Showing posts with label Bees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bees. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I thought this was cool.  Jim at Natures Nectar talks about moving our hives, explaining his process. The hive in the picture was our 2nd year hive :)

Natures Nectar: Moving Hives

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Last year I read the book "Bee Propolis: Natural Healing from the Hive" and although I was eager to make a propolis tincture after reading the book my bees weren't cooperating. They weren't making much propolis. This year I bought another package of bees and they are propolis crazy. I was able to go into the hive a couple days ago and scrape a generous portion off the side of a hive body.

Propolis is messy, sticky stuff that is composed of resin and wax and bees collect the resin mainly from trees, the poplar tree being a favorite source.

Contents in propolis: resin, wax, essential oils, pollen, other organics and minerals.

Here in Minnesota propolis is a yellowish brown color but the color varies in different areas of the world. Propolis is used by the bees to seal up cracks/space in the hive. Usually they stick it anywhere the drafts come in. They also use it to wrap up intruders like mice. Propolis is antibacterial so encasing a mouse in propolis would prevent the spread of disease within the hive. It is also antimicrobial and is being researched as a treatment for HIV

But I'm interested in its ability to treat winter ailments. So on to the details on how to make a tincture. A tincture is a medicine made by dissolving an herb or a plant in alcohol, glycerin or vinegar. I use 80 proof vodka. I took the following tincture recipe from the book listed above.

The process:
When I scraped the propolis from the hive two days ago it was warm and sticky and I did it with my fingers which was a big mistake. I spent the entire day trying to get it off. Today was a much cooler day so it hardened enough that I could handle it again. I could have put it in the fridge to harden but that would have been too easy, right! :D

Step One:
Gather supplies
(vodka not pictured here)
You need a bottle with dropper. A little funnel (unless you want a big mess) a marble size bit of propolis and a small bottle of vodka (about 2 oz will be needed).

Step Two:
Put the propolis in the bottle. (Now the book recommends cutting the proplis into little pieces and then putting it into the bottle, I chose not to follow that step).

Step Three:
Fill the bottle with 80 proof alcohol (vodka). Cover. Shake. Keep bottle in a cool dark place. Shake once a day and leave for one week before using.

I've done things a bit differently than was suggested in the book. Our family will not be taking this as a preventative so we didn't want a large amount. The book suggests taking a few drops per day to boost the immune system or prevent colds and coughs (which goes along with their larger recipe). Small amounts are recommended at first due to the fact that nearly 1% of the population has been found to be allergic to propolis.

I won't list all the things that propolis is good for because I don't want someone reading this blog and then thinking that propolis can cure their ailment. I'm not a doctor. I just trust what I've learned about my bees and their gifts and wanted to share a bit of that information with my readers. Please do more research if you are interested in using propolis.

Here are some of the things propolis has been used to treat (not all of these can be treated with a tincture. Some require propolis creams, ointments, tablets, etc...):

Dental Problems
Coughs & Colds
Fungal Infections
Immune Support
Back Pain

Wondering where you can get propolis? Contact a local beekeeper or check at your local farmers market. I would avoid buying it at the store since commercial varieties come out of areas like China and reports warn of the possibility of contamination.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Our water issues are solved... at least I hope so. This is the first time we've ever used a landscaper and I'm glad we did. Since we moved into our home the backyard has been one big pain after another. First we had to remove numerous dead trees and way too many buckthorn to count, second was the rock. Rock, rock, rock, that is all there is and have you ever tried planting ANYTHING in rock? It isn't possible. This year it was the water. We've always had standing water in the back yard but nothing compared to this past winter. With our record snowfall we ended up with a pond in the yard that eventually connected with the pond in the park behind our house. One big massive pond equals one big massive mess (mosquitos and stench in the spring). Well, it looks like we may have a yard again thanks to the professionals **fingers crossed. Thanks to everyone that listened to me cry and complain about this disaster for months. Now it is time for a summer party on the new deck in the pretty yard! :)

See water? That is only the a 1/3 of it. The rest is underneath the snow.

