Sunday, December 4, 2011

Honey Bottling

We do! We bottled the last of this year's honey and we have about 25 lbs for sale (in 1 lb Papa Bear plastic bottles). If you are interested, just let us know. The honey is a rich red amber color and has a wonderful figgy flavor. This would be perfect for baking, drizzling over goat cheese, or pouring over pancakes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


We got snow over the weekend and this post is late because we were without power for three days. The bees seem to have weathered the storm fine and there were no branches down that impacted the girls. We cut down the one tree that touched the hives after the Ice Storm of 2008.

You can see that I started to winterize the hives with insulation around three sides and an extension to the roof. I still need to get hay bales behind them to cut off the wind. Once all the leaves drop, there is a good wind corridor behind them.

Today should be warm enough with temps expected near 60' to go out into the hives to complete winter preparation. Crazy weather.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Honey Tasting

I am so excited to be gathering gorgeous varietal honey and decadent honey sweetened goodies for the Honey Tasting at the library.

What is varietal honey, you ask?

Varietal honey is just like varietal wine - honey made from a single kind of nectar. For example, cranberry honey is made from the nectar from cranberry flowers. Bees will get on a type of flower and work it until it is exhausted (the flower not the bee). A beekeeper will put on a fresh honey super at the beginning of a flower flow and take it off when the flowering ends. That is a varietal honey.

What is so special about it?

Varietal honey has strong notes of a single flower - but it is rarely that simple. The flavors are normally highly complex and will echo the flower, the sun and the season of collection.

If you want to check out some varietal honey, I am leading a honey tasting at the Millbury Public Library on October 25. There are still some spaces available. Here are the details:

October 25, 2011
6:00pm - 7:30pm
Millbury Public Library
Register by calling 508 865 1181.

Goodies will be sent home with participants!

Monday, October 10, 2011

We're famous!

Check out the article in the here.

Steve, the reporter was very brave - tho he never mentioned his own adventures in the story. He didn't blink an eye when I brought out the suit and veil for him. He suited up and dove in to the bees with me.

And thanks Steve, not just for a great story about bees but for your service to our country too! He was Special Forces -so perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise he wasn't concerned about a 80,000 venomous stinging insects.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Drone Chucking Day

As I am slowly cleaning up for the fall so are the bees. I went out this morning to find a few dead bees on the entrance to the hives. What?

Then I chuckled, they were mostly drones.

The drones are chucked out when the weather starts getting really cold. Drones don't over winter as they don't really do a lot for the hive in the cold weather so the workers forcibly remove them.

I am getting ready to remove all the honey supers from the girls this weekend. Sun's hive is just impressively strong. Magenta's hive also looks great. I will do a deep check this weekend. I think Sun has screened bottom board which I usually cover in the winter or just switch out.

Here's to a last summer moment - sweet!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The bee inspector and a loss

When I arrived home today after meeting a client and having lunch, there was a white car in the driveway. As soon as I saw the state tags I knew - the bee inspector had arrived. This has been a challenging year for the state inspector's office. They did not hire the two part time inspectors so the state inspector has had to do all the inspections.

He's actually been to my hives before. A few years ago, he came out with our local inspector.

This inspection he was really pleased with the amount of bees and how I am managing the hives. The queens are doing well, still laying a few eggs and there are gobs, yes GOBS of larvae. Yay!! The more bees there are now that are larvae or newly emerged, the more bees to keep the queen warm over the winter.

While we were poking I got to actually see Magenta! She is soo much lighter than her daughters. I was really surprised to see such a difference. They must take after their dads.

Mind you, I've been helping them out with some extra pollen which can push out the date that the queen stops laying in the fall. What can I say - I am ever optimistic about fall and that there will be plenty of warm days like today.

On a sad note, yesterday when I was in the hives (and got stung!), it was clear that True was gone. Long gone too - her hive has nasty wax moths. Yuck!!! So I took down one box and will put the frames it the freezer to kill the moths. I will take the honey off in a few days and then I will let that hive die out.

