Friday, December 30, 2011

Pesticides and Colony Collapse Disorder

An excerpt from an article from the publication  "Pesticides and You" :

An internal EPA memo, leaked to the beekeeping community from an undisclosed source at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 2010, shines a spotlight on a key deficiency in the agency’s efforts to protect honeybees. With the high percentage of disappearing bees (cited to be at 30 percent) and the collapse of their very social hive community, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), hitting the front pages of news organizations, the leaked internal memo from the science division of EPA’s Office Pesticide Programs sent shock waves through organizations tracking bee health. After all, bees, as essential pollinators to food production, are a critical protector of life and the bellwether of environmental health.

Get the entire article HERE

Stingless Bees in Mexico

From Wikipedia:
Stingless bees, sometimes called stingless honey bees or simply meliponines, are a large group of bees (approximately 500 species), comprising the tribe Meliponini[1] (or subtribe Meliponina according to other authors[2]). They belong in the family Apidae, and are closely related to common honey bees, carpenter bees, orchid bees and bumblebees.[3] The common name is slightly misleading, as a great many other bee species, especially in the family Andrenidae, are also incapable of stinging, as are all male bees. Meliponines have stingers, but they are highly reduced and cannot be used for defense.[1]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hot Process Soap Making - VIDEO

On a cold and rainy evening brother Ben (from Georgetown Honeybee Company) and I wrestle with hot process soap.  We use a variety if fats that also include lard and beeswax for this batch.  The measurements and lye amount are listed in the Description section on the YouTube site.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Making French-Milled Soap From Our Honey Soap - VIDEO

We use our soap scraps from making our bars of honey soap (video to come!) to recycle them into hand soaps using the french milling process.  This process begins by shredding the scraps and melting them into a new mass that can then be formed.  The form we use is a length of PVC drain pipe that makes soaps 2 inches in diameter that can be sliced into 1/2 inch thickness.  Other forms can be used to do the same but in different shapes. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dead Bees at Church of the Pilgrims

One hive down, and so early in the year.  I blame myself for not confirming they had enough stores, as it is clear that they starved.

Monday, December 19, 2011

January Beekeeping Class, PART DEUX - Another Class Scheduled

We are offering a beekeeping class in January, Sat the 28th and February 4 from 1 to 4 in Georgetown.

Build a hive that you can take home,  learn the basics of beekeeping, and make some cool stuff from the hive.  Room for five only so lots of opportunities for interaction and one-on-one.  On day two make soap, candles, and balms with beeswax.  If weather permits (unlikely but we may be lucky) the brave of heart can go to the roof and pet some bees.  Spring is just around the corner so get yourself fully prepared to jump in!!

The cost is $300 but you get the hive, frames, a veil, and a textbook as part of that so the class is nearly free!  What a terrific way to spend a cold Saturday afternoon.  We even serve wine so invite your friends and make it an event!

email me at if you are interested.

New T-Shirt Design

Here is the new t-shirt for the Georgetown Honeybee Company, our sister firm.

 Email me at if you'd like one.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cool Car Magnets

We've just ordered a bunch of these beekeeper's car magnets!

Let folks know about your passion for your hobby while you spread the word about the importance of bees to the environment.

Email me at if you'd like one.

Friday, December 16, 2011

January Beekeeping Class FILLED!

Great news for the bees, we have had excellent interest in this class.  Don't worry if you did not make this one!  We will plan to have another in February, dates to be determined.

Please email me if you are interested in receiving information about this February class at:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Funny Honey

Chinese honey, is it real, or counterfeit?

Monday, December 12, 2011

January Beekeeping Class

We are offering a beekeeping class in January, Sat the 14th and 21st from 1 to 4 in Georgetown. 

Enlighten Governance

Who would have thought Chicagoans would beat DC to embrace beekeeping:

 I have to say I prefer living in the gray zone rather than being told how many hives I can have....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Communist Beekeepers...

I know we are helping the ecosystem, and I know that there are some awkward metaphorical allusions between a bee colony and communal living, but why does it always become a topic of conversation with the academic elite.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Candlemaking On A Rainy Day - Video

It was snowing and in the 30's yesterday, so the kids and I made some beeswax candles.  Note, unless you have a larger  (10+ hives) apiary, you are unlikely to generate enough wax to make a lot of candles...and it is not the most efficient use of your resource.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's That Time Of Year Again - ORDER YOUR BEES

Time to be thinking about ordering your bees.
Bee packages will continue to be in short supply and are already showing signs of significant price increases over last year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bees in the Rain -- Don't Mess

I always knew bees were rather persnickity in the rain, but I just got some firsthand proof. My mild-mannered Italians really did not appreciate me opening their hive about half an hour after today's showers let up. Perhaps the air was still pretty moist.

