Dealing with the Stings of Life

She went quickly down the stairs. She knew what she needed to get, and she was on a mission.  In an instant, my daughter’s objective changed from getting her “much-needed” item, to getting back inside to Mommy.

God will help usYou see, she had mistakenly stepped on a honey bee in our clover filled backyard.  And that bee had stung her in the foot. She knew that she needed to come to me right away so that I could help make the pain go away.

Are you going through something that is causing you pain? I’m sorry if you are.  I wish I could make it go away, but I can’t.

There is someone who can though. It is God.

God speaks to us through the Bible and in Matthew chapter eleven, He says, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

That verse means that we can come to God anytime, right away, and He will give us rest and peace. We all feel the "stings" of life sometimes, but it is a comfort to know that God is our refuge and He can make that pain go away. 

Do you have a relationship with God? Do you feel comfortable going to God in prayer and letting Him know of your pain? He wants to be your heavenly Father. He wants you to come to Him. If you've never asked Him to be your heavenly Father and to save you from your sins, you can find out more information here

What are your favorite verses that help get you through tough times? I would love to hear them in the comment section below.

Unwanted Guests

Guard your own life

I opened the door and walked hesitantly into the room. I clenched the fly swatter tighter and raised it into the air. Looking around anxiously, I wondered if I would see another one. There it was, walking around the light bulb. All I had to do was wait for it to fly down to the window. This was number 116! I waited patiently while mulling over the fact that my wonderful husband, just a week ago, said there was only a few stragglers left.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the large yellow jacket nest is gone from the attic, but I still can’t believe how many “stragglers” there are.

I don’t care for yellow jackets. They can be quite nasty and sting multiple times. These ferocious bees are a nuisance to honey bees also. Weak honey bee hives are at risk of being robbed by these selfish insects. Honey bees patrol their entrance with the utmost of determination, but if there are not enough entrance guards, destruction will come. Honey supplies will be emptied, wax that has been carefully constructed will be demolished, and precious honey bees will die trying to defend their home.   Once in, the yellow jackets will take over and the honey bees don’t stand a chance. The hive will die.

Just as the honey bees stay on constant guard, so must we.  First Peter 5:8 says, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. We can’t let the enemy get a foothold inside of our life’s door.

A beekeeper can reduce the entrance size to his honey bee hive to keep those outside influences from getting in.  We also, need to reduce the influences from the outside world, so that we can stay strong.
James 4:7 says, Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Your carefully built testimony is on the line, don’t let it get demolished!

Ants in the Beehive

How we keep ants out of the beehive
Black ants in the beehive
We traveled with great ant-icipation over to our out-apiary the other day to check on the honey bees. We proceeded to tenderly remove the outer lid. To our surprise, what did we find?  Ants.  I wanted to rave and rant about all those little black ants! We surely placed our hives on top of some massive ant colonies.

There were a couple of honey bees on top of the inner cover guarding the entrance to their precious honey, with what I would say was nothing short of heroism against the enemy.

I do believe on this particular day, that our bee suits were needed more to protect us from ant bites instead of honey bee stings.  Plus there's nothing worse than ants in your pants!  I'm glad I had it on.

How do you take a stance against ants? We have heard of placing the legs of your hive stand in containers full of vegetable oil, but this just won't work for us, since we use cement blocks for our bases. So, we did the next best thing.... ground cinnamon.

We poured it and spread it out all over the top of the inner cover. Guess what? So far, it seems to be working.  The ants travel up the side of the hive and then they don't go under the lid.  Yay! We'll definitely have to keep an eye on this antsy situation.  And if I were you, I'd buy some stock into McCormick's ground cinnamon!  We may be using a lot of it!

My Ten Nice-to-Have Items for Checking Your Honey Bees Away from Home

Hi all! I hope everyone is well and that your bees are flying!

As promised, I wanted to share with you today my top ten nice-to-have items, that you should have when you go to your out-apiary.

I hope you didn't miss my list of ten must-have items. If you did you can read it here.

supply list for taking care of bees away from home
Out-apiary supplies, part 2
OK, so this list today is all about being prepared. Being prepared for what, you might ask? Well, for the times when things don't go as well as expected.

Those darling honey bees don't always do what you think they should do, your equipment breaks, or your brain just can't think or remember the way it once did.

Well, this list will give you another starting place when you have to travel away from home to check on those honey bees.

1. A small nucleus box with lid. So many times I have pulled out a frame and there, so big and pretty, is the queen.  I don't like to sit the frame on the ground, and I don't like to hang it on a frame holder over the dirt, so I place the frame with the queen inside of the box. Now your worries are over. She won't get squished or fall down onto the dirt. You can manipulate the hive with less worry.

2. A journal with a pen.  I don't know how some people do it! They can remember every detail of what happened and when in each hive, but I can't.  I need to write it down.  A journal is a good way to jot down a few notes and refresh your memory weeks or even months down the road.

3. Tweezers.  You definitely need these for pinching those little small hive beetles that hide at the bottom of the cells.  I've tried using the hive tool but that damages too much wax.  I've tried killing them with my fingers, but they are also too big.  A good pointy tweezers is a good way to get deep in the cell and squish that little bugger.

4. Duct tape. I never want anything to crack or break, but sometimes it happens. It could be a tool you use or a frame part in the hive. Duct tape is the answer.

