While out for a morning walk in Santa Ana CA, we had the good fortune to come across Nancy and Tom Larson who have been hosting honeybees in their ceramic elephant for the last ten years or so. The only entrance was a tiny hole in the back of the saddle. The bees were happy to pollinate their flowers and fruit trees, but since there was no way to open the elephant, the Larson's had never tasted the honey. Not only are these two beekeepers and bird lovers, but Tom also builds elevated raised beds (to make it easier for the elderly volunteer gardeners) and grows organic vegetables which they donate to food banks. Thanks for inviting us for a tiny apiary tour. Lovely to meet you!
The effect of the drought is very apparent when walking around the neighborhood; several homes had replaced their lawns with native plants and their lush, low-water habitats were brimming with lizards, bugs, and birds. Other yards have not fared as well, and it was sad to see the dead trees and brown lawns (though I would rather see brown lawns than green). Lots of yards in transition.
Pseudoscorpions. Book Scorpions. Chelifer Cancroides
...are tiny arachnids, not scorpions at all!... but they have cool pincers and they prey on the larvae of clothes moths, carpet beetles, booklice, ants, and varroa mites. What's not to love?
It all started with a conversation in a beekeeping forum concerning the problem of varroa mites, and wondering if there were natural, non-chemical methods (besides hosting foundationless hives*) that might be employed to lessen the varroa mites' impact on a hive. Our question led us to two beekeeping researchers who are working with restoring a beehive's ecosystem by reintroducing pseudoscorpions into the mix to create a more diverse and healthy hive habitat.
In my first foray into the world of the pseudoscorpion, I found Torben Schiffer and his website beenature-project though this article (written in English, rather than German). In a nutshell: "Bees and pseudoscorpions have cohabited in hives for thousands of years, but toxic chemicals used in beekeeping have nearly eradicated the 'little insect with the tooth of poison.’ Torben’s mission is to restore the natural symbiosis between the two species in order to control the new unwelcome member of the triangle, the varroa mite."
Torben's research partners are teens from the Hamburg school where he teaches biology :^)
Further sleuthing led me to the work of Roland Sachs, who also has an interest in restoring healthy hive ecosystems through natural beekeeping methods. He has been exploring hive construction and alternative methods of keeping honeybees.
Sachs states: "The book scorpion’s potential is enormous. Though it is not the cure for the various problems of honey bees and modern beekeeping it can – in a suitable habitat (geometry & properties of hollow trees) and within the scope of natural beekeeping (no acids/chemistry, low honey extraction, swarming, etc.) – effectively combat the parasites. Not only the Varroa mite is on its menu. It will also suck out bee lices, small hive beetles, and wax moths with pleasure. Having book scorpions within bee hives signals natural beekeeping and an intact hive climate. Integrating it into your bee hives unfortunately cannot be the first step towards successful beekeeping without acids and chemistry. On the contrary its successful settlement can only be the result of a species-appropriate beekeeping, since book scorpions are very sensitive they will quickly leave an unsuitable habitat." Natural Beekeeping with Book Scorpions
*Natural Beekeepers. We, at BeePeeking, do not have a problem with varroa mites :^)
We host foundationless hives, i.e. naturally-drawn small cell comb, which disrupts the varroa life cycle. Though considered "alternative", Natural Beekeeping is a treatment-free philosophy of nurturing healthy bees as well as sustainable beekeeping practices. I would love to introduce pseudoscorpions to my bees and am looking into sourcing options.
Herbal honey packed with pollen=extra good for you and SO delicious.
Bee pollen contains nearly all nutrients required by humans with 40% proteins, vitamins, folic acid, and free amino acids. It is both an antioxidant and relieves inflammation. Bee pollen can help reduce stress, speed healing, and strengthen your immune system. What's not to love?
August check-in: the bees in our Flow Hive have been busy building cut-comb deeps and are slowly filling up the Flow frames. Hmmmm. Yesterday I decided to dig a little deeper and I ended up harvesting one full cut-comb deep, the second of the summer. In the medium below the Flow, the bees had lovely brood, a full frame of pollen, and honey (along with some crazy-cross comb). I harvested one medium of honey, tidied up the cross-comb, added a queen excluder, and modified the Flow box by reducing it by half. We are hoping to harvest honey from two of the Flow frames in September along with the two remaining cut-comb deeps. One cut-comb deep = 9 pounds of honey!
Photos: taking the lid off the Flow, cut-comb deep, partially filled-up Flow frames, lovely worker brood, many flavors of pollen, harvesting the honey, five honey flavors from one comb