Friday, December 11, 2009

Honey Cookies

I've been making Honey Cookies since ... well since ever! I can remember making these when I was very young and covering them with frosting and then sprinkles of every shape, size and color. My favorite were the little silver balls.

Although I still have some of the cookie cutters I used as a kid, I prefer nice tall ones so I can make a thicker cookie.

This recipe comes from an OLD Betty Crocker cookbook that my mom got as a wedding present in 1963. There is no copyright info and many of the pages have evidence of use and notes of changes penciled in the margins.

Merry Christmas Cookies
1/3 cup soft shortening
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup honey
1tsp lemon flavoring
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Mix shortening, sugar, egg, honey and flavoring thoroughly. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting. Blend flour, soda and salt: stir in. Chill dough. Heat oven to 375. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Place 1 inch apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. When cool, ice and decorate as desired.

Now for the recipe I use! As many of you know, I just cannot leave a good recipe unchanged!

Honey Cookies
1/3 cup butter, NEVER EVER margarine
1/3 cup sugar (I have used as little as 1/4 cup)
1 egg
2/3 cup honey
1 tsp good vanilla flavor
2 3/4 - 3 cups flour - more makes softer cookies
1 tsp soda

Mix the sugar and butter until creamed. Add egg and mix. Pour in honey and scrape every last drop with a spatula. Mix well and add vanilla. Add the baking soda and slowly add the flour. Mix until very stiff dough forms. Chill at least and hour. Over night is much much better so the dough is very firm. Preheat your oven to 350. Dust your work surface with plenty of flour as this dough gets sticky when it gets warm. Roll out dough at least 1/4 inch thick. Dip cookie cutters into flour and cut. These cookies don't spread much but I still bake no more than 12 per sheet usually fewer to ensure even cooking. I add colored sugar to the tops now since I don't like to frost. Since they are made with honey that will affect the color of the dough and it will be darker and more flavorful than sugar cookies. Bake 8 minutes not 10. Let them cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes before removing to a wire rack.
Although the honey, in theory, will makes these cookies remain soft for longer periods than say... sugar cookies, I would know. They are always gone before any real testing could occur.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ready for winter

I closed up the hives today - a bit late but with it being near 70 last week I'm not that late! With temperatures dipping below freezing at night it was critical that I take out the honey and sugar water containers. They can be the source of condensation in the hive, the moisture can drip in to the hive and the bees can freeze. It is moisture and cold that are a such a deadly combination for bees.
After talking with a more experienced beekeeper at the Worcester County Beekeepers Association Christmas party on Saturday, I gave the hives an extra bit of insulation. I wrapped three sides of the hives in a foil-coated bubble wrap and the top got foil coated foam. It looks really silly but he swears by this method. According to him, the bees adapted to living in trees that are much thicker generally than wooden hives so a bit of extra insulation mimics the trees.
One girl came and sat on my veil for a while I was cleaning up.

I miss my bees.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Honey Recipes

This year's honey is darker and richer lending its rich flavor to cooking and baking. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite honey-using recipes here.

Today is Morrocan Chicken which freezes really well. It was inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe, but as so many of you know, I can never leave a reciped untouched. Now that I've changed just about everthing except the chicken and zucchini, can I call it my own?

Regardless, this makes a great supper over couscous or rice.

Moroccan Chicken
Serves 4

4 Tablespoons oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons black pepper
8 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (or 1 15 oz can of diced)
6 Tablespoons honey
¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 – 1 ¼ lbs boneless chicken breast, whole if they are small or cut in chunks
1 lb zucchini, sliced (2 medium or about 3 ½ cups)

In a large skillet, heat oil and add garlic over medium heat. Cook for about a minute. Add tomatoes, ginger, coriander, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook for about 6-8 minutes or until about half the liquid is evaporated. Add the honey and stir. Add cilantro, chicken, and zucchini. Cook 10 minutes, turning the chicken at least once.

Place in a freezer bag and label if desired.

If frozen, defrost over night in the fridge. Heat in a microwave or saucepan until heated through. Garnish with fresh cilantro if you have it on hand.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Craft Fair

I was pretty excited to send out this email today. This is my second craft fair but I am even more nervous this year than last. It was a blast last year - I shared a booth with my friend Liz Tuff who had sewn gifts for sale. This year I will be sharing with Felix Mimo who is a potter.

I will be selling local honey, hand cream, beeswax bars, and, for the first time, beeswax lip balm at the Millbury Chain of Lights this Sunday from 10-4pm. The Millbury Parents Club is hosting a craft fair at the Millbury High School and I will have a booth in the hallway near the entrance - look for Blue Hive Honey on your map.

If you would like to preorder honey or other products and pick up at the Craft Fair I will include honey sticks with each order. If you cannot make the craft fair, I will make other arrangements for delivery. Also, if you are interested in smaller sizes of hand cream, please contact me.

None of my products have added fragrance or colors - just the natural warm smell of honey and beeswax.

Prices for 2009:

1 lb Papa bear of honey - $7 ea or 2 for $12
4 oz beeswax handcream - $5
1 oz bar of pure beeswax - $2
lip balm - tube or pot - $2
honey sticks - 5/$1

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More Please...

On Thanksgiving I whipped up a batch of sugar water for the bees thinking that they might take a bit more before wrapping up for the season. I love it when my bees remind me that books will only take me so far and that experience is really the best teacher. There are many beekeeping books that will tell you that bees stop taking honey and sugar water around Halloween and my girls haven't read a single one of them.

Not only has each and every hive sucked dry the jars of sugar water set out for them they also inhailed the warm honey I put out. It was pretty crystalized here in the house and I expexted it would do the same in the hive so I warmed it on the stove until it was smooth and liquid again.

The bees were great - only Pink's girls were flying but the other hives were still quite active. None of my hives have clustered yet.

Bees don't hibernate, migrate or sleep for the winter, they cluster. Essentially bees cuddle to stay warm and keep the queen happy. She is kept fed and warm in the center of a big hug all winter. Once they cluster up, they stop taking sugar water, honey or even spend much time outside the hive.

It is great that the girls are taking on as much honey as possible. When it does get cold, and it will, they will be in a better position to use their stored food and start next year off with lots of bees.

The smell from just cracking the top covers off was amazing. I am slowly weaning myself off smoke as it really disturbs the communication of the bees. I am also learning more about how the hive smells at different times.

