What can WE do?Beekeepers
All beekeepers love their bees and want to keep them safe and healthy. But not all intervention methods are successful or neither are they always necessary. Especially in Turkey, bee researchers and educators indicate that the the negative effects of bad management techniques outweigh many of the external factors. So let’s look at some of the changes that we can make in order to convert our apiary to a more bee-friendly and ecological place.
- Choosing the Right Ecotype
Every bee eco type thrives within its own elements – climate, vegetation, geography etc. Bringing an eco type to an area that it is completely different than is it evolved in means taking a big risk. The colony would have a hard time adapting to its new environment and be vulnerable to pests and diseases. Please read here for bee eco types in Turkey.
- Hive Diversification
In most places around the World, the modern (Langstroth) hives are used and are encouraged due to its form that allows easy access to every part of the hive and due to its uniformity. The modern hives do have their advantages, but it may be a good idea to keep in mind that the traditional hives may also have some benefits over the modern ones. In Macedonia, even in the most modern apiaries, the beekeepers keep traditional straw hives. Those beekeepers say that in more difficult years, the straw hives actually perform better. You can read more about hive types here
- To Feed or Not To Feed
These are hard times for beekeepers. Even if they do everything right, the neighbouring farmer may spray pesticides and kill their bees. Even if you pick the top location for the bees, a new factory or power plant may be built nearby. The varroa is very common and makes the colonies weak. Climate changes and catches us off guard. With this many obstacles sometimes it is nothing short of a miracle for the beekeepers to take honey from the hives. And when they do, they are more likely to take all of it and feed the bees in the winter.
Taking all the honey and feeding the bees in the winter may be a popular practice but it is against the colony’s nature . But when it is necessary, here is the best way to do it:
Even during a cold winter, there will be opportunities to open the hive for a quick addition of food. Here are some tips for winter feeding of honey bees.
What not to feed:
- Never feed bees honey that comes from an unknown source. Honey can contain the spores of diseases such as American Foul Brood.
- Never feed bees sugar with additives. Brown sugar contains molasses. Powdered sugar often contains cornstarch. Commercial fondant may contain flavourings and/or colourings. Any of these “extras” could cause honey bee dysentery.
- Although many commercial beekeepers use high-fructose corn syrup, be aware that it may contain hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF)—especially if it is old or has gotten warm. HMF is poisonous to bees.
The best feed:
- If you don’t have extra honey from your own apiary to feed the bees, the next best thing is sugar syrup made from white table sugar. The syrup used in fall and winter should be in the proportion of two parts sugar to one part water by either weight or volume.
- If the temperatures in your area are going to be below 10°C (50°F), it is best to use fondant, sugar cakes, or granulated sugar rather than syrup.
- Because table sugar lacks the micronutrients found in honey, you can add a feeding stimulant with essential oils to give them some added nourishment.
How to feed:
- If your temperatures are warm (above 10°C) you can use liquid feed and one of the internal feeders so your bees don’t have to go outside to eat. Also, you may want to add a mould inhibitor.
- If your temperatures are going to be cold, you can use a candy board, a mountain camp rim, or an empty shallow super filled with sugar cakes.
When to feed:
- If a hive feels light in the fall, you should start feeding liquid sugar syrup (2 parts sugar to one part water) as soon as possible. When the temperature starts dipping below 10°C, switch to one of the cold-weather methods.
- It doesn’t hurt to feed sugar proactively. I sometimes give sugar cakes as soon as the weather gets cold. In this way, they eat both honey and sugar simultaneously throughout the winter, and the honey supply lasts longer. I think this is better than having them eat only honey, and then only sugar because honey contains essential nutrients.
- In any case, check the hives on the occasional dry and sunny day. Move frames of honey closer to the cluster, if possible, or add feed if necessary. Do not be lulled into thinking that they have “made it” just because the temperatures are warming in the spring.
- Use Ecological, bee and Human-Friendly methods to Fight Pests and Diseases
Using harsh synthetic chemicals in the hives could potentially harm you, your bees and the residue will be found in the honey, harming the buyers. Applied at the right time at the right dose, ecological methods can be as effective as synthetic pesticides. Check here for eco-friendly methods to fight diseases and pests
- Get Organic Certification
In broadest terms, organic certification means that the production method is not harmful to the planet or the humans. It also takes into consideration animal welfare. It may not be the perfect means of production but it definitely is a step in the right direction.
Click here for organic beekeeping criteria in Turkey. The rules may change slightly from one country to another but the basic rules, such as distances from industrial areas, roads, sprayed fields, using synthetic chemicals etc remain the same.
Bugday Association has 100% Organic Farmers’ Markets here only certified organic products are sold. Check here for more details: www.ekolojikpazarlar.org
- Start or Join Community Supported Agriculture Groups
Community Supported Agriculture brings the producer and the consumer together, cutting out the middle man. It is the best way for the consumer to have access to food that she/he can trust and for the producer to get fair share for his/her produce. It is the ultimate win/win situation. If you are using ecological methods and there are no CSA’s in your area, please refer to this website for starting one (for Turkey): www.gidatopluluklari.org
If you are concerned that going ecological may be risky, then start with converting only a couple of hives and observe the results. When you feel confident, you can switch your entire apiary to ecological beekeeping.
- Communicate with the Farmers in Your Area
Find out if/when they are planning on spraying the fields and ask them to notify you. You may also want to talk to them about switching to more bee friendly methods as bees are good for pollination, thus his business.
- Seek and integrate traditional methods to your apiary
How did the beekeepers in your area do beekeeping? Are there any old beekeepers who can share the ancient wisdom with you? Seek and document the traditional beekeeping methods in your area before they are lost forever.
Live and Let Bee 2017. All rights reserved.