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The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives

Christy Hemenway



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New Society Publishers
17 January 2013
Apiculture (beekeeping); Insects & spiders as pets
What's the buzz about the growing popularity of backyard beekeeping?

Providing habitat for bees, pollinating your garden, and producing honey for your family are some of the compelling reasons for taking up this exciting hobby. But conventional beekeeping requires a significant investment and has a steep learning curve. The alternative?

Consider beekeeping outside the box. The Thinking Beekeeper is the definitive do-it-yourself guide to natural beekeeping in top bar hives. Based on the concept of understanding and working with bees' natural systems as opposed to trying to subvert them, the advantages of this approach include:

* Simplicity, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness

* Increased safety due to less heavy lifting and hive manipulation

* Chemical-free colonies and healthy hives 

Top bar hives can be located anywhere bees have access to forage, and they make ideal urban hives due to their small footprint.

Emphasising the intimate connection between our food systems, bees, and the well-being of the planet, The Thinking Beekeeper will appeal to the new breed of beekeeper who is less focused on maximising honey yield, and more on ensuring the viability of the bee population now and in the coming years. Christy Hemenway is the owner and founder of Gold Star Honeybees, a complete resource for all things related to beekeeping in top-bar hives.

A passionate bee-vangelist and advocate for natural, chemical-free beekeeping, Christy is a highly sought-after speaker, helping audiences to understand the integral connection between bees, food, human health, and the future of the planet.
By:   Christy Hemenway
Imprint:   New Society Publishers
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 229mm,  Width: 191mm,  Spine: 15mm
Weight:   412g
ISBN:   9780865717206
ISBN 10:   0865717206
Pages:   208
Publication Date:   17 January 2013
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Chapter One............................................................ XHow did we get HERE from THERE?Chapter One will be divided into two subchapters. One subchapter will detail the path we have taken from Honey Hunters, to Managed Beekeeping, to Industrial Beekeeping.Honey has been collected from hives since the time of ancient civilizations. Rock art has been found that shows honey being robbed from the bees in even earlier prehistoric times - some from wild nest in truly difficult places to reach. -- Some specifics about rock paintings found in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia showing the methods used to reach these inaccessible nests and collect the honey from them drawn from The Rock Art of Honey Hunters by Eva Crane. The difference between fixed comb and movable comb hives. Fixed comb hives: Log gums, box hives, skeps. Movable comb hives: Quinby, Langstroth, National, top bar hives. Pros and cons of each.The Leaf Hive by Francis Huber - (a blind beekeeper!) in 1789, and how that influenced Rev. Langstroth.The original top bar hive - dating to Greece in the 1600's. The concept of bee space and how it dictated various features of hive construction.Rudolf Steiner's lectures - his predictions of the harm likely to come to the honeybees due to meddling with the natural hive society, manipulating the natural processes in a beehive, and the mechanization of beekeeping.Industrial / Monoculture Agriculture - Industrial / Migratory Beekeeping - Pesticide Use - Migratory Pollination.The need to transition from Get Big or Get Out To Slow Food and S.O.L.D. - Small, Organic, Local, Diverse.The second subchapter:It's all about the wax.Wax: Cell size, comb shape, chemical contamination.Natural Wax vs Foundation Wax.Research papers presented at Apiculture organizations events, especially since 2006 re: CCD, wax contamination, health of bees, etc.Chapter Two............................................................. XTime & Temperature - Basic Bee BiologyThis chapter will delve into the basic biology of bees. It will be an overview and offer the why of things as its basis. It is important to avoid keeping bees on a calendar date basis, as each and every hive is located in a micro-climate all its own, and time and temperature (i.e. weather! after all, this is farming...) determine all of the activities of the hive.This subject, of necessity, begins to touch on the mechanized, industrial aspects of the beekeeping industry as it has emerged over the last hundred years. Pointing up the differences between industrial beekeeping and backyard or natural beekeeping helps to highlight the thrust and the motivations behind various hive management strategies.We have been thrilled to watch over the past three years as the remarks from people who see us exhibit have changed from how much honey can I get out of each hive? to I just want to keep bees for the pollination of my garden - honey is nice, but it's not the goal . We have always said - It's not about the honey, Honey - It's about the bees! and the paradigm is shifting in this direction faster than we would have thought possible! Healthy bees do three important things: 1) they make more bees! 2) they pollinate our food! and 3) they make honey. So a focus on healthy honey bees will take us further in the long run.This chapter is also one of the most fascinating as swarming is a big part of bee behavior and one of the most misunderstood. The wonder of bees reproductive mechanism - the swarm - is a magic unparalleled in nature. Beautiful and frightening at the same time - it's the method by which bees make more bees - and we need them to be able to do this.CHAPTER 3 - When to do What and Why -How to Manage your Top Bar Hive through the SeasonsThis is the nuts and bolts How-To section: How do I get the bees in my hive? How do I monitor for varroa mites? When do I open more entrances? When do I drop the bottom board? What are these follower boards for? My hive is making queen cells - what do I do?In our years of experience teaching and exhibiting and advocating for healthy honeybees, we have heard a long list of questions about how to manage top bar hives. While we expect to be surprised by thinking beekeepers for the rest of our lives, we've also noticed that the list of practical questions and answers asked by sustainable backyard beekeepers is finite, and a basic understanding of bees will go a very long way toward providing the foundation upon which a beekeeper can base decisions about hive management.This chapter will provide not only the answers to How do I...? but will build the understanding of Why do I... . Much like Chapter 2 regarding basic bee biology, many factors influence the choices made in the management of a hive of bees, and understanding why you are doing something is far better than mechanically doing something based upon the calendar.Section One - How/When/Where to get bees- packages - swarms- nucleus coloniesSection Two - Where to locate your hive:- location - direction- wind- sunSection Three - How to set up your hive- Level- South facing or anti-wind direction- Protected (from kids and pets and neighbors and bears!)- Use of the follower boards- Placement of feeder- Reasons for a moveable bottom boardSection Four - Hiving Your Bees- Tools to have on hand- The steps involved in getting the bees into the hive:- packages- hanging the queen cage- bonking the bees- swarms- a simpler, more natural process- Feeding a new colony - what and whySection Five - As they Grow - Inspecting - Why?- The making of straight wax - What to look for as your hive grows- What things SHOULD look like- Bee Math (how to tell your queen is home, even if you don't see her)Section Six - Harvesting Honey- Can you?- When?- What do the bees need?Section Seven - Wintering- Preparations- Difficulties- Things you can doCHAPTER 4 - Terrible Things That Can Happen To Your Wonderful BeesThis is the chapter on bee pests and diseases. Much has been written on the subject from the research point of view, but the average backyard beekeeper is unlikely to see the spectrum of problems that are possible. Still - knowledge and the ability to recognize potential problems in the bee colony arms us with a better understanding - so we think it's very important that people be aware of problems that can occur and what the solutions to these problems can include.Natural wax and natural cell size affects the gestation period of the honey bee in a very positive way -- it returns the length of the larval stage of the honey bee to the natural time span. The use of foundation wax, and its machine-made one size fits all feature has been working against the bees by changing the timing within the gestation period in ways that provide advantages to the breeding needs of the varroa mite. This one thing has had such a trickle-down effect in beekeeping that its effects are difficult to measure scientifically - but to reiterate a quote I heard recently If we wait for scientific certainty, in certain circumstances we will clearly have waited too long... Section One - Pests and Diseases- American Foulbrood- European Foulbrood- Chalkbrood- Wax Moths- Small Hive Beetles- Nosema- Varroa mites- Tracheal mitesSection Two - Treatments- organic- soft- chemicalSection Three - Other critters and how to prevent them- Bears- Skunks- Mice- Ants- Raccoons- Squirrels- Yellow JacketsGLOSSARY AND REMARKS.............................................X

