Posts Tagged ‘honeybee’

The resourcefulness of beekeepers…

January 12, 2012

Recently I read a response to a blog post on Dennis Murrell’s Natural Beekeeping blog.  Dianna wrote to describe how she had recycled oak fence boards into a Warre hive with her circular saw, for next to nothing in $$$ and happily, still has all her fingers!

We thought she was pretty smart, and the oak must look awesome!

Here’s what we said back to her:

Dianna – What a great example of recycling and resourcefulness!  We would love to see a pic of your Warre hive – maybe you could post it on our Facebook page?  It’s here: and we love to see pictures!  (We also love it when you click “like”if you like our Facebook page!)

There are a lot of extremely resourceful beekeepers out there – and many of them with a very well developed woodworker “gene”.  They also understand the value of having interchangeable parts – so that beekeepers can work together.  They understand that “a hive can save a hive” – an open bar of brood is the natural solution to a queenless hive.  But the parts have to fit between hives!

So in addition to our  “bells & whistles” Deluxe TBH hive ($495), which comes as a complete kit,  we also have the plans for a Gold Star hive kit in both of our DIY kits —  DIY#1 ($50) AND DIY#2 ($295).

The Deluxe kit contain all the wood, the glass window, the hardware, painted roof – everything – and goes together with nothing more than a screwdriver and a staplegun –

But with the DIY #1, YOU do ALL of the woodworking, and you are building the same box you see for sale on the website – and you know that it matches up with all existing Gold Star hives.

With a DIY #2, you build the box, roof and legs, but you GET the top bars.  And if you’ve GOT the top bars, then you want to be darned sure it all works together, so we also include the follower boards.   We like to call those follower boards “the keys to the kingdom” – because if you build the box to be a fit to the followers, then the top bars will also be a perfect fit.   Voila!  Gold Star quality, and hive interchangeability!

Both DIY kits include all the hardware as well.  This is our response to the “Big Box Bubble Pack” – where you have to buy a plastic bubble package containing 60 of something you only need 14 of.  Or a 100 foot roll of hardware cloth/screen that you only need 4 feet of.

And as Dennis mentioned – it’s very nice to have all your fingers – we think beekeepers should be able to count to ten!  You can read Dennis’ blog (in its new format!) here:

There’s a video about our different kits here:

You can find our website here:

And you can ask us questions here:

Thanks for listening!

Christy Hemenway

Gold Star Top Bar Hives since 2007


A Christmas beekeeping blog…

December 25, 2011


Just what IS beekeeping? Is it art? Is it science? Is it magic? It’s notoriously difficult to define… Is it a hobby?  Is it a habit?  Is it an obsession?  Just what is it?

And what about those funny little bugs? Just what is it about bees?  They sting, yes – so it’s prudent to be cautious when you’re around them – but they only sting when they’re defending something?  Who knew? And it’s a kamikaze mission, that once-in- a-lifetime sting of a honeybee.  They never do it frivolously – it’s a life or death proposition for the honeybee.

Yet beekeepers can be seen standing, sitting, lounging in the vicinity of their hives for hours, and just… watching. That’s it – just watching the bees flying in and out of the hive. It’s mesmerizing.  It’s as if we think that if we watch long enough, we’re going to figure out their secret.

Truly, what we humans really know about honeybees is pretty limited. We cannot see inside the hive, we cannot see inside their minds, we barely even believe in a concept as advanced as a hive mind or a holistic super organism.

That’s probably one of the reasons that so much damage has been done – not only to the honeybee, but to our food system over the course of recent history. Because we don’t necessarily believe in magic or in a hive mind. We’re used to living isolated and alone, so how could this humble insect know, and live by, something so community-oriented, something so complex that we humans can’t understand it?

The honeybee has much to teach us about cooperation. Living and working together, taking only what we need, never damaging the planet that sustains us–but only ever helping and supporting it. We could go a long way on the things that we could learn from bees.

My Christmas wish to all of us would be this–that we take a lesson from the honeybees. That we learn to live in connection with the world around us–supporting and nurturing it, instead of industrializing and destroying it. That we learn to live in harmony with each other, recognizing the importance of each to the whole.

And as we take steps in that direction, we will find a sense of peace, of joy, of good will towards all men.

And that would make for a pretty good Christmas gift.

I’m sorry about the bags….

November 24, 2010

I’m sorry about the bags….

Those damned plastic bags.  Boy, I remember well when those became the rage at the grocery store.  I hated them!  I hated the way they just hung there, jumbling all your groceries against each other.  I hated the way they fell over when you sat them down in your car and all your groceries rolled around on the floor.  I hated the way they sounded (and I had a cat that used to love to chew them so I know that sound really really well).   But most especially I hated the way they blew down the road and got caught in the branches of trees – flapping and flapping there – some sort of sick banner set out in tribute to our inability to treat the earth gently.  I really truly hated them.

