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Treatment Free Beekeeping

top bar hive

Our Top Bar Hive

We are trying our hand this season at “Treatment Free” Beekeeping. Treatment free beekeeping means just that – ZERO treatments, including no organic treatments. Its main tenets are 1) hardy, naturalized bees indigenous (or as closely indigenous as possible) to the area they are being raised in); reduced cell size (from 5.2 to as low as 4.8mm foundation, or no foundation, such as in top bar hives) and of course NO treatments.  Does it work? You bet! Pioneered by well known and very successful beekeepers in Arizona, Dee Lusby and her late husband Ed, as well as rogue beekeeper Sam Comfort in upstate NY, “Anarchy Apiaries”. Peter and I attended a wonderful workshop for beginner beekeepers last summer, put on by the Treatment Free Beekeeping Association of New England. We learned VAST amounts in a very very short time period, and are eagerly looking forward to learning much more at the 2011 conference. We also had some amazing food at the conference, including fresh, sun warmed honey comb, direct from the hive (AMBROSIA, I kid you not) and honey provided by BeeUntoOthers.com. We bought a gallon of the stuff. FAB.

Happy Bees!
Happy Bees, at the Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference, 2010traditional (unpainted) langstroth hives

top bar hives

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2011 Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference!

honey bee


2011 brings year 3 of the annual conference back to Leominster, Massachusetts with a few changes and some familiar faces. The Doyle Center had been the ideal setting for the last two years, but we have graduated to a larger venue, better kitchen facilities, and a welcoming atmosphere with the Leominster chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and their 14 acre property with large meeting hall for our use and plenty of space for the bees. Primitive camping is available 4 miles from the venue (15 tent limit)…be sure to purchase on the registration page to secure your spot.

Throughout the entire conference, we hire our friends and family (all with professional cooking experience) to cook the most delicious and nutritious food imaginable, 3 meals a day, on site. We trade with local farms and use fresh, locally grown produce (much of it Certified Organic), and although our attendees have diverse eating habits and dietary requirements, we haven’t had anyone who we could not accommodate. Please let us know if you have special requirements.

A review of last year’s conference can be found at http://www.KirkWebster.com (the review is titled “The Best Beekeeping Meeting I Ever Attended”). The Beginner Beekeeping Intensive was very popular last summer, and we will repeat it this year as an inexpensive crash course (or refresher) for those that want to get up to speed on the biology of the bee and basic beekeeping principles and practices in the least amount of time possible. Tag team instruction by Dean, Sam and Laurie (aka Ramona) for 2 days straight includes both lectures and demonstrations (hands on with the bees weather permitting). Tuesday and Wednesday, July 19 and 20.

NEW THIS YEAR!!! Instead of moving directly from the beginners program to the main conference as we did last year, we are hosting a day in between for all attendees (Thursday, July 21)….a “Picnic Table Science Fair” with selected presentations in the “20×20″ or PechaKucha format, where each presentation consists of 20 Powerpoint slides (or other visual aids), each one with a 20 second explanation….each presentation is just over 6.5 minutes. This allows for many of our attendees who have unique and interesting areas of knowledge (some beekeeping related, some not) to share with one another. There will also be a place for displays, projects, demonstrations, etc.

Al Carl (Massachusetts State Apiarist) has promised to bring by microscopes and equipment to teach tracheal mite dissections and nosema spore counts. We are certain there will be mead making, queen rearing, building equipment, and more. Most of our speakers will have arrived by Thursday and will be explaining and demonstrating their beekeeping field techniques with actual beekeeping equipment including queen rearing! Both top bar and Langstroth models will be addressed. Contact us if you would like to make a presentation! Thursday night is a special program by Matthew Halley, a bird researcher (doing the most extreme fieldwork imaginable) who is also a singer/songwriter and storyteller of the highest order. The Main Conference takes place Friday through Sunday (July 22-24).

As our theme this year is “Grow Your Own”, the speakers will give special attention to what they have learned through their own adventures that can apply to all of us.

