocery runs, or I stop off on the way to/from somewhere else in an attempt to save the gas by combining trips and don’t have them with me — but so far what seems to have happened is that I have a gargantuan collection of reusable grocery shopping bags that are never where I need them.

With all that said – you can be sure that when my partner walked in today, heavy laden with a veritable cornucopia of wonderful organic food for our Thanksgiving feast – and from one of the best places to buy wonderful organic food that there is: Whole Foods Market, I was thrilled.  But they arrived in four double-bagged paper shopping bags.  About that I was dismayed.

So when we had put this embarrassment of riches away into the cabinets and rearranged the contents so that everything would fit in the refrigerator around the organic turkey, I looked down at all these paper shopping bags sitting there on my kitchen floor, and I shuddered to think about how careless we are about our planet and I marveled at how easy it ought to be to remember that you need to take a bag to go shopping but how hard it turns out to be to put into practice, and in a bad bag moment, inside my head, I said to the Earth — “Geez.  I’m sorry about the bags.”

PS – Many thanks to Jimmy for bringing the makings of a bona fide feast all the way from Whole Foods today – and no slam on him about the bags, half of those bags have gone to the store and back 3 or 4 times by now.  So obviously this is my particular failing to conquer and one day – one day I will get it.

Thanks for listening!

— Christy Hemenway

(c) 2010 Christy Hemenway      www.goldstarhoneybees.com

A little “chit-chat” about saving the bees…

November 24, 2010

On November 5, 2010 at the Lincoln Street Art Center in Rockland, Maine, I got to do a very fun thing.  It was called “Pecha Kucha” – a name I found mostly unpronounceable for weeks after I first heard it.  Turns out it means “chit chat” in Japanese.  And it was developed by architects (Japanese ones!)  to provide a forum for architects who wanted to showcase their work, but for which there was no really effective venue. Or at least not one that could contain the enthusiasm of these architects for their work – and prevent them from monopolizing the conversation.

So they created Pecha Kucha nights – and developed a very controlled and specific format for doing just that.  And here it is, ready?  It’s  20 slides,  20 seconds.  So a Pecha Kucha presentation lasts a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  It’s a little bit like a tiny TED presentation.  (Do you know about TED?  There’s an idea worth Googling…)

At any rate – they asked me to do one.  I was so excited about the idea, I said YES in capital letters.  Then I began the process of preparing my 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  Simple enough, I thought – I’ll just pick 20 pictures having to do with bees, and talk about them.  That’ll be easy!  It’s only 6 minutes and 40 seconds, right?  How hard can it be?

Ha, I say to you.  Not so quick, missy.  It’s amazing how looooooooong 20 seconds becomes when you don’t have anything to say.  And how short it is when the slide has changed and you still had more to squeeze in!

I was as nervous as a cat on Pecha Kucha night.  Strung out tighter than a bowstring, you might say.  I was third on the program.  It seemed an eternity.  But afterward, as I walked off the stage in my bee boots, all I could think of was “Can we do that again?”  It was a blast.  And it seemed like the audience enjoyed it too.

So we’ve decided to post the script on this blog, (see below) and you can, if you like, see a video of the presentation here:  http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=15&cat=Interesting+Stuff

Thank you again to all the folks at Pecha Kucha night in Rockland, Maine for letting me on stage to do this – here’s a link to their website – http://www.midcoastmagnet.com/content/pecha-kucha .   And thanks to Jeff too.  He knows who he is.

And here is some info about Pecha Kucha nights in general:  http://www.pecha-kucha.org/what. They are springing up in cities all over – you might even be interested in starting one in your town!

Okay, so here’s the script.  Thanks for listening!

A little “chit-chat” about saving the bees…

*  Slide 1 – (Think outside the box television t-shirt)
This is a t-shirt put out by the Life is Good people.  Don’t you just love those guys?  They are such a great reminder to “Do what you like, and Like what you do.”   And since I don’t even own a television, I particularly liked this shirt.  I spend a lot of my time thinking outside the box.  And no time at all watching television…  (0:20)

* Slide 2 – (the bug in question)
So that’s probably one of the reasons that beekeeping seemed like a perfectly reasonable pursuit to me.  Never mind the apparent lunacy of sticking one’s hands into a box filled with stinging insects, the little bugs just seemed magical, fascinating… much better than the stuff you find on television!  I set out to know more.  (0:40)

Slide 3 – (bee school)
And so off I went to bee school.  As you do.  And I learned about bees.  And about the keeping of bees, and many other things bee…  And then, on the very last day of the very last class, we had this big Q & A session.  Timidly raising my hand, I asked:   What did bees do — before beekeepers?    (1:00)

* Slide 4 – (pin dropping)
You could have heard the proverbial pin drop.  I was shocked!  Did nobody know the answer, or was nobody telling?  Had I spoken the unspeakable?  Since that day and that Q&A, I’ve heard a lot of answers to that question, and I have even made up some new ones of my own.  But that very loud moment of silence sent me down a new path.  (1:20)