And being the kind of person that is rather known for “telling you how I really feel”, one day I walked into the office at work and accosted the office manager with my hatred of plastic grocery bags.  I ranted and railed and raved.  He was amused.  He could not for the life of him understand what I was so excited about.  I was exasperated.  I spluttered and explained it again.  He was still nonchalant about the whole thing.  I left in disgust.

Today, there are places where those plastic bags are banned.  They are literally against the law.  I love that.  And if they aren’t banned, it’s at least likely that you’ll see reusable shopping bags for sale right beside the cash register – so it’s as easy to purchase one on an impulse as it is to buy a pack of gum, or a copy of People magazine, or the National Enquirer, on a last minute whim.  One local health food store in Brunswick, Maine: Morning Glory Foods, even keeps a basket near the register for a “bag swap” – it works kind of like a penny cup – Need one?  Take one.  Got one?  Leave one.  I find this a fantastic idea – good spirited, eco-friendly, sort of a “share the wealth” concept.  And I’ve left bags there – both paper and the reusable kind – but there must be a lot of people out there like me – because lots of times, you hit the checkout, and the basket is empty.

Lately it really grates on my nerves that if you aren’t ready with your reusable bag, the baggers mostly don’t wait to ask you “paper or plastic?” anymore – they just sort of assume that plastic is the bag of choice.  Many times I have un-bagged and re-bagged my groceries right there at the checkout, leaving the now intractable wisp of plastic bag quivering and floating there on the checkout counter – explaining that I hate the plastic bags and while I would really rather be using a reusable bag, at least a paper bag that knows how to get soggy and mushy and fall apart in the rain and begin to decompose is better than those hideous plastic things.

And speaking of reusable bags – for a long time now I have made it a practice that if I forget my reusable bags – I buy one.  Every time.  No excuses.  It’s only a buck, and it matters.  I keep hoping that one day this will teach me to remember to bring the bags – which too often don’t make it back out to the car between grocery runs, or I stop off on the way to/from somewhere else in an attempt to save the gas by combining trips and don’t have them with me — but so far what seems to have happened is that I have a gargantuan collection of reusable grocery shopping bags that are never where I need them.

With all that said – you can be sure that when my partner walked in today, heavy laden with a veritable cornucopia of wonderful organic food for our Thanksgiving feast – and from one of the best places to buy wonderful organic food that there is: Whole Foods Market, I was thrilled.  But they arrived in four double-bagged paper shopping bags.  About that I was dismayed.

So when we had put this embarrassment of riches away into the cabinets and rearranged the contents so that everything would fit in the refrigerator around the organic turkey, I looked down at all these paper shopping bags sitting there on my kitchen floor, and I shuddered to think about how careless we are about our planet and I marveled at how easy it ought to be to remember that you need to take a bag to go shopping but how hard it turns out to be to put into practice, and in a bad bag moment, inside my head, I said to the Earth — “Geez.  I’m sorry about the bags.”

PS – Many thanks to Jimmy for bringing the makings of a bona fide feast all the way from Whole Foods today – and no slam on him about the bags, half of those bags have gone to the store and back 3 or 4 times by now.  So obviously this is my particular failing to conquer and one day – one day I will get it.

Thanks for listening!

— Christy Hemenway

(c) 2010 Christy Hemenway

A little “chit-chat” about saving the bees…

November 24, 2010

On November 5, 2010 at the Lincoln Street Art Center in Rockland, Maine, I got to do a very fun thing.  It was called “Pecha Kucha” – a name I found mostly unpronounceable for weeks after I first heard it.  Turns out it means “chit chat” in Japanese.  And it was developed by architects (Japanese ones!)  to provide a forum for architects who wanted to showcase their work, but for which there was no really effective venue. Or at least not one that could contain the enthusiasm of these architects for their work – and prevent them from monopolizing the conversation.

So they created Pecha Kucha nights – and developed a very controlled and specific format for doing just that.  And here it is, ready?  It’s  20 slides,  20 seconds.  So a Pecha Kucha presentation lasts a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  It’s a little bit like a tiny TED presentation.  (Do you know about TED?  There’s an idea worth Googling…)

At any rate – they asked me to do one.  I was so excited about the idea, I said YES in capital letters.  Then I began the process of preparing my 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  Simple enough, I thought – I’ll just pick 20 pictures having to do with bees, and talk about them.  That’ll be easy!  It’s only 6 minutes and 40 seconds, right?  How hard can it be?