Landscapers begin:

It is coming along nicely:

Almost done. Hubby and I spent 5 hours today spreading mulch in the paths to get ready for plantings. I look forward to working on this all summer:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I am happy to see pollen coming in. I don't know where the girls are finding it, I'll assume dandilions since those are growing all over my yard.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I had the luxury today of witnessing some bee suicide or maybe it was bee eviction and a little bit of bee poop. Is that a luxury?? Oh well, for a beekeeper it is.

I tried getting close enough to clear the lower entrance of snow but the girls weren't having it. They did, however, let me sit back and watch as they gathered to toss out several able bodied sisters, at least they were kicking and buzzing so that meant able bodied to me and I also watched as a few flew in and out to do their "business."

Cleansing flights come early for Carniolans because it is only 35 degrees F today and most beeks and books say cleansing flights usually happen above 50. Hmmmm... maybe it wasn't eviction or suicide at all, maybe the girls think they have the strength to cleanse but they don't :(
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Friday, November 26, 2010


One of my girls left the hive but didn't make it back. I'm assuming it was recent because she isn't covered in snow. My daughter found her in the driveway, quite far from her hive, so I don't think she left her home to die but maybe came out when the sun was shining but got too cold??? Whatever the reason, it is always sad to see them like this but it's natural nonetheless.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I read this today and I must admit, I'm less and less surprised by this garbage. When is there going to be a turning point? Like I've said a million times before, always read behind the research. Just because it says "scientist so and so said" doesn't make it valid.

According to an article in the New York Times, the mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder has been solved! The part that bothers me the most about this is how many people will actually believe it. When people believes lies they behave accordingly. This article puts honeybees at more risk.

The New York Times recently declared the case of Colony Collapse Disorder, the great bee die-off, "solved." But the reporting hyped the science and left out important conflicts involving the lead scientist.

many scientists believe that a novel class of pesticides called neonicotinoids -- which are insect neurotoxins -- has played a major role in CCD worldwide. An Italian entomologist at the University of Padua, Vincenzo Girolami, has research currently undergoing peer review showing that bees can be exposed to lethal levels of these pesticides through the use of seeding machines that sow neonicotinoid-coated seeds. These devices throw up a toxic cloud of pesticide as they work: bees fly through the cloud and either die or take the pesticide back to the hive. Once inside, even at low doses, it can cause disorientation or, as Girolami calls it, "intoxication" of whole hives.

The maker of this pesticide is Bayer CropScience. What does a corporation do when it discovers it may have developed and marketed a dangerous and potentially devastating product? Here in America, you confuse, you obfuscate, and you buy off scientists.


Monday, August 9, 2010


This plant/herb is taking over my yard, choking out all the flowers and other weeds (that I actually like) but the upside to it is that my honeybees LOVE it. This is the first time I've seen hundreds of honeybees head straight over to something in my yard. They aren't the only insects in love with this plant either, there are bumble bees, wasps, and other things I can't identify. Can anyone identify this crazy plant/weed?

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.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


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.

Friday, April 30, 2010


annnnnnnnnnd I haven't inspected anything yet :( We were suppose to inspect the hive in 4-7 days after installation. I procrastinated. I've been very nervous about the process so I thought waiting til day 7 was the best. Ok, day 7 was yesterday and it was rainy, cloudy and windy. Of course now today is rainy, cloudy and windy and tomorrow is suppose to windy and cloudy. I feel horrible. All I can hope for is that the queen is laying eggs and the bees have enough pollen (I haven't checked the pollen patty since install because that is suppose to be done on hive inspection). I notice they are bringing in copius amounts of pollen on their little legs so I'm not too worried about that. I checked the sugar syrup, half of jar has been consumed in 2 days. Just really really hoping queen mama is ok and that my delaying the inspection until her daughters are in a better mood won't do any harm.