In the spring, I will split our remaining hives - so that we can have a new hive and a daughter queen from one of these hives. In the spring we will determine which hive is strongest and if they can remain strong if we take some bees out.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quick Update

We have a new beekeeper in the house - my daughter, age 7, decided she wanted to be in the hives with the girls, so I got her a bee suit and here she is. She doesn't really run the smoker yet, it gets too hot, but she does a great job of helping, handing and holding while standing next to the bees.

We took our medication off the hives today. With the extra help it went super fast. We gave them all more honey - one hive, Magenta's, was very light which is worrisome. Her girls got an extra quart of honey. This is the only hive where the bees have done much of anything with the pollen patties. They have eaten down half of one and they did a great job on the honey we gave them last week.

I am so glad we gave them all extra honey. We had over three days of solid rain. Generally the girls did a great job and took about 3/4 of a quart down in a week. Given that we have nice pollen and nectar sources right now, that's not bad.

I do hope that True's hive has enough bees to make it through the winter, they seem a little slim on population right now. We will see in another week how they are doing.

Go bees!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Care and feeding of honey

I've had a few folks ask me about crystallized honey. Crystallized honey is perfectly safe to eat and hasn't gone bad. Honey contains so little water that it can crystallize over time. Here are three things you can do with it:

1. Use it as is - it might be grainy feeling on your tongue, but it will measure and taste the same.

2. Warm it up - pour water hot from your kitchen tap into a pot. Put the jar of honey in the pot for a while and it will eventually liquefy. Don't heat the honey up, it can change the characteristics and damage some of the nutrients.

3. Put it in the sun - if you have a sunny window sill, you can put the honey in the sun and it will eventually liquefy. Sun exposure may darken your honey but it won't hurt it.

If you really don't want your honey to crystallize, consider keeping it in the freezer. Crystals form best at room temperature, so put a large container in the freezer and use it fill up a smaller container for daily use.

Keep your honey at room temperature so it doesn't absorb moisture. With proper care honey can last forever. That is if you can resist eating it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spence Fair

I had a great time at the Spencer Fair this year. We got a second place ribbon and I was blown away by this. Our honey is the most competitive class of honey - amber. The exhibit was just too linty this year to be blue-ribbon quality.

We also have a new beekeeper, Rob McNeil, in town and I helped him with his exhibit. His honey is darker and he got a blue ribbon!! {happy dance}

We volunteer at the honey booth every year and for me, the time just flew by. I spent about 5 hours talking about bees to everyone and anyone who stood still for more than three seconds. There were two live bee exhibits and the bees were great to hang out with. The barn got really hot as the afternoon wore on and I think we were all in danger of melting.

Other than the bees, we petted chicks, checked out the cows, squished alpaca yarn, and got in all the military vehicles. And we ate from one end of the fair to the other. What more can you ask for?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blue Hive in the news!

Check it out - the farmer's market in Millbury was in the news and Blue Hive Honey was photographed.

This was the last market of the season so if you still need honey, let me know. We have one more extraction to go and bears filled with golden amber honey ready to go right now!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Honey Harvest

We extracted honey last night and I am amazed at what a color difference there is between spring and summer honey. We are getting pretty fast at the extraction but it never stops being fun. As the honey spins out, the air becomes filled with the sweet scent of honey and my daughter tries to taste the air.

The bees help with the clean up and were really quick this time. We had about 13-14 frames and all our boxes. They look like they will be done before dark tonight.

This bee was taking a break from clean up to get her picture taken.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Irene and the bees

The bees came through the storm just fine. There were plenty of branches and leaves all over the bee deck, but I had taken frames and supers off of the hives on Saturday morning. It was misting lightly at the end and I felt like I was rushing.

The girls seem to be doing well but not producing a lot of honey. This is a dearth - few plants are producing nectar right now. I noticed no nectar at all in any of the hives. Bees will often start eating their honey stores at this time of year if the queen continues to lay eggs. With mostly-Italian queens, they continue to lay so honey stores are very important.