Ha, I say to you.  Not so quick, missy.  It’s amazing how looooooooong 20 seconds becomes when you don’t have anything to say.  And how short it is when the slide has changed and you still had more to squeeze in!

I was as nervous as a cat on Pecha Kucha night.  Strung out tighter than a bowstring, you might say.  I was third on the program.  It seemed an eternity.  But afterward, as I walked off the stage in my bee boots, all I could think of was “Can we do that again?”  It was a blast.  And it seemed like the audience enjoyed it too.

So we’ve decided to post the script on this blog, (see below) and you can, if you like, see a video of the presentation here:

Thank you again to all the folks at Pecha Kucha night in Rockland, Maine for letting me on stage to do this – here’s a link to their website – .   And thanks to Jeff too.  He knows who he is.

And here is some info about Pecha Kucha nights in general: They are springing up in cities all over – you might even be interested in starting one in your town!

Okay, so here’s the script.  Thanks for listening!

A little “chit-chat” about saving the bees…

*  Slide 1 – (Think outside the box television t-shirt)
This is a t-shirt put out by the Life is Good people.  Don’t you just love those guys?  They are such a great reminder to “Do what you like, and Like what you do.”   And since I don’t even own a television, I particularly liked this shirt.  I spend a lot of my time thinking outside the box.  And no time at all watching television…  (0:20)

* Slide 2 – (the bug in question)
So that’s probably one of the reasons that beekeeping seemed like a perfectly reasonable pursuit to me.  Never mind the apparent lunacy of sticking one’s hands into a box filled with stinging insects, the little bugs just seemed magical, fascinating… much better than the stuff you find on television!  I set out to know more.  (0:40)

Slide 3 – (bee school)
And so off I went to bee school.  As you do.  And I learned about bees.  And about the keeping of bees, and many other things bee…  And then, on the very last day of the very last class, we had this big Q & A session.  Timidly raising my hand, I asked:   What did bees do — before beekeepers?    (1:00)

* Slide 4 – (pin dropping)
You could have heard the proverbial pin drop.  I was shocked!  Did nobody know the answer, or was nobody telling?  Had I spoken the unspeakable?  Since that day and that Q&A, I’ve heard a lot of answers to that question, and I have even made up some new ones of my own.  But that very loud moment of silence sent me down a new path.  (1:20)

* Slide 5   (Bee boots)
That path led me to question most everything I’d learned in bee school.  When you think that bees have existed on this planet for many millions of years and us humans for only a few hundred thousand… that’s pretty humbling, or it should be!     So I set out to discover what bees did before we came along.  The next slide shows us the essence of what bees do when left to their own devices. (1:40)

* Slide 6 – (Natural wax)
The honeycomb inside a beehive serves as both the “heart” and the “skeleton” of the bee colony.  The bees make thousands of those little six-sided cells, from teeny weeny wax flakes, secreted from itty bitty wax glands in their bellies – and they arrange them in the hive according to an intuition that only bees know.   (2:00)

* Slide 7 –  (Foundation in frame)
This is the kind of “skeleton” you find inside a square box beehive.  This is a piece of “foundation” inserted into a square “frame” and presented to the bees to “help” them make honeycomb.  Foundation is a sheet of beeswax that comes preprinted with hexagons – as if bees needed to be taught about how to make hexagons…  (2:20)

* Slide 8 –  (One size does not fit all)
The primary problem with those pre-printed hexagons is this — each and every one of them is the very same size!!!  This is no surprise, or evil master plan – it’s just that foundation is made by a machine, and machines know very little about the magic of bees.   Because as it turns out – bees don’t come in just one size.  And especially not as they begin their lives!  (2:40)

* Slide 9 –  (pix of brood and queen cells)
These are baby bees – we call this “brood”.  You got your girl bees – called workers.  You got your boy bees – called drones.  The hexagons that these baby bees are raised in are very different, as you see here… and then there is another kind of  magic altogether that goes on when the bees make a new queen!  (3:00)

* Slide 10 – (Langstroth hive)
But us humans, (with our big brains and our opposable thumbs) we fear nothing like we fear inconvenience.  And so, beekeeping began to be more about beekeepers and not so much about bees.  Hives became square boxes, easily stacked.  Bees were given square frames and preprinted foundation to use as the heart and skeleton of their nest.  This did not make sense to us in our search!  (3:20)

* Slide 11 – (Think outside the box beehive t-shirt)
So when we started thinking about thinking outside THIS box – we felt that the first thing we needed to do was to put the bees back into beekeeping.  We started to pay close attention to what bees did (without beekeepers) and we can tell you that there are three very important things that bees do without any encouragement from us at all:   (3:40)

