Saturday, May 29, 2010

My two daughters (mainly my oldest) are going to try and attempt keeping bumble bees this year.

Bumble bees are endangered the same way honeybees are. Their numbers are dwindling and the cause is unknown although the suspected cause is pesticide use. Without bumblebees there will be inadequate pollination of certain plants.

Although bumblebees are kept commercially to pollinate crops my children are going to do it for the same reason I keep the honeybees, for the love of nature!

Unfortunately there is just a 20-50% success rate getting a captured bumblebee to lay eggs, so from the start it is a challenge. Bumblebees are also a bit picky about the climate, preferring 50% humidity and temps above 70 degrees F. The girls sure have their work cut out for them but hopefully in the process they will learn a lot about this very beneficial insect and we certainly aren't in short supply around here. The bumblebees love my roses.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


My hive has grown

Mia and Joy watching as I open the hive

The bees are busy taking care of the babies

Joy and Mia checking out one of the frames

I'm not 100% sure I should have added the 2nd hive body but since the bees went from covering 5 full frames to now covering 8 full frames (some weren't fully drawn) in one week, I thought it best to add another one. I can't believe they made that much progress in less than 7 days.

I was feeling really good about doing inspections and such but this time it felt a little scary. There were twice as many bees as before and I think I killed a few :( At one point the bees got really really pissed (I hope I didn't kill the queen) while I was putting a frame back in place. I've never heard them buzz as loudly as they did right then. On top of being nervous with all the buzzing going on it was hot outside so I was sweating something fierce. Plus, Joy and Mia were here and I wanted to make sure I didn't rush through too quickly so they would be able to see a few things. Hopefully their experience was good.

2nd hive body is in place, moved to the 2nd larger size opening in entrance reducer and pulled the cork in first hive body. Time will tell if I messed things up (7 days til next hive inspection).

Funny. When hubby saw how many bees there were he gave me "the look" and said "what have you gotten yourself into." Which caused more droplets of sweat to form above my brow.

Monday, May 24, 2010


It was really hot today (94 degrees F) so the bees having been in "fanning" mode (see earlier posts for "fanning" video). They are all perched near the entrance of the hive "fanning" their wings in order to cool things down.

I'm really fascinated by this since to me it is quite foreign. The idea that bees can fan outside the tiny hive entrance and actually cool the hive down is beyond my comprehension. How do those little wings generate enough wind to cool anything? How does the wind from their wings get into that tiny entrance? Once again, this fanning reminds me how amazing these little creatures are.

It is difficult to see the "fanning" in a picture since you can't make out the movement of wings but there are a couple of bees on this photo where you see thier wings are a bit blurry they are fluttering so fast. The others facing the hive were also fanning but it isn't quite so clear.

(this is what remains of the bees outside of the hive since propping the outer cover up a little bit). I want to close the outer cover but on the advise of more experienced beekeepers I've decided to wait until morning. Of course I won't sleep a wink, I'll be worried about the hive cover blowing off. I'm such a nut case!


My poor bees are overheating (94 f outside). They'd rather be outside than in. Not sure what this means??? I was told in beekeeping class that we can't move to the 2nd largest opening in the entrance reducer until we add the 2nd hive body, nor can I remove the cork until adding the 2nd hive body but my little bees are baking. Will they leave if I don't provide more ventilation? I'm soooooooooo tempted to remove the cork in the hive body but what if their numbers are too low to defend themselves from intruders?

I went and propped the outer cover up a bit with some sticks and so far the cluster has diminished a bit (great!). There are still quite a few bees at the entrance (much more than usual), looks like they may be fanning (I didn't get close enough to tell). My bee mama skills are lacking since when I opened the cover I discovered they were out of sugar syrup and they were clustered around the sugar jar as well (poor girls). I feel badly about that :(

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Queen Lives!!

Yesterday my beekeeping mentor came over to help me find the queen bee that I thought died. He was nice enough to check on the activity in the hide, explain rotation of frames again and help find the queen. I was relieved when we hit frame #6 that there was a live and laying queen. She was not happy about being exposed to the light so she was somewhat burried under a pile of nurse bees.