Earlier this year I took honey out of the brood supers since I wanted the queens to have plenty of space to lay. Since today looks great and the kids are FINALLY back to school, I am going to give them back some of that honey. I will diluted it slightly so it can flow out of my feeders.

Monday, August 22, 2011


At EAS, I got to meet and talk with Marina Marchese from Red Bee. She wrote a book about her adventures as a beekeeper, Honeybees Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper. It was cool to hear about her book it was AMAZING to do a honey tasting with her. She elevates it to an art form. Everything was gorgeous from the glasses to the honey to atmosphere. She really set a great tone to the event.

She set up about a dozen wine glasses each filled half way with honey and arranged lightest to darkest. We got tasting spoons and were give a list of characteristics to smell, look and taste for. I was about honey-ed out by the end and the last couple blurred together. I don't generally care for dark honey anyway so it was no big deal to me. However, dark honey got my attention with the Tulip Poplar, while dark, is quite fruity and lovely smelling.

She also offered some tropical honey and Manuka honey. Manuka is from the Tea Tree plant and is possibly the most horrific thing I have ever eaten. It brought tears to my eyes it was so awful tasting.

All in all, it was an unforgettable experience. Marina was generous with her knowledge and joy of bees and all things honey. Check out her website,

Friday, August 5, 2011

Splits and Natural Bees

I had a chance to hear a great speaker, Mike Palmer, from Vermont discuss how to make a summer split. A split is when you take one hive and split it into two, three or four smaller hives. He showed some really ingenious methods of doing this that will allow these smaller hives to overwinter by sharing a wall. He essentially made his hives from single family dwellings to duplexes. Very cool.

The end of the afternoon was a bit slow for me and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do so I checked out natural beekeeping with Buddy Marterre. It is very difficult to be an organic beekeeper in the US. You have to have your hives in an area where they are not going to be picking up non-organic pollen and nectar. Then you have certain restrictions on wax and pesticide use. Anyway, just listening to him list what it took was exhausting. There is no way my little suburban apiary was going to qualify especially when I have a neighbor down the street who got a visit from Terminix today.

But not to despair, he offered a solution called Certified Natural - sort of a half way to organic. It is really focused on how the beekeeper runs their apiary. I am going to look into it as it looked I qualified already.

One of the biggest issues I heard about over and over again was that the most common pesticides found in beeswax were ones that beekeepers used. This really does make sense, but it also got me to thinking hard about what I use and don't use here.

We do use what are called "soft" pesticides. I use MiteAway II pads that are made of formic acid. This is a natural pesticide for mites and just annoys the bees but doesn't seem to hurt them. In the past I also used Fumagillin for some gut parasites, but I am seriously rethinking that. It doesn't seem to harm bees but it can hurt people. So that is on the table.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Red and Green

My family is scattered across a few states at the moment affording me about 36 hours of solitude. Now like most women, I do have some commitments during that time, but about 30 of them are mine to behold.

Thursdays find me at a local farmers market in the town next to me and I was surprised at the end of an hour to have spent exactly the same amount that I spend when the whole family is around. I also got more - lots more - glorious green goodness.

Normally I come home with a lot of fruit - usually berries - because that is what my two beans like to eat. Hubby too for that matter. Me, I went for mixed baby greens, two bundles of basil because one is just never enough, an entire pound of beets, peaches, apples, and eggplant.

I stopped at my local market and picked up tomatoes, because I was surprised, no one had any big ones yet that were red. Small cherry and a few heirloom green ones, but no red tomatoes. I also got a ball of mozzarella. I sat down and ate caprese salad. The red and the green didn't for a moment remind me of winter holidays, but of the fecundity of summer. Basil is the essence of summer and my kitchen cannot smell of it often enough.

I am going to assuage some of my need for solitude and have green beans and red beets for summer and my own peach crisp.

