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Topic: An afternoon in the beeyard, and subsequent sticky adventures  (Read 11147 times)
Tags for this thread: bee_keeping , bee , craftster_best_of_2009 , beeswax  Add new tag
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acidtrix
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« Reply #40 on: July 16, 2009 10:30:44 AM »

wow. this is so very amazing. i loooooove honey and only buy raw, this must be heaven. not to mention the beautiful smells of the wax
i have a couple of questions for you!

first question!
being a tree hugging hippy (vegetarian) i'm curious about the bee parts that get into the wax/honey/caps and how that works exactly. I've read about happy hippy beekeepers that make sure to gather honey and wax without harming any bees..but this seems unlikely. Don't get me wrong, i'm not vegan and not too worried about it, but for my own curiosity..what level of carnage might i have to deal with if i were interested in this? i mean, i assumed that you smoke them away, and gather the frames, and clean them out, and you know, the bees go back to getting on with things. but it seems maybe they really get protective of their stash, and you might have quite a lot of casualties?

i kind of feel like my view of beekeeping and honey gathering is at the level of winnie the pooh, and would like a bit of reality to inject

second question!

can i see some of your encaustic work??  Cheesy it must be amazing to supply your own wax! and the smell would be wonderful.

SO and I are hopefully relocating to a rural location in the near future, I kind of have a nagging itch/driving need to do earthy and rural things (i grew up on the prairies, maybe it's hardwired) so this could be neat


Hey dolleyes! Ok I'll do my best to answer your questions! One important thing to remember with bees is that, whether your beekeeper is a tree hugging hippy, or someone who could care less about animal ethics, the fact remains that killing bees while working with the hives is something a beekeeper will avoid at all costs. The obvious reason aside (you NEED your bees), if you accidentally crush a bee or if a bee should sting you, they release a pheromone that signals to all the other bees that hey! this bozo is robbing us! Then you get a whole lot of pissed off bees coming at you, and the pheromones on your suit/skin are like a big ol' target.
(curious beekeeping fact: a pissed of hive emitting lots of pheromones smells like bananas. weird!) You only have to crush one bee to start this aggressive response, and the more you crush/the more they sting you, the worse the situation is going to get. That being said, its probably virtually impossible not to crush a few bees in the process - the honey supers weight a good 100lbs each and when you take it off the hive, its usually dripping with bees on the bottom. as careful as you are to set it down, there are likely to be a few casualties. there are different things you can do to reduce the number of bees in your honey super before harvesting. there is a product called Bee Robber - that shit smells like old vomit and will never, ever wash out of your cloths >_< basically you have a fume board (its like the roof of the hive only lined with fabric) that you spray a little honey robber on, and then you place it on top of the hive. the smell will drive the bees down into the lower boxes (or right out of the hive) so when you remove the top honey super, its more or less empty of bees. another tool you can use (that i think someone has mentioned), is an escape board. this goes between the super you want to remove and the rest of the hive and has sort of a one way door on it: the bees can move down through it to the lower portion of the hive, but can't come back up through it. this takes longer, though if you smoke them, they'll move lower fairly quickly. And on an aside - smoking the bees is generally humane as long as you don't over smoke them. It tricks them into thinking there is a fire, so they move away from it. It also sort of calms them, switching off the "guard" response. 
Once you've got your supers away from the hive, you use a hive brush to gently brush any remaining bees off of the frames, and then take them to be spun. There really shouldn't be any live bees left on the frames at this point. Any bees that end up in the honey were probably already dead, or perhaps some larvae if the frame contains both honey and larvae (which shouldn't happen very often in a well maintained hive).
As to hive response to harvesting - bees store honey to get them through the off season, so its no wonder they're protective of their stash. a good beekeeper always leaves enough honey in the hive to get them through the winter though, otherwise they could loose the hive. Its only the surplus that is harvested so in the end, it doesn't impact the hive. If the bees are unable to consume all the honey over the winter, it can harden and potentially render the frame useless in the next season, so extra honey can actually be detrimental to the colony.
Another thing to consider is that the queen is constantly laying eggs - the average life span of a worker bee in the summer is only a month, so the workers are constantly being replaced. Its a hard life, being a bee! Therefore the impact of a few dead bees in a hive of potentially 80,000 and more, whose population is constantly being replenished, is more or less negligible. The bees themselves are harsh - at the end of the season, the female workers push all the males out of the hive and leave them to die (they don't know how to feed themselves, and without the warmth of the hive, they die pretty fast). The colony will only overwinter its productive members.