Happy Thanksgiving to Pink, Sum, and Joy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Honey Harvest

I am just as busy these days and the girls are. I am preparing for the craft show for the Chain of Lights here in Millbury on December 6. I will have a table to sell honey, beeswax, hand cream and for the first time this year, lip balm.

In a total panic yesterday I realized I had 20 (now 19) days to get ready. I got inspired and bottled all the remaining honey safe for the smidgen on the bottom of the bucket. Here's the final number for the year:

36.5 lbs

Sigh - it is about twice what a I though we'd get but way less than I hoped. The honey we have this year is so much more complex than last year's honey. This year is darker, richer, and very intensely floral.

In addition to bottling, I melted wax in to bars and small batches to make hand cream. The whole house had a faint smell of honey and wax all evening. The bars were made in the lovely molds that my dear husband gave me for Christmas last year. The bars came out smooth and shiny with a strong odor of bees, honey and the faint whiff of warmer days past.

My list is still long. I have to make hand cream, label all the honey bottles, get bags, tissue paper, and find some way to label the lip balm. Here's the hand cream recipe I use as my base. And as many of you would expect, I made some changes!

This weekend I will tackle learning to actually make lip balm.

Come visit me at my table at the fair and say hello!

Monday, November 9, 2009


Saturday our whole family went to the Worcester County Beekeeper Association's Thanksgiving Banquet. This was downright horrible year for most of us beekeepers and for most everyone in agriculture. Nevertheless, we were challenged to find something to be thankful for. Here's my list...
  1. My bees! - They are so beautiful and connect to my soul in ways that few others have. I am going into the winter in such a better place than last year. Even though I had a small honey and wax harvest, the bees are plentiful.
  2. Being a beekeeper - I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn more and in some way help these beautiful girls.
  3. Other beekeepers - I am ever so lucky to have the mentoring and fellowship of the wonderful beekeepers in this area. I have learned so much and feel supported in this adventure.
  4. My kids - When faced with the challenge of finding something to be grateful for, both my kiddos immediately came up with a long list! They were grateful for the garden full of produce. They saw the glass as half full - what a beautiful way to look at the year.
  5. My sweetheart - It was for him that I started keeping bees, but he's really risen to the challenge and adventure of it all. He created a screened bottom board out of his stash of wood in the garage to bring something to the Thanksgiving raffle. He does the same for me - building what I need for the bees.

So what are you thankful for...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mouse Guards

I love reading all my friend's blogs about Halloween and potty training. I am happy to have a diverse group of friends because that is so not my life anymore. While many others were preparing for parties and buying value sized boxes of diapers, I was putting on mouse guards.

My daughter, nearly 6, checked out the hives this weekend for the first time. Unfortunately, she's still too small to see over the top of the boxes very easily as they are set up now, but she was so calm and moved so gracefully. I can see her keeping her own hive in a couple of years.

Naturally she has a fondness for Pink's hive and here's a picture of Pink's girls emerging from their inner cover opening. This is inside a box where I put honey for them to eat now. I am hoping that all three hives take some honey from me (that I robbed from them this summer when they were honey bound!) and put it up for the winter.

I also put mouse guards on two of the hives. These are metal gates that fit across the front of the hive that, as you guessed, keep out mice. Mice LOVE to overwinter in a hive where it is nice a warm and they can make a nest with the wooden frames and wax.

I have another guard on the way from one of my favorite bee equipment companies, Brushy Mountain.

So while my kids remain potty trained and we had no behavior problems at our big harvest dinner, I was so happy for our milestone: how joyous my daughter was to see the bees close up.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stay of Execution

I asked our bee inspector Ken Warchol to come visit my hives to help me get rid of Pink because I was planning on combining Pink and Sun's hives for the winter. I am SO glad I asked him to come over.

He said that Pink's have was the stronger of the two hives and that he thought all three hives were good and strong! Yay! And being the great teacher that he is, he explained to me how to tell - essentially if on a cool day the bees are still in the top box across all the frames, there are plenty of bees.

On the other hand, and isn't there always one, all three hives need more honey. I am trying to feed them honey but it might be too chilly for then to take a bunch of honey. With the extra cold weather these days I am going to offer them sugar water as well and then treat them in the spring for the intestinal parasites bees get.

On his way out, Ken had one of Pink's girls on his hat. She'd gotten a bit chilly, so I took her home.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bee Meeting

Last Saturday I spent the whole day talking bees. The local beekeepers club was able to get two fabulous smart scientists to discuss their research.

Dr. Marla Spivak is well know for her work in to Minnesota Hygienic bees. Getting her to come to our meeting was no small feat. Hygienic bees are not girls who take more showers - they actually were selectively breed to keep the hive cleaner and groom each other. Mites that attach to larvae in the hive give these bees some small signal that gets them to remove the larvae with heavy mite loads. This does kill the larvae but also the mites. These bees also groom each other more and remove the mites from adult bees. Both of these behaviors can help to reduce the amount of medications that beekeepers use to keep bees alive.

She's moving out of this work and spoke at length about her new passion: Propolis. Wild bees line their nest cavitiesn with it and bees in boxes use it like caulking. Propolis has amazing properties including being an antibacterial, anti viral and anti fungus. Now this part is a bit complicated but essentially coating your house with propolys is like sealing it in a protective bubble that keeps nasty microbes on the outside. This allows the bees individual immune systems to relax a bit. Now how do I paint my house with it!

The second researcher is fairly local - Dr. Heather Mattila from Wellsley. Honeybees, unlike most other social insects, mate with many drones. And I am talking A LOT! Some species of honeybee queens make -on average - with more than 60 drones. Yep - SIXTY. My own girls tend to be a bit more modest mating with between 6 and 20 drones. She was studying the question is more better?

Well, more is ... more - in human terms the sluttier the better. The more drones a queen mates with the better for the colony. The bees are more active and the queen lays more babies. I am thinking, from the way she described the difference between a queen mated with one drone and a queen mated with many drones that both Red and Pink were not well mated queens.

In her second talk, Dr. Mattila talked about life in a swarm. This was soo cool. She and her students studied the waggle dances of new home-foragers. It was just amazing to see how each new space was "talked" about by the forager to the swarm, then how the swarm carried on the conversation about different potential new homes. It looked just like a social networking site on the Internet!