Christy Hemenway is the owner and founder of Gold Star Honeybees, a complete resource for all things related to beekeeping in top bar hives. Before her conversion to bee-vangelism, she mastered such varied careers as computer systems engineering and professional alpaca herd-sitting. A chance encounter with a conventional beekeeper launched her on the road to natural, chemical-free beekeeping. A passionate advocate for bees and the pivotal role they play in our food supply, Christy is a highly sought-after speaker, helping audiences to understand the integral connection between bees, food, human health and the future of the planet.

Reviews for The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives

No matter the box you keep your bees in, if you are a new beekeeper you need solid, practical and most of all accurate information to get started. You'll find that here. And if you are keeping your bees in a top bar hive, you'll find information you need here that's not available anywhere else. Both you and your bees will benefit from Christy's approach, advice and philosophy. ---Kim Flottum, Editor Bee Culture Magazine Christy Hemenway's The Thinking Beekeeper is a very nice book. It provides a blend of the author's philosophy, ranting (about the use of chemicals in beekeeping), and clear practical advice about honey bee culture, especially regarding Top Bar Hives. There has been little written about the specifics of raising honey bees in Top Bar Hives. The bees are the same of course, but the Top Bar Hive is quite different from the traditional Langstroth Hive. At the University of Maine we had plenty of questions when we first embarked upon the use of the Top Bar Hive. NOW there is a good guide. Not only is the book informative, being accessible to all with its clear concise prose and liberal use of photos and data tables, but in addition it is enjoyable to read. ---Dr. Frank Drummond, Pollination Ecologist, University of Maine Christy's passion shines through in this delightful book, which I'm sure will inspire many people to take up top bar beekeeping. I am particularly pleased to see that she has developed her own style, while staying true to the principles of simplicity and minimal interference with the lives of the bees. Having watched Christy's progress so far, I'm sure that Gold Star Honeybees has a great future! ---Phil Chandler, author of The Barefoot Beekeeper It is great to see that top bar beekeeping is alive and well in Maine and that Christy Hemenway is passionate about her top bar hives. The top-bar hive is coming! ---Les Crowder, coauthor with Heather Harrell of Top-Bar Beekeeping Whether you're looking for another argument for keeping your own bees or are already convinced, The Thinking Beekeeper is an excellent resource. Christy knows her stuff and shares her experience and passion on every page. ---Roger Doiron, Founder, Kitchen Gardeners International The Thinking Beekeeper is a unique and exceptional resource for the beginning beekeeper. It will enable the novice to make a successful start in the craft and as he/she progresses all those instructions offer the opportunity to object to something Christy recommends. And that ladies and gentlemen is the badge of an independent practitioner and mature thinking beekeeper. ---Marty Hardison

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