Select Page

New/Old Beekeeping Discoveries

KirkWebster.com

OPPORTUNITIES TO VISIT AND WORK WITH US AT CHAMPLAIN VALLEY BEES AND QUEENS

UPDATED DATES JAN 2019: Every year I get many requests to visit and/or to work here in the apiary– to see in person an apiary operating successfully for many years without treatments, and to learn something about making a living and having a nice lifestyle based around this work. After spending three years establishing the apiary’s home base in a new location, I now have the time and resources to honor at least some of these requests, and possibly help a few new commercial beekeepers get started with a solid, nature-based model, and an understanding of the successful small farmer’s lifestyle.

OPPORTUNITIES TO VISIT AND WORK WITH US AT CHAMPLAIN VALLEY BEES AND QUEENS

Every year I get many requests to visit and/or to work here in the apiary– to see in person an apiary operating successfully for many years without treatments, and to learn something about making a living and having a nice lifestyle based around this work. After spending three years establishing the apiary’s home base in a new location, I now have the time and resources to honor at least some of these requests, and possibly help a few new commercial beekeepers get started with a solid, nature-based model, and an understanding of the successful small farmer’s lifestyle.

Successful Organic Farmers–the Key to a Good Future for Beekeeping

There are still a few places in North America where the landscape is not actively and continuously manipulated by people; where Nature still provides most of the seeds and plants that grow there; where pesticide use is rare or entirely absent--and where honeybees can...

The Limitations of Science; the Wisdom of Indigenous People; and the Farmers Who Live in Between

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."--Albert Einstein "Primitive people as they are they taught me a new philosophy of life, for their ignorance is nearer to truth than our prejudice." --Carl Lumholtz, Unknown...

preface: HONEY FROM THE EARTH

I am deeply honored to be asked to write an introduction for the English language edition of this amazing collection. And I was surprised as well--all of my direct experience with honeybees has been contained within North America, and almost all of it has taken place...

2019 Introduction

The three years since my last posting on this website (Feral Bees-2016) have been especially busy here on the farm, with some construction and preparations for bringing livestock (other than bees) into the picture. There were a few memorable trips as well, including a...

Feral Bees

January 2016: FERAL AND MANAGED COLONIES (I was hoping to publish this essay together with a description of feral bees by another author who has studied them quite extensively. When I could see that the companion article would not be forthcoming, I decided to post...

The Best Kept Secret Revisited

(An edited version of this was first published in the Small Farmer's Journal, Spring and Summer issues, 2014. This is the complete text. The original essay: "The Best Kept Secret", is now on the website as well, from 1999. --K.W.) The Best Kept Secret, Revisited; or:...

My Apology to EAS

With EAS (Eastern Apicultural Society conference) coming to Vermont this year, and many inquiries coming in from customers and friends who are members, I've decided it's time for me to post in a public place my own explanation of why I'm not participating in the...

Helping Honeybees Refill Their Niche – The Apiary Farm

I'm embarrassed to admit that I can only remember three specific things that I learned in the Ecology program that I attended for a semester at the Evergreen State College many years ago. The first is that ecological succession is often guided simply by seed source,...

Collapse and Recovery: The Gateway to Treatment Free Beekeeping

At the Treatment-Free Beekeeping Conference in Leominster last July, it was very clear that the people who have succeeded in keeping a productive apiary for many years without treatments have all figured out their own patterns and methods based on their own unique...

The Best Beekeeping Meeting I Ever Attended

Since the arrival of tracheal and varroa mites, beekeeping meetings have for the most part reflected the industry's depressed state of mind, and more recently they leave one with the overall impression of individuals or small groups of beleaguered soldiers, digging...

Nature Has All the Answers, So What’s Your Question?* and A Page From a Treatment-Free Beekeeping Diary

Maybe we're asking the wrong questions, or asking too many small questions instead of facing up to the bigger and more important ones. The current decline of honeybee numbers and vitality apparently has several causes. Extensive monocultures; crop protection...

Some Great Mentors

As a change of pace from my other contributions for 2009, I thought I would share with you a few stories about my mentors and how they shaped the way I conceived and developed the apiary I've described in this magazine over many years. I've been thinking more than...

A Practical Plan For Removing All Treatment From Commercial Apiaries

Hobby beekeeping in America is obviously going to survive and thrive in the future. A small, but certain percentage of the population will always be fascinated by honeybees and want to be around them as much as possible---even if they don't make a living from them....

What’s Missing From The Current Discussion And Work Related To Bees That’s Preventing Us From Making Good Progress?

For several years, back aways now, it was unbearably dreary and frustrating listening to discussions between beekeepers, reading the bee journals, and especially, going to bee meetings. All the conversations revolved around killing mites, fear of not being able to...

A New Paradigm For American Beekeepers

This was written in preparation for a talk at the 2008 National Beekeeping Conference in Sacramento, Ca. The actual, give and take session was likely somewhat different… The paperback dictionary on my desk defines paradigm as: “an example serving as a model.” In his...

#11: December—Conclusion

So, after almost a year, we’ve arrived back where we started this column, doing the very last outdoor job of the season—melting the cappings wax on a nice day in December. It’s a good job to end the season with. There’s not much to it except showing up and keeping an...

#10: November and December: Packing bees; Blowing Out Failing Colonies.

