Beekeeping is like any faction of agriculture. Just as there are a hundred ways to grow carrots, there are hundreds of ways to keep bees, given the available components and philosophies. With this in mind, there is a surprising phenomenon beekeepers encounter early on when they become new beekeepers which is extreme prejudice, peer pressure, and mockery if they choose a path other than using commercial-type Langstroth hives and treatments. To explain this further, I need to take a side-step and head down a small, well-worn rabbit hole…
Commercial beekeepers are in a supremely difficult position. A great example of the epic issues with monoculture are exemplified in the over 800,000 acres of almond trees in California. It’s only a small exaggeration to say that almost all of the managed beehives in the U.S. are trucked out to the almonds to pollinate them each year in February. The reason bees cannot be kept in the almonds year-round is alarmingly simple: nothing else is planted. There would be nothing else for bees to eat or forage upon during the rest of the year and they would starve. Aside from almonds, the land is a desert.
Aside from the obvious problems with this example of monoculture, the greater issue for honeybees is that they are all trucked to this one area where they then share pests, diseases, and genetics before they are driven back to their home communities where they then share them there. While the many causes for Colony Collapse Disorder are still being identified, it cannot be ignored that CCD is an ongoing tragedy of shocking proportions. Commercial beekeepers need to feed their families and try and preserve their businesses. To attempt to keep their colonies alive, they have little other option than to medicate and treat their bees with chemicals at sometimes alarming rates. As food consumers, we depend upon their bees and as business owners, commercial beekeepers depend upon their bees.
In past years, we have met a handful of commercial beekeepers. I have yet to meet one that doesn’t bemoan how they have to keep, and treat their bees, in attempts to keep the colonies thriving. Commercial beekeepers are in the difficult position of what they must do to try and save their livelihood, what industrial agriculture demands of them and their honeybees, and what they wish were the reality as beekeepers. The commercial beekeepers I have met wish they were in the position that I am, as a hobby beekeeper. I’m in a luxurious position in that I can develop my own philosophy by trial and error. I get to tow a hard line; I don’t ever treat my bees, with anything… natural or not, I let my weak colonies die off and repopulate from my strongest, I have gotten my losses down to 15-20% over the last 6 years, my livelihood isn’t being threatened from every angle by a witch’s brew of pesticides, diseases, and industrial agriculture.
So it is odd then that when folks begin beekeeping now days, they should immediately run into an old-guard of side-line and hobby beekeepers, at community beekeeping groups and forums, that attempt to minimize and mock them if they are attempting to do things more naturally, and differently — from choosing easier-to-use hive styles that give the bees an experience more like that they might have in nature, to not treating with chemical medications and miticides. We know that commercial beekeepers have little choice about the way they keep bees, but as side-line beekeepers, we are not constrained to box-type hive styles that need to be easily stacked and trucked around the country. If we lose our colonies, our families don’t have to tighten their belts and change their lifestyle.
If commericial beekeepers are envious of the hobby and side-line beekeeper’s many choices and available beekeeping philosophy decisions, why is this old guard so threatened? And more importantly, why are they attempting to qualify and judge someone else’s interest in beekeeping? After all, aren’t we all in it for the bees? And if what we have been doing the same way for the last hundred years is no longer working, isn’t it time to change what we are doing? And quickly?
Here is an article about the almonds and bee losses from earlier this year: http://www.nytimes.com/
We’ll have them soon! We’ve worn ventilated bee jackets in our own apiary for over a year and they are fantastic. But it wasn’t until the recent months that we were able to find a quality supplier. We’re currently taking pre-orders and expect to have them in stock by the end of October. Pre-order yours now and save $15. Free shipping.
For over a year we’ve had a “temporary” sign hanging up on the side of our building. Finally, after a lot of work, we’ve finally got an amazing new blade sign! It showcases both Bee Thinking and Mead Market (the mead arm of our business). Hopefully those of you visiting from out of town will have an easier time finding us now.
It’s officially Fall and the rain has arrived in Portland, Oregon. The Bee Thinking team just returned from Seven Springs, Pennsylvania where we attended the Mother Earth News Fair along with around 15,000 other amazing people. As usual, it was a great time and we enjoyed meeting our customers and making new ones! Next month, October 12th-13th, we’ll be at the first annual Lawrence, Kansas Mother Earth News Fair. Matt will be speaking at 12:30PM on Saturday, October 12th if you’re attending. We hope to see you there!