This was the first time I witnessed bee "fanning" and bee "dancing." Both of which were super cool to see. One little bee at the entrance was fanning and several bees were dancing about in the hive (shaking their tail feathers at their sisters). BTW/bees don't have feathers I just thought it would be cool to type that. Anyway, all is well in casa de bees. Won't be long now before a new hive body will need to be added :)

Bee "fanning" :

Bee "dancing" :

Monday, May 17, 2010


For starters, my bees don't even come close to lazy. I personally think they are just night owls and need their beauty sleep but...

I've heard and read two things about bee foraging activity:

1. Bees rise with the sun so the best time to visit the hive is just after sunrise, when most of the bees are out foraging.
2. Bees rise about 10 am and the majority are out foraging between 10 am and 2 pm. So it is best to visit the hive between 10 am and 2 pm.

My bees are not even raising their weary heads before 8 am. I check on them every single day and they don't rise until around 9 am. Maybe one or two are willing to face the cool morning temps (which are in the high 50's to low 60's right now) but the others like to get their morning coffee and head out the door around 10 am.

You'd think I would follow the second part of what I heard (most bees are out foraging between 10 am and 2 pm) but my girls aren't ready to come home at 2 pm. The bulk of them return much much later. Although many are still busy working as the sun is going down, the majority seem to return home around 5 pm.


Since the beginning of beekeeping class I've heard and read a lot about guard bees. You know, the little troopers that sit at the entrance to the hive ready to defend their sisters and brood with their life. Apparently, guard bees will confront the beekeeper or anything/anyone else if they get too close.

The day after hiving my bees I've looked for these so-called "guards." Maybe on occasion I'd see one bee at the entrance but when I'd approach the hive she would do little if anything. I had one come and check me out once but I held the outer hive cover in front of me and she went away. We've been approaching the hive, sometimes within inches, checking on bee behavior for weeks now and not a single bee seemed to mind. I had to wonder, was the hive I provided for my bees actually being guarded by anyone? Was this normal for there to be no "guard" bees? Maybe there was a guard but she remains unnoticed until absolutely needed? Do they stay hidden away with just their eyes peaking out until they are needed? I had a lot of questions about this until today.

This morning I took out the handy dandy binoculars to spy on my little girls and I noticed a cluster of bees at the entrance. Nothing unusual really except that within the cluster there appeared to be a handful of bees that were neither coming or going. They were just hanging out. I waited a few hours and checked again and sure enough, several bees at the entrance and they seemed to be checking out other bees that were coming and going but they themselves were just "hanging out." I noticed a little bit of this yesterday with one bee. She hung outside in front of the entrance and it looked like she was sniffing everyones butt as they came and went. Now today we have several butt sniffers.

I'm guessing that these are the "guard bees" I've heard so much about. I haven't tested it out yet since testing would require me approaching the hive to see if anyone comes out to shoo me away. Since I just stressed the girls out by blowing smoke on them and poking inside their home only a few days ago I'm holding off another inspection or "test" for a few more days. But I have a strong feeling that those five frames of brood have started to emerge and the girls are a little bit more defensive of their hive than they were before.

Maybe I'm wrong but I'll find out for sure in a few more days.

Friday, May 14, 2010

HIVE INSPECTION #2: Good and not so good

Doing the hive inspection this time around was much easier than the first. I was so much less nervous so it made for a easy and enjoyable time. BUT... something isn't right with my hive. We just came through a cold snap of about 1 week with lots of rain and wind so I'm not sure if that would have anything to do with it but I believe my queen is dead. Did I kill her in the first inspection somehow? I have no idea.

