Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ready for marketing

Jeesh, how long it's been since I posted. Let me catch you up.

My hive made it through the winter with gusto; Joel's did not. I split my hive 5/1 and made a new colony in Joel's equipment, grew my own queen and everything.

My hive has produced 6 frames of honey in June and today I pulled off TWENTY ONE more. Plus there's at least another 6 in there that are almost capped and ready to go. I'm running out of equipment!

Joel's hive is going slower. I just put the first honey super on them today. The spring season is pretty much shot, but there is the fall season. I just have to figure out how and when and if to treat for varroa mite and nocema. Last year we treated mine but not Joel's for varroa and both for nocema, and only mine made it through the winter. Coincidence? Who knows. But I do want to treat again.

Julia is still in the hive as of today, but the poor old girl's laying patterns are starting to fail. Looks like she's going to have to be replaced in August. That bums me out. I hate killing things, and she's done SO well by me, it's a sucky way to end your life. But I keep telling myself it's's either me doing it quick or the bees doing it slowly and painfully. The question is whether to buy or make a queen (or to combine Joel's colony with mine...but I kind of don't want to do that). Timing may not be right to make my own for the fall since we are going away and I would need to buy deeps to put in the nuc to do so, but maybe I can figure something out.

My biggest pressing question at the moment is how to market this stuff. I have played around with packaging and labelling and have a plan for the moment (I loved the hex jars that are shaped like a honey cell, but they are too expensive, so I bought some 8 oz "skep" jars from Everett, which are acceptable but I need to also buy some 1 lb jars since the 8 oz are kind of small for people buying; they're more for giving away as gifts). The 8 oz skep jars are in the front of the below picture, with the 1 lb plastic jars behind them. I don't really like the 1 lb plastic jars aesthetically, but they are practical to ship; lightweight and with a dripless bottle (so you can store it nose down and squeeze it like ketchup). And just to give you an idea of volume...the bottles below contain the 6 frames worth of honey processed in June. I have 3.5 times that sitting in frames at the moment ready to harvest. That's about pehaps 72 pounds more of honey or 6 gallons. Good grief. I mean YAY!!

And where do I market? I don't want to put a cart out front, since who knows what the town would say (I was told I need a food license to harvest honey, which nobody in the bee club believes because I'm not cooking it or adding anything to it; it would be kind of like picking lettuce and selling it on a cart). But I have the daycare out back too and I don't want parents freaking out about honeybees being in such close proximity to the daycare. Plus if the shop next door sells honey I don't want them to feel like I am undercutting their sales.

Maybe I should try Etsy. People sell honey online on Etsy. There's the S&H that I have to contend with, which may result in repackaging once again (I like glass far more than plastic, but it's much more expensive to ship). Maybe I should put a sign in our cars saying "fresh honey" and our phone number or something. Maybe I need to find a friend that does a local farmers market. Maybe I need a sign out front. So many maybes!

If you are interested in buying some pure raw Bristol County honey, they are $3.75 for 8 oz, $7.00 for 1 lb, plus S&H unless you want to pick it up (or unless I can deliver it if I work with you or live near you). I'll post an Etsy site when I have it up. My email is if you want to contact me about a purchase (or call me if you have my number).

I will also think about any trade (stuff you offer me that I could use) for honey!!

Monday, August 24, 2009


So I worked the Rochester fair bee booth yesterday from 2-6. Getting there was interesting. First, I had to figure out where Rochester was (it's sort of between Carver, Wareham, and Lakeville). The fair had a website but NO directions. I googled the directions (565 Roundsville Rd.) and printed them out. Halfway there, just as I crossed Rt. 28, there was a huge accident in front of a vegetable stand, and the police were rerouting traffic. Oh, crud. I pulled off the road and tried to use Navigator on my phone to figure out how to get to 565 Roundsville, and I couldn't find the road. I tried to remember the roads in the intersection where the fair is from online, and I did a pretty good job at figuring it out. I was only seven minutes late...that is, until the nice police officer made me turn left and park a half mile away from the fairgrounds!!! I schlepped my equipment up to the bee booth at about 2:20. Sigh.

After the inauspicious beginning, though, it was fun. It was RURAL, but it was fun. I mean, come on. Where else on earth could you watch a ride-on lawnmower race? Our discussions with our patrons were quite often interrupted by the lecherous blacksmith to our right, the lowing cows and goats at the petting zoo to our left, or the tub racing announcements at the main field in front of us. It was very funny!

As we were packing up, I finally got to meet Jeannie, a woman who I've emailed back and forth to. She's the education coordinator for the bee club. She told me a rather alarming story of her first year of beekeeping, when she kept the supers (they are the shorter honey collection chambers at the top of the hive) on until she was ready to extract, and the bees ATE THE HONEY!!! Like, ALL of it. Yikes!

