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The Quiet Evolution of Apiary Mowing

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The Quiet Evolution of Apiary Mowing

A Obligatory Facet of Apiary Administration
By: James E. Tew

My First Actual Job
After I was a younger teenager, a pal and I’d push our mowers across the neighborhood and provide to chop grass. We usually earned someplace between $1.75-2.50 per yard complete. We needed to cut up the earnings. The mowers weren’t self-propelled. Consequently, as younger entrepreneurs, we by no means had a physique weight drawback.

We developed a daily buyer checklist and at our peak, we had been reducing about twenty lawns per week. Normal expectations had been that we reduce in straight traces and ideas weren’t supplied. After we had been thirsty, we drank water from taps plumbed from the home. Dad offered the mower and the gasoline, however I used to be allowed to maintain my earnings. After all, he obtained his garden reduce without cost.

To this present day, I reduce grass in bullet-straight traces, and I solely mow when the garden completely wants it. Now, all through each Summer season month, I marvel on the tools that skilled mowing providers have and I evaluate all that fashionable tools to absolutely the minimal tools that my pal and I used all these years in the past. Occasions change, don’t they?

Earlier than Gasoline Mowers
Earlier than gasoline mowers turned extensively obtainable, lawns had been reduce utilizing varied handbook strategies and instruments. The frequent strategies used for garden upkeep earlier than gasoline mowers had been scythes, sickles, weed slings, grazing animals, handbook push mowers and scissors. None of those choices had been possible with out handbook labor. Even grazing animals required fence set up. The invention of gasoline-powered mowers modernized garden care and made it way more environment friendly and accessible for owners, landscapers and even beekeepers.

Determine 1. A Kansas beeyard in 1920. Word beekeeper within the decrease left of the photograph who’s sporting a classic Alexander veil and gauntlet gloves.

What Did this Imply for Apiaries?
It implies that our apiaries, a long time in the past had been weedier, and extra unkempt by right this moment’s requirements. I can not discover info indicating that grazing animals had been frequent strategies for foliage administration in pre-mower days. Little doubt, cows, horses and sheep would sometimes knock over hives or scratch in opposition to them.

Prior to now, all apiary grass and weeds had been reduce manually requiring sizzling labor commitments. I’m sufficiently old to recollect life earlier than string trimmers and herbicides. Every thing was weedier then.

Determine 2. In 1922, on this Iowa beeyard, all grass was reduce utilizing handbook strategies. Gasoline mowers, of the day, had been heavy and unusual.

To Add to the Laborious Job
In years previous, simply as the current, protecting bee gear was generally worn when reducing and pruning close to bee hives. Sporting protecting tools was simply as clumsy now because it was years in the past. The requirement to put on protecting clothes has all the time made apiary weed management a sizzling, tiring job. Fortunately, fashionable protecting tools is healthier ventilated and extra comfy, however it’s nonetheless sizzling work.

No-Mow Might
Because of my early years of incessantly reducing grass, as a senior citizen, I’m now a reluctant garden mower. To the chagrin of my neighbors whose lawns are all the time neatly manicured, I solely mow after I should. On this method, I keep away from pointless mowing periods and my bees have entry to the clover and dandelions in my garden.

After I first heard of the idea, I readily embraced the notion of a “No-Mow Might” during which we simply give our lawns a month off from trimming. I shortly came upon {that a} mow-less Might lead me straight right into a hellish June, with tall grass that continuously required raking after reducing. I had to return to the garden upkeep drafting board.

String Trimmers within the Apiary
I don’t bear in mind the primary time I used a string trimmer. With my mowing historical past that I touted earlier than, that reminiscence void appears unusual to me. However I do know {that a} string trimmer turned a vital part of the tools that all the time went with me to an outyard. String trimmers are actually a typical, if unexciting, beeyard administration instrument. What’s their story?

A Quick Historical past of String Trimmers
The historical past of string trimmers, often known as weed whackers, weed eaters or line trimmers, dates to the early Nineteen Seventies. The idea of utilizing a rotating nylon string to trim grass and weeds emerged as an alternative choice to conventional garden mowers and handbook reducing instruments.

