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.