My hive is nestled next to my deck in small nook. All I was going to do was feed the bees some sugar water to prep them for winter. I didn't bother with my smoker because the last time I fed them there was no need -- big mistake. I got as far as removing the inner cover, then the bees let me have it.

At least a dozen were clinging to my clothes. One stung me on my thumb and another on my ring finger. By the time I was running back into the house, I noticed several others stuck on my pants. I managed to shake the majority of them off, and was left with four stings. But the worst part was the one that refused to exit my hair. I think it was more freaked out than I was, but I was finally able to shake it loose after a minute of intense headbanging.

Anyway, after a while, I was able to go back out there -- equipped with my smoker and thicker clothing -- and feed the bees.

I tried to do some research as to why bees' behavior is affected by the rain, but didn't turn up much, just that they can't fly during the rain. Either way, next time I'll wait for a sunnier day.

Had any bees-in-the-rain incidents?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Winter Cluster

You've probably noticed a rather sluggish hive lately, especially in the mornings. With recent nights dipping into the 40s and most days barely reaching 65 degrees, honey bees will be venturing out to forage less and less.

Honey bees will stop flying at about 50 degrees, and will instead cluster inside the hive. The size of the cluster will again depend on the temperature. As is gets colder, the cluster will tighten to maintain the center around 90-94 degrees. Check out this infrared photo of a beehive during the winter where the clusters are clearly visible.

Also around this time of the year, you might notice some dead bees strewn in front of the beehive. This is normal, and part of the process to prepare for winter. Right around now, drones are being kicked out of the hive so they won't be around to consume precious resources, and brood production slows.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vanishing of the Bees

I recently watched Vanishing of the Bees, which follows several beekeepers whose commercial pollinating businesses were affected by Colony Collapse Disorder. The filmmakers investigate potential causes of the phenomenon, eventually settling on the use of systemic pesticides, which aren't spread over the tops of plants, but are absorbed by the plant when applied to the seeds, soil or leaves.

While I don't think it's possible to blame the cause of CCD on any one thing, the documentary makes a compelling argument to target these types of pesticides. More likely, I think the cause of CCD is a great combination of factors, including monoculture, trucking bees across country to different nectar flows, and a combination of different diseases and mites.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Flowers

As most of the hives DC Honeybees has set up are less than a year old, it's recommended that those bees are fed sugar syrup around this time of the year to prepare them for winter. In addition to that, I wanted to supplement the sugar syrup with some late-flowing plants.

Luckily, DC has a relatively decent growing season -- it's in zone 7 -- and there are still some flowering plants out there that honey bees enjoy. Plus, DC has an average first frost date of Oct. 30, and it's been fairly warm lately. So, this weekend I was able to plant some Star Asters and Butterfly Bush, both of which provide nectar for bees and continue to flower into the fall. They're both perennials, so they'll come back next year as well.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Last Chance For Our Beekeeping Class

The class begins next Saturday (the 22nd) in Georgetown from 3:00 until 6:00, and will span three Saturdays.  Build a hive that you can take home, play with my bees on the roof, and learn the basics of beekeeping.  Room for five only so lots of opportunities for interaction and one-on-one.  On day three we harvest honey and make soap, candles, and balms with beeswax.

The cost is $300 but you get the hive, frames, a veil, and a textbook as part of that so the class is nearly free.

email me at if you are interested.

Georgetown Honeybee Company Up and Running

As I have described in the past, DC Honeybees is organized as a non-profit corporation with goals to propagate more bee colonies and teach folks about the importance of bees to our ecosystem.  In managing the company solo and then with Katy, I realized I needed to provide a mechanism to create a clean delineation between my own hobbyist activities and those activities associated with the management of the hives that DC Honeybees has taken on.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Farmers' Market

DC Honeybees will be at the Glover Park-Burleith Farmers' Market this Saturday, so stop by and say hi!

We'll have an observation hive on display and plenty of time to chat about bees.

