Sunday, July 11, 2010


I had someone on facebook ask me about propolis and royal jelly so I thought I'd share a bit about them on my blog, as much as I know anyway. I keep hearing about all the health benefits and have looked into this a bit for myself so I'll share what I know in that area as well. I'm going to give the short version since the long version can be googled or found in several books. I'm just going to post the nitty gritty.


Short version: Honey comes from the nectar of flowers. Bees collect the nectar, bring it back to the hive, pass it on to other workers, the workers process it internally released enzymes into the nectar to break it down then regurgitating it into the comb. Because nectar contains a high percentage of water, the bees have to reduce the water content and they do this by fanning their wings near the honey comb. Once the water content comes down to a certain percentage (18.6% to be exact) the bees seal off the comb holding the honey, saving it for future consumption (either for themselves or by us... well, they don't realize they are doing it for us because if they did they'd probably poison it). LOL!


Short version: nurse bees secrete royal jelly from glands on the top of their heads. Royal Jelly is used to feed larvae. Initially the bees will feed royal jelly to larvae but it is only used long term if the larva is to become a queen and then the queen continues to eat this throughout her life.


Short version: beeswax is excreted from glands on a worker bees abdomen. It is through the consumption of honey that a bee produces this wax. Bees use the beeswax to draw out comb in new frames inside their hive. Once the comb is drawn out this is where pollen, honey and brood are stored.


Short version: pollen, as most people know, exists on flowers. Bees collect pollen in special little baskets (aka pollen baskets) on their hind legs. Once back at the hive the bees mix the pollen with water and then store it in the comb for both the workers, the queen (pollen helps create royal jelly) and to feed the larvae. Without pollen, bees and the brood would not survive since pollen is packed full of the protein bees need to live.


Short version: Bees collect sap from trees, mainly poplar trees, and after it is mixed with beeswax it is called propolis. This propolis is like cement and the bees use it to seal up the hive. Since the queen hates light and cold drafts can kill brood, all openings are filled with propolis. Propolis keeps bees healthy! Bees use propolis as an anticeptic in the hive, lining the cells in each comb. They also use it to wrap up introducers like mice once they are stung to death. This prevents disease or other bacteria from infecting the hive.

The benefits of all the above are many. I've personally experienced the health benefits of honey each time I've had a cold or laryngitis. Propolis is said to be beneficial when antibiotics like penicillin or amoxicillin have failed. Beeswax has a number of uses including as candles as an ingredient in body products.

To read up on the health benefits of propolis, click here.

To read up on the many uses and studies of royal jelly click here, here, and here.

The many uses of beeswax, click here.

Studies on pollen, click here.

The great thing about honey, click here, here and here.

I've just posted a few interesting links to read on the benefits of the above. I've also listed some links that give details about studies done, some of which show that evidence of benefits on some of the above are inconclusive. I know there is solid scientific evidence to back up the health benefits of honey and propolis but as for royal jelly and bee pollen, although I believe they are beneficial, the scientific community still seems to be debating it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Some of the flowers I planted. This is butterfly weed. I thought it was so pretty growing around the lake, I decided to plant some in the yard.

Another pretty flower but I have no idea what it is. I'm too lazy to look at the hang tag out in the garden. It is a perennial and it spreads, that is all I know right now LOL! (Just learned that this is a: obedience plant, Physostegia virginiana. Thank you Cindy Naas Stapleton for recognizing the flower and giving it a name.)

Our broccoli is coming along nicely. Not sure what ate the leaves and maybe a more experienced gardner can enlighten me as to whether whatever ate the leaves are a good or bad thing??? (just learned that this is a cabbage loper (white butterfly that lays larva that eat the leaves) thank you Priscilla Powers Bue for the education! I now need to get out there and look for larva before they do anymore damage)

Ok, the only problem I have so far with gardening is not knowing when to harvest things. Is this lettuce ready to be harvested?

My lemon balm is growing great. Just need to have that tree removed that is sticking out behind it so I can make room for more.

I'm VERRRRRY happy with my rasberry bush. Next year I will plant several more since this year was such a success.

Here is a little bit of our fourth celebration.


Yana terrified on the baby slide.

Maya and Yana on the merry-go-round.

Middy's beautiful face.

Last but never the least, me and my fran in the garden.


It is hard to fully appreciate the scale of which my bees have multiplied in just a couple months in this picture. I video taped but the sound effects didn't transfer well. There was a nice humming sound coming from the mass of bees flying about outside the hive. I stood only 4 feet away when I took this picture but as usual because the sun was finally shined and the air was warm the bees were too busy to notice me standing there.