In the first inspection things looked like they were suppose to look. Lots of brood (eggs and larvae) and one side of a frame even had capped brood. Ok wait, I just realized I couldn't have killed the queen during that inspection because there were 5 frames of capped brood in this inspection. The strange thing is, there were no larvae and from what I could see, no eggs either. I didn't spot the queen and I think she would have been an easy find since it wasn't like "bee overload" in there (it looked similar to last inspection). All capped brood were being fed, bees are brining in pollen, there weren't any queen cells that I noticed but there was a lot of dead bees at the bottom of the hive stuck in what looked like diarrhea. Seriously! It looked like a layer of water with diarrhea scattered about and a bunch of wet dead bees. My queen may be in that bunch, didn't take time to look at it.

I don't know what to do. Should I be ordering a new queen? Do I wait a few days and inspect again? Where did the water come from? I checked the sugar/water feeder which has been in place since Tuesday (I refilled a mason jar that I used the first week the bees were hived and it doesn't leak). The bees were on it eating away when I pulled it off. My inner cover was stuck to my shallow super which I assume was from the bees sealing it up.

I'm sad right now. My gut tells me the queen is dead and all I can say is I feel horrible. What did I do wrong?

UPDATE: I received some advice from more experienced beekeepers. The good thing is, I'm more optimistic than I was about the queen possibly being alive. Not optimistic about the fact that I moved frames around again and possibly put eggs on the edge of the hive body where they will freeze tonight. I've learned that a queen can stop laying due to cold or other issues or should I say "take a break" from laying. The only frames not full of brood are the outside frames and possibly the queen sensed that those were too cold for her babies???? It has been down in the 30's at night and between 40 and 50 during the day recently. I just hope that doesn't mean she will alert the others that it is SWARM time because there isn't any room to expand.

I also talked to Brian, the beekeeper who helped me hive my bees. He advised me to go out and scrape the water and dead bees out of the hive since the water pool was on the side of the bee entrance. I did it but it was quite the production. I got to see what bees are like when their tolerance level is running thin. More of them landing on me and hubby than usual and they buzz quite a bit louder. We happen to kill one bee and I'm feeling really badly about that. I know it comes with the territory but it still doesn't feel right to kill anything. It was a bee with legs full of pollen too :( All I picture is her working really hard to take care of her family and me cutting her life short. The poor girl. If anything does me in as a beekeeper it will be the fact that I'm killing something. Call it my PETA syndrome. GAWD I HATE PETA!!!!

UPDATE #2: Just read, if there isn't enough hatched brood in the hive to cover the frames than the queen may take a break from laying as there aren't enough bees to feed and keep the brood warm. Sounds logical to me. Another thing to keep in mind if I do find my queen is alive.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Honey Bee FACT of the week!

Honey bees will fly 50,000 miles and visit 5,000,000 blossoms to make 1 pound of honey. Honey bees are constantly working and although they are working hard to create honey for survival this is all done selflessly to sustain the colony.

Friday, May 7, 2010


What you put ON your body is just as important as what you put INTO your body. A lot of focus has been on food and how it affects our health. Remember the saying "you are what you eat?" Well, we are what we wear as well. Making sure we eat a balanced meal including fruits and vegetables is half the battle on our way to good health, now is the time to reexamine the products we put on our skin.

You may have read or heard how damaging phthalates, parabens, sulfates, and petrochemicals can be and then heard opposing information saying that there is no scientific evidence that these chemicals are damaging or absorbed through the skin. The most common opposing view is that these synthetic chemicals found in skin care products are used in such minute amounts that they are insignificant when it comes to the affect they have on our health. Ask yourself, does this contradictory view seem logical to you?

There should be no debate that all products get absorbed into our skin. Absorption merely occurs at different rates, depending on the molecular structure of an individual ingredient and depending on which part of the body an ingredient is applied. The skin absorption rate of a child is different that that of an adult just as well as hydrated skin is easier to penetrate than dehydrated skin. Also, the more skin you expose to a particular chemical the more you will absorb.

Once upon a time we believed our skin was a protective barrier, keeping us safe from the harmful chemicals in our environment and although this is somewhat true, for the most part it is not.