So what did I take away from this meeting:
1. I need to collect propolis as a hive product and now have the knowledge to do so - now I need to learn more about marketing and using it
2. Pink is not as well mated as Sun and should be the queen who overwinters
3. I want to more scientifically monitor my mite levels so I can better track which medications are needed and when to most effectively apply them

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sweet day

Today I went apple picking with a bunch of my friends. I love having friends of all ages and still being included by my friends who have kids at home. We did find the amazing Spencer apple that I lust after every year. This year my expectations are low and my hopes high for some good treats. The apples were challenging to find and many were damaged.

And on a bee-note - many of the apples were not fully pollinated. When an apple gets fully pollinated it will be round and full. A partial pollination will result in an apple that is flat on one or more sides. Although we like to think of ourselves as outside of nature, we never can be. The weather affects the bees and that affects the food we eat. And here in New England apples are among a small handful of foods we identify ourselves with.

I pulled the last frames of people honey from Joy's hive today and it was a pretty sad experience. There were - at best - three full frames of honey. So for the year that brings us near 10 frames, just about half what we got last year.

On a happy note, the bees are all medicated. MEDICATED - you ask!? Yes, I do medicate the bees with formic acid - a soft and gentle method to help them get rid of the pesky mites that attack the bee's bodies and the tracheal mites that attach to their throats choking them. We need 21 days of 50' weather for Joy's hive to be fully medicated. (Pink and Sum are 10 days into their 21.)

As soon as I spin down the people honey, I will take out all the near-honey and nectar that the bees worked so hard on. This I will feed back to them. This time of year we often experience a dearth - a lack of nectar. The extra food - near-honey and some bee honey - will be put up for the winter.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Other sweet fall treats

My daughter and I picked apples at a local orchard earlier this month. The apples, Paula Reds, were rapidly starting to fade. I had high hopes of their juiciness with the excessive rain we've had all year - alas my hopes were dashed. These apples were very tasty but not extra juicy.

I dried a handful of apples, made a bit of applesauce, but decided to make apple pie filling with the majority of them. This was my first time making apple pie filling to can and it worked pretty well. Next time I need to remember to pick the BIG apples so there is less peeling!
There are still a few weeks to go before my very favorite cooking apple is ripe: Spencer. Towns in this area all had apple cultivars names for them. Few still exist and the Spencer is a beauty. The apples are large, red globes with a perfect balance of crispness, sweetness and tongue-tingling tartness. They make apple pies good enough to write home about.
Spencer apples are ripe in about 3 weeks. Yum

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Honey Clean-up

I thought I'd enlist some help with the post-extraction clean up. Quite a few friends showed up. It took about 20 minutes and there was honey everywhere.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stealin' Honey

I am a honey thief. I sneak, in the dim of a cloudy day, and make off with honey. A teaspoon of honey is the life's work of merely a dozen bees.

I checked on Pink and Sun's hives a few days ago just to see if they liked the built out people honey frames. They didn't. Neither colony had a single solitary capped cell.

On the other hand, neither had much room for brood (the babies) in the top box either. Why is this worrisome, you wonder. We are coming to THE moment when the queen will begin laying the eggs that will hatch into the bees who will overwinter with her. Since bees cuddle to keep warm, more bees makes for a warmer queen.

Soo, I stole frames laden with dark honey. The box was so heavy I had to ask my neighbor to carry it. I will spin out the honey and put it in the the big plastic pretzel jars a lovely friend gave me last year. In about three weeks I will mix that honey with medication and feed it back to the bees.

People honey production is nearing the close. I will return these frames in the next couple of days and remove the honey supers for the year.

On a funny note, I am trying really hard to get over my need to be entirely separate from my bees with a full suit of armour. A wise, sweet beekeeper has been gently scolding me in the most delightfully and somewhat flirty way that I have to get over my gloves. (And he's right - I'll have a better feel for what I am doing and there won't be stray smells to alarm the bees.) Soo, I took off my veil, gloves and coat earlier than I usually do. Sure enough, I hear a buzz by my head and feel a visitor in my hair.

Did I mention I hate bees in my hair?

I shake my hair and the buzz stops so I go on my merry way cleaning up. I head in to use the facilities and while I am ... well sitting down... what do I hear... buzz buzz. I rapidly shake my hair (which may not be the wisest of moves) and onto the floor pops a wasp!

Yes, a wasp. Luckily it was a solitary wasp so she was unlikely to sting me, but she COULD. She was quite gorgeous in black and copper and of rather small stature.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Second Place

Monday, September 7, 2009


The judges knocked off two points, yep two measly little points, for a few crystals in the honey. And we came in second in the Amber honey category - two categories of color from last year's honey! So we got a pretty red ribbon!

When we take off the honey suppers - the people honey boxes - we spin out the honey and then put them away "wet." This can stimulate the bees to put honey back in the in the spring when we replace them on the hives. Alas, this also means that the tiny bits of honey in the frames crystallizes over the winter. Either we need to use completely fresh frames for the fair or heat the honey enough to decrystallize it. Personally I thinking heating the honey changes the flavor.

I am going to take the honey to the State honey show this year. It is going to be held at a big Worcester County Beekeeper's Association meeting in October.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beauty Contest

The Spencer Fair, like all fairs, judge honey on looks. Yes, this is totally a beauty contest. The judges use a 100 point scale and 90 of the points are pretty much evaluating looks.

Last year, my honey was a tall leggy platinum blond. This year, as you can see, my honey is totally brunette. This color of honey is far more common and will have very stiff competition. I am getting rid of the bubbles right now and will take a toy spoon and carefully remove any pesky minuscule bubbles that form along the top. When I get out to the fair, I will polish the bottles so that even the most skilled CSI couldn't tell they were mine removing all finger prints, dust and any trace of my existence. Finally, I will polish the inside of the cap.

Yes, you read that right - the INSIDE of the cap. That is a whopping 10 points - inner cap cleanliness.

So think of me tomorrow afternoon as I carefully drive my honey out to Spencer and hand off my pair of perfectly cleaned jars of honey.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, August 31, 2009


My wonderful mentor, Mary, came over ten days ago and we checked out the hives. Joy's hive yielded six, count them, six lovely frames of honey. Now before anyone starts licking their lips in anticipation, I had 19 frames of honey this time last year.

I used my new heated knife that I received as a Christmas gift. This was my first time extracting alone and it went very smoothly.

This year's honey is very different from last year's. Last year our honey was platinum blond and this year it is much darker. The flavor of the black locust tree is still the predominant after taste but the honey is bolder and richer this year.