5. Tree branch clippers.  Have you ever been concentrating so much on the bees and then all of a sudden you feel something touching your back?  It scares the bejeebers out of me.  All it is, is a tree branch that has gotten a little overgrown.  Guess what, it's getting cut off.  Or, how about tree roots that you keep tripping on. I'm not talking big roots here, but the little viny kind of things that ultimately will  make you fall flat on your face.  Nope, not me buddy.  It's gone.

6. Sunscreen.  Red, hot, painful, peeling.  Need I say more?

7. Tick spray. We have mites on bees and ticks on people. These are awful little critters.  Don't get sick from one, just use the tick spray when you can.

8. Ice pack. I know we all try not to get stung, but sometimes it happens. One of our girls is in a bad mood and she takes it out on you. If I get stung, I like to numb it. An ice pack that you have to break to activate is a nice thing to have handy in the car.

9. Epi-pen. I hate to think of anyone having a major reaction to a sting. But if you or anyone with you does, please be prepared.  Know how to use it.

10. I couldn't think of one more tangible item for number ten, so I'll just say "Time".  So many times, my husband and I are in a hurry.  We have so much to do and so little time to just stop and enjoy the bees.  We can learn so much from these insects and they are a real joy to watch.

Well, maybe these items may help you in your beekeeping journey. If you think of something else that needs to make this list of Nice-to-Have items, please let me know. Talk to you soon!

My Ten Must-Have Items for checking your Honey Bees Away from Home

beekeeping supplies
A few items on my Out-Apiary supply list

Have you ever gone to do something only to realize you left your most important item back where your started?  I have, lots of times. When I check my bees now, I don't have the ability to just run back to the shed for a simple tool or piece of equipment.  My bees are about twenty minutes away from home and when I check the bees, I have to be prepared.

I am an ultimate list maker. For my own sanity I have made up a list of items that I bring with me to what I call my Out-Apiary.  

The first list today is my "must-have" list.  These are items I feel are critical to bringing along, not only for safety purposes, but just because it makes a beekeeper's life so much easier.

  1. Smoker: Don't leave home without it!  You have to use at least some smoke in your hives.
  2. Smoker fuel & lighter: If you have the smoker, you want to light it, right?
  3. Cork: Be on the safe side and cork your smoker when your done using it. This will help the fire go completely out.
  4. A smoker can: I use an old large caramel popcorn tin. The smoker fits right in there, protecting my car or equipment if the smoker is still hot.
  5. Fire extinguisher: Beekeeper Linda has an excellent article on keeping a fire extinguisher on hand. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
  6. Bee suit/veil: If you're like me, this is essential.
  7. Hive tool: It's a beekeeper's best friend!
  8. Water: In the summer you do not want to become dehydrated away from home. Just in case, bring some water.
  9. Cell phone: In case of emergency
  10. Extra honey super with frames: It's ok to think positively, your bees may need more space to put their honey!

Can you think of anything else that is a must-have item? Please share your ideas so we can all benefit. Thanks! And stay tuned for the next post, when I list my nice-to-have items!

Spinach-Carrot Juice with Honey

Hi! How are you? I hope you are doing well.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day. I know I did. We spent the afternoon working the bees.  That’s always fun.

God has given us a beautiful day today, and I was out walking around the gardens that we have.  Our spinach is doing beautifully.  I love spinach. I usually eat it raw in salads, but I wanted to share a juicing recipe that I enjoy, that you can try too, if you have a juicer.  I don’t own a fancy juicer, just one from Wal-mart.  It actually does better than the expensive model I used to own.

Ok. So here is this, oh-so-difficult recipe. 
You will need one bunch of raw spinach.  About two large handfuls.
3-4 carrots
1 tsp. raw honey

Wash the spinach and the carrots well and place them in your juicer.
Pour the juice in your glass and then add the teaspoon of honey.

This juice is really good, especially if you like the taste of raw carrots. I don’t taste any spinach in this at all, but I drink it because it is so healthy for me.

Do you use spinach in your juicer? 
Would you please share your recipe? I would love to try it.

My Biggest Fan

Everyone should have at least one person in their life who loves you for you. I've been blessed with quite a few people that love me, but since this is Mother's Day, I wanted to take a few minutes to give a great big shout out to my mom. 
She’s too quiet to leave a comment, but I know she checks the blog for any new post every day.
I get those wonderful texts, “Love that post, Ellen. Great job!” 
Isn’t that wonderful?

She’s the one I can cry with and she feels all the pain.
And she’s the one that encourages me when everyone else has given up on the things I believe in.

Thanks so much, Mom, for all the encouraging words, the faithful check-ins to the blog, and all the rave reviews to family and friends. I love you! You’re the best.

A Beekeeper's Prayer

Dear Lord in heaven,

              Thank you so much for creating the honey bees for us. Thank you for your wisdom in creating these insects to make the wonderful honey that is so beneficial to us.  Thank you dear Lord, for giving us the opportunity to take care of the bees and we pray for wisdom and strength.

              Lord, help me, the insufficient beekeeper, to provide a location for the bees that is most proficient in receiving your wonderful morning sun.  Lord, please help me to remember to provide adequate ventilation, good drinking water, and Lord, help me to remember to place the brick back on the lid so it doesn’t fly off in a storm.

              Lord, please help me to move slow but sure, as I maintain the inside of the hive, and give me wisdom, dear Lord, so I don’t interrupt the hive unnecessarily. 

              Lord, could you please keep the mites, viruses, moths, beetles and four-footed little critters out of the hive? And please Lord, give me the wisdom I need to adequately assess these situations and treat them wisely.

