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

The Bee-friendly Beekeeper

The Bee-friendly BeekeeperAs regular readers know, I've been pondering alternative beekeeping methods all winter.  Both of our hives (semi-traditional Langstroth) died last fall, so we're buying two packages of chemical-free bees to start over this spring.  One package will go into a top bar hive courtesy of Everett, but I haven't quite decided whether the other colony will go back into our Langstroth hives (managed in Michael Bush's style) or whether they'll go into a Warre hive.

When I explained the differences between Warre and top bar hives before, I said that the book to read on Warre hives is Abbe Warre's Beekeeping for All.  However, I ended up instead picking up a copy of David Heaf's The Bee-friendly Beekeeper.  This modern book sums up the experiments and innovations that have accumulated since the Warre hive hit the English-speaking world in 2006.  It has lots of pretty pictures to make the text more understandable and is definitely worth hunting down (even though it's expensive in the U.S. since the book is British).  The author is a bit preachy about sustainability of materials and the book is short (referring you back to Beekeeping for All for more information), but I like the way Heaf has clearly delved into the scientific literature to find real facts about natural beekeeping.

Stay tuned for information about the Warre hive all week in my lunchtime series.  Meanwhile, maybe you can help me decide whether it's crazy to try out two new beekeeping methods at once, or whether it's an unparalleled opportunity for a side by side comparison of horiztontal and vertical top bar hives.

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This post is part of our Warre Hive 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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I think it would be hard to get accurate and more importantly repeatable results if you try to do two different methods since they may create an unknown effect on each other.
Comment by Brian Mon Mar 19 13:30:37 2012
Brian --- Yeah, that's a disadvantage I didn't take the time to delve into in the post. Having one hive of each type makes it awfully easy to think that I'm seeing the difference between two hive types when what I'm seeing is the difference in two queens, two locations, etc. I'd need at least five or ten hives of each type to do a real side by side comparison.
Comment by anna Mon Mar 19 16:04:50 2012

I can tell you from keeping multiple bee hives in the same area in the same types of hives, it's all about the queen. Good queen, good hive. Poor queen, DEAD hive.


Comment by Michael Smith Tue Mar 20 09:58:54 2012

I definitely agree with you that genetics are important. That's why we chose bees bred to live well without chemicals.

That said, I can't see how the way they're managed wouldn't also impact their lives. With our chickens, having a good breed makes them much more able to forage and live partially on wild food, but so does planning our pastures and coop appropriately.

Comment by anna Tue Mar 20 13:13:47 2012

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