The best part of the hive check with Mary is that we found low levels of mites. This means that unlike last year, where we had to start treating for mites now (and not collect honey), we will be collecting honey until around the first week of October!

I put the "wet" frames right back on the hives, but not on Joy's hive. Now, for the first time, Pink and Sum both have built out, honey-collecting frames to fill for ME! I am so hopeful that all three hives will produce some people honey this year.

I am planning on going to the fair on Thursday with my two gamber jars of honey that will be polished until they downright shine. Judging will take place Thursday night. I am nervous already.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Little Bee Buddy

My friend Jack came out with me to check out the hives a couple of weeks ago. Jack saw a video last spring in school about honeybees. He's been asking ever since to come and see my bees. Finally we found a time. I put him in my suit and taped the sleeves so no bees could sneak up his sleeves.

He LOVED it - much to his mom's dismay! She's not ready to start a hive nor is she ready to bring Jack to me every week. I am hopeful that I can help find him a mentor who lives close to him and either has kids, or has worked hives with kids before.

The best part was that it inspired my son to want to take a look at the hive. He's never wanted to even get close to the hives before - way too many bees. Much to everyone's surprise, including his, he really like it.

It was pretty neat for me too. I've not been beekeeping long, about 18 months, and here I am already teaching the next generation of beekeepers. How cool is that!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

National Honey Bee Awareness Day

Happy Honey Bee Day!

Celebrate bees by slowing down and looking at them at work and then try the fruits of their labors - honey!

As a beekeeper I am in a really frustrating place right now. If I were further along in my beekeeping career, I'd have plenty of built out frames (where the bees built out honeycomb) and would be ready to jump in to the HUGE nectar flow that is happening right NOW.

But I am still a newbee and barely have enough equipment for one hive let alone the three that grace my yard. And I need an extractor in the very worst way. I need one and I need it yesterday.

What's happening is that the bees are putting honey into the spots where babies should go because there is no where else to put it. (See I need more equipment!) So if there is honey where babies go, the queen will stop laying. This is soo bad. We need LOTS of bees to make it through the winter. They snuggle to keep warm and if there aren't enough bees, they will freeze to death.

That is what happened to one hive last year and I really don't want to experience that again.

Soo, to solve my lack of equipment problem, I need an extractor to get the honey out of the brood chamber so the queen can lay all the beautiful eggs she can. Then I need to put a people honey chamber on the hive so the workers have places to put the honey.

I will feed the girls back their honey in October when the need to fill the hive with honey for the long winter. The queen will have stopped laying eggs by then anyway.

My options are plentiful - many wonderful people are beekeepers and have offered to loan me their extractor. Alas, since I don't have my own, I have to spend the best days of honey production, not collecting honey for ME, but calling to borrow an extractor.
And after that, I will still need an extractor in two weeks to harvest the honey. Now that's a sweet thought!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bees on the Radio

Bees are the focus on NPR's Science Friday. They are sharing the buzz on bees and ways that regular folks can help honeybees (and other pollinators) as well as urban beekeeping.

I love the ideas they put forth for everyday folks to help the bees. Become a beekeeper is one of the best ways to help bees. Short of becoming a beekeeper, you can provide nectar and pollen sources with native flowers. Who wouldn't love to have more flowers in their yard? It will help both honeybees and native bees as well.

Where I live feels suburban, yet I live near an urban area. Many urban areas, including New York City, outlaw beekeeping. I have friends who both keep bees in this city and some who've chosen not to because of neighbor issues. It is a tricky proposition and I am very thankful that I have great neighbors who love my bees.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I love the smell of fresh bees wax and when I opened Hope's hive it was nearly overpowering. The girls have been busy. I feared that with the wet weather the bees would eat the people honey. Wheew - there is still people honey though not a lot.

With Hope gone - and supposedly half the bees with her - we pebbled that hive. Three weeks ago there were four pebbles, one for each week until we saw larvae or had to get a new queen.

Well, part of the wait is over. I saw Hope's daughter and the new queen: Joy! This is the first time I've found an unmarked queen by myself in my very own hives. I did not see eggs or larvae yet so she is in the early stages of her reign.

I was so nervous - I didn't want her to be damaged by my poking around. I tried to get my camera one handed but with the gloves on, I couldn't quite get everything maneuvered safely so no picture this week.

Joy! Long may she reign.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Don't get me wrong, I really love bugs. Clearly I do - I keep thousands of them like pets in the backyard and study them as a citizen scientist.

Nonetheless, looking out the window right now is rather like being in one of those cheesy horror movies. You look out the window - you feel compelled to look even tho you know in your heart of hearts that it is just too creepy. Then you look and... it IS creepy.

I am totally blown away by the sheer volume of insect life that is around my windows. I am sure -in my head - that they are always there feeding the spiders that I am never more that three feet away from and all that. And now I can see that one rather large tasty bug is, hopefully, going to be some spider's dinner as it struggles, caught in the web a spider so elegantly woven next to my light.

Ah the circle of life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


First the good news:

Hope's girls have been busy. I put an extra honey super on before I left. Honey supers are where bees store people honey. One super is nearly full and the other two are well on their way to full. I must say, I love the way a hive looks with three honey supers on it - nice and tall. The supers are heavy - I use small supers for that very reason. A small super is easier to lift when full weighing in at around 25 or more pounds.

The white on the frame is the caps wax on the honey. This keeps the moisture content perfect - about 17% moisture. If the honey is wetter it can mold (YECK) and if less than 14% it will crystalize.

The wax is white because the bees don't walk on it much so it stays nice and clean. Just like kids, bees track in all sorts of junk - whatever they walk in outside, they leave on the floor or wax.

And now for the bad news:

Hope is leaving.

This is a capped swarm cell and one of three capped queens I found. These girls were quick. Before I left there wasn't so much as a queen cup - the beginnings of the queen cell. They must have worked quickly during the wet weather. Just like the rest of us, they got squirrely being cooped up inside.

This was the largest queen cell of the bunch so I am guessing this is the one the workers want to have be the new queen. So even tho this was not a supercedure where the bees are unhappy with the queen, we are still without new eggs or small larvae.

