Saturday, December 3, 2016

Tucking the bees in

My winter preparations in my house are well underway with the snowblower and the lawn mower trading places in the barn, pulling out the snowshoes and storing the kayak paddles, and buying pellets for the stove.

The bees have been preparing for winter too. Well, their beekeeper has been anyway. For the winter, I install mouse guards. As soon as the weather gets chilly at night, mice look for warm places to snug in and a bee hive is usually quite toasty. The mice do really do anything to the bees, but they can chew up the inside of a hive. I put metal gates across the front of the hive to keep them out and mice can't chew through the metal barrier.

I also add insulation around three sides of the hive and put an extension on their roof to keep the snow off the entrance.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hive Update

Today was mite treatment day. I use formic acid, which is found naturally in the hives but not quite in this concentration. The mites can't take it and the bees are just annoyed for a couple of days. The small gap in the hive boxes helps to keep the vapors from becoming too much for the bees.

Next to one of the hives, I've seen a flycatcher hanging out. Apparently the bird has been having a snack on bees and pooping in front of the hive!  All that white is bird poop.

There are still a few flowers hanging on and blooming in the yard. All are getting very well polinated. 

These were all started from a seed mix that friend sent to feed the bees. 

We started a raspberry and blueberry patch this year. These plants only went in two weeks ago and had some sad flowers. We gave them love, and great soil!  Look what they did!

This beauty sprung up late in September on the outside of the tomato garden.  Not a color or flower we planted, so how did she arrive?

And the cherry tomato invasion continues....

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We received our first first blue ribbon for Blue Hive Honey in New Hampshire this past weekend at the Hillsboro County Fair.  It was very exciting and took a lot of preparation.

Normally fresh honey as tiny bubbles and may have small flakes of wax at the top of a jar. This is normal and will go away over time. We strain the honey through five, yes FIVE sieves that have little bitty holes to strain out any large bits of wax or any dust particles. The pollen is small enough that it fits through.

For the fair, I really wanted the honey to be super clear. We moved to a smaller filter and it produced a lot of super tiny bubbles in the honey. I stuck the jar in a pan of hot water from the tap to help clear the clouds. It worked to move the bubbles to the top.

This meant I had to get those bubbles out! My fair honey is always over filled since I know I will have to scoop out the bubbles. I used the sugar spoon from my silverware set because it has a very narrow tip. Out darn bubbles...well you know what I mean!

After removing all the finger prints from the outside, I headed up to the fair with a new lid. I always change lids at the fair to ensure that there is no honey on the inside of the lid.

The judge admired the clear product and thought the honey was tasty!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bees on Vacation

This past summer, like every summer for past decade plus, we go to Maine for a vacation. My father in law loans us his cabin in the woods for two weeks and we head off grid. It is an amazing experience.

Over the years I've kayaked the entire lake and a portion of the rivers it is connected to - both coming in and going out. For a few years in one corner of the pond, there were honeybees working the flowers. I didn't see them last year or this year.

But I did see bees! I saw two kinds of bumble bee, red bees, and mason bees.Balancing a camera and a kayak in moving water is a bit much for me so I got a lot of blurry pictures except for this one.

One the way home, we often visit Swan Honey in Albion Maine. I love how much it has grown and changed over the years. They are such wonderful people. They have over 9,000 hives with a bunch living in the field across from their shop. They paint their hives what ever color is on hand. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Paying it forward...

Since moving to New Hampshire we've experienced a lot of new things, one of which is growing roses. The folks who owned this house before us grew lovely red and reddish pink roses aplenty and now we do. I know little to nothing about growing roses but always game to learn new things, I was sad to find that Japanese Beetles like my roses even more than I do. I set out to get rid of them and my first thought was one of those bag traps.

Some of the chemicals lure are used to lure bees to traps used by bee researchers - thank goodness I did my research first. In this quest to learn more about all these essential oils and bee versus beetle lures, I reached out to a mentor of mine.

I LOVE having mentors. I was a very high maintenance newbee - I was always asking questions and visiting with ideas. That behavior slowed down a lot until this past year. I'm back asking a whole new level of question.

And I am on the other end of mentoring now. There are some newbees who need a mentor and I know a speck more than they do so I've been in hives, answering questions, and demonstrating techniques.

My mentees are the BEST!! They ask great questions, are willing to try new things, and don't mind me saying when I don't know the answer. We've dealt with queenlessness, honey extraction, and wood versus plastic issues.

I will ALWAY need my mentors - being a beekeeper means saying curious, learning new things, and being willing to try something new. Having other experienced beekeepers to talk out ideas with is a great resource.

And I love my new role too. It is my honor and privilege to be that mentor back to new beekeepers.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ask A Beekeeper: Mountain Laurel

I get lots of honey related question as a beekeeper and this question was asked by a fellow beekeeper C!

Does Mountain Laurel make honey toxic?

The simple answer is yes it does, but there are two reasons not to worry about it.

First, bees don't seem to like Mountain Laurel much and will use other nectar sources first. If it is a really dry year, they may seek out the Mountain Laurel but  in most years it accounts for a tiny fraction of a portion of the nectar used to make a given hive's honey.  For most folks you have to consume a vast amount of the honey to get sick.

Second, the honey that bees make from Mountain Laurel is bitter. Most people are very unlikely to consume over a cup of the bitter honey to get sick.

One of the best discussions about toxic honey I've seen comes from a regional beekeeping group, the Picken's County Beekeepers. Check out the details here.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Blue Hive goes on Parade!

Blue Hive Honey is going to the Parade!  We are marching the the 4th of July Parade in Brookline, NH our new home. It has been easy to bring out the patriotic colors since our hives are already blue!

