Thursday, December 15, 2011

Honey is going, going ...

Almost gone. If you need Prairie Blossom Bee Farm honey for yourself or as a gift, we're down to the end of this year's harvest. Call Mark at 662-418-4422 to make arrangements.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dr. Weil says . . . honey is healthier than sugar.

Nutrition & alternative health guru Dr. Andrew Weil has a brief post about the health benefits of honey. He brings up something I've never heard before: because of its stickiness, honey can be worse for your teeth than refined sugar.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sweet as Can Bee Corn Maze

Mark is reading the latest issue of American Bee Journal. In it he found a photo of a corn maze at The Farmstead in Idaho. 

That looks like crazy fun!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thanks, Loresco!

Thanks to Loresco and the Tatum family, Mark and I spent part of the weekend bottling, labeling, and packaging 168 one-pound bottles of honey for delivery to their clients and friends. This corporate holiday gift will be sent all over the U.S. and the world. 14 international shipments mean our honey is going far, far away.

We're excited our honey was such a hit with the Tatums that they wanted to share it with others. We appreciate Chip for his support. A special thanks to his fantastic assistant, Stephanie, who efficiently organized the various batches, printed all the labels, and provided such clear instructions.

Below I've included some photos of our heated bottling tank (it has a double wall to hold water that gets heated to the temperature we choose!) with its drip-less valve. Mark *loves* it. He bottled 150 pounds in no time!  It sits on a special, welded steel table capable of holding two tanks full of honey (300+ pounds a piece) which has a food-grade powder coat finish. Thanks to Paul Yeatman for the welding and True Grit for the powder coat.

Sugared honey is no  match for Bessie the Bottling Tank!
When we're finished with our Loresco order and one other corporate order, I'll have a good idea of how much honey we have left to sell for this year's harvest. Thank you to all of our customers for your continued support.

My favorite beekeeper.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Another take on the "Is it really honey?" controversy

National Public Radio says the blog post about honey being ultra-filtered to remove pollen in order to disguise the country of origin is suspicious. I wrote about it here.

Regardless of the reason to ban Chinese honey (undercutting American beekeepers with low prices or issues of contaminants), buying local honey is still better for you, in my humble opinion.

We're bottling the last of our harvest.  I'll let you know what we have when we get a final count!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Even Pansies Have Pollen

I took this photo today. The porch bees loved the warm weather. I saw a small patch of aster still blooming -- it's lasted much longer than usual, which is good news for the bees.

We hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. We enjoyed time with Mark's dad Bert and his wife Betty. This morning, some of us ate our honey and peanut butter on top of sweet potato pancakes.  Now that's what I call breakfast.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Organizing a Local Beekeepers Club

Last night Mark and I went to the Clay County Extension office for what we thought was an organizational meeting for a local beekeepers' club.

Lucky for us, Harry Fulton was doing an overview for beginning beekeepers.  We saw a few familiar faces (Art Potter, John Buckley) and met some new friends (Hi Mr. Ted, Mr. Benny, & the rest!).  We learned a bit more about how to handle swarm management in the spring -- you can bet we'll be watching our hives and swapping the positions of the deep brood chambers *every three weeks* to keep the build-up strong.  We'll also add more honey supers, even if it looks like they won't fill them for a while. It's better to give them more room than they need than risk losing bees to a swarm.

Thanks to Reid Nevins (Lowndes County Extension agent, beekeeper, and pumpkin grower) and his wife Kate for getting the Golden Triangle Club off the ground. We'll see you in January!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Design for an Urban Beehive

Friend and follower Mari sent me a link to an urban beehive design by Philips.  (Thanks, Mari!)

Here is how they describe their company:

Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands is a diversified Health and Well-being company, focused on improving people’s lives through timely innovations. As a world leader in healthcare, lifestyle and lighting, Philips integrates technologies and design into people-centric solutions, based on fundamental customer insights and the brand promise of “sense and simplicity”.

I appreciate what they're trying to do -- help the global bee crisis by encouraging urban beekeeping. Plus, wouldn't it be fun for the kids to be able to watch the bees? The bee bubble, as I am calling it, has a shape and color similar to a bee's body.

But that's where its similarity to real bees and hives ends, in my opinion.

There is more than one fundamental flaw.  Some of them are more evident if you look at the labeled design on their website.