Next question - well, i don't really have many examples of encaustic work - mostly i use the wax in my collage work and mix in other coloured waxes or pigments. you can check out that sort of stuff in my old posts or on my blog. i am going to attempt a proper encaustic painting later in the summer though, so keep an eye out Smiley

a final though - as far as "crops" go, I'd say keeping bees has pretty much no negative environmental impact - in fact, having bees around can do nothing but improve the surrounding environment. Its, in a way, a symbiotic relationship - the beekeeper helps keep the colony in order, keeps them healthy by medicating them against mites, etc and removing any pests that might try to move into the hive, and helps them survive the winter. The bees give the beekeeper wax and honey.

i think from the sounds of it, you'd very much enjoy it ^_^
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« Reply #41 on: July 16, 2009 10:41:00 AM »

Wow that's so cool. I've always wanted bees, but alas I live in an apartment.

Oh, and to answer the post above, I'm pretty sure that it's fairly 'humane'. After all, you wouldn't want too many bees to die, cause you need them to make honey. Also keeping bees is really excellent because they're pollinators and there numbers world wide have been decreasing.

Exactly!

Here's an interesting story to help impress the importance of bees. There are areas in China that have no bees left due to rampant use of pesticides since the 1970s. These areas also boast huge orchards of crops like pears - now every single pear tree has to be pollinated by hand by "human bees", using a feathers dipped in pollen. Imagine the labor involved in visiting every single blossom on every single tree in an orchard - work that has long been taken for granted while the bees were doing it. With colony collapses happening world wide, its not an unreasonable fear that this could become a necessary practice if bees are not protected. That alone is a good enough reason to keep bees if you're thinking about it Smiley
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« Reply #42 on: July 16, 2009 10:42:58 AM »

Ooooh.  I love honey, but I'm TERRIFIED of bees.  Plus I doubt I have the space for it (quarter acre suburban lot) but all the same, I'm very jealous of your bounty! 
I was pretty scared of them myself, but now I see that they just do their own thing and don't pay any attention to you unless you force their attention. bees, unlike wasps or hornets, die once they sting, so they aren't much inclined to do so unless they feel you're a danger to the colony.
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« Reply #43 on: July 16, 2009 10:48:14 AM »

Great post, lovely project! So what happened that it was so sudden- you just checked the hive and discovered W-A-A-Y more honey than you expected?

Here is my answer to the vegetarian issue.  When you harvest, most people use an "escape" which is a device that lets the bees out, but not back in, from that particular honey super (the wooden box).  So they fly or crawl out, and then can't get back in to that section- you leave the escape in place for a day or so, then pull the honey and comb out, fairly bee-free.  Beekeepers use a "bee brush" to gently brush off stragglers.  I also use a brush to get them off edges and covers when I am reassembling my hive after getting in to take a look around. I don't think smoking them harms them at all. That said- there are often, despite my best efforts, a small number of casualties.  I may acidentally smoosh someone, or get one too covered in honey when I am checking a frame.  More experienced beekeepers may be able to avoid this, but I can't imagine anyone can guarantee that their beekeeping is totally 100% free of injury or casualty to all bees.  In the aggregate, though, I feel they live pretty excellent lives and that it is a pretty humane business.  I feel terrible about the bees that I kill, but I also know that far more probably get snatched by birds in a given day...and bees carry all their deceased sisters out the front of the hive, where they also get eaten up by critters.  Human management of bees comes with so many benefits to the environement that it seems worth it to me- and there is almost no waste in beekeeping, as this post shows so excellently!

