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Bee Queen for Halloween

31 Oct

Happy halloween, fellow beeks and mellifera lovers!

May I present my niece, Sasha, Most Royal Queen of the Hive. At least for tonight.

[bee hive hair by Martha Stewart]

Sasha, Hive Queen for Halloween

Earlier this year, the Hive Queen opened her first hive with me.

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Fried honeybees on a stick? Bees at the NM State Fair

23 Sep

Amazement is putting it mildly.

“If you put your ear by the vent, you can hear the bees working inside… Right here.”

If the wide-eyes and motionless stares were any indication, honeybees were the hit of the Agricultural segment of the NM State Fair this month. Not that we stood a chance competing with “fried beer on a stick” or a “chile relleno corn dog” but compared to pigs? Bees are amazing.

Thousands of people stopped to visit my girls at the New Mexico State Fair this weekend, thanks to stellar organizing by Jessie Brown who wrangled the schedule of volunteers and procured an observation hive I could fill with two frames of bees. Kids and parents alike were enchanted by the hum of a real hive and the subtle vibrations they could feel with their hands on the glass.

Learn About Observation Hives

Meet the Millennium Park Beekeeper, Chicago

20 Jun

Nestled in Chicago’s Millennium Park hides a sliver of nature’s wild heart called The Lurie Garden. It’s an unruly place with prairie grasses and purple coneflowers, butterflies and cottontail rabbits. There in the gardens, tucked behind a tall double hedgerow, is an even bigger surprise — two bee hives.

Today I was lucky enough to interview the willowy keeper of these hives — Laura Young, horticulturist and beekeeper for Lurie Gardens. We tasted honey, talked VIP hive watchers, and dropped the scoop on a new cocktail made with Lurie Garden honey.

Lurie Garden, in Chicago’s Millennium Park

So, madame beekeeper, are these bee hives controversial?

Not so far. People are becoming used to the idea of honeybees in our community and so they’re not so concerned. We were able to capitalize on the existing hives at City Hall and the Cultural Center, so there’s momentum for supporting honeybees.

Many of our plants here in Lurie Garden are pollinator magnets, so we’re quite open to the idea of bees on our plants and so is the public.

Do most people know about these hives? Have you been written up anywhere?

We got our first hive in April 2011, so this is still a somewhat new program. Some people are hearing about it through social media like our Facebook page for The Lurie Garden.

No, the bee hives at Lurie Garden haven’t had any press but Michael Thompson from the Chicago Honey Coop (who helped us get started) talks about us every chance he gets.

Let’s talk honey. How does yours taste? More importantly, can people buy some?

We haven’t harvested yet this year, but last year’s honey tastes lemony, minty, and a bit like linden trees which grow in nearby Grant Park.

At the moment, we don’t sell our honey. We just give it to garden volunteers and our board. Rumor is though that Terzo Piano, the restaurant across the street at the Art Institute, will start mixing a drink on Thursday nights made with our honey. You can call to find out more from the mixologist.

Have any VIPs visited your hives yet?

Yes! Ann Lurie! We didn’t open the hives, but she wanted to come up close and see them.

Tell me about the notorious Chicago winters. What did you do to winterize the hives?

Nothing, actually! We just left the bees about 50 lbs of honey (2 extra shallows) and used an entrance reducer. That’s it. And the hive from last year was so strong this spring, we had to make a split.

What do people say when you tell them you’re a beekeeper?

Most people ask, “Oh have you ever been stung?”

Increasingly, people are getting excited about beekeeping. It used to be just a fact among facts about oneself but now it’s something people are interested in when you tell them.

Coneflower and honeybee in Lurie Garden

Thanks to Laura Young and the Lurie Garden. You can reach Laura at laura.young3@cityofchicago.org.

Ideas for Beautiful Honey Packaging

7 May

I won’t lie: Beautiful honey packaging matters more to me than it should.

“Why are we spending $80 on labels?” my husband asked. “We don’t even sell our honey!” And he’s right. Our 1040 reads a fat zero on the “Honey Income” line but, I might argue, if the IRS measured quality of life, mine would skyrocket every time I bottle a jar of honey. This weekend I harvested 2 gallons of honey from my Nob Hill hive, and the bottling process was pure pleasure.

My honey jars, inspired by the Chicago Honey Co-op

If you’re an aesthete like me, or if you aim to sell your honey, here are a few ideas for inspiration and sourcing.

Inspiration

Beeline honey jars

Beeline cylinder jars

Abella’s custom jars

Concept by Ah&Oh

Chicago Honey Co-op

Classic hexagon revisited

Honey trio by Bee Raw

Jar Sources

For interesting jars, consider alternative glass sources like candle jars or salve jars. Here are a few low-cost options to move beyond the plastic honey bear. Click an image to find the product page.

