Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dreaming of Bees in Winter

Where beekeeping is concerned, I've been twiddling my thumbs a lot lately. Since a wretched bear wiped out my bees, I have two empty hives, so no need to make more right now.  However, that doesn't mean that I can't dream about bees (in addition to researching bear-proofing methods).

The guy who sold me my nuc last year seems to have gotten out of the business, so I've had to find a new supplier. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I'm quite picky. I want natural-size, treatment-free, northern-bred bees, so basically, it came down to Gold Star Honeybees and Anarchy Apiaries for me. Last week, I placed an order with Anarchy Apiaries for two packages. Anarchy Apiaries won out because Sam sells what he calls "shook swarms." I could be wrong, but here is my understanding of what this means based on his explanation in a YouTube video I saw. (Sorry, can't find the link right now.) Basically, he takes a queen from a hive and shakes a bunch of bees from that same hive into the package. The advantage of this approach is that the bees do not have to go through an acceptance process for the queen.
Additionally, my DH has proven to be a great enabler. For Christmas, he presented me with a copy of Top Bar Hive Beekeeping: Wisdom and Pleasure Combined by Wyatt A. Mangum, Ph.D. I've only read about 65 out of 400+ pages so far (because I've had company since the 22nd), but I'm loving it so far. It looks to be the most comprehensive book on TBH's I've seen thus far, and I would go so far as to say that I prefer it to the books by Christy Hemenway, Phil Chandler, or Les Crowder. (Note: I'm not disparaging the other books. They're great books which give a high-level, concise overview of TBH keeping, and if you're just starting out, I highly recommend reading them, too.)

Admittedly, I've barely cracked this new book open, and I may revise my opinion by the end. However, here is what I'm digging thus far. All of the other books I've read discuss beekeeping under ideal, perfect conditions. From what I've experienced this summer, there is very little that is either ideal or perfect about it! Top Bar Hive Beekeeping contains a lot of information about how stuff goes pear-shaped. In fact, here is one of my favorite passages:
To stave off the relentless cold and unknowingly free myself for top-bar hive beekeeping in a big way, I was also selling my frame hives. True, it was painfully hard to see those precious hives go. Most of my young life had been invested in building up that first operation. Now I had to preside over its dissolution. Breaking it up. Selling it off. The other side of beekeeping. The downside. In all my beekeeping books, both new and even the old ones from the 1800's, where was the chapter on that? 
To me, this passage is an example of the heart-felt, personal presence of the author which pervades the book. It also sums up for me what this book has been so far -- the voice of experience that has seen the ups and downs of beekeeping, the kind of wisdom that isn't covered in conventional beekeeping manuals.

Additionally, if you like photos, this book is chock full of them. You can see a small sample of these photos on Dr. Mangum's website at:

At $45, the book is not cheap, but I feel that it's well worth every penny. Additionally, you won't find it on Amazon, so if you're interested in ordering it, you will have to do so through his website.

So anyway, this is where the end of the year finds me. Happy New Year, everyone. May your summers be long and your bees prosper! :-)