Posts Tagged ‘bee bee beekeeping green honeybee honey bee natural sustainable TBH top bar hive beekeeping green honey bee honeybee natural sustainable TBH top bar hive’

Ground bees? They are not always wasps, hornets, yellowjackets…

April 6, 2012

A lovely and informative post about “ground bees” from Soulsby Farm’s blog by Denise Ellsworth – honey bee and native pollinator education from The Ohio State University Department of Entomology.

With great pictures too!  Check it out…




About honey bees and January… and April…

December 31, 2011

About honey bees and January… and April…

Beekeeping is funny, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a spring thing, right?  The flowers are blooming, gardens are growing, bees are buzzing, it’s an exciting, growing time. But to understand how “things bee” get started up in the spring, you have to go backwards into the winter, to see how things arrived at spring. For instance, honeybees finish up the summer season and go into the hive in the fall, where they cluster, and they do something akin to hibernating all winter long. Continuing beekeepers have to force themselves to sit on their hands all winter long–you can’t open up a hive in freezing temperatures, at least not with happy results.

New beekeepers, on the other hand, who are just getting started in the spring, have been planning for their brand new hives since the dead of winter. So these beekeepers discover that ordering bees should be done in January! The honey bee suppliers that I talk with are, like me, usually sold out of package bees by mid-March at the latest.  So new beekeepers are usually johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to ordering their first bees.

But consider the continuing beekeeper whose bees don’t overwinter. April is said to be the cruelest month in beekeeping, at least here in New England. Sometimes you see these hives flying in February, and again in March–but come April that hive is dead. That beekeeper did not even stand a chance when it came to ordering bees; and so, it’s not unusual for experienced beekeepers to order some packages of bees in January as “insurance”. Yes, that seems counterintuitive – if you think that’s odd, you’re right. January by rights is the month for sitting by the fire, and thumbing through your seed catalog, not for ordering honeybees.

The thing to know is this: if you are just beginning your beekeeping journey, be prepared to order package bees as early as possible. January is not too early. And if you are continuing your beekeeping journey, it is not a bad idea to order an insurance package, in the event that April does you wrong. The thing about having ordered a package in January, and then not needing it–is that now you have a cause for celebration! And a sad beekeeper, who didn’t order bees but then learned that their hive was gone in April, will celebrate too – and will be grateful to you when it turns out that you don’t need that package of bees.

So the moral is: order early, order often! It’s far more frustrating to need bees and not have them, then it is to have bees and not need them. I can almost guarantee you that somebody will be happy to get your “insurance package” when April rolls around. Of course, if your bees successfully overwintered, and now you have an additional colony, well – what part of this is a bad plan?

But when it comes to planning–if you think you *might* need bees–order bees. You’re not likely to be sorry. And besides, it’s a cheerful thing to think about bees when you’re huddling by the wood stove in January!


**For quality top bar beekeeping equipment, be sure to visit our webpage at!**

4th of July Message from Gold Star Honeybees

July 1, 2011

Hello Fellow Top Bar Beekeepers —

Well, here we are – it’s almost the 4th of July.  I know that all of you first year top bar beekeepers  have had some interesting experiences since becoming a beekeeper this spring, some good, some bad, all of them different – and I just thought I’d offer a few insights to you all about the way beekeeping season progresses from my point of view as a beekeeper, bee school teacher and equipment manufacturer.

In the early spring, there’s a great deal of excitement – making plans, buying equipment, going to bee school, learning everything you can, waiting for your bees.  We interact a lot – school is fun, questions are interesting, lots of anecdotes get passed around.

Then your bees come!  Everyone is SO excited, and you all go home and put your bees in their hive, then wait and worry and wonder.  You discover questions you hadn’t even thought to ask – how to do this or that, why are the bees doing x or y.  Then your bees get their bearings and start doing what bees do.  It’s fun and we all enjoy it.  You tell your friends about your new enterprise.

At that stage, it gets pretty quiet at Gold Star Global Headquarters.  I don’t hear from anybody.  Sometimes I check to see if my phone is even getting a dial tone!  Then the season progresses – to right about now, when folks have had their bees for somewhere between 4 – 8 weeks – and then I start to get a different set of questions.

And what I can generally tell by the 4th of July is that everyone is a little worried.  Everyone would like a little reassurance.  Everyone would like it if I could come and inspect their bees.  Some of you even offer to pay me to come and inspect your bees.  I appreciate it that you see me as such an expert!

But I hope that I have been able to get it across that the reality of beekeeping is that bees do what bees do – they are not machines, and they are definitely not predictable.  We want to see them build a brood nest, and store honey.  We inspect them and try to keep them making their combs straight so that our top bar hive remains a “moveable comb” hive.  But other than offering them sugar syrup to supplement what nature provides, or providing a new queen, or the means to make a new queen if needed, or monitoring for mite levels – there is not much we can actually do to change the course of things happening in the hive.  Nature is in control of that process and it is for us to watch in wonder.  That means that sometimes we will see things thrive, sometimes not.