The team in the booth, ready for action:
Here’s Matt speaking about Beginning Beekeeping to a packed crowd at the Grit Stage:
They’ve been a long time in the making, but we finally finished the first batch of cedar Langstroth hives. They are constructed from the same wonderful kiln dried Western Red Cedar used on the rest of our hives. Boxes available in shallow, medium and deep in both 8-frame and 10-frame configurations. Cedar hive kits with a roof, inner cover and either solid or screened bottom are also available. All hives boxes and cedar hive kits include FREE SHIPPING to the contiguous 48 states!
Cedar Hive Kit with Medium Boxes – Starting At $144.99
Deep Box – Starting at $36.99
Medium Box – Starting at $32.99
Shallow Box – Starting at $29.99
Earlier this month we finally completed our first run of top bar hive nucleus boxes. They are a wonderful addition to the apiary of any top bar beekeeper! Perfect for swarm catching, splitting colonies, and overwintering small nucs. Conveniently sized, we carry them in the back of our cars and trucks at all times so that we’re always ready for the next swarm call!
They are constructed from the same beautiful kiln dried Western Red Cedar used on the rest of our top bar hives, Warre hives, and Cedar Langstroth hives. They feature 7 top bars and 1 divider, and a roof covered in sheet metal to keep out the elements. Pre-drilled and easy to assembly in a few minutes. $99 with free shipping to the lower 48 states.
Daylight Savings Time has come, which tells us that Bee Season is almost here. What a year it’s been! In April of 2012 we moved Bee Thinking from its tiny, 1,000 square foot space in the Sellwood Neighborhood of Portland to a 3,000 square foot facility in the SE Hawthorne Neighborhood.
In May of last year Williams-Sonoma approached us about selling our hives (top bar hives and Warre hives) through their website and catalog. This, of course, was flattering and exciting news! In order to keep up with the demand and further refine the quality of our products, we built a relationship with a new manufacturer. We’re now able to produce at least 300 hives at a time, all consistently quality controlled and ready to ship to our customers worldwide.
Due to the increased demand for our hives, we’ve also increased our staff from 2 to 4, with Alyssa starting as our full-time manager in July. This staffing increase has better enabled us to handle the deluge of orders, phone calls and e-mails that come with the spring rush. We’re doing our best to keep up, usually shipping orders within a day or two, but sometimes we get backed up. Please bear with us!
We’re teaching at least 2 beekeeping classes per month (sign up for beekeeping classes), with most of them filling up long before the date of the class (Sign up soon if you plan to take one this spring)! We also had a Mead Making class earlier this year that was a great success. We plan to continue mead making classes and begin offering other bee-related classes in the near future.
We’re continuing to innovate by improving current products offering new ones based on requests from our customers. Our top bar hive now features a full-length window, a modification that has been requested for a long time. Our new products that will be available soon include top bar hive screened bottoms, Western Red Cedar Langstroth hives (available for pre-order), and top bar hive nucleus boxes.
Swarms should begin around the start of April. In fact, in 2011 and 2012 our first swarms of the year were on Easter day. We’re working hard to prepare for swarm season, and we’re planning on adding dozens of bait hives all over the city to ensure we capture as many swarms as possible, while also keeping them from moving into walls.
Happy bee season, all!
The Bee Thinking storefront in Portland, OR, will be closed on December 25th through January 1st due to the holidays. It has been a wonderful 2012 and we are thankful for each beekeeper and bee (knowledge) seeker we were able to meet and help out. By far our favorite part of Bee Thinking is the people we get to meet and chat bees with.
Even though our storefront will be closed, you all can still shop to your heart’s content on our website http://www.beethinking.com/. We will be shipping some orders on December 26th. However, most orders during this time will go out on January 2nd.
Bee Thinking Regular Business Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm
Tuesday, December 25th – Tuesday, January 1st
Thanks for making this a very wonderful 2012. We look forward to serving your beekeeping needs in 2013! Happy holidays!
What is a quilt box? is one of the most common questions we receive. It is essentially a small box with burlap or screen on the bottom, filled with sawdust, cedar shavings or some other organic material. The box sets on top of the topmost box the bees inhabit and is said to “absorb moisture” and “retain the nest scent and heat.” But does it?
A customer of ours recently gathered some data on this very subject by using temperature sensors in his identical Langstroth hives. He added a quilt box to one of them, and left the other one untouched. Here are the identical hives:
Here is the quilt box:
Here is the data he gathered:
Note that the temperature fluctuates far less on Hegemone (the hive to which the quilt box was added).
In the next week he plans to add a solid bottom to one of the hives to see what impact it has on the temperature.
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