EAS - lessons learned

This was my first time at an all out beekeeper's conference and I must say, I was a bit underwhelmed. A few months ago I borrowed notes from a fellow beekeeper from a meeting two years ago. Her notes were filled with science and it felt quite academic.

This EAS was not academic tho there were a few talks that were leaning that direction. Perhaps I missed the hard core science and they had it all on Wednesday. I didn't choose to do the microscopy and that must have been hard science.

On Thursday the first two talks were on a review of the USDA Honey Bee Health program. I've heard Jeff Pettis speak before and he never disappoints. This was interesting and informative. Then I heard Randy Olive discuss Bee Health Basics.

After listing closely to Randy for two days, I was eager to check my pollen stores. He finds in California that if he gives a pollen supplement in the fall, the next year the bees have fewer mites and he has gone treatment free. It is also important not to feed more than the bees can eat in a few days or you run the risk of small hive beetles.

Hmm. I do expect that New England might be different climatologically, but he might be onto something too. I am going to keep an eye on pollen and see where we are over the next few weeks to see if it makes a difference.

Come back tomorrow to hear what I learned in the afternoon!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Quality time with the bees

I spent nearly three hours with the bees today. I had to refill my smoker twice, but it stayed lit! I feel like I haven't really spent a lot of time with the bees this summer - life has just gotten in the way and I have been more of a bee-haver than a beekeeper. This is just not how I want to live my life - keeping bees just helps to keep me in a good place.

We are experiencing a dearth right now. This means that there are very very few plants with nectar and pollen. Leave the clover in your lawn if you can.

Soo what's happening in the hives, you wonder and how about that honey...

Well, Sun's hive is just fabulous. There are gobs of bees and they are working to fill the four honey supers on there. I way over did it and they would be fine with three, but had the extra one and they are working it. They don't have a lot of pollen, which is a concern. She has a great laying pattern.

While I was working the colony, I had it open for a while. We got an unexpected visitor. Look on the bottom of the picture on the edge of the box. A bumble bee flew in and walked down in the frames. I was so surprised. She actually went down on a frame and only popped out a few moments later. The honeybees just ignored her.

Magenta's hive is doing well. They aren't putting up much honey but that is fine. There was a good amount of larvae but once again, not quite as much pollen as I would like to see. I took a couple of frames of honey from them.

True's hive is a hot mess. They are once again superceding. This is not an emergency supercedure - there are four cells that I could fine and they all are pretty big. Only three have larvae in them. If you look carefully you can see one of the princess in the top most cell - there is a blob of white. That blob is a combination of the larva and the royal jelly they are feeding her. She is positively swimming which means that they are doing well as a colony.

The other things on the frame that look like bullets are drone cells. Drones are bigger than worker bees so their cells stick out a bit.

Strangely enough, these bees were really calm even though I had to take their hive down nearly to the bottom board. They have some honey put up but I didn't take any yet.

I am going to try and get honey extracted for the fair again this year. I will be defending champ and there are no duplicate names on the trophy I have. My expectations are quite low since I am extracting quite late, but we shall see.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Guess what I've been doing?

I have spent the last two days at the Eastern Apiculture Society summer conference in Rhode Island. It was two days of nothing but bees and hanging out with beekeepers. It was AMAZING. I got some new equipment and books too.

My brain is still buzzing! Beekeepers are some of the nicest people in the world. I guess it takes a special kind of person to love a bug that can sting you.

As I digest all I learned, I will share.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Update from June 19

I spent most of my time with Joy's former hive. They have GOBS of honey. This is a frame that is full of honey and almost all of it capped in the top honey super (that's the box).
This is looking down on the lower honey super. The bees are still building it out. I run nine frames in a super than can hold ten frames so the bees build out the wax farther out from the frame. This makes it easier to extract. You can see the number 10 on the frame. That frame went into production in 2010 and will be discarded in three or four years. That keeps any pesticide residue down and keeps the bees healthier.

