A Listing of Professionals and Cons

Beekeepers are going through super challenges, from pests comparable to varroa and tracheal mites and from the mysterious however much more devastating phenomenon referred to as Colony Collapse Dysfunction (CCD). But in backyards and on rooftops everywhere in the world, bees are being raised efficiently, even with out antibiotics, miticides, or different chemical substances. An increasing number of organically minded beekeepers are actually utilizing top-bar hives, by which the form of the inside resembles a hole log.

The next is an excerpt from High-Bar Beekeeping by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell. It has been tailored for the online.

Picture credit score: John T. Denne.

Usually I’m requested why I made the transition away from Langstroth hives to top-bar hives. It is very important be aware that a lot of what we do as beekeepers would be the similar it doesn’t matter what sort of beehive we use, however there are important variations in administration, relying on hive design.

bee keeperMy main curiosity as a beekeeper has been to maintain bees organically. The agricultural world has turn into more and more toxic, each to the earth and to the folks consuming the merchandise. Though natural requirements for beekeeping differ from one nation to a different, they typically suggest that beekeepers use hives produced from pure supplies that aren’t handled with any chemical substances. In addition they generally suggest that bees construct their very own combs, forage in an unsprayed surroundings, usually are not fed sugar syrup or pollen substitutes, and usually are not handled with chemical inputs of any variety. The highest-bar hive simply accommodates natural necessities. It may be constructed by a beekeeper for about $30 to $40 out of untreated wooden, and even made out of wildcrafted supplies comparable to willow or bamboo. I’ve even made a hive out of adobe mud. The inside of a top-bar hive mimics a hole log, and the top-bar beekeeping bees can draw out their combs in no matter method they select.The highest-bar hive is lengthy lasting and 100% biodegradable.

Professionals of High-Bar Beekeeping

One in all my preliminary causes for transitioning away from Langstroth hives was the necessity to retailer combs over winter. Langstroth hives have bins known as supers which are positioned above the brood field for honey storage. As soon as the honey harvest is over for the season, supers are saved for the winter within the hope of preserving the combs for the next season. The storage of supers is an issue as a result of wax moths and mice will eat and destroy the combs. In industrial operations, supers are fumigated with paradichlorobenzene to maintain these pests away. Paradichlorobenzene, the chemical utilized in mothballs, is a identified carcinogen that’s absorbed by beeswax. The combs within the supers are handled with this chemical after which positioned again into the beehives within the springtime to be refilled with honey. In a top-bar hive, nonetheless, there isn’t a must retailer combs by way of the winter, which eliminates each the issue and its chemical answer.

Langstroth hives are used at the side of sheets of wax or plastic known as basis. These sheets are imprinted with a chosen cell dimension, one which’s designed to maximise honey manufacturing. Though basis was once made solely from beeswax, industrial beekeepers are turning to the plastic basis as a longer-lasting and due to this fact extra economical alternative for his or her companies. Sadly, this plastic finally ends up as an industrial waste product when it’s not helpful. The predetermined cell dimension of basis additionally presents a matter of debate throughout the natural beekeeping group.

In a pure surroundings, honeybees will draw out varied sizes of cells relying on the wants of the hive, usually utilizing quite a lot of cell sizes on one comb. Bees generally will construct bigger cells on the prime of a comb and smaller cells on the backside of the comb. The brood cell dimension additionally modifications barely over the course of a season, and the ensuing physiology of the rising bees shifts to correlate with this variation. Bees born from bigger cells are correspondingly bigger and have extra fats our bodies. Research have proven that substances within the fats our bodies have an effect on employee longevity and that these substances work together with brood pheromones.1 Bees born from smaller cells, in distinction, are smaller and present better resistance to varroa mite.2 In top-bar hives, the bees are free to fluctuate their cell sizes to satisfy the altering calls for of the hive, and there may be neither the expense nor the waste of plastic basis. The administration of hygiene and illness was additionally an integral a part of my alternative to make use of top-bar hives.

With the Langstroth system, honey is extracted from the comb by centrifugal drive, which leaves the beeswax combs intact. This enables the beekeeper to place them again into the hive to be refilled by the bees. For optimum honey manufacturing, this extraction course of makes a substantial amount of financial sense. The bees don’t should rebuild the comb, which makes use of up numerous the sources of the hive. The beekeeper thus income from having extra honey at a sooner charge of harvest. Nonetheless, the tendency in massive industrial operations is to maintain placing combs again into the hive after they’ve turn into a possible well being danger for the bees in an effort to get as a lot use from them as potential earlier than they’re discarded.