The market is held in the Hardy Middle School parking lot on the corner of Wisconsin Ave. and 34th street. It runs from 9 a.m. -- 1 p.m., rain or shine. For more information, check out

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Green roofs: Bocce, bees and beauty

Another article about DC Honeybees!

Preparing for Winter

Here's a tip for getting your hive through the winter, and making sure the bees are cozy all season.

Because the bees form a winter cluster during the winter, keeping the inside 95 degrees and the outer edges 45 degrees, condensation between the temperature differential can accumulate within the hive. By the time winter is in full force, the bees would have sealed any cracks in the beehive with propalis -- keeping out wind. But, if moisture builds up, it can really decrease the warm temperature of your winter cluster.

So, one way to combat this is to attach a piece of floor padding, covered by a sheet of corrugated plastic, to the inside of the top cover. The floor padding acts as insulation and absorbs moisture. This article shows the process in more detail.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Funny Honey

Need another reason to eat (or harvest your own) local honey?

Andrew Schneider's recent exposé about the Asian honey market will give you at least one.

His article, featured in Food Safety News, shines light on several issues that contribute to "funny honey." According to Schneider, honey imported to the US from China can hardly even be called honey. At this point honey from China can contain a wide array of additives such as cor syrup, sugar water and malt sweeteners. "In recent years, many shippers have eliminated the honey completely and just use thickened, colored, natural or chemical sweeteners labeled as honey," Schneider writes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Urban Beekeepers

It seems bees are moving to the city -- and not just DC.

According to a recent Grist article, this fall marked the first year hobbyist beekeeping was considered legal in New York City.

"In March of last year, the New York City Board of Health and Mental Hygiene took Apis mellifera, the common honeybee, off [its] list of insects and animals considered too dangerous for city life," the article reads. "As a result, beekeepers registered a record number of hives with the board in 2011."

But along with the influx of "backyard" (more like rooftops and fire escapes) beehives, of course comes challenges like anxious neighbors and red tape.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Beekeeping in Connecticut: DC Honeybees Donates Another Hive VIDEO

My Brother Ben, who lives in Darien, Ct,  has taken an interest in beekeeping, and to capitalize on it and to expand our own activities we partnered to create the Georgetown Honeybee Company.  The New York metropolitan area is fertile territory for new beekeepers, with a strong focus on sustainability and a rich combination of both urban neighborhoods and large suburban lots.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DC Honeybees Happy Hour

Friendly reminder to all our DC followers...grab a beer with some beekeepers at Jack Rose (Adams Morgan) tonight beginning at 630.  Katy will be there so volunteers please introduce yourself to her as she is the master of the hive management calendar.


Monday, September 26, 2011

DC School Garden Week

Today was the kick off event for DC School Garden Week, which DC Honeybees is a proud participant of. As I've done in the past, I gave several beehive demonstrations to groups of kids at The Farm at Walker Jones during the farm tour. But this time, the hives we maintain were spruced up by fabulous signs created by a local artist and recent Corcoran graduate, Sarah Robbins.

Sarah secured her BFA in May and currently works for the Corcoran College of Art and Design. The signs look wonderful and will definitely mitigate the questions I get about the queen. For some reason, kids are enthralled about the queen and always ask to see her...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making 2:1 Sugar Syrup For Bees - Video

Now that fall is coming the bees need all the resources they can store to make it through winter, especially bees that were installed just this year.  A heavier syrup, called 2 to 1, is a concentrated cocktail that ought to get them storing sugar.  That is: 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. 

Boneta Reserve Visit, Paris, Virginia

We manage a couple of hives out in Paris, Virginia at this farm that is both an animal rescue preserve and a working organic farm and stand.  They have emus, goats, sheep, cows, chickens and ducks.  I think that covers all of it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pollinators Recognized

 After leaving the 5th Annual Teachers Night held at the US Botanical Gardens on Thursday, I was pleased to receive a poster that celebrated bees! Well, native bees.

Too bad the honey bee wasn't listed, as it isn't actually native to the US.

The common honey bee, Apis mellifera, has roots in Africa. About two million years ago, a branch of honey bees moved their hives indoors to the Winnie the Pooh-style, hole-in-the-tree type of  shelter.These bees slowly made their way up to Europe and further evolved to adapt to winter.