This is our new project for the year: Ross Rounds. These are special frames that the bees build out in circles. There is no wire on the wax so we can just cut it out and sell honey still in the wax. This is very popular in eastern Europe and was common during the depression. I think it may be making the bees a bit testy though and I might be putting it on another hive next week.
And now for the big Ta Da! This is True's supercedure cell. Yep, that's were True grew to adulthood. I have not seen any eggs yet and she has about a week to get laying. I added a blank frame right next to this so she could find an empty spot to lay into. I can't wait to see what she's like as a queen. I was really hoping that she'd be laying by now.

The bees were really quite jumpy so they are ready for a fabulous queen too. I used a lot of smoke and my new favorite bee-calmer: honey in a spray bottle. I've used that for a while with Sun's hive as they get testy when I smoke them. Nonetheless, yesterday everybody got smoked. I had to refill my smoker three times. While my smoke was long-lasting and gorgeous, I was rather surprised none of my neighbors called the fire dept!

I am so lucky to have great neighbors. Four of my neighbors know we have bees. One house to the north, two to the south and one random neighbor from down the street. When I first had bees (and had those nasty uber-aggressive girls) he used to walk his dog around the pond behind our house. He and his dog would use our path and walk through our yard. Not surprisingly, that stopped! He's stopped to meet the new, kinder and gentler bees but he and his new dog stick to the road now!
I noticed another animal had been hanging out with the bees. There is a round nail head in the picture and that should give you some scale - but there are half a dozen squirrel poos on the railing. My tracking teacher would be so proud of me for not only finding this but remembering what animal made them!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bees and water

This morning I was puzzled by the sounds of many bees outside my office window. We have been sprouting all sorts of things in pots this year and have quite the container garden going. However, with all the wet weather this spring, nothing has buds let alone flowers, so what were the bees doing?

They were drinking!

Some foragers forage for water and the wet (not damp!) soil in the plants on the deck were a perfect way to get water and not drown. They loved the lettuce plants and were diving down in to the plants but taking a picture of lettuce with a bee under it wasn't going to help.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Update from June 5

I have one 1 lb jar of honey left at the moment from last year. Let me know if you are interested in purchasing it.

Ah, but what about this year? It is official, there is people honey! Out of three hives, only ONE hive has honey at this point. Sigh. I really had hoped that we'd have more going on by now. But on to the official report.

Ruby's hive is looking quite fine. I am baffled by their insistence of having both swarm cells and a partially constructed supercedure cell, but nothing is happening in either one of them. I saw eggs, but not many in the top box. My husband and kids helped me out by spinning out two frames from the brood chamber and I replaced them. This will give the queen more space to lay eggs. Their two honey supers were empty.

Sun's hive is amazing! What a boatload of bees they have in there. I had put on two honey supers and a ross round super for making honey with the comb still in it. Alas, my best wax makers failed me. I took the ross round super off as well as the queen excluder. They had no honey in the supers, but I gave them a fresh frame to build out and an empty for the queen to start laying in.

True's hive - yes, the new queen is OUT - is doing fantastically! She has to be out as they are much gentler than last time I was in the hive. I didn't mess around in the hive - I will give it one more week and then dive in. But, and this is the amazing part, there is honey in the supers. Yes, we have HONEY! I gave them the ross round super just to see. They are slow wax builders so it might not work this year, but I have high hopes.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Report from 5/1

As is typical around here, things are a bit unpredictable. I spent hours, yes HOURS, in the hives yesterday. I cleaned them down to their cinder blocks and it was pretty disgusting at points. Nonetheless, there are few better ways to spend a warm afternoon that upto my neck in honeybees.

Joy is the oldest, so let's go to her first. She's just finished her second winter and that is getting pretty old for a honeybee queen. They can live as long as four years, but generally two is tops. Joy has a nice strong laying pattern and a fair number of larvae coming up. I didn't see many tiny larvae so that had me a but concerned. What really concerned me was that these bees were jumpy. So I looked carefully through the hive and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a tiny swarm cell with a princess inside. Joy is going to be leaving and taking bees with her and a new baby will be out soon. This hive has had Hope and Joy as queens. Any suggestions on the new queen's name?

