Questions on Minimal Input hive

Discussion in 'Beekeeping' started by Ed K, Jun 2, 2004.

  1. Ed K

    Ed K Well-Known Member

    Oct 24, 2003
    I live in Western PA and would very much like to keep bees for their help in polinating and for some occasional honey for family use.

    The key principal to my homesteading style is low input. I don't strive for maximum production just in setting up things so the animals can do as much of the work as possible.

    From what I've read about beekeeping I'd prefer not to feed sugar syrup (I'd prefer to leave the bees enough space and honey to live off their own reserves) and I'd prefer minimal handling and medication.

    1) Is that approach likely to be successful from the bee's standpoint?

    2) Are there any special books or reading to do on this type of minimal input (vs. Maximum production)


  2. bare

    bare Head Muderator

    May 9, 2002
    It's funny in a way, it doesn't seem that it takes that much time to tend to a couple hives in the manner you indicate. In order to be successful though, you really need to work your bees on a weekly basis. The risk if you don't is that you will have disease and swarm problems.

    If your are willing to spend the money to re-populate your hives each year, you may get away with it, but anymore, medication and frequent inspection are just part of the package.

    I used to keep bees like you mention, not on purpose mind you, I just couldn't find the time when I wasn't working away from home to do a proper job. When I did have the time the weather was uncooperative. The introduction of mites brought that experiment to a screeching halt.

  3. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    Not too long ago, varroa mites wiped out many of the nations beehives. We can treat for that now, and SOME queens are showing SOME resistance. By SOME resistance, I mean that a hive might live longer without treatment than it would a few years ago,.

    There ARE some organic methods out there, but your chances of keeping a hive alive without doing ANYTHING is fairly poor. To do that, you would have to have a queen that passed on to her offspring the ability to be VERY effective in the fight against the varroa mite, and they are very scarce. You DO see some queens listed as being hygenic, which means that they are better at keeping mites out of the hive, but a really effective mite-resistant strain is not yet available.

    There ARE ways of monitoring the mite load. That way, you can limit treatment to when it is necessary. Some people are using foundation with smaller cells, to breed for smaller bees. This is helpfull, also. Getting hygenic bees helps, too. Other people are using drone comb to trap the mites, because mites prefer drone larvae.

    But, to date, virtually ALL hives in the USA will need some treatment, some of the time.

    Eventually, the bees will be able to handle the varroa mites without our help. The fact that some hives are more resistant is a step in the right direction.

    But, we just aren't there yet. :no:

    Many experienced beekeepers just look inside the hives a couple of times a year, and treat in the fall after the honey harvest. They watch the bees come and go weekly. I am told that they can get most of the information that they need just by watching the bees come and go, but I am not there, yet. Sounds like pretty minimal input once you get at that stage.