Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Backyard beekeeping

Along with turning our front yard into a giant edible wonderland, we are thinking of getting backyard bees. We have a couple of options: we can host a hive through one of several organizations in the area (Ballard Bee Company or Urban Bee Company) or we can set up our own shop.

Last year I took a class on beekeeping from Seattle Tilth and learned, more or less, the basics. I also received a review copy of Keeping Bees with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Tend Hives, Harvest Honey & More, which I've been dutifully studying.

Unfortunately, all the books and training I've had has been on Langstroth hives. Both companies that do the hosting stuff also use Langstroth hives. But, I've been immensely fascinated by top bar hives which seem easier and more natural in many respects.

The benefits of hosting a hive are that I don't have to do anything besides provide the space. At the end of the deal, we get 10% of the honey. We'll most definitely be going this route for a number of reasons (laziness and fear top the list), but I still am drawn to the top bar hives.

Do any of you keep bees and, if so, what kind of hives do you have?

21 comments:

Michelle said...

We keep bees. Carniolans. We follow Langstroth. We started with one hive and now have three in our backyard. Whatever you choose I encourage you to keep them and work them yourself, they are fascinating. I don't know much about top bar other than extracting honey from them is not as simple a process as it is with Langstroth.

Green Bean said...

I'd love to keep bees but haven't taken the plunge yet! I need to take a class like you did, I think, before I'd feel comfortable. I do hope that you go for it so I can follow your adventures and hopefully by next spring . . .

Kate said...

I keep bees with Langstroth hives. If I had the chance to host I would definitely have gone that route as a new beekeeper, especially since you get *some* honey out of the deal. One of the major reasons I want the bees is for pollination services, and I would get that whether they were my bees or not. The costs for beekeeping are steep, so why not host for a year and see if you really want to have them around and bear the expense yourself. Even if you decide to go with top bar hives, hosting for a year would be a great learning experience for you and your family.

Sonja said...

Oh, exciting! I'm with Kate: startup costs for beeks are significant and unfortunately, here in the PNW (as elsewhere), mortality rates are steep. Hosting a hive would be a great way to try it out without a big commitment of time or money. Have you perhaps asked around PSBA to see if there are any TBH keepers that might be interested in hosting a hive at your place? They have an online forum that might be a good place to post. You might have more luck as the season progresses and beeks start collecting swarms (and needing places to put them!). this might also allow you to get a hive this year rather than having to wait until the new packages arrive next spring...

Good luck!!

Anisa said...

We used a plan by the author of Barefoot Beekeeping to build our top bar hive. The site is http://www.biobees.com/ and has tons of info. We got a small swarm really late in the season last year - a friend caught it for us. They stayed all summer and built lots of comb and then just left. We don't think they died (we they obviously died, but not at our place), but suspect something happened to the queen, since there were bees milling around aimlessly for a couple weeks before they were completely gone. We hope to try again this year - to get a bigger swarm, earlier in the season, etc.

Anisa said...

As to the cost, I don't feel like we made a significant investment. The hive was fairly inexpensive to build, and the bees were free. they are pretty much no maintenance. If you only open the hive on warm days and don't disturb them much, we found we really didn't even need a bee suit. The two or three times we really wanted to do something with them, we borrowed a coat and hat from a friend who already had one. Langstroth hive are more expensive to get set up though, I imagine.

The Haphazard Countryman said...

I've been reading everything and ordered my nucs last November. Got a call last night that they will be coming May 20th. My Langstroth hive bodies are built and waiting, the frames are built and filled with new crimp wire foundation. Anxious and nervous all at the same time.

I'm not aware of places that let you "host" bee hives. I definitely would have done that, although there are a lot of hobby beekeepers out there and they are all more than willing to let you join in the fun and learn. The bees need all the support they can get these days.

Anna in Atlanta said...

I just started two Top Bar Hives (my first ever) in March. I made the hives from scrap lumber, with a viewing window on the side from salvaged windowpanes. Total startup was under $200 (including 2 packages of bees). I made a veil from netting and a favorite wide-brimmed hat, and use kidskin garden gloves. I've inspected them once, and need to check again soon. So far so good -- with the windows I can see they're busy and the hives are filling up

Oxray Farm said...

We used the Backwards Beekeeper method, and do a hybrid method lanstroth/topbar. It looks a lot like this:

http://www.beesource.com/resources/elements-of-beekeeping/alternative-hive-designs/urban-bee-condo-long-hive/


Our bees built out their own comb instead of using foundation, that way the size of the cells are too their choosing.

I find this method to be easier when extracting honey, cheeper too since you don't need an extractor. Just search crush and strain honey on Backwards Beekeepers and you'll get all the info you need.

Ellen said...

I'd never heard of hive hosting before but a quick Google search turned up a local place here. I've been swarmed a few times by yellowjackets so am not overly fond of bees personally, but I love the work honeybees do in our garden and have a roof area that might make a nice hosting site. Thanks for posting this!

Bob Redmond said...

@Deanna, glad you are pursuing this. I might have a hive for you by the way!

@Ellen, a note--yellowjackets are a different species than bees, definitely not the same thing. Although they do eat aphids and are therefore a tiny bit helpful, I don't like them either. But bees are much more gentle and IMHO fascinating.

Bob Redmond said...

PS... here's an interesting post on this topic from Dave up in Snohomish, he has a really good bee blog. http://davesbeeadventure.blogspot.com/2011/05/hive-types.html

Crunchy Chicken said...

Bob - Yeah! Email me if anything is imminent. Also, do you have a website or just the Facebook page so I can add some linking lovage.

Crunchy Chicken said...

For those of you on comments, Bob Redmond is the person who runs the Urban Bee Company.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I read, again and again, that people interesting in beginning with beekeeping believe that top-bar beekeeping is "more natural."

Why was I not paying attention to the part where anyone explained why one style of hive is more or less natural? I've read a lot about beekeeping, and keep bees myself, but I've yet to hear what the "natural" argument actually is.

I;m not trying to be antagonistic. It has just become a sort of article of faith among a certain class of garden blogger that top bar hives are a more natural home for the european honeybee.

(For what it's worth, we utilize a foundationless form of the Langstroth hive. It works well for the bees in our hives.)

Crunchy Chicken said...

Lisa and Robb - I believe it has to do with the use of chemicals or chemicals in the starter wax. I suspect most backyard beekeepers aren't doing this but maybe commercial ones are?

I also has to do with the way bees "like" to form the honeycombs which is better supported in a top bar hive.

Kate said...

Crunchy, I use Langstroth hives without foundation. I just bought empty frames and then put starter strips in, and sealed them in with the highest quality beeswax I could find. I don't remember where I got my wax, but Mountain Rose Herbs sells beeswax, and I know they're fairly careful about the products they choose to carry. The bees drew out their own comb just fine.

Kara said...

I am just starting with bees, and installed my very first package in my top bar hive a week ago! So far, so good, and I'm looking forward to learning more.

Allison said...

We just installed our bees Saturday. We decided to use a Warre Hive, as they're supposed to be more natural for the bees. Also, they offer better winter protection.

Meadowlark said...

Not sure if you've met Julia, but she's a bee whiz. (if that's a word)

http://henhousepottery.blogspot.com/2011/05/swarm-capture-and-boy-and-his-duck.html

fifan said...

I am thinking that if everyone was a beekeeper, it could be advantageous, as long as people knew how to keep bees. I personally have a site about beekeeping, and I find it interesting to see that there are many people interested in this activity. Thank you for this blog post.

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