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Questions for beekeepers

Deb Stephens


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: SW Missouri
    
    6
To all of you who keep bees... I am really wondering about a few things -- have been for years, but the video up there (on colony collapse) got me to thinking about it again.

When you bring in hives of honey bees to an area with native pollinators like carpenter and bumble bees, do you see a dramatic change in numbers of native species? Have you experienced any problem interactions between the native species and the non-native honey bees?

Where I live, (SW Missouri) we are blessed with LOTS of native pollinators and we even see ocassional swarms of wild honey bees. None seem to be adversely affected by being together and exploiting the same resources. Now, we do have a lot of flowers here. The woods and glades are extremely diverse and since we are longtime organic homesteaders and live fairly remotely from anyone who farms with chemicals on a large scale (the closest neighbors usually keep kitchen gardens, but nothing large) and we have thousands of acres of national forest on our east border, I am sure that abundance is a contributing factor to the overall health of both natives and non-natives.

I am mentioning all this because I have wanted to start a bee colony for personal use -- honey and wax on a very small scale -- but have always decided against it in favor of not putting stress on the native bees. What do you think? Would it significantly affect the native populations or not -- in your opinion?
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3087
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
I haven't noticed a difference. still plenty of other pollinators, even with a whole bunch of honey bees around. several species of Bombus, Osmia, syrphids, squash bees, wasps, flies, and plenty of critters that I haven't been able to identify. they all seem pretty happy. many of them are active at different times of the day and different seasons, so there isn't a lot of opportunity for competition.

if you've noticed feral honey bee swarms anyway, the honey bees are already there. adding a hive or two isn't going to have any dramatic impact.

now, if you were to bring in a hundred hives, that might be a different story. if you've got enough honey bees to scour all the nectar and pollen in a five-mile radius, chances are good that the native critters will suffer. that doesn't sound like something you plan to do. I think you're in the clear.


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Peter DeJay


Joined: Aug 10, 2011
Posts: 103
Location: Southern Oregon
I have never heard of a lack of pollen even being a noticeable attribute with bees, even large scale commercial operations with hundreds of hives. Bees can fly for miles if needed to find pollen, so I think it would be nearly impossible to over saturate an area with pollinators. The only issue that would come up is robbers bees or other insects trying to rob the hives, but a healthy hive has defenses against that. Thats how you can have even 10 or 20 hives relatively close together with no worry.
Robert Marr


Joined: Mar 10, 2010
Posts: 53
It is possible to have too many honey bees in an area.

I just purchased a hive and bees this year, and I have been going to weekly classes at UMass. A story was told where some lady had 5 personal hives which produced 2 honey supers a year, NASA(this doesn't seem right but its what I remember) wanted her to install an maintain an additional 5 hives. After installation of the 5 NASA hives her hives don't have enough nectar to produce surplus honey for her to harvest. So, yes an area can become over saturated with honey bees... this is assuming you are in it for the honey. The area probably could've sustained all 10 hives, but with no honey for the caretaker.... so I guess it depends how you are utilizing/using the bees where your saturation point may be.


tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3087
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
not complete consensus, but it looks like the three of us who posted so far agree that one hive isn't going to cause a problem.
john giroux


Joined: Feb 17, 2011
Posts: 115
Location: Gainesville, GA
    
    3
I started 2 hives this year as well. We have lots of humble bees and honey bees on everything. I would agree with others that unless you bring in a tons of hives or all you neighbors do, there will be lots of them all.
Deb Stephens


