FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

F A Q

What’s all this then?

Anarchy Apiaries is a 501c3 non-profit organization (thanks to the help of our friends at the FBBA and beeunderstanding.org). Our mission is to
1) make more beehives than televisions, and
2) have a good time, all the time (with bees).

Anarchy Apiaries is the treatment-free, fly-by-night bee operation started by Sam Comfort, who began raising queens from survivor stock in 2005. We provide/donate mated queen bees, nucs, and package bees, as well as teach beekeepers to do it themselves on their own homesteads while keeping parasite and disease levels down through the bees’ own strengths. We look at the health of the global hive through a trifocal lens: genetics, management, and nutrition.

Anarchy Apiaries runs around 800 hives (a mix of Langstroth, top bar, and modified-Warre “Comfort” hives) up and down the east coast with concentrations of localized gene pools in both the Hudson Valley, NY and south FL. All of our hives are not treated in any way, and once they reach teenager age (ten combs or more), they are cut-off from any supplemental feeding and are not moved. Our queens are raised from 3-4 year old mothers and mated in areas of survivor drone saturation.

If you find this work meaningful, you can support us financially by using the donate button to the right or left. We can support the future of the bees we care for by planting lots and lots of nectar-producing trees.

What are the goals?

Our recent goals include the distribution of mite-and-disease-tolerant, cold-hardy mated queen bees, facilitating Beekeeping Bootcamp hands-on trainings, setting up every 7-year-old with their own bee hive, reinvigorating our own NY bee club- the B. A. N. D. (Beekeepers Association of Northern Dutchess), the New Bee Circus travelling bee medicine/training/puppet show, and modifying our bee-hauling van to run on waste vegetable oil.

Long term goals include
1) following around the Bayer Bee Care tour and setting up the New Bee Circus across the street... You know, because why not?

2) working from 800 hives down to six hives. That is, six hives in our backyard along with a hammock, fishing pole, and a network of sustainable backyard beekeepers with 5-6 hives who, in a bad year, know how to split their survivors and replace their numbers and, in a good year, have an extra split or swarm to GIVE AWAY to their neighbor or bring to their bee club. The Bee It Forward model is the only viable beekeeping future. Despite the innovation and hard-work of our nation’s commercial beekeepers, the system is broken and can’t be fixed. All we can do is Bee the alternative when they pull the plug on big ag.

Why are you so difficult to get in touch with?

Exactly.

How do I get the honey from a top bar hive?

You’ll figure it out by the time you think you can harvest some. I never killed a hive until I thought I knew what I was doing.

Are they going to sting me?

Yes.

I hear that top bar hives don’t overwinter in a temperate climate. Is this true?

No and yes. Mostly no if you have the right bees. How do you get the right bees? Try to find local, or at least similar-climate, genetics. Requeen bees brought in from out-of-state, as these bees that a bred for migratory pollination purposes tend to die no matter what kind of box you put them in, hence the bad rap on top bar hives who don’t get fed or treated. Start with enough and propagate the ones that survive in your system. That’s the only way. Otherwise, you are a bee consumer. How much is enough? A hundred hives probably isn’t a bad start if you are going to cut off treatments and feeding and expect them to regroup after an extended diapause. Yet if you have 6 or 10 hives in a good location, you can likely sustain them, and enter a dialogue with the genes of feral bees in the area. You will have to think for yourself. In terms of genetics, management, and nutrition- you can take just about any bees and put them in about any type of box- if they are in an excellent area with plenty of clean, constant pollen, there is a good chance they will survive long enough to figure it out for themselves. These areas are becoming more and more scarce from the loss of old trees and the prevalence of systemic pesticides in the water table.

Is the top bar hive the most natural hive?

No. That would be a hollow tree or a rock crevice.

What are the drawbacks of the Warre (People’s) Hive?