              One more thing Lord, if you could help me not get stung, I’d really appreciate it.  But if I do Lord, please help me to continue to love the honey bees anyway.

              Thank you so much, Lord.
              Your faithful Beekeeper

P.S. – Lord, I almost forgot.  If you could help me capture a swarm, that would make me really happy, and a little bit of honey, would be great too.

Our Super Swarm Story

God has a way of teaching us to have faith. He knows what He is doing and He has everything under control.  He wants to bless us and among the many examples in my life of Him doing this, here is just one.

Hiving a honey bee swarm
Honey bee swarm on house
Yesterday, I got a call from a friend of mine who has a honeybee hive in the wall of her house.  This hive has been there for many years.  We routinely set bait hives out on this property but have never had the opportunity to catch any swarms here yet.

Well, Maria called, and said there was a swarm of honey bees hanging just outside of the hive entrance on the side of the house.  The problem was, this large swarm was twenty feet off of the ground and it was on a corner of the house. 

I keep a swarm-capture box ready to go at home, so I grabbed it, my beekeeping tools, and two frames of drawn comb and off went my son and I to evaluate this swarm.

Hiving a honey bee swarm
garden rake and frame contraption to lure honey bee swarm
As I was driving, I figured I would tie the drawn frame to a metal garden rake with some binder twine that I had in the back of the truck.  Then I would reach that up as high as I could and maybe they would smell the wax and come down onto the frame. 

So, I did that, and tried that, but nope, didn’t work. The bees were not interested in it at all. So, I thought, maybe I need to get it closer.  Well, Maria’s husband just happened to have a pvc tube about 7 feet long.  Guess what, my rake handle fit right into that!  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  Well, I thought, this is just too easy.  So I reached this new extended rake/frame up toward the swarm.  Nope, didn’t work, they didn’t pay any attention to it.  It was still too far away. 

Hiving a honey bee swarm
the first handle extension for hiving a swarm
Hmm. We needed to make it longer.  Well, guess what, Mr. Bruce had another long pvc tube that could attach to the pvc tube we already had!  “Wallaa. Wonderful, bring ‘er on over,” I thought.   We hooked it all up and it looked so perfect. We slid it carefully up the wall.  Nope, once again. Too short. They didn’t pay any attention to it. 

So now what? Well, Mr. Bruce had some more tricks up his sleeve.  Praise God!  He just happened to have a twenty-four foot ladder.  Yeah!!! But who was brave enough to get that close to the swarm, that high, balancing a box, lid, and bee brush?........  I volunteered my son.  (I am not agile on solid ground, so I wasn’t goin’ up.)

My son did a great job.  He climbed up and up, and took the pvc extended handle in his hand, but the rake was too top heavy, he couldn’t quite handle it safely.  The worried mother that I am, couldn’t stand the sight of my son that high, in an unsafe position, so I told him to come back down, it wasn’t worth it.

Well, we had called my husband, and he stopped in on his way home from work.  Surely I thought, his 6 foot 4 inch tall body, could really handle this predicament. 

Hiving a honey bee swarm
Sliding up a frame of wax to a honey bee swarm
He immediately gave up on my brilliant frame/rake idea and just decided to use the plain old Staples paper box.  Hmmph where is the creativity in that, I say???  My wonderful husband climbed the entire ladder, with the box, lid, and bee brush, and stood studying the situation.  There were bees still going in and out of the house entrance next to the swarm, but the swarm looked content and quiet.  He thought he could handle boxing it.  OK…. But be careful!  He took the box and placed it around the swarm and then slid the box along the house.  Two-thirds of the swarm dropped right down in the box, we heard the thud all the way on the ground.   We did have one of my drawn frames in the paper box, and the bees took right to it.  My husband came carefully down the ladder balancing the box.  We opened it up, pulled the heavily laden frame out of the paper box and placed it carefully in the bait box, with some additional undrawn frames.  We then shook the rest of the bees into the bait hive.  There was still some more bees hanging on the house, and my wonderful husband went up twice more to capture more bees.  He did a wonderful job. 

Hiving a honey bee swarm
Honey bee walk right in with the queen from the paper box
We let the bait hive sit a few hours before transferring it down the road, to its new home. The fifty or so little straggling ladies walked right into their new home, from the paper box into the bait box on their own.  That is always so cool to watch.  They know exactly where the queen is and want to be with her. 

  We will anxiously watch now, for the bees to start bringing in pollen.  This will be our signal that the bees have accepted this hive as their new home.  Once that happens, we can transfer those frames to a permanent hive with a screened bottom board. 

Fun, fun, fun. Thank you Lord, for taking care of us, and giving us some more bees! For free!

Starting Over

Out-apiary site for honey bees
The new site for our apiary 
To all of my on-line friends, close-by friends, and family, thank you all so much for your wonderful support and encouragement to us, with the loss of our honeybees.  We have decided to try again!

The honey bees are so fascinating and they really do make for some great conversations and stories, we just couldn’t give up yet.

We had to move our apiary site away from the backyard.  My nephew who is also my neighbor has become highly allergic to bee stings and now has to carry an epi-pen.  I would hate myself so much if anything happened to the little fellow, so we decided to start over completely in a new location.

out-apiary site for honey bees
Leveling the ground for a stable honey bee hive stand
Thank you, Pap, for letting us use your backyard!

Pap, has a great little corner hidden from view. We just had to clean it up from fallen tree branches and leaves and level it up.  My husband, John, placed the cement blocks and the wooden beams and we 
were basically ready to go.  We just needed the bees!

