Beekeeping is not as easy as it used to be. As I was growing up during the 70’s and 80’s in a beekeeping family business, the main problem we had to worry about was the low price of wholesale honey. That all changed in the late 80’s with the arrival of the parasitic bee mite, Varroa Destructor. Since that time, we have lost more beehives than you can shake a stick at. It seems like for every one beehive that prospered, two died…not a sustainable trend.
About twenty years ago, I began receiving calls to remove misplaced beehives from houses. I often noticed that these wild, unmanaged bee colonies looked much healthier than my managed beehives. Thus began my journey to become a more intentional beekeeper. Our beekeeping times demanded it.
Over the next year, I hope to write a series of articles detailing the seasonal beekeeping protocol we have forged to keep our beehives alive and to be profitable as beekeepers. By no means have we arrived at all the answers, but over the past five years we have been encouraged by the beekeeping success we have experienced in our apiaries and with other beekeepers we have tried to mentor.
In my next article I will begin to address the protocol we use in establishing a nucleus beehive and building it into a mature hive by the end of spring. But first, let’s talk about the components that make up our standardized hive setup.
In an effort to simplify our beekeeping protocol so that we can concentrate on keeping the bees alive and healthy, we examined each piece of equipment in our beehive setup and asked “is it essential?” In order to address that question and “keep it simple,” we decided to only use one size box – an eight frame deep box with deep frames. Every beehive needs a lid and a bottom board, so we designed a reversible bottom/top that serves a dual function and eliminates an extra piece of equipment. Beehives need to be fed sugar syrup on occasion, so we utilize an internal frame feeder which continually resides as a part of the hive. This adds up to four unique pieces of equipment, in various quantities, that make up each hive.
In teaching beginning beekeepers, it has been my experience that a simplified beehive setup with fewer parts translates into a clearer understanding of essential beekeeping management practices. As we progress through the beekeeping season we will examine the use of this simplified beehive design in our Management Protocol.