I recently went to a short presentation about top bar bee keeping, which absolutely amazed me.
This is a way of keeping bees that is completely different from what I remember when a friend kept bees years ago. He was always talking about how much he got stung, the need for smoke, how much honey he harvested anyway, and so on. The whole thing seemed to me like all-out war between him and the bees. Did I have any interest in beekeeping after that? Ha.
But this week I heard a talk by a couple of people from Back Yard Hive, and it got me so enthusiastic that I signed up to be notified when they do a class in my area of Colorado. The difference: these people are working in harmony with the bees. They see themselves as guardians of the bees, helping them to survive.
For example, they don’t remove the honey in the autumn, when there is the most of it and the bees don’t want it removed. No, they wait till early spring when the bees are ready to get going on the new year’s honey. They get less honey of course, but they are operating in a respectful way!
I asked several questions. One was about how many stings a beekeeper might have to endure, with memories of my friend from long ago. It was a crowded location and a little hard to hear, but two different people, Corwin and a woman whose name I didn’t hear, were quite reassuring on two counts: the top bar hive is designed so that you don’t upset the hive much at all when you do harvest honey. Here’s a bit from the FAQs on their website about that:
The Backyard Hive differs substantially from traditional hives in that you don’t need to remove the entire top of the hive to see what is going on inside the hive or to remove combs. With the Backyard Hive, you only remove a few bars at a time exposing only a few inches of the top of the hive. If you remove combs carefully and slowly, the bees won’t even care that you are there. Just brush off the few bees that remain on the comb as you remove it.
Plus they talked about things like slowing down your movements if the bees seemed upset and choosing your time of day to work — exactly what time varies with the season. Here’s a video they did:
This seems much more do-able than I ever would have imagined! I’ve got friends already doing it and may well join them after a while! Whether or not you are serious about it, do take a look at the Back Yard Hive website. One comment about the site: When I first browsed the Shop page, I saw items for $295 and $350 and I gulped. Great if you want those, but further down the page they give away downloadable plans to make your own.