Well the first step in having success in just about anything is seeing that it actually has been done by someone else before. It may not be your creative touch with it, but in some form it has manifested and having seen this “picture” our brain builds instant confidence into our attitude to step forward with our project – even passion! There is something in our human nature which finds it reassuring that when tumbling into a canoe it will actually float – we know because someone else has done it before and we saw it with our own eyes. This gives us the mind set to know for sure that we too will tumble into a canoe which will float and even if we may come up with many difficult journeys with the canoe and need to gain some experience and skills, the chances are the canoe will float on the water . So it is with first time natural beekeepers, as they too need to see that indeed they can have healthy happy honey bees.
See the picture below for proof of healthy hives of bees at Bello Uccello’s Honey Bee Sanctuary. Other than mites, there are no diseases in these hives. Also the honey production is enough that the bees have 100 lbs per hive for themselves for the winter and in a usual year, we have at least that much to share around. This is not a usual year – little extra honey for us this year, but enough for the bees.
Now let’s jump forward, you have taken a beginner’s course in natural beekeeping and you are now at home with your one- super- high bee hive and all of those bees! Getting the proper equipment is half of the battle – the “bee factory farming industry” is not looking at the Art of Beekeeping in the same way that you are and the producers of the bee equipment are catering to mainly bee- factory- farmers. When
they offer you the beginner’s kit look carefully – here is a check list of what you do Not want:
1. no plastic frames
2. no plastic foundations with wooden frames
3. no wooden frames which were made for plastic foundations because your wax foundation does not fit into these frames easily.
The bee- factory- farmer uses plastic frames for the same reasons they do everything else – money and time- by cutting their losses of frames
which happens through tough handling, and no need to hire anyone to build wooden frames and assemble them . They are in a hurray and if you had
1,000 to 10,000 hives you would be busy too. Their handling of the bees and their hives is rough and tough and the plastic frames rarely break.
The beautiful comb of the honey bee was never intended for such abuses and cannot survive this treatment.
No natural beekeeper wants plastic in their hives for many reasons, the obvious one being plastic is bad for you and therefore for bees and it is a petrochemical product.
Bees communicate with each other with vibrations on the wax foundation and plastic foundations do not allow for this very important communication system and the insulation factor of the honey in the wax foundation is higher than in plastic which transfers cold, rather than insulating from it and finally and most importantly, the bees Hate plastic foundation.
Back at the beginning of our journey with the honey bees we were so anxious to regress the bees back to their pre-industrialized bee- factory- farm size, that
we purchased a few plastic frames, which were available in the next smaller size down. The whole idea was that small regressed sized bees do not have the problems with the mites like the industrial- size bees do. The honey bees absolutely avoided these horrible plastic frames. We hung a wooden empty frame between the plastic ones hoping they would copy the size of the plastic ones with their wax creations. What they did was go to a hanging feeder we had in the hive with our special bee tea in it and drink the tea and make their new frame inside of the feeder! We could almost hear them disapproving of our very insensitive treatment and after a few days we removed the plastic and keep them to show students what they should not buy.
Another very hard thing for the beginner natural beekeeper is the idea of having to feed the honey bees “bee tea”continually during the first year. This is not another word for Sugar Syrup, although sugar is dissolved into the tea. This is a biodynamic recipe from Rudolf Steiner and it is very important for the overall well being of the bees health.This bee tea is something which tastes good and if you are not counting calories, by all means take a cup for yourself. How could anything with stinging nettle, spearmint, lemon grass oil, chamomile, etc. not be good! The feeder is kept on for the first season to help the bees build up their hive’s vitality and keep their
immune system non-stressed. One of the Big Rules of Beekeeping – never never never use honey from any other source than from your own bees because honey carries the spores for possible diseases from other bees. Since you have neither your own honey nor your own pollen, you need to feed the bees 100% of the time with
the bee tea for as long as they will take it. They will love this tea, they will still gather nectar to make their own honey and they have been freed up to gather the pollen which is their sole source of protein. As you can see they will have their own pollen laden frames for going into the winter and also they will have made honey too. The stress will be minimum and your bees will have built up their numbers during the summer. For the first- year natural beekeeper who lives in Nova Scotia, the season is going to be very short and you should be using your biodynamic calendar to assure that the bees are gathering as much pollen as possible. Pollen substitutes are unacceptable in our opinion and in the opinion of the honey bees too. Once the Spring comes the following year there is one more bee tea cycle which must take place. As soon as there is enough nectar and pollen the bees will ignore the bee tea and congratulations – you and your bees have survived the First Year in Natural
Notice – Preparation and Winterizing of the Hive Workshop September 28th for people who have taken the beginner’s workshop with us.