Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book reviews and preparing to build our first hive

Well. It's been over a month. I fully intended to write some reviews of the books I've read sooner but got swept away in orientation at my new job as well as by a much needed family vacation. So here's what's happened in the last month:

1) I've read four beekeeping books and am in the middle of a fifth.
2) I've decided on the Warre Hive ("The People's Hive") rather than the Kenyan Top Bar Hive
3) I've been rather indecisive and tossed back and forth between whether or not I want to trap bees or purchase packaged bees. And...
4) I've set a date with my father to go out to his place and build the hive.

Here's a little more detail on each of the happenings for the past month.

1) The books I've read are:
 "Top Bar Beekeeping" by Crowder and Harrell
- This is an EXCELLENT resource for anyone interested in beekeeping, whether or not you will be utilizing the top bar method. I got this one from the library and will definitely be purchasing it later. When I do get it again, I'll  put up a more detailed review. My only issue with the book is that all the information provided is in regard to beekeeping in New Mexico. Not so user friendly when trying to keep bees in Minnesota!

"Beekeeping" by Ryde
- This resource was not as good. Besides having factually wrong information in certain places, the information that was provided was too simplistic to actually help anyone keep bees. If this were the only resource I had available, I feel that I would fall flat on my face. It was a good, simple book, for my boys to browse through, however. Got this one from the library and won't be getting it again.

"A Short History of the Honey Bee" by Readicker-Henderson
- This book wasn't necessarily on beekeeping methods, but more on the honey bee itself. The information provided was beneficial for someone, like myself, who was just getting involved in beekeeping and didn't actually know much about honey bees. In addition, the pictures are breathtakingly beautiful and mesmerizing! Got this one from the library, and while I may not purchase it, I will definitely check it out again if for nothing else that to get lost in the photographs.

"Bait Hives and Swarm Trapping" by Taylor
- More of a field guild of manual than a book. Don't waste the money on a full, printed edition. Just get the less expensive Kindle version. That being said, there was excellent, practical information if you'd like to try trapping bee swarms to expand your apiary for free. And he guarantees a 30% success rate!

And, finally, I'm in the middle of "Beekeeping for All" by Abbe Warre
- While a bit tiresome at times as he goes into explicit detail about why "The People's Hive" is superior to the other common hives of his day, it was fun to read about the strenuous process undertaken by Warre to produce a superior beehive. It is especially helpful, as this is the type of hive I ultimately have decided to build. Plus you can get it as a free PDF download, and who doesn't like free?

2) Why did I decide on the Warre hive?
Well, for a couple of reasons. First, it's still a top bar hive, like the Kenyan style hives, and, as such, the bees will produce more comb themselves, rather that use foundation. Plus, without frames, I'll be able to use the crush and strain method for extracting honey, thus eliminating the need for an extractor, and providing a surplus of wax to make candles out of (and my wife can really go through candles!). Second, the vertical style seems to more naturally mimic the hollowed trees bees would be using nature and appeals to their preference to build from the top down, rather than side to side as they would in a horizontal hive. Third, it will be easier to adjust the hive's size by adding or removing boxes. Fourth, I can use a queen excluder if I want to, to keep her from rearing brood in the honey stores. Fifth, from what I've read, there is less hive maintenance to perform in a Warree hive as compared to a Kenyan style hive. And, finally, as I've toyed with the idea of using bait hives to capture my first swarm, I thought it would be nice to be able to utilize the boxes from the Warre hive as the bait traps themselves, rather than needing to build a Kenyan hive, along with three or four bait hives.

3) So am I gonna trap my first swarm or purchase packages bees?
As I mentioned, I've gone back and forth. I originally intended upon trapping bees. I'm a little strapped for cash, having just finished school and started a new job, and the idea of free bees drew me in. Plus it sounded fun. And, if I'm building boxes for the Warre hive that are the right size for bait traps, why not just use them as such? However, as I get closes and closes to the beekeeping season, I feel that I just really want to guarantee that I've got bees. I mean, how much of a let down would it be to hype this up with my kids (their using the beehive as a science fair project for goodness sake) and then not end up with bees? I'm a little late to the game to purchase packaged bees, however. Most places I've contacted have been sold out for about a month. I've got one more email out to a local beekeeping supplier, and I guess when I hear back from them I'll know if I'll be purchasing or trapping, right?

4) When is this all going down?
The boys and I are heading over to Grandpa's this Saturday to build our hive! I've got the plans, and we'll try to get to the lumbar yard before then, but if not, we'll just go with Grandpa, no big deal. It's so exciting that this is finally happening! Hopefully another blog post soon... with pictures!!!

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