When November arrives, I start packing, beginning with the 2-story honey producing colonies. If, early in the month, there appear to be a good percentage of these with PMS symptoms or non-viable clusters, I will spend a couple of days breaking all of them apart...

#9: September and October—Finish Extracting; Feeding and Moving Nucs

With a good honey crop, extracting will continue for the whole month of September. This month usually begins as the end of summer, and finishes as the beginning of autumn. We like to push steadily on during this time, so that as much honey as possible can be extracted...

#8: Late Summer—Extracting Honey and Expanding Nucs

Around here the most likely time to have very hot and humid weather is during July. One of my farming friends always crosses out the word “July” on his calendar, and writes in another four-letter word. It can be just as hot, for a short time, even in late September,...

#7: High Summer—The Main Honey Flow; a Crop of Honey and Bees

Around here, our honey crop—the excess honey we can sell—comes from the various clovers, birdsfoot trefoil, purple vetch, alfalfa and basswood. Because most of the open land is actively farmed or grazed, and has a heavy clay soil, star thistle (spotted knapweed) has...

#6: Summer—Making Nucleus Colonies; the Main Honey Flow Begins

Beekeeping has been present in this part of Vermont almost as long as European settlers have been here—that is, since the 1790’s. During all of that time, beekeepers made up most of their new colonies during May and early June—the natural swarming season. Before...

#5: Early Summer—Queen Rearing Begins

I know that summer doesn’t officially begin until June 20 or so; but around here we really need to have all of June as a summer month. Otherwise our only warm season would be too short and we would get very depressed. The weather in Vermont has been described as...

#4: Spring—Things Are Getting Busy

The last two weeks of April and the first week of May are one of the most interesting and critical times of year in this apiary, where lots of nucleus colonies are carried through the winter, and the most promising of these overwintered queens must be established in...

#3: Early Spring—Unpacking and Evaluating Colonies

You often hear it said around here: “April is by far the cruelest month”. At this time of year we can spend one whole day outside in the warm sunshine, and then look out the next morning to see a blizzard in progress, with a foot of snow already on the ground. In...

#2: Late Winter—“Harvesting” Empty Equipment

Interest is really building now for a more self-sufficient, healthy and resilient style of non-migratory beekeeping in the northern states. Unstable honey prices, mites, africanized bees, and the misguided efforts to make beekeeping fit into an industrial and business...

A Beekeeping Diary – Introduction

Interest is really building now for a more self-sufficient, healthy and resilient style of non-migratory beekeeping in the northern states. Unstable honey prices, mites, africanized bees, and the misguided efforts to make beekeeping fit into an industrial and business...

Where Commercial Beekeeping Went Wrong: The Difference Between Having A Farm And Having A Business

Now I come to the last of this year’s essays, and the most difficult of all to write. It’s also perhaps the most important one because many times the economic, social and spiritual elements, which are enormously important in our lives, are not brought into the...

Some Thoughts On Breeding Bees In The North

I have a favorite book from the 1940’s: The Farming Ladder, by George Henderson. It’s a great story of two brothers from London, who set out at age 15 and 16—with no money—to learn farming and eventually have their own mixed livestock farm. Their rapid and substantial...

Cell Building And Overwintering Nucs – The Key To Stability And Resilence In A Northern, Non-Migratory Apiary

OR: WILL THE NORTHERN STATES SUPPLY THE NATION’S SURPLUS BEES AND QUEENS IN THE FUTURE? I have to admit, I don’t understand why all beekeepers don’t raise their own queens, or at least let the bees do this for them. Whether you have one or 10,000 colonies, this is one...

Some Problems Of Health And Disease In Beekeeping And Agriculture

We all know that honeybees in North America (and much of the rest of the world) are having really serious health problems; and that these problems have greatly reduced honeybee colony numbers, driven many beekeepers out of business, and have the potential to seriously...

The Natural Form of a Northern Apiary

Having trouble finding support for NATURAL practices in the current predatory and destructive American culture? You’re Not Alone. And We're Here to Help! If you would like to receive updates from KirkWebster.com, provide youre-mail address below and we...

Healthy Beekeeping: Now And In The Future

To most of us who were keeping bees twenty and thirty years ago—as either a hobby or a livelihood- two of the chief attractions were the opportunity to work closely with the world of nature, and the seemingly miraculous qualities of the bees themselves. Only slightly...

Commercial Beekeeping Without Treatments Of Any Kind – Putting The Pieces Together Part 2

Having trouble finding support for NATURAL practices in the current predatory and destructive American culture? You’re Not Alone. And We're Here to Help! If you would like to receive updates from KirkWebster.com, provide youre-mail address below and we...

Commercial Beekeeping Without Treatments Of Any Kind – Putting The Pieces Together Part 1

Having trouble finding support for NATURAL practices in the current predatory and destructive American culture? You’re Not Alone. And We're Here to Help! If you would like to receive updates from KirkWebster.com, provide youre-mail address below and we...

The Best Kept Secret Part 2

The Best Kept Secret--Part 2 (First published in the Small Farmer's Journal, Fall 1999) It’s all very well to speak and write about the thoughts and ideas that develop from working on something for a long time. But what usually interests people the most are personal...

The Best Kept Secret Part 1

The Best Kept Secret--Part 1 (First Published in the Small Farmer's Journal, Summer, 1999) Surely the best kept secret in the U.S. today is the wonderful way of life that’s possible with full-time farming on a small place. If more people understood the opportunities...