Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve 2010, 50 Degrees and Buzzing

With temperatures about 50 degrees on the roof there was significant bee activity outside the hives.  One of the hives (Newport), however, did not break cluster although a few strays were seen entering the hive.  Of the other two large hives, what will be Westerly and Providence were flying vigorously. 

Sadly, our nuc looks dead...I did not peak in but I saw no activity at the entrance and the weather has been very cold.  I do not think the cluster was large enough to deal.

Of most fun was being witness to several bees doing their "cleanse," although these were not the cleansing 'flights' we have been told about in beekeeping references.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

PBS Show....Silence of the Bees

While the piece is a bit dated, the information about the biology and importance of the honeybee remains current, and very cool.  Here is the link:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wind-Damaged Hives

I was looking out our skylight to see if I saw any activity on the roof and was shocked to see the corner of my upturned hive stand lying across the window.  When I hit the roof it looked as if vandals had hit although fortunately only the unoccupied Wickford was in shambles and Newport and Narragansett had supers off-kilter and a hive top blown off.

Narragansett had plenty of action at the hive entrance, perhaps due to the missing top...but that action was in stark contrast to Newport, which despite the break in the cold (it was about 46 degrees) had only a stray or two flying.

The eastern stand, Westerly and Providence, was unharmed and the double stacked nuc that will eventually occupy these hives was very alive, as the photo above shows.

We've been contacted by several community gardens lately about beekeeping in Washington, DC where their operations are located.  I hope to get a couple of new installations out of these conversations.  Bee sting fears continue to be a hurdle.

National Public Radio Piece On Honeybees

NPR had an interesting show about the bee on their Science Friday segment.  The transcript and the audio can be found here:

and the start of some nice videos associated with the program is here:

Happy 200th birthday to Lorenzo Langstroth, inventor of the modern beehive.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day Spring Planning

The young humans had us up at 7 this morning and finished assaulting the presents under the tree within an hour.  Everyone happy and fed with breakfast, naps were next on the to-do list leaving me, now, some time to muse about the near future with our bees.

...And a bit of anxiety.  I received from my kids Kim Fottum's The Backyard Beekeeper as a gift.  He reminds us the per-hive honey yield one should expect to net from the hives - north of 100 lbs!  And while I relish the idea of harvesting and marketing the honey and including the young humans in the endeavor, I confess that neither the economics nor the effort are terribly compelling.  That said, at Christmas Eve dinner last evening at Clyde's restaurant we had some honey on a cheese platter that got the whole family talking bees.

And it got me wondering if bulk honey production to sell to local restaurants (as local Georgetown honey) would solve two problems with honey production: 1) sales distribution; and 2) time investment.  An added benefit might be some reference to our local honey on restaurant menu's to continue to improve our outreach, especially to a demographic we are probably missing right now.

Do not misunderstand, I am interested in cultivating honey, but with perhaps seven hives on the rooftop by April, that's a material amount of honey and time exposure.   So here is my plan:
  • Let the honey flow for a Carni, a Bee Weaver, and a new Russian hive.  This will give me some important comparative production data points;
  • The remaining four hives will be aggressively managed and split to produce nucs for mid-summer sale.
  • Our modest operation will fund it's mission with a focus on propagation of bee colonies rather than the sale of bee byproducts.  Those byproducts will be distributed strategically to provide outreach, education, and awareness of our mission.  Surplus funds (please let there be some!) from any of these activities will be used to donate installations.
Merry Christmas, and thanks for caring about this stuff.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Roof Visit, Christening of the Hives

Western party wall
 I have adjusted the hives on the roof to take them off the flat roofing surface and placed them on brick party walls that separate our house from our neighbors.  Several reasons for this decision:
  • It raises the hives up above the adjacent surfaces to reduce the risk of snow covering the entrance;
  • It gangs the hives on the most structurally robust portion of the house;
  • It partially obscures the hives from new homes going up across the street thanks to the chimneys against which the hives abut.
Eastern party wall
I have also finally labeled the hives to keep them straight in my head.  The western hives are: Narragansett (active), Newport (active), and Wickford (empty for now).

