Don’t Spray A Swarm

Don’t Spray A Swarm

Don’t Spray a Swarm!

??It’s National Pollinators Week, and swarm season! ??

Beginning in June and ending in September or October, honey bees start to swarm. This is a natural event that is meant to increase the bee population.

What happens is that a hive becomes crowded, and (usually) the old queen and about half of the bees in a hive leave to start a new colony.

A virgin queen, or a queen cell, along with the other half of the bees stay in their original home.

The bees that leave will head out and hang in a cluster, usually on a tree branch. They’ll send scout bees out to look for a suitable new home. Once a suitable home is found, the bees will all take flight and move into their new digs.

They usually only hang out in a cluster for a few hours to a day or two. They’re most often very gentle while swarming because they have no home to defend.

If you see a swarm, call a beekeeper!! If you’re near the thumb or Tri-Cities, contact us, Bee Lovely Botanicals. In most cases, we can safely remove them and give them the cozy new home they’re so desperately searching for.

DO NOT SPRAY THEM!! If they frighten you, just let them ‘bee’ 😉 , knowing they’ll probably be gone by the next day. Please share this post to help #savethebees !

Adopt a Hive

Hi Y’all,

We just got back from Nashville, can you tell? We were vendors at the Country Living Fair and we were so happy to get a little southern sun and warmth while there. We also were blessed to meet so many wonderful vendors and customers. We want to thank all of you that participated in our questionnaire from last month. It definitely was nice to get to know you a little more and gain some valuable information on how to serve you better. Congratulations to Danielle on winning the $50 gift certificate for participation.

I know we make what we do look easy (he he he), but it can surely take a toll on a person’s spirit to always need to be on the cutting edge. We were so very encouraged by our neighbor vendor who had been doing shows for awhile. She gave us to the great advice to follow God’s direction (if this is on our heart then continue, He will provide a way to make it happen).

We know we have a great product, we love beekeeping, and we love the opportunity to serve our customers. However problems always crop up that make doing those things challenging. Computer issues that make running an online store difficult, having all of our bees die over the winter (apparently the US has had a huge bee die off this past year), and finding time to wear all our many hats can be very trying.

This beautiful, sunny day, we are going to clean out our hives. This is probably the saddest beekeeping day of the year, but even more so when you have no surviving hives. We’ve already missed seeing them buzz around the yard when the temperature creeps up in early spring, and our budding dandelions look really bare this year.

While we were in Nashville, we spoke with a bee inspector from Ohio. He said that both Ohio and Tennessee experienced heavy losses this year. We’ve also heard that large commercial operations in Michigan had losses exceeding 75% and that no hives survived in one Michigan county.

It’s discouraging and expensive to have to replace your entire apiary. If a cattle farmer lost all of his cows, if a majority of beef farmers over 3 states lost even half of their herd, people would wonder what was going on. When a beekeeper loses bees, people say you should have put them inside, you should have used antibiotics, you shouldn’t treat at all, you should this and that all day long. The truth is, this is a problem much larger than any individual beekeeper’s methods. Traditional, natural, non-treatment beekeepers all sustained heavy losses.

Bee populations are sustained by beekeepers. We read a recent study that bee populations are rebounding, and CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) is not a problem any more. Looking at the surface of these statistics, the number of beehives in the US may be on the rise, but the true statistic you need to look at is survival rates. If you were to look at the population at the beginning of March this year, my guess is that it would have been very low. In another few weeks, beekeepers will be rebuilding their hives, and the numbers should look a little closer to normal. Should beekeepers stop rebuilding their hives, the true weight of the problem would be realized. Ross Conrad has an excellent 6 part series on the effects of pesticides (especially neonicatinamides) on bees. (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part V, Part VI ). In Part IV Ross explains that honeybees are actually faring better than some of their pollinating counterparts because of the intervention of beekeepers.

This is where our Adopt A Hive Program comes into play. It’s an excellent way to support honey bee populations, while also getting some awesome products and education. Each Adopt A Hive comes with an adoption certificate, hive updates, a Hive Awareness Manual, and products or honey.
It makes a great gift for Mother’s or Father’s Day. You could use the full share option and customize products for your mom, mother-in-law and grandmothers. 1. Finish shopping 2. Save the bees. Check!

Our Adopt a Hive program is also a great way to learn about bees in the classroom. Our full share option includes 4 video hive updates, the kids get to name the queen and we would ‘bee’ delighted to customize gift bags for the classroom. We’ll even bring the field trip to you by bringing the queen bee into the classroom in our observation hive (within reasonable distance).

