Posts Tagged ‘Treatment free’

Every new beekeeper feels overwhelmed sometime during their first year. It may be the moment you are about to dump 12,000 bees into a hive for the first time or maybe the first time you can’t find your queen or my personal favorite,  seeing a cloud of bees leave your hive and head into a tree that is too high or dangerous to climb. Your moment may have been different but you had a moment–possibly a lot of them! The reality is, you still do! Experience is absolutely the best teacher but it does not always have to be your experience. Humans have been keeping bees for thousands of years and there is a wealth of information out there. The key is having the right information when you need it.

The level of knowledge of beginning beekeepers varies greatly. The day we stood in line at BetterBee to pick up our first package was eye opening. The people behind us did not even have a hive assembled yet and were about to pick up their bees! When we mentioned we had our hives all ready for our bees they were astounded. What in the world was this little hippy couple thinking? Please note: I was a very long haired, veggie, yoga teaching, unemployed student without a car who thought Carlos Santana was god when I met my dear wife of 34 years AND I intend to become one again when I retire! Of course, Carlos has since been proven to be god but that is another story. My point is by the time I was about to accept my care taking role, I had read several books, taken classes and lurked on Beesource.com for at least 100 hours. None-the-less, there was so much I did not know then and still do not have a clue about now. The important part is I realize that and keep trying to do something about it.

As in every part of life, continuing education enhances your chance of achieving success. If you are a new beek and want to read a great book, pick up Kim Flottum’s The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping. In my opinion, Kim gets it. He makes starting the hobby very simple from equipment selection through harvesting. Be sure to get the 2nd edition. I’ve spoken with Kim numerous times and he has an incredible feel for what is important for the health of honey bees and, most importantly, our food supply. You can also find Kim at www.thedailygreen.com or as the editor of  Bee Culture magazine.

Dean discusses design of his inner cover

Another great book  is, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping. Written by 2 of the country’s top advocates for treatment free beekeeping, Laurie Herboldsheimer and Dean Stiglitz have done a real service to beekeepers like me who believe the best way to raise bees is to put as little into a hive as possible. Personally, I do not believe this is a book for beginners but is very well suited to folks who have kept bees for a least 1 year. Here you will find discussions about the natural microflora of a hive and how even essential oils and feeding syrup can affect pH to raising queens. The book is written in a friendly, straightforward way and is an easy read that makes you think about what you are doing to your bees.

While books are great, especially in the winter sitting in front of a nice fire, nothing is better than attending local meetings or area conferences. Speaking with other local beeks, sharing their experiences–especially if you are able to hear some of the “national voices” in beekeeping–can be an incredible way to learn better management techniques for your apiary and give you the knowledge to actually improve the genetics of your bees.

Sam Comfort and a frame from his TBH

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend for the 2nd time Dean and Laurie’s outstanding Northeast Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference in Leominister, MA. Both years have brought a fantastic panel of speakers including: Dee Lusby (she and her late husband, Ed, did the first small cell studies), Michael Bush (the guru and best website in beekeeping),Mike Palmer (a good friend and if you have ever read any of the rest of this blog you know the impact Mike has had on my apiary), Kirk Webster (one of MP’s mentors and a long time treatment free beekeeper in Vermont), Sam Comfort (www.anarchyapiaries.com and probably the leading advocate for TBHs in the US), Dean, Laurie and others.

Kirk Webster and Mike Palmer prep for nuc demo

This year included demonstrations by Sam doing a split with a TBH as well as Mike and Kirk showing how they split their weakest hives into nucs that then overwinter and explode the next season. Not only are the sessions and demos some of the best educational moments I’ve experienced as a beekeeper, the speakers are all available for conversations during breaks, meals and evening sessions. It is because of this conference I have been able to introduce Mike and Sam to our local club. For me, it has made me a much better beekeeper and let me know there were other people out there that not only believed in holistic beekeeping but were proving it is possible to do. This conference sells out so you have to register early to get a seat. Check out www.beeuntoothers.com for more info.

Regardless of where you live or how long you’ve been a beekeeper, there is always a conference, a local or state meeting or someone nearby who has bees. Reach out and join in! Remember, mentoring is not a one way street. Every time I have someone in my apiary or go to a meeting I benefit and learn something new. That’s time well spent– for my bees and for me.


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