Chemical-Free Honey Bee Husbandry
The mission of the small bee steward is to promote and conserve apis mellifera, the honey bee, by keeping its living environment as close as possible to its centuries-old natural setting, by assuring that its geographical surroundings are as chemical-free as possible, by utilizing only organic integrated pest management practices, and by limiting the removal to honey when there is an obvious excess.
I use Warre hives, known as the "Peoples Hive". Abbe' Emile Warre', a mid-19th century French beekeeper, tested over 350 different sized hives, and concluded that a honey bee's natural living space is in a hollow tree. Thus, he made his hives resembling the space in a hollow tree. Hive location is very important, too, and more importantly today, is a chemical-free location. My modern adaptations of the original Warre hive include 8 full, open frames in each box (not top bars), a sceened bottom board, and venting feed bag material for the cloth between the uppermost box and the quilt. Otherwise, the original metric dimensions are used for the components.
Open Frames - No Foundation
The bees make their own foundation and cells, just like they've been doing for thousands of years. They choose to make smaller cells than the cells imprinted in the preformed commercially available foundation, and their choice is the best for them. When the cells are smaller, the varroa mites then prefer the bigger drone cells to propagate.
Some researchers believe that the bees can draw out an open frame as quickly as commercially prepared foundation. I have no idea about that, but I do know that by putting new boxes on the bottom (nadering), and removing the stored honey on top, that my combs are never more that 3 years old when the hive is 3 boxes high. 4 boxes high obviously have a 4 year turnover, etc. 5 year-old comb...pitch it.
Photo - Lee Muenzen Photography