So this is what the top of the hive looks like:

We have a four week window in which to see small larvae or eggs. If we don't then it will be a time to get a new queen or more likely, I will combine hives.
If I were going to be around, I could use these other queen cells to make new hives, but we are really full with three hives. I hope to expand next year if, and it is a big IF, we can make it over the winter. I know it is so strange to be thinking about winter while wearing sunscreen and shorts, but if don't work like a bee now, then we won't have bees next year.
Sigh. I am so sad to be Hopeless.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tickled Pink

Pink Rocks! This is a picture of her larvae. They are the white, grub-like "C"s in the cells. She obviously found time to mate in all rain, get her butt back in the hive, and start laying eggs like crazy.

In the picture on the right, you can see her eggs. They are the little white dashes in the bottom of the cells. I had to use a bright flashlight to get a really good view of them, but thanks to my new found knowledge from Rick R., I can tell they are less than 48 hours old. Wow!

I love the temperament of these bees. They are super sweet and very blond compared to my other hives. I love love love Pink!

I've found a name for Trey's daughter: Sum. This is the Mandarin word for three and is pronounced soom. Sum had lots of bees and plenty of honey the hive so I gave them a second story. I moved their two full frames of bee-honey upstairs and gave them some fresh frames to work on so Sum has plenty of room to make babies.

I realized that I am managing these hives for bees. I would love to see both hives strong enough to overwinter. Combining hives, like most blended families, is fraught with challenges. Where would they live? Who would be the queen? Soo I am hoping to have bucket fulls of bees in both hives soon.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bees at Disneyland

Check it out - my mom surprised the kids with a short trip to Disneyland and I found bees! I couldn't get a good shot to see if she had on Mickey ears, but she is in a beautiful section of the California Adventure Park that is focused around the movie Bugs Life.

All the rides and activities in the bug section were very well thought out and over the top cute. This mini park was more targeted to kids younger than mine but we had tons of fun. Our favorite was the water park where it made us feel like we were the size of bugs. A sprinkler cooled us off and randomly squirting water kept us amused.
Not far was a beautiful pollinator's garden. The only pollinators we saw were bees. Honeybees were the easiest to see, but there were smaller native bees as well.

I love how they used a variety of native flowers that were all sorts of colors and shapes. I bet that there is something in bloom all year here. What a soothing sight after so many lights and bells and whistles.

I miss my bees.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bees in Paradise

We are visiting my mom in Arizona and it has been quite the vacation. We've been together for about 10 days and the kids are really wearing on each other. They can irritate each other faster than the speed of light. It is taxing my patience to play referee.

Of course no trip would be complete without bees. This is a Mexican Bird of Paradise in my mom's front yard. We've seen bees in it every day.

My mom had a funny lesson in the need for bees. She has an enclosed porch and has one of the upside down pots where she's growing a tomato. She's been quite unhappy with it because she hasn't gotten any tomatoes despite the lovely foliage. If you grow the tomato in a cage so the bees cannot pollinate the flowers, you will not have tomatoes. We moved it outside and are going to build it a canopy that is open to the bees.

I chatted with some local beekeepers at my mom's farmer's market. One person is a hobbyist like me and the other is a small apiary. The farmers are militantly organic, but had some interesting suggestions on how to manage my own bees in a gentler way.

Monday, June 22, 2009


For those of you following the soap opera that is my hives, I checked on the bees today.

We have BABIES!! Trey's daughter, who is currently nameless, has larvae and lots of them! I snuck in the hive today in a brief break in the rain and took a look. The bees were packed but that is to be expected since they haven't had decent bee weather. I only looked at two frames and there were lots of larvae of various ages.

After my workshop training I am confident that the biggest larvae are five to six days old. Now the colony can be called queenright where there is a healthy, mated queen laying a lot. Whew!

So any suggestions on her name?

A gross of beekeepers

Along with 143 other beekeepers, I spent the only nice day for weeks hanging out with someone else's bees! I went to the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association Annual Field Day. This was held in Deerfield at UMass Ag Center.

One of the things I wanted to learn about was using fewer chemicals in my hives. The most common chemicals found in a hive are those added by beekeepers. Delicately balancing the use of chemicals and reducing the mites, beetles, and harmful critters is critical to the survival of bees and us.

Ed K, from Norfolk County, pictured here uses a great method for helping his bees get rid of mites. He shakes powdered sugar in his hives. Yep, the same old stuff you dust on your cookies, we dusted on bees. It takes about 15 second and doesn't require the removal of honey from the hive.

The treatments I used last year are soft,gentle and even in CA are considered organic. Nonetheless, they take three weeks and I have to remove the honey. Sheesh - this was soo much easier. (Yes I glossed over the other three steps in the process, but they are a bit esoteric for non-beekeepers.)
One beekeeper brought a drone comb frame. This was amazing to see because they were emerging in waves!

What really made my day was the final talk I went to taught by Rick Reault. He was the source of Red, our beautiful queen. After watching him -and I was so enthralled I forgot to take pix!- I realized that he is the kind of beekeeper I want to become. He was so in love with the bees, he was calm, he moved so gracefully, and he was incredibly knowledgeable.

Rick explained the three clues that a hive is getting ready to swarm - and I'd only known about one before! He also had an intuitive, simple way to tell the age of larvae. During the workshop, he marked the queen and it was so simple! I thought the only way to do that was to catch the queen in a special grabber that looks remarkably like a hair clip. Not Rick - he just held the queen still for three seconds and touched her with the marker.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bee in Flight

Check this out - I found a fellow blogger (Growing with Science) who has a Bug of the Week. Bees are this week's bug!

Her video of a Carpenter Bee in flight is amazing.

Go see:

Monday, June 15, 2009


We have a new queen on the way! We are going to call her Pink since she is Red's daughter.

You can see the peanut shaped queen cell that was capped within the last week. We didn't see Red or any young larvae suggesting that she is no longer in the hive.

I am really sad to see the end of Red. She was the first queen I ever installed and the last remaining queen from last year. On the other hand, we loved her temperament - this hive has, until yesterday, been super sweet and gentle. We are very hopeful that Pink will be just a beautiful a queen as her mom.

Yesterday it was clear that things were not right in this hive as the bees were jumpier than I've ever seen them. Queenlessness is a very disturbing event for a colony. The queen exudes many pheromones including the one that a colony recognizes as home. Without her, there is no home.

Pink will be begin exuding her home pheromones shortly after mating. Her nuptials should take place a few days after she emerges from her natal cell. If all goes well, she will mate with many drones on her two or three nuptial flights.

You go girl!

The pebbles remind us that the colony has no larvae. Each week we will remove a pebble if there are no eggs or larvae present. Pink's subjects will only wait so long and without a strong, mated queen the colony will fall apart.