So today, I decided I was taking off my supers. Or at least those frames that were ready. And boy, that was an experience. I'm chalking it up to one more thing I wasn't accurately prepared for.

First of all, I try not to do bee work anymore because of the daycare behind me. The last thing I want is to have agitated bees and kids walking around nearby. Secondly, and here's a newsflash: BEES DO NOT LIKE HAVING HONEY TAKEN FROM THEM!! They made it, they worked HARD to cure it, and they are not very happy when a big bearlike human dismantles their hive and steals it. Third, I had no clue what to do with it when I got it out and no equipment!!

In the end, I only got three frames off. There were seven full frames of honey, but four of them need a little bit more capping (that's when they seal the honey) until they are ready to be extracted. I ended up having to make three new frames to replace the ones I took. I'd been hoping to reduce to one super, but it didn't work out that way. There weren't enough empty frames to do so already in the hive.

I put them in a clear bag (Jeannie said to do this because the wax moths need the dark) and brough them in the house, but now I don't know what to do. I either extract (and therefore need access to an extractor) or I crush and strain (which seems like an awful waste of, well, basically ruin the wax on the frames and you surely don't get much out of them!! So I guess now I store them and hope that I get near an extractor before the wax moths get near them. I think I'll stick them in the freezer, I've seen that as a suggestion.

One thing is for sure...I am SO not taking honey off of Joel's hive alone. Those bees are what they call in the bee world "hot", and I am too nervous about them to even try. So I'm going to ask him to join me to remove his honey. And then hopefully all four of us "newbees" will be able to put our heads together and do the extraction thing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Three bee tales

Greetings and salutations! I haven't had a lot to post for the month of July and into August because I haven't really been going into the hives quite as much. I figured let them do their thing while the honey flow was on, you know?

Last weekend, Joel and I made a foray into our hives. He had 2 supers on, I had one. His was ready for another super and mine looked like it was getting close!! Unfortunately, we didn't have the equipment ready, so I told him I'd take care of his on Wednesday and work on mine this weekend. I really don't like going into the hives midweek any more because of the whole spraying incident behind us.

On Wednesday I had two bee experiences. First, my bee friend Sandy had a big issue with her "left hive" (she has two). Apparently, she lost a queen. The bees "made" a new queen, but she couldn't find evidence of the new queen in the hive. She saw no eggs, no larva, no queen (granted, hunting for an unmarked queen is like trying to find a needle in a haystack), and a dwindling population. Her right hive continues to thrive, so she was very concerned. She ended up getting a new queen from one of our mentors, Everett, who also runs an apiary supply business. Here's what he told her:

"Put the queen cage in your hive. Don't poke an opening into the cage (the queen cage is usually plugged up with "candy" which looks like nougat or a marshmallow, and you poke a hole in it with a needle and the bees eat their way through to release the queen). Instead, check her in five days. If the bees are attacking her and trying to kill her, your natural-born queen is alive and well. If not, release her, the hive needs a new queen."

Doesn't that just sound MEAN??? Not to mention, the new queen was an Italian queen, and very tiny compared to her hive, which is full of Carniolan Goldline workers. The Carniolan queen is a pretty big bee!

So she asked me to come help her on Wednesday. We opened the hive, couldn't figure out if the bees liked the new queen or not, although she seemed to be cowering in the part of the cage that wasn't open to the workers. But lo and behold! we found eggs in one of the deep chamber frames. That means that the queen that hatched is alive and well!!

So I guess she returned the Italian queen to Everett. I'll have to ask her what the fate of the queen was. Queen bees are expensive!! It can run you anywhere from $20 to a couple hundred bucks, depending on the quality and breeding of the queen.

Being that I was in the swing of bee-checking now, I decided to risk it and throw Joel's third super on at home. I figured it wouldn't take me more than 10 minutes to do so. I opted not to smoke them, which was a really big mistake.

Joel's bees, as I've mentioned, are way more aggressive than my hive, which may explain why they also have more honey. So when I opened them up, the aggression "scream" hit fever pitch almost immediately, and I had a bunch gather on my veil and start pinging my head. Things got worse as I dismantled the supers (I wanted to put the new super right above the first chamber to make them fill it faster, and I had to pull a frame from one of the full chambers to put in the new super to attract them to it in the first place). I wasn't too freaked out until I realized that there were several bees IN my veil. Apparently I had slit my veil somehow. Oh, the drama! I miraculously peeled one off that had attached on my lip, and I did a couple fast laps around the house, screeching like a banshee. I ended up with two IN the house after all that, and had to shoo them out after giving them a few minutes to calm down. And I STILL had to go put the outer cover back on after all that. Ugh. It was awful. I don't know how I didn't get stung.

