Ventilation is not what most new beeks consider when crafting their first bee hive. But that’s just what Sonoma beekeeper, and my personal favorite philosophe des abeilles, Serge Labesque recommends to keep your hives healthy.
After 2 seasons keeping bees, I couldn’t agree more. Even in the American Southwest, known for being dry as a bleached cattle bone, I find condensation, mildew, and even lichens each spring after opening our hives. To me, the girls don’t need more insulation, they actually need less.
In fact, a survey I conducted with local beekeepers in 2010 shows that nearly twice as many beeks winterize their hives by ensuring there’s adequate ventilation than by suffocating their dames with a downy blanket.
From the 2010 Albuquerque Beekeepers Survey
But Serge Labesque takes ventiliation to a whole ‘nother level by leaving his hive bodies unpainted, save for the joints. As he described at last year’s NM Beekeeping Summer Seminar, the idea is that unpainted wood can breathe, allowing the bees to have more control over ventilation. Here’s what Labesque’s hives look like.
And so voila! We’ve decided to go au naturel this season, leaving our new boxes unpainted. We simply bought unassembled hive bodies from Mann Lake, uncorked a bottle of champagne one Friday night and set to work.
A recipe by CHOW
If you’re saving any dark aster or buckwheat honey from last year’s precious stash, this is it – A triumphant final fling to share with good friends. And don’t forget to toast the honey goddess for more good luck this season.
Panna Cotta with Bitter Honey
Recipe by Aida Mollenkamp on CHOW
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large pinch (about 1/4 teaspoon) saffron threads
- 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup bitter honey (I’d recommend aster honey or buckwheat honey)
- 8 dried figs (optional)
- Combine cream, milk, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. When it simmers, add saffron, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to steep for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over water and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk together gelatin and cream mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Fill four ramekins or small dishes with about 1/2 cup of the base. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until mixture is set, about 4 hours or overnight.
- To serve, dip the bottoms of the ramekins or small dishes in hot water. Run a knife around the perimeter of the panna cotta, cover with a serving plate, and flip to unmold the panna cotta. Drizzle each panna cotta with 1 tablespoon of bitter honey, and, if using, garnish with a couple of dried figs.
The local pollinator posse took a break from beekeeping this weekend to visit a small organic farm in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Hosted by Amanda and Eli from Chispas Farm, we dug our feet into the warm dirt and walked rows of garlic, asparagus, fennel, and freshly-planted heirloom tomatoes all nurtured with love and wisdom by their caretakers, two self-described “born again farmers.”
Find more beekeeping events in Albuquerque
Is it business or pleasure? Well that depends on what you regard as business and what you regard as pleasure. To us, business is pleasure.
The Business, A Cocktail
“The Business,” a honey cocktail
Recipe inspired by: London’s Milk & Honey Cocktail Bar
- 1 part honey
- 1 part tonic water
- 1.5 parts gin
- .5 parts lime
- Some lime zest
Shake and pour over ice.
Adding the clearer board with 2 Porter-style bee escapes.
Brushing bees off honey frames I’m about to pilfer isn’t fun for anyone. The bees get testy, I get buzzed, and by the time I’ve cleared bees off all the frames in a box, everyone’s beyond foul in mood. Waiter, make that a double!
That’s why I simply adore the bee escape, aka “clearer board”. What is a bee escape, you ask? It’s essentially a one-way valve that allows bees to leave but doesn’t let ‘em back in. Perfect for clearing a box of honey with minimal stress to me and the bees.
[Here's a diagram of the original Porter bee escape.]
So how do you use it? Oh do allow me, darlings. Continue reading
The bee hero
Beneath the desire to keep bees there lies an even more secret… even more primal… desire. It’s the archetypal — dare I say, boyhood — desire that leaks out in the fury of a brave dream filled with rescue and danger and buxom lonely maidens.
It’s the dream to become a hero. And in this case, a bee hero.
You’ve seen it in the machismo of a bare-armed swarm rescue. Or the bravado of a bee-wrangler when the cameras are rolling.
I spied it this morning as my husband donned his bee suit on the way to capture yet another bee swarm. In his mind’s eye, he was apparently a massive, bee-eating robot off to save the world as he hummed to himself while suiting up, “Transformers… more than meets the eye. Transformers, robots in disguise.”
Indeed, from mere mortal to giant white bee-snatching robot in the zip of a zipper. Believe me, your children are all now much safer.
Swarm season is raging in Albuquerque! In the past 3 weeks, we’ve captured 7 swarms some of which (she says blushingly) were our own.
If you’ve ever wondered how to catch a swarm or wanted to learn more, here’s a quick photo essay documenting the process.
Step 1: Prepare their new home
First, prep the girls’ new home if you have the luxury of doing so (if not, they can stay in the cardboard box for an hour or so). In our case, we’re combining today’s swarm with a small colony from earlier this spring. We’ll separate the two boxes with a sheet of newspaper allowing the girls to slowly become acquainted. We’ll also provide a top entrance for the new box filled with swarm bees.
Step 2: Transfer the swarm to a cardboard box
Next, we grabbed two ladders. I’m holding a cardboard box (any box will do) while Alex shakes the bees from the limb into the box. Really, it was that easy. Once most of the bees are inside, we closed the box part way and carried it over to the new hive.
I don’t know about you, but tracking hives with paper and pen seems awfully…. well, 20th century.
And thus I’m thrilled to find out that someone’s built just the app I’ve been looking for!
Beetight: Online Hive Tracking
This weekend I plan to give it a whirl. Are you already using Beetight? Let me know how you like it…
Beekeepers on swarm duty this spring, it’s time for a drink. Vámonos!
Recipe from: http://wiki.webtender.com/wiki/Canchánchara
- 1.5 oz of raw rum
- 0.5 oz of honey
- 0.5 oz of lemon juice
- 1 oz of water
- 2 oz of cracked ice
Pour the honey and the lemon juice into the glass and stir until the honey has dissolved. Add the rum, the ice and the water and stir.
It’s what every beekeeper loves to see — fresh eggs in an uncertain hive.
The queen is a-laying.
For newbeeks, the black Ritecell foundation makes it easier to find eggs when hunting around your hive. In this case, the sign of a fertile queen is unmistakable.