We've been there before and it isn't a pretty sight. Unmated workers will start laying and there are just bee that shouldn't be making babies. Workers can only make drones and drones don't help a colony. They have one job... and you know what that is!

Pink has a busy month a head of her. I hope she mates often and well.

Then gets her satiated butt back in the hive and lays lots of eggs!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Yesterday I was reminded of a lesson I have struggled with my whole life and even more intensely since having my second child.

Fairness is about giving everyone what they need, not about giving everyone the same.

I struggle with giving my kids the same - yet they are wonderfully individual people with their own separate strengths and struggles. My youngest is heading out to kindergarten this fall and is very excited. She has gotten such a different slice of my undivided time by having that time while she is four and five rather than like her brother who was an only child until two.

I feel like it wasn't fair to me! I want that same delicious time with my son where we can actually -do- things together. When my son was a baby we were very active but the quality is wholly different. My daughter and I have created a shared space that is impenetrable and joyous. I want that with both my kids.

I want the same!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bee City

The skyline of our beehives just grew considerably. Two of the three hives tower above the deck railing and it is a happy sight.

Hope's hive is just moving along nicely. I move the first honey box off the top and it was heavy - yep, there's honey in those cells and it is capped. The box weighs about 25 lbs right now. It has a ways to go, but I put a second box under it. Yay! I saw Hope too and she is just as gorgeous as ever.

Red's about to be superceded. Her bees have started making supercedure cells and given her spotty laying pattern over the last two weeks, it makes sense. I can't tell you how happy I am to see those supercedure cells. I want one of her daughters to take over the hive and not some store bought queen to swoop in and grab the glory. I hope that the princess is just a even tempered as Red.

Trey's hive has pebbles. When a hive supercedes you put three pebbles on it. Each week you take one off and if you don't see larvae by the third pebble, you need a new queen. So Trey's hive has pebbles. There is no sign of supercedure cells or young larvae. I did get to see a drone emerging from his cell - and that was cool!

Thank goodness there is Hope.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The New Queen

The new queen in our lucky hive should emerge sometime very soon. Normally it takes about 14 days from egg to queen so she should be ready any day now.

This is one of the queen cells - there are two others. She will have to kill the other queens if they've also emerged or pierce their cells if not.

Since the queen is so much bigger than the worker bees, her queen cell needs to be bigger too. This was attached part way down one frame. You can see the size of the worker cells all around.

The bees all around her now are her sisters and they will live about six weeks. Just about the time the new queen's babies are coming out of their cells, they will be desperately needed. The heaviest nectar flow around here is in June and July.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Landmine Detecting Bees

I was just reading the BUZZ, a newsletter from Bee Culture Magazine and learned about bees being trained to find land mines. What an amazing idea. Since they fly rather than walk like sniffer dogs, they are not going to accidentally set of a mine.

This is an elegant use of the natural behavior of bees. Bees use odors from flowers, water, and honey to find food and the gaseous pheromones from their hive navigate. It is not a huge leap to expect they could detect other chemical odors and be trained using food rewards to find explosives.

You can see this exact behavior in the picture. Some of the bees are sending the scent of home into the air by using their wings to send pheromones into the air.

You know the coolest part, bees naturally train other bees to find food using the waggle dance and circle dance to communicate the location and concentration of food sources.

Here's a brief quote from the BUZZ:

Using bees to detect land mines has its roots in decades-long research at the University of Montana , conducted by research professor Dr. Jerry J. Bromenshenk. Dr. Bromenshenk and his team have found that bees are expert sample-takers. They collect everything: air, water, vegetation, and chemicals in gaseous, liquid and particulate forms. A single colony can generate up to hundreds of thousands of flights every day, each bee returning to the hive with his collection.

More recently, Dr. Bromenshenk and his team began focusing on “odors of interest” under a DARPA [DoD researchers] contract. The team was able to document that the bees’ acute sense of smell enables them to function as fine-tuned, highly accurate vapor detectors for chemicals that are present in explosives, bombs,and landmines. Under certain conditions they can detect concentrations at approximately 30 parts per trillion, with the potential to reach an even lower threshold.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Coup

I spent a fair amount of time just looking at the bees this weekend. After the storm, I thought it would be restoritive to see them as un-dinged. There is little in the yard that doesn't still speak of the hail storm with shredded leaves, broken plastic, or just plain dents.

Alas there are dents in the bees too.

Trey is gone. There is no sign of her - no eggs and no baby larvae. There are capped supercedure cells meaning that the workers are replacing her. I feel like I personally lost her! I am glad the other workers are so calm and relaxed about the whole coup thing, me I am a bit nervous. I imagine this is what many fathers from my dad's generation felt - excited, full of anticipation, scared, and completely helpless.

All hail the new queen in less than two weeks. Since I don't know when the cells were capped, I don't know the due date and there are no ultrasounds available. She should be a scrappy queen since there are no less than three queen cells, it will not be bloodless coup. She will have to fight for her queen-ship, and make no mistake, it will be a battle to the death of two queens.

Red is looking great. She makes me so happy to be her worker bee. She makes the most beautiful bees - they are golden and gentle. Ok, so they aren't making honey for me. They are making me thankful they are in my life. She reminds me of why I love doing this strange little hobby of mine.

Hope is true to her name as always. Her girls have started putting nectar in the people honey chamber. It will soon be golden, delicous, and my honey. I am down to a memory in my honey jars.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Moopers and Layers

Just a quick update on the girls. They weathered the hail storm but have been very quiet ever since. I am going to attribute this to the chilly damp weather.

Red's hive is mooping along. They are finally starting to feel like they are growing in number and are using seven of their ten frames. Alas, I am not hopeful that they will produce a drop of honey for me this year. Nonetheless, I am grateful to have them. Her bees are lovely and sweet tempered.

Trey, our newest queen, has a hive I just cannot figure out. They had queen cups on three frames. These cups are not for tea but for a new queen in preparation for swarming. Hello! They have used barely half the hive so why swarm??? They were atleast three weeks away from swarming so I scrapped them off and moved some frames around so they can work to build out the foundation they still have on two frames. Perhaps they are just not busy enough.