We currently have 27 hives available for adoption, below you can see how the share program is broken down.

Full Share: Cost: $200. Includes:$200 worth of products (you can get all honey, all skincare products, or mix of both), 4 hive updates through the season, A Hive Awareness Manual, you get to name the queen, a personalized adoption certificate, and a fully customized honey tag if you choose to get honey.

Half Share: Cost:$100. $100 worth of products (honey or products), 3 hive updates throughout the season, A Hive Awareness Manual, adoption certificate, a customized honey label, and you are in a drawing with another half share to have the opportunity to name the queen.

Quarter Share: Cost is $50, with that you get $50 worth of products (honey or products), 2 hive updates throughout the season, Hive Awareness Manual, and an adoption certificate.

These options are already pre-populated with some of our best sellers, but just contact us if you would like to fully customize your box.

Let us know if you have any questions. We’d be happy to discuss custom options with you.

Thank you!

Jodie + Josh

Bee Lovely Botanicals

Not All Bees Are Created Equal – The honeybee caste system

Not All Bees Are Created Equal – The honeybee caste system

The honeybee caste system

Not all bees are created the same. In this post I will address the differences occurring in the honeybee caste system.
If you are signed up for our newsletters, you know that we have been discussing what goes on in a hive. I try to hit the major points of the caste system without getting lost in the weeds, which happens to me often when talking about bees. The blog, however, allows me a little more room to go into detail about bees, their behavior, and why they’re is so interesting. So without further adieu:

In this first article I will be explaining the caste system of bees. It seems that the political realm has not affected the bees yet, so they are okay with fact that they are not all the same. In the bee caste system, there are three designations: queen, drone, and worker. Each with its own job and is specifically designed to perform it to near perfection.

The Queen

The queen gets the bulk of attention. When we take an observation hive to shows, everybody’s first question is, “Where’s the queen?” She definitely is important to the hive and her characteristics are always under scrutiny by any good beekeeper. All bees receive royal jelly, but queens get such an abundance of it that their ovaries and spermatheca (sperm storage organ) become fully developed.

The queen, being fully developed, goes on mating flights and will become an egg laying machine until the day she dies a natural death or the workers feel there is a need to replace her. The queen will lay up to 1500 eggs a day during the peak of honey season.

She directs the temperament of the hive by the pheromones she produces and also the genetics she carries, since she is the mother of the hive. Under normal working conditions there is only one queen per hive, but sometimes during replacement or possible swarm you might find two.

The Worker Bee

The worker bees in a beehive are all females.  They do all the work of the hive: cleaning, nursing young bees, defense, wax production, and lastly foraging and sweating down honey. The workers also determine where honey is stored, how many eggs should be laid, when to replace a queen, when to swarm, and a whole bevy of other things. During peak season there could be up to 60,000-70,000 workers in a hive. Workers will live only 6-8 weeks during the summer.  They work themselves to death during the honey making season.  The bees will hopefully survive through the cold winter months to be replaced in spring.

The Drones

Drones get the worst press of any type of bee. They are the males of the hive, and their main job in life is to mate with the queen. They also play a role in regulating hive temperature.

Drones come from unfertilized eggs.  They only have one set of genes and are sometimes referred to as flying gametes. Drones are much bigger than workers and often mistakenly thought of as the hive’s defense, but they have no stinger to defend with, they really only have one job.

Unmated or poorly mated Queens only lay drones, which causes the hive to eventually dwindle and die. Since they only have the one job and since queens don’t mate in winter, the drones get kicked out during fall so they do not consume precious hive resources. Only a small percentage of males get to complete their one and only task. Oh and by the way, after the drone completes his job he dies in the air by getting his penis ripped off!!! Not as much fun as it originally sounded, is it?

 

It’s that time of year again.

It’s that time of year again.

We were fortunate to be able to visit a family friend on a recent trip to Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately we brought home an unwanted souvenir, a cold.   It was nothing serious, but the boys did have an annoying tickle that seemed to present itself in their throat in such a way that none of us got much sleep.

