Beautiful Beekeeping – Beautiful Beehives Of The Day – Simple But Elegant

I’ve posted a lot of pictures of decorated hives, but I love the look of simple white hives too, especially when they’re a beautiful part of the landscape.

I think these are especially elegant.

Exquisite white National-style hives in the UK

Exquisite white National-style hives in the UK

My own White Hive surrounded by Nepeta and David Austin roses

My own White Hive surrounded by Nepeta and David Austin roses

Lovely placement

Lovely placement

Hive and white dogwood tree

Hive and white dogwood tree

My friend Eric's new white hives

My friend Eric’s new white hives

The Other Side Of The Bee/Pesticide Controversy, Part 2


Hannah Nordhaus, author of The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Bees Help Feed America, had this to say about Jon Entine’s article:

Okay, I am feeling compelled to weigh in on this. Great piece, Jon. CCD, as a diagnosis was first identified in 2006, but there have been mysterious disappearances of bees periodically since the nineteenth century (and well before, I’m sure–there’s a list of past die-offs in my book, The Beekeeper’s Lament, and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the scientist who first discovered CCD, also produced a paper on the subject). Some occurrences did sound similar to CCD, though CCD is such a vague and difficult diagnosis (every time a bee dies these days someone calls it CCD) that it’s impossible to know. Nonetheless, it is true that there have been mass disappearances well before neonics ever appeared on the scene. Bees die from all sorts of things, and especially from varroa mites.

As for the Harvard study Bill cites, it is, of all the studies on neonics and bee deaths that have come out, arguably the worst–”embarrassing” was the word I heard from scientists I interviewed about it. Peer reviewed, I suppose, but in a journal no one in the entomology world had ever heard of when it came out. I wrote a piece last year for about that study and three others that came out at the same time. All had problems with dosing and design, though the scientists I spoke with felt the one linking neonics to bumblebee queen reproductive issues was better designed and more persuasive than the others. Here’s the boingboing article:

It makes sense to me that neonics, as persistent and systemic as they are, could very well hurt bees and other pollinators at sub-lethal levels, but the science just isn’t convincing yet, to me anyway, and as Jon points out, there are places where they use neonics where the bees are doing fine (though I have gotten some feedback from people about the Australian situation — they claim beekeepers there are losing bees but simply aren’t reporting it, and that most beekeepers there are in the bush, not located near farm crops that could be treated with neonics).

Hannah Nordhaus

Questions For Fortnum’s

Here is my list of questions for Fortnum’s about its beautiful rooftop bee hives.  If you have any additional questions, please let me know!

  1. What made you decide to keep bees on the roof of Fortnum’s?  Was it hard to convince people that it was a good idea?  When did you first start thinking about it? When were they installed? Are you planning on having more? Do you consider the bees a success?
  2. Were these hives started from packages or nucs, or were they established colonies when they were installed?
  3. Does Fortnum’s have other hives?  Where are they kept?
  4. How did you come up with the design of the hives?  Who built them? Do they build hives for other people?  Are they WBC hives?  Are the plans available?
  5. I read that Fortnum’s keeps Carniolan bees.  Is that still true?  How did you pick Carniolan bees?  Are these the original bees?  Where do you get your bees?
  6. I know Steve Benbow is your beekeeper.  How did you select him? How often does he visit the hives?  Do any Fortnum’s employees work with the hives as well?
  7. Do you have problems with pests or bee diseases?  Any evidence of CCD?  Do you treat your bees with chemicals?
  8. Specifically, have you had problems with Varroa Mites?  How have you dealt with them?  Do you treat for them in any way?
  9. Do you use any kind of preventive treatments or techniques?
  10. What has been the most unexpected challenge of keeping these bees?  What is the biggest problem?  Biggest success?
  11. Have you had any swarms?  What did you do?
  12. Is wind a problem for these bees?  What is their primary pollen/nectar source?
  13. How do you prepare your hives for winter?  Do you bring them inside?  Do you wrap them? Do you use insulation?  Do you use a mouse guard?  Do you feed them? How much honey do you leave for them?
  14. Do you feed your bees at any time?  What do you feed them and when?
  15. Did you have a spring harvest this year?  How much honey did you harvest? What is your average harvest?  Do you use a Queen excluder?  Are you expecting an autumn harvest?
  16. Do you use the Fortnum’s honey in the preparation of any other food?
  17. What was the inspiration for your honey bottle?
  18. Do you use the beeswax for any Fortnum’s product? What do you do with it?
  19. How often do you replace your combs? What technique do you use?
  20. Have you split or combined any of the hives?
  21. Can anyone tour Fortnum’s hives?
  22. There was an article in the June 15 London Evening Standard in which Angela Woods, secretary of the London Beekeeping Association, was quoted as saying London’s bees are under threat of starvation and disease because of a boom in the number of urban beekeepers.  She stated that there was not enough forage in London’s parks and gardens to sustain the growing number of hives. She blames “celebrity beekeepers” and corporations for the problem.  What is your response to that article?