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: SW Missouri
    
    6
Well this is good to know. My husband is all excited now because we have kicked this around for years -- arguing for and against and never quite deciding. I think the thing that sort of clinches the deal for me is the very sensible observation that if we already have feral honeybees, they are obviously not causing a problem and one more hive will probably make no difference. YAY! Now to find a local source for the bees. Anyone know a place where we could buy a hive of non-migratory bees? I do NOT want to buy a hive that has been doped up on insecticides and dragged around the country being stressed. I want a healthy hive of normal sized bees who like staying in one place -- preferably in SW Missouri.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3087
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
Deb Stephens wrote:Well this is good to know. My husband is all excited now because we have kicked this around for years -- arguing for and against and never quite deciding. I think the thing that sort of clinches the deal for me is the very sensible observation that if we already have feral honeybees, they are obviously not causing a problem and one more hive will probably make no difference. YAY! Now to find a local source for the bees. Anyone know a place where we could buy a hive of non-migratory bees? I do NOT want to buy a hive that has been doped up on insecticides and dragged around the country being stressed. I want a healthy hive of normal sized bees who like staying in one place -- preferably in SW Missouri.


how about one of those feral swarms you see? build yourself a People's Hive, nab a swarm, put it in the hive. quite a few advantages to using local swarms.
Peter DeJay


Joined: Aug 10, 2011
Posts: 103
Location: Southern Oregon
I suppose anything is possible Robert, but there would have to be studies done with control groups before I'd even consider it an issue. There are just so many other factors that could have contributed to the decline in honey production. I encourage everyone who has the interest to get into bees, this is what we (people, planet and bees) need; lots of people keeping smaller numbers of hives as opposed to a few people with large operations. I also agree with Tel, I think catching a swarm will not only have better bees suited to your region, but its a huge step in your relationship with bees in general, and your hive in particular. It will give you tremendous confidence, as well as allow you to really tune into the bees. Catching a swarm is super easy, and its the point when bees are the most docile. Last season I caught 3 1/2 swarms, wearing only short sleeves and no face net, didn't even use smoke. There are tons of videos on the Tube that you can watch, here's one I like. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vIYzfBWuRQ
Peter DeJay


Joined: Aug 10, 2011
Posts: 103
Location: Southern Oregon
Had to add this other video I just found. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0klsNsP1-jY&feature=endscreenReally shows you how docile the bees are. They have no hive to defend so they have absolutely no need for aggression. Like the song goes, "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose"
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3087
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
Peter DeJay wrote:They have no hive to defend so they have absolutely no need for aggression. Like the song goes, "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose"


sooooo... about swarms being gentle... they almost always are. there are some exceptions, though. if they've been out a few days and are getting hungry, they can be a bit more irritable. or if they're just a colony with a bad attitude.

I generally don't wear a veil with swarms, but one that I collected last year made me rethink that habit. it was on a low topiary shrub in a landscaped courtyard at an old folks home. usually, I would just clip off the branch they were on and set it in a bucket. keeps the bees calm and cuts out the step of waiting for them all to come back after scattering. well, it looked like a real nice topiary and I couldn't find anyone to give me permission to cut a branch off, so I shook the swarm off instead. bad idea. six stings on my face immediately. I'm not allergic to stings, but I do swell up a lot. the gal at the front desk who was letting me in and out was very alarmed at my appearance. that swarm is now one of my healthiest colonies, though.

the main idea is that veils aren't necessary, and I still don't generally wear one for swarms, but if you get aggressive vibrations from a swarm, go with your gut and not the conventional wisdom: put the veil on.
Deb Stephens


Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: SW Missouri
    
    6
I have no problem with catching a swarm. Both my husband and I are completely comfortable around bees. When we found a swarm hanging from one of our Ashe junipers a few years ago, we each took a turn putting our hand up into the center of it (slowly and gently, of course) just to see what it felt like. It was soooo neat! The bees didn't seem to mind at all, and it felt really warm (and busy) in there! (I have pictures of that swarm I could post if anyone is interested -- and I can find them.) We tend to be of the school that if your heart is in the right place and you show no fear, animals -- even these little guys -- understand and respond in kind. We even pick up wasps in our bare hands to put them outside when they get trapped.

The problem is we see feral bees all the time, but have only actually found the one swarm. We had hoped they would stay on our property, but one day while I was lucky enough to be watching them, they decided to pick up (like a bee tornado) and go across the street to a big old hollow tree on our (hostile) neighbor's property. He eventually cut the tree down! Asshole. Now we see them coming and going constantly from the NE part of our property, and I have heard what sounds like a huge hive buzzing over that way in the summer, but I cannot find them. I've tried for 2 years now, but they must be really well hidden and I have not found them swarming since then. I intend to keep looking, but I am not hopeful.

