Friday, March 31, 2017

Bee Art

We are getting a snow storm this weekend. The snow thought really hard about becoming rain, decided against it, and has just begun to stick to the ground. The big fat flakes would have been most welcome in December, now are a friend that has definitely worn out its welcome.

It is spring and it is hard to imagine buds, blooms, or even green grass. My eyes are just craving color. I suspect that I am not alone in feeling this way.

So I have a present for you. Perhaps if we all have thoughts of spring at the same time, we can get the snow to melt quickly and the leaves to bud and flowers to open. To get us all thinking spring, how about a coloring page?! Alyssa, at has a beautiful bee-themed coloring mandala. Get yours here!

She aspires to be a beekeeper someday and in the mean time, she write, creates, and cooks. The mandala has bees doing real jobs and has honey comb tucked inside one section. Her drawings are all highly detailed and relaxing to color.

Go get a copy and color. Think spring thoughts. Go Bees!

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.