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Raw Honey – Natural Beekeeping: 2017 Season Update

A Brief History of Our Beekeeping Experience

With a vision of making raw honey for our own consumption, we began beekeeping in the spring of 2014; so far, it has been the proverbial “tough row to hoe.”

raw honey definition

The Warré hive type was chosen, a top bar hive, without the frames and foundation typical of the Langstroth hive.  The Warré is a hive used in natural beekeeping circles, and that’s where we wanted to be.  It has its advantages and disadvantages to be sure.  An advantage is that the hives are relatively easy and inexpensive to build.  This was detailed in two earlier posts, WARRÉ BEE HIVE CONSTRUCTION – PART I and WARRÉ BEE HIVE CONSTRUCTION – PART II.  I have only made three modications in contravention of Warré’s original design.  In the spring of 2016 I ventilated the “quilts” with two 1 inch holes.  And, this spring, I modified my hive floors to include a screened bottom board, and  raised the hives from the ground about 18 inches.

The first year installation of new bee packages did not go so well, and feeding the new colonies also did not go well.  Frankly, I made of mess of things.  You can read all about it in a post I made that spring of 2014, LATE SPRING UPDATE FROM THE HOMESTEAD, PART I.  You can find all of our posts regarding the making of local honey and beekeeping here.  Since that first spring we have made improvement to the process and equipment year by year, and this spring we harvested our first raw honey, put up by the bees in 2016. Read more

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Warré Bee Hive Construction – Part II

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It is a rainy and cool fall day, in the middle of a week predicted to be rainy and cool, which has the benefit of finally bringing me back around to Part II of two-part series on building a Warré bee hive.  It is hard to believe that I wrote Warré Beehive Construction – Part I over two and a half years ago; I am not proud of that fact!

We started Primal Woods, LLC this year, and as part of the “Sugarers” subsidiary, of course honey is a part.  The plan is in place to double the number of hives each year until we have at least 64.  Even at a relatively modest 25 lbs of honey per hive per year, that would add up to 1,600 lbs of honey per year.  Having said that, with all of the various pressures that honeybees are under, from pesticides in particular, it is possible that their production might be cut in half, or more.  For now though, 64 hives seems like an aggressive target.  Inside of that number, the plan is to double each year until we get to 64, so this year that meant building an additional two hives; it will be four more in 2017, eight in 2018, and so on. Read more

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Beekeeping: A Short, Cautionary Tale, From a Beginner

In recent weeks I have thought of the need to add a 5th box to the bee hive; I have been seeing many bees congregating at the hive entrance, and was worrying that they might have expanded to fill the available volume, and bee looking to swarm.  Since Nathan was around as an able assistant, having helped me to add the 3rd and 4th boxes back in June, the time to add the 5th box had come. After adding the 3rd and 4th boxes, I summarized the event in a blog post by stating, “The process of adding the boxes went more smoothly than I probably had any right to expect; it was executed without incident.”  As it turns out, I indeed did not have any right to expect that it would go so smoothly.
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Late Spring Update from the Homestead, Part III, Beekeeping

The initial bee install took place the weekend of 5 April 2014, and I added a box to the hive the weekend of 12 April, as documented in the post, “Late Spring Update from the Homestead, Part I,” dated 23 May 2014.  I checked on the bees regularly, and there was plenty of activity, with bees coming and going, and the bees were carrying in loads of pollen from their foraging activities.  The hive appeared to be very healthy.  I knew that I should be adding more boxes to the hive, and as the weeks went by I became more and more anxious that the colony might swarm because there was insufficient space in the hive for the growing colony.  Finally, adding the boxes rose to the top of my work list, and coincidentally Nathan was available to help me in the process.

Nathan (L) and I suiting up, inactive hive box after step 1 just to my right in the background

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Warré Bee Hive Construction – Part I

From relatively early in the process of planning for greater self-sufficiency, it became clear that honey bees would be would be an important part of the design, and implemented early.  Of course the honey harvest is eagerly anticipated, but their service as pollinators cannot be overrated; according to EcoNews,[1], “Honey bees—wild and domestic—perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind, but the best and healthiest food—fruits, nuts and vegetables—are pollinated by bees. Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops, which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees.”  The EcoNews article claims an estimate higher than most I have read; nevertheless it seems inarguable that the impact is significant.  Another key reason for early implementation, even before we might be permanently on-site, is that bees are relatively low maintenance.  Depending on the type of hive employed, and whether or not the beekeeper chooses to feed and medicate the bees, only a few visits to the hives may be necessary each year.  As a general rule, we intend to let our bees fend for themselves, save for a feeding upon initial installation of the colonies this spring; a sole harvest would be made in late August or early September each year.

This is a photo of our first Warré
hive almost ready for exterior finish

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