* Slide 5   (Bee boots)
That path led me to question most everything I’d learned in bee school.  When you think that bees have existed on this planet for many millions of years and us humans for only a few hundred thousand… that’s pretty humbling, or it should be!     So I set out to discover what bees did before we came along.  The next slide shows us the essence of what bees do when left to their own devices. (1:40)

* Slide 6 – (Natural wax)
The honeycomb inside a beehive serves as both the “heart” and the “skeleton” of the bee colony.  The bees make thousands of those little six-sided cells, from teeny weeny wax flakes, secreted from itty bitty wax glands in their bellies – and they arrange them in the hive according to an intuition that only bees know.   (2:00)

* Slide 7 –  (Foundation in frame)
This is the kind of “skeleton” you find inside a square box beehive.  This is a piece of “foundation” inserted into a square “frame” and presented to the bees to “help” them make honeycomb.  Foundation is a sheet of beeswax that comes preprinted with hexagons – as if bees needed to be taught about how to make hexagons…  (2:20)

* Slide 8 –  (One size does not fit all)
The primary problem with those pre-printed hexagons is this — each and every one of them is the very same size!!!  This is no surprise, or evil master plan – it’s just that foundation is made by a machine, and machines know very little about the magic of bees.   Because as it turns out – bees don’t come in just one size.  And especially not as they begin their lives!  (2:40)

* Slide 9 –  (pix of brood and queen cells)
These are baby bees – we call this “brood”.  You got your girl bees – called workers.  You got your boy bees – called drones.  The hexagons that these baby bees are raised in are very different, as you see here… and then there is another kind of  magic altogether that goes on when the bees make a new queen!  (3:00)

* Slide 10 – (Langstroth hive)
But us humans, (with our big brains and our opposable thumbs) we fear nothing like we fear inconvenience.  And so, beekeeping began to be more about beekeepers and not so much about bees.  Hives became square boxes, easily stacked.  Bees were given square frames and preprinted foundation to use as the heart and skeleton of their nest.  This did not make sense to us in our search!  (3:20)

* Slide 11 – (Think outside the box beehive t-shirt)
So when we started thinking about thinking outside THIS box – we felt that the first thing we needed to do was to put the bees back into beekeeping.  We started to pay close attention to what bees did (without beekeepers) and we can tell you that there are three very important things that bees do without any encouragement from us at all:   (3:40)

* Slide 12 –  (Swarm at New Aim Farm)
Here is Thing One — Bees make more bees.  Contrary to Hollywood’s horror stories, swarming is the amazing, if somewhat startling process by which one colony of bees turns itself into two.  If bees didn’t do this, with all the recent problems with bees, we’d be all out of bees by now!  This is the first swarm I ever went up a ladder after – in 2007.   (4:00)

* Slide 13 –  (Bees pollinating fruit, veg, nut, flower)
This is Thing Two – Bees pollinate the stuff we eat.  Fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs – all of these plants need bees.  Pollination is the plants’ way of reproducing – it’s a symbiotic relationship that the plants have developed with bees.  We think it’s a good idea!  (4:20)

* Slide 14 –  (Adam Mcnally’s honey harvest pic)
And Thing Three – Bees make honey.  Oddly enough, honey is what honeybees eat!  And honeybees are smart – they know to make lots of food during times of plenty for those times when there is no food.  But us humans — you know, big brains — opposable thumbs — we put a lot of energy into “helping” bees to do what they already do – and sometimes our “helping” makes a mess.  (4:40)

* Slide 15 –  (It’s not about the honey, Honey  t-shirt)
Healthy bees do all the important things that bees do without any coaxing or cajoling or forcing, or manipulating.  So the important thing for us humans to do would be to focus on healthy honey bees.  We think “It’s not about the honey, Honey – it’s about the bees!  So how does that translate into our right livelihood?  (5:00)

* Slide 16 – (Forsythia hive)
At Gold Star Honeybees we believe that we “build a better beehive”.  This is a picture of our Gold Star Top Bar Hive.  We know that really, it’s just another box – and we hope that one day we will learn to think outside of this box, too.  But for now – it’s pretty convenient and easy and green, it’s even ergonomically friendly for beekeepers, but more importantly — it works FOR bees and not AGAINST bees.  (5:20)

* Slide 17 – (Bees flying in and out of top bar hive)
The bees that live in this box make their own beeswax,  in their own way – they make the cells the right sizes, and they put them in the right places.  So this is a box full of beeswax made BY bees, FOR bees.  You might say that they are “minding their own beeswax!!!”   (5:40)

* Slide 18 – (Natural wax – up close)
And since that beeswax functions as both the skeleton and the heart of the colony – we think it’s hugely important that it be as the bees need it to be.  And any time that us humans (you know – big brains, opposable thumbs) – anytime we’re tempted to think that we’ve come up with something “new and improved”, maybe we ought to think again!   (6:00)