We were able to get two nucleus hives, which are just small bee hives.  We placed the small nucleus
boxes next to where their permanent hives will be and let them settle down after the ride home. They didn’t like the bumpy, long ride home at first though, as one little lady let me know, in the side of the neck. Ouch!

After a few hours we were able to take the frames out of the small nucleus boxes and place them in their permanent home without any difficulty.  They were quite content and quiet after resting a little while. 

In the permanent hives we placed frames of drawn comb so that the bees won’t have to work so hard to make the wax.  See? There is some good that comes out of dead hives. Because we are hoping the queen continues to lay well, we went ahead and placed a second box on top of the first.  This also has all drawn out wax with some honey and pollen also.  This will help the baby bees get enough to eat. I don’t know yet whether we will be able to place any honey supers this year. We will have to wait and see.
But it is exciting to have bees again.

out-apiary site with honey bees
Clearing the ground for honey bee stand
We have a third one-story hive also in place just in case we need to make a split or need some more equipment in a hurry.  You have to be prepared a little better when you are away from home.

out-apiary site for honey bees
Nucleus hives next to the permanent boxes
Thanks again for everyone’s support and encouragement.

More Important than Honey Bees

It is with great sadness that I write this post. All of our beloved honey bees have died.  Not a single one is left.  I assume it is because of the recent frigid nights and the heavy morning frosts that the bees could not stay warm enough and find enough blossoms to feed on, when they could fly about.  I did everything I know to do, but ultimately I have to realize that I am not in control of everything.  God is.

What happens to Honey Bee Born now?  I don’t know, but I do know that the underlying message stays the same.  There is life after death and the question is, “Where will yours be?”  Heaven or Hell?  Honey Bee Born wasn’t created for the sole purpose of telling beekeeping stories and tips, but it was made to spread the news that in order for you to go to heaven, you must “Bee Born”…again. 

If you believe that the Bible is the Word of God, than you must realize that Jesus Christ died for you. He had to in order to pay for our sins.  But that is not the end of the story.  He didn’t stay dead, in fact, He rose again and is in heaven right now with God, waiting and pleading for you to ask Him to save you.

That is all it takes.  No special ceremony or flashy words.  Realize that you are a sinner, and that you need Jesus Christ to save you. Ask Him to and He will.  The Bible has quite a few verses on salvation that are so vital to know. Here are just two of them:

1.       Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

2.       Romans 10: 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I hope that you will seriously consider what is written here.  I would be happy to help answer any of your questions. And remember, Jesus loves you. 

Dealing with Dead-outs

I walked with trepidation to the apiary the other day. The sun was shining so bright and the air was much warmer than it had been. What would I find? Perhaps the bees happily exiting and entering the hive, free at last from another cold spell?

Dead honey bee hive
Dead honey bee hive
The ground was slippery with mud but I trudged on, praying that I would find good results. Something zipped by my head, could it be? Yes, there were more. Bees. Beautiful flying honey bees. But not all was as it should be. Two hives were sitting quietly with no activity at the door.  Not a single living creature was even attempting to come out and enjoy the sun for even a short time.  I gingerly lifted the lid and all was still. No curious creatures to greet me. My sugar patties were still there, untouched.  My pollen patties, untouched.  Dreadful.  It was not good.

The emptiness inside of a bee hive gives me such sadness. Where there should be warmth and life, there is none.
What do you do when you have a dead-out hive like this?
Well, I ask myself a few questions to try to determine what caused it.

1. Where are the dead bees located?  Outside of the hive on the ground, in a tight cluster on a few frames, or spread out on the floor of the hive?
         a. Could it be, if they died in a cluster close to food stores, that it was just too cold for them to reach out to their food and they starved?
         b. Could it have been mites? Was there no cluster at all? A virus may have caused them to not behave correctly in the winter to sustain themselves.
2. How many dead bees are there, a small amount, or a lot?
        a. Was the population too small for them to keep the queen warm and also spread out to get to food stores?
        b. Perhaps if there are a lot of bees that could mean the population was ok, but they were sick.

 What do you do now?  Well, try to learn from your mistakes for next year.
1. Do everything you can to keep the population up and the mites low.
2. Make sure they have enough to eat.

What do you do with your equipment?
1. Clean out the dead bees. I get rid of the dead bees away from my apiary.  This way there is no luring of predators to the apiary.
2. If there are bees stuck in cells, you can use your tweezers to pull them out.  (Tweezers should be kept in your toolbox to pinch the small hive beetles.)
3. You can leave any frames with food stores out in the open for the other bees to clean out. If you decide to go this route, set the frames out away from the apiary.  This will prevent the bees from starting to rob each other’s hives.
4. You could put your frames with food in a freezer, if you have the space. The frames are great for helping your next hive, next winter.  Or you could use the frames to assist you in queen rearing or making hive splits.
5. Watch your brood frames as spring and summer nears.  Wax moths like the brood cells and will create a big mess if left unattended.  To get rid of wax moths, place these brood frames in the freezer for at least 24 hours.  Then store them where they can be in the sunlight and have air flow through them.  Wax moths don’t like the light.

Having a hive not make it through the winter is very depressing, but try to think positively about it. You now have drawn comb, extra food stores, and the experience to try it again!

Uh, Hello Bees?.....Can You Give Me a Buzz, Please?

