Bee Hives
Last Updated: July 7, 2006
Most recent images first; text and additional references at bottom...

The new 'bee fortress'! In June of 2006 we awoke to find the hives destroyed 3 nights in a row. The hive bodies had been knocked over (the super one direction, the brood boxes another) and the frames scattered and (many) smashed. Close examination, while rebuilding, showed that whatever it was wasn't interested in the honey, only in the larvae. One hive I had just let swarm into the wild, leaving roughly 1/3 its former population, was destroyed twice. I suspected bear and after the first night, scrambled to read everything I could find on how to protect the hives. By the third day I had settled on employing an electric fence (the other alternative was elevating the hives onto an 8+ foot high platform with 2' min. overhangs!). The final solution (pictured) involved relocating the hives out into the clearing, blocking the trails the bear was using with hog panels, building a 4' welded wire fence and gate, surrounded by a 9000 volt solar-powered electric fence with ground matting (necessary due to the dry summer soils). All this while wearing a full bee suit and getting attacked by my poor, but angry bees!

 

Bottling the honey (inside, out of reach of the bees!)

 

Extracting the honey using a centrifigal extractor. After this the honey is filtered through a fine mesh and put into a storage container for later use or bottling.

 

Placing the uncapped comb (frame) into the extractor

 

Uncapping the comb

 

Checking the honey 'supers'.

 

A full frame of capped honey (and there were many more)!

 

Checking the hive health. The white 'putty' on the hive in the background is a 'bee burger' made with vegetable shortening, sugar and a touch of honey. Eating it causes them to smell alike which helps with the mite problem bees face

 

Marking the queen so we can tell her age and find her easily when she needs to be replaced.

 

The population is growing and the combs are nearly fully developed

 

 

Checking out the bees progress in building out the wax comb (used for rearing their young and for storing food).

 

 

Installing the bees in their new home (you basically just dump them in!).

 

This is the way the bees come. Inside there is a separate cage for the queen. The can in the top contains corn syrup to keep them fed in transit.

 

The 'beekeeper' getting ready for the bees arrival

 

The Apiaries just after being setup (with the orchard in the background)

 

Keeping Bees

Why bees? Bees not only produce honey, a sweetner also known for its health benefits; but they are essential to the success of the garden and orchard (through the bee's pollinating action as they search for flower nectar and pollen -- their primary source of food). Bees have been hit very hard by commercial farming's (and society's) use of pesticides and they are also very susceptible to bee-specific parasites. Commercial beekeepers face up to 80% losses of their hives on an annual basis from these factors. Keeping bees not only provides a bounty of honey but ensures their continued existance.

For those interested, bees and bee-keeping supplies were obtained from BeeKind of Sebastopol, Ca (707.824.2905, BeeKind). Honey extraction equipment and supplies were obtained from Dadant.

 

Additional Reading for Those Interested:

Keeping Bees, Vivian, Williamson Publishing, 1986
Bees, Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophic Press, 1998 (1966)