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Week Five - Sustainable Bee Keeping
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Week Five - Sustainable Bee Keeping

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learn about bee friendly practices, top bar hives and how to manage bees when the well being of the bees is more important than harvesting the honey. See how developing countries are using the top …

learn about bee friendly practices, top bar hives and how to manage bees when the well being of the bees is more important than harvesting the honey. See how developing countries are using the top bar hive as a cheap alternative to the langstroth hive


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  • 1. Week Five Sustainable Beekeeping Dara K. Dimitrov dkd4@waikato.ac.nz
  • 2. Why Natural Bee Keeping?  Efforts towards holistic practices in raising and caring for bees  Natural bee keeping seeks to understand the nature of the bees  It is an apicentric approach to bee keeping  The welfare of the bees are primary focus  Unlike conventional beekeeping which relies on the conventional agricultural solutions (chemicals and man-made solutions)
  • 3. Traditional Ethiopian Bee Hives
  • 4. Encouraging Indicators for Sustainable Bee Keeping  Bees who have swarmed seem to do better than hives that haven’t  Bees that overwinter on their own honey do better than hives that are fed sugar water  Bees that forage on predominantly organically cultivated land also exhibit better resistance to viruses and parasites
  • 5. Bee Cell Regression  This is to do with cell size  Bees vary over a wider range than the cell size  Cell size can also vary depending on the bee size  Large cells = larger bees  Cells can be anywhere from 4.9mm to 5.5mm  Commercial bee keepers may use hives to produce drawn comb for when they divide their hives later
  • 6. Bee Cell Regression  Forced regression – place foundation sheets in the hive  Natural regression - no foundation at all – the bees are free to build the cells any way they wish.  Letting bees build their comb with a natural cell size is a fundamental tenet of sustainable bee keeping
  • 7. Issues with Forced Regression  Large bees, from large cells cannot build natural sized cells  They will always build something in between for brood cells (5.1mm)  Natural sized cells have less Varroa – their capping time is shorter (by up to 24 hours) and therefore there is less mites
  • 8. Swarm into a Sunhive  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HndNezyzWGw&feat ure=player_embedded
  • 9. Top Bar Hives  Designed for developing countries – so simple and easy  Less expensive: no frames, foundation, covers etc  Can easily be manipulated – less heavier than working with a honey super (box) from a Langstroth  Low tech hive – you can use any stray material around to make your hive  The bars are where the bees build their foundation – so more wax – every bar with honey is an entire bar of wax
  • 10. Working with Top Bars  You have to remove the bars – carefully – so you are better to work with a knife or screw driver than with a hive tool (the foundation is fragile and can be easily broken)  The foundation is usually  Uneven and odd shaped (this is the natural method of regression) – with travel tunnels  The bees will build the foundation down into the ‘space’ under the bars (so the foundation may sometimes stretch across bars) – so you have to do more comb correction and destruction to keep the comb freely movable  Bees have to rebuild any combs you remove each year You must be able to inspect the top bar frames for disease
  • 11. Top Bars Hives & Comb  Comb is loaded in the same way as Langstroth hive  Always work with the bar carefully – there is no frame to support the comb and so DON’T HOLD THE FRAME SIDEWAYS (it will break off)  If it breaks off – you can reattach it with a hair slide that will attach to the bar and grab the comb (cut it out later)  You can use a piece of string soaked in wax and attach it to the top bar to give the bees something to attach it  If the comb is curved – you can ‘straighten’ the comb by slicing it gently at the ends and squeezing it back down  Burr comb (bits that jut out) – cut them off You want to get a beautiful bar of honey from your top bar
  • 12. Top Bar Hive  Working with the hive  You have to work VERY carefully  Using a knife – slip the knife along the bar – to separate it from the other bars (its is way better than the hive tool)  If there are any burrs (cross-sections between the bars) – cut vertically through the burrs carefully  Remove 2 frames (in the same way as the Langstroth) – laying them down gently  And then work through the hive by shifting the bars toward the empty end The bees are suppose to be much happier in Top Bar Hives
  • 13. Biodynamics and Bees The environment is seen as a strong, self-sustaining, vibrant organism - Each component of the organism is seen as a different component of the whole organism - Special natural manures are used - Herb based preparations are applied to the grounds to improve the fertility - Only natural products are used to stimulate the microbiological life in the soil - It also incorporates using the rhythms associated with the sun, moon and planets – using the lunar calendar
  • 14. Bees and Biodynamics  Introducing bee friendly practices  No insecticides nor pesticides which unsafe for bees (eg neonicotinoids – which are fatal for bees)
  • 15. Bee Friendly Practices  Placing the hives at least 1m off the ground  Ideal is 2.5 – 6 metres  Never on the ground  It is warmer off the ground and receives more light  Value the bees as pollinators first and honey producers second  Planting gardens full of flowers and forage  ‘messy’ gardens with lots of flowering weeds  Modern plants are ‘sterile’ and not bee food  Avoid any chemicals
  • 16. Bee Friendly Practices  Harvest honey only in the late spring when there is sufficient honey flow  Allow the bees to overwinter on their own honey rather than feeding them sugar syrup  Allow the bees to reproduce naturally – let them swarm  Only open the hive when necessary  Opening the hive causes the bees to be stressed  It can take more than 24 hours for them to recover
  • 17. Bee Friendly Practices  Select your apiary site carefully  Make sure that the bee density is low  It is away from industry, traffic and farm fields where pesticides and chemicals are used  The bees are on that site permanently  Bees that live near conifers (pine trees) are unusually healthy – so place near a pine forest
  • 18. Perone Hive  A VERY big version of the top bar hive  Is made out recycled wood  Basically a big square with bars in it  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgriYH8gncQ
  • 19. Guest Speaker for Next Week  Cameron from the Waikato Domestic Bee Keepers Association  Possibly the commercial guys too