The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Guidelines for natural beekeeping

Honeybee on an asterRoss Conrad's theory of natural beekeeping can be summed up as focusing on a strong, healthy colony rather than on maximum honey output.  That means leaving 60 to 80 pounds of honey on the hive to get them through his Vermont winters and feeding only in emergencies.  If he does have to feed, he tries to feed honey, then falls back on white sugar.

Conrad also believes that natural beekeepers should aim for genetic diversity and try to build up hives adapted to our local area.  We should let our bees requeen rather than killing our queen every year or two and ordering a new one.  If you do have to buy a queen, he recommends finding her locally rather than shipping in bees from across the country which are adapted to very different climates.

Bees can fly in an area up to 17 miles in diameterFinally, he points out that you need to consider an area up to 17 miles in diameter when keeping your bees happy and healthy.  In regular conditions, studies have shown that about 10% of worker bees fly up to 5.5 miles in search of distant nectar and pollen sources, and that they may fly as much as 8.5 miles when feed is scarce.  So the organic paradise we offer our bees may be offset by the coal-fired power plant eight miles away and by the pesticides and herbicides used on the large strawberry and tomato farm a similar distance in the other direction.  As beekeepers, our work is cut out for us keeping our far-ranging livestock healthy.

Our homemade chicken waterer keeps your flock happy and healthy with unlimited clean water.

This post is part of our Natural Beekeeping lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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But now I know which county you're in! I had been wondering but it felt weird to ask. I didn't want you to think I was a stalker or anything. It only matters because I'm in Bristol TN, if I was in, say, Vermont, I wouldn't care and you wouldn't care if I knew!

So... Hi. My name is Emily. I'm the Nature Center Assistant at Steele Creek Park. I noticed your name in a lot of our books, and on the cover of the Weekend Homesteader (which I devoured, by the way, and I think it was your mom who told me the best crop for my 2 x 6 porch was blueberries in pots, so now I have two). At any rate, thats how i found out about your blog, and every spare moment I have had in the past week has been spent reading your archives. I read a few homesteading and gardening blogs, but you are so close! Now i can read about what works for this area, as opposed to Seattle or Denver.

Anyways, nice to meet you!

Comment by Sun Jun 16 22:30:26 2013
Emily --- Glad to virtually meet a reader who lives so close! I have a soft spot in my heart for Steele Creek, so it's especially nice to meet you. Perhaps we can get together in person sometime?
Comment by anna Mon Jun 17 14:24:32 2013

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