A little spray paint and, of course, duct tape and the trailer is looking pretty spiffy! We found some great flowers that we chose because there were honeybees visiting them!  

We mocked up a hive to put on the float. There are no bees here but this is what our hives look like. Fresh coats of paint, stacked tall, and looking good - the box is screwed together. I got to use my new drill. This girl likes power tools!

This was a mid way photo. There is more bling and sparkles on the float now!  Just waiting until tomorrow to be reassembled before the Parade. We start marching at 10 am.  

Ask A Beekeeper

A friend of mine, Lili, asked me about beeswax. She was curious about what color wax is when the bees first make it and if the color was different in the wild.

Excellent questions - Bees make wax from wax glands (mirror glands) on their abdomens. The wax is a translucent white when it is first excreted and as it ages it changes color.

What changes the color is the footprints of the bees. The more bees that walk on the wax the darker it is. Wax that is used to cap honey isn't walked on much so there are few footprints and the wax remains creamy colored.

Wax used to make cells were brood is located gets lots of traffic and gets dirty faster.

You can see where the brood or babes were located on this old frame - the cells are dark, almost black. The honey was stored in the corner so the wax is much lighter in color. 

The wax is a wild colony is the same - lighter where the honey is stored and darker where the bees have the babies. 

If you have a question, comment below or find me at the Brookline, NH 4th of July Parade!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Prepping for Honey

I have been asked a lot recently about honey. No we don't have honey yet, but the bees do!  In the top of the hive, in the honey supers, honey is being added every day. The supers had some weight to them but weren't quite full last week. 

A full honey super can weigh 40lbs. Now not all of that is honey, but most of it is. In the bottom boxes where the baby bees live, we use 10 frames per box and that is what the hive is designed to hold. That gives a maximum amount of frames and wax for the bees while maintaining bee space. Bee space is the distance between frames. Bees have a certain amount they really like.

I cheat.  I use that knowledge to make my life easier. In the honey supers or honey boxes, I use nine frames evenly spaced. The top picture shows a frame comb that I use to evenly space nine frames in a 10 frame box. This encourages the bees to build out the frame farther so they maintain their bee space and make it easier for me to harvest the honey.

Yeah, I am sneaky like that. 

This is a quick picture of Snow's hive. She is also known as Hive 1. She and her bees are doing nicely at the moment bringing back loads of pollen and nectar. We really need rain to plump up the nectaries in the flowers. 

Go bees!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Organizing the barn

Now that the barn is finished, we've started moving in all the things that were scattered around the garage and basement into their new homes. Normally I store all the frames not being used in black plastic bags to keep wax moths {shudder}out. This method is great but the bags are opaque leaving the insides a complete mystery.

Our good friends at A Hundred Ravens Yarns had the solution!  They use shower curtain rings of different colors to mark the bare yarn before dying it with the most brilliant colors. This allows them to dye different weight yarns the same color at the same time.

We stole that idea!  Now all the bags are labeled with colors indicating size and if they are wet or dry.  Wet means we extracted the honey and there is still traces of honey left. This is an excellent way to get the bees excited to fill a honey super when you put it on. They scavenge the honey, then need a location to put it!

Check out A Hundred Ravens butterfly yarns for the spring - gorgeous. I think that bee and honey colors should be next ;).


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tasting Honey

Learning to distinguish various flavors in honey - or really any food - takes some time and lots of sampling!  We had a packed house at the most recent Honey Tasting in Brookline, NH  at the Brookline Public Library.  Thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy Thursday to join us!!

Everyone got to try and identify a few mystery honeys - supermarket honey, orange blossom, blueberry, and more!  And we realized two things - honey has a lot more flavors than anyone expected and it was hard to put a name to them!

Then we sampled honey from all  over the US and world. What a great souvenir honey makes! Honey provides a true local flavor and often results in the most beautiful conversations.

Do you have a favorite flavor of honey? Orange blossom is the favorite of many folks over 60 as this was a big favorite in supermarkets "way back when...."

Stay tuned for a report on the new queens and how everyone is settling this spring!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Moving Bees

Moving the bees from Massachusetts was quite the undertaking, especially since we had only a single hive. First we needed the bees inspected from the Massachusetts Apiary Inspector. We got a good report - the bees were healthy and our equipment was good.

To get the bees ready for transport, we opened the hive and split it into two parts. While this isn't recommended, we just had too many bees to maneuver a hive with two honey supers. We duct taped all the joints, put screen over all the openings (with staples and duct tape), then strapped the entire thing both north/south and east/west.

Once we arrived at our new house, we unpacked the bees and set the hive back together. They were apart for about 12 hours.

We put some branches over the entrance to force the bees to do an orientation flight. This encouraged them to stop at the entrance, look around, recognize they were in a new location and start orienting.   First they circled the hive very closely then their circles got bigger and bigger spirally out from the hive. The funnel of bees got quit thick at one point, but the bees seemed quite focused and ignored us completely.

The girls settled in quite nicely!  Welcome~

The good things about FaceBook

My lovely friend Kristin Graffeo took this photo and it remains one of my very favorite pictures of me.

We had 11 Girl Scouts visiting the apiary that day (thank you again parents for that level of trust!) It was still fairly chilly so the bees weren't flying much and there was one single drone cell. There were probably a few hundred worker bees in cells, developing from a worm like larvae into adult bees, but the girls were worried about that one drone.


So when we got new bees in Brookline NH, we had to name one of the in honor of Girl Scouts some. This year the queens all have a white dot marking that they were born in a year ending in 6. So Daisy seemed like a great choice. Girl Scouts was founded by Juliet Gordon Low and her nick name was Daisy.

Snow's Hive
Joining Daisy will be Snow (since I picked them up in a snow storm!), and Carol, Queen of the Apocalypse.