IMG_8197 (2)After posting honey recipes to our facebook page last month, I decided to give making honey cough drops a go.  After all, I’d almost made them on accident several times while cooking with honey. I snagged a jar of our Lemon Zest and Ginger Root Infused honey.  I’d read that lemon oil is good for coughs as it’s anti-inflammatory, high in vitamin C, and is antibacterial, and that ginger can relieve a sort throat, so it seemed only natural to make my cough drops from our Lemon and Ginger Honey (pictured above)  I used 9 oz of lemon ginger honey, and simply cooked it until it reached 300*F on a candy thermometer.  I wanted to make sure that it got to the proper temperature, so I left it on the heat for a bit after it reached 300*.  This was almost a terrible mistake, as honey can go from hot to scorched in a matter of seconds.  I got the first whiff of the honey getting too hot and immediately poured it into a greased pan I had prepared.  I think if I would have left it go for another couple seconds it would have tasted burnt.  After pouring the honey into the greased pan, I let it cool and attempted to cut it.  As the French would say, “C’est impossible!”img_0547

After being in the freezer for a while, the honey cough drops hardened up and I bent the pan back and forth to break them up.  Then I tossed them in a mixture of powdered sugar and vitamin C powder.  The result is actually quite delicious, as the honey caramelized just a touch, and the lemon and vitamin C powder add just a bit of tang.  These little cough drops also multi-task as filling removers, so chew with caution.img_0568-2

 

Honey Cough Drop Recipe

! 9 oz jar of Bee Lovely Botanicals Lemon Ginger Honey (or 9 oz of your favorite honey)

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vitamin C powder

Heat honey to 300*, being careful not to scorch it.  Pour into greased pan and transfer to freezer until cooled.  Break apart and coat in powdered sugar and vitamin C powder mix.

The Clandestine Keeper

The Clandestine Keeper

“Just sit right here, Butch, and the bees won’t bother you.”  I’d heard this story before.  As my father continues the tale, I imagine my great grandfather, looking somewhat like the old man from the Mountain Dew bottle, leaping in the air and being chased by a cloud of angry bees.  “And sit right there I did.  Grampa was right, the bees didn’t bother me at all.  He ran right past me and the bees chased him all the way down the path, but I didn’t get stung once,” Dad IMG_3629concludes.

This was my first exposure to beekeeping, and never did I imagine myself to be a homesteading, homeschooling mama with a beekeeping business.  The only way that I can expain it is that God is good, and sometimes He sneaks up on
you.

In 2007, while I was pregnant with my second son, we found a swarm of bees living in a hollowed out maple tree.  The entrance to the hive was near the ground and Jaden (my oldest) and I would sit and watch the bees return with their baskets full of colorful pollen.  Later that fall, I read many, many beekeeping books while nursing the baby.  The more I learned about bees, the more intrigued I became.  The following spring we started a great adventure with our first package of bees.

During the next year, my husband, Joshua, was laid off when the local high school cut the ag program he taught.  We also found out we would be welcoming a third son into our family.  This was just the nudge we needed to turn our beekeeping hobby into a sideline business.
I spent many delightfully frustrating hours developing our brand, revising labels and product formulations, and coming up with eye catching displays.  While I worked at this, my husband, a biologist with experience in wildlife and agriculture, delved into natural hive treatments, integrated pest management techniques, bee genetics, and efficient home remedies for bee stings.  Our boys fostered a natural interest in pleasing aesthetics IMG_3611 (2)and the scientific process by watching us and helping us work through these things over time.  As our boys continued to grow and mature, our business did, too.  A clear brand emerged, and our natural beekeeping practices became sound and successful.  Soon, we were able to identify our niche.  The boys learned this intuitively from speaking with customers at farmers markets.  Recognizing our niche helped us to not only identify potential customers, but helped us pin point where to sell and advertise.  Being able to choose profitable venues and advertisements increased our sales and helped our bee business continue to grow and expand.

Throughout the last few years, the boys have worked alongside us in the bee yard.  They suffered the occasional sting for the privilege of doing what Mom and Dad were doing (and a small smackeral of honey now and then).  On the days when the whole family wasn’t going to the farmers market, they debated who should get to wake up at 4:30 AM to go with Dad.  Neighboring vendors supposed the boy that got to go had drawn the short straw, it was actually just the opposite.  They’re so excited and enthusiastic to share what our family has worked on.  They’ve set up our booth, packed up products, and lugged display pieces bigger than they are.  Our customers are always impressed with the boys’ maturity, their work ethic, and their knowledge of honeybees and our products.  Work ethic, maturity, and business knowledge weren’t purposefully taught to our boys, but they were inferred through the many interactions we share working together.

I don’t think we ever would have dreamed this path for our family.  It’s definitely full of mistakes and challenges, but we are so grateful to God for leading us on this adventure.  He provides for our family in such interesting and rewarding ways, and blesses us with the opportunity to spend time working, and playing together.