Biodynamic Beekeepings with Gunther and Vivian of http://spikenardfarm.org has been the highlight of the past decade of training for me. I learned so much being with them and all my classmates in their Two Year Sustainable Biodynamic Beekeeping Trainings course. I continue to learn from all the beekeepers that I participated with and we return each year to the sanctuary for advanced topics and to volunteer for projects.
My introduction into natural beekeeping started in 2009, when I was homeschooling my children and wanted to personally learn more about bees and consider keeping them at our small permaculture homestead in Takoma Park, MD. It’s a challenging place to keep bees because it’s so urban and there are many hives around the area there is a severe shortage of nectar or at least it seems that way especially when you have a new hive that’s still learning it’s way around. My first year it was obvious that feeding was going to be heavy and necessary to keep the hive alive, I just had a really hard time feeling good about this somewhat invasive, unnatural requirement to keep bees. My bees did not make it through the Winter, it didn’t help that I did not install them until May but they ran out of food because I never did feed them enough (10 lbs didn’t do it). This hive type was a Horizonal, not a true top bar hive which is what I was interested in at the time. It was time to leave the urban area at this point for my family, I wanted to move my eldest going into 3 rd grade to a proper school where he would have access to so much more than I could teach him at that point. We also were looking for a location that would still have an academic job for my husband and farming for me, we chose Lower update New York in Columbia County.
Now in Ghent, I have Lang Hives (3 of them) curtesy of http://www.hudsonvalleybeesupply.com a great local resource and the only one I’ve found so far in this area serving the Beekeeping Community. Once we bought land to begin the farm on I invested in three Lang hives (mediums as a local beekeeper suggested). I also purchased my first WARRE hive from here: http://www.thewarrestore.com/warrehives.htm and I purchased Black Locust plank boards to eventually start building my own Warre Hives when my Apiary takes off. I’m currently in an ideal location for an Apiary, I’m surrounded by hundreds of fallow acres, for better or worse in the big picture of agriculture but for the bees it’s heaven. The forage here is available from sometime in March through October (Witchhazel forest!).
In 2014 I was desperate to get some bees on my land, we moved in mid June and I had already lined up a nuke from a local beekeeper i had met earlier in the year. He’s an older fellow of another mindset when it comes to how to raise bees, he’s very much against GMOs and systemic herbicides but he’s into “treating” his bees the best way he knows how which includes a plethora of chemicals. I brought the two nuks back to my farm one in mid June and the second in early July, this is super late. They didn’t have much honey stored up when they came but there was a strong population in both and I had two swarms (primary and secondary) from one of these hives. One original hive just reduced down to very small by the end of the summer and the second swarm was very small, I went into the original hive I thought they both came from and again saw the Queen Cells confirming my suspicion. The other hive was humming by the end of summer and looked possible to make it at least mostly through the summer, but by early February 2015 she had expired and the small one was gone by January 2015. By late February I had the original large swarm hive still going strong but I knocked on it about February 20th, after several cold snaps, and I did not get a response. I will be checking it as soon as the weather warms but either she is super weak or she has expired too. It was unlikely that any of these bees would survive but I was hopeful and I am very thankful for all the swarm catching experience and general hive investigation experience that these bees brought me. These experiences made me a BeeKeeper.