Tall French square

Candle bottle

Blue straight jar

Black lid straight jar

Unusual round jar

Tall cylinder jar

Find a few more ideas at: http://www.sunburstbottle.com/glass-jars

Label Sources

Keeping bees with the City of Albuquerque

1 Mar

The City of Albuquerque is seeking a beekeeping intern!

Besides getting free beekeeping training from TBH superstar Les Crowder, you’ll also get to hang with me out at the Candelaria Farms hives in Albuquerque’s North Valley. It’s a rural quiet spot amidst the City’s bluster; a place that creates moments of comet-like beauty such as a flock of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead as you walk up to check the hives between client meetings or classes or otherwise dreary deadlines. The result? Pure connected creaturely bliss.

[Download an internship application | Deadline is March 14, 2012]

Just this afternoon, I was greeted by a group of Sandhill Cranes near my hives at the Candelaria Farms Open Space in Albuquerque, NM

Pepper Spray Cop, Casually Killing My Bees

22 Nov

Guard bees no match for Pepper Spray Cop

Wonder what time the pub opens tonight... there's a honey wheat on tap I really enjoy.

Lighten up, ma'am, what's a few dead bees when you've already lost your civil liberties?

Find more Pepper Spray Cop at:

Bees + Beekeeping in Sweden

11 Jul

What I imagined in Sweden were Ikea-designed hives filled with winged mini-Vikings quaffing Absolut vodka. The reality, however, is much like beekeeping in the U.S…. plus styrofoam.

Last month, I lived in Gothenburg, Sweden where I encountered obscene amounts of daylight, smoked fish, and craggy green nature. Surprisingly, however, I saw very few honey bees. But that’s a different story.

Let me introduce you to the bees I was lucky enough to meet in Sweden and one special hive we took a peek inside.

Bronze Age Carvings & Bees

All watery green and granite, the Bohuslän coast north of Gothenburg is home to a series of Bronze Age rock carvings. It’s all part of a UNESCO world heritage site replete with hunting scenes and phallic might. On the road in between one ancient carving spot and another, we encountered this bright little apiary owned by the Johansson family.

Bronze Age rock carvings in Tanum

The Johansson hives

Continue reading

Team-Building Through Beekeeping at Sunset Magazine and Google

16 Jun

It’s bee blogger exchange week! Yesterday, I highlighted 3 Albuquerque beekeepers on the Sunset website and today we have Margaret Sloan from Sunset’s “Team Bee” returning the favor.  Margaret blogs about bees for Sunset Magazine’s One-Block Diet. When she’s not tending to Sunset’s 3 hives,  she also is a production coordinator, fact checker, and map maker for the magazine.

Sunset Magazine’s One-Block Diet didn’t start out to build a better work team. It started as a project to help our readers learn to produce their own food in whatever space they have available. Like many of our readers, we had to learn from the ground up to do urban-homesteady things such as make cheese, brew beer, and, yes, raise bees.

As it so happened, the One-Block Diet’s beekeeping project did have a team-building effect. Communication flowed more freely between departments as Team Bee members buzzed around, talking bees, honey, and yes, Sunset Magazine.

I wanted to know whether other companies who keep bees were having the same team-building experience that we‘ve had at Sunset. And what company is more trendy and in the news for its apiary than Google and the Hiveplex?

Members of the Google beekeeping team

I called Rob Peterson, software engineering manager and one of the many beekeepers at Google in Mountain View, CA, only about 20 miles from us at Sunset. In their park like campus-by-the-bay, 120 employees have signed up to tend 4 beehives, sharing the duties of hive inspections, honey extraction, and general bee stuff. Continue reading

Attila the Hun of the Honeycomb

17 May

Witness the “Bee Song” by Zach Sherwin aka MC Mr. Napkins at The Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival 2010.

Bee Fanning Behavior: A honey-soaked evening

7 May

At night, because the bees are fanning, my whole yard smells of honey.

It’s a monster hive, 6 deeps and 1 medium, and full of ripening honey. Despite our drought, my city bees have access to the well-watered trees of the neighborhood and the University of New Mexico and it’s clear they’re taking full advantage of their good fortune.

bee hive at night

The monster hive at night

Why do bees fan?

Honey bees fan the hive for several reasons. Knowing what they’re up to depends on the location of their bums:

  • Bums facing out with the tip exposed, the girls are typically sending a “homing signal” by revealing their Nasonov glands. This is done during swarming or orientation flights at a new hive. Here’s what Nasonov fanning looks like.
  • Bums facing in or out with no tip exposed, the girls are fanning to:
    1. create ventilation inside a busy hive
    2. evaporate water from nectar until it contains less than 18% water and can be safely stored forever as honey
    3. both of the above

What does fanning behavior look like?

John Pluta from Georgia captures the stance of a fanning bee on video.

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