With the introduction of beekeeping, honey bees were transported around the globe -- especially after the Langstroth hive was invented in 1851. Now, because our beloved honey bee is technically an exotic species, one could argue their existence is not that vital to local pollination.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bees for Kindergarteners

My challenge today was to make about a dozen 5 year olds embrace bees -- which wasn't easy at first.

First of all, I'm behind the hives, lighting paper on fire -- a definite kindergarten no-no. Then I'm telling them to come and look closely at the frame covered in bees...

But once we settled the screams and panic attacks about stingers, they slowly started to come around.

The difficult part for me, was making the bees sound interesting on a kindergarten level.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DC Honeybees Helping the Smithsonian

This is what is cool about living in this city.  I got an email from noted DC beekeeper and bee promoter Toni Burnham searching for some frames of honey for these hives at the Natural History Museum.  Their hive has been slow to forage this year, and even though they have been feeding the colony sugar water, it has not expanded or deposited much in the way of resources this season.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

DC Honeybees Happy Hour - SCHEDULED!!!

Ok, here we go.

The happy hour is planned for Wednesday, September 28, 6:30.  Venue, Jack Rose Saloon in Adams Morgan.  Find us upstairs on the deck or in the ante room on the same level.  Parking is relatively simple if you are willing to pay a few bucks at the garage right off of Florida Ave (north of where it intersects with U St).  Meet our new Executive Director Katy, trade stories, and enjoy a beer with kindred spirits.  Hope you can make it!!


Sucessful Course Participants - PG County CC Beekeeping

In our second of our three-day course our participants got to have some real-time experience in the hive to work the bees.  The course, which originally had six folks registered, winnowed its way down to three, and today just two attendees.  That makes it easier and less formal for me, and more like private instruction for the group.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bee Tea Video

As we get into the end of the season one needs to be thinking about positioning the colony with both population and resources to get through the winter, the most dangerous time for the hive.

Population is a careful balance...too many bees and the colony will race through their stored honey stores, fuel they need to stay warm.  to few and they won't be able to create a large enough cluster to heat themselves or the brood.

So what to do...I always err on the side of heat and thus want my colony larger than most and my stores heavy with carbohydrates:  honey and sugar syrup.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Would You Do To Feed Bees?

Would you climb this ladder, in the rain a skirt?

That's what I did today, so that our hives in Mount Vernon Triangle wouldn't go hungry. As it's just about my second week as executive director, I haven't visited all of our hives, yet, but I'm working on it. Today, I set off to feed the two hives on the rooftop of this building. Granted it's a one-story building, but I had to lug my milk jug full of sugar water and beehive smoker.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DC Honeybees Happy Hour

As we end the season, hopefully successful for most of you, I was thinking it might be appropriate to arrange some drinks at a local watering hole to share stories, ask questions, meet our new executive director and otherwise have a cocktail amongst kindred spirits.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bread for the City Bees

I checked in on our hive at Bread for the City today, and it looks great! The bees seem to be taking to the division board feeder.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beekeeping Course

Now that I have this beekeeping course under my belt at the Prince Georges County Community College, I can replicate the syllabus in the District.  I have received numerous emails from folks asking about courses in the City, so now, let's see if we can get a few of you committed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Photoshoot at Farm at Walker Jones

I hope all this attention doesn't go to my head!!  I received a call from a reporter who does a segment for the Washington Post Magazine called First Person Singular.  They were anxious to interview a beekeeper, which as it happens I am.  The photographer has some pretty particular requirements for the shoot, and was afraid of our roof, so we ended up shooting at 7am at the Farm at Walker Jones.

Monday, September 5, 2011

We Have T-Shirts

We now have T-shirts available in small through extra large.  Want one?


As I write this, I am surrounded by the buzzing of hundreds of bees that have made it into the house thanks to my own stupidity, and my fingers look like sausages thanks to the stings I worked through to solve this crisis.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

For Our DC Readers: Showing of The Capital Buzz Tonight!

A reminder that The Capital Buzz will be showing at BloomBars in Columbia Heights tonight at 7:00 and will be followed by a spirited panel discussion.  Refreshments will be served!

