20 Dec 2011

making halva

Well - I am currently undertaking my first attempt at making halva - and while stirring the
slowly heating honey on the stove, I started to hear a gradual increase in the sound of the
hum of bees - I hadn't thought that they would have taken any notice or interest in my baking attempt - but I was WRONG. The sound is actually getting louder and more frantic - in order to prevent the bees from coming inside (which they are currently trying to do) and taking back their honey, I had to fully close the backdoor, because as I type, there are currently about 10 bees at the back door trying to come in to repossess their honey - I will post again letting you know how the halva turns out!!

9 Dec 2011

Swarming in skeps

Swarming of colonies is probably one of the major concerns or challenges for beekeepers, especially for novices in the suburbs.

Victorian regulations recommend that measures are taken to prevent swarming. The conventional beekeeping approach to 'manage' the colony is to inspect for signs (usually the construction of swarm queen cells) every 7-10 days in spring then perhaps splitting the colony or some other intervention.

Whilst this is hardly 'bee friendly', it also involves a lot of effort and is not 100% effective. The challenge for natural beekeepers is to somehow manage swarming without undue intervention. This is something I'm going to be looking into before next spring, having seen my own first year hive swarm (with casts) some 4-6 times this year! Most of which I caught because I happened to be working at home - but I think I missed the big one (the prime swarm) a week before. Of course . . .

Here are two incredible videos showing how skep beekeepers in Germany handle swarming in a somewhat natural way (that's such a subjective term!). So whilst a lot of what is shown is specific to commercial skep keeping, there is some good general information on the mechanics of how swarming occurs.

7 Dec 2011

Beginning beekeeping with Langstroth or top bar hives?

David Heaf, a leading UK based proponent of Warre hives (see our Links page) often writes on the topic. Below is an extract from 'The Welsh Beekeeper' magazine, Winter 2011.

In it he's responding to an earlier article by Wally Shaw who appears to dispute sustainable beekeeping and particularly Johann Thür's concept of 'Nestduftwärmebindung' (the retention of nest scent and heat) something which is core to the design of the Warre's hive and natural beekeeping. Andrew J has previously posted to the group on this concept and it's a topic we should cover in a future blog post . . .

Anyway . . . I just thought the snippet below was interesting for us:

Shaw's concluding remark is: 'A quick fling with a top bar hive can be quite interesting for an experienced beekeeper but this is no way to form a lasting relationship with your bees.' Beekeepers should be free themselves to determine the nature of the relationship that they want with their bees, and to choose the hive that seems appropriate to them. Many beginners choose top-bar hives at the outset, often despite being told of the advantages of frame hives, one of which is that it is usually a lot easier to find a mentor close at hand. Most stay with them because they find top-bar hive beekeeping more satisfying. Furthermore, several commercial beekeepers have turned to the Warré hive, one of whom used to manage 2,000 Langstroths. I would like to see diversity in beekeeping rather than the uniformity that could arise from the straitjacket of Langstrothism.
David Heaf

Full article is available here.

BTW - we have in Australia our own early adopter and promotor of Warre hives and natural beekeeping. Tim Malfroy of Malfroy's Gold. I'm very pleased that Tim has recently joined our email group.