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
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
A "Biodynamic" Lang
In an earlier post I mentioned acquiring a Langstroth hive to add to my little apiary. The idea is to practice organic and natural beekeeping while retaining the advantages of standard beekeeping equipment. Last week, if I had had this Lang hive ready, I could have picked up a colony one of the local Beek Association members was removing. She was keeping all her woodware, just relinquishing the frames and the bees only. I don't want to miss an opportunity like that again. Basically, now that I have at least one Lang hive, the next time a nuc is available, or a box o' bees, etc., I'll be set up to take 'em.
So, here it is, all painted with latex exterior house trim paint left over from last year's back porch remodel:
Inside, the frames are standard Lang-type frames, only there are no foundations -- I merely turned the top bar wedges sideways and fixed them in place with brads and some carpenter's glue. There are as yet not all that many places on the web to gather information on foundationless Langs, but this link is about the best place to get started.
This way the bees can build their own combs, their way. With all 10 deep frames for the brood, plus 10 Western or medium super frames above, the whole colony will have to produce a lot of their own wax, but this doesn't seem to be asking too much. Last year Ed's City Bees built a dozen combs on kTBH (Kenyan Top Bar Hive) top bars, and Karen's kTBH had a similar amount when we opened it at the end of winter. Ed's Country Bees were a very small swarm, yet by the beginning of winter they had built eight combs on their top bars too.
For the City Bees and the Country Bees, I had gone through that messy process of pouring melted beeswax in little slots cut down the center of the 1 1/4" top bars the way it's shown here. (Never again.) It's all nice and 3rd world-like in its simplicity; but it's not necessary after all is said and done. Using the popsicle-stick guide method, Karen's bees managed to build straight combs on all the top bars just as nicely. Karen and Maria simply rubbed cake beeswax on the bottom edge of the top bar popsicle sticks. Since that worked out so well, I'm doing the same on the bottom of the frame wedges of this Lang. (Actually -- as you can observe -- I'm letting Dashel take over that job.)
This idea of using Langstroth hives in a more natural organic way is starting to be referred to as "biodynamic beekeeping" in the UK, and there's a whole section on it in the Biobees forum. "Biodynamics" has a little weirdness for baggage on account of Rudolf Steiner's bee lectures. You can learn all you need about that by going here. Another term for it here in the US is holistic beekeeping, and has been applied to several different variants of beehives.
Speaking of variants of beehives, I've added the "Biodynamic" Lang to my tiny apiary of kTBHs and Warré hives, as shown here in my raised bed garden with my new redwood Warré. Both of these new hives have floors and stands integrated into one unit built with pressure-treated wood "feet" so the Oregon mud won't rot them. It's based upon the idea I posted in the links section, modifying the Ruches de Brunehaut French design.
So now I can make a split for a beek using Langs; or do any of those standard manipulations without rigging up a Frankenhive, or a bee Warré/Kenyan/Lang condominium or other setup. To move bees into a Warré or kTBH it can be a simple matter then of brushing the bees into the hive, or using swarm catching frames -- modifying them and the combs to fit the kTBH or Warré hive shape of any hive in my apiary. Since I now have a Langstroth to receive the initial frames and bees, I can do this patiently, without any haste. And ... prolly more "biodynamic" Langs will come along eventually.
It's the first week of May, and here in Oregon reports of swarm captures are starting to trickle in. It won't be long now before those hives are occupied.
This blog originates in Pleasant Hill/Dexter, Oregon. I try to summarize those little tips and bits of information and experience that no one who writes bee books bothers to explain. I've gathered up what lessons I could from 7 years (so far) of hands-on learning "the hard way"; from asking a lot of questions of seasoned, experienced Beeks; and from paying attention to the 'Net. My name is Tom Warren. [The picture above is of Molly, Ed, Sean and Twinkle, in the Eagle's Rest Garden and Beeyard]
Like many bee blogs, this one tends to not get updated with new posts like it should. (Lots of beeks give up on their blogs because they get busy with the hives and don't come in and sit at the computer) I quit beating myself up about no new posts, instead I've been told that the links and resources being present and updated makes this blog good enough to keep me at it. I'm keeping it active, even if it doesn't look like it. Patience, y'all.
Cut to the Chase ....
If you need to get started keeping bees real quick, THIS SECTIONwill give you tips and guidance on the things you need to do, in the order you need to do them. Then, Dear Reader, start from the bottom up and read about one Newbeek's meanderings toward how to save some of the bees ...