Hope. Thank goodness I have Hope. That's her with the green dot. She's started to lay many babies in the upper chamber (see the white larvae by her butt) and they look great (and lots of capped larvae - the yellow in the pic). I put on that wonderous bit of beekeeping equipment... a honey super! That means that the bees are now working for me! Ok, I am not getting overly excited as I had two supers on by this time last year, but I will take what I can get.
My smoker stayed lit and it was a beautiful bee day.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Yesterday we had a micro burst hail storm. First the sky darkened. My daughter and I were out in the garden finishing up some planting and we noticed the bees were -all- going into their hives. This is generally a sign of rain, so we heeded their warning and put our car away before venturing inside to clean ourselves up. We showered and started dinner on the grill.

It started to sprinkle at this point, but we weren't worried. Then the thunder started. We tried counting just how far the lightning was from us, but didn't even get the word "one" out before the lightning struck. The storm was upon us.

Moments later the hail started. I was excited at first. I showed it to my daughter knowing this is a fairly uncommon event in New England. I am an air force brat and lived in the midwest for a while. I've seen many hail storms.

We closed windows and watched anxiously for "our boys" and my girl calls her dad and big brother. They were on their way home but the sky was awfully black.

The hail stones were getting larger. Some stones were the size of golf balls and were sounding like rocks on the windows and the glass doors.

In the end, after 20 minutes of a freight train trailing through our living room, the storm ended. And we were left with trees without leaves because they were plastered to our house, about three inches of hail stones in our yard, and a garden that was shredded.

We had planted our modest gardens fairly tightly with squash, eggplant, tomatoes, kale, spinach, lettuce and more. Just yesterday we had our first spinach salad and were planning on more today.

Today we spend all day, not paddling on quiet rivers as planned, but raking, hauling, and just looking sadly at the fury of a 20 minute storm. Less than a third of our garden survived.
Earlier in the afternoon I'd worked with the bees. I was able to put people honey super on a hive. This is Hope's hive and once again, she was the bright spot in my day. And the end of the day, I had three inches of ice everywhere, no screen, chipped siding, a shredded garden, and Hope.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Tools

I checked on all the hives on Friday using two new tools. I spoiled myself with a frame gripper. This is a fancy set of tongs that grip a frame so you can pick it up one handed. I should have gotten one last year! The best $14 I've spent in a long while!

The other new tool in my beekeeping life is a hair pin! I went to my wondrous hairdresser, Kristin M., owner of Edge here in town. I was planning a very very short do since I am frustrated and out of sorts over my hair constantly being in my face under my veil. Once you are zipped in, tucking your hair behind your ears is just not an option. Hair bands don't stay in with my veil moving about either.

Wise woman that she is, Kristin showed me a couple of ways to twist my hair that are secured with two hair pins on each side, and viola! hair that stayed out of my face for two hours while I looked at each and every frame. It even looked good!

As I expected, Red's hive is still mooping along. They are still sweet and gentle. I am ever hopeful that they will decide to swarm. Not because I want to get rid of her. I think she's a great queen. I'd love some of her daughters and would requeen my other hives in favor of her daughters in a heartbeat. ... But that is just not going to happen any time soon. They are raising more babies and had one more frame with brood than last week.

Trey's lucky hive is doing great. They are still frisky but I am expecting her babies to become the dominate bees in the hive soon. I saw capped larvae and this up coming check hope to see her babies emerging.

And then there is Hope. She still is not laying eggs in the upper chamber. Her girls are gorgeous and numerous but not quite... enough yet. I took the people-honey box out with me - that is how much I was hoping that it was time. Alas, they had not yet built out the blank frames I gave them a few weeks ago. So I gave them some super sweet sugar water to help them along.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Garden Guest

I raked up some weeds and leaves this weekend and thought that there was a red beetle in the litter. To my shock and delight, it was this little guy! This is a baby snapping turtle.

His mom has visited our yard. We had a snapping turtle come right up to the house about two years ago. She checked out the yard and headed back to the pond.

She was huge, over two feet across. I've seen her in the pond while kayaking and she gives me pause. Usually I see just her head popping over the water's surface.

Hopefully this little one will grow up to be as big and strong as his mama!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bee Whisperer

The bee inspector just left and all is nearly right in the world again. I am not longer concerned with revolution in the blue hives.

Hope's hive, who had built out supercedure cells (normally associated with a coup), have taken them down. Her girls are mighty busy - I gave them some unbuilt out frames to work on. They are too busy for revolution right now.

Trey's hive, our newest addition is looking great! I saw her eggs. The eggs are about this big: - . Not the easiest to see on a cloudy day, but see them we did.

Red, who over wintered her girls is still mooping along. Her laying pattern is great, but small. She is unable to produce more bees because there just aren't enough other bees to take care of them. Let's hope that one of the other hives ramps up quickly and we can move some babies and nurse bees to Red's hive. Call it emigration.

It was a three queen day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Queenless Day

Yesterday was the first day so far this spring that I did not see any of the three queens. Sigh. I did see very very tiny larvae in both Red and Hope's hives - so they are doing their job and were on those frames within the last three to five days. Trey's bees were bringing in pollen like crazy and the only reason for pollen in a hive is to feed babies!

On a shocking note, I found supercedure cells in Hope's hive. This means the bees are planning to replace her. I put a second box on for them last week and they have started packing it full of honey and pollen. Before anyone gets excited, that would be for bee-use only. I was hoping to put a people honey box, or super, on Hope's hive. Once I saw the supercedure cells, I thought better of it.

Supercedure cells are placed on the wax comb facing downward. The queen either lays in the cell or an egg is moved there by worker bees. The cell is larger than regular baby bee cells and the queen eggs are feed royal jelly their entire larval-hood.

Why would they want to replace her? She might be injured. They may not like her rather artistic laying patters (oval with honey in the middle rather than the traditional half moon with honey in the corners), or she might not produce enough royal pheromone to permeate two supers. Only the bees actually know for sure. And they aren't telling.

Trey's bees are ... frisky. They are not following me and I've yet to be stung by any of them. I don't want to be a fearful beekeeper again nonetheless, her hive puts me there instantaneously with their dark color and the frequency of their buzz. I am determined to shake that feeling and be braver than I think I am.

I did try a new idea I'd heard about at the beekeeper's meeting on Saturday. After smoking Trey's bees and hearing them buzz in way that made me nervous, I tried spraying them with some sugar water. WOW. This worked to instantly calm them. It was great! I shall try that first next time with that hive.