* Slide 19 –  (I love bees t-shirt)
At Gold Star Honeybees – we feel like we have found our heart.  We know that we are out to save the world, by saving the bees.
So this is our message to you — “Do what you like, like what you do.”
Because when you follow your heart — the rest of it all comes together.    (6:20)

Slide 20 –  (Mentos beekeeper!)
And we’d like to leave you with this thought about the world and the way it works – ready?  Here is how you can help save the bees without sticking your hands into a box full of stinging insects —
Live your life knowing this —
That if you tug at a single thing in nature, you’re gonna find that it’s attached to everything else.

EVERYthing else.

Thank you.

(Mentos!)   (6:40)

(c) 2010  by Christy Hemenway.   Gold Star Honeybees  www.goldstarhoneybees.com

What did bees do before beekeepers?

September 16, 2010

Greetings!
Have you gotten interested in natural beekeeping recently?  Have you been to “regular” bee school and come away confused by all the focus on diseases and mites and chemical treatments and other things that your heart tells you, deep down, shouldn’t really have anything to do with bees?
Do you somehow feel like you are all by yourself in a crowd – the only person concerned about the way we are treating bees?
I promise you – you are not alone.  I felt that way for a time too.

But with all the “sturm und drang” in the news media now about the plight of the honeybee – and especially the concern about “CCD”, (the acronym we use for the scariest of all the current bee problems:  “Colony Collapse Disorder”) —  it’s not surprising to me any more how many folks are searching for healthier and more natural methods of beekeeping.

I had a similar experience when I first got interested in honey bees.  I attended a conventional beekeeping course, and I left those classes thinking “There has just GOT to be a better way”.

There was all this insistence that you MUST treat your bees.  You MUST feed your bees.  You MUST do this and you MUST do that.  But never any talk about what honey bees do, or when, or why, or how they do things when they are doing them their own way.

I definitely felt alone – everyone else seemed to be buying into these methods and the chemical treatments and the manipulations.  But I still had a question.  A lot of questions, actually, but one big one that to me seemed crucial to understanding bees and beekeeping.

Finally, on the last day of bee school, at the big Q & A session – I gathered up all my courage and got brave enough to ask my biggest question.   I thought it was a simple question.  Here is what I asked:

“What did bees do before we gave them wax foundation?”

Wax foundation

Wax foundation

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?  All I wanted to know was how the bees made honeycomb before beekeepers came along and provided them with rectangular sheets of beeswax with  pre-printed hexagons on them.  But when I asked that question, you could have heard a pin drop in that classroom.
I still don’t understand why there was such a silence.  Maybe it was just too “radical” for a beginning beekeeper to challenge anything about the way bees have been kept in America since 1853.    But in the end what happened was this:

I had asked the question.  But I got no answer.

So I set out on a quest.  What did bees do before beekeepers gave them wax foundation?  Or more to the point, what did bees do — before beekeepers?
In very simple terms that quest led to the founding of Gold Star Honeybees, and our very simple answer to a very important question.  Top Bar Hives – filled with clean, natural wax honey comb – beeswax made by bees, for bees.

“Because this is what bees did before beekeepers.”

What bees did before beekeepers...

Does this attitude match up with yours?  Check us out at www.goldstarhoneybees.com.  We’ve been looking for you – we need your help in saving the bees.

RE-CALIBRATING THE BEE-ATTITUDES (Part four)

September 16, 2010

Here’s another bee-autific little blurb in our series of bee-attitudes in need of re-calibrating – this is BEE-ATTITUDE #4:
“Left to their own devices, honeybees will raise too many drones.”  This one really shocks me.  Too many drones?  How many drones is too many drones?  Who is counting them?  Would the bees spend their energy on something they did not need?  It doesn’t seem likely to me…
Add to this the effect that limiting drone production has on genetic diversity, and well… that’s a scary thing too.

And it is often said that varroa mites prefer to reproduce in drone comb – but a quick bit of math will show you that it’s just EASIER to get IN to drone cells to breed, since the larval stage, before the cells are capped, is longer by a day than that of a worker.  But in fact, having already changed the larval stage of all the bees in the hive by forcing the size of the cell in the way that foundation does – odds are pretty darn good that any old cell will do – and think about this – if we’ve been limiting drone product and that’s such an effective way of reducing the varroa mite population, then why are we at the point where all the wax is contaminated with all the chemicals we had to use to treat for varroa mites in hives that weren’t allowed to raise any drones?
Ouch – that one might make your head spin…

I think the bees know what the numbers should be — there’s no such thing in their minds as “too many” drones.

Does this attitude match up with yours?  Check us out at www.goldstarhoneybees.com.  We’ve been looking for you – we need your help in saving the bees.