Checking honey bee hives in the middle of winter
Checking honey bee hives in the middle of winter.
Man, I’m tired. Shoveling and trudging through a few feet of snow. I wish I could stay cuddled up inside under a nice warm blanket, but nope, I need to help the honeybees. 

This is one of many days in the middle of winter that I feel such uncertainties. Some hives I am pretty sure will be fine, but others I just am not sure about.  What is there to do at this time of year with the bees? Well, first things first, make sure they’re alive.

It is way too cold today to pop the lid and take a peak. So, if you can’t use your eyes, use your ears instead. That’s right, bend over real far and place your ear against that cold wood. You have to move your hat and your hair out of the way. Sometimes they can be hard to hear.

If you’re lucky you’ll hear a humming noise without knocking, but other times you have to get them riled up a little bit.  Give a hard knock or two. If their alive, they’ll buzz at you.

If you use screened bottom boards, don’t confuse the buzz with wind traveling up through the hive or nearby car or plane traffic, wait till it is good and quiet, then listen again.  Take note where the loudest sound is.  Near the bottom, middle, or top?  It will give you a good idea where the cluster is located inside.

How loud is the buzz? Easily heard?  Just barely audible?  This will tell you how strong they are.
Is the response easily heard on one side of the hive and not the other? This tells you if the cluster is centered or coming to the side.  I’ve noticed my smaller clusters move to the side of the hive where the sun shines most on the wood, it’s warmer there.

If you’re not sure if you heard anything, ask a child.  Let them hear a strong hive and then take them to the questionable one.  They have better ears and may be able to hear a response.

I’ve got a hive like that. We’ll see if my child is right when it is warm enough to pop the lid.
What happens if I don’t hear a buzz?  Well, try not to worry. Don’t close the hive completely, just yet.  Know in your heart that you did everything that you can do right now. 

If it is under fifty degrees, DON’T OPEN THE LID.  A small hive needs all the heat that they can keep. If it does die, you have built wax and you may have some capped food stores to store away for another time. You’re actually ahead of the game for the next bunch of bees you get.

Grandma's Beekeeping Trick

When loved ones are gone, memories are what you’re left with.  With the recent passing of my grandmother, I like to think on things that we were both interested in. 

Tanging supplies for catching honey bee swarm
She and my grandfather kept honey bees when they were younger.  According to her, a lot of things have changed in keeping bees.  For instance, in our first few months of beekeeping one of our hives swarmed.  I was in the backyard with my husband and kids, when the children asked me what was coming toward us.  At first I thought it was a group of gnats or fruit flies, but as it came closer I realized, in horror, that it was our honey bees flying away.
So what did I do?  My husband and I chased them.   Across the busy street, through the neighbors’ backyard, ….. through the woods…….. over the stream….. etc. etc. etc.  You get the picture.  It wasn’t quite that bad, because they flew really fast and were soon out of our sight.  We never did find them.

When telling this story to Gram, she asked me why I didn’t bang pots and pans together.  What????
What in the world does that have to do with trying to catch a swarming bunch of bees?  Well, there is an explanation and it has been done with some success.

The technique is called “Tanging” and was done by the Pilgrims when they came to America in the 1600’s .  Apparently, if you are fortunate enough to know when your swarm of honey bees is just starting to take flight, you bang your pots, pans, and spoons together.

 I have read different reasons for doing this.
1.       It stakes your claim that these are your bees and lets the neighbors know you’re chasing your bees on their property. 
2.       The vibrations going through the air stops the bees from being able to fly appropriately and they are forced to land nearby.
3.       The loud noises make the bees think a storm of lightning and thunder are coming and they settle quickly in a new hive, which of course you have with you, with a frame of wax and honey bee lure in it.

So, what would I like to have out of Gram’s house, now that she is gone?  Some of her pots and pans, of course.  I will store them in the apiary…… just in case.

Danger in December

Empty. Hungry. Tired.  That’s how my bees must feel as they have been returning to their hives these last few days.

They seem so busy, coming and going, but their pollen baskets are empty.  There are no flowering blooms to be seen. They return without the rainbow of pollen colors.  They return without the job accomplished.

The weather is so warm, yet they can’t fulfill their tasks.  What is to be done?

I am afraid for them.  Afraid that they are using their stored honey too early.  What if the cold does come, heavy and long?  What if their homes get iced over too late in the season and they can’t get out or there is nothing to eat when it should be there?

Beekeeping, it seems, is never cut and dry.  There are always variables that we have no control over.  The weather being a big factor, for sure.  Each day, each week, each month and season brings with it an all new turn of events that have to be analyzed and pondered over. Can we as beekeepers do anything at all to help them survive?

It’s December 2015, the weather is too warm, too late in the season.  The bees are flying too much.  They are literally using up their life time on wasted trips. Searching for nothing. Younger bees that remain behind, continue to care for the queen. Keeping her cared for and warm enough are their main concerns right now. But that requires them to eat. The foragers must eat to have energy to hunt nectar, they must eat when they return with empty honey stomachs.  The honey is depleting and will it last long enough to sustain thousands of bees until the warm sunshine brings forth new life in the fields?

Only time will tell, as we wait and see how long it takes for spring to officially start.

I ask again, what is to be done?  I still feed them.  Sugar and sugar and more sugar.  They have to have the sugars to survive.  Will it be enough?  Only time will tell.  Time will tell.
toasted peanut butter, banana, & honey sandwich
Hi!  How are ya? Hope all is well!  I’ve got a story to tell today that has a wonderful ending.

