Category Archives: Bee Research

Raising Honey Bees – Week 6

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve actually had an update on the bees, so guess what…

Beehives -

We’re going in!

Bees -

Right away we could tell that the bees had started drawing out comb on all of the available frames. Things were starting to get a little tight in there…

Bees -

Bees -

Bees -

We even found some queen cells. Whoops! Looks like they REALLY need some more room.

Bees -

Hang on!! Help is on the way!

Hive -

That’s right, it’s time to add another set of frames on top of the existing frames so that the bees have more space to add more honey!

Hives -

Move’n on up! Our second hive was also looking to expand so we added another set of frames to the top of their box as well.

Some take aways from today:

  • We probably should have checked on the hives earlier in the week. The fact that the one hive had created queen cells means that they had reached their maximum and we’re getting ready to swarm (more on that in another post). Hopefully removing the queen cells and adding the additional frames will be enough to keep them around.
  • We spotted a varroa mite on one of our drones! Not good. We need to treat the bees so that the mites don’t destroy the hive. Unfortunately there isn’t a ton of information available about how to treat hives that are so young. We’re going to ask around and will share what we find.

Bee Progress – One Week In

As new beekeepers, we’re nervous about everything. Is the hive getting enough sunlight? Do they have enough food? Are they warm enough, especially with some of the cooler nights we’ve been having in the north east? Is a bear going to attack them?

Ok, maybe not the last one.

But if activity outside the hive is any indication, things are progressing nicely.

We’ve seen a number of workers flying in with packets of pollen on their legs, which is a good sign. Let’s open it up and see what’s inside.

Busy Bees -

So far so good. Looks like they’ve been busy as a… well, you know.

Bee Frame -

Uh-oh, they’ve been so busy, it looks like they built some burr comb on a few of the frames. What is burr comb? Let’s take a closer look.

Burr Comb -

See that raised portion of comb on the frame? That’s a bit of a problem since we won’t be able to fit the frames together as tightly as they should be, so unfortunately we’ll need to remove it. It likely happened because we didn’t have the frames as close together as they should be in the first place, lesson learned.

Once we removed the burr comb we made sure that all of the frames were as snug as they could be, but not before scoping out the rest of the frames.

Building Foundation -

Filling the frames -

And wait a second. Is that…? Hold on… I think it is! We think we spotted the queen!

Queen Bee -

Too hard to see with all of those other bees around? How about now?

Spotting a Queen Bee -

You can typically differentiate the queen because she’s larger and longer than the other bees (which isn’t as clear in the pictures as it was in person).

But so far, so good. We refilled their feeder, which we’ll continue to do for a little while longer, and keep you updated on progress.

Plants for bees

Like most years, we kicked off 2015 by looking through the litany of seed catalogs that arrive in our mailbox.  We usually leaf through and select  a few vegetables for the garden, maybe a few annual flowers.  But this year, we have a new goal in mind: maximizing our crop potential while also providing great plants for our bees.

We started by cracking open our ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture book and researching plants that provide loads of pollen and nectar for our tiny winged friends.  Below are some plants that we decided to try out this year (in addition to others we already have established) with some details about how they impact our bee brethren.


Plants for bees - Thyme

Thyme itself is a great herb that you can use either fresh or dried, and is often paired with other herbs like oregano, sage, or rosemary.  You can typically find it in recipes including pork, duck, lamb, and in Cajun and Creole cooking.

Thyme honey is popular in Greece and the Mediterranean where it’s been a favorite for thousands of years.  The honey has a reddish color and a strong flavor.


Plants for bees - Sunflowers

Sunflowers and beekeepers apparently go way back, as the plants produce abundant amounts of nectar and pollen that are great for the bees.  The variety that we selected are known for producing large amounts of sunflower seeds as well, which we plan to enjoy throughout the season.

One word of caution about sunflowers: honey produced from sunflower nectar tends to crystalize more rapidly than some other plants, so you may need to harvest it as soon as possible.


Plants for bees - Sage

Sage is another herb with tons of uses that we just started experimenting with last year.

Sage honeys tend to be lighter in color and lower in moisture content, and is often blended with honey from other plants to improve the overall quality of the blend.

Unlike Sunflowers, sage honey is high in fructose and therefore is very slow to solidify.


Plants for bees - Soybeans

Like sage, honey from soybeans is also used in blends thanks to its light color and mild taste.

Soybeans are self-fertile plants, so honey bees aren’t necessary for pollination, but considering we like soybeans regardless, we figure it may be a win-win.


Plants for bees - Blackberries

We’re most interested in seeing how our blackberry plants perform considering that bees are required for pollination.  The variety we selected should flower in both the spring and late summer, and the abundant white flowers that they produce are ideal sources of nectar and pollen for bees.

We’ll be sure to do a follow-up post this fall to let everyone know how these plants worked (or didn’t) with the bees.

Books for Beekeepers

Books for Beekeepers

Thanks to a lot of the research that we’ve been doing, as well as the recent holidays, we’re starting to build a mini “bee library” of sorts.  Obviously there are a TON of books and information available about beekeeping, but we figured we’d share some thoughts on a few of our favorites thus far.

Books for Beekeepers

Beekeeping Book - Keeping Honey Bees

Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees

This book was not only recommended to us by our local beekeeping community, but is also referenced in a number of other books we’ve read as well.

It does a really good job of covering all of the basics of beekeeping: from planning, to acquiring bees, to keeping your bees healthy, to harvesting honey.  It’s all in there.

If you’re going to purchase one beekeeping book, this should probably be it.

Beekeeping Book - Homegrown Honey BeesHomegrown Honey Bees

This book was given to us as a gift during the holidays, and has been a pleasant addition to the mix.

It differs from Storey’s in that it focuses purely on what you’ll come across during your first year as a beekeeper.  The chapters are even broken into chunks like “The First Month”, “The First Season”, etc.

Packed with tons of highly detailed photos, this is one we’ll definitely be referring to again and again this upcoming season.

Bee Book - Honey Crafting

Honey Crafting

Rumor has it that a single hive can produce 40-60 pounds of honey in a single season.  That’s a lot of honey!  Even if we gave some to everyone we know, we’d still be left with more than we could consume ourselves.

Enter “Honey Crafting” by Leeann Coleman and Jayne Barnes.  This book is structured like a cookbook for all the different things you can do with honey and beeswax.

From creating items for your home (ornaments, candles, etc.), to items for the body (soaps, lip balms, etc.), to delectable edibles (infused honey, savory and sweet recipes), this book provides over 75 different uses for your harvest.

This is one we plan on using for decades to come.

Beekeeping Book - ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture

ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture

Talk about everything you ever wanted to know about beekeeping!  This book was first published in 1877 and has over 40 editions that  have been released since then.

Over time the publishers have compiled an encyclopedia of information ranging from famous beekeepers to hive disorders to plants for bees and everything in between.  Simply flip open this book and you’re almost guaranteed to land on a page that will teach you something about beekeeping that you never knew before.

Where else can you learn about the effect of magnetic and electrical fields on bees immediately followed by information about mason bees?

These are just a few of our favorite beekeeping books so far.  What are some of yours?