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

Opening up the winter hive

Opening up the winter hive

Natural beekeepers would strongly frown upon opening up the winter hive, even if the day's high was 66. But natural beekeepers would also frown upon feeding a healthy hive in late February just to boost colony size and prompt maximum honey production. Since I'm committed to doing the latter, I need to do the former as well --- more bees need more space or they'll soon swarm.

Nadiring the langstroth hiveI am sticking to the Warre method of nadiring rather than using the Langstroth method of supering, though. In part, this is because I'm trying to get the bees out of the Warre hardware, so I'm hoping they'll build down and finally let me remove that last Warre box (hopefully full of honey) this summer. But nadiring also makes intuitive sense for spring expansion.

To that end, I dragged Mark out to help me lift the existing hive up in preparation for slipping new boxes underneath. But the hive (minus roof) was just barely light enough that I could manage it on my own without straining my back. I didn't take the boxes apart because I was trying to minimize my intrusion as much as possible, but the moderate weight seemed pretty good for this time of year, suggesting that there's at least a little bit of honey left inside for the bees to consume as they wait for true spring.

Now, if I can just remember to buy sugar in bulk, we might have our first good honey harvest since 2010....

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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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Good for you! Doing 'nothing' is not 'natural' nor is it good management. We are bee keepers, not bee havers. Our honey bees are 'domestic' (not native) and need our influence to fully thrive - especially since we also messed with things and introduced varroa mites, etc. So, I'm all for feeding and good management. How can healthy strong bees and hives be wrong?

That said, I'm also for working our bees on as much a 'natural' program as possible, too. My girls have begun bringing in pollen like crazy. I'm feeding and adding Honey-B-Healthy type essential oils to the mix. (Make my own for pennies.) I've spent a great deal of time this winter reading about the benefits of various essential oils in hive health. My plan is to use them as supplements until the honey supers go on, then stop. I'll start again after the honey comes off.

Have you found 'The People's Hive' original manuscripts online - Fr Warre's stuff? Interesting reading. It is translated from old French, so it can be a bit when reading. I use Langstroth hives myself.

Anyway, hooray for your bees and their keepers!

Comment by Tim Inman Thu Mar 3 09:10:22 2016

Tim --- I appreciate your support as I transition back toward more mainstream beekeeping. :-) Your system sounds like a good hybrid --- we're hoping to achieve something similar eventually.

I didn't read the original People's Hive book, only the more modern summary. That was inspiring...but very focused on bee health and (as I learned the hard way) not terribly conducive to honey production.

Comment by anna Thu Mar 3 20:32:18 2016
I'm getting my first hives this spring! I had gone back to see your experience and noticed that you hadn't harvested honey in a very long time. So it will be good to see if you get any this year. I'm starting with two hives, a mentor, and membership in the local beekeepers' group. My biggest worry is bears. Still trying to work out where to locate the hives.
Comment by Charity Sat Mar 5 03:53:04 2016

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