LAST NIGHT I went to the Santa Cruz Beekeepers Guild meeting in the Rio trailer park downtown. Sooo a m a z i n g! Everyone was SO nice and helpful– it was almost like a co-op of beekeepers. No rules, no hierarchy, no fees, no dues– simply comin’ together for a common collective! Exchanging contacts, tips, stories… doing demonstrations… mmmmmMmMMmmmmM!!!
Really funny, Mike from 3mile came too, and when he introduced himself to the group as “Hi I’m Mike, I have zero experience with bees, but I’m buying a hive box tomorrow and am hoping to catch a swarm,” this beekeeper Tom sat right down with him and started talking. About half way through the meeting, Tom whisked a confused Mike out of the room, and they drove off in a truck. I thought to myself… wait… what? Where are you taking my friiiienndd?!?!?!?? but about 45 minutes later Mike re-emerged during the break and told me how Tom took him over to some ladies house, threw a beesuit at him and CAUGHT A SWARM UNDER SOME TRAMPOLINE!!! hahahaha Mike was like “Yeah I was freaking SCARED! Tom was like ‘you ready? you ready? LETS GO!’ but I didn’t even know how to zip up the suit ahhhh!!!” But sure enough, a little tiny swarm is now ready to be put into mikes new hive little hive body.
I, on the other hand, have set about making my own hive! Its different from a traditional (Langstroth) hive:
The thing with Top Bar Hives (tbh) which is very different is that, instead of having frames with wax foundation on them for the bees to build off of,
the tbh has only a “top bar” which hangs across, and the bees make their own natural comb off of it, however the heck they want to do it:
Though there isn’t any definitive studies yet that I know of, word is getting around that tbh’s generally have more docile bees, and many speculate that it is because there is less stress on the bees because they have more freedom to make their own comb. Furthermore, some say that the bees and the keeper have a better relationship because there is a sort of understanding that they are not there simply for the exploitation of their honey/wax, but more for a simple careful tending/ sharing of stores bond.
What I find MOST interesting though, is that keepers are reporting that after about 7 generations of bees in a top bar hive, the actual comb cell size becomes slightly SMALLER than what the hexagonal imprint on the Langstroff foundation is!
THIS, in turn, produces physiologically SMALLER bees!
Now, so I’ve heard, when a scientist looks at the anatomy of a bee, they think “Dang, this bee’s wings seem disproportionately small to its body size! They must not be able to fly very well at all!” Some speculate that this stress/tiredness/overwork is a factor (and for some, THE cause) in CCD, or colony collapse disorder. CCD is what you hear about in the news– beekeepers losing 1/3 of their bee population each year.
However, with a smaller bee, the wing/body proportions are better suited, and some people are reporting having kept the same small cell hives for over FIFTY YEARS! (which is basically unheard of!).
SO, I am trying out a Top Bar Hive and ‘natural’ comb production.
Oh, and one more cool thing about these hives– honey extraction is SUPER easy. Just cut off a comb from one of the honey bars, mash it up, strain it (or not) into a jar– voila! ANDDDD then the bees create a whole new, clean comb (especially good if you ever have to treat your bees for mites).
So I went to home depot today for some supplies, and trucked in ‘merca up to three mile farm, where Ted was stoked enough to give me his whole afternoon!
Lemme just say, Ted Hertel is a woodworking machine. He is grandmaster sensei. AND he doesn’t just take over. He coaxes me into doing all the steps and using all the sketchy-ass saws and shit after he gives me a few pointers or setup help! If you ever read/see this, MUCHISIMAS GRACIAS TEDORIO!
side note: Ted and I went up to the dump to get some screws out of old woodstuffs, and this little mexican man hopped out of a tractor and started making conversation about if we had a “proyect” and if we were “estudiants.” Out of… reflex? Idk… I answered “Sí!” to one of his questions, and he stopped, looked at me out of the corner of his twinkly eye and conned “ahhh, ¿Hablas español, amigaaaa?” hahaha and that was it! Ted, little man and I had a whooollleeee long converstation in spanish and it MADE. MY. LIFE. MMmmmmmMMmm I love speaking in Spanish and practicing almostttt as much as I love bees.
So anyways, today we pretty much finished the whole hive body (three legs to go!). Now all that needs to happen is the top bars, a lid, a roof, and paint!
OH, and did I mention I’m getting 5 credits for this?