(NOTE: not the best to inspect on cloudy, rainy days since the girls will be a bit more testy).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Today while out digging in the yard a wasp came and landed about a foot away from me. Bad memories of getting stung when I was child came flooding back. Wasps are my enemy. I know every insect has their place in society but I just can't find a soft spot in my heart for a wasp, hornet or yellow jacket. I love love love honey bees, bumble bees and mason bees but those other ugly stinging insects can trigger a panic attack if they get too close.

Unfortunately we have a serious mole problem in our yard. Moles leave cavities in the ground which allows wasps to move in. Last year while mowing my hubby was stung 3x's in the leg. In late fall we notice paper comb all over the yard. ICK! is all I can say.

The wasp I saw today was 2 inches long. I cut its head off and the darn thing kept walking (with only the head and front limbs). DOUBLE ICK! I know they are moving in and I'm worried about my babies. #1 my children, #2 my honey bees.

I don't know if any of my readers have ever seen this YOU TUBE video of the Japenese Hornet trying to kill European Honeybees but it is very depressing and I'm not about to let this happen to my hive.


Is coming and I must admit, I'm somewhat afraid. It was one thing to hive those little buggers but opening the hive after they've already established themselves is another thing altogether. So far I've had two anxiety ridden nights just thinking about it so I try not to think. I know that THEY know the hive is now theirs so I'll be trespassing on their territory........ shiver.

For those who may not know, when I posted previously about inspecting the hives to make sure they were eating I am just opening the top cover to see if they are consuming syrup from a jar but for this inspection I'll be opening the inner cover to see the bees in all their glory (lol). The purpose of this inspection is to see if the bees are drawing comb and the queen is laying eggs, if these two things aren't happening than something is wrong.

Why am I scared? When bees don't have a home, like when I hived them for the first time, they are pretty docile (not aggressive). Sure, they can sting, but it isn't very likely. For the most part they are disoriented because they have no home, no honey to protect, so they tend to just fly around, staying oriented towards the queens scent. When they are hived and drawing out the frames with comb, they've established themselves as owners of the hive. Who would want someone intruding on their home?? The bees are no exception. So pardon me while I feel sick to my stomach for the next 3-4 days.

NOTE: Those white suits don't keep you from getting stung. Basically all they do is keep the bees calmer than they would be if I wore dark colors like blue, black or brown. So yes, the bees sting through the suit.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


My mentor reminding me that I forgot to cut slits in the pollen patty and hubby handing me the knifen while video taping. Me pouring the bees into the hive. After the bees and queen were installed I spaced the frames equal width apart and mentor watches to make sure I do it correctly. 4/25/10 - I checked on the girls to see if they are consuming the surgar syrup and it appears like they are. A picture of the guard bees. They removed one dead bee from the hive and left it outside the door. This is a pic of our hive from our deck. Thank you to my darling daughter Maya for taking all the pictures for me!


Hiving our bees did not happen without incident. Firstly, I had to create a top feeder for my new babies. Usually this is done by filling a 1 gallon bucket with sugar syrup, poking a few holes in the cover, flipping it over on the inner cover of the hive so that the bees can use their little tongues to eat. Well, it didn't work. The water kept pouring out, which would drown the bees, so #1 we panicked first! #2 Then we called another beekeeper to see what to do, then #3 we had to run around to look for a large enough mason jar to feed the bees. Finally found one with little time to spare to hive the bees. Around 6 pm my mentor came over to oversee the hiving while my next door neighbors came out with their binoculars to watch me. We suited up and he verbally walked me through the process. Of course, when it came time to remove the feeder can from the box in order to free the queen and dump the bees the darn can didn't want to come out. My mentor worked on it, I worked on it. I'm not exactly sure how long it took but it felt like ages before my mentor finally got it out. I pulled the queen out and set her aside, then picked up the box to dump the bees in the hive. Most of them went into the hive without incident but a cloud of bees quickly formed above my body. My hubby was behind me video taping and I could hear him yelling to our kids, who happen to be watching from the deck about 15 feet away, that the swarm was growing so they'd better get inside the house. I was surprised that I wasn't worried about being stung but I did feel my knees shaking beneath me. I wasn't sure if that was anxiety or the fact that my knees are worthless and I'd been leaning on them a long time. I was so focussed on following all the steps I learned in class that I didn't really worry about all the bees landing on me (hubby said there was over 2 dozen on my back). At one point I reminded myself that if I did happen to get stung that I must remain calm so the words "remain calm, remain calm, remain calm" started spinning in my head. I released the queen (BTW/she's stinkin smart. She had her little nose pressed up against where I was about to open and she was ready to get out), when I released her she THANKFULLY crawled out onto the frame. I spaced the frames, put the jar of syrup on and closed the hive. My mentor had me leave the openings to the hive accessible for the bees because there were still too many hovering outside.