I would love to have captured that swarm, but we were not ready for them then, and had not decided it was okay to have them. We also still need to get equipment and learn at least the rudiments of beekeeping before taking on the responsibility of their care.

Do any of you know of someone who keeps bees in the Springfield/Branson area? Preferably an organic farm. I would really appreciate any information. Thanks!
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3087
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
can't help you on local beekeepers, but I wouldn't give up on the swarm idea. if there's a local beekeepers association, there's a swarm list you can get on. you can also give your name to pest control outfits, animal control, police departments, fire departments, and local health departments. all these places get called about honey bee swarms and really have no interest in dealing with them. chances are good they'll be happy to refer the swarms to you.
Mike Turner


Joined: Sep 23, 2009
Posts: 154
Location: Upstate SC
    
    1
Around here, when the varroa mites killed out the local feral honeybees, the native pollenators experienced a population boom. Since then, honeybees have made a very limited recovery, but are still way outnumbered by the natives.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3087
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
Mike Turner wrote:Around here, when the varroa mites killed out the local feral honeybees, the native pollenators experienced a population boom. Since then, honeybees have made a very limited recovery, but are still way outnumbered by the natives.


where are you at, Mike? varroa never really made much of a dent in the feral bee population out here. without a whole lot of commercial beekeeping, I think the spread might have been slower than areas with more agriculture, so the bees were better able to adapt.
Mike Turner


Joined: Sep 23, 2009
Posts: 154
Location: Upstate SC
    
    1
Upstate SC.
R.D. O'Brien


Joined: Jun 15, 2012
Posts: 7
Domesticated bees are pollinating pesticide-drenched orchards, while wild bees are enjoying clean wild flowers. Isn't that interesting that colony collapse disorder doesn't seem to be afflicting wild bees much? There's gotta be a connection there. I look at these orchards, thousands of acres of just one type of fruit tree, all in neat tidy rows, and I just have to shake my head. No wonder the farmers have to dump so much pesticides on them. No wonder the bees are dying.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6491
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
I look at these orchards, thousands of acres of just one type of fruit tree,


As if the monoculture wasn't bad enough, most of the orchards strip everything else off of the land...grass, brush, weeds.
There is no habitat for native pollinators to live in. The only critter that can survive is the honeybee with its fabricated home.
There is one plant and one pollinator. Nature wants balance. Where is it?

Is there any doubt that such a system would encounter problems?
jacob wustner


Joined: Sep 25, 2012
Posts: 38
Location: Western Montana
    
  12
In response to the original post, in truly wild lands that have not been sprayed with pesticides, nature regulates bee populations through weather. Cold spells and droughts can be hard on bees, native pollinators will fare better. Biodiversity ensures plenty of forage for both natives and honeybees.

It has been seen by many people that native pollinators do better in areas with honeybees, especially where wild plants have not been wiped out with herbicides. There is no evidence suggesting that honeybees displace native pollinators. Native pollinators are less likely to survive pesticide poisoning than honeybees because no one is there to nurse them back to health. Thus, the only threat to native pollinators is not understanding the importance of wild areas, and the continued use of pesticides in these areas. And by pesticides I mean herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and the like. Herbicides do more damage because they kill the bees and can wipe out their food sources.

Honeybees can outcompete each other for food sources. This usually happens in monocultures where too many bees have been brought in for pollination, or when commercial beekeepers put too many hives in their yards.

Keeping a few hives of your own, and even with all your neighbors doing the same, you will discover what plants keep bees going through hard times. These are bee plants.

Many of which are labeled as weeds or even noxious weeds. IF everyone kept bees, they would never had been labeled as weeds, just bee plants.

Nature will regulate the beekeepers as well. Too many people all doing the same thing, trying to outcompete each other, will end in disaster. If you keep one hive per person in your family, it would be hard to cause too much competition.


"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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