Bees are drawing out one of my first frames of homemade foundation
Vermont’s southern Champlain Valley with Lake Champlain and the Adirondak Mountains in the distance
Cattle and sheep are the basis of most surplus honey production here
Sheep grazing next to one of my bee yards
My wonderful mentor Bill Treichler–who is no longer with us–taught me that the world encompasses far greater possibilities than any “expert” can describe
Sir Albert Howard defined modern Organic farming with a concept that beekeepers must also use to survive and thrive in the future: Pests and diseases should always be seen as friends and allies–showing us where our practices are poorly adapted, and how to bring them back into balance.
Charlie Mraz made important contributions to beekeeping practice and created the American apitherapy movement during a long career in Middlebury, Vt. He was my first mentor and employer in commercial beekeeping.
Brother Adam–world famous beekeeper and bee breeder. Much of my apiary system was lifted from his work.
Brother Adam on Dartmoor in South Devon, England; with his isolated mating apiary in the background
Masanobu Fukuoka–Japanese farmer and author of The One Straw Revolution and other books. He developed and practiced over many decades a profitable method of growing rice, citrus and vegetables using no fossil fuel or agricultural chemicals of any kind. Over the years he had dozens of apprentices and thousands of visitors, yet no one has been able to fully replicate his success. Why?
of the best information and inspiration for dealing with the current beekeeping problems comes from the old bee books written between 1860 and 1910
Without adopting the tracheal mites as mentors, I would never have been able to find a satisfactory solution to the varroa problem.
The nuc box that started it all.
The box I have always used for propagating nucs for overwintering and for testing my new crop of queens.
Filling nuc boxes in mid-summer.
Feeding nucs in late September.
queen mating apiary in the Champlain Valley.
Excellent overwintered baby nucs in the spring of 2006, with their strength numbers written on the covers.
Four baby nucs living in one box share the heat in the center of the box.
“baby” combs–full depth end bars and half length top bars.
strong “baby” colonies wintered successfully on one pallet–spring 2006.
baby nucs in late summer 2010
One of several hundred healthy nucs in early autumn 2010–eight years after the last treatment of any kind was applied.
The feeders, frames and bottom boards I use for nucs.
The color and position of the white tack shows the new queen’s mother, potential mates and date the nuc was established.
Overwintering 4-way nucs on top of double story colonies.
Bees in cold storage–winter is very important for breeding bees in the temperate zone.
Nucs being packed on pallets.
Homemade tar paper packing cases for nucs on pallets.
Nucs on pallets in winter.
One of my favorite pictures–a typical brood frame four years after the last treatment was applied.
Another favorite photo showing beautiful brood from a four year old queen–five years after the last treatment.
The Russian bees formed the raw material for my durrent stock. They are a true “wild type”, and need to be aggressively propagated and selected down to develop the traits we want and need.
Good queen cells raised from your own favorite colonies–the basis of future health, resilience and productivity in any apiary. Raising good cells in untreated colonies is not a problem.
Queen cells being transported to the mating yards.
Homemade grafting tool made from baling wire.
Queen rearing has a tight schedule in my northern location.
Learning to make my own was foundation on a small scale was the most difficult thing I ever did with bees. Don’t try it or buy anything without calling me first–I might save you a huge amount of trouble and money.
The way I currently prepare my new frames with homemade foundation–two horizontal wires and two vertical wooden sticks.
New foundation being drawn out–note wooden stick imbedded in the comb
Finally–nice combs drawn from homemade foundation.
A typical frame of summer brood nine years after the last treatment was applied. The truth is, I worry less about the bees now than I did when they were being treated.
Good colonies of bees in the spring. Mites are there somewhere, but it’s hard to find them.
Queenless bees are happy to find a new queen.
Queen families are tracked with very simple record keeping
There are still heavy losses in the honey producing bees in some years in some locations
2011: For the last 20 years I have always had my own overwintered nucs and queens to replace winter loss and expand. I sold nucs as well in all those years except two
After 2 years of terrible summer weather, there was a good honey crop in 2010
With bees becoming more scarce and valuable, it’s not necessary to have a huge investment in bees, facilities and vehicles to make a living from them now
One of my helpers, Jean Hamilton, caught red handed with produce from my garden
Mark Soukup, an old friend from West Virginia, helping with the honey harvest
Augusta and Amanda working in the “honey wagon”
Susannah Patty with a good crop of honey in the early days of non treatment
Molly Lohman holding a frame of brood for the first time
My best and most stalwart helper, Lissy Hemenway – also a great friend
I don’t believe we are going to survive the coming crisis of food and energy unless we can bring the creative, wild and unknowable energy of nature back into our lives and into our farming. Steady work and attention are the other requirements.