Today, I had my kids help me put together ten frames so that I could put a second super on my hive if need be. I wasn't too psyched to go into a hive, but you know what they say about getting back on the bike....and besides, I was working with my sweet, gentle bees. And you bet your sweet bippy that I was going to smoke this time. And I borrowed Joel's (unpunctured) veil to do the job.

My older daughter ended up being an ace at putting the support pins in, so we banged out those 10 frames in no time. I lined them up in a new super and hauled them to the hive. Sure enough, they needed another super! Yay! I swapped out a full frame for a new frame on super #1 and threw the new one on top. I grabbed another full frame, swept the bees off, and brought it into the house to show the kids. There's nothing like bringing in a full frame from the hive to make people jump off your couch and run for cover! I made double sure, though, that no actual bees were on the frame when I brought it in.

As it turned out, I had made a small hole in one of the corners by accident, so I allowed them to dip their fingers in to taste it. Even my husband tried it. The verdict unanimously was "DELICIOUS!!" I wish I had tasted it now too!!! But I still had my veil on. I suppose I could have taken it off, but I was covered in honey and I didn't want to get everything sticky.

So....when you do the math, it looks something like this. If a medium frame is filled side to side, top to bottom, both sides, with honey, you get about 4.33 pounds of honey from it. If you have one super full of honey, then (as I do), you have a little over 40 pounds of honey. Joel has two supers full, and perhaps he'll get a full third one, and I'll get a little more, so let's assume we each get another half super. That means I'll get about 60 pounds and he'll have ONE HUNDRED pounds! Local honey is selling for $6-$7 a pound, which means that we'll have a decision to make. If Joel sells 50 pounds of honey, he can make back the cost of the hive startup, and keep the other half. I'd have to sell most of mine to make up the cost, but I don't think I want to do that. I'd like to sell some, but keep the most for Christmas presents and cooking use.

Here's food for thought...I read an article yesterday that warns that we may have a HUGE sugar shortage building up over the next 18 months. There was too much rain in Brazil this year and not enough in India...and they are the two biggest suppliers of US sugar. I wonder how many people will turn to honey if that is true? Honey prices could soar if it is. Of course, we apiarists will be faced with a challenge of feeding them in the spring and fall (since you supplement with sugar). Huh. Something to think about.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One down, one to go

I began checking both hives today after a vacation and bad weather hiatus. I haven't really ripped them open to the bottom chamber in, oh, QUITE a while. Plus, I've heard several reports of swarming (heck, with all this weather, I'm ready to go to), so I figured I'd check on the status of things.

Unfortunately, I was only able to get to one this afternoon, my own. My dad is visiting later this afternoon, maybe I can rope him into doing the second one with me. Joel's hive tends to be a bit more aggressive (I swear, I'm not saying that because I'm convinced one of his girls stung me), they rush towards anything that moves in their hive, it's hot, I'm dehydrated, and man, those full frames are HEAVY. Oh, and I'm working on a big project at work. That was pretty much my lunch break.

So, the deal is that I put on a super before I left on vacation. They haven't done much with it, but I think maybe they're poised to, if we can manage a sunny rest of the summer. The bottom chamber still had empty frames on either end, so I switched them out a little, giving the girls something to do. The upper deep had, just as my friend Sandy was telling me yesterday hers had done, two full frames of honey on either end (as opposed to the textbook pattern of each frame containing "stripes" of honey on top, a thin band of pollen, and brood on the bottom). Full brood and/or honey frames are VERY heavy, and now with three on, it's hard to navigate them gently, so there was more squishing than in the past. Feel bad about that. Plus there are just SOOOOO many bees and SOOO much propolis (bee glue)!! It took a lot longer than normal to even chisel the frames out of the chambers. I didn't spot the queen...actually come to think of it I didn't spot eggs either. I wasn't really looking for either though as of about halfway through, although I should have been. I'm still a little gunshy on sticking my head too close to the frames. Ah, drat. I just realized I didn't sugar them either; we're supposed to sift powdered sugar on them every three weeks or so to treat for varroa mite prevention. Sigh. I guess I didn't do a great job. I have to get back in the saddle. I guess my next bee inspection of my own hive won't be too long in the future, and I will know better what to look for and perform with Joel's later today or this weekend.