Are Defensive Bees Healthier?

Warning!  This is a totally unscientific proposition!

I’m wondering whether defensive bees are healthier than gentler strains.

This is based on my own (limited) experience.

I have two hives:  One very established Buckfast hive and one new Italian hive.

The Buckfast bees are defensive.  No question about it.  I treat them with respect.

But they are incredibly healthy.  I’ve had the same hive for four years, and it is bigger and stronger than ever.  I’ve never seen any evidence of disease.

On the other hand, my Italian bees are sweethearts.  I don’t even bother to smoke them for inspections. But they seem frail somehow.

I’ve seen larvae dumped on their landing board, and the colony isn’t building up as quickly as I’d hoped.  I’ve seen evidence of Varroa mites.

I’m considering taking a frame of Buckfast brood and putting it in the Italian hive.  Maybe the Italian hive will become more defensive.  But maybe that’s what it needs to survive.

I’d be interested to hear what others think about this!!

Those Bees From Minnesota

Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.

One of my friends announced at the last South Western Ohio Beekeepers Meeting that he had ordered a package of Minnesota Hygienic bees for his new hive. No one knew what he was talking about.

I decided to do some research on his new bees.  I was very impressed with what I found.

Minnesota Hygienic Bee

Minnesota Hygienic Italian bees were developed by Dr. Marla Spivak at the University of Minnesota Bee Lab. “Hygienic” refers to the ability of the bees to “sniff out” disease- infected pupae and remove them from the hive before they can spread disease to the rest of the colony.

Any type of bee can be hygienic, and Dr. Spivak estimates that approximately 10% actually are.

Hygienic behavior of honey bees is their primary natural defense against the diseases American foulbrood and chalkbrood  Hygienic bees detect, uncap, and remove diseased brood from the combs before the diseases become infectious.

Hygienic behavior also is one defense against Varroa mites.  Although it is not the main mechanism of resistance to the mites, it appears to limit their reproduction and population growth to some degree.

Dr. Spivak believes the answer to bee diseases is to breed a better, more disease-resistant bee, not to treat with chemicals. She also stresses the importance of good beekeeping practices, such as replacing old comb and using clean tools and wooden ware.

There is a wonderful online course on the University of Minnesota website entitled “Healthy Bees.”  It costs $25.00 and provides a lot of helpful information about keeping bees healthy and minimizing chemical treatment.

As my Bee Guru Michael Bush has said:

“The other side of helping bees with treatments of pesticides and antibiotics is that you keep propagating the bees that can’t survive. This is the opposite of what we need. We beekeepers need to be propagating the ones that CAN survive. Also we keep propagating the pests that are strong enough to survive our treatments. So we keep breeding wimpy bees and super pests.”

Down with Wimpy Bees!  Let’s hear it for those bees from Minnesota!