Sun is about two weeks younger that Joy and she has a nice laying pattern too. Not quite as strong, but there is little evidence of swarming and they are building cells nicely on the foundation I gave them. This hive had the oldest, ugliest frames, so I switched them out and gave them the next best ones I had so in the end, they got four new frames.

I don't think Ruby has a clue what to do. She is a young queen and started out this spring looking good - nice laying pattern and lots and lots of brood. Well, now things have changed. She's a mess. Her laying pattern is patchy. So I was not entirely surprised to see a supercedure cell being started - this means the bees think she needs replacing. It wasn't complete but I marked the frame and will go check in a few days. They also had a ton of queen cups. This is just the start of a swarm cell but they were all dry and empty.

I would prefer a supercedure of a queen over a swarm. With a swarm you not only loose a queen but a bunch of your most experienced bees as well. A swarm can set you back nearly seven weeks, and a supercedure maybe four weeks.

It is shaping up to be a dramatic spring around here.

While there is a lot of drama going on, I did put people honey frames out. No idea what that's going to do for the bees, but just in case they feel like putting up some honey, they have room.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Report from 4/18

The girls are doing well - they all have babies cooking and the foragers are flying.

All the hives have swarm cells though. This is completely confusing. There is plenty to do, the queens all have space to lay and yet there are swarm cells?? hmmm.

Perhaps they don't have enough to do or are just in wax making mode without a genuine outlet. Well, I gave them outlet. I took out five frames that were the oldest frames in the top boxes and let the girls start fresh with foundation. So they have plenty to do. As soon as these get going well, I will do it again and again so that each hive has between 25 and 33% fresh frames. As the wax gets older, it not only accumulates pesticides and other nasty chemical, it also gets just plain dirty.

And the big news - we saw our first Dandelion in the yard - two bright yellow faces that had already been pollinated so the bees already got there. This means it is time to give the girls some people honey frames!

Yay for honey!

Friday, April 1, 2011

New website

I am writing for a new website, and they have all kinds of great articles on sustainability and self-sufficiency, some of which I wrote. Yay!

Two of my articles are on bees. The first is on how to start a beehive - check it out here. The second is on why bees are dying - check this out here. Both feature pretty pictures of my bees.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pollen! Part 2

Today was a spectacular bee day. The girls were flying like it was the middle of summer - busy as, well bees. I popped out just to get my fix of watching them and I was rewarded with loads of beautiful bees.

I am really quite shameless. I love my bees and I just like to go and watch them. If I had an observation hive, where I could watch them inside, I would never leave.

Check out the photo. The bee on the left has been visiting a skunk cabbage and the other bee has been either to pussy willow or maybe an early maple. The skunk cabbage visiting bees had pollen on their backs and a few had pollen on their butts. I tried so hard to get a picture but the bees were just too busy to slow down for a photo op!

After hearing so many other beekeepers share stories of heavy bee losses this winter, I just want to go an hug each and every bee!

Catch the buzz!

Monday, March 28, 2011


I took a quick look at the girls today - just a howdy-do. I didn't open the hives because it is still pretty chilly - only about 40'. I wasn't expecting much in the way of activity.

Joy and Sun's hives were quiet, snuggling in the chill.

Ruby's hive on the other hand were out and had been gathering pollen! I am going to guess pussy willow pollen. When a bee gets pollen from skunk cabbage, they get pollen on their backs - it is pretty cool. Check out pictures from last year. These bees only had pollen in their pollen baskets.

Whoo, hoo - this means we have babies!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hive Update

I went to a monthly beekeepers meeting on Saturday and have been in a stew ever since. The number of people reporting dead hives from this spring was quite high. It had been a while since I had checked the girls, so I've been worried.

