February 09, 2023

The Appropriate Beehive

The URL 303beekeeper.com is for sale! Contact me if interested. Happy 303 Day!

A new hive design, adjusting for climate change. Building specs to come.

Here's a sneak peek at Marty Hardison's redesigned top bar hive. He's having better success getting colonies through winters with this revised appropriate beehive.

Appropriate Beehive?

🔈 /əˈprōprēət/
adjective: suitable or proper in the circumstances

The NOAA climate forecast for Colorado predicts more heat, more drought, and greater amounts of winter snow, changes which have implications for colony survival. Good beekeepers give the bees what they need, when they need it, so Marty's adjusting what constitutes appropriate.

Having observed colonies in bee trees that have been surviving for years, whose combs are long not wide, he's made his hive 4 inches deeper to allow the bees to build longer combs. The new design still uses 16 1/2" top bars, which allows for interchangeability between hives and makes this design appropriate for both the bees and the beekeeper.

Marty isn't actively teaching the craft anymore, so he and I have been working on updating his booklet, The Appropriate Beehive. An instrumental guide, it includes building plans for the original Hardison Hive. On clicking through, you will need to request access to the document but if you do, I will send you the updated PDF as soon as it's available. I'm not sure I can promise instructions on adding the additional four inches to the top, but the new edition offers more details on keeping bees in a top bar hive that beginning topbar beekeepers will appreciate.

This blog's URL will revert to bbhb.blogspot.com by next 303 Day (March 3, 2024). Bookmark it!

January 08, 2023

Gnats, Nadiring, and Neem

If you're just finding my blog, this indoor worm bin was started around Halloween. The working tray at the top of the photo was filled with moistened PittMoss Prime, a peat-free newsprint-based medium. The worms are really happy in it. Torn up cardboard? Not so much. I've read many posts saying worms love corrugated cardboard, but I never see worms on it and it's gone moldy, which isn't bad per se but I don't like it.

What I like even less are the fungus gnats and composting mites in the bin. In an outdoor bin these cohabitants would not necessarily be pests. In an indoor scenario, they are. I've lost a couple of houseplants to gnats, and I'm tired of them landing on my dinner plate.

The Wow Worm Farm in parts. It's really a neat little system.

I decided to nadir today, hoping the worms will drop down into the clean bedding but the gnats will stay in the top tray. As before, I inoculated the fresh bedding with neem seed meal but I did not moisten it at all this time. Not that they can't survive it, but gnats don't like dry. Anyway, I buried about a pint of kitchen waste in the center. Vegetable scraps produce quite a bit of moisture so I figure it'll provide what the worms need. The worms are probably pretty hungry because I haven't fed them in about 3 weeks. Reducing the amount of decaying matter seems to have helped knock down the mite population, but obviously worm activity is down, too. I'm hoping the worms' egg cases can lay dormant longer than the fungus gnat eggs can, and that I waited long enough. Maybe I should've waited a month. Ugh, I'm simply at my wit's end with these gnats!

Reassembling the Wow Worm Farm. From left to right, the base with filter to keep the worms and compost out of the leach tray, the top level where all the action is currently, the just-filled-with-bedding tray, the lid.

I am a little worried because now that I'm using both levels, I won't be able to leave the lid off. Managing moisture is key to beating the gnats and mites. Both thrive in a moist environment. If it weren't winter, I'd leave the bin outside with the lid off so the gnats could fly away and the light would drive the worms down.

Since I can't leave it open in my kitchen, I am really hoping the neem seed meal kills the gnats. If it doesn't I'll have a two-tray gnat farm. I've read it works against a plethora of pests but I haven't seen anything specifically about composting mites. I treated both trays with a generous layer of the powder and will let you know what happens.