PSBA Day of Learning: Natural & Lazy Beekeeping with Michael Bush

Puget Sound Beekeepers Association hosted a jammed packed “Day of Learning” at the University of Washington Arboretum. Hating to miss a chance to beek out with the best of them, I signed up. Hating to miss a great blog post, I documented it with near Pulitzer worthy diligence. I also find myself gravitating towards his style of beekeeping, as it is intuitive, low on  interventions (unnatural or otherwise, less intense (it can get really intense) and I truly believe the bees know better than I.


  • Michael Bush (of Bush Bee Farm Fame!) lecture on Four Simple Steps and Lazy Beekeeping (you can check out the same presentations here)
  • Hands on learning stations with great topics like waggle dance, queen marking, gardening, winterizing your hive (I am woefully behind), honey tasting
  • Apiary time with Michael Bush – working with a true bee keeping guru

Goals for the day

  • End the day a better steward for honey bees – CHECK!
  • Have fun! CHECK
  • Have an open mind to new ways of beekeeping – CHECK!
  • Learn something. Check. Check!

Here is a quick peak at the highlights for me.

The Four Simple Steps: What did I learn?

  1. No treatments:
    • Not even essential oils
    • Bees don’t eat pollen, they collect it and convert it to Bee Bread (analogy: cabbage to sauerkraut)
    • All about balance in hive – pH, ecology
    • Chemicals interfere with natural hive communication
    • Lots of other things live in the hive ecosystem: 170 kinds of mites (but only 3 are harmful), 30 insects and 8,000 microorganisms
    • Acaracides – are really pesticides in disguise (read kills bees and mites)
  2. Breed local survivors:
    • I need to find a more local package bee/queen supplier OR raise my own.
    • Great quote: If you are not part of the genetic solution of breeding mite tolerant bees, you are part of the problem – Randy Oliver
    • Hive health really depends on the queens health
    • Raising your own queens (or the hives raising it) helps to avoid the genetic bottleneck by breading in good characteristics (or weak ones out)
  3. Use natural food
    • MB uses a 5:3 syrup but only if there is a dearth and there is room (hive is light)
    • Add ascorbic acid to syrup so pH of syrup is closer to honey (you can test with pH strips) – will need to update my syrup post
    • Demo’d a method for dry sugar feeding in winter
    • Don’t wrap your hives (he doesn’t in Nebraska –brr) – not so much about food but key for winterizing, confirmed by local beek
  4. Use natural comb
    • Theory about cell size and influence on bee size/health (e.g. Bandoux, Huber)
    • Ways to make natural comb frames
    • What a cubit is (elbow to finger)
    • Bees build parallel combs, plum to gravity. If you see crooked comb fixit (already knew this but good to repeat – see what happens when you don’t. Remove your queen cage)

Self assessment: I do pretty good on all of them except # 2. For now I will gladly support someone else business of raising queens and packages. For #1, I will trial not using lemongrass to scent my syrup and slowing take the foundation out of my frames, so it matches my top bar.

The PSBA Apiary

Warre Hive – someday maybe in my bee yard

Check out these queen cells – up close and personal.

Waggle Dance Demonstration: mark them leaving observation hive and mark them at the food source strategically placed to learn how the bees communicate with unbelievable precision. Big take away – bees are the worlds best plant ecologists and the key to our sustainability.

Gardening: new plant to add, orange mint, in a pot and with vodka!

Love the bunting!

Arts and Crafts

DIY Push In Queen Cage – going to try this in the spring. MB FAQ

Queen Marking Practice: using drones (they don’t sting) and non-toxic water based paint pens. Note the international color coding system for marking queens. Five year rotation

Everything works if you let it – Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick

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