Happy Bees!

My two new hives of Buckfast bees had a rocky start.

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They hated the plastic foundation I was using and built comb almost everywhere else.  From the ceiling of the Hive cover mostly…

The bees are happy even if I'm not...

The bees are happy even if I’m not…

I replaced the plastic foundation with wax and they were a bit happier.  Not a pretty sight from the inside however.

Now Hive Number Two seems to have slipped a bit from its moorings. This will be fixed ASAP.

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The good news is that both hives are happy and healthy and prospering!  I couldn’t ask for anything more!!

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Beautiful Beekeeping – I Was Framed!

My Buckfast bees refuse to build on easy-to-use, pre-assembled cheap plastic frames. I can’t say that I blame them.

So I spent the bulk of my weekend hand-crafting wooden frames with wired wax foundation. Thirty-eight of them!

Twenty-eight of the thirty-eight frames I built this weekend

Twenty-eight of the thirty-eight frames I built this weekend

When I bought my first hive almost a decade ago, I had the option of having it assembled or assembling it myself. The difference was $60.00. In an uncharacteristic fit of thriftiness, I chose self-assembly.

About $200 dollars worth of tools and countless woman-hours later, I had built my first bee hive, complete with frames!

I’m still proud of that accomplishment. I also learned a whole lot about the structure and function of every part of the hive.

Which is why I wasn’t daunted by the prospect of assembling thirty-eight frames from what looks like a bag of sticks and some sheets of wax.

Bag of sticks and sheets of wax...

Bag of sticks and sheets of wax…

Two of my three hives are now happy campers. The third hive is another story. They’ve rejected wax in favor of building their own digs.

Combs built from the hive cover

Combs built from the hive cover

The bees are happy even if I'm not...

The bees are happy even if I’m not…

I removed a frame from each hive box and placed comb between the spaces. I hope it works!!

In any event, I’m going to try going foundation-less in my next hive. The bees seem to really like building their own homestead.

I’m going to let my bees be bees!

Beautiful Beekeeping – Observation Hives

An observation hive is one with glass or clear plastic sides so the bees can be observed. These hives are both educational and beautiful.

Observation Hive

Observation Hive

Having one, in addition to your hives, gives you an idea what is happening outside in the other hives. You can see if pollen is coming in, if nectar is coming in, and if robbing is happening. You can watch them raise a queen. Watch how the hive acts while the queen is mating, watch them swarm. You can count days or hours on capping times. You will get to see waggle dances, and “get it off me” dances. You get to hear what the bees sound like when they are queenless, when they are being robbed, and when the queen is emerging.

Recently, beautiful observation hives were featured on the US television show Elementary about a modern day Sherlock Holmes. The Arthur Conan Doyle character of Sherlock Holmes was in fact a Victorian beekeeper, which makes the show all the more entertaining!

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Beautiful Beekeeping – The Beehive Inn

The "Living Sign" outside The Beehive Inn

The “Living Sign” outside The Beehive Inn

You may enjoy unique honey for tea when you visit The Beehive Inn in Castlegate at Grantham in Lincolnshire, UK.  The honey comes from the Inn’s “living sign” – a beehive.

Since 1830, the beehive has hung in a tree outside the Inn.  Its bees produce an average of 30lbs of honey every year!

beehive inn

A sign on the Inn reads :

” Stop traveller this wondrous sign to explore and say when thou hast view’d it o’er and o’er.

Grantham now two rarities are thine, A lofty steeple and a living sign.”

The lofty steeple is that of St Wulfram’s church, 272ft high, at the end of the street.

Beautiful Beekeeping – If It Isn’t Broken…

About a decade ago I started beekeeping.  I followed the instructions in Beekeeping for Dummies and used wired wax foundation. Everything worked beautifully.

Wired Wax Foundation

Wired Wax Foundation

My bees loved the wax foundation. The colony built up quickly. It was easy to extract the honey.  So why didn’t I leave well enough alone?

