March 13, 2009

Book Review: The Barefoot Beekeeper

by Phil Chandler

The Barefoot Beekeeper is the only book written for Top Bar Hive beekeepers that we've found available in print. The author is the force behind biobees.com, the companion site if you will, and the forum is a must-join for anyone who has or is considering having a TBH. Now in its 3rd ed., the book is written for beginners and covers beekeeping from getting your bees to advanced techniques in your second year. There's also some history on beekeeping and, while it serves to give reason for beekeeping a "better" way, it does not slanderize traditional (i.e.: Langstroth hive) beekeepers at all. The Dalai Lama would be pleased.

Likes
  • instantly downloadable, as are instructions for building a TBH
  • provides practical instruction on using a TBH to raise bees sustainably, some favorite pointers being: 
    • inspections s/b be conducted when the foragers are out (i.e.: thousands less bees to deal with)
    • an average colony (in Britain) needs 30-40 lbs of stored honey for Winter; if you live in a colder climate your bees may get by on less.
    • when introducing a swarm, dust the bees with powdered sugar, which will give the bees a quick meal and also cause hitchhiking Varroa to fall off.
  • gives proven alternatives to using chemicals or even a smoker 
  • any lingering questions can be asked on the forum
Dislikes
The biobee hive design utilizes a side entrance, two follower boards and a SBB (screened bottom board), so some of the information has to be "translated" or just does not apply to a BackyardHive TBH, which has an end entrance, one falseback and a solid bottom board.

Whether you should use a side entrance (cold way) or an end entrance (warm way) is a personal choice. With a side entrance, air enters and blows between combs, whereas with an end entrance when air enters, it hits the face of the first comb and the rest of the hive is fairly insulated from the draft. So the type of entrance you should use really depends on your climate and how much ventilation your bees need. Same goes for the bottom board. We think the BackyardHive was designed with a solid bottom board to keep in heat during the Winter. Humidity is super-low in our sub-alpine desert environment, so keeping moisture in is probably another reason. We could easily drill holes into the side of our hive (especially now that it's empty) to create a side entrance, but it would've been nice if it had been built with a screened bottom and removable solid bottom. With a solid bottom, Varroa monitoring is going to have to be accomplished via a Sugar Shake, and we're not too excited about trying to get a few hundred bees into a jar with powdered sugar, shaking the heck out of them and seeing what falls off. You can be sure there'll be a post on that if we ever do it!

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