Scientists have always known that the skin readily absorbs certain chemicals, hence the invention of topical medications such as the birth control (patch), acne treatments, arthritis creams, topical antibiotics (bacitracin, neomycin) etc... so as it is now science doesn't support the view that products do not get absorbed into our skin and once those who held that view realized the evidence didn't support their claim they attempted to convince consumers that absorption isn't a concern because the amount of any particular ingredient in a product is so small. Again, not entirely a fallacy. The amounts are small but the untruth is that there is definitely a concern.

Consider this, you have a newborn baby girl with dry skin so you slather her with cream daily. The cream contains methylparabens, butylparabens, BHT, PEG-150, and simethicone. You wash your babies hair with a shampoo that contains PEG-80. Later, as your baby grows into a child you use even more products like sunscreen containing homosalate and oxybenzone. When your child grows into a teenager she begins using cosmetics that contain lead, petroleum, formaldehyde, aluminum, BHA, Coal Tar, DEA, Mineral Oil. You encourage your teen to wash her hands often with antibacterial soap to avoid catching or spreading bacteria and that soap contains triclosan. As an adult your daughter uses deodorant that contains aluminum chlorohydrate, ethylparabens, and propylene glycol. Yes, all of these products contain minute amounts of chemicals but they are used in abundance over many years and little by little as they are absorbed into our bodies they go through our blood stream, settling into our fat cells and their individual components combine creating something more potentially harmful than they were before you used them on your body. Again, this is no different than the medications (prescription or otherwise) that we've taken. We all know that certain medications combined in our bodies can be harmful even sometimes causing death. Chemicals in body products can have the same affect.

There is some mistaken belief that the FDA only approves products that have been scientifically deemed safe. After all, it is the FDA research that is sited when a company wants to convince the public that it isn't dangerous. Unfortunately, the truth be known, the FDA is understaffed and overworked. FACT: about 11% of the cosmetic industry is regulated by the FDA while the other 89% is self regulated. When a company is self regulated they do their own lab testing to determine if an ingredient is safe for use and then releases their own studies convincing the public that their product is beneficial for your body. Now ask yourself this, what company testing their own product is going to tell the public it isn't safe?

"Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives. However, FDA may pursue enforcement action against violative products, or against firms or individuals who violate the law."

"Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing."

"Recalls of cosmetics are voluntary actions taken by manufacturers or distributors to remove from the marketplace products that represent a hazard or gross deception, or that are somehow defective."

"FDA is not authorized to require recalls of cosmetics"

Remember, once upon a time mercury was considered non toxic and used in various products (dental fillings, preservative for mascara, thermometers) it wasn't considered a threat to our health until people started getting brain and kidney damage after being exposed to it. According to the National Geographic Society there was substantial evidence that mercury caused many deaths throughout history but that information was ignored. And although this information about the damage to our health has been known to the public since the 1970's it wasn't until the 2000's that legislation had gone into place banning mercury from use in certain products.

The same can be said for the use of Lead. It has been known since the first century A.D. That lead is dangerous to our health yet we continued for many centuries to find use for it.

Why? The many uses of mercury and lead were/are too important monetarily to allow certain health risks to halt their production and the same is true for numerous other ingredients on the shelves today.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

First, trust your eyes. If you can't read or pronounce the ingredient, then you don't want it in your product.

Second, know what the particular ingredient is, where it comes from and what benefit it is to you.

Third, if a study says a product contains a "miniscule", "tiny" or "minimal" amount of an ingredient so it is safe, run the other way. Miniscule amounts over a long period of time adds up to a greater amount being absorbed by your skin and retained in your body to meet up with other "miniscule" amounts of other potentially harmful ingredients. It is that cocktail affect that you want to avoid!

Fourth, always keep in mind that it won't hurt you to avoid questionable ingredients but it could potentially cost you your life if you don't.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Carrie over at Under The Willow Gifts has created some great dog shampoo. I recently purchased a bottle from her for my little ones (I have three chihuahuas) and decided to give it a go. Normally, they hit the groomers, but since my oldest isn't doing well on trips away from home and the others don't like to go anywhere without her, we've decided to do their bathing ourselves.