I have spent a ton of time fretting about the girls starving and trying to make good bee candy. Bee candy is not made out of bees, but is a sugar/corn syrup mixture that you boil and stir like crazy to make in to a hard candy.

Well that is what is supposed to be anyway. Mine last two batches I just didn't agitate quite enough so it became an oozy mess at room temperature. Sigh.

Yesterday I decide to stop spending time fretting and spend that energy actually feeding the bees. It was a bit chilly to be mucking about in the hives too much, but I was so done worrying.

So finally here is the report:
The hives are FINE.

I did take a picture of some of the bees, but I realized that this time of year the hives look terrible. They so need to be painted and the winter crud scraped off. So I am not showing you my winter crud right now.

Ruby's hive is the only one that had eaten the sugar I put on in February, so they were the only ones who got sugar. Joy and Sun's girls have only eaten about 20% of the sugar. I gave all three hives a pollen patty. Pollen patties are just squished up pollen and contain a lot protein the bees use to feed babies. I don't normally give pollen, but after a look around the area this weekend, I found two, yes TWO skunk cabbage flowers and that was it. Normally at this time of year, I can't count the flowers. Pussy willows and maples are sporting swollen buds, so spring is coming.

Really. I promise.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bee School

I love Bee School - I took beekeeper school for the first time four years ago. It seems like yesterday. I love talking with others about their hives or the hives they want, learning about new methods, and my favorite class is about the pollen and nectar sources in the area. Guess I am a sucker for pretty pictures of flowers.

Since I am no longer considered a new beekeeper, I help out. With about 200 people at the class, many hands are needed to get the registration moving smoothly.

If you want to join in the fun, it is not too late to start. The information is here.

Beeschool is also a sure sign of spring. And I can't wait for a real taste of spring!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

We have a WINNER

I have contacted the winner, Audra and will be sending her package out this week.

Thanks to everyone who started following Blue Hive Journals and as always, thanks to those who have been with me since the beginning!

~Me and the "girls"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Blues

The temperature today is supposed to be around 40' today and I am going to go out and look at the hives. Yep, just look at them. A few brave souls might fly around, but mostly the bees will stay in. I am getting cabin fever right about now and want to get my hands in the hives and get my garden started, but there is still about 12 inches of snow covering the garden and the bees are staying in.

I will have to assuage my longing for spring with a few bee magazines and some seed catalogs. Sigh.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Honey of a Lip Balm Tutorial and GIVEAWAY

When I started keeping bees I expected I’d have gobs of bees wax and make gorgeous long taper candles for everyone that first Christmas. Wow was I wrong. I might have had enough wax to make half a dozen votives.

Quickly I realized that there were other luscious gifts the bees and I could make to show gratitude to my family for their supporting my new hobby of beekeeping. I started making hand cream my first year and last year, I began making lip balm.

Lip balm is super easy and makes a welcome gift for everyone on your list. I have tried many different recipes and I really like this one for how consistently it comes out and how well it protects my lips.

You will need:

6 Tbls. Grated Beeswax - it ends up being less than half an ounce grated or pelleted

10 Tbls. Carrier oil - I use grape seed oil, sweet almond oil, sunflower or any light flavored oil

2 tsp. Honey - I recommend using a light local honey

Glass jar and small pot

Eye dropper/ pipette

6 - 8 Containers/tubes 0.15 ml - have more on hand than you think you will need! I have two sources I love here for small orders (with no minimum order!) and here for larger orders.

Here are my ingredients: honey, grape seed oil, and grated beeswax.

I just use a regular grater to grate my wax. It is a pain to get clean afterward, so I dedicate one I got at a yard sale to just wax. If you can't do that, I recommend popping it in the freezer afterward and using a brush to clean under cool water. Hot water just makes the wax sticky.

Put the wax and oil into the super clean glass jar then put the jar in the pot with water. Heat on low until the shreds or pellets melt. This will take a few moments but don't hurry it.

