Bee Zen and the art of hive maintenance


Eco Honeybees Philosophy

Eco Honeybee’s philosophy and approach to beekeeping is considered very different from many that we discuss it with. But, since we deal with our bees in our breeding program and then month to month in their new home at a client’s location over the course of (quite often) years, we get rather attached to them and this effects how we deal with them and also approach our business. Knowing more about this approach assists you as a potential client because caring for your hive is quite different from the standard client/contractor relationship.


Old School World Views

While society is slowly changing, it’s still basically a patriarchy. In Genesis, God gave man dominion over the beasts and birds. And, I think that most everyone will admit, this “Humans Rule!” way of doing things has given us tacit permission to run roughshod over all the other non-human inhabitants on the planet in addition to the planet itself. After a few thousand years you can see how our track record has been doing that. We’re only now realizing that the majority of wild things in this world like animals, birds, fish, and the ecosystem itself are in real danger of being eradicated. And the honeybee is part of this. Everyone’s aware of the bee crisis and that’s probably one big reason you want to buy a hive.


How does this apply to bees?

O.K. Back to the bees. Traditional beekeeping has usually been approached from the human side of things with the goal of getting honey back and then selling it. Bees were kept primarily because of what physical items they could give to us so that we could sell them and make money. Up till the 1860’s, bee colonies were usually destroyed during the honey extraction process. As a result, most classically trained beekeepers approach their hobby this way and work to control their hives in regards to honey production. No matter what you think of this, bees are generally pretty adaptable. Given predictable seasons and a flourishing environment, the bees have little problem just going about their business and keep going even though much of the honey they produce is taken. But, we’ve now pulled the environment out from under the bees, threw a whole lot of complex chemicals at them, eliminated their forage, and then changed the weather patterns. The end result are massive die offs of bees, collapsing hives and few answers on how to go back to the way things were. 


World Changes

So the world’s changed. And traditional beekeeping has been very slow to change with it. Mostly because one’s underlying belief system has to change if one’s going to set out to make a difference. Humans are very slowly starting to learn that we’re just a small part of the planet and we have to work equally with all parts in we expect a balance. Bees and humans have to work together and, to start, we have to treat bees more as equals rather than objects we have to profit from or fear because of their stings. Even many beekeepers are intimidated by their bees and will use any excuse to keep from inspecting their hives beyond just opening the top lid.


We're Always Learning

We weren’t activists or Earth First folks when we started this business.  For more on us, click HERE.  Through years of experience we’ve evolved and now have a firm grip on the crisis and the challenges of different locales. We’ve followed hundreds of hives throughout the years in many varied environments. One thing we’ve learned is that EVERY hive is different. Every Queen has her own personality and her own set of skills. And each environment a hive is in can also present it’s own challenges to a hive. No one ever can tell how a hive is going to do in a new, unknown, area until it’s been there a year. Some areas are better than others. Some have got lots of forage, some don’t. Some great areas have more lawn services spreading pesticides, some don’t. And some areas are deserts. Some areas in the area are naturally warmer than others and spring starts earlier. Once the bees have been in place or a year, they’ll start changing their environment for the better in regards to their forage but many challenges are out of their control.  


But What Have We Learned?

We’ve found that the best thing we can do is create the best bees we can in our breeding program, place them in their new home, and then support them as best we can. A big part of this is, during inspections, not only to see how the bees are adjusting to their local environment and how strong that environment is, but also to get a feel what the strengths are of this particular Queen. Once we get a solid feel for how She does her business and manages her community, then we can devise a plan how best to support the management of her hive. If you get two hives, then each hive can support the other based on their strengths. Yes, we’ll take honey and brood from one to strengthen another. Or we might take those from one of our own hives to support yours. We all work together continually and take a lot of noted so we have year to year documentation about how your hive is doing and where your Queen came from.  If your hive is doing great, we might pull brood from it to reintroduce into our breeding program. For more on our Breeding Program, click HERE. If you have a strong hive that’s a bit aggressive we might swap the colony or Queen out to make them gentle again. We’ve also seen some hives that can’t adapt to an area where another colony loves it. These are all factors that we do our best to learn, absorb, and then determine how to best apply that knowledge.


Honey and Expectations

We mentioned that bees make honey. For more on honey, click HERE. Most of our clients see between one to four gallons per year. Some see more, some don’t see any for a year or two. That’s not so much up to us as it is your local area. Some environments have enough forage so that the bees can produce an excess. If so, great! In other areas, the bees need a lot of supplemental feeding just to prepare for winter. We’ve seen some Queens that seem to be experts in predicting how much honey they need year to year and produce exactly that amount so there’s never more than 5 pounds left over come spring. It’s like She’s flipping us the middle finger. How can we complain? It’s a great, healthy, prospering hive. You think they’re here for us?  She begs to differ.

To us, honey is a byproduct that the bees need more than we do. We don’t sell honey and tell our clients not to get their hopes up. The survival of the bees is what’s of paramount importance. The bottom line is that the bees need the honey to eat during the times of the year when nature has shut down. For this area, weather depending, that’s usually from mid-July till March. 

It's on the left side of the porch in the shade

Welcoming bees into your family .....

Most of our clients have some sort of lawn furniture sitting about 6-8 feet from their hive. Or it’s on a deck. Or close by a window.  Take a wander through our Gallery to see some client's hives.  It’s all so they can watch and experience their bees. Once the bees are used to you, they don’t care. Sit there. Talk to them. Name your Queen. The more you observe, the more you’ll learn. And you’ll be calling us when you notice things that concern you. Then you’ll get an idea about your place in this world and what’s important. It happened to us from going in and out of hundreds of hives up close to the bees over the years. 


Everyone Making a Difference

You can imagine that we HATE losing hives. And you now know why. And not every hive makes it no matter how hard we try. Some fail for unknown reasons, and with others, we learn after the fact. When we have a Queen die of old age after four years, we’re very sad and remember that this Queen maybe birthed right into our hands years back. We see the bees as being equal to us. These hives are doing more for the world than most of us are. And we’d like to think that we, by working with them, and you, by making the decision to have a hive, are making a positive difference in fixing that little part of the world that we inhabit. There are worse legacies we could leave our children.

Nemo vir est qui mundum non reddat meliorem  

                               -“What man is a man who does not make the world better?”