- Fruits: berries (strawberries)
- Additional Plants: herbs
- Animals: bees
- Animal Production: housing
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, youth education
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, value added
- Pest Management: biological control, prevention
- Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture
- Sustainable Communities: partnerships, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration
My project is to determine whether the innovative hybrid top bar hive I have designed adequately addresses known disadvantages of two very different but equally valuable bee hive styles which have a tertiary impact on small scale farmers, beekeepers and honey bee colonies. A two year process will evaluate benefits, if any,of using this experimental hybrid hive on small scale, urban farm test sites.Does my innovative hybrid hive offer technical, physical and ergonomic support to beekeeping activities associated with small scale biodynamic farms where natural beekeeping is the consistent choice? Testing of this hybrid top bar hive's functionality will take place over a 12-24 month period. During this time,hybrid hive demos and outreach events will take place accompanied by maintenance of online communication platforms; communications presence in industry trade journals; creation of conference materials; and networking with multiple state extension services in the NE region.
Project objectives from proposal:
I will construct 15 hybrid hives at an estimated cost of $300 each, including one honey cartridge designed to accommodate Langstroth frames, or top bars, a built-in queen moveable queen excluder, a place holder for SHB traps, a feeder platform for winter feeding of honey, hinged lid, and a versatile have stand which includes a support for the honey cartridge and will hold a utility shelf. Two of these hives will be used on my farm/apiary location. The rest will be hosted in or around Philadelphia. Each location already hosts at least one over-wintered Langstroth hive which will form a basis of comparison when it comes to quantifying increases/decreases in crop/honey yields for years 1 and 2. Each host farm will be asked to plant a 10 x 6 bed of strawberries. The yield from these beds will be calculated and compared to previous years. Total honey harvest in pounds will be compared for 2013 and 2014, along with increased/decreased sales of comb/chunk honey and at what price point.
The number of successfully over-wintered colonies will be reported along with the number of bee colonies lost to swarms and dead-outs. I have overwintered bee packages in top bar hives with much greater success than in Langstroth hives. This fall, all of my top bar colonies are doing well whereas Southern package bees have already crashed.I plan to use PA bee breeders for Northern acclimatized stock as much as are available in early spring. Beekeepers collaborating with our hybrid hive test sites will be part of our two year evaluation process and will receive a nominal stipend for participating in the research project. The project technical advisor(s) will collect reporting data using a form we have created for this purpose. Reporting will cover the months of April through September for 2013 and 2014.
Our evaluation will assess:
How many pounds, on average, of capped honey does each honey cartridge yield? What is the average weight of a full honey cartridge? Is a full honey cartridge easy to remove and carry? How well does a swap-out of full to empty honey cartridges work during the height of a honey flow? Is the hybrid hive sufficiently bee tight to prevent robbing? Does the queen-excluder function as intended? How easy is it to add/remove sticky board sections for Varroa mite counts? How do bees respond to the strips of copper in the internal feeding platform? Does this feature generate extra propolis that is easy to collect? Can this hive be divided into a parent colony and a 5 frame nucleus hive (splits)? Do the hybrid hive bees overwinter at the same rate of loss or at a better rate of survival as Langstroth hive colonies? If so, does the increased survival rate or ease or rearing local queens and bees packages benefit your operation?