Once the wax is melted, add the honey and stir like a crazy. Leave the jar in the hot water until the honey is well mixed in. This can take a few moments if your honey is crystallized, but keep stirring. I just use my dropper to mix.

Once everything is smoothly melted, you can add an essential flavoring oil if you like - just a few drops. I prefer mine with just the smell of the wax, but I have a colleague who uses peppermint, orange, lemon and ginger flavorings. Ginger is amazing.

Fill the tubes or pots until they have a nice bubble on the top. These aren't my prettiest filling but I was trying to take a picture at the same time! Don't try filling the tubes by pouring from the jar - take my word for it, it makes a mess.

If your lip balm starts to get hard to work with, just put it back in the pot and remelt it a bit. I use a plastic pipette and just squeeze out the lip balm if it cools too much.

Once it cools, put the caps on and label it. I use regular white address labels and cut off the end that hangs over. You can personalized them easily. If you have translucent tubes, use clear labels.

Now for a GIVEAWAY of a Lip Balm Kit!

1 oz of bees wax, 6 lip balm tubes, 1 pipette and 4 oz honey bear

There are two ways to enter, you can comment on THIS post with at least one way that you are going to help honeybees this year (check the right column of my blog for ideas)


become a follower of this blog. Just put in the comments on THIS post that you became a follower.

Drawing will be by random number generator and closes February 28, 2011.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Day!

In New England we have a lot of snow right now. I mean a LOT of snow - over three feet on the ground and where to put the snow is becoming a critical issue. The snow is quite the issue for the bees too - their hives are quite covered with snow. It acts as a good insulator as long as the entrance is open.

You can see where I've had to go in and shovel out the bees. I like to keep the lower entrances open even though they also have an upper entrance. This keeps the flow of air going in the hive and keeps the bees from freezing if they happen to get damp.

I just had abdominal surgery at the beginning of the year and this was the first spot I shoveled. While my incisions are healed, my stomach muscles assured me they had not fully knitted back together. Nice to know that there is still plenty of snow coming this week so I can continue to build back strength in my belly!

And while it breaks my heart to find dead bees at the entrance to each hive, I am content to know that this is an indication of live bees on the inside. So for the moment, all three hives are alive. I can only hope that the next few storms - because it is still January - will go gently on the bees.

Think warm thoughts!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Crystalized Honey

Does that little bit of honey at the bottom of the jar have crystals in it? Did your jar turn solid in your cupboard?

No worries! Your honey has not gone bad. In fact honey doesn't spoil. Honey was found in jars in Egyptian tombs and was still delicious.

You can do one of two things:
1. Nothing - crystallized honey can be used in any way liquid honey is used.
2. Re-liquefy it - just put the jar or plastic bottle in warm water from the tap. Let it sit until the honey is liquid or the water cools. Repeat until liquid.

Microwave? I don't recommend microwaving the honey more than 5-10 seconds TOTAL. The pollen and delicate flavors can be destroyed by very high temperatures.

Go honey!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year

It is a happy New Year in the bee yard. All three hives had girls flying yesterday.
Ruby's hive looked amazing! There were crowds of bees at the entrance and the were really stretching their wings.
Sun's hive also looked great. These bees prefer to use every entrance other than their front door - they are such New Englanders! They were coming and going with great purpose.
Joy's hive looked quite sad in comparison. There were bees coming and going but the traffic was significantly less. There is nothing I can do about it right now other than cross my fingers and hope they make it thru the next few months.
I am going to give the bees some "bee candy" which is a sugar patty they can eat if they cannot get honey. Each of the hives should have plenty of honey, but the sugar patty is just insurance. It is like having a fridge full of good food and the take out menu under a magnet - just in case!
Here are my bee-related goals for the year:
1. Keep three hives going all year (and overwintered)
2. Continue to build up the local peer-network of beekeepers (so if you know a beekeeper in Millbury MA -send them my way)
3. Finish my book on aggressive bees
Go Bees!