Every time the queen bee lays an egg in a cell, the bee larva traces the cell with its cocoon throughout pupation. When the brand new grownup bee emerges, the cocoon stays contained in the cell, is cleaned out, and a brand new egg is laid. When the following grownup bee develops, a second layer of cocoon is left behind, can be cleaned out, and the method continues. As time goes on, the cell dimension will get smaller and smaller, and the comb will get blacker and blacker as a consequence of a buildup of cocoons, propolis, and fecal matter contained in the partitions of the cells. The bees born inside these darker cells are smaller, and the hygiene of the hive finally turns into compromised as a consequence of a better degree of pathogens. The temptation for industrial Langstroth operations to proceed to make use of previous black combs is nice, as the price of changing combs means the price of shopping for extra basis, in addition to shedding money and time on having the bees construct contemporary combs.

In top-bar hive administration, a substantial amount of consideration and care is given to biking out previous darkish combs. They routinely are moved to the again of the brood nest in order that they could be stuffed with honey and culled. The honey is harvested by taking the


High-bar hives don’t require an extractor. Within the honey-bottling space, the combs are handcrushed over a tank with a strainer on prime. The gear could be so simple as a colander and a mixing bowl for small batches produced at residence.

entire comb off the bar and crushing it, permitting the honey to empty out by way of a colander. The bees then have to attract out contemporary comb to switch the comb that has been harvested. Though many Langstroth hive advocates imagine that it’s detrimental to require the bees to make extra beeswax frequently, the bees profit from the common conversion of honey to beeswax. It workouts their wax-making glands, which retains their glandular techniques energetic and wholesome. Beeswax absorbs and holds oil- and fat-soluble toxins, that are sadly plentiful in our present surroundings. As these toxins construct up  contained in the hive, it turns into an more and more poisonous surroundings for the bees to reside in. Repeatedly rotating and culling combs retains the hive wholesome as a result of it removes wax-soluble toxins and cleanses the hive by way of regeneration.

Lastly, the Langstroth system requires some expensive gear. With a purpose to produce honey in any quantity, an extractor is a required expense. Extractors are chrome steel machines designed to tug the honey gently out of the combs by way of centrifugal drive. Though extractors save time throughout honey harvest and protect the combs, they’ve their drawbacks as properly. Beekeepers who use an extractor are inclined to delay honey harvest till there’s a massive batch of honey to extract. The labor required to make use of and clear the machine merely isn’t justified with small batches of honey. In distinction, as a producer of varietal honeys, it’s in my greatest curiosity to reap honey after every plant stream, regardless of how massive, in order that I can bottle and promote distinctive flavors.

Cons of High-Bar Beekeeping

The highest-bar system definitely has some disadvantages, the principle one being that top-bar hives require a excessive degree of ability and confidence from the start beekeeper. The chance for cross-combing is nice, and as soon as a top-bar hive has turn into cross-combed, it may be a really daunting process to wash up. Cross-combing occurs when the bees draw their combs at odd angles to the highest bars, typically spanning many bars directly, which causes the comb to drop and break when the hive is opened. The primary ability of top-bar hive administration includes spacing the combs in order that the bees would not have an opportunity to cross-comb. On heavy honey flows in late summer time, when there are a better variety of bees within the hive, it may be troublesome to remain on prime of administration, particularly if a beekeeper has a lot of hives. This makes top-bar hives a doubtlessly discouraging alternative for industrial beekeeping. It is usually troublesome to load and stack top-bar hives for large-scale pollination.

One other clear downside to top-bar hives is that the bees should construct brand-new combs each time honey is harvested, which reduces honey manufacturing. The bees eat 9 to 11 kilos (4–5 kg) of honey to supply each 1 pound (0.45 kg) of beeswax, so the development of recent combs detracts from the quantity of honey that will get saved within the hive. I experimented with 5 top-bar hives and 5 Langstroth hives one yr and located that, on common, the top-bar hives produced 20 p.c much less honey and 6 occasions as a lot beeswax because the Langstroth hives. Many top-bar beekeepers make the most of these greater wax yields by making candles, salves, and balms to diversify their companies. The financial benefit of better wax yields might properly offset the drawback of decrease honey manufacturing, relying on how beekeepers select to market their wax merchandise.

The pure top-bar motion has appealed primarily to residence and interest operators who’ve the time and curiosity in conserving bees intensively. Though there are some industrial top-bar operations throughout america, they’re a small minority in contrast with the variety of Langstroth operations. Most beekeeping publications are designed to serve the Langstroth group, and there may be a substantial amount of assist for freshmen. Though there are assist techniques for top-bar hive fanatics, they are usually small teams oriented towards vigorous discussions of hive design and home-built techniques for harvest and wax utilization. Fortunately, that is slowly altering, aided by the Web and a rising physique of sources for top-bar hive beekeepers.

Advisable Reads

Elevate Bees in Your House: City Apiculture

The Buzz: Beekeeping for Newbies

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