Friday, July 27, 2012

The Sun Hive

     The "Sun Hive", designed by German sculptor Guenther Muncke is a combination of skep weaving and circular inner wooden frame.  The inspiration for the hive design came from observing a wild bee's nest in a forest near his home, with it's combs covered in a protective layer of propolis and wax.  Below is a drawing he made of this bee's nest.

     The photo below of a wild bee's nest is a possible inspiration for the shape of the Sun Hive.

     Based on years of bee colony observation the unique hive is designed to fit the natural comb building tendencies of the honey bee.  Similar to the Warre Hive the Sun Hive allows for unconstrained downward vertical comb building (Natural Hive Comparisons).  It is built in two segments which allow for expansion where the two meet.  The segments are constructed of woven straw similar to a traditional skep with a wooden dividing board and platform in the middle (D below).  The entrance is at the funnel shape bottom of the hive (N below). The hive is designed to be installed at a height of 2.5 meters (8 ft).

     The wooden arches of the upper segment act like top bars from which the comb is built.

Here is a video showing how to make a Sun Hive.  It takes about 14 hours. 

How to cover a scep hive with cow dung.

     Below is a video showing the comb building progress of a swarm after four weeks in the "Sun Hive". The inner cover over the wooden frames is cloth coated in bees wax and the outer cover is coated in natural, organic cow dung.  The hive was made at a therapeutic institution for autistic children in Germany and was made of biodynamically grown rye straw.  

     "The Sun Hive/Haengekorb outlines the outer, invisible "skin" of the "Bien", the wholeness and single entity of the bee. It reveals the innate round shape of the "Bien". It's true nature becomes palpable, through the gestalt and it's position in space. The Haengekorb shows, how everything within the colony is round. The shape of it speaks with a pre-verbal-language. And the shape can share the living processes within. All together a "flower garden" for the eye and the heart."

       To maintain your Sun Hive you must build a shelter to give it protection from the wind and rain, treat your exterior wooden parts with an organic paint or varnish, give your straw skep a haircut, decide whether to cloam or not with cow dung and replace your covering cloth.  This is explained in detail here.
       As a beekeeper I find the Sun Hive design to be both beautiful and natural to a degree (in the comb building sense).  However, most European wild hives are built in enclosures like hollow trees (provides protection from the elements) without the freedom of comb construction like Guenther's drawing above.  Open, wild bee's nests rarely survive weather or predation.  I believe the maintenance of the hive would be labour intensive and require previous beekeeping experience and knowledge (not for the novice).  The Sun Hive has a focus on the health and welfare of the bees not maximum honey production.  I think one or two would be a beautiful addition if one has the time, knowledge and space.

     A book in English about the Sun Hive is now available which includes detailed plans on how to make your own Sun Hive. To open a preview of the book click here.  The book and Sun Hive components may be purchased from the Natural Beekeeping Trust in England.  In North America the book is available through Gaia Bees.
     For more information on natural beekeeping check out the Natural Beekeeping section of our Beekeepers' Library.     

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vancouver Beekeeping Forum

     The video above is of some of my girls enjoying a peony.  I have never seen as much activity on a single flower as I saw on this particular plant.  Like a feeding frenzy at a Vegas buffet.

     Welcome to the Vancouver Beekeepers forum.  The Vancouver Beekeeping forum is a network of beekeepers set up to allow Vancouver area beekeepers to discuss problems, solutions and resources. Though primarily for Vancouver area beekeepers anyone can join and there are no obligations.  I belong to a few beekeeping forums like BeeL which is primarily made up of long time expert commercial beekeepers and also a Natural beekeepers forum.  I am neither a commercial beekeeper or a natural (small cell) beekeeper but entertain the possibility of both in the near future.  Consequently, I am mainly a quiet observer, learning from the discussions and occasionally asking a question or providing information. To join the Vancouver Beekeepers forum go to Vancouver Beekeepers.  There are email options which allow you to receive all (individually or daily) or none of the messages.  Today is the first official day of the forum and one message announced the opening of the Homesteaders Emporium at 649 E. Hastings (Vancouver City's first beekeeping supply outlet) and in another message a very informative book "At the Hive Entrance" was downloaded to the database.  Please feel free to join.  The more beekeepers involved, the more information and resources available.  Thanks.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Extinct Black Honey Bee found alive in Britain

     The Black Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Mellifera - I'm not stuttering) also known as the European Dark Bee, long thought to be extinct in most of Britain has been found in Londonderry, the Isle of Man, West Sussex, Cambridgeshire, Preston, Lancashire, Fife, Argyll and Bute and Denbighshire.
     Black bees have evolved adaptations to survive the cooler, wet British climate.  They are darker, have thicker, longer hair and larger bodies than their southern Mediterranean cousins (Italians, Carniolans).
     Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at Sussex University, said: "People claimed the black bee went extinct, but it's good that this research proves that their genes are still around. It makes sense to use native bees because they are better adapted to the local climate."
     Due to the discovery of the native Black Honey Bee Martin Tovey, president of the British Beekeepers Association is encouraging British beekeepers to breed the Black Honey Bee rather than importing bees from southern Europe. “More bees bred from black bees would be a good thing as they survive the winter better, but I’m not sure they alone will reverse the collapse of colonies we have been suffering,” he said.
     The European Dark Bee or Black Honey Bee is distinguished by it's dark, stocky, hairy body with dark pigmentation of the wings.  Until 100 years ago the dark bee breeds were the original honey bee stock until the creation of the hybrid Buckfast bee created to counter the Acarine mite (sound familiar) which devastated European bees at that time.  During the second World War the British Black Bee nearly became extinct in Europe as the Nazis ordered the destruction of all breeding stock whose honey production they felt was not up to modern standards.
     The Black Honey Bee would be better adapted to our cool, wet Vancouver weather than the Italian and Carniolan bees which dominate beekeeping throughout North America.  Unfortunately, because of government regulations we can't import bees from Britain.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bee Hives Poisoned in Australia

     Police in New South Wales, Australia are investigating the chemical poisoning of approximately 740 hives  which killed thousands of bees poisoning honey worth $150,000.  The incident is suspected to be the result of a vicious rivalry in the honey industry.  A spokes person for one of the companies effected, Australian Rainforest Honey said the offender appeared to know where the bees were and how to poison them efficiently. ''I'd say they would have had to have a good knowledge of bees.''  The NSW Department of Primary Industries has taken samples of dead bees and poisoned honey from the hives to be analysed at its forensic laboratory operated by the Environmental Protection Agency in Lidcombe.  The results of the testing are expected within the week.

*The results of the testing by the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed the chemical Permethrin, a common household insecticide, was used to kill the bees. Unfortunately, this is not a unique incident and has happened throughout the world of commercial beekeeping. Competition for available pollen and nectar can be fairly cut-throat amongst commercial beekeepers. As a spokesman for the Australian Honey Industry said, "This is not the first time something like this happened. They have been stolen in the past or destroyed," he said. "I've been in the industry 30 years and it doesn't happen regularly, but it does happen."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inspecting the Hives in Black and White

Hi all,
Just wanted to post here some of the black and white pics I took in the spring of the aliens - I mean, beekeepers!
 - Sam

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