At House of Bees, we practice natural beekeeping. Here are a few of the methods we use.
Gardening to provide a diverse habitat
With our interest in beekeeping, gardening no longer means only growing things that are good for humans to eat. We now focus on how to create a diverse and long-lasting nectar and pollen source for honey bees and native bees.
Planting cover crops, such as buckwheat and clover, benefit the soil as well as the bees. It is best to plant bee-friendly flowers in large areas, or drifts, so the bees can more easily work an area that is in bloom. We leave the blooms on the plant until they are spent, so the bees can get the most benefit. It is important to provide flowers as close to the natural species as possible, as hybridized flowers provide less benefit to the bees. We let the clover bloom in our lawn, and let the dandelions flower. Bees love these plants that many of us consider weeds. Bees are healthier when they have a diversity of food sources.
Using alternative hives
The colonies of honey bees in our apiary are housed in several styles of hives.
- Langstroth – the traditional hive used by commercial beekeepers, consisting of several boxes stacked vertically and using easily movable frames as a foundation for the honey comb
- African Top-bar hive – a “long” hive, usually one box deep, with simple bars from which the bees build natural comb
- Warré - small boxes stacked vertically, using bars for natural comb, as seen in our logo image in the upper left
Propagation through swarms
During the spring through mid-summer, colonies of bees will swarm as their population grows. During a swarm, up to half of the bees will leave a colony with a queen, looking for a new home. The bees will cluster on a tree branch or other surface not far from their old home. They send out scout bees to look for a new suitable home. When we see a swarm, we collect it and create a new colony in our apiary. Collecting swarms is a good way to build up a growing apiary, or to replace losses from the winter. A swarm of bees can quickly become a vigorous colony.
Treating bees with natural remedies
There are several methods that we use to keep our bees health which allow us to use fewer chemicals in our hives:
- Dust the bees with powdered sugar to make it difficult for parasitic Varroa mites to attach to the bees
- Include a screened bottom board in the hive to improve ventilation and help reduce Varroa mite population
- Provide good nutrition for the bees, seasonally providing protein and nectar supplements
More information about natural beekeeping
Michael Bush’s site: Bush Farms.
Check out the free Beekeeping for All pdf at David Heaf’s Warré Project.
There’s also great information at: Friends of the Bees.