The idea of a rotating nylon line for reducing vegetation was developed within the late Sixties by George Ballas, a Houston-based entrepreneur. He obtained the concept whereas watching the revolving brushes at a automobile wash (I discover this attention-grabbing. The frequent security razor was envisioned after a visionary watched a woodworker use a typical hand airplane. The flail honey comb uncapper was conceptualized as one other visionary watched the conveyor belt carry out at a grocery retailer checkout. Shouldn’t all of us be extra observant?). In 1971, he acquired a patent for his invention, which consisted of a fishing reel with fishing line hooked up to the spool. Ballas’ invention was the muse for the trendy string trimmer.

In 1972, George Ballas partnered with Jim Goad, an engineer, to refine the design and create the primary industrial string trimmer. They established the Weed Eater firm and launched the primary gas-powered, handheld string trimmer to the market. This mannequin shortly gained reputation as a result of its effectiveness in trimming grass and weeds in hard-to-reach areas.

Within the late Nineteen Seventies and early Nineteen Eighties, electrical string trimmers started to appear in the marketplace. These fashions had been lighter and quieter than their gas-powered counterparts, making them extra interesting to owners with smaller yards.

Bees and Trimmers
Irrespective of how helpful energy mowers and trimmers could also be, on some mowing days, the bees appear to despise them. Most skilled beekeepers have seen this defensive habits. Actually, frequent administration suggestions warn the beekeeper to anticipate this assault. It’s thought that the odors and vibrations from the mowers and trimmers agitate the bees.

In my very own expertise gained when trimming round hives, it appears that evidently the bee response is biggest throughout Summer season months when a nectar dearth has ended and the colonies are at full populations.

I’ve by no means used a battery-powered trimmer, however I’m certain a few of you’ve gotten. I ask if in case you have seen much less of a response when utilizing battery-powered mowers and trimmers? Does their quietness and lack of fumes have a extra lenient impact on the colonies?

Beekeepers and Trimmers
At this second, I’ve two, hand-held string trimmers. I’ve one modified with a reducing blade for heavy or powerful development. Brambles, reminiscent of multiflora rose, are a problem for both kind of reducing head.

Despite the fact that I continuously use them, I more and more have points with string trimmers. The evolving difficulty is that the older I change into, my trimming periods develop shorter and shorter. My shoulders ache. I get noise warnings from my Apple watch. I get hotter and warmer within the protecting gear that I have to put on. I merely can’t do the job the way in which I as soon as might.

Determine 3. An apiary with uncontrolled grass development.

Consequently, I’ve grown to dread the duty an increasing number of. All of the whereas, the grass and weeds have continued to develop. Out of necessity, I developed a tolerant perspective of tall grasses and weeds in my apiary. I put my hives on agency hive stands that had been twenty inches from the bottom and I stored the doorway freed from tall weeds. Even then, the grass and weeds in my beeyard continued to develop. My bees appeared unphased by the tall grass within the yards, however more and more, it turned obvious that this strategy couldn’t final. Why?

Two causes that altered my laissez-faire system of yard upkeep advanced. The primary cause was you, the reader of Bee Tradition articles. Photographs and movies that I captured in my apiary seemed horrible. As an illustration, whereas I wished to jot down a few new swarm that I simply acquired, my photograph of the brand new bee hive was marred by tall grass and the looks of a usually unmanaged space. (When you’ve got again problems with Bee Tradition, you may readily see these photographs.) I grew afraid that you simply, the reader, wouldn’t perceive the larger image.

Determine 4. A manicured yard that makes use of herbicides, grazing animals and electrical fencing to retains foliage at bay. C. Parton Photograph

Secondly, the tall weeds made it tough for me stroll whereas carrying a brilliant of honey or different associated bee tools. Briars tugged at my swimsuit. Tall grass made me stumble as I walked. Grass grew in and round my unused tools. As with the No-Mow Might state of affairs that I mentioned earlier, I needed to return to the drafting board. I used to be bodily unable to trim my total beeyard with a string trimmer and it was an excessive amount of to ask of my 1972 Snapper push mower to systematically mow this tall grass.

