Michael Bush At The Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference
At the Beginner’s Intensive segment of the Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference Michael Bush gave a talk. Micheal has a wonderful website where he posts all of his PowerPoint presentations. If you have not seen them before they are really worth taking a look at. You can find them here. Michael is an advocate of lazy or simple beekeeping and keeps his bees treatment free on foundationless comb in 8 frame medium Langstroth hives. He is very active on many beekeeping forums online and has been keeping bees since the 1970’s. Michael is the author of The Practical Beekeeper Volume I, II & III Beekeeping Naturally and complied the Classic Queen Rearing Compendium and Huber’s New Observations Upon Bees The Complete Volumes I & II.
Having read Michael Bush’s books, website, numerous forum posts and watching some of his webinars, I was really excited to actually meet him in person. Michael Bush was one of the people who gave me the confidence to try using foundationless frames in my Langstroth hives. I had wanted to try using foundationess frames for a while but did not personally know anyone doing so (except a few blog friends) and most people told me it would not work and the bees would make a mess of things. Email correspondence with Michael prior to the start of this year gave me the confidence to try it out myself. Foundationless frames are now working so well in my test hive that I have added a third deep to 3 of my hives with foundationless frames for an unlimited broodnest in lieu of honey. I was excited to be able to meet Michael Bush in person and thank him.
Michael talked about how beekeeping is more of an art than a science. Learn to recognize the sounds of the beehive. Watch what’s going on outside and you have an idea what’s going on inside without opening the hive up. Leave the bees alone. If they have problems you need to be able to figure out what they need to solve the problem or help them eliminate the problem. If they have stores, do not feed them in a dearth it could create robbing. The biggest problems bees have is the beekeepers. Let bees do what they want.
Michael mentioned a lot of people write to him about queen problems. People in the north want to get queens earlier and earlier. These queens are not well mated because there are not enough drones available at that time. Let bees raise drones and raise queens from your own hives. The oviaroles of the queen bee need to develop for three weeks. They need to lay eggs during that time to help them develop properly. Queens caged after mating may not have the opportunity to do this. Queen breeders have no stake in the quality of the queen they sell you. If you get a bad queen and the queen dies you need to buy another queen from them for the colony to survive. You do have a stake in your queen which is why you should raise your own.
If you have two hives and you have a queen problem, you have resources. You can give the hive with the problems a frame of open brood. Having too few hives can be a problem since you won’t have enough resources to help the bees. Having too many hives is not a problem. Then you have the resources and can sell what you don’t need to someone else.
The panacea for any queen problem is a frame of open brood. When a hive is broodless, laying workers may develop. If you give a hive with laying workers a frame of brood once a week for 3 weeks, it will suppress the laying workers. A hive does not have one laying worker, there are a few hundred to a few thousand laying workers in a hive. Laying workers lay drones only since drones are unfertilized eggs. If you can’t find the queen, you have scattered larvae, scattered drone cells in worker brood and no worker brood, you could have laying workers. If you give this hive a frame of open brood they can make their own queen. You can also combine this hive with another queen right hive.
Figure out what bees are trying to do and leave them alone unless they need help. Then give them the resources they need to solve the problem themselves. You can learn from them. You need local bees and local queens. You can be the local supplier for beekeepers if you raise your own. You can sell your extra hives or packages and queens.
There are plenty of feral bees out there. People underestimate the amount of feral bees. All queens come from only a few thousand queens imported in the 1700s. All bees are mutts. Italians are a more yellowish brownish bee. Italians are brood rearing fools. If there is a dearth they are still laying. Carniolans are more frugal and darker. They are mutts too. They usually stop laying in a dearth and have a smaller cluster in the winter. They use less stores and survive just fine.
Local feral bees tend to be frugal mutts. The Buckfast bee is a compromise between the Carniolan and the Italian. They are semi frugal. They have a midsize cluster in the winter. Michael said he used to love Buckfast bees until he got some from Texas and those were the meanest bees he’s ever had.
You should help bees do what they want to do. If they want to swarm, make a split. You don’t have to spend money to keep bees. Get an observation hive. Put an observation hive in a school.
People say feeding bees can’t hurt. But feeding bees can hurt them. If you feed them too late going into winter and the stores can’t ripen, the hive will have high humidity in cold weather and this could be a disaster for bees.