About BB, HB and the Backyard

2022 UPDATE: Currently blogging from coastal Virginia. Looking for a place to put the beehives.
BB's my other half. I'm HB. The Backyard is in the suburbs of Denver, CO. We live in small house with a small yard. The garden is xeriscaped, but designed to appear lush with something always in bloom for the birds and bees. The apiary consists of one top bar hive and one Warré hive, the maximum number allowed.
View of the Rockies, 3 blocks from the Backyard

We started beekeeping in the Spring of 2008 with a single TBH and a swarm of bees from the High Land Beekeeping Club. The colony never built up and died in the Winter of 08/09. They left a small legacy behind, in lessons learned and a some comb with honey for their sisters on the way. The Spring of 2009, we re-stocked (bees are considered livestock) with a package of bees purchased through the Growing Gardens. With these bees, the real adventure began. Alas, RIP 09/10 bees. During their year-and-a-half in the Backyard, they inspired a myriad of creations both at the computer and in the kitchen. Culinary school was amazing (as a student and more so as a teacher), but being able to make honeybee lotions, lip balms and soaps has been even more fantastic than mastering brioche and roast beast. The fact that the honey and beeswax comes from our own Backyard makes all the difference.

I originally chose a Top Bar Hive as I simply wanted to keep bees, was not interested in honey, and didn't want my neighbors to know what the hive was on first sight. 99% of the time I stay on topic, but on occasion I may put something up about MdDS since my inability to travel was a catalyst to keeping honeybees. Keeping honeybees alive, however, is not an easy thing these days. Pre-varroa, Winter losses of 20% was normal and, today, to lose 2- or 3-in-5 hives is normal. If you only have 1 hive, it's easy to have 100% loss. So for our third season as beekeepers, 2011, the only active hive we had was for mason bees.

For the 2012 season, our first year with two hives, we restocked with survivor bees. The top bar hive was stocked with a nuc, and the Warré hive was stocked with a swarm from the top bar hive. Both hives overwintered, giving the 2013 season a good start. Then things got a little complicated.

Generally, our practice is to give the bees what they need. We prefer to provide the bees with only that which Nature would, particularly in Europe, the honeybees' native continent, but it's not always practical. The European Honeybee is an immigrant here, and there are stresses here for which the bees are not prepared; treatments against pests and disease are not out of the question. Our first consideration, though, will be Integrated Pest Management (IPM). For example, the Warré hive has a screened bottom board and upper entrances. Cheap, lasting actions, IMO, are better than costly, need-to-be-repeated actions (i.e.: treatment, whether powdered sugar or MAQS).

The city allows 2 hives on a lot like ours, but we'd like to find a small piece of land to work for more. Just imagine the recipes I'd put up if we were producing our own eggs and milk! If you know of a nice 5± acre piece of land for sale, please leave a comment.

One last note. I habitually revise published posts, mostly to make sure links are current and functioning. But a successful beekeeper is one who adjusts their thinking, to make sure the bees are getting what they need, so don't be surprised if I my opinion on something is not what you remembered reading before. Until I've successfully overwintered a number of hives for a number of years, I will consider myself a beginner beekeeper with much to learn.

OK, one more note: Blogger's a full-featured beast so I'm still fine-tuning my use of labels. Confusing, I know, but at the moment "recipes" are for people, "formulas" are for bees, "seasonal management" refers to manipulations of the bees, and "hive management" refers to manipulations of the hive (the box itself).


Solarbeez said...

Hey HB,
I like this web site. It seems you believe in many of the same things as we do, except you express them better. Most beekeepers (that I know) push their bees to maximum honey production. To me, that's a contributing factor in the overall bees' decline.
Keep up the good fight, I'm going to 'follow.'
Why doesn't this program have a 'LIKE' option?

HB said...

@Solarbeez Well, there is Google+ if you want to LIKE a blogger blog. The catch is you have to use your name to create a Google+ profile and it has to be public, and I DON'T LIKE that.

Castle Oaks Farm said...

Hello HB! I worked at TO front desk for awhile and you shared some lovely soaps with me. I have thought of you often as my beekeeping adventure took off - I am www.BeeRanchCO.com , Theresa Bee :)

HB said...

TB, I miss our convos at TO! Amber showed me pics of your first 2 hives when she took my braces off. Such a pretty shade of blue. Congrats on a really great start, and best of luck with Bee Ranch!

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