I have looked forward to this new magazine – and the fact that it is ‘out’ is great, and first attempts probably never satisfy all expectations.
So in a way it comes as no surprise that the ‘usual (mostly British) suspects’ were featured. However, having gone through a ‘finding the right hive phase’ myself, for years, and not having made the correct choice (with hindsight) I am somewhat frustrated that there was/is so much emphasis on HIVE types – rather than natural husbandry PRACTICES.
I am still a beginner, but:
a) I believe the debate between top bar and Warré disciples is a very British one. From what I have seen, there is a much wider natural beekeeping crowd in Germany, which uses the bee-box (http://www.bienenkiste.de/ – which does not seem to have made it to the UK), or the Einraumbeute (www.mellifera.de/einraumbeute – in use by professional beekeepers, too). Is this a language issue? When I meet (sustainable) beekeepers in Germany, they are aware of the Warré and the top bar hives – but I don’t know anyone who uses these.
b) Interestingly enough, the Demeter guidelines (who in my opinion are the most advanced/thorough rules in place) on beekeeping do not mention hives at all – but focus on what practices are ‘allowed’ (and not) under ‘sustainable’ beekeeping. I am not alone in believing that natural husbandry PRACTICES can be followed in a lot of ‘traditional’ hive types, too. Hence I hope that in future the magazine will focus on PRACTICES and not so much on hive types. After all, the bees seem to accept the whatever odd shapes is available, under rafters …: Cavities in old trees are rarely as spherically perfect as the Hobosphere (a type which is only possible thanks to the latest technology – -see below – but so far off the chart financially, as to be not of great interest; but then: People seem to ‘fall’ for the lure of the ‘Flow Hive’ in droves – the perfect example of technology having gone off the rails: Plastic in the hive, bees worse off then the poor on a Victorian treadmill …, all biology disregarded (hygiene, propolis, comb size, …).
But should we not be careful NOT to throw out the frame with the hive, so to speak. I.e. not everything modern is bad: I was somewhat aghast that David Heath listed under ‘aspects for consideration’ “no Langstrothian ‘bee spaces’”.
From what I have seen/read, recognising this space is a milestone – similar to Darwin’s and his ‘discovery’ of evolution: Bees seem to adhere to that space in free-style combs after all, too. What people do with the bee space is another issue (see the flow hive). But as with all other organic agriculture and husbandry: It must be aware of and if possible make use some of the most advanced technologies and developments. E.g. milking robots (in Demeter dairies): Hand milking may look idyllic – the robots are better for cows and farmers. Or do we contemplate going back to the middle ages, where skep hives were fumigated or dumped into water, in order to get to the honey?
So frames are good (as far as I can see) – even if one leaves them alone most of the time.
In any case, the Warré I used had top bars – i.e. ¼ frames, and they adhere to the bee space. The Australian Warré beekeeper featured in the magazine has ¾ frames – great!
The Fischermuehle in Germany, demeter, commercial and research, mentioned in David Heaf’s article (the picture does not show one of their hives) uses frames, and accepts wiring as a compromise (metal …) – working with sticks (in the frames) does not work well enough for the centrifugal forces. But if (as an amateur) one does cut and squeeze: No wiring or sticks is/are needed, and keeping comb fresh is easy.
Maybe the criticism of frames should be more focused on foundation – and even there: Darwin experimented with smooth foundation – which can give the bee a helping hand, while allowing them to build any size they want. Maybe not a bad compromise?
And if we, i.e. the sustainable lot, want to ‘convince’ ‘traditional’ beekeepers, expecting them first of all to change all their hives seems to be a bit of a non starter. How about suggesting to them to change some practices, like no queen clipping, allowing swarming, no queen excluders? Preaching about the benefits of a Warre (which for me did not work as described) or a top bar hive leaves the easy exit ‘well, I have my gear, I am not going to change …’ Perhaps the magazine can focus on proven benefits of sustainable practices.