There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. --- Henry David Thoreau

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do,
there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. -- The House at Pooh Corner

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My 2nd Year of Beekeeping Begins

There have been occasional warm days ever since the first of  2010. Our surviving colonies -- both of the hives in Ed's Eagle's Rest garden -- have been in and out foraging for nearly a month. While there is lots of tree pollen, not much nectar is available as of yet. I've been feeding them via Boardman feeders; one is inside the 'Country Bees' hive behind the follower board which has a special little notch cut to accept the feeder. The 'City Bees' hive has its feeder at the entrance. Both were small swarms captured last year in June. Neither colony was able to build up to a robust size, but both had collected enough stores to make it through the end of winter.

Now I realize there is some risk of robbing with the one feeder on the outside of the City Bees hive, but the alternative of not feeding is not acceptable. Surprisingly, before I installed the feeders, the bees had consumed all the Christmas candy canes I had placed on the floors of the hives. It's a neat trick I got from the local Beekeepers Association. Yes, I realize that's not a totally organic act, but you do what you have to do.  When our bees have succeeded in storing adequate honey,  I hope not to have to ever feed them sugar syrup or candy canes.

Over the winter I managed to build a redwood Warre` hive, set up my 24" kTBH bait hive, and acquire a Langstroth hive.  Along with my 'Hard Luck' Warre`  and Karen and Maria's now-empty 48" kTBH, that means I have vacancies for five more colonies as my 2nd year of beekeeping begins. I had enough luck last year with swarm catching that I feel confident that I can fill each of those hives.

Redwood Warre` hive  -- sat out most of the winter in the woodshed and is dry and seasoned. Its wooden walls are nearly an inch thick. As-is, the hive is probably impervious to weather damage for years to come; but I intend to put a coat of linseed oil on the exterior anyway. The redwood looks so beautiful when it's finished like that. I modified the roof from Warre's original design. This one has a flat roof copied from David Heath's roof design, which I covered with a corrugated plastic sheet rather than metal.

By the way, I've decided to quit making screened bottom boards for any future hives. Dee Lusby's position that they don't provide much help seems to me to be a pretty convincing argument against going to the trouble of building any more of them.  I'll just keep notes about the successes of the hives with screens and those without. Later on I can see what's right for us.

Bait Hive -- the last of the 2009 plywood hives. It has 18 wax-groove top bars and a nice flat rain-proof roof. Right now it's living on top of the greenhouse, all scented with lemongrass oil, on the off chance that a stray swarm will come along and take up residence. I intend to take it over to the grove of bee trees as Spring warms up. That way I'll have a small portable hive available as the tree colonies produce their annual swarms.

Langstroth hive -- why did I get one? I took Scot McPherson's adage to heart (the kind of box doesn't matter ...) and intend to do organic and natural beekeeping with it. The idea with the Lang is that it'll provide "standardization" to my beekeeping. I can receive and trade frames of brood or "nucs" or a super of bees from any of the conventional beeks around the area. (They're about 99% o f the beekeepers in my part of Oregon.) I can perform splits, maybe. ... and I can do any of the practices the organic langstroth beekeepers do and describe online, without having to modify each action to fit a Top Bar hive.

Actually I simply bought an unassembled deep, western super and a metal cover, all at great sale prices in the Glorybee retail store. I built the stand and bottom board in the same style as my Warre`s, out of pressure-treated lumber to withstand Oregon's muddy conditions. I got a package of frames, too, and set them up with the wedges turned vertically so as to provide a guide for the bees to build their combs naturally.

Hard Luck Hive -- that's what I decided to call my original plywood Warre` hive, seeing as it has lost the first two colonies I introduced to it. The first colony absconded in the first few days of last year's attempts, and the second colony were those ill-fated Oak Tree Bees that were poisoned and all died.  I just repopulated the hive two days ago with a hard luck colony with their own story. (see next post) Who knows if they'll make it!

I gotta find some bees soon for K and M's empty hive. Already their garden is blooming and they need the pollinators quick! (There's a chance that some package bees may come their way.)

I need to get a bait hive over to the Oak Tree Bees before it swarms up into that poisoned attic again.

Don Guill wants a hive. Sean -- Ed's next door neighbor -- loves the pretty yellow and white kTBHs in the Eagle's Rest garden and wants one, too.

I had thought last year that my "to do" list would be less crowded this time around. 



  1. Okay, maybe you explain this somewhere and I just haven't found it, but what exactly is so bad about Langstroth hives? And how exactly is a TBH assembled? Could you point me in the right direction for where to find this information?

  2. Hi Ashley!

    I've sent a few links about TBH assembly to your FB wall.

    As for Langs, nothing wrong with them per se. It's the way they are used. The Lang is mostly used in the farm unsustainable mode by too many beeks. I've sent you a little more about that too.