There’s been many years where we have been in the trenches so to speak with regard to beekeeping. Mainly with regards to putting all our eggs in the organic beekeeping basket. There was a lot of learning and somehow there was still a faith that it was all meant to be and that our losses were just part of our process in getting us here. There’s a post-it above our kitchen sink that says, ‘You get there by knowing you are already there’.
For us, it has been a calling for leadership in natural beekeeping and the knowing that it felt like the right thing for us to do, and that it is our life’s destiny.
Early on in our practices we encountered the writings of Rudolf Steiner. Along with writings of current practicing beekeepers, Steiner’s writings compelled us to delve deeper into what it means to be the best beekeeper possible. We felt that the biodynamic tenets of foundationless un-interrupted brood nest and naturally reared queens are of particular importance to the essence of the hive-being. Likewise, many great beekeepers from the past like Edward Emile Warre’ and Lorenzo Langstroth had great skills of observation, and have influenced our thinking. Our design and development of the Natural-Nest* hive came out of a synergy between our desire to keep bees in accordance with biodynamic standards, the reading of historical writings, and an appreciation of modern beekeeping and its challenges.
We feel Natural-Nest* hives are the best space for bees to occupy in our climate and offers the most functionality to the beekeeper with regards to assisting the bees in their success.
It became clear early on, that to truly be part of shaping what sustainable beekeeping looks like here in the future, we would have to become a living example. It also became clear that to do the greatest work for the bees, we would have to work with great numbers of hives in hopes of having the largest influence possible on feral populations. We have embarked upon a operation wide selection process for hardy adaptive bees that are open-mated with the surrounding feral population in hopes of evolving a truly locally-adapted strain of bees with vigor and suitability for our region. The region where we are proud to reside is one of the most pristine and cleanest bee habitats on the west coast.
The Illinois River Valley, with its rural population, lack of industry, and lack of intensive agriculture, has kept it in pure state suitable to eco-beekeeping.
Natural Nest Beekeeping
Natural Nest beekeeping is this modern beekeeper’s integrated solution to meeting both the needs of bees, especially with regards to the conditions of their cavity, and the needs of the beekeeper, in regards to tending to the needs of the bees easily and also facilitating the production of a surplus that can be removed from the bees with minimal disturbance. The methods associated with Langstroth and Warre’ style beekeeping along with the desire to keep bees synonymous with biodynamic standards, led to the evolution and use of Natural Nest Hives. Natural Nest Hives have attributes in common with other hives, and qualities that set them apart. The key ingredient to a Natural Nest Hive includes a set of reinforced frames lacking bottom-bars.
Established with natural or artificial swarms, or with divides from other Natural Nest colonies, the bees draw out a foundationless brood nest of their own design and organization. By utilizing additional 6 ¾” boxes, the brood nest can be nadired as required by the growing colony in minimal increments suitable to the size of the colony. Colonies often only require two boxes for their brood nest in their first year of establishment. Mature colonies in their second and subsequent season will often grow their broodnest to occupy three 6 ¾” boxes (influenced by the latitude and the winter conditions in each location). By using a system of interchangeable 6 ¾” tall boxes, that can be used as either brood chambers or supers, the beekeeper minimizes the need for additional equipment while working in a box size that encourages rather than discourages the colonies’ growth. By using closed-cell redwood for our construction, and ⅞” thick boxes, lids, and bottom decks, we have created the warmest and most dry hive, creating conditions supportive of the bees’ growth. A hive that efficiently conserves the nest heat of the colony minimizes the stores required to winter, and decreases the incidence of brood disease.
Natural Nest Hives have internal dimensions synonymous with standard 8-frame Langstroth hives. These same boxes can be filled with standard frames and utilized overhead for super honey production. All Natural Nest Hives come standard with mitre cuts allowing conversion of a single box into two units when used with two-way accessories. This facilitates the easy production of naturally reared nucleus colonies as well as natural splits or divides from mature colonies. As well, Natural Nest Hives lids and bottoms interlock and stack in a heat conserving way to facilitate the overwintering of younger nucleus colonies.
By allowing the brood-nest to be constructed of organic wax made only by bees we meet the organic standards for no foundation of commercial origin in the brood-nest. Furthermore, supers can be stocked with foundationless frames for the production of organic cut-comb honey. Alternatively, organic wax foundation can be placed in supers for the production of organic extracted honey.