In my house, when you want to justify crazy behavior or actions you say it’s all in the name of science! Like when my daughter was 3 and she started putting toys into the fish tank to see which sank and which would float, we decided that she was just experimenting and it was a science lesson for her. My family is very scientific and we all love to experiment with things. Top bar beekeeping is going to be my biggest experiment this year and now it’s going to be even bigger.
I called up Christy Hemenway from Gold Star Honeybees (www.goldstarhoneybees.com) in Maine to talk to her about feeding the bees. I was wondering about more natural ways than sugar to feed the bees. Honey can carry diseases that affect bees, so I’m not willing to risk feeding the bees from beekeepers I don’t know and trust. I will feed the bees sugar water when they get here. Hopefully the blooming season will have started by then.
While Christy and I were on the phone, we began talking about top bar beekeeping and the size of bees. Christy asked if I had already ordered my package and I had. She mentioned that with top bar beekeeping having small cell, untreated bees is a much better way to go. The bees that I ordered are large cell and will be treated with oxalic acid before they arrive. I had ordered the bees while I was taking my beekeeping classes and I rushed because I have heard that the bee demand is high and they see out quickly.
After speaking with Christy I thought a lot about the small cell, untreated bees and how much that fits into the way that I want to keep bees. I decided that I would order a package of them from her. She did not pressure me in any way to decide to get the bees. She just passed on important information that I had neglected. It was so good to talk to her and hear all that she had to say. She also told me about her top bar beekeeping classes, as well as groups where I might find other top bar beekeepers.
Now I have two packages of bees on the way and a decision to make. Do I keep both packages or do I try to get a refund for the large cell bees? The answer came quickly to me: science experiment! I am going to keep both packages of bees and I am going to get another top bar hive!
I called Bee Thinking. On their website they had an offer to 10% off if you order two or more hives. I wanted to know if they would give me the discount even though I would be ordering the hives separately. They were great and told me that they would give me the discount, so I ordered another top bar hive!
Now my science experiment begins! Two identical hives, but two very different bee colonies. The first package that I will get is the large cell, treated bees and the second will be the small cell, untreated bees. There will only be a few days between the arrival of each package.
I am very excited to have the opportunity to have these two hives. I will get to observe them and document all of the differences and similarities between them. It will also be fun to compare the Langstroth hive with the two top bars.
I am not sure that my backyard is big enough for all three hives. I am going to keep the Langstroth and the small cell bees in the top bar hive in my yard and the other top bar hive will be in a host yard in town.
The new hive will be here in about a week and the bees will come in about 3 weeks. The snow is mostly gone from my backyard, so I will be able to set up the hive soon. I should probably start learning how to light and use the smoker now.