Confirmed speakers for 2011: Dee Lusby: Dee and her late husband Ed are the pioneers of treatment-free beekeeping. Since Ed’s death in 2006, Dee has continued the management of their 700+ honey producing colonies in the Arizona desert where she raises her own queens, builds all her own equipment and produces her own small cell wax foundation. Dee owns the Organic Beekeepers list on Yahoo (which she maintains with a dial-up internet connection) where she shares a wealth of beekeeping information and history. Dee will also be demonstrating her methods for frame positioning and working the hive through the seasons at the Thursday “Picnic Table Science Fair” program. Kerstin Ebbersten: Retired from her position as the top honeybee scientist with the Swedish government, Kerstin’s dissertation was on breeding honeybees for sustainability. We are looking forward to hearing her perspectives on breeding, and she is also excited to share information on epigenetics and honeybees. Kirk Webster: Known for his writings in ABJ and Bee Culture over the years, Kirk is a one of a kind. Kirk’s perspective is that beekeeping and farming are inexorably linked, and one cannot be practiced without the other (and that both are incompatible with the pace modern technologies imposes upon us). Kirk runs a lean, self-sustaining operation in Vermont, where he produces honey, nucleus colonies and queens. Kirk pioneered the modern use of overwintering double nucs with summer queens in New England (as practiced by Kirk as well as Michael Palmer). You simply cannot argue with a beekeeper with low overhead and ae history of always running a profit, even in a poor year. Chris Baldwin: Chris is the only treatment free beekeeper that we know who is migratory (he travels between South Dakota, Texas, and California to the almonds!). As a producer of bees and honey, Chris will talk about the unique challenges migratory beekeeping presents to treatment free beekeeping practices, and the nuts and bolts of what makes his operation work. Chris came to the conference last year as an attendee and his impromptu talks were so well received that we convinced him to come back this year as a full-fledged speaker! Erik Osterlund: He’s not only a commercial honey producer and breeder, but also is the editor of the Swedish beekeeping journal. Erik brings a European perspective on treatment free beekeeping to Leominster, and is the only beekeeper we know who transitioned to small cell in anticipation of varroa mites. Erik developed and breeds his own line of Elgon bees and has traveled extensively around the world in the pursuit of better beekeeping and better bees. Corwin Bell: A computer animator/filmmaker by trade, Corwin is a keen observer of honeybee behavior (in the wilds of Boulder, Colorado, and in top bar hives [TBH]), yet has remained refreshingly naïve in terms of what the “experts” “know” about honeybee behavior. His perspective offers a wealth of understanding, a view from a slightly different angle than is the norm. Corwin will share some footage of honeybee behavior and discuss what he sees in well adapted colonies. He also has organized an army of TBH beekeepers and swarm retrievers that is as well organized as any beehive, and he travels the world to witness beekeeping under every condition imaginable. Sam Comfort: Wherever Sam appears immediately becomes “The Comfort Zone”. The best known (and largest) TBH beekeeper on the East Coast, Sam has an amazingly rich and diverse background in commercial beekeeping (both migratory and stationary) that is an unlikely match to his slight age, easygoing manner, and magnetic personality. His songs about bees, mites, bugs, and monkeys are entertaining for children to at least age 95. Matthew Halley: We met Matthew in Philly, and were spellbound by his storytelling…bird research had never seemed so exciting. The exotic locations, trials and tribulations are spellbinding enough, but the subjects and results of the research were (surprisingly) as interesting as bee research! Before we parted company, Matthew gave us a CD he had made (mostly songs about birds and bird research)…when we got home and listened to it, we knew we had to have him present, and to open up our study of nature (if only for an evening) a bit wider than the world of bees. Andrew Joslin: Our long-time friend Andrew is a recreational tree climber and all-around amazing guy, both in his appreciation of the intricacies of nature and his enthusiastic storytelling. Andrew will share some of his unique perspectives on the world we inhabit and share with other creatures, from the perspective of the highest treetops. Andrew is not a beekeeper, but has a foot in the hive already! Laurie Herboldsheimer and Dean Stiglitz: Co-authors of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping”, beekeepers, conference organizers, and owners of Golden Rule Honey, Laurie and Dean will be reporting on their ongoing project of building a treatment-free operation in New England. This year, they’ll focus on what has been working for them and their vision for the future. Beginner’s Intensive – $100.00 (includes 6 meals) 9 am July 19 – 9 pm July 20 (Breakfast at 8:30 am) Picnic Table Science Fair – Free with registration for either Beginner’s Intensive or Main Conference (includes 3 meals) 9 am July 21 (Breakfast 8:30 am) – 9 pm Main Conference – – $210 (includes 9 meals) 9 am July 22 – 7 pm July 24 (Breakfast 8:30 am) Registration details (including limited camping option) can be found at BeeUntoOthers.com. You can register online with a credit/debit card or mail a check or money order to Golden Rule Honey, 168 Fourth Street, Leominster, MA 01453 Questions? Call 978-407-3934 or email info@BeeUntoOthers.com


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