Nature is awesome and in the face of her wisdom, we often feel powerless.  I get it.  Sometimes it’s thrilling, sometimes it’s heartbreaking.  Often it makes me feel small and inadequate.

So I know how much you want that reassurance.  There are days that I want it too.  I wish I could provide it.  But as Gold Star Honeybees grows – that becomes less and less feasible.  Which is truly bittersweet for me – I would love to stay personally connected to each and every one of you and see all of your bees.

But this growing is also a good thing.  Because it means that together we are building a larger community!  It’s getting more bees onto natural beeswax and into treatment-free lifestyles, and away from contaminated wax foundation and “Big Ag” style manipulations.  For most of you, that was the reason you gave for starting this journey – to keep healthier bees – for the bees, for beekeepers, and for the planet.

So I just want to remind you that what you’ve done is take a very bold, brave step.  You’ve become an iconoclast – breaking with established systems and practices that no longer make sense, and you’ve struck out and begun doing this very different thing, and I know that you sometimes feel very alone.

But all of you are Thinking Beekeepers – and I just want to repeat to you what you may have heard first at the end of a Gold Star Weekend Intensive class:

“Walk on, Beekeeper – this journey matters.”

Thanks for listening.  All the Best to you and your bees.  And have a great 4th of July weekend.

— Christy

22 Days to Swarming? Wow! That doesn’t seem good…

June 13, 2011

I hived a good sized package of bees on Friday May 20th in a Gold Star Top Bar Hive here in the Gold Star Apiary…

Yesterday, June 11th I did an inspection. This makes the hive 22 days old.

While I was pleased to see several bars of capped honey – which is a little surprising in a three week old hive, I was surprised as well that I found several torn open queen cells – on the edges of the comb. This edge of comb placement would indicate that they were “swarm” cells, not “supercedure” cells, and there was very little brood in the comb, another indication of a “queen replacement event” – since there is a “break” in the brood cycle when a colony swarms or supercedes their queen.

But 22 days seems very early for a colony to swarm, and since it’s difficult to say whether the population of the hive has dropped – we are mulling over whether they might have swarmed despite our disbelief, or superceded with a cell built closer to the edge than one would expect.

The other nagging concern that this brings up is the concern about just what are we doing to bees by selling packages and shipping them from hot southern climates to colder places such as New England? The bees in the package we hived came from Georgia – and had been foraging for months in that climate. Not much information is available about the effects of the shock of being shipped and having to start over again in an area where temperatures and forage are just getting started in May. We have heard a lot of stories of queen failures this season, so it is worrisome.

But at any rate – they’re building wax and filling it with stores and we’ll look again in a week or so and see whether we are seeing the laying pattern of a new and healthy queen, or whether some catastrophe has occurred and they are now queenless altogether!

That will bring up new and different stuff to talk about!

The internet is a very big place! Or… sorting through it all – Part II

January 21, 2011

So… Here we are again.  The internet certainly hasn’t gotten any smaller since last we wrote.

I wanted to tell you about some more sources of information that are available on the internet – these ones a bit more “formal”…

Many of the universities in these United States have got tremendous research departments.  Some of them are hot on the subject of bee research and have great stuff published on-line available for our perusal.  Here is a very short list to get you started:

The Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC) has been at the forefront of Colony Collapse Disorder research with the CCD Working Group – lots of CCD research results can be found here:  This group also studied 887 wax, pollen, bee and associated hive samples – finding 121 different pesticides and metabolite in those samples including coumaphos and fluvalinate.  We at Gold Star Honeybees had our wax testing by this same group and are proud and happy to say that our sample came up clean!  More details on that data can be found here:

The University of Georgia has a lot going on in the way of bee research – including an important study by Jennifer Berry and Keith Delaplane – concerning the sublethal effects of four chemicals that have been used in-hive to treat honey bee colonies in the USA.  Findings  from the testing for sublethal effects of some commonly used hive chemicals can be found here:

A good article from the Managed Pollinator CAP (Coordinated Agricultural Project) can be found here:  This article is titled “When Varroacides Interact” and gives a good description of the effects of combined varroa mite control methods and the effects of such “drug interactions”.

Then there’s Dr. Seeley at Cornell.  An expert on swarms – his research seems like it would be a tremendous amount of fun to be a part of.  Info on his swarm work can be found here:

So with all of this information, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get to the last page of the internet.  The one thing we strongly encourage all beekeepers to do is to take in lots and lots of information, and put it all into your “colander”.  Sift through it thoughtfully, and then… let the stuff that you can’t use… drain right on out the bottom.  Beekeepers are influenced to keep their bees based on many different factors – most importantly by what the focus of their beekeeping is – honey, pollination, healthy bees… you name it.  So bear that in mind as you peruse the internet – which is a wonderful source of information, and….

it is a VERY big place!!!