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Hamburg Beekeepers 2

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MALTE BAESLER, Hamburg Beekeeper (2)
Maite is the son of Hilke and George Baesler

"I've been keeping bees for 15 years now. Since then I've learned a lot about bees, especially that bees react very sensitively on external disturbances. Thus, in the last years I tried to find a way of a sustainable and chemical-free beekeeping. The principle is to keep vital and healthy colonies that are strong enough to survive winter and diseases. The motto is: "Less is more". And of course I want to harvest honey, too."

"Due to little free time during my studies I decreased the number of hives for the last years but now I want to expand again. Therefore, last winter I built some new hives. This spring I started with two colonies (I lost one in winter) but with the intention to increase the number of hives by catching swarms :-) Hopefully, until fall I can increase the number of hives up to ten."

It's me with the hive boxes I've made last winter. It should be noted, that the  wood protection is solely pure linseed oil and non-toxic iron oxide without additives. The  paint is even eatable to humans. Believe me, I've tried ;-)

Local Conditions

"OK, these are the local conditions of the places where I keep my bees. I do not move the bees to different places during seasons, because I think a good place for bees must provide nectar and pollen all over the year. Because of this I do not feed any food supplements. Solely the honey is replaced by sugar in fall. Any honey in brood nest is taboo and remains during winter time."

"I keep bees in rural and suburban areas. The suburban areas benefits from flowers in backyards. The diversity is great and in the summer you can watch bees collecting pollen with all kind of colors. The first major nectar flow are fruit trees, such as cherry and apple. They bloom from April to mid-May. But this honey is not harvested but used for colony expansion. Other trees such as chestnut and maple are also excellent nectar flows in spring time."

"The majority of honey harvested in spring time is oilseed rape. It is a honey with a high percentage of glucose and hence solidifies very fast. This honey is almost white. Sometimes the bees also gather different nectar than rape. In this case the honey is more yellow. The springtime honey is harvested at the beginning of June."

"Afterwards, there is a break of approximately 1-2 weeks until the second main honey flow starts: linden-tree. Linden-trees generally bloom in June and July. Linden-trees are common for alleys. Robinia is an other tree in cities that are interesting for bees. Robinia starts blooming one or two weeks before Linden-tree. In between other wild plants and flowers are an excellent nectar and pollen supplement like raspberry and blackberry."

"After the blossom of the linden-trees has been withered, honey is harvested for the second time end of July. After that the bees are fed with sugar and are treated for varroa mites. All honey collected after the second harvest remains in the hive. Hopefully, until fall the bees also store a lot of pollen for colony expansion in the next spring and grow up vital winter bees."

I love bees!!!

My Beekeeping

"First I will describe my hive. The frames I use are rather small: 37 cm width and 22.3 cm height. Eight frames fit into one box. Three boxes are designated for brood, but since I do not use a queen excluder this partitioning may vary by the “free will” of the bees. The hive is long and has a small diameter because this is close to the conditions the bees find in their original environment, i.e., a hollow tree. Adding several honey supers yields to a high tower :-)"

"The highest priority of my beekeeping is not harvesting honey as much as possible, but to keep vital and healthy colonies. And for the long term healthy colonies produce more honey :-)"

"The colony starts as a swarm, either as an artificial swarm or as an natural swarm, because swarming is the only natural way of reproduction. Furthermore, I don't use foundations in the brood nest because a colony knows best which type of cells are required at which position. A swarm builds very fast and very nice combs without any guideline by the beekeeper and even the number of drone cells is limited. Mostly, drone cells are located at the edge of the brood nest. Drones are very important for the harmony of the colony during spring and summertime. Thus, restricting drone brood is counterproductive."

Where are the bees?

"The swarm should build its complete combs at once, i.e., two or three boxes. Manipulations of the brood chamber is taboo. During the next two seasons I don't change frames. When I take a look inside the hive I preserve the frames' order. After two seasons I make a complete renewal of the combs by means of swarms. I try to avoid making nucs. Since I don't use foundations, concentrations of toxics in the wax is reduced."

"As swarming is the natural way of reproduction, I don't restrain swarming. A colony in swarming mood grows very good and vital queens. Grafting and breeding by the beekeeper is not required. Because I don't want to loose any swarm (who wants?!?), I make an artificial swarm before the natural swarm moves out. The advantage of swarming is that both, the swarm and the remaining colony, have a brood break in which they can recover and control varroa mite."

"Breeding queens and human selection depletes the honey bee's gene pool. Thousands of colonies descending from the same queen might be busy and productive but are prone to diseases. Thus, all colonies that survive the winter are worth to reproduce. One again, the main objective of beekeeping in these days of CCD is the disease-free survival."

"I don't use a queen excluder because it hinders the bees to accept the honey supers and limits the maximum honey production. Since the bees store honey far away from the entrance hole and since I use narrow but long hives, brood in the honey supers is no problem."

One populated hive of mine. Small and narrow boxes lead to high towers that are taller than myself. The other boxes in the pictures are empty but are intended to catch wild swarms. Normally, less boxes are used but this colony is really busy.

"The best protection against diseases are healthy colonies and a diverse gene pool. I avoid using medications and chemicals in the hive, keeping everything natural. One exception is medication against varroa mites, although I think that the resistance against varroa mite (or rather a way of co-existence) is contained in the genome of the bees and the natural selection is prevented by medication."

'The africanized honeybee has demonstrated the feasibility and has also developed a resistance against varroa mite. But, since I don't want to loose all my colonies, I treat them with organic acids (lactic acid, formic acid, and oxalic acid). Organic acids don't accumulate in wax. lactic acid is applied in swarms before the first brood is sealed."

"After the honey has been harvested for the last time, the bees are treated with formic acid for a short time to reduce the mites before breeding of winter bees. Finally, during winter the colonies are treated with vaporized oxalic acid."

"That's all."

Best regards from Hamburg,

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