A good friend of mine came to town for a visit a few weeks ago and she shared this wonderful idea with me. (Thanks Ms. Putter!) 

 Maybe it’s not new to you, but it was for me.  Well, I’m sure you have heard of peanut butter and banana sandwiches, right?  Well, have you heard of them with honey?!?!  I hadn’t. 
So, as soon as I was able, I had to buy me a nice ripe banana.  I wanted to try this sandwich!

It turned out wonderfully!  Here’s how to make a sensational sandwich.
Take your bread and put the peanut butter on it. The more you use the oozier it will be. Then slice your banana thin and place it next.  Top with a little honey then the next piece of bread. You can put peanut butter on this second piece of bread too, if you want. I did.

Heat up your griddle and carefully place your wonderful creation on it.  Toast it…. Turn it….
Toast the second side……. Walla!!!   A wonderful, delectable, unbelievable toasted peanut butter & banana with honey……. Sandwich.

Sorry for all of the drama.  It’s just too good!  I actually might make one right now…. Wish I had a banana.

Windbreak Ideas For Your Apiary

Hi wonderful friend!  The weather has finally turned cold and I am so glad my winter windbreaks are in place to protect the bees.

              I have a little bit of comfort on those cold wintry, breezy days, knowing that the cold air is blocked from going up my screened bottom boards.  I mean my little girlfriends are working so hard anyway to keep the queen warm, anything I can do to help is a great benefit to them.

              So, what do I use for a windbreak? Well, a combination of two things.   First, my wonderful husband hammers some wooden and metal stakes into the ground, and then he connects thick black silt-fencing material to them, with staples and rope.   This silt-fencing material is like a nylon mesh. It is really durable and holds up well with heavy winds and  layers of snow.
Windbreak Ideas
silt-fencing material around apiary

 We have one long piece of this fencing covering the north, west, and south sides of our row of hives.  We keep the east side open for the morning sun to help warm up the hive. 

              Secondly, we fill large garbage bags with leaves and place the bags between the hives in the row.  We also place them on the ends, between the end hive and the fencing.  I also place them on the east side of each hive, but I am careful not to cover my entrances. We still need some air to get in so they can breathe. 

              Could I use something else?  Absolutely.  I have heard of people using their old Christmas trees to block the wind also straw bales work too.  I think these are wonderful ideas. Are there any other ideas?  I’m sure there are.  I would love to hear about them.  Please share so we can all learn of them, won’t you? 

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce

Lemon sauce and Gingerbread
Gingerbread topped with Lemon Sauce
More seasonal goodness is here, with gingerbread and lemon sauce! Yum, yum!  
This is just sooo good, especially warm.  

You all know what the secret ingredient is, don’t you!   HONEY!!! 

Before I give you this wonderful recipe, I need to give credit, where credit is due.  My wonderful mother gave this to me. She knows I enjoy it very much.  She’s been making this same recipe for many years.  My mom received it from a good friend of ours, Ms. Genevieve.   Ms. Genevieve is a big inspiration to me, she was a Master Beekeeper in her younger years, and she was very good at it. 

So, let me unveil the wonderful goodness.  Drum roll please……..

2 ¾ c. sifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
¾ c. HONEY!!!
¾ c. molasses
1 c. vegetable oil
1 unbeaten egg
1 c. buttermilk

Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl.  Then mix together the honey, molasses, oil, and egg in another bowl.  Gradually add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk alternately to the wet mixture while beating.  Once mixed thoroughly, pour into a well-greased 9x13 baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes.  Check with a toothpick to make sure it’s done in the middle. 

For the Lemon Sauce:
¼ c. sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
¾ c. water
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
A couple drops of yellow food coloring, optional

In a saucepan combine all of the ingredients except the lemon juice.  Bring it to a boil and stir in the sugar.  Stir until dissolved.  Add juice and food coloring. 

Hope you enjoy!

Pollen in the Hive

Yellow pollen being carried by honey bees in their pollen baskets

The apiary has been full of activity these past couple of days as the weather has been really nice. Walking close to the hives has been exciting as the bees are zinging this way and that, flying quickly to their destinations.

Along with any nectar that they can find, the honey bees are bringing in pollen.  They can carry up to half of their body weight in pollen by placing it in their pollen baskets on their back legs.  The honey bees fly into the hive and unload their own load and pack it into an empty cell.  The worker bees mix the pollen with nectar and honey to form what is called bee bread.  The antibacterial properties of this bee bread will allow it to last for months.  When the queen begins to lay eggs again the bees will feed the babies this protein-rich pollen bee bread.

This pollen is yellow, but I have seen oranges and deep reds also.  It is always a joy to see the bees bringing in pollen.  A miraculous event.

Fall Festival Fun

What does the month of October, honey jars, craft vendors, and people all have in common?  A Fall Festival of course!

A section of my honey table at the Fall Fest
A section of my table at the Fall Fest
I attended a great Fall Fest this past weekend and it was very well attended. I met so many nice people, and had a wonderful time talking with honey lovers and beekeepers.   If you were one of the people that stopped by my honey stand, thank you.  You made my day, I enjoyed meeting you!

So, what did I learn from my first Fall Fest? 
*One, pack a lunch.  The lines can be incredibly long and you don’t want to be away from your stand for too long.
*Secondly, bring a honey sample, plastic spoons, and a trash bag.  It can help make a sale or two.
*And third, always wear a smile.  It will be returned.

Happy Fall everyone!