The eastern hives are Westerly (empty) and Providence (empty).  Our active but unlabeled double hive will transfer it's bees to Westerly and Providence after the last freeze.

Kaitlin prays over the bees
The western hives sit on leveled frames of 1 X 3.  The eastern hives are on similar framework that is then in turn sitting on some mechanical dunnage.

Christmas Eve is a day for reflection and faith, and it is my faith that gets tested as I go to the roof and witness the silence of the girls.  My concern is reinforced by entrances full of dead bees.  There were a couple girls flying around, perhaps to reassure me - not terribly effective.

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Beekeeping Partner

While not technically urban, the Fresh and Local CSA in Shepherdstown, WV ( has volunteered to help us get the honeybee initiative off to a bang.  They will try to arrange sponsorships to finance the hive start-up costs, and DC Honeybees will manage and tend the hives.  Given their 72 acres, I hope they get lots of sponsorship as that is a lot of terrain!  We will let you know how that relationship evolves, but I have high hopes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Preliminary Fondant Results......

...Are not good.  I placed the fondant, while in a one-gallon container, upside down on some newspaper on the uppermost top bars.  The fondant was very firm and my expectation was that the bees would eat through the newspaper and get to the sugar.

My inspection proved otherwise.  The fondant had melted completely and had puddled first on the newspaper and then down through the hive, draining through the ventilated bottom board.  I can only assume that the bees had generated enough heat and moisture to melt the fondant into that gooey mess.  It has been very cold here, in the 20's, so heat outside the hive ought not have been the cause.

On my smallest hive where I place some more firm fondant I also saw significant moisture on that newspaper and some very still bees in on the fondant.  Some of this moisture could have been the result of snow-melt from yesterday's storm, I just don't know.

I placed the lemon-spiked sugar on the final two hives today and two bees came right up to it, so perhaps the infusion of zest will help.  I will check on their progress with the sugar in two weeks.

I have one more batch of the runny fondant and may place it RIGHT SIDE UP in the hive and see if they take any of it.


Wedge Top Bar and Divided Bottom Vs. Grooved Frame

Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Snow - Georgetown, December 16; 12:25pm

 One of the best reasons to live in Georgetown and forgo the seduction of the suburbs is the snowy day.  It is really beautiful and a great reason to get out of the house.

Today has been a great day to get ready for the coming spring with the bees.  I am putting together new frames for honey supers that I hope will be full of sweetness this summer, all while sitting in front of a roaring fire.  And thanks to several adventurous new urban beekeepers I am assembling hives for them for Christmas delivery.

It is probably too early for a glass of wine, but I can think of no better setting or weather system to pour one....


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bee Feeding Part 2 - Table Sugar

Part 2 of my winter bee-feeding experiment, today with simple table sugar enhanced with lemon zest.  If this wind clams down I will add this to my last two hives, placing a sheet of newspaper on the uppermost top bars, pouring the sugar on that, and then placing a shim above that so that the sugar has some space.  The hope is that the scent of the lemon will alert the bees to the presence of the food and they will eat through the newspaper to access if needed.  This is similar to other posts I have read that suggest using vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in pollen patties to improve the acceptance of that food to the bees.  I will let you know how it all turns out!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Making Bee Fondant To Winter Bees

I tried my hand making fondant today...I think candy makers would be proud but worried how the bees feel.
Still feeling sticky!!!

QR Codes

A buddy of mine turned me on to these newfangled bar codes that can, among other things, link people to websites via a scan with a phone app.  so here is the QR Code....

I feel like I'm reading the Matrix

The New York Times Thinks We Are On To Something

Rooftop and backyard beekeeping in NYC.  Are we next?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Two New Honeybee Colonies Planned for Spring in DC

Exciting news...two new clients are putting our bees on their property.  One will be a backyard installation and the other will be on the roof of the house.  I was able to accommodate each with improved pricing thanks to free shipping deals being offered by my supplier.

