Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Inspections: Top Bars Only Good

I went out late morning to inspect my two top bar hives as storm clouds started blowing into Winona.

I went to inspect the hives with a bit of fear and discouragement. I was disappointed with the langstroths the last two days and expected the same in the top bars. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised as both top bar hives are healthy and productive.

Both Metpropolis and Plan Bee... had stored away an abundance of honey already and the brood patterns, though not perfect, were solid. Larvae could be found at all levels of development. I did not find either queen in the hustle and bustle of workers and drones. I added an empty bar between the honey area and brood nest of each hive.

I might harvest a bar of capped honey from each hive next week.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Inspections: The Good and the Bad

I did two sets of inspections on my langstroth hives the last two days. Somethings look better then they were, others looks worse. The weather has been hot, clear and muggy finally!

Yesterday, I inspected Worker Bees... and Lib-BEE-taria and things look a bit better in these hives then last week. The bees are building up now though the brood pattern is still not to my liking. I added a third box to each hive though as it was getting a bit crowded in the two.

I am not really pleased with Bee Glad... at all. The brood is spotty, and the workers have raised supersecedure cells. I will see how the bees work this all out with a new queen but I am not confident.

I am inspected the nuc and while I saw the new queen who looks mated, I saw no signs of egg laying.

I don't know whether it is me or not but it seems to me that my langstroths are all not producing as many drones as they did in previous years. I am going to email some local beekeepers to see if they noticed the same thing in their hives. I hope there are some drones around the local area for mating.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

24 Hour Mite Drop Count

I did a 24 hour mite drop count on the three langstroth hives. The counts were as followed:

  • Worker Bees... - 2
  • Lib-BEE-taria - 2
  • Bee Glad... - 1
Looking back at my records, these are unusually low counts which I can't yet explain. I will look back at my records and look for any possible patterns to explain this.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Video: Bees on a Hot Summer Day

I filmed the above video this afternoon. Please forgive the mess up on Bee Glad... The view finder is so hard to see in the bright sun.

Best Hive?

In my last post, I offered some of my reflections on Oliver's excellent article in the July 2011 issue of American Bee Journal. In this post I would like to comment on a small side issue (p. 656-7) written in his "Best Hive" section of the article.

Let me quote Oliver:

My point - standard Langstroth hives are "standard" since they have proven the test of time for over 150 years. Believe me, if anything better had been invented, commercial beekeepers would have adopted it in a heart beat! (p. 657)
 Before I discuss this quote, let me make this perfectly clear: I am not wedded to any particular hive. I have no axe to grind here.  (I  have both top bar and langstroth. I might try a Warre sometime as well.) This statement is probably true in many respects as well. My problem is that it doesn't really settle the issue of  what is the "best hive" for me.

First, the fact that the langstroth hive has been used a long time does not mean anything in itself. The "test of time" is only one test and it is often used to retrospectively justify the continuing use of a technology or an institution. Banjos have had bodies shaped like drums for longer than langstroths have existed. Is this because that shape is or was important/functional to the particular use and sound of the banjo? Maybe, though some historians disagree. The first non-gourd banjos were made from old circular wooden cheese crates simply because they were conveniently available. Most banjos continue to follow that same shape because of tradition (that's what a banjo looks like after all!) not function. We should remember that  Egyptian beekeepers still use clay pots like their ancestors 1000 years ago.

Secondly, before we can judge whether something works or is successful we have to ask, what is it meant to do exactly? To judge whether or not a langstroth is the best hive, we must first ask: what exact purpose is it meant to serve? Is it   being used for migratory pollination services? To supplement an older retired couples income? As a source of amusement? As a cottage industry that provides a person with some honey for their toast? Bee hives do not serve the same function for all beekeepers.

Oliver is partially right.  The langstroth hive serves the needs of commercial beekeepers very well, but are the needs of a commercial beekeeper  exactly the same as the needs of other types of  beekeepers? Granted, a top bar hive is not very convenient for a migratory beekeeping outfit, but it will allow a disabled individual in a wheel chair access to the field of beekeeping.