Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Beacon Bee products

We are in full production mode here on Sunnyside Road!
I currently have two wonderful products for sale.
Bee Balm, made from beeswax, shea butter, almond oil, propolis and vitamin E oil
This is a wonderful, thick, but not heavy, soothing and healing cream for both your lips and skin. I have found it to work wonders on chapped lips and cracked skin.
Bee Balm is available in both unscented (a lovely aroma of the natural ingredients) and lightly scented lavender.
Once ounce jar $4.00
Three ounce jar $10.00.

I also have Propolis Tincture. Propolis tincture can help to ward off or shorten the length of a cold, sore throat or flu. Propolis contains a high concentration of flavenoids, which have been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, antioxident and immune stimulation effects. Honeybees collect plant resins and bring them back to the hive. They then add beeswax, honey and enzymes, transforming it into propolis. Bees use propolis like caulking, filling cracks and gaps in their hive in order to protect it from disease.
One ounce bottle: $12.00
Two ounce bottle: $23.00

If you are interested in purchasing something, please send me a comment, or email me directly at

Deb's mom says "Hi Deb, I used your tincture yesterday because I woke up sick. Much better today... It really works!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


And now it is fall.
In early September I realized that my first hive was missing a queen. The queen cells that I found in the hive were "superceeding" cells, meaning that they were the workers' attempt to make a queen from one of the eggs in the side cells because their queen was dead or dying, versus the queen cells that were built in May, hanging off of the bottoms of the frames when the girls needed a new queen in order to swarm. I gave the girls a few weeks to sort things out, but when I saw in mid September that not only did they still have no queen, but that their honey stores were being robbed by the other hive, I knew that I had no choice but to merge the two hives. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It will turn the two hives (one weak) into one ultra-strong hive and I can go in and split the hive back into two in the spring. My only reluctance, was a) the process of doing the deed, and b) the knowledge that the new hive that I make next spring will be from the same lineage as this rather feisty (mean) hive.

As expected, it was a grueling, job. It involved
taking out all of the frames from one box and "shaking" all of the bees into the second box in an effort to consolidate the two into one. The girls, queenless and victims of robbing for the past weeks, were understandably really upset. I was working in a literal cloud of bees for way longer than anyone should ever work in a cloud of bees. Added to this was the fact that the girls did not seem to understand that I wanted them to stay in the box, not crawl out of it. 
I had to call Matt over to carry the box of bees and frames over to the host hive and place it on top of it. Believe it or not, this was his first time carrying a box of bees, and boy was he excited! It was shockingly heavy. I winced as I saw how he struggled to carry it the twenty or so feet to the other hive, imagining the chaos that would ensue if it were to be dropped.
The technique of merging is simple. You place a single sheet of newspaper between the two hives and in the amount of time that it take for the bees to chew through the paper, they become accustomed to each others' smell.
This seems to have happened.
I pulled the full super of honey that was on the host hive (now known around here as "Thor") and harvested just a bit. The honey was very thin but has thickened up with the help of a dehumidifier. I am saving the remaining six full frames until I am sure that the girls have enough for the winter. Perhaps the best piece of bee news is that my body (at least for the time being ) seems to have become immune to bee venom!! After a particularly serious reaction in August (at which point my entire torso turned beet red and got covered with hives), each subsequent sting has caused a progressively minor reaction. A solid sting on my index finger last week, which started to swell and send red lines up my arm, went on to deflate and cause nothing but a red dot after I put a baking soda paste on it.
The hive will be wrapped soon for another winter of clustering. I turn now to the stove and my boxes of beautiful blue glass bottles and white containers waiting to be filled with propolis tincture and bee body cream.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

August Bees

The summer has been active. A bit too active for my liking really, with a very "spirited" new hive. I have had to resort to full gear (veil, boots and long sleeves) every time I go up. I don't think that they are mean bees really, just more defensive than some, and a bit impulsive. Each of the stings I have gotten can be rationalized; a girl got caught in my hair and freaked out, a girl bumped into me because I was in her way while pulling out weeds and freaked out, a girl got caught in my pants fold and freaked out. You get the idea. (As with parenting, it's easy to blame oneself when anything goes wrong.) But the other hive is so mellow. How could this be? I guess it is like having a second child and being surprised at how different they are from the first. But why should they be the same? It is hard to approach them now without fear or anger. It is sinking in that we are not "friends" really. I still love sitting near them and watching them though. It calms me and stills my mind.