The answer is I’m kind of lazy. Wax frames are very labor intensive. I have to assemble the wooden frames (using a hammer and nails!) and carefully fit the delicate wax inside it without tearing it. Pre-assembled plastic frames are much easier to use.

Pre-assembled Plastic Foundation

Pre-assembled Plastic Foundation

Last year I noticed that my hive with plastic frames wasn’t building up as quickly as my old hive had. Of course, I blamed it on my bees.

This year was worse!  My new bees completely refused to build comb on the plastic frames and built inside the roof top feeders instead!!   I spent Tuesday afternoon cleaning burr comb out of the feeders and replacing plastic frames with wax ones…

Feeders full of burr comb...

Feeders full of burr comb…

The good news is that I’m pretty sure my bees are okay, no thanks to me.

I’ve heard that some bees prefer the plastic frames, but not mine. From now on, I’m going to stick with what works. If it isn’t broken, I’m not going to try to fix it!

Beautiful Beekeeping – Beautiful Beehives Of The Day – Simple But Elegant

I’ve posted a lot of pictures of decorated hives, but I love the look of simple white hives too, especially when they’re a beautiful part of the landscape.

I think these are especially elegant.

Exquisite white National-style hives in the UK

Exquisite white National-style hives in the UK

My own White Hive surrounded by Nepeta and David Austin roses

My own White Hive surrounded by Nepeta and David Austin roses

Lovely placement

Lovely placement

Hive and white dogwood tree

Hive and white dogwood tree

My friend Eric's new white hives

My friend Eric’s new white hives

“Bees And Beekeepers – A Sweet Life”

Carl White, Executive Producer and Host of the award-winning syndicated TV show Life in the Carolinas, was kind enough to send me the video of his recent show on North Carolina bees and beekeepers.

I really enjoyed it!  Did you know that North Carolina has more beekeepers than any other state? Or that North Carolina beekeepers like to compete to see who can light his or her smoker the fastest?  I was impressed!

Speaking of North Carolina, I’ll be conducting “Cooking with Honey” workshops at the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association Summer Meeting on July 11-13 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Come by and visit me if you’re in the area!

Warning! My Hive Stands Aren’t Really Wicker!!

The hive stands aren't really wicker.

The hive stands aren’t really wicker.

Simon Kurtz of Kurtz Acres asked me a very good question.  Was I worried about my “wicker” hive stands being able to support the weight of full hives which can easily weigh in the hundreds of pounds?

I would be worried if my stands were actually wicker.  They’re not.

Pier One Hive Stand

They’re  all-weather ottomans of synthetic wicker over a durable iron frame.  They’re fully capable of supporting a heavy hive. I found them at Pier One.

So, if you want to copy my look, PLEASE don’t use real wicker, or if you do, make sure it is fully supported from below with bricks or a concrete block.

And many thanks to Simon for bringing up the subject. I would hate to be the cause of a beekeeping debacle out there!!

Beautiful Beehives Of The Day – Waldorf Astoria

Waldorf-Astoria-bee-hive-on-the-roof-of-the-Waldorf-Astoria Waldorf-Astoria-bee-hives-on-roof_2 Bee-hives-on-the-roof-of-the-Waldorf-Astoria Executive-chef-David-Garcelon-on-the-roof-of-the-Waldorf-Astoria

Honey bees are permanent guests of the Waldorf Astoria

The historic Manhattan property, known as the inn of choice for heads of state, has installed six beehives in a rooftop space on the 20th floor that also serves as a chef’s garden.

The Waldorf Astoria’s director of culinary operations, David Garcelon, spearheaded the initiative and has incorporated the honey produced by his bees into dishes served at the hotel’s restaurants.

The Waldorf is only one of a long string of hotels taking in bees. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, for instance, has more than a dozen properties with beehives on-site.

Hotels are increasingly adding locally sourced food to their menus, and beekeeping allows them to produce organic honey for food and cocktails. The hotels also say they are helping to save the species.