Here is the link to the movie site

Here is the link to BloomBars

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Crush and Strain Honey Extraction - Video

We have another video, this time of the crush and strain method of harvesting honey.  Nearly six pints from three frames....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Now That's A Nuc! And Eggs At Church of the Pilgrims

I stopped by the church this morning to check on the Italian hive, the hive that swarmed a few weeks back.  When I inspected the hive a week or so following the swarm I failed to detect any eggs or brood, and thus assumed that the hive was queenless.  To remedy, I took a frame of open brood from the other hive and added it to the Italian hive, giving the colony an opportunity to create a new queen. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Check Out Some More Great Press

Check out the link, HERE

Rhode Island Apiary, Result of Two Breeds

These hives, which we have the rooftop of our house in Rhode Island, were installed in early May, one from a nuc (the Italians, the hive on the left), and one from a nuc made from our April Russian packages (on the right).  The behavioral differences between these hives is surprising.  More interesting is the philosophy I took in managing these hives (primarily because they are difficult to reach and the residents of this house are bee antagonists):  I LEFT THEM ALONE.  That was heeding my own advice to our new beekeepers, but not always easy to do especially given the number of installation failures we experienced with the April Russian packages that required quick and regular intervention.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Setbacks and Success at the PG County CC Hive

To refresh our collective memory we have two hives here at the community college that were part of the April install of our Russian shipment.  They seemed to struggle from the beginning (much like the hives we have at Bread For the City) and we requeened, traded frames, rebalanced, all for naught. 

When I installed a brand new nuc in the right hive, two weeks ago, the left hive was still showing reasonable signs of life.  But on today's visit there was no ambiguity, all lost.  So on the left hive I need to install a new nuc pronto...perhaps next week and with the swarm we captured.

The right hive, however, is looking great.
 Those are some pollen patties on top that I left for them when I installed the nuc.  but you can see how active the hive is on either side of them.  And they had taken about a gallon+ of syrup in the couple of weeks since they were installed.

So note to self, nucs are the most dependable way to go to start a new and robust hive so screw spending money on requeening unless that queen is going into a nuc for development of a new hive.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Adding a Honey Super To Church of the Pilgrims

My great camera is away for the summer up in Rhode Island, so this IPhone picture will have to suffice to show the current condition of the two hives at the Church.  The hive on the left (Russians, installed from a package this April) has blossomed into a large and mature colony.  I took out the internal feeder, replaced it with two undrawn frames, and stacked a honey super on top.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Screening of The Capital Buzz

Please join us on August 23rd at 7:00 for a screening of The Capital Buzz, a short film about urban beekeeping in the Washington, DC area. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bread For The City Hives Taking Off (FINALLY!)

 Two of our 51 April installs ended up at Bread For The City, an organization with the mission "to provide vulnerable residents of Washington, DC, with comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services, in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. We recognize that all people share a common humanity, and that all are responsible to themselves and to society as a whole."

They had a large renovation and construction project that ended this spring, and one of its new additions was a rooftop garden on which they grow all sorts of veggies.  We had hoped to improve their yield and add honeybees to their educational component by partnering with them and installing two hive.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Narcissist In Me

Wants me to direct you to the following site:
There is a short film that these very talented folks produced that happens to feature my beekeeping family and me and showings of the documentary are planned locally, soon.

They say the camera adds ten pounds.....

Reminder About Our Beekeeping Class

We will be teaching a class at the Prince Georges County Community College in September (located in Upper Marlboro, MD).  It will be a 3-Saturday class of three hours each with a focus on the basics of beekeeping and the economic opportunities associated with the activity.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Swarm at Church of the Pilgrims

I had a big bee weekend this week, hitting almost all the hives we manage including those in the far reaches of Maryland and West Virginia.  My first stop on Saturday was the Church, which has two hives that have truly thrived without much attention or feeding from me, a testament to to the ample foraging opportunities in our city.  Their Russian hive has filled up two deeps and I am considering adding a honey super, and their Italian hive, installed in May, needed a second box which is why I was there on Saturday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Been Away For A While, I Know!

This new job of mine has me working like a dog and I have been unable to attend to the beekeeping as much as I would like.  Also, I leave the area most weekends to see my family who is away for the summer, so there are no opportunities on the weekend to play.  That said, I have been attending to a large number of nucs on my rooftop when I can get the ladder out, and am installing a new hive here and there for new beekeepers.  I also have some new beekeeping observations:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Have Nucleus Colonies


I have been putting together nucleus colonies queened with some terrific genetics from Long Lane Honeybee Farms and Russell Apiaries.  They will be ready, and booming in about two weeks.  This late in the season they will require regular feeding through Fall, but the Spring should produce an excellent colony while pollinating your garden today.

I'm at if you are interested.