Score another victory for lazy beekeeping! Either it blew away or I just plain forgot to add one, but regardless, when I went to visit the Candelaria Farms apiary, there was no entrance reducer on the one surviving hive. The girls had managed on their own and here’s how…
But first, what is an entrance reducer anyway?
Many beekeepers, myself included, reduce the size of the hive opening each winter to give the girls an edge in controlling pests, ventilation, and more. It’s a cheap, quick, and commonly-used intervention.
Read more about entrance reducers
What happens if I don’t use an entrance reducer?
The colony gathers propolis to reduce the entrance as it pleases. As you can see in the entrance to this hive, my girls simply formed columns of propolis this past winter to ventilate and protect the hive according to their needs.
Propolis columns at the hive entrance
I’m going to leave these sticky columns intact until the heat of Summer and see how the girls adjust them to suit their collective desire. Watch for photos…
UPDATE: Here’s what the propolis “front door” looked like one month later.
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
Happy holidays, fellow beekeepers, readers, and honey lovers! Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing your experiences here on my site. Here’s to 2012 supporting healthy hives full of rich floral honey to share with friends, family and the peanut butter-honey sandwich eaters in your life.
My niece Ella sends her thanks.
Ella making peanut butter-honey sandwiches with "Aunt Coco" honey.
What do bees do all winter anyway? According to my elementary school nieces, here’s what goes down inside a hive full of girl bees waiting all winter for a sip of spring nectar…
In Ella’s words:
If I we’re a bee I would sleep all winter and I would decorate my house with flowers also I would decorate it with snowmen pictures in the summer I will collect pollin from flowers!
Winter Bees by Ella, age 6
According to Nina:
If I we’re a bee I would paint my house with gold and black paint my bed would be lime green and my job would be to pollinate I would do anything to become a bee for just one hour all I would like to do is to soar I just hope they have cherrys to eat if not I would eat honey bees are fassanating creatures.
Winter Bees by Nina, age 8
Sasha’s thoughts on bees:
Have you ever thought what it would be like to be a bee? I have and I think it would be awesome to be a bee for even 1 second! If I were a bee, in the winter, I would chatter with my friends all night as we snuggled up in our honeycomb, trying to stay warm. My friends and I would drink warm honey all day long. It would be HEAVEN for me! I would have a smokey fire in my room to keep me warm all winter. I would probably get loney, though. I would miss my parents and my sister bees. I would especially miss my baby brother bee, Luka!!! After the cold winter, I would get up and smell the fresh Spring air. I’d spread my wings, leap into the air, and gather pollen for the queen to make honey. PERFECT!!
Winter Bees by Sasha, age 8
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:
Propolising the hive for winter
It’s quite simple really. My winterizing philosophy is a three-pronged approach; the holy trinity of hive survival, if you will, and it goes like this:
- Go into winter strong: If a hive is weak, I’ll combine it with another before November using the newspaper method. If I only have one hive, I’ll combine with another bee friend. If none of the above work, then I’ll feed sugar syrup for October and November. And I DEFINITELY overwinter with 3 deeps. See my earlier post for details on overwintering with 3 deep boxes.
- Reduce the entrance: Using one of those wooden entrance reducers, I’ll close up the front door a bit so that the girls can better defend themselves from opportunists.
- Allow for ventilation: I’m of the mind that the bees best regulate their hive themselves and so my job is to allow them this ability. In other words, I leave a crack in the cover that sits on top of the screened top board and otherwise don’t insulate or tape the hive. This enables the girls to add or remove propolis depending on how much ventilation they want throughout the winter. In Albuquerque, as our temperatures vary greatly from November to March, this gives the bees the chance to decide what they need at any given time.
And that’s it. No fancy heating pads or blankets over here, because I want to support bee genetics that don’t rely on human intervention to survive the winter. It’s a bit of tough love perhaps, but my hope (for the bees) is that this non-interventionist approach builds local bee genetics that are gentle with humans but tough when it comes to surviving mites and winter.
Good luck, girls! May the strongest hives survive.
Sugar? How very unauthentic. How very, dare I say, un-American.
This Thanksgiving, why not go old-school with a healthy dose of honey added to your traditional recipes? European colonists brought honeybees to North America in 1622, so you can be sure that cooking with honey from your local beekeeper is the original Patriot Act.
Honey Pumpkin Pie
Burnt Honey Cranberry Sauce | Orange Cinnamon Honey Cranberries | Honey Mustard Cranberry Sauce
Whiskey Honey-Glazed Turkey | Soy & Honey Glazed Turkey | Turkey Roasted in Honey
Honey Balsamic Roasted Sprouts | Brussels with Sriracha, Honey & Lime | Roasted Sprouts with Honey & Pecan
Ginger-Honey Pumpkin Pie | Honey Pecan Pie with Bourbon Cream | Honey Pecan Pumpkin Pie
Once a month, the initiates gather. From all corners of the ancient Rio Grande valley, we come like seekers on the clandestine path. Once a month, we enter the hallowed chambers…
In other words, here’s what goes down at beekeeping meetings throughout the year for Albuquerque beeks.
Though lacking a certain pizzazz, a certain, ahem…. radioactivity found elsewhere in New Mexican chamisa, our backyard shrubs bloom gloriously each fall and right when our beehives need the protein for winter. As we speak, the lurid market is open for business.
Chamisa (Ericameria nauseosa) may smell like a wet armpit and cause allergies to flare, but it’s xeric and reliable and a tasty high-protein sunburst for both native and European bees.
Pollen baskets full from the chamisa market
Each autumn when figs ripen and the honey jar starts to fill, I crack open my copy of a frou-frou cookbook by the woman known in France as the Fairy Godmother of Jam, Christine Ferber, and turn to p167.
There on p167 is a simple recipe for the most grown-up ambrosia your lips shall encounter — Fig and Honey Jam with Bay. I’m sure it’s divine with all sorts of bourgeois goodies like foie gras but I eat it straight out of the jar after a long sweaty day slinging websites.
Fig & Honey Jam with Bay
- 2 1/4 lbs figs
- 3 1/4 cups sugar
- 3 1/2 oz honey (I like a darker summer honey.)
- 6 bay leaves
- Juice of 1 small lemon
If you’re lazy, just cook this all up slow and long on the stove. Then seal into jars.