Interview with a commercial top bar beekeeper

28 May
Les Crowder, photo by RD Managain

Les Crowder, photo by Jeff Spicer

Bioneers’ RD Managain just interviewed Les Crowder, a veteran commercial beekeeper in New Mexico.

Crowder on varroa resistance:

 I started keeping bees when I was a kid. It was then I read an article in the American Bee Journal was reading about the varroa mite in Europe, written by an Italian who was researching the Italian honeybee in its natural state. He calculated how many feral beehives there were throughout Italy. When the varroa mite arrived, many of the feral hives died.

About eight years after the arrival of the varroa mite, he noticed a general increase in the feral Italian honeybee population in the wild. He concluded that they had developed a natural resistance to the mite. And, of course, nobody applied any miticide to those bees. They’re just wild bees out in nature. So, honeybees left alone will naturally develop mite resistance.

On antibiotics:

Antibiotics interfere with their digestion, just like if we take antibiotics we get diarrhea sometimes because we kill off our natural flora. My wife just recently wrote an article for the American Bee Journal, which they declined to print, indicating that the use of antibiotics can set up conditions for things like Candida and Nocema cerranae [a pathogen tentatively linked to colony collapse disorder] in honey bees. In beekeeping, they advise you to give antibiotics to bees, every beehive, every year as a preventative. It is administered in the winter to prevent them from getting sick in the summer, which doesn’t make any sense.

[Read the full interview with Les Crowder]


6 Responses to “Interview with a commercial top bar beekeeper”

  1. Tim June 1, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Mistress Beek, good interview with Les. I met him once at a bee meeting up in santa fe. I am currently living here in ‘burque, built a solid topbar hive over the winter and am looking for a swarm or split. you got any leads? -we have been trying to coax a swarm out of a neighbor’s wall with no luck :(.

    -your fellow bee lover,

  2. Gord June 3, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    Excellent interview, that. Nice to have some validation of what my partner and I feel but haven’t been able to properly explain.

    • mistress beek June 3, 2009 at 10:53 am #

      Cool. I’d be interested in knowing what you and your partner have been concluding; what in particular resonated?

      • db July 13, 2009 at 8:03 am #

        Hello! I also have an unbelieveably productive Top Bar hive. I installed it in April and by June they had completely built out the hive with full combs on every Top Bar. I added a shallow Langstoth super one month ago. I checked in with them on Saturday and discovered that they have filled the super with honey and are rapidly capping all the comb. I estimate a week at the most before it is finished and ready for harvest. When I looked into the Top Bar hive below I discovered that all the combs have brood, honey and pollan but no bars with pure honey comb. Now what?? If I take the super off and harvest the honey will the bees start putting up honey in the empty brood comb below or should I take out a few bars of brood comb and add some empty bars so they can build out new comb for honey? Not sure what my next steps are for managing this – any help would be greatly appreciated 🙂

  3. mistress beek July 13, 2009 at 8:14 am #

    Hi db —

    Congrats on the honey overflow! Wish that I had advice for you but I’m just learning myself.

    We also just added a Langstroth super to our top bar hive and it, like yours, is now filled with honey and being quickly capped. Our plan is to harvest the honey and replace with some empty frames. What will happen. who knows? We won’t overwinter with the supers, so whatever the girls place in there will be harvested by fall.

    Would love to know what you decide and how it turns out. I believe that it’s quite normal (and good) for your top bars to be a mix of honey, brood, and pollen as that’s convenient for nurse bees. If you’re concerned about the queen laying “upstairs”, why not put a queen excluder between the top bar and supers?

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