About a week ago, following my mentor's advice, I started feeding the girls again. Apparently there is not enough out there for them, in part due to the heavy rains that wash all the pollen of the flowers. I found them to be ravenous! Sucking down a gallon of sugar water within hours. They will stop taking the "bee tea" when they no longer need it, but I can't keep up with them. Yesterday I decided to give them two of the frames of honey that were left over from last winter. I opened up the large plastic container on the front patio and took out two frames and left two behind. By the time I set them up at the hives, the girls had found the two that I had left on the patio (note to self; don't forget to put the top back on next time.) I brought the whole container up to the hives and watched as they gorged themselves all afternoon. the frames were covered with bees within 20 minutes. Each frame holds about 4 pounds of honey and by the end of the afternoon, each cell of each frame was dry as a bone. I am thinking now that I probably will not get any honey this year if this is the state that they are in. I need to be o.k. with that. I have come to think of myself as being "at their service" versus the other way around. I am thinking instead of making some beeswax "products" i.e. body lotion and lip balm. Things that use the by products of the hive but are not dependent on them producing honey.
Today I will venture in to see what is going on inside the hives. Fully covered, full of love.

Monday, June 2, 2008

a new season

I'm back and so are the bees. The winter was good to the bees. Not too brutal and I had left them with more than enough honey to make it through. This spring I got a second hive, which I will refer to as the lower hive (for now) as it is geographically lower than the upper hive (the hive from last year). The major excitement so far, has been the anticipation of, and witnessing of my first swarm, which occurred yesterday! I had seen queen cells being grown a few weeks ago and have had my eyes out since then. The queen cells are the longs things hanging off of the bottom of the frame.

The hive grows a new queen for one of two reasons. Either the old queen is dead or not producing well (laying good and plentyful eggs), or because the hive is overcrowded. I had added a super, but apparently not soon enough to suit them.
The past few days I had been hearing the strangest sound from inside the hive when I put my ear to it. A rhythmic, high pitched "weep-weep-weep" sound, which I read is called "Queen piping, or tooting". It is the sound of the new queens communicating with the hive, sometimes from within their cells before they even emerge. It was quite surreal and reminds me of just how odd and fantastic this whole beekeeping thing is. Once the queens emerge, they duke it out with each other until one rules supreme. The old queen then leaves the hive with up to half of the bees to start a new hive.

Yesterday at around 10:00a.m., I was out on the patio and I must have sensed them, because I looked up just as a cloud of bees was forming high up in the bee yard. I grabbed camera, boots, phone and ran up. Creeping through the woods, I could feel their presence and could hear a dull, deep whirring sound, but could not see them at all. I moved slowly through the trees with them and finally they popped out to where I could see them.

I ran down to the house and brought up the spare "bait hive" (an empty hive box with old comb in it) that I had prepared for this occasion. I set it down at my feet and beat out a slow rhythm on my bucket, something I had both read about and heard from Chris. And boy did I feel odd! Luckily, all neighbors seem to have been away for the afternoon. I beat, I sang, I beckoned. All to no avail. They settled on a dead branch 75 feet in the air. Much too far for me to reclaim them. From here, it is the drones' job to scout out a new location and report back to the group. The drones do a dance to convey what they have found and how prime a spot it is. Based on the enthusiasm of their dance, the group votes on where to set up house, and off they go. I had to go out for the afternoon, and Matt reported that by 3:00, the group was gone. Click on the images to see the bees up close!