Our horizontal hives are build like castles with their insulated double walls and metal roofs. In summertime horizontal hives give plenty of space to the bees and can be managed with minimal disturbances to the bees.
reason: no top boxes to re-shuffle & touching top bars keep the bees minimally disturbed
Horizontal beehives, however, require a special setup for the winter as they have the same space-heating problem as medieval royal castles did.
Do you know that in winter large royal medieval castles were extremely hard to heat and they were usually cold and drafty? That’s why canopy beds were invented – they provided the royals with warmth & privacy in a smaller enclosed space.
That’s very similar to what we do here with bees wintering in large horizontal hives.
In wintertime there are fewer bees and we make the space for them small, warm and cosy quite like royal canopy beds in large medieval castles.
A pillow with a 1lb of natural wool goes on top of our warm canopy bed & the double walls of our bee castle are also insulated with ¾” wool.
The best of royal castles need a royal garden right out front.
The split screen here shows side-by-side both the summertime and the wintertime views of the same location in front of the beehives. It’s almost wintertime now & you can now only see a dusting of 1st snow right where this past summer flowers were abuzz with bees collecting nectar and pollen.
These are long-flowering borage & lacy phacelia that we planted just for the bees.
This past summer within 70 yards of the beehives we also had a lot more flowers in our royal bee garden: Here you can see bee-balm, meadow sage, pincushions and even a young linden tree that was starting to flower.
Within a mile from the beehives we have hundreds of acres of meadowlands with wild lupines, thistles, queen anne’s lace, fleebane, goldenrods, blueberries, etc. – plenty of clean pesticide-free sources of pollen and nectar for the bees.
Bees make honey as a food source to sustain their colony over winter.
We never ever exchange any part of the bees’ honey stores for sugar – there’s not enough nutrients in sugar!
We never feed sugar to our bees as the bees’ health and the quality of honey are more important to us than the quantity of honey.
Take a look at this warning from Malta beekeepers association – “Feeding bees sugar is bad for both them & you”
Natural beekeepers would rather have healthier bees than record-breaking harvest of some kind of honey from overworked, over-stressed sugar-fed bees.
Horizontal beehives allow us to practice minimally invasive colony management & on average we harvest no more than 25 lb of honey per colony, leaving the bees ample reserves of honey and pollen for the winter.
The average honey yield per colony for conventional honey from sugar-fed bees is up to 3 times higher that yield for honey from natural beekeeping where bees are never fed sugar.
Every real flower adds its own nectar’s magic to the taste of honey. How do you think sugar-feeding of bees affect the taste with such triple difference in average honey yield per colony?
The minimally invasive approach to beekeeping that we practice was championed by the author of “Keeping Bees with a Smile” Lazutin who inspired countless beekeepers to adopt bee-friendly beekeeping methods that put the bees first.
Only if there’s way too much honey reserves, we will take that excess honey only, because if we leave too much honey for the winter it will actually diminish the bees’ chances to survive.
Per Dr. Sharashkin, a long-time natural beekeeper in Ozarks MO, leaving too much honey is actually as dangerous as not leaving enough.
The bees will have a hard time keeping extra honey warm, the honeycombs will cool & condensation will forming on them, leading to moisture problems”, mold growth, attracting moth, parasites, forcing the bees to abscond …and with growing environmental threats to bees’ habitats absconded bees are having ever diminishing chances of finding a new suitable home in a timely manner in other words when there is too much honey left for the bees, if the beekeeper does not remove the excess honey before winter, the bees will have far worse survival chances.
So if there’s excess of honey that should not be left over winter, we do take it – just like the royal servants are entitled to some delicious crumbs from the royal table.
We only harvest surplus honey and only once per year, leaving enough honey for the bees to survive harsh New England winters.