For $200 you can get from DC Honeybees an assembled 10-frame basic hive, full of bees, for a spring installation.  And remember, DC Honeybees is mission-driven to propagate the honeybee.  All surplus proceeds from our sales activities go to purchase more bees, equipment, and supplies to further this mission.

The gentlemen both shared that selling the idea to their wives was not an easy task.  Cheers for new mid-life hobbies, and more bees in DC.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Nice Piece On Varroa and CCD

Community Gardens and Local Food Initiatives

I've reached out to this community as well as local universities to discuss our bee propagation and rooftop initiative and have been frustrated with the silence.  If  you know of possible DC-area benefactors of honeybees, please introduce them to us!

There is some urgency as spring will be too late for us to act.....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deals of Hives and Hive Bodies

BIG SAVINGS.  Some of the suppliers of the basics are currently running specials and free shipping for large orders, meaning there are deals to be had prior to the end of the year.  Please email me at:
if you are interested in ordering hives, frames, foundation, and hive bodies now for a spring installation.  Those saving also translate into saving for established hives (both garden and 10-frame), with bees, ordered now and installed in spring.  I know it's hard to think so far in advance, but don't forget that you will be germinating your vegetable seeds indoors in 45 days and hardening them off in 90.  Spring will be here before we know it!

Pray for the wintering bees.....


Monday, December 6, 2010

Local (Sort of) Source for Package Bees in DC

Miller Bee Supplies up in north Baltimore is selling packages for pick-up in mid-April.

He is bringing up both Russians and Italians, and even better, in 3 or 4 lbs packages.  I'm putting together an order if anyone wants to join me and I am looking forward to trying out the Russian bees after hearing about their productivity, mite resistance, and wintering ability.  Two of these packages are headed to the Mount Vernon Triangle for the CID's hives.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Where is the DC Bee Community?

Here is a copy of an entry I made to a DC beekeepers blog where I vented a bit on the weak activity in this critical policy-making city:

I'm feeling very alone in this market given the relative quiet on the local blogs regarding beekeeping, including this one.  The local beekeeping associations, to which I belong, are also short on outreach or even modest organization.  For instance, I wrote to one association asking about whether they are planning a bulk package buy for this spring, and I have received no response for 30 days.
I am please to offer the link to my blog which is updated regularly and which describes our initiatives and their modest success.
Come on, people.  The bee is dying and the beekeeper is aging.  We need new, young blood and outreach is the key, coupled with partnerships with like-minded organizations.

Was that like going postal, or what?  Tomorrow, I jaywalk.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter is Finally Upon Us

We had our first near freeze last evening and the girls are not flying today.  The mild weather from which the bees have benefited looks to be behind us and now the long wait-and-see begins.  Have I fed aggressively enough for energy stores?  Should I have fed more pollen patties (they were bringing in pollen as late as two days ago)?  Do I have the right breeds to overwinter?  Should I insulate?

Of course I’ve been doing all the wrong things to ease my mind.  The information on the net is all over the board on feeding and wintering with some saying they never feed and the other extreme describing copious pollen supplementation and sugar feeding.  So I am considering strategies to implement mid-winter to feed with sugar candy.  I will be anxious to see what’s under the cover, and moving, after Christmas.

One bit of good news is that I found a local supplier of package bees and he indicates he will have some in March.  That will let me get a head start on a few new hives I am installing for clients, and give me an early package in case I lose a colony. He still has packages for April and May and is located in Stafford, Va:  Rocky Hill Bee Farm.  Nice people and am looking forward to getting my kids down to see how the pro’s do it.

I’ve been getting confused about which hive has what bees in it when I describe them.  I have generally been unsupportive of “named” hives, thinking it a bit silly, but I have now caved to the idea.  In honor of my wife’s Rhode Island heritage I’m going to name them after Rhode Island towns, with Narragansett being Hive Number 1. I hope to make a couple of nucs up this spring and drive them to our home in RI where we can establish some colonies in that state.