Is ‘beekeeping’ actually ‘hive robbery’?
I harvested some honey from my hive recently, on an extremely hot day – a great day to visit the hive, as the bees were mostly out foraging so there are fewer of them in the hive.
Also, it’s better to do it on a hot day so that you don’t lower the temperature in the hive (varroa survive at lower temps so it can encourage them to flourish by opening the hive too much).
So I dressed in a full set of clothes to cover myself completely, as the bees can sting straight thorough my suit – so best to have an extra layer. Then the bee suit on top of that, complete with wellies & long gloves. It was extremely hot!
I had my smoker ready with added lavender to help calm the bees. An experienced bee inspector had told me that it’s good to add calming herbs. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but not something you are generally taught in books.
After checking the supers and how much honey the bees had, I decided to take 5 frames. This left the quite vigorous hive with an entire super of honey, plus what was in the brood chamber, for their winter stores.
I have recently read that it’s a good idea to take less than you think, and you can always check the hive in the spring and take a little more then if the bees seem to have extra. I avoid feeding them any sugar syrup unless it’s a new nucleus. They make honey to feed themselves, so best to let them keep what they need.
So back to the title of the article – are we really ‘keeping’ bees? I argue not. They cannot be ‘kept’ – they are wild creatures and do their wild thing. And they definitely aren’t keen on hive robbery! Which is ultimately what I feel I am doing.
For thousands of years people have been taking honey from wild bees to satisfy their desire for sweet things. Imagine the feeling the first human had when they tasted honey!
I am humble and grateful for this amazing bounty on my doorstep, and for really surprisingly little effort. I robbed 5 kilos of honey this year, up 2kg from last year. Hoping to get another hive going in the spring.
Wonderful feisty little creatures, I plant many plants for their delectation, and am tasting this biodiversity in their honey. Long live the bee!
So I think it’s a reasonably fair deal – I provide a home, plant things they like, leave them honey over winter and don’t take too much. I read the Barefoot Beekeeper before I started, and was thinking of getting a top bar hive, but bought National hives because I was told by several people to start this way. It’s quite a ride navigating what is best all round.
Below are two of the 5 frames that I ‘robbed’. Notice the thick comb they have built on the side of the frame.
I have quite a non-technical method of getting the honey out of the combs. With scissors, I cut the comb off the frames into a large pan. Using a potato masher I mash up the comb to release the honey. Then strain through muslin supported by a colander into another pan. Leave overnight to drain before transferring into clean jars.
I keep the comb for candle making….but that’s another story!
Re-blogged from Green Living Muse.
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1lin scrannage October 10th, 2016
Feel, like you that many ”beekeepers” are in it to get as much honey as they can from their bees – many will take all the honey from the hive and feed with sugar syrup as a replacement ( hugely inferior product with no natural enzymes ) Please bear in mind that extracting honey by mashing the comb (while using frames and the conventional system of keeping bees in a box ) is very wasteful as the bees spend a huge amount of energy building comb. I would srongly recommend you learing about top bar beekeeping. I have been running the 2 systems for the last 7 years and the top bar has never gone queenless, also I stopped treating for varroa in the top bar 4 years ago – during a recent visit from the Welsh bee inspector, he said that he had never seen such a healthy and thriving colony !!
2plashelyg October 10th, 2016
Yes I know about top bar, I went with what I knew I could get advice on local to here when I started, which was the National. I will be making the most of the comb by making candles from it. After mashing, I left the strained comb outside near the hive so the bees could lick it clean of honey.
I also haven’t treated for varroa for 2 years. The relatively constant opening & closing of hive that many bee keepers do lowers the temperature in the hive which allows the varroa mite to flourish. So I keep it to an absolute minimum.
Similarly we had a visit from and inspector recently, she said all was well with my bees. A relief for an inexperienced keep like myself (only 5 years) and also empowering to know I am doing OK by them!
3Gareth John October 10th, 2016
Sometimes it is better to negotiate with the bees and ask permission to share. Then one does not need two bee suits and one is no longer a robber.