Thousands of bees were flying above the hive but unfortunately you can't see that in this picture. To see them in this fashion makes me wonder how someone with barely any yard at all could actually keep bees without the neighbors having a nervous breakdown. When my bees come out in large numbers like this they tend to occupy a good portion of our backyard which is over 1/2 an acre, and even then I keep waiting for the neighbors to protest a little.

I was happy to see the girls out and about this afternoon. I'm waiting for a more condusive moment to rearrange the bottom two hive bodies (a partial reversal), maybe when the third hive body is 80% full of honey.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Of course, the day I decide not to bring out the camera to the bee yard I get stung three times in my hand. Well, I did have gloves on and THANKFULLY the stingers didn't penetrate the goatskin or else I'd be in misery right now.

I'm not sure if my bees weren't in the mood for me before I arrived or just vice versa but neither of us are in the greatest moods today (maybe they sensed that about me when I opened the hive and reciprocated in kind.

This was the first time I experienced cranky bees. Usually they are happy just flying about but today they were GROUCHY and buzzing so loudly it sounded like a massive army marching ahead. They targeted me and avoided the hubby, swooping around my head in a rapid motion and their buzz wasn't that lulling hummm I usually hear, more of a "I'm going to kill you unless you retreat immediately" sound.

There were several casualties... one was a bee on the top of the frames. She looked as if someone ripped her wings off as she rolled around kicking. I suppose she could have been one of my assailants since it was clear she was dying. I only saw one of my attackers, still stuck in my glove trying to pull itself free. I flicked her off quickly and removed the stinger (smoke smoke smoke to avoid pheromones blowing about). It was too late, I'd missed two prior stings and the girls were arleady in attack mode by the time I'd been stung I noticed the third sting.

Again, I was distracted by the fact things didn't go according to the book, or should I say, according to University of Minnesota instructions. Eleven days ago I added the third hive body with one full frame of drawn comb and bees. I inspected today to make sure the queen had moved up and was laying eggs but unfortunately I found no queen and absolutely NO BROOD! So for now, I'm at a loss. Did the queen get killed somehow? Is she still working in the 2nd hive body and just hasn't moved up. Right now I have 2 full frames of honey in the third hive body, so the other bees have moved up easily and are working but somewhere, somehow, the queen is left behind :( I have no clue what to do?

Friday, July 2, 2010


I just thought this was the cutest thing. The bees connecting to each other to cross frames. And here my primitive brain just figured they walked all the way to the bottom and crawled back up the other side. LOL!


Hibiscus is my favorite natural soap colorant. Not because it creates a vibrant color in my soaps but because hibiscus has so many beneficial uses. I learned about hibiscus as a tea when I was a student living in Mexico during the early 1990's. In the town I lived in the Jamaica Tea (hibiscus) was plentiful, at every corner and every restaurant. When I'd visit my then fiances family home I'd always get Jamaica Tea with my dinner. My mother-in-law in later years told me that Jamaica Tea was used to detoxify ones body. After learning this I did some research and sure enough, it has many health benefits including an ability to cleanse the liver (something modern science is just learning but the ancients of Mexico already knew).

As for soap, I just tried it because I always have it on hand. I was hoping it would create a beautiful red/pink soap but as with most natural colorants mixed with lye, that wasn't the case. Instead, hibiscus creates a nice tan color. Anytime I want a tan soap that doesn't contain honey (another way of making soap tan), I use hibiscus.

Where to find hibiscus locally?

It can be found at local ethnic food stores. We get ours from El Burrito Mercado (Mexican Market)

Steps to Creating the Tea:

This is done the same way any tea is done. These steps probably aren't necessary for those who make tea regularly but I'll just go through them anyway.

I take out how much hibiscus I think I'll need, which is usually a handful, but for the purpose of this soap I measured an ounce and mixed that with 16 ounces of simmering water.

I let it simmer until I feel like most of the color has been absorbed from the leaves. Usually 5 minutes. Then I strain it.

I don't mix hot water with lye (no no no), so I just pop the tea in the freezer while I get my oils and other things ready to go. The freezer cools the tea pretty quickly.

Proceed with mixing lye into water, etc... After you pour the lye into the water you'll SEE and SMELL the different. You no longer have a beautiful maroon-ish tea but instead a pukey brown that stinks equally as bad as it looks.

Mix it with the oils as usual... it will still smell pukey. Additives included as usual. Pour in mold and this is the color you'll see:

And this will be your final bar: (some things can affect the final bar color, things like fragrance and other additives but usually in terms of how dark of a tan you'll get)

NEXT WEEK: Parsley