How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Michael Bush Presentation at Palm Beach County Beekeeping Association

Today I had the opportunity to hear Michael Bush present at the Palm Beach County Beekeeping Association. When I first started thinking about getting some bees I watched a video with Brendhan Horne from the Palm Beach County Beekeeping Association. He put together an Organic Beekeeping Conference. Michael Bush was one of the speakers at that conference. Long story short Michael Bush’s book was one of the first books I read, “The Practical Beekeeper, Beekeeping Naturally” It is a great reference book and it supported everything I felt was true about the importance of keeping bees naturally without chemicals, treatments, and pesticides. Once I decided that I wanted to keep bees in a Top Bar Hive, I found my way to Sam Comfort and Anarchy Bees.

I was so excited to hear Michael Bush speak today. I got up at 06:30 am to drive up to West Palm Beach to hear him, but it was so worth it. The icing on the cake was that Sam Comfort was also there so I got to see him and discuss my hives and how my beekeeping skills have grown over the last couple of years. Here are a few highlights from Michael Bush’s lecture. He made 4 very important points. If more beekeepers practiced these rules our bees would be much healthier, despite the fact that our environment is causing issues with pesticides, and GMO crops, and neonicotinoids.

No Treatments

  • Maintain a rich ecosystem in the hive
  • Treatments within the hive disrupt this ecosystem.
  • Put selective pressure only where it belongs.
  • Treating only weakens the hive and therefore breeds disease.
  • The pests survive and win.
  • Keep the comb clean of chemicals.
  • Chemicals interfere with the natural communication within the hive.

Breeding Local Survivors

  • Locally adapted bees, feral bees, are more adapted to the climate.
  • Breed from Queens that have shown longevity, and good supercedure skills.
  • Contribute to overall genetic diversity of honey bees in North America.
  • Breed for gentleness, survivability, productivity, and cull for aggressiveness.

Natural Food

  • Sugar syrup has a higher ph, 6.0. Honey 3.2 to 4.5 disease reproduces better at a ph 6.0
  • Improper diet makes one susceptible to disease.
  • Increase ph of 6.0 affects the other 8,000 microorganisms within the hive
  • Sugar syrup disrupts the Ecological Balance of the hive
  • Leave honey for food, the bees will be healthier
  • More balanced ecosystem in the hive

Natural Comb

  • Using natural cell size fights against varroa and other disease.
  • Standard foundation has been upsized.
  • Upsizing has caused a bee that is 150% of its natural size.
  • Upsizing the bee makes it more susceptible to varroa, and other pests.
  • Clean wax promotes a healthier bee.
  • Natural comb is really the way to get clean wax.

I am proud to say that I practice most of what Michael Bush promoted in his lecture. I got my bees from Sam Comfort. These bees were bred specifically for their genetics, and survivability. They are good feral bees. Although my hives carry some of the same genetics from the original hives, they have since produced new queens altering somewhat the genetics. As you know from my blog entries this has become a slight issue for me because I do think that my new queens are breeding with local drones that may carry some Africanized genetics. Michael stressed the importance of breeding for gentleness. I may have to consider re-queening my hives. I tried that in the past with a nice Italian queen, thinking that the genetic from the Italian queen would make the hive gentler. He actually talked about the fact that this is not the best idea, that the bees from the combination could actually be more aggressive. I did not find that to be true in my case because the queen I received never was a great laying queen. The hive struggled and then finally didn’t survive. I have been thinking about my hives since his lecture and I may have to consider re-queening, maybe with some queens from Sam Comfort.

Since I keep Top Bar Hives many of his other points I practice on a daily basis. I never feed my bee’s sugar water. I do not really need to because living in South Florida, there is always a pollen and nectar source for the bees. If I did need to feed I would make sure my bees had enough honey stores to survive. One of the reasons I chose TBH beekeeping was that the bees actually draw out their own comb. I allow my bees to do what they should do naturally. They are small celled bees, not upsized. They are less susceptible to varroa and other pests. I do have some small hive beetles but because my hives are strong they are in control. My comb is clean. I use no chemicals in my yard or in my hives. When I harvest my honey I actually cut the comb from the Top Bars, therefore the honeycomb is always turned over and the bees are constantly making new comb. My honeycomb is clean without chemicals.

I wish more beekeepers understood these principles. I am glad that I practice them, and I hope my bees appreciate my efforts. Now if we could just change what is going on with the use of GMO crops, and, neonicotinoids, our bees might have a chance….. but that is a whole other story.

Here are some pictures from my experience with Michael Bush! It was a great beekeeping day.

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