Here is my oldest getting a clean coat

Lathering her up:

Enjoying the warm water and massage:

I really love this dog shampoo.

#1 It is natural
#2 It lathers a lot
#3 It is silky smooth
#4 A little goes a long long way
#5 It smells great
#6 The scent lasts (2 days later and my dogs still smell beautiful)

Carrie was also very sweet as to send me two bags of laundry soap for cleaning my dogs bed and fluffy toys. Thank you Carrie!!

Please check out Carrie's store at:

or at her website


First off, I seriously should stop watching that U of M video because everytime I watch it I play the scenario out in my head how things are going to go and it never ends up that way.

Before I went to the hive my heart was racing like a ran a dang marathon. Not knowing what to expect when I lifted that inner cover was enough to cause a coronary. My problem is, as I now realize, is I treat those bees like porcelain dolls "oops honey, I'm sorry, could you move a little to the left?" or "OMG! I think I killed one" or "Oh dear, is that one alive because it looks like somethings wrong with it." Who talks to bees like that??? Um.... ME!

I should regain composure before doing this blog post but I want this whole venture to be about honesty. So here is honesty: I sucked at the hive inspection, I was drenched head to toe in sweat because I was so damn scared and guess what, my bees were angels. Go figure! I imagine if I could see their little faces they were snickering at how inept I was at my first peek inside their world. But I'll come to terms with that later, for now, this is how it went.

Went to the hive, opened the outer cover then the inner cover. Went to remove a frame and hubby had to remind me to remove the pollen patty first (yes, I'm a dork). I removed one outer frame (completely empty) and set it aside. I started removing one frame at a time to find brood. Completely forgot to count how many frames have been drawn out. Do I need to add a 2nd hive body? I'm not sure because I failed to notice that part. The 2nd frame had several bees but nothing else on it, 3rd frame had capped brood, 4th frame had brood (uncapped), 5th frame had bees but didn't notice brood. Found the queen on a frame with no brood (pretty sure it was her, she had the same clothing and that same "I'm going to eat you if you touch my babies" look on her face as she did when she arrived in the package). Immediately I remembered that video.


Disaster strikes. A damn wasp lands on one of the frames. The sucker was huge (AGAIN). BTW/these aren't those little yellow jackets, these twitches are big. I freaked out. I'm terrified of wasps and now I'm in a position where I feel like a mother hen protecting her babies from the coyote. My hubby's yelling at me to flick it off the frame but I thought that would spell disaster (my head was spinning wondering if the invader had family that would suddently emerge to attack my hive and steal their honey - what little of it they have). So I tried to cut it's head off with my hive tool and what happens, it falls down between the frames right near my queen. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! My hubby's yelling at me to hurry and get it out. I'm yelling obsenities at it and I keep reminding hubby not to move too quickly (he was about to start flicking frames around), so he backed off and I went down to the bottom of a frame to cut the wasp in half but it jumped onto the hive tool so I flicked it on the ground and I ended her pathetic little life.

Good Lord, I couldn't take anymore. Just when I thought all was well I started to panic AGAIN! Forgot to put the brood together, move the undrawn frames to the center and the drawn ones without brood to the outside. Right??? Now, I honestly can't remember where the hell I put the brood frames, if I put the drawn ones on the end and the undrawn in the center or even where they were suppose to go. The temp is suppose to fall tonight to 50 and stay that way for days. For all I know I killed all the brood because I didn't put them in the right place.

Ya know, the U of M beekeeping course made this all seems so simple but when you care and I mean really really care about these creatures, it isn't that easy at all.

Afterwards when I remove my beesuit and my hubby saw how drenched I was in sweat he asked if I wanted him to take over from now on. He told me that he wasn't nervous at all so if I wanted to give it up I could. I almost started crying I felt so bad. Mind you, I'm a bit hormonal right now but I truly feel like today was a bust.

Here are the pictures hubby took of the inspection.

