Thursday, 17 May 2012

Building the Anastasia Hive



I’ve always wanted to keep bees. I want the honey, the wax and I need to have my veg flowers pollinated. Bee numbers are in decline. Our pesticides, and Varroa Mite are just two reasons.  The Earth needs more bees now, if it is to heal. I'd like to keep happy bees who feel at home the way they would in the wild. That way they would grow stronger, more resistant to disease and parasites. Then I read about Anastasia, a Siberian recluse, the subject of several books by Vladimir Megre. She’s a fountain of information on  gardening, homesteading, education, spirituality, aliens and yes, bee keeping. “A lot of what you do to maintain bee colonies just gets in the way,” she says. We need a natural hive, the way that bees live in nature i.e. a hollow log with no internal sharp corners, of a deciduous wood. Let the bees roam freely in their log, build a natural honeycomb. They keep themselves clean and healthy, don’t require the place to be cleaned out. Make the hive properly and they’ll spend their energy gathering nectar rather than fixing up a hive that’s the wrong shape.


The advice made a lot of sense to me.

Curiously, everything I needed for the Siberian hive turned up without having to hunt far afield. Charles at Coldhome had an elm log, rotten in the middle, that was just about the required dimensions (120 cm long, a potential 40x40 cm cavity and walls 5-6 cm thick. The log was already rotten on the inside and would need minimal carving out. I cut the log covers out of a stump I found by the side of the road on the way to Rhynie. Other scraps of wood I just had at home.

After Charles delivered the log on a trailer --- it was a heavy bugger, I hollowed out the rotten wood and some more, mostly by chainsaw. I replaced the chain oil by rape-seed oil (in the US that’s Canola oil), so as not to contaminate the wood with hydrocarbons. Chain-sawing required using a curved stroke with the saw, a twist of the wrist and a pull to get the cleanest cavity.

The top lid was screwed on and covered with a layer of cob (adobe in the US) to seal all the holes. We want the hive to be draft free and to retain the bees scents. Anastasia recommends fitting the bottom lid inside the log, and seal it there by cloth or grass. Since the log’s opening is such an odd shape, I made a cardboard template of the opening, and transferred it to the lid. Then I jigsawed out the excess wood. I plugged extra holes with cob. The access slits for the bees are 10-15cm thick. I cut them first with closely spaced drilling, then cleaned them out by chainsaw.
Ready for Occupants

Finally I placed the log on pilings, at an angle of 20 degrees, the slits facing due south. The little roof is made of plywood, to keep the hot Scottish sun ( ha ha!) from heating up the hive. I think that the bee colony should be comfy, even in winter. Later I'll add a screen for wind protection.

Before sealing the hive I rubbed lavender and lemon balm scents on the wood to attract passing bee scouts. I also left the bees a chunk of beeswax inside. 



I’m waiting for some bees to move in. No deposit necessary. I've also asked around the glen among local bee keepers for anyone with an extra colony. Here's a video. of how they might look.

Once a colony is established, the queen flies to the highest point where she starts to lay eggs and build the brood comb. Meanwhile the workers work at the lower and to build the comb for their winter food. The cloth cover is to prevent the honey laden comb from sticking to the cover.

Natural Honeycomb
For the first year I won’t harvest any honey. The Russian method is to harvest the honey in August. I'm not sure if that timing would work in Scotland, because the length of our winters are very unpredictable. In a long winter the bees could get hungry. This year for example, wintry conditions dragged on into May. Perhaps harvesting in early summer might be a better plan.

Does anyone out there fancy sticking their hand into the log and pilfering some honey? Do you think that the bees will mind?

9 comments:

  1. I am your "bee charmer" dearest. I willingly cast my hand into the dark hollow of the hive to collect your rich, golden nectar. I am so proud of you! Not to mention, because you didn't, that you built the entire structure from specifications written in Russian. You are the BEST! Love from your biggest fan.

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  2. What a wonderful idea Paul lets hope others will follow your example .Cant wait to taste the honey ,its a palace you have made for the bees and Iam sure your guests will soon swarm in .Charlie sends his regards had just had his feet massaged and fell asleep .Love to you both Fiona.

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  3. do you have enough flowers around for this to work?? All the same, will very curious to see it when we come up!

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  4. Once the buttercups blossom in our field, there will be more than enough flowers for the bees.

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  5. check this bee hotel out
    http://www.flickriver.com/photos/nico_bees_wasps/5384639312/

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  6. I wish you had photos of the inside. Just curious. Great job on making this a reality.

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  7. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2584541/Sticky-situation-The-amazing-honey-hunters-risk-lives-foothills-Himalayas-collect-honey-hives-worlds-largest-honeybees.html

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  8. Hello, Good idea to built this Anastasia hive. I had made one in 2012 but no bees until now :( I'll try with lavender flowers and lemon balm leaves. Wait and see! Thanks

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