A Heavy Obligation, Stroll-Behind Trimmer
I’d sometimes see ads for varied fashions of walk-behind trimmers. I requested round my circle of beekeeping mates, however nobody had expertise with these machines. I checked on-line. Sure, wheel kits had been obtainable for my string trimmers. In principle, I might modify my handheld trimmers to be cellular. Once more, I requested round my circle of beekeeping mates, however nobody had expertise with these wheel kits both. All of the whereas, the grass continued to develop. Would a trimmer on wheels permit me to work longer and extra constantly?

Determine 5. A walk-behind Wire Trimmer.

In mid-July, with apiary grass increased than my knees, I broke. This example in my apiary was unacceptable and was by no means going to get higher. I went to an tools seller to purchase a wheel equipment. They didn’t have one, however they did have a single walk-behind trimmer on the showroom ground. It was $400. I purchased it on the spot. It makes use of 4 .175” spiral reducing cords and cuts a twenty-two-inch swatch. It cuts at 5 heights – from 1.5” to three.5”. I set it to the best setting. The machine pretty simply chewed by means of the tall weeds leaving me with a considerably rough-looking completed job, however the weeds had been readily reduce down.

The nostril on the machine does a fairly good job of getting beneath my hive stands – not good – however moderately good. The cords will not be value free and so they do put on out, however the machine aggressively took out tall weeds. It labored.

The most important downside is that I have to nonetheless push the machine by means of tall grass. That requires quaint perspiration, nevertheless it’s nonetheless simpler than utilizing a handheld string unit. Please know that I’m not promoting these models. I’m solely searching for a yard upkeep treatment.

For beekeepers youthful than or extra bodily match than I’m, a typical string trimmer would get the job achieved. As I’ve written in earlier articles, I’m at a stage of my beekeeping the place I attempt to put wheels on all the pieces. String trimmers had been no exception. I must also say that whereas the bees didn’t go loopy, I nonetheless wanted to put on mild protecting gear when utilizing the machine.

Determine 6. Weed whacking beneath hives.

Scorching and Clumsy
This previous July 2023 was the most well liked July each recorded. But the grass stored rising. To maintain the grass below management, grass-cutting beekeepers are sizzling, and clumsy, and are surrounded by irate bees. Can it get any worse? Sure, it may possibly, on the similar time, we’re additionally utilizing energy mowing tools. Often, accidents occur. It is a beekeeper’s latest story.

Determine 7. Accidents occur shortly. Attacking bees may be distracting. Many people have a narrative.

I obtained house from work and my spouse wished to chop the grass however she’d by no means used that individual using mower. I modified out of my work boots into my Crocs and pulled the mower out of the storage for her. I made a decision to make a pair passes by my bee hives so my spouse wouldn’t get stung.

My bees have by no means bothered me earlier than. On the primary cross, I had tons of of bees come after me. They had been stinging me a lot that I used to be fearful I might need an allergic response. I shortly determined to leap off the using mower and make a run for the home. My foot obtained caught within the pulley and belt on the mower deck. My croc stayed lodged within the mower belt whereas I bumped into the home. After I obtained inside and obtained all of the bees off me, I spotted how badly my foot was harm.

I went to the Emergency Room the place they mentioned it had damaged my toe and reduce a tendon. It nearly reduce my toe off. I had 12 stitches and needed to put on a Draco shoe that retains the load on my heel and off my toe till my damaged toe can heal.

Mowing is Not Beekeeping
Each apiary mowing state of affairs is completely different however presently, now we have an abundance of diversified mowing gadgets. That number of gadgets doesn’t imply that mowing isn’t sizzling, demanding work. Don’t go loopy reducing grass and weeds, however if you do mow, I’d counsel sporting heavy footwear and a ventilated bee swimsuit with a veil that opens to permit for water sips. Have a lit smoker on the prepared. Mowing isn’t beekeeping. Tempo your self.

I respect you studying and sending any feedback that you could have. Your time is effective. I do know that.

Dr. James E. Tew
Emeritus School, Entomology
The Ohio State College
[email protected]

Co-Host, Honey Bee
Obscura Podcast

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