Early Warming and Honey Bees
In my neck of the hinterland of Floyd, honeybees are crowding out my birds on their feeder. As I sit for breakfast in the morning the little bees are early to seek pollen-which is not available from the early Quince flowers…yet? Sometimes we get thaws in the winter and the bees are out looking for all the Dandelions and other early flowers to start the feeding of the new brood since the Queen egg-laying bee is starting to move. The honey and pollen stores are low from cold weather and if you are not feeding them, many hives will have died out at considerable cost and time to you.
Even if you do not raise bees, but sight bees about, and there are no flowers to provide the necessary nectar and pollen you can have an enjoyable experience at almost no cost to you but great rewards in watching the bee behaviors.
Purchase some pure ground, no additive corn meal; take a coffee mill and grind it to dust like proportions. Place a cup or more in a cookie/cake pan and set it out where they are clustering (such as my bird feeders).
They will tell their hive mates where the new treasure is and almost swarm to the new pollen dust source. You will enjoy watching them from up close how they are happy bees; tunneling and rolling in the new food source.
They are fixated on the new food source and will not bother you. I often let bees crawl on my hands when I am doing this, and that is part of a beekeeper’s joy in communication, since bees- honeybees have been so domesticated that they expect human intervention in their lifestyle.
I have been procrastinating for several years now about my bee friends and building them a big Austrian Bee house. This is not cheap by any means but the rewards are far greater in keeping bees that the boxes we commonly see hived bees in. I am going to suggest you start reading about these bee houses with this British web site: www.honeyshop.co.uk. Or write to: BBNO, The Weaven, Little Dewchurch, Hereford, HR2, 6PP UK. Or telephone 01432-840529. Look for “An Introduction to Bee-Houses” by David Bates.
To motivate my self I am thinking of modifying my two room chicken house, about 20’ x10’, two rooms into a bee house adjacent to the main garden. I might start with just one room at a time as the bees will increase in time and I can expand.
No, I am not giving up my chickens but thinking of pitching my hot tub, and in its place build a Bantam Chicken Palace. One has to be innovative on the Homestead.
I am also considering renovating my small strawberry hoop house as a modified cover for my bees. So I am busy considering all my options and rigors of labor before I get started this year.
However as I expand my bee population I have only so much feed for my bees in the wild and will eventually have to take my hay field, disc, fertilize it and sow wild flowers and clover to support them. This is much like a growing family- everyone eats more and more. Then again, the next step is moving into commercial selling of the honey and buying more and more bee equipment, which is a real yuppie hobby farmer’s experience.
A European bee house concept is not new and has been in existence for over a hundred practiced years. I have discussed the bee house concept in previous articles and with various publishers over the past two or three decades. My last tour in Germany was dedicated to the bee house culture. A beautiful science channel bee story, with a bee house was filmed some years back and is available on the NOVA series: Tales from the Hive. Amazon.com has this in their DVD section for about nineteen dollars and is half the price you will find in the bee catalogs. I recommend it.
Beekeeping is a traditional “Old Man’s hobby” which implies you have to be there all day with the bees. Bees are not an employment go to work, and come home and manage task- they want you there, and if you are not there to manage them, they will fly away and most likely just die. Bees need you.
The banter about the loss of bees and end of the earth pollination has some merit, however we look at how Agri-big business has taken the backyard beekeeper along with suburban ordinances against bees, citing diseases and mites killing everything off plus the evils of cross African honey bees swarming people. Horse Hockey!
Briefly, as I have harped on this for the past ten or so years the problem of the bee decline is that the newscasters are clamoring, spouting off about a subject they know nothing about, along with the Extension Offices (who are tasked to keep commercialism going) is the current system of moving massive bee hives back and forth on the road ways hundreds of miles from one pollination crop to another. These commercial movers have to feed the bees from tanker trucks’; the bees, who are not gaining real honey and substance in this lifestyle of moving die off quickly. China produces pesticide laden, GMO unreal food substance called honey substitute made from high fructose corn syrup for this modern system of crop pollination. With the stress of moving and unreal lifestyle the bees die off. Replacement bees are grown on islands in the Caribbean, as an example, shipped airfreight to buyers.
Considering the current market/government manipulation of corn and grain foods as a profit to the investment bankers/wall street powers, with attendant projected world wide hunger, the costs are going to increase and this method of pollination will be forced to give way to permanent hives in the crop areas needing pollination and an increase of beekeepers as an occupation like there was in olden times.
The current scheme is to produce smaller bees with the idea that mites are unable to attach well but the underlying factor is that smaller bees eat less, and therefore profits are higher if you have less expenses- rather like laying off workers from your business. Smaller bees do not thrive well and the purchase of small size egg cells wax foundation for the Queen to lay eggs in, dictates bee size. It is better to make your own bee wax foundation press with conventional worker cell size, but not so big as to have all male drones.
If you are home bound and want an occupation bee keeping is not difficult, but requires an unrealistic initial investment as most of the trade articles are dedicated to supporting the expensive purchase of unnecessary equipment. You have to be careful of what song and dance you want to believe, in advance, as much of the publications, like gardening books promising great rewards are just pie in the sky. For the home garden/beekeeper with five hives you will enrich your life, learn soon the in and out of beekeeping, then as the situation moves along you can raise Worker bees to sell, Queens to sell, honey to sell, wax to sell, and write books.
COPYRIGHT: 2011, Back2theLand.com. Mark Steel