Sunday, March 24, 2013

Big Bee Buzz, Closing Thoughts, Where do I Go from Here?

The Big Bee Buzz put put on by NEOBA was again a fantastic event.  This year's festivities were a substantially treatment-free themed affair.  It was so much fun, I got to meet and hang out with Sam Comfort, got to hang out with Michael Bush, and got to know Ed Levi (former Arkansas State Bee Inspector) better.  So what did I take away?

Some context.  Everything I say is from the perspective of someone who is a Bond method beekeeper, and quite evangelical about it.  I believe people should raise their own bees.  I firmly dislike monoculture and the migratory beekeeping that enables it.  My focus is pretty strictly on small beekeepers, backyard beekeepers, hobbyists, avid hobbyists, and sideliners.

The new name I am using for my philosophy which I got with permission from Sam Comfort is Expansion Model Beekeeping.  My twist is this:  As a beekeeper, rather than spending a load of time learning about all the treatments, what they do, how to use them, all the mechanical and cultural methods of controlling mites, brood breaks, screened bottom boards etc., rather than putting energy into learning and internalizing all that stuff, learn how to breed and expand and to outrun the mites.  And the thing is, outrunning them is only necessary for a relatively brief period of time.  Once your local and localized population becomes sustainable, the mites are not a problem at all.  Focus on creating and maintaining a population from which you can lose a few and not have coronaries about it.  It's no big deal because you'll just raise some more in the spring.  The last two years, I've only lost a single hive.  That's after three years in this location with some higher losses, but a no point was it unsustainable.  And with the methods that I have discovered and implemented now, I could have done it without buying new bees or queens.  Run your operation, whatever size, on an expansion model rather than trying to maintain some certain benchmark.  Hives are much easier to reduce in number than increase.

A handy trick I learned from Mike Bush was when a queen flies off, to dump some bees on the topbars of the hives.  They will begin scent fanning and she'll have a better chance of making it back to the right hive.

Something I have been convinced to do is register my bees.  I had been concerned that some inspector was going to tell me that I had to treat them.  Ed Levi calmed my fears and said that they can't do that.  The only thing they can do in Arkansas is burn them if they have American Foul Brood.  I'm not so concerned about that.  I've never had foulbrood and if I did, burning them is probably a good idea even though every deep box costs about $30 and every medium box costs about $25.  It could get not cheap but it would be even more not cheap if it were allowed to spread.  Anyway, the biggest benefit of registering and getting inspected is that I can ship queens and bees around.

I'm also going to start going to the Northwest Arkansas Beekeepers meetings.  I need to learn more about my area and get to know the local beekeepers.

Sam thinks I should move up to 100 hives, but I doubt that's going to be happening any time soon.  There's other things I like to do too you know.  From talking to him I will also try putting my entrances somewhere in the middle of the hives to hopefully keep the brood and pollen separated a bit better from the honey.


  1. Nice recap of what sounds like a great conference. Judging from the pics, the average attendee age is much lower than the conferences I've been to.

    1. Sam asked the crowd if there was anyone under 35. I think there were five of us, including him.