Monday, July 13, 2009

First Sting 7/2/09

I'm a marked woman. Or at least my head is. I went into both hives between the raindrops on 7/2/09 because I needed to replace the syrup since we were leaving on vacation for a week and a half. We'd taken it off the weekend before, but were advised to put it back on due to the weather and the fact that they still had comb to build (we put on a super each, knowing we wouldn't be back in for a week). Because I was just doing the syrup, I went with my usual "eh, veil, schmeil" attitude. This was probably my first mistake, since I had grumpy, hungry bees, most of whom were cooped up in the hive due to the weather. But still, I got my sugar topped off just fine, half the job done. I went the long way around our yew tree so as not to get in the middle of the bee highway as they madly dashed to the flowers between raindrops, and stood on the "lawn side" (or between the hives) of Joel's hive. Oh, bother. His sugar can was on the OPPOSITE side of his hive. This time, I got lazy, and crossed the beeline. I think this was my fatal mistake. What I think happened was that one of his mad dashers ran PLUNK! into my unveiled head, got stuck in my hair, panicked and stung me right on top of my head, about 5 inches above my right brow. YOWZA. And off went the pheromones of the stinging bee, which may have accounted for the several more that landed on me. I could hear at least one still in my hair, and I stumbled into the front yard where my husband was performing some last minute repairs on the RV. I think I yelled every four letter word, and then some, so that the folks in Mansfield must have heard me. That finally got his attention, and he came to my rescue, brushing off the rest of the bees and disentangling the one from my head.

So, well, I guess the upside is that I know I'm not allergic now. And my kids appreciated that I couldn't raise my eyebrow at their antics for 24 hours. BOY did it hurt, though, and I think my veil will see a lot more use from now on!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gilsum Rock Swap weekend

This weekend, we headed to the Gilsum Rock Swap in Gilsum, NH. What the heck is a rock swap?
It's a place where crystals, jewelry, geodes, minerals, and everything geological are found. It's the next town south from my mom, so we thought we'd make a weekend out of it.

I never thought I'd finish packing and organizing the house to leave, but finally we limped out around 1:15 on Friday afternoon. First it was a quick stop at my grandfather's house. He's in his mid 90s and still lives in his house, but he has a caretaker. Mom takes a shift for the caretaker once a week so he can get a day off.

Then we drove to Marlow, NH. That's where my mother lives. It's a pastoral town of 747 as of the 2000 census. Mom moved there in 2006 or so, so I guess that makes it 749!! She lives on an old farm in a house that they've been building for a long time. Every time we visit they've made progress. In addition to the house, there's one big garden and several small gardens, and a barn and chicken coop housing three alpacas, a donkey, a geriatric horse, and a couple dozen chickens.

I cooked for the family on Friday night, chicken stir fry with farm vegetables. Yum!!!

Saturday morning, we headed to Gilsum for the Swap. What a cool place!

There were tons of booths with minerals and jewelry and everything "rock" you can think of. We watched a young girl pick out a geode and have the man crack it open with a heavy chain.

There was a collective gasp as we all heard the CRACK and then it was time to peek in. It was BEAUTIFUL inside!!

My little one took a shine to the egg-shaped opals.

At lunch we sat with these two older gentlemen, one of whom turned out to be a medicine man from a nearby Native American tribe. He offered my mother a stone and prayed over the stone - with her holding it. It was a magical experience!

After we were done, we had a treat at Walpole Creamery. Their ice cream is delicious!!

Finally, it was time to head back. There were farm chores to complete!

We discovered just how crazy the chickens are. You see, although they have this beautiful and spacious chicken coop with lovely nesting boxes, they don't use the boxes. Not a SINGLE one of 'em.

We had an old fashioned Easter Egg Hunt that afternoon, finding eggs in the craziest places...the grain bucket, behind the water trough, in the hay bucket, under the horse's one of the hens sitting on four of them.

All in all, we got an even dozen.

Dinner by me again, my brother headed over. This time it was Southwestern style salad on Taco Pizza Shells. It was a big hit!! Later, we headed to my brother's house to socialize a little bit. He lives in Alstead, NH, a small town that was devastated by flooding in the fall of 2005. Mom lived in the house he now lives in, actually, when the flood happened. If you go to the following link, go to the link for #5 (Alstead) on the map, and look for pictures of the white church with the red brick bottom, the house is about five lots up the hill from that church on the other side, walking distance to the "village bridge." It was a trying time but boy, that little town is so resilient.

This morning we headed back home, tired but happy. It was quite a fun weekend!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ooooh, that smell!

Last night when I got home from work, I went to check on the girls. I always do, make sure they're up and about, see what they're doing, see what color pollen baskets they've got on for the day :). Well, last night I was still a good five feet from the hive when the smell stopped me short. It was a VERY GOOD SMELL, the smell of fresh honey!! I was very surprised to smell it so strongly though. On, people say it's an indication of a good honey flow. They say to listen for the "roar" of the bees curing the honey at night. Could it be? One week of rain and now a good honey flow? At any rate, it took every fiber of my being not to crawl in there and sample. Goodness, it smelled exquisite. I wish you could post smells on the web, I'd love to share it.

I was going to wait to check them until next week, but now I'm wondering if I should just lift off that inner cover and make sure they've got enough room to grow. I am itching for that first super to crown my deeps!!