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!