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Beekeeping Basics

Beekeeping Basics: The Bees’ Knees Needs

Beekeeping at LotFotL (Living off the Fat of the Land) Community Farm

Arriving at LotFotL Community Farm on Tuesday, CRAFTers were greeted by some exceedingly healthy and jolly-looking pigs (as well as an impressive heap of winter squash).  However, it was a few hundred thousand head of LotFotL’s other livestock that was the focus of this beekeeping field day.

Beekeeper and farm manager April Yuds (pictured here with LotFotL owner/operator Tim Huth) started off this incredibly informative session with a tour of a Langstroth style hive and an overview of all the supplies a beginning beekeeper should have before his or her first package of bees arrives in April or May.  She discussed the basics of how to get started, where to find the best information on beekeeping, and recordkeeping options.  She also gave some insight into her beekeeping philosophy, explaining that honeybees are a domesticated animal and as such have entered into a partnership with humans, who need to be responsible for them just as we would be with any other domesticated animal.  She also expressed her preference for providing the bees with as natural as possible an environment, which means avoiding plastic materials when possible: “So far in my six years of doing this, I have never seen bees make plastic,” she explained with a laugh.

April’s thorough introduction was followed by an explanation of feeding techniques by John Kendall, experienced beekeeper and president of the Walworth County Beekeepers Club.  John described the easy and inexpensive methods he has learned over the course of his career to provide bees with the sustenance they need to get through the winter and get off to a strong start in the spring.  After a visit to some of LotFotL’s active hives, the group heard from Rick Sallmann about bee pests and diseases such as Varroa mites, foulbrood, sack brood, chalk brood, nosema, wax moths, skunks, and of course disappearing disease, a.k.a. colony collapse disorder.  Rick went over the diagnoses and treatments for many of these before the field day ended on a more positive note: the potluck.

Written by Bill Ladd-Cawthorne, Farm Finance Project Coordinator

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April recommends this biodynamic "Healing Tea for Honeybees" from Gunther Hauk

Quantity is for two treatments -­ you need two 1-­quart jars
In a ceramic or stainless steel pot (not aluminum) bring 3 cups of good water (well or spring is best) to a boil, take off stove and add:

•  1/2 tsp. each of: chamomile, yarrow, stinging nettle, peppermint, (dandelion flowers, if available)
•  1/4 tsp. each of: sage, hyssop, thyme, lemon balm, echinacea
•  1 pinch of rue

Let steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a cloth or fine colander; add another 3 cups of cold water and let cool down until it is lukewarm. Add 1 cup (1/2 lb.) of good honey. Stir well.

This quantity is good for two treatments or two hives.  If you have only one hive, keep the second jar in refrigerator until used, but warm up to room temperature before you give it to the bees. This treat can be given early spring until late summer every one or two months.

A copy of this recipe, along with two other biodynamic 'bee teas' from Gunther (which April also recommends) can be found by clicking here!