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, September 19, 2010

Smoker Irony

Yeah ... well ... I don't use my smoker a lot. Obviously. Looks new, doesn't it? I think I've only had it lit about twice. Nobody uses one with horizontal kTBHs, I think. Like a lot of other newbeeks of the biodynamic/organic persuasion, I've been working without it when I open the vertical hives. I mean, I just haven't seen the need to use it. So these wasps were able to turn the neglected smoker into a nice home. I s'pose if I ever start moving around lots of supers or Warré boxes and do more harvesting and splitting and stuff, I may rile up the bees enough to start using smoke.

I let a few wasp's nests stay around, for the sake of balance and biodiversity in the garden; but I encourage most of them to seek other habitat, since they do attack my bees. I think these guys are gonna have to go.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vancouver and the Bees

So I was gone from the blog for awhile. One of the things I did while away was to travel to British Columbia ... an awfully nice part of the planet. For part of the vacation Molly and I traveled by ferry from Vancouver, BC to Victoria on Vancouver Island. On the ferry were several notices and stickers on port windows warning visitors to the island that it was prohibited to bring honeybees in. I since learned that the stickers are obsolete, the BC Government having relaxed some of their prohibitions against importing honeybees to restore their varroa-devastated honeybee stock. I'm not sure of the actions' consequences, but the sticker was a good indication that Canada has been addressing the problem.

One of the major attractions outside of Victoria is the Butchart Gardens, where they grow justabout every kinda flower imaginable that can survive the B.C. spring and summer. As we wandered through the different garden areas, I was pleasantly surprised to see the blooms attracting copious amounts of honeybees, bumblers, and other pollinators. It seems like the dearth of honeybees on Vancouver Island have been Mark Twain-ized a bit, in that the reports of the deaths of all those honeybees were a little premature.  There are lots of bees in the pic to the right, ... even if you can't see 'em.

Well ... you know me ... I just had to go and find the garden's beekeepers and get a look at their hives! I wandered around asking the staff, but nobody knew anything. Eventually I was directed to the information booth where there was a knowledgeable botanist lady who set me straight, "The Butchart doesn't have any honeybees, as we are not concerned with pollination or plant reproduction here. The bees you see are from outside the Gardens. We're glad they come, but we don't keep bees here." They have about 50 gardeners on staff, and several greenhouses were visible. I never did learn where their annuals appear from, nor how the perennials reappear, but apparently they just don't raise any stock that requires pollinators.  Hmmm, I wonder if this is true of other big garden operations? (Learn something new every day, huh?)

In a way it was a good sign. Vancouver Island may have suffered devastating losses in their apiaries, but out there in all those woods covering the island there still must be a lot of feral, escaped, and "unkept" bees. They seem to be doing just fine.

Link to book review

I've been recommending the Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping since before it was published. Here's a very literate, first rate review by David Heaf; emphasizing the strengths and weaknesses of the book -- particularly on the treatment-free and small cell issues. Mr. Heaf's own book is on the way, due to be out this month (Sept '10). I'm really looking forward to it as well. We can advance order his book here. (I'm hoping they'll ship to the US of A via this link.)

Oh, hey, while you're at it, Phil Chandler could use a little help keeping his web stuff going. Along with the basic TBH fundamental materials, he provides a bunch of important free stuff, so much vital information, as well as hosting biobees, and David Heaf's Warré sites! Go here and see what you can do to help, huh? (I sent him a cuppa joe.)