  1. How do you get the bees in the hive in the first place? I mean, the hive body is in your house, against your window. You can't install a package of bees through that tiny entry hole.
  2. The bees are *inside your house*. There's a hole and stopper-on-a-stick "for smoke application." It seems relatively certain you will end up with bees coming out the hole at some point and flying around your house/apartment.
  3. Bees do not like to build at an angle going upward, as evidenced in the frames they've built into the bubble (that they have textured in a honey comb pattern to encourage the bees to build). In nature, they build from the top down -- not sideways. My guess is that they would dislike the varying amounts of space along the edges of the bubble and attempt to build comb from the top of the dome. A mess will ensue.
  4. A tiny plant outside your window (which has an arrow and is labeled "pollen" -- I laughed) is not sufficient to feed a colony of bees. Yes, they could forage in the city and do well, but it seems a bit naïve and disingenuous.
  5. The mechanics of handling the bees -- either to replace a queen or deal with the dead bees that are going to pile up in the bottom because dead bees can't be carried out the entrance tube (and will therefore stop up your smoke hole) -- are mind boggling. (See #2.) Do you unscrew the bubble from the window attachment? Spin those bees around and then release them into your house?
  6. Is this thing attached to a sliding window you'll have to move to water the plant?  Sliding bees = bad idea. Is it on your balcony where you will no longer be able to sit because of bee traffic?
  7. Climate control -- the bees are inside your house.  This can mean drastically different interior and exterior temperatures in various seasons, depending on where you live. Not good for your bees.
  8. Size: I don't think there is enough space in this bee bubble to sustain a colony over any length of time, meaning they will swarm off or die off. Plus, there wouldn't be any surplus honey to eat!
In my opinion, this urban beehive will be a lot of money spent for little return.   Anyone else have any thoughts to add?

Photo from Philips, which kindly offered high resolution photos for download.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

If Honey Contains No Pollen . . . It's NOT Honey!

I hope I get to meet Richard someday.  He has yet another thoughtful post on what real honey is on his blog.  He also has a link to an article on food safety that describes how three-fourths of honey sold in grocery stores does not fit the definition of honey. It has been filtered so extensively it has no pollen. Thus, it cannot be traced back to its country of origin . . . you see where I'm going with this. Honey from China and India has been found to be contaminated with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.

Folks, if you click on that food safety link, you will see that they name names.  I love that.  I also like confirmation that those $1.99 honey bears we saw at Kroger were exactly what we thought they were: glorified supertreated liquid sugar, called honey.

"Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and "natural" stores like PCC and Trader Joe's had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen. "

Buy local! ;-)

FYI: our honey, especially the cotton blossom honey, is starting to sugar in this cooler weather. On Sunday we put on a big pot of water, heated it on low, and put our various partial jars in to slowly liquefy. It worked just fine. We suggest you to avoid microwaving your honey (it kills the beneficial enzymes) or boiling it rapidly.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Failed Hive at Barhams' Bee Yard

Mark spent most of yesterday doing bee yard maintenance.  When he got home, he was tired, sore, and bothered.  One of the hives at Barhams' Bee Yard appeared to be in great distress and queenless.

Due to other work, he'd not inspected those hives in a month. When he was there 2 weeks ago, he said he noted the bee traffic appeared fine going in and out of all of the hives.  He said he'd likely take the porch bees to see if he could save the bees that were left in the struggling hive.

When I got up this morning, he'd been awake since 1:40 a.m., researching.  His conclusion: the bees he saw were robbing the hive. He suspects the original hive -- which has been weak all along -- finally gave up, and the other bees are removing the honey from the frames to store for winter.

"The top super had no honey in it at all," he said. "It was dry as a bone."

His plan of action is to leave the hive for a couple more days to see if the bees will rob all of the honey out, then retrieve the entire hive so wax moths don't set up shop.  We'll store the empty honey frames in our deep freezer until the spring, when he'll split a strong hive and give it a queen to start a new colony.

So much for bragging we'd made it through the season without any losses.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Making Room for Bees

For my day job, I spend lot of time thinking about agriculture. I am sympathetic to farmers who gamble on the weather, who try to manage everything just right to get the best yield. Their inputs are high, they have little control over many of the circumstances upon which their livelihood depends, and most of the producers I've met are down-to-earth, nice folks who are thoughtful neighbors.

That said, many property owners -- whether farmers, hunters, timber investors, or none of these -- could do so much for pollinators if they would simply make room for them. Wildflowers thrive in the buffer zones, areas between plantings, creek banks, ditches, field margins, and roadsides. Richard at The Peace Bee Farmer writes poetically about the wildflower meadow they planted last year -- just one acre, but it's a haven for all sorts of winged creatures.

Mark is investigating prairie restoration projects for some land he helps manage, which would involve native wildflowers over several acres. I hope it will become a reality, not only because I think some of our bees would be very happy there, but because wild pollinators, who need all the help they can get, would find a beautiful sanctuary.

How can you make room for bees where you are?
  • if you have unwanted bees in your house or on your property, call a beekeeper, not an exterminator
  • plan this winter for your spring pollinator garden
  • allow room for wildflowers on the edges of your property
  • preserve creek banks by not harvesting timber or planting/harvesting crops all the way to edge. Leave a buffer zone!
  • plant a prairie garden (this is from Minnesota) or wildflower meadow (this is for MS)
  • take up beekeeping! Seriously, having two hives will bring you a lot of enjoyment.  You don't have to be like us and expand from 6 to 22 . . . with plans to go to 50 in the spring. 
  • lobby for bee-friendly zoning ordinances so people in urban areas can keep bees 
  • work with your local garden club or school to create a pollinator garden
  • plant pollinator-friendly plants -- herbs, flowers, milkweed, etc.

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Honey Recipes

    Check out these yummy treats from the National Honey Board! Maybe we'll make honey caramel corn this weekend!

    Picture from the National Honey Board's campaign email/webpage.