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Bees for a permaculture farm

Hi all,

I am not so into honey harvest but I have a nice piece of land (27 acres) which I convert step by step from a rubber farm into a thriving permaculture farm.
Instead of the rubber mono-culture I started about 190 different (not all different) fruit trees from seeds collected from all around the world and small trees and grafted ones carried home in my Golf bag.

Beside I have made up a good group of collectors who are always willing to exchange/share the latest seeds they found.
Also all small shrubs, flowers and herbs are bought whenever I saw it fits the hot climate.

Now its time to think of bees.
One reason is to live up the time as my grandpa had lots of hives
But also to have pollinators around settled down in the center of the land, so that at least the hives are not hit by the pesticide Hammer of the surrounding farmers.

Honey, ok if the bees can spare a bit I’d rather say no but as all animals on the farm they are seen as ‘workers’ and have to do their job.
Off cause pigs, ducks, guinea fowls and chicken pay for their ‘work’ as pest remover and ground tiller when they have reached the market size,
but the bees are too important as that I would have them as honey producer.

Hence I came to the conclusion, to try using self-made top bar hives instead of flow hives.
At least in the first stage of the farm. If I see they do well and produce a lot of honey I might consider implementing flow hives or whatever is suitable for Thailand.
For me as a returner (Grandpa had Straw hives and we made together some top bar hives)
but also a beginner my common sense tells me that a top bar hive is what the bees want.
They are great designer of honeycombs and know more about ventilation than any human ever will find out within the walls of the hive.
So I would let them do what they know best, let them have it their way.

Now I am interested how professionals are thinking of my ‘growing with the bees plan’
my wife and family have no clue about bee keeping but they are not scared at all.
They spot a nest in a tree, they plunder the combs, frying the brood as snack and leave a hollow tree behind.
Not very self-sustaining I recon but its their way the rural Thais grew up and I am working hard to show there are much better ways plus I sharpen the awareness how dead we will be in a matter of time without bees.

I am surprised that I have read the words here in the forum that a flow hive is something for beginners.
I grew up with straw hives and the top bar hives we made were the latest invention which made us modern bee farmers, they were so much easier to handle and harvest, but that is where my knowledge ends.
After grandpa died 1978 I went to sea and worked offshore,
once I rescued a swarm on a cable ship at sea (the story is somewhere here in the forum) but that’s all folks…
any comments and suggestions are welcome…

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I remember your story of the bees on the ship :slight_smile: so I’ll give you a few comments.

Firstly while the bees may forage on your farm you need to consider that they will regard the area with a radius of about 2km as their forage area. If this is monoculture rubber they will certainly use it. It seems to give a good honey.

If planting for bees you need to consider if the trees/crops provide nectar or pollen that the bees use and the time of the year that these are available. It would be useful to have nectar/pollen sources that are available when the rubber is not flowering. I imagine that bees in your country are active all year round.
I would disgree that flow hives are more suitable for beginners. I think some beginners have got the impression that flow is a ‘hands off’ way of beekeeping which is not correct.
If buying bees, I strongly recommend to get bees from your local area. These are adapted to your climate and should do best. Do you have melifera or cerana there?
And finally get in touch with local beekeepers and learn what works for them and what doesnt.

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I cannot talk to beekeeping in Thailand as it is quite different than here. However here i can say many people who love nature like the idea of keeping bees and not taking any of the honey. They just want the bees to pollinate and have a nice life. However in reality this is not ideal- bee hives that do not have honey removed and are not inspected will swarm and are a risk for disease. So- keeping bees ethically and taking some of the honey are not incompatible. Removing honey is a way to control swarming by creating more room and more work for the bees. Bees love to work- if their hive fills up with honey the queen has no room to lay as many eggs as she likes and many bees run out of work then they decide to swarm.

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Hi Willy,

the plan sounds good but I’m with those who say it’s best to harvest the honey. Perhaps there is somebody in your area who is interested in helping you with that, or even taking over the whole responsibility.

The Flow hive was developed in Australia where all hives must be registered with the Dept of Primary Industry and the rules are stricter. For example, we can’t have straw hives here as a hive has to have frames that can be individually removed from the box. Some states are more stringent than others, but this is a basic rule around the country. Australia is free of a lot of exotic pests and diseases and so we have very strict quarantine and bio-security legislation with mandated regular disease inspections etc.

The value of the Flow hive for a beginner is the ease of harvesting honey. There is no further equipment such as spinning extractor or wax knives etc to buy. And there is no need for a tightly closed extraction shed, water supply for cleanup, wax melter, frame storage etc. For somebody with a small number of hives it’s a great innovation.

I remember the post about the bees on the ship. As I recall it stopped the ship from docking/leaving for quite a while until they were removed properly.

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Cheers JimM,

About using the Flow Hive in our permaforest, its not about hands off beekeeping.
Certainly you have to check them regular otherwise you might end up with more surprises than in a summer-winter climate.
There are times like in winters where no flowers come at all.

Rubber will be in abundance around our land as most farmer have made their bets on rubber as a income.
I just don’t like as it is a waste of land. In a permaculture you can grow way more and yield more of all, not only fruits, also veggies, pig and chicken on flowering pasture…

I have see so far only melifera BUT I have only visited 3 beekeepers by now with small amount of hives.

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This is in my point of view a rule made by so called “chair-farters” like we have them in Europe too.
Not thinking “Bee” at all, just verifying their jobs with breathing our oxygen.
May be give them a Insect-spray can and they can blast a shot into the hollow tree which an escaped swarm has considered as very suitable for their Queen.
Forbidden is forbidden… :wink:

The European Union did all to kill the small Farmers…
The Apple on the market has to have by EU regulations a minimum weight and size.
Bang and 80% of our heirloom Apples are gone forever.
The was a red Apple small like a Babyfist in our area with a taste that beats them all.
Gone because you were not allowed to give them to the juicer.

I’m sorry but I totally disagree. The regulations of having removable frames for inspection is a totally valid one. People that work in bio security in this country will be highly offended by your comment I’m sure.

If you want bees but no honey, why not consider the Asian Honey Bee which is native in Thailand? They are a lot more swarmy than the European Honey Bee but it should not be a problem for you. You may not be able to use Flow Hives anyway because of cell size of the frames, you would have to check.

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Bio security by growing up countryside and or studied are two worlds for me.
I might have offended some real naturalists but I recon they are on my side here.

Somehow is our Honeybee dropping in numbers and so there are some bio security “experts” selling a mule for a horse, sorry to say that.
If you look over to Europe what happened is just a bit more than 2 decades to our small scale farmers you would get the tears.
I had my own reason to leave my home country and looking back it’s the best move I ever made in my life.
Here I could teach an entire Thai family about modern (aquaponics) farming producing weekly 500-600 Veggies, monthly 150 Tilapias, 350-450 Red Claws in a Backyard.
If i would have done that in Europe the bio security departments would have squeezed me through a mincer.
I am fully with you about bio security but it has to be still to be implemented into the average people’s life and not killing the small scale people and fatten the rich.

The Thai bees in the forests are the real gypsies that wouldn’t stay longer than 3 month in the same spot.