Robbing The Bees

How I get honey from the bees
Triangle Escape board with other items to remove
bees from a honey super. 
Hi all, happy Thursday!  I hope all is well!  I’ve been as busy as a bee here lately with my to-do lists for fall.

Just to give you a run-down. We’ve pulled, extracted, and packaged our honey, (Whoo-hoo!) we’ve designed and printed our own bottle labels, we’re looking into our own natural skincare product line, and we’ve been tending the bees and the beekeeping equipment!  Whew! I’m tired!

So, letting you take a peek into the beekeeper’s fall fun begins with the bees. How do we get the honey from the bees?  You know, I love that Winnie the Pooh song called “I’m Just a Little Black Rain Cloud.”  Pooh makes it look quite easy on how he tricks the bees and gets his honey.  But for me, it’s a little more difficult.  

There’s a number of different ways to get the bees off of the honey frames. For me, this is an important step, because my little honey harvesting helpers in the house, don’t like bees.  So, I am very careful to get all of the bees off and not bring them inside of the house. 

The cheapest method is the simple bee brush.  Take out a frame of honey with the bees on it and brush them off.  Sounds easy doesn’t it?  It is, except the bees get angry and fly all around you and zing at your head.  Try method #2.

The leaf blower.  If it’s electric, lug a long extension cord with you and plug ‘er in.  You won’t have any bees attacking you, cause they’ve been blown to Timbuktu, but you’ll get your honey.

Method #3
The triangle escape board.  Now this comes with some weather stipulations.  You can’t just go to the apiary and take the honey. This takes prep work, time, and patience.  This escape board fits right into the hive under the honey super boxes.  You have to insert this board when it’s going to be a cool/cold night.  When it’s cold, the bees will go down into the brood area of the hive to cluster around the queen and stay warm.  The escape board is designed with a triangle maze so that the bees can get down, but they can’t find their way back up in the morning.  Easy peasy, but just wait for a cool night and then take the honey the next day.

Method #4
This is my favorite method. The fume board.  This is a lid that fits on the top of the hive. On the underside of the lid is a piece of felt.  You spray this felt with the worst possible smellin’ stuff in the world.  One brand that I’ve used is called Bee Dun. Once you spray the felt piece (edge to edge) you can place the lid on the hive.  The best time to do this method is on a warm day when the sun is shining.  The sun will hit the top of the lid and warm up that felt, distributing the smelly smell down into the honey super.  Don’t worry, this doesn’t affect the honey.  The bees hate this stuff, so they leave.  They go down to the next box.  If you wait five to ten minutes the bees will clear off and you can remove the super and head into the house.

Just a word of caution though, don’t just think you can carry this unprotected honey super into the house.  THE BEES WILL FOLLOW YOU!  I have found that I like to use two of my lids to help protect the honey from the little foraging bees.  Use one on the bottom, turned upside down.  Place your honey supers in it and then the second one, use as an ordinary top.  Now you’ve made a bee-proof container.  It doesn’t even seem to me that they can smell the honey through the lids, because I’ve never had a ton of bees trying to get in under the lid.  The honey is very well protected this way.  

How do you rob your bees?  Any tips or trick you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear from you.
Have a good day!

How to make homemade apple butter
Canned Homemade Apple Butter
Thank you Lord for the honey bees.  The apple trees were pollinated very well this year and the bounty shows on the heavy laden branches.  One of the items that I am able to make and preserve with canning is, apple butter. 

Apple butter is extremely easy to make. It takes a little time, but it is easy.

Here is the supply list that you will need:

  • 1-2 large cooking pots
  • An electric or hand-crank food mill
  • Large roasting pan
  • A sturdy stirring spoon
  • Paring knife
  • Cutting board
  • ½ bushel of apples ( for this batch I used yellow delicious and gala)
  • 12 cups of white sugar
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground cloves
  • approximately 24-30 pint size canning jars
  • lids and rings for on top of the jars.
  • a small pot to heat your canning lids
  • fork

Begin by washing and cutting your apples.  I cut mine into halves and quarters. Place them into the large cooking pots that are filled with about 2 inches of water.

Once your apples are all cut, heat the apples on the stove over medium heat.  Cover them with a lid and stir occasionally to keep them from sticking.  If you think the heat is too high, turn it back.

Cooking your apples takes about 45 minutes to an hour, but once the apples are soft transfer them to the food mill to separate the skins and seeds from the pulp and juice.

Place your apple pulp (apple sauce) into the roasting pan and stir in your sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, and cloves.   You can taste test your apple butter now and add anymore sugar or spices to your liking.

If you have a counter top roasting pan, set it to 250 degrees and let it cook for four and half hours.  If you don’t, just cook it at the above temperature and time in the oven.   Stir it occasionally. 

After four and half hours, wash and warm up your canning jars. Boil your lids and get your rings ready.  Spoon the apple butter into each jar and place the hot lids and rings on immediately. You can use a fork to get the lids out of the boiling water. Place your pretty jars on the counter and let sit for twenty-four hours to seal completely.  

Very good! Now you can enjoy your homemade apple butter all year long.  And don’t forget to thank the bees!

The Miracle of Honey

Drip….. Drip…… We waited ever so patiently for the start of that liquid gold going into the settling bucket. Finally it came, with a lush of golden beauty.  The fragrance of sweet honey filled the room and it finally seemed worth it.
Honey begins to flow from the extractor
Honey flowing from extractor

What a miracle honey is. Man-kind can try all they want to make honey, but it will never work.  A honey bee is specially designed by God to take the nectar from the blossom and transform it into something edible for them and for us.