hehe we don't really know! we had this much honey at the END of last year, so we just were not expecting it Smiley its also been a slow summer, cooler with lots of rain, so it was a surprise. one of the colonies overwintered exceedingly well (both were nucs last year) so this is our first year with really strong hives. it was a happy surprise Smiley
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« Reply #44 on: July 16, 2009 10:51:04 AM »

My dad is a farm boy/entomologist and has always wanted to keep a small hive of bees after doing so in college (and on his family farm). He had a swarm of honeybees hanging out in a tree on their neighbor's property a few weeks ago, so Dad and a friend brought over a hive and captured the queen - tada! Super cool - super cool. The hive now resides at the friend's house, where his kids are now learning the art of beekeeping. Bees are definitely my favorite animal.
Sweet! My boyfriend is always hoping to come across a swarm to try and catch. We actually had one hive swarm 2 years ago that we never found - when we're in the woods we're always sort of keeping an eye out for it (i know, unlikely but you never know!). he's been thinking about setting bait boxes - empty hive boxes in trees to lure passing swarms, but i still think we're more likely to catch wasps than anything else Smiley
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« Reply #45 on: July 16, 2009 10:54:11 AM »

This is amazing! I put it in the blog today! http://www.craftster.org/blog/?p=2760

There was an article in Minneapolis paper last Sunday about urban beekeeping.
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/48885402.html

AWW SWEET! thanks Cheesy I'm glad everyone is finding beekeeping as interesting as we do!
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« Reply #46 on: July 16, 2009 10:57:14 AM »

Wonderful stuff - and, wow - your honey looks amazing. We installed bees into a homemade top bar hive (TBH) earlier in the year and I'm in awe of how much honey and comb the bees have produced in such a short period. For anyone looking for a low impact style of beekeeping I'd seriously recommend TBHs. Here's a blog of how our bee installation went to wet your whistle   Smiley . http://growveg.info/viewtopic.php?f=3757&t=15083

wow, what a cool hive! Thanks so much for sharing, I don't actually know anyone who's tried keeping a TBH ^_^ I'll pass your link onto the boyfriend to read too, maybe it'll be a project for next summer!
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« Reply #47 on: July 16, 2009 11:17:34 AM »

That is so cool.  There's a family around the corner from us who have beehives and sell honey and a local farmer's market.  It's sooooo yummy, I wish I had the time to do such a thing!
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« Reply #48 on: July 16, 2009 11:20:04 AM »

wow!! Cheesy this is amazing!!! my husband's family has a ranch about 80,000 acres or so, they raise cattle. One man that works their always has honey but he justgoes searching in the brush and steals it from the bees like winnie the pooh. haha. i would love to do this, raising the bees that is, not stealing the honey like that man.  sounds so interesting and like so much fun! i have gotten into a whole environmental phase lately. im trying to recycle (almost) everything or find new uses for stuff. could i build one of those hive boxes? im in awe over this! i cant get over how cool this is! im totally going to look into this. thanks for sharing Grin
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« Reply #49 on: July 16, 2009 11:30:22 AM »

wow!! Cheesy this is amazing!!! my husband's family has a ranch about 80,000 acres or so, they raise cattle. One man that works their always has honey but he justgoes searching in the brush and steals it from the bees like winnie the pooh. haha. i would love to do this, raising the bees that is, not stealing the honey like that man.  sounds so interesting and like so much fun! i have gotten into a whole environmental phase lately. im trying to recycle (almost) everything or find new uses for stuff. could i build one of those hive boxes? im in awe over this! i cant get over how cool this is! im totally going to look into this. thanks for sharing Grin

sure you could! there are lots of plans floating around on the net. In fact, a quick google brought this up: http://www.beesource.com/build-it-yourself/
We've been buying most of our gear second-hand from local beekeepers though - if you look around, I bet you'd be surprised how many beekeepers have stuff they'd be willing to sell. In fact, just today I found a guy in my neighborhood selling hive components at $8 a piece, and bought two new complete hives from him Smiley
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