Although beekeeping is a time-honored tradition, it is constantly evolving and new trends and technology emerging to aide beekeepers – and save the bees. Let’s look at some here.
Organic and Natural Beekeeping
Organic beekeeping is largely a misnomer. In order to be considered organic by any organization regulating such labels, the honey produced would have to come from bees which found only organic nectar sources within a certain radius, depending on the regulating agency. Bees, however, travel for miles in search of nectar and given the prevalent use of chemicals on everything from lawns, gardens, and flowers, truly organic beekeeping is rare.
A more accurate label would be chemical-free or natural beekeeping. The goal with this methodology is to use hive management techniques that do not introduce chemicals into the hive. There’s still no way to control where the bees forage and what they bring back to the hive as a result, but it avoids adding additional chemicals to the hive.
With a Langstroth hive, part of this might include using foundationless frames. In all cases, it would mean using non-chemical methods for monitoring/treating hive pests and diseases. In the case of controlling mites, a sticky board for monitoring the level and sprinkling powdered sugar are also relevant.
As native bee populations decline and Americans become more aware of this dire situation, more and more people are interested in keeping bees. For city dwellers, keeping bees can be challenging. Many cities’ zoning laws don’t allow for beehives. In addition, there’s the issue of space. Inceasingly, city dwellers are getting zoning laws changed and coping with the space issue in creative ways.
Rooftop hives are increasingly popular, but are only one part of the solution. Although bees will scout for miles to find food supplies, it is tiring for them. So providing additional food stores is often suggested depending on the surrounding environment. Also, providing a water source is critical.
Also important is maintaining a good and healthy relationship with neighbors. Therefore, prior to setting up a rooftop, or backyard, hive, it’s a good idea to check with neighbors to reassure them with regards to stings and swarms. If the hive will be in a yard, putting up a fence or other barricade can also be helpful.
New and Unusual Hive Designs
Probably the most prominent up-and-coming hive innovation is the Flow Hive. We’ve got a separate post coming about that so I’ll skip it here. Instead, I’m going to look at two innovations that have captured my attention: the indoor hive and the hex hive.
Bees inside? The house? Sounds crazy, right? Like a recipe for getting stung.
Normally, you’d be right, but a new innovation in beekeeping makes this possible. There are a couple variations on the market, but the basics are the same. Bees access the outside via a tube while the hive body and colony live inside a hexagonal compartment-mounted inside. The modular compartments are able to connect to each other making the hive expandable to any size necessary to accommodate the colony.
I love this concept because it makes it possible to view the bees at any time without disrupting them. Most models shipped with an established colony and infrared lights to enable viewing at night without disrupting the bees’ normal circadian cycle. I also love these hives because the most popular version incorporate natural beekeeping concepts including foundationless comb, and a cleaning drawer, which enables the beekeeper to simply pull out the drawer to remove any debris from the hive.
The Hex Hive is another innovations aimed at providing a man-made hive that’s closer to what bees find and use in nature. The shape and size resembles a tree trunk and use foundationless frames. They look a bit like hexagonal Langstroth hives, but are raised off the ground so that the entrances in each of the “supers” are at the height bees find optimal.
Although neither of these solutions proclaims to increase honey production, for people, like me, who are interested in beekeeping for the bees, both of these innovations are worth further investigation. They’re both inline with the costs for other hive solutions, but possibly offer some benefits to the Langstroth, Warre, or Top Bar solutions in terms of accessibility.
Beekeeping in the Digital Age
In this modern age of technology and smartphones, more and more apps are being developed to assist the beekeeper with hive management and tracking. I’ll look at few of these here.
SoultionBee (http://www.solutionbee.com) uses physical sensors to track with your hive. It’s able to collect and store data such as weight and temperature on a preset schedule. SoultionBee then sends this data to generate reports and aide the beekeeper in tracking progress. In addition, this system will sound an alarm if it’s unable to weight the hive.
Tracking the weight of a hive can provide valuable information on it’s progress including a closer awareness of when the honey flow starts and ends. While not low-cost, for the more involved beekeeper, SolutionBee is an interesting option.
Beetight is a free app for beekeepers. It’s capable of interfacing with all hive types and enables the beekeeper to view hive details at a glance. Beetight provides a place for beekeepers to quickly record information about inspections, treatments, feeding, harvest, and bee temperament.
For keepers with more than one hive, it includes a feature to show hives locations on a map and show weather at each location.
Full disclosure: we know and like the guys at Hive Tracks! However, this article is not intended as an endorsement, simply a brief look at what’s available. A more detailed look at this software is coming very soon.
Hive Tracks interfaces with Google maps and allows the beekeeper to place a pin where each hive is located. From there, the beekeeper is able to build the hive to look like the hive in the yard. The real value of the software is in logging inspection dates and notes, tracking harvests and other important data.
The Pro version enables beekeepers to interact with local groups, clubs, or friends as well as create a calendar to track various tasks and upload pictures.
This is only a brief overview of some of the innovations being developed to help the bees. Personally, I’m thrilled that the plight of the bees is finally gaining attention at this level.
I hope with continued innovation and interest, we can save the bees!