How do those buzzing bees do it, anyway?  Well, it all starts in the flower. Down deep in the blossom is a sweet liquid, called nectar. The honey bees are attracted to the sweet fragrance and they suck it up through their tongue, called a proboscis, and then they swallow it. The nectar is stored in their honey stomach which is different than their regular food stomach.

Once the honey stomach is full they will fly back to the hive. Already the nectar has started mixing with enzymes located inside of the honey bee’s mouth and stomach, and the sugars in the nectar are beginning to change.  (No one can reproduce this, unless you are a honey bee.)

Upon entering the hive, the honey bee will find an appropriate cell and spit the nectar/honey out.  This forager bee will now return to the fields and forage for more nectar.  The female worker bees inside of the hive will continue to work this nectar using their mouths and the enzymes located there, to change the nectar completely into honey. 

Nectar is not only changed chemically with enzymes, but its physical properties are changed as well. Nectar that is brought into the hive is mostly water.  The bees will fan the honey with their wings to evaporate the excess water.  When the honey is down to 18% water and it has turned sticky and sweet, they will cover the honey with a beeswax cap. This prevents moisture from reentering the honey and also keeps the honey clean.

Extra honey in the hive, that is capped, is now ready for the beekeeper to take. 

Honey bees work very hard to make the honey.  It takes twelve honey bees to make one teaspoon of honey.  They will fly up to three miles and visit 1,000-1,500 flowers to collect nectar.

Food for thought:  Honey is the only food made by an insect, which is eaten by man. 

Feeding Honey Bees in the Fall

Right now, in my little neck of the woods, there is nothing for my girls to forage on.  Not only is there no more garden or fruit tree blossoms to eat from, but the county had to come by last week and mow the power line pastures.  All the wild flowers are mowed flat!  Sad sight to see, for sure.

So…. All that being said, it’s time to feed them.  If I don’t, they’ll end up eating all of their food stores too early. Don’t want that happening!

Fall sugar syrup has to be thick. Before the bees can cap the syrup over, they will remove most of the water.  The less water in the syrup to begin with, means less work for the bees.  A thick syrup is a 2:1 ratio. Two cups of sugar to one cup of water.   

Here’s how I do it. I’ve learned a few quick tips and tricks to make it easier for me, but if you know of any more, please share! 

First, I use a gallon size plastic ice cream container (preferably vanilla, ha ha, just kidding),  and fill it up with 12 cups of white sugar.  Then boil water on the stove.  Once it’s boiling, measure out 6 cups of hot water.  I use a nice strong Pyrex measuring cup because it can withstand the heat.  Pour this water into the ice cream container. 

Now, here’s where the fun part starts.  Instead of stirring this thick stuff with a big spoon (like I used to do!!!)  I use an immersion blender!  I know, brilliant right?  It works great. No more struggling.

So, stir this with the blender till it seems mixed and then let it sit to cool.  Every now and then come by and give it another little stir with the blender.  I usually mix my syrup in the morning and then it’s cool enough by lunch to feed it to the bees.

Many different feeder types are available to feed with, but I still use the quart jar feeders at this time of year. You can’t use the jars in the dead of winter, but you still can in the fall.  So, fill up three quart jars, put the lids that have small holes drilled in them and a ring on the jar and you are ready to go.  And don’t forget, happy bees, make a happy beekeeper. 

Good Things Come to Those who Wait

Life sure has its ups and downs. I’m telling you what…. I’ve been disappointed (as I recently posted) about the bees not capping their honey fast enough for my time schedule.  But, ya’ know, I really think now that it will be alright.

Three weeks and two days ago, I found multiple swarm cells in one of my hives. Upon making those splits and keeping an eye on them, I now have a new queen!!! Yeah!!  I still think my splitting didn’t work well, BUT, maybe next time it will get better.

The two small nucs that came off of the parent hive three weeks ago, I put back together with the parent hive.  I did this because the population of bees had grown so small and there was no more brood left to emerge.  They were only drawing out a little bit of wax and things just didn’t feel right.

Well, I really was thinking that the parent hive wasn’t doing well either, but low and behold there were eggs in the cells.  One egg in each cell, the pattern looked fantastic and the queen was right there in the middle of the frame.   A nice, big, pretty one.  We attempted to place her in a queen marking cage and mark her, but that didn’t work.  We can’t get our paint marker in the slats to dot her.  Also, she was moving around an awful lot, and it’s hard to catch her with a marker tip on just the right spot.

Boy, I sure do have a lot to learn!  I think next spring would be an excellent time to attempt to catch her. If something happens to her at that time, we will have all summer to requeen and get a working hive in order.

Seeing that queen today, made my day.  I didn’t realize I could be made so happy by a bug!

Hurry up and Wait

Do you ever wish that you could hurry things along a bit?  I do.  Hurry up and wait, as I often say.  That’s the way it is going with me and my thousands of girlfriends in the hives.  They seem quite content to make me wait.  They are working hard, I know, but I sure wish they would go at things a little faster. 

I shouldn’t complain. I mean, they aren’t ALWAYS slow!  You ever get stung?  That’s not slow.  Have you ever seen a swarm of bees flying away?  That’s never slow. How about bees going after sweet stuff.  No, they are pretty fast at finding that too. 

So why is it, I have to wait so long for the bees to cap the honey!!!!!! I don’t get it.   I guess I just have to keep waiting. Hurry up and wait!