If you are going to be a beekeeper, you ought to be inspecting the hives and learning about bee behavior and how to handle them. If you are in an urban area, it is irresponsible to let your hive swarm- those bees will almost always land where they meet a spray can. You can still follow bee biology and simulate swarming, but first you need to learn about bees by inspecting your hive and practicing. Sure you can install a package and leave it alone, the Warre methodology, but with that package of bees come commercial, virulent mites that will spread to other hives in the area as the bees crash from virus loads. The Warre box is too deep to easily inspect, and the methodology of Leave-alone-beekeeping does not work when using most commercial bees. These bees are mostly bred for where the money in the industry is – almond pollination – totally different from having a few hives in your backyard that you want to keep alive with minimal input.

What is the best kind of hive?

The one that you make yourself.

How do I do that?

All hive types have pros and cons. Top bar hives are simple and great. Plans for the modified-warre type “Comfort” Hive that we like are in the 2015 Beekeeping Survival Guide, which will be downloadable here sometime soon. The most tested, proven hive is the skep, the straw basket hive that you can bind yourself for free. It has been illegal in most states for over a century, for reasons you’ll find on this website. One of the reasons is that you can make it for free.

What if my hive dies?

If every hive of bees lived every year, we’d all be neck deep in bees all the way around the world.

Every year, people that I’ve never met before call me in the spring in tears because the one have they had, from a kit, has died. I have to say Look, you got into beekeeping because you read in the paper that bees are dying. You bought a kit, and it died, what did you think was going to happen?

If you are going to buy bees, rather than build a swarm trap or find a local swarm, start with more than one hive, and remember genetics, management, and nutrition. Requeen, give them a clean home with as little stress as possible (we use only bee-made combs, no foundation), and plant forage that will bloom during dearths (we plant a lot of buckwheat for late summer pollen source).

How do you feel about Bayer CropScience?

In my world there is no right or wrong, good or evil. I do make my decisions by understanding diversity and monotony. Bees thrive on diversity. Many beekeepers begin to understand the importance of other insects, plants, and “wild” areas, the importance places that don’t make any humans any money. This goes against everything we are taught in how to “succeed.” Pesticides are poisons. Poisons are used to create sterility. Sterility is monotony.

Truth is not a sure thing. Some say that a banning of neonics would send ag back to using organophosphates and pyrethrins, some of which are quite deadly to mammals and fish. All of which are thus highly regulated. (Note that planting a neonic-treated seed is not considered a pesticide application, and states do not know how many pounds of neonics are being broadcast every year.) Some say it’s true that organic, diversified agriculture cannot feed America’s population. A lot of people argue otherwise. Some, like my friends, don’t say anything at all and rather spend their time growing food for their families and community and live incredibly fulfilling lives.

What we do know is Bayer’s history of “Service to the Beekeeping Industry,” starting with the product CheckMite (coumophos), a neurotoxin deadly poisonous to bees, drones’ semen, humans, and at one time, varroa mites. It lost its efficacy within a few year, yet beekeepers, especially those raising queens, soon learned that the active ingredient, coumaphos, does not break down and it now is in most if not all of the commercial beeswax in the US. Even though beekeepers – at least the ones who realized what was happening when their queens started being constantly superceded – stopped using this years ago, the coumaphos along with fluvalinate (the Apistan that Checkmite was the successor to) are in the wax foundation you now buy from a bee supply store. I won’t put any citations here because it’s easy to google. I will thank Randy Oliver, however, for letting me know that one of those CheckMite strips has enough coumaphos to kill a human. The tainting of our beeswax is a national catastrophe. No one will ever be held accountable. With diminishing ag uses for coumaphos, Bayer is still selling it as a hive beetle treatment (totally ineffective, in my experience) and most recently as the active miticide in the Hive Gate, despite scientific proof that varroa mites are resistant. If you need some fact checking, you can find it somewhere on the web. I’m making all this stuff up, anyway.

The majority of discourse in the bee world is about varroa mites, yet it turns out that varroa does not kill bees. All breeds of bee, from what I have seen, exhibit hygienic behavior- uncapping and removing infected brood. And all bees have grooming behavior and some even bite the mites. What DOES happen is that the varroa is a vector for brood diseases that compromise the whole hive and then the final blow it dealt by opportunists, robber bees, beetles, ants, moths, and the cold of winter. These brood diseases, however, only surface in times of stress. Different strains of bees have different tolerances to disease. The main stress on a beehive, in my opinion, is nutrition. These days bees do not get enough nutritious pollen, and often what pollen they do get is laced with numerous pesticides, in both urban and ag areas. Bees are what they eat. The bee industry has been so concerned about Fighting the Mite we have meanwhile had all our good nutrition swept from underneath us.