The bee inspector is planning on visiting, for the second time this season. He's going to help evaluate Red's hive. I am considering firing her and getting a new queen or adding some bees and larvae from one of the other hives to boost her numbers. Her bees are so laid back they may not supercede her even if means the death of the colony.

I am in for another exciting and tumultuous year beekeeping. But on a bright note, my smoker stayed lit.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The birds and the bees

Yeah...I mean the birds and bees, not honeybees. I was talking with a handful of moms who all have kids about my kids ages. One was relating a story about a teacher who was showing her class squirrels in the school yard. She felt compelled to pull the shade down when ...well love was in the air and they squirrels started mating. One student asked what the squirrels were doing and another answered her correctly tho maybe a bit too graphically.

What shocked these moms was that it was a third grade classroom. Huh? Don't third graders know what mating is? I don't expect them to understand the nuances of human mating rituals, but not know what mating is? Yikes is my thought.

Me, being a tree-hugging dirt-worshiper that I am, have pointed out when birds or dragonflied mate to my two nature-loving kids. It isn't the focus of our explorations in nature, but it is there, expecially this time of year.

I was surprised to find that none of my friends knew what it looked like when birds mated.

After some rather funny starts, I explained how birds mate and dragonflies too. It was the first time I've come across something called Nature Deficit Disorder in adults. Environmentalists and traditional educators have identified an innate craving people have to be in nature - to explore - to experience the outdoors. Some experts suggest that it is this disconnect from nature that so many youth are experiencing that is the root cause of many behavior problems.

I am not sure I'd buy in to ADHD being cured by a walk in the woods, but I do believe we all have a primal need to spend time with the sun on our faces, open spaces around us, and nothing particular to do but be.

And watch the birds mate.

Monday, April 27, 2009

One year...

Today is my beekeeping anniversary. One year ago our first hive arrived, strapped together with screens covering the entrances.

It was a bit scary to see just how many bees were sticking their legs thru that screen and the volume of buzzing coming from our new hive. Yikes - I remember having a panicky feeling that I was so not ready.

Then I got a smell of the hive as saw the girls fly out. I swear it was the smell that won me over. Beeswax and the hive smell gets me every time. If there is a Beeswax Anonymous, I am a candidate.

I picked up my new bees today - my lucky bees. We installed the package in the new hive. Thewhole idea of "installing" bees cracks me up. It sounds so interchangeable and mechanical that way.

Well, I am here to tell you it is not. The experience of pouring bees into a new hive is ... frankly exhilarating. Every set of bees has its own smell and temperament. These bees gave me a great feeling. I was expecting to call the new queen lucky but her name is really Trey - this is our third hive on the deck. Where once a single family home stood, we now have a hive development!

Welcome to the second year of beekeeping!

Lucky Hive

A couple of weeks ago at the April meeting of the Worcester County Beekeeper's Association, I won a hive. I won the entire hive down to the bees.
The donor of the hive and bees is George O'Neil of Autumn Morning Farms. The donation was in gratitude for the help the WCBA members have given him as he's retired from the military and started his new endeavor.
He was amazing. No one knew what their mysterious red raffle tickets were for, but he insisted that we all have one. He was really excited about the unknown prize and drew out the process of picking and announcing the winner. Clearly he was having fun.
First he called out the three numbers everyone had on their ticket. Then he called "6" only to be met with groans. Then he called out another "6" and said the prize was for a hive. Everyone got excited, especially at my table - we all had all the numbers so far. Then George pause and said he would throw in a package of bees as well. He called a "5" and my companion next to me lamented that he was merely one number off.
Then, after a few more seconds, it started to sink in that it was MY number! Yay for me - a new hive, new frames, and new bees. George was tickled - partially at my utter shock and partially that he was the joyful cause of it!
Still stunned, I loaded the new equipment in to my car in the pouring rain and rehearsed just how I was going to tell my sweetheart that we were getting a new colony of bees.
Thanks George, not just for the bees, but for the reminder of just how good it feels to give. When our hands are open to give, they are also open to recieve. I hope the universe is gives you something wonderous.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A New Hope

We named our new queen, who has a green spot, Hope. And she was aptly named - she's brought hope back to me as a beekeeper. As some of you know, my first 11 months of beekeeping were tumultuous at best.

Yesterday was a huge change. I just wanted to check both hives to make sure there was plenty of larvae.

My smoker stayed lit. My bees were calm. There were lots of bees. Larvae was plentiful. No bees flew in my face. I didn't get stung.

And in one moment with Hope's hive open, looking down at her and watching a forager doing the waggle dance - I got it. I really got it. This is how beeing is suppose to be.

And it is a beautiful thing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Beautiful Bees

I checked my hives on Thursday to see if the new queen had been released. She had not so I broke open her cage so she could start her new life. The bees responded beautifully to her but they wouldn't get off her queen cage! I had to leave it inside the hive on top.

The other hive had been declared dead by a very experienced beekeeper. We had not seen much brood when we checked on it in March. Another beekeeper said not to worry, that it was still early. My queen was fine and to check again later. Well, this is one of those ask ten beekeepers a question and you get a dozen answers moment.

I picked one frame to look at out of the 20 in the hive and amazingly, shockingly, it was the exact frame that held the Red Queen. Not only had she made it thru the winter but was starting to lay worker bees. Her girls are in the picture.

I feel like a real beekeeper again - I have bees.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bees by the Pound

We put five pounds of bees in one of our hives this weekend. It went extremely well. The bees came in a small box with screen on four sides. There was a tin can with sugar water at the opening and the queen was tucked safely in her special tiny royal chamber next to the can.

We removed the can and extracted the lovely queen. She's a 2009 baby so she has a bright green spot between her wings. I attached her to a frame that was dripping with honey and then shook - yep, shook - the bees from their box in to their new blue hive. I gave them some empty frames to move into, closed the top, give them some sugar water and prepared to leave. We left the box, containing a few hundred bees, by the entrance so they could fly in.

For about 20 minutes, a small cloud of bees flew in circles above the hive, then slowly, they all settled in.

It was quite amazing to realize that they were accepting of this unknown box, frames build by bees unknown to them, filled with honey not of their own making just because it held their queen. Her scent called them to their new house making it their home.

Last year I was too chicken to get a package of bees. I was unconvinced of the power of the queen and her pheromones. Surely they would all fly away and I'd be left with an empty box was all I thought about. I purchased a whole hive - bees, frames, and boxes.

It is this hive that is the home of the new bees.

Oh, and bees run about $20 a pound and $20 a queen.