We left all entrances open for about 30 minutes and then slowly, one by one, my new girls found their way into the hive. There were a few stragglers on my gloves as we were cleaning up so I watched them walk around and use their little tongues to explore. I found myself falling in love with my new babies. I no longer saw them as insects that I feared but instead I felt about them like I feel about my dogs. I want to care for them and make sure they are happy.

I can happily say that I did not experience a single sting (one day down and a million to go, right?!) but my mentor received a sting on the hand. Thankfully it didn't go through his gloves.

BTW/I learned something interesting that I was not previously aware of. I ordered Carniolans but I received Italians. My mentor explained to me that the queen is a Carniolan and her babies are most likely pure Carniolans. The Italians are best to have initially as they build up the frames quickly but the Carniolans will come after the initial batch die off.


I inspected the hive to make sure the girls were eating. It looks like things are going well so far. I crouched down about a foot from the hive to watch the bees. They were already busy doing what they do best, hunting for pollen. I watched them file out single file and fly in non-stop. I didn't notice any pollen stuck to their legs but hopefully that will come in the next day or two. I'm inspecting them every day just to make sure they don't run out of syrup.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


What should I do with all the dandelions?

It use to be that I knew three things about dandelions. (1) They kill grass (2) they are medicinal and (3) they are edible. As for the edible part, I'm ok with eating dandelion greens, my grandmother used them in salads, BUT.... who wants to eat a dandelion that has possibly been peed on by my dog while on her potty break or worse yet, contains pesticide blow over from the neighbors lawn. < That's the best rationalization strategy that I've got.

Now, to make me feel even more guilty for digging my dandelions is the new knowledge that honeybees LOVE them. In our class at the University we were encouraged NOT do dig our dandelions so that our little girls could visit them and bring nourishment back to their brood. Ah, the thought just breaks my heart. A bunch of woman out on a days work looking for food for their babies and all they find is empty black holes because Michelle was vain about her lawn and dug them out. Not the best way to go about building great relations with the soon to be new residents at my house.

I'm sure when our European ancestors brought dandelions to the new world they never imagined that we'd be trampling them, cursing them and spraying them to death years later. To be honest, I'm not even sure why I do it anymore. A nasty habit maybe? I guess I'll have to ponder this one for a while and possibly I'll have a change of heart when the 2nd round of yellow lions rear their heads this summer. For now they are all gone, into a heap in my compost bin.

Dandelion Recipes

Dandelion Wine

Dandelion Salad

Dandelion Salad II

Dandelion Fritters

Why honeybees need dandelions

Dandelion pollen is moderately nutritious and the nectar is abundant. It doesn’t normally produce what we call a ‘surplus’, i.e. enough nectar to produce honey above and beyond what the bees will use for themselves, so you won’t generally see dandelion honey for sale, but it gives the bees a huge boost and adds to the health and wellbeing of the hive


Monday, January 25, 2010


I walked by yankee candle company today and saw this cute little honeybee candle holder in the window. Usually you couldn't pay me to enter that store because the mixture of intense fragrances gives me a massive headache but I couldn't resist. At first I admired the honeybee from the window and then hubby urged me to buy it. I gave in because it was so darn cute and it cost so little. It is a gift to myself since I have such a long time to wait for my class to begin. For now I'll have to fill it with someone elses beeswax candle but someday I'll be able to fill it with one of my own :)