NOTE: I need to find out why the pollen patty was sopping wet and not even eaten. Plus, do some serious thinking about how in the heck I can get in and out of that hive in 10 minutes without forgetting things. This time constraint is killing me.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Well, my life right now is about getting my garden in order, cleaning out the house (seriously, I have a roll-off sitting in the driveway), nursing my poor hubby back to health (threw his back out last week and hasn't recovered yet), taking care of my babies (children and my bees). I've been focussing on the bee venture lately (obsessing is a better word) so I haven't been doing much creating for my website. Gawd, I feel guilty about that. Hang in there people, hang in there, it is coming I swear. I did manage to create a custom order of foaming body polish.

I just packed 7 bars of soap for a swap that we are doing over at We Love Soap on Facebook. Can't share them yet since it is suppose to be a surprise. The theme is all natural and I look forward to seeing what others have made. I have 7 others in my group and they are all very creative so I will definitely be blogging about the swap once the soaps arrive.

I forgot to share a few photos of our trip to Mexico. We went the first of April for 10 days to visit my in-laws.

I'm also busy blogging about my beekeeping adventure over at MY LIFE WITH BEES so come check out the new pictures of my girls.



After visiting the beesource and reading some of the advice given by experienced beekeepers I decided to wait til Tuesday to do my hive inspection. It is suppose to be in the 70's and not very windy. I went out to switch out the sugar syrup for the bees and used the smoker successfully for the first time. It wasn't the first time I used the smoker, last time I used it the bees looked at me like I was insane. This time, after following some experienced beekeeper advice, I didn't smoke the entrance but I smoked under the outer cover and then shut the cover for about 30 seconds. When I opened the hive cover the bees had moved away from the inner cover opening a bit. I removed the sugar syrup container and then the bees rebounded and started walking out. To prevent myself from crushing one with the new jar of syrup I smoked them again and they all retreated far enough into the hole for me to put the jar in place again. It made me feel better about the smoker seeing it actually work this time. (now in typical Michelle nature I fear I smoked too much - grrrr with this self doubt)

When I was finished I decided to try and catch the girls working. I was hoping to get some pollen laden leg photos. Unfortunately I couldn't see very well through my veil so I just started snapping photos as they flew in. After about 5 shots I got the one posted above. I felt like I struck gold since it wasn't just one bee with pollen on her legs but 3 bees and the pollen is different colors. So very very cool!

NOTE: a big thank you to the helpful beekeepers that drop by and post on my blog and that give me advice on beesource. It helps A LOT!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I haven't inspected my hive yet. I keep facing weather that I've learned is not the most conducive for doing inspections in. Apparently when it is windy, rainy, cloudy, the bees tend to be more aggressive. All I need to do is get through the first inspection and I know I will be fine. It is this fear of the unknown that is killing me.

I grew up with this intense fear of bees. Having seen the movie "the swarm" when I was 7 and then being stung when I was 8 just didn't make for a love of stinging insects. Although I don't have the intense phobia that I once did I still have this ingrained nasty reaction to anything that flies. If it lands on me, without thinking or checking first, I always shake whatever part of my body the thing landed on to get whatever it is off. It could be a lady bug and yes, I will react that badly, only to feel like a complete idiot later. To be even more pathetic I react this way to things that aren't even insects. A piece of string dangling in view but not yet identified as string will make me jump. I know, I'm a moron.

I had someone watch over me when I hived my first package and I have the option of having him come back to look over me when I do my first inspection as well but I really don't want to. This is something I really really want to accomplish on my own.

I know everyone who reads this will wonder why I ever chose to keep bees if I'm not 100% confident around them. My only explanation, I honestly love bees. I love everything about them. I could have sat in class at the University listening to Marla and Gary talk about bees for days and never get bored. They are fascinating creatures and I feel honored to have them living in my backyard. I'm not all about the honey and beeswax, though that would be a bonus if I manage to keep my babies alive through the winter, I'm in it solely for the education. I want to learn about these fascinating insects more than anything. I want to face up to my irrational anxieties about them and see if I can become an accomplished beekeeper.