I never knew there was so much to learn about bees. There seems to be a drastic division within the beekeeping community, with those who advocate the large-cell foundations, which result in larger bees that are more prone to attack by varroa mites (nasty little buggers) on one side, and the so-called "natural beekeepers" on the other. Guess which side I'm on?
I learned about the natural approach through reading The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping. I checked it out from the library, but have ordered a copy from my favorite independent book store, Cowan's Book Nook in Blue Ridge GA. I plan to use only the small-cell foundation, so I can have healthier and, I would assume, happier bees.
What's foundation, you ask? Well, it's a sheet of very thin beeswax that is stamped in a pattern of hexagonal ridges. When the bees build comb, as they've done for more than 14 million years in the wild, they don't need foundation, but beekeepers find that by giving the bees the foundation to start with, the bees create honeycombs that are more convenient for said beekeepers who want to rob -- er, harvest -- the honey.
I think I'm going to start with one hive with foundation already in it, and one hive where I give the bees a chance to build their own. Then again, since the only thing I know about bees comes from the fifteen books I've read so far, I may change my mind by day 60 of this blog.
I'll keep you informed every step of the way.
Beeatitude for day 1:
Blessed are they who use no pesticides, for they shall be healthy - and so shall we bees.