Friday, September 11, 2009

Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) or Apitherapy!

Check out some of this information on Apitherapy, or bee-sting therapy. Keith and I have been doing quite a bit of research on the effects bee venom can have on the central nervous system. There have been many benefits shown related to bee stings, including increased circulation, and reversal of paralysis-like feeling in nerve endings! Check out the link above for some information on a woman in Iran that suffered from GBS (Guillain-Barre Syndrome) which gave her numbness and paralysis throughout her legs and arms as well as severe fatigue which often confined her to bed for long periods of time! It truly is fascinating to learn what our little ladies are capable of!!

New (to us!) Hive Body Design!!

Here are some pictures of our brand new (to us, this theory was developed in the 1600's from the natural round skeps commonly used for "primitive beekeeping") hive body. It is known as the warre hive, named for its creator Abbe Emile Warre. The hive design is a hexagon, and the idea behind it is to maximize the bees space and allow them to draw and fill comb to their specific desire, but to also recreate a more natural environment for them. Remember that bees have existed for millions of year, evolving throughout time, but still desiring the shelter of an old, hollow tree to that of a commercial beekeepers hive body. The Warre hive eliminates pockets of heat and draft that can occur in a naturally oblong structure. When you think of the bees and their ability to cluster and stay warm in the frigid Michigan winters, part of their survival is related to their heat retention. Bees do not hibernate during the winter; they cluster into a ball and keep the queen in the middle nestled at around 93 degrees. Throughout the winter depending on the frigidity of the weather, the bees will contract and expand in the hive to cover combs filled with their winter stores of honey. Should there be too many cold days during a particular winter and it is not uncommon to see entire colonies that have starved to death mere inches from nourishing honey stores. If it is too cold for the bees to expand and cross the comb to, say the other corner of the hive, then they risk starving to death, not freezing to death. The principle of the Warre hive plays on that design. A hexagon is a geometric shape that has equivalent angles and compliments, but not specific corners. Using that principle, the colony has a better chance of retaining their nest scent and heat so they might never lost the ability to cover the comb they worked so hard to fill and cap during those hot summer days. Above is the link where we discovered information and photo's of the hives original design, and there are some pictures of our first established Warre hive.

We constructed the hive out of leftover lumber, 2 x 4's and a late-season feral swarm that took off from one of our four hives at Keith's parents house. Nectar flow is slowing right around now, even though some plants are sill producing pollen, it is only half the nutrition the bees need to create honey and survive. Typically swarms that form this late in the season do not survive. There is not adequate time for the bees to build comb, fill it with nectar and pollen and then store and cap the honey. There is also brood to be laid, workers will need to survive throughout the winter to keep the colony orderly and clean through the harsh winters.

This is the first hive we have attempted. We have been feeding them sugar syrup and they have established some comb with nectar, so we have a chance they could survive, but probably because we will be over-wintering them indoors to limit the stress on the bees.

It's true that we do want the fittest of our colonies to survive, but it doesn't mean we can't try some new approaches to make happy, healthy bees!

Progress check!

This is some of the progress we've had in one of our hybrid hives. For this particular hive, we got it as a nucleus hive from our supplier, Turtle Bee Honey Tree Farms. A nucleus hive is an established colony, usually with four to five combs drawn out with some brood and nectar. A standard Lang box will house ten frames, so we chose to use top bars in place of filling the rest of the box with frames. For a nucleus hive, the body that will house the brood, or baby bees, will be a deep super. This is just a natural step, followed by many beekeepers to give the bees their biggest house for maximum brood rearing. When it came time to add another super (another box) we opted to go with all top bars in their honey super.
This is some of the above progress. Notice that they still build the comb perfectly straight, as if it were in a frame? Without the foundation or the sides and bottoms to the frame, the bees are left to decide the perfect size for the cell. The bees do not naturally need to attach the comb to the side, but often use the sides as a bridge, because we as the beekeeper are obtrusive and our continuous opening of the hive causes them to need extra support. One thing we've become familiar with, is how to handle the top bars. Obviously they can can tear or crush from their own weight if you do not handle them with care. The shape of honey comb is naturally designed to be strong, durable, and handle the vast weight the bee's carry (Half of their body weight of nectar or pollen is not unusual!!) but there are natural ways the comb lie that will reinforce the cells integrity. Notice how Keith handles the comb by flipping it over end to end? That keeps the cell structure at its maximum, as well as uses centrifugal force to keep the nectar that is not yet capped honey from spilling from the cells. Fascinating huh? Who would have thought that mathematics, physics, woodworking, and agriculture could convalescence into such a perfect craft?!
We are preparing ourselves for winter and getting our strategy ready to get lots of work done over the winter so we can have happy bees come spring time!! Happy beekeeping!