There have now been thousands of studies executed in Europe and Canada that show the lethal and sub-lethal (just as deadly when orientation abilities are compromised) effects of systemic pesticides on pollinators (not just honey bees), as well as their long residual and ability to adulterate bodies of water. These foreign studies are not considered peer-reviewed in the US so are not given credit as sound science. Good luck finding funding for a truly blind study, and if you do, good luck publishing it without it being picked apart by some accredited, bought researchers.

While we can promote organic agriculture and not use these chemicals ourselves, we cannot begin to critique or take legislative action without sound science, otherwise finger-pointing quickly degenerates into a witch hunt. Sometimes the witches cast a spell that doesn’t let the public see the facts. Sometimes, every once in a while, there really is a witch. In this case, the witch’s name is Bayer Crop Science.

Why keep bees treatment-free?

How can someone ask a farmer to stop using chemicals when your own operation is hooked on them? I consider myself a recovering commercial beekeeper, though I still care tremendously for the people of the beekeeping industry and all who taught me the ropes. They are the hardest working people I know. But, as an industry, we have failed the bees. We have failed to be unified against the toxins that are now pervasive in our water supply. The reason is that, in the late 1980s when varroa mites were introduced to the US, beekeepers became pesticide applicators themselves. And still, no alternatives have been effectively implemented because the industry, every bee meeting, every catalog, is full of fear, guilt, and stuff people will sell you to substitute your peace of mind.

To wake up in the morning and have to medicate the bees, have to feed the bees, have to move the bees thousands of miles to make ends meet- this is not an attractive lifestyle and thus very little young blood is picking up the mantle. That will be the real cause of the Collapse of the bee industry, and the subsequent change in our food system.

When I decided to keep bees with no treatments, virtually everyone I knew, even my friends, said all my bees would die. Everyone that is, except one person- Kirk Webster. Kirk was the only person who said that I would succeed. You can read about his treatment free queenbreeding operation in Vermont at www.kirkwebster.com.

Beekeeping for me has been about overcoming fears. The Anarchy goal is to bring the fun back to beekeeping. To make it simpler, more affordable, and more accessible for all. I trust in the bees. Thus, I’m a faith-based beekeeper.

Why Anarchy?

The basic principle is that one rule is not fit to govern all. Bees don’t have rules, yet their society functions PERFECTLY because they don’t have egos. They actually help each other. Anarchy allows for differences, what you could call diversity. Bees need a diverse world- it’s what they cultivate through the niches of pollination. By promoting and tapping into the diversity, bees have survived for millions of years. Humans must learn from bees if we are to survive. We must promote difference and diversity and let things change organically (wildly). “Survival of the fittest” was something Darwin didn’t believe in. Our world is a “Survival of the Kindest,” in which symbiosis, cross-pollination, the promotion and reliance on diversity will help us survive. The bees are our best teachers in this, and the best example of “Purpose” I’ve come across.

Are you saving the bees?

Absolutely not. That’s totally presumptuous. They are saving us.

If you want to save bees and save the earth (ha!) start with saving yourself. You can’t just tell other people what is right and wrong, unless you want to waste your time. We do have to clean up the forage for our bees, and with that, the Golden Era of beekeeping is yet to come. Bee it, beecause you beelieve it.

Bees keep me out of trouble. We do some things that I feel are very invasive- grafting queen cells, feeding baby nucs, marking queens with little dots of paint, even occasionally keeping hives from swarming if such a thing is really possible. These are means to an end- getting good bees out to better beekeepers, so that as many as possible can have this ancient connection, be part of the bigger picture, understand what real richness is. I’m definitely not keeping bees. They are keeping me.

SWARM THE STATE!
Sam
September 2015