* Slide 12 –  (Swarm at New Aim Farm)
Here is Thing One — Bees make more bees.  Contrary to Hollywood’s horror stories, swarming is the amazing, if somewhat startling process by which one colony of bees turns itself into two.  If bees didn’t do this, with all the recent problems with bees, we’d be all out of bees by now!  This is the first swarm I ever went up a ladder after – in 2007.   (4:00)

* Slide 13 –  (Bees pollinating fruit, veg, nut, flower)
This is Thing Two – Bees pollinate the stuff we eat.  Fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs – all of these plants need bees.  Pollination is the plants’ way of reproducing – it’s a symbiotic relationship that the plants have developed with bees.  We think it’s a good idea!  (4:20)

* Slide 14 –  (Adam Mcnally’s honey harvest pic)
And Thing Three – Bees make honey.  Oddly enough, honey is what honeybees eat!  And honeybees are smart – they know to make lots of food during times of plenty for those times when there is no food.  But us humans — you know, big brains — opposable thumbs — we put a lot of energy into “helping” bees to do what they already do – and sometimes our “helping” makes a mess.  (4:40)

* Slide 15 –  (It’s not about the honey, Honey  t-shirt)
Healthy bees do all the important things that bees do without any coaxing or cajoling or forcing, or manipulating.  So the important thing for us humans to do would be to focus on healthy honey bees.  We think “It’s not about the honey, Honey – it’s about the bees!  So how does that translate into our right livelihood?  (5:00)

* Slide 16 – (Forsythia hive)
At Gold Star Honeybees we believe that we “build a better beehive”.  This is a picture of our Gold Star Top Bar Hive.  We know that really, it’s just another box – and we hope that one day we will learn to think outside of this box, too.  But for now – it’s pretty convenient and easy and green, it’s even ergonomically friendly for beekeepers, but more importantly — it works FOR bees and not AGAINST bees.  (5:20)

* Slide 17 – (Bees flying in and out of top bar hive)
The bees that live in this box make their own beeswax,  in their own way – they make the cells the right sizes, and they put them in the right places.  So this is a box full of beeswax made BY bees, FOR bees.  You might say that they are “minding their own beeswax!!!”   (5:40)

* Slide 18 – (Natural wax – up close)
And since that beeswax functions as both the skeleton and the heart of the colony – we think it’s hugely important that it be as the bees need it to be.  And any time that us humans (you know – big brains, opposable thumbs) – anytime we’re tempted to think that we’ve come up with something “new and improved”, maybe we ought to think again!   (6:00)

* Slide 19 –  (I love bees t-shirt)
At Gold Star Honeybees – we feel like we have found our heart.  We know that we are out to save the world, by saving the bees.
So this is our message to you — “Do what you like, like what you do.”
Because when you follow your heart — the rest of it all comes together.    (6:20)

Slide 20 –  (Mentos beekeeper!)
And we’d like to leave you with this thought about the world and the way it works – ready?  Here is how you can help save the bees without sticking your hands into a box full of stinging insects —
Live your life knowing this —
That if you tug at a single thing in nature, you’re gonna find that it’s attached to everything else.

EVERYthing else.

Thank you.

(Mentos!)   (6:40)

(c) 2010  by Christy Hemenway.   Gold Star Honeybees

What did bees do before beekeepers?

September 16, 2010

Have you gotten interested in natural beekeeping recently?  Have you been to “regular” bee school and come away confused by all the focus on diseases and mites and chemical treatments and other things that your heart tells you, deep down, shouldn’t really have anything to do with bees?
Do you somehow feel like you are all by yourself in a crowd – the only person concerned about the way we are treating bees?
I promise you – you are not alone.  I felt that way for a time too.

But with all the “sturm und drang” in the news media now about the plight of the honeybee – and especially the concern about “CCD”, (the acronym we use for the scariest of all the current bee problems:  “Colony Collapse Disorder”) —  it’s not surprising to me any more how many folks are searching for healthier and more natural methods of beekeeping.

I had a similar experience when I first got interested in honey bees.  I attended a conventional beekeeping course, and I left those classes thinking “There has just GOT to be a better way”.

There was all this insistence that you MUST treat your bees.  You MUST feed your bees.  You MUST do this and you MUST do that.  But never any talk about what honey bees do, or when, or why, or how they do things when they are doing them their own way.

I definitely felt alone – everyone else seemed to be buying into these methods and the chemical treatments and the manipulations.  But I still had a question.  A lot of questions, actually, but one big one that to me seemed crucial to understanding bees and beekeeping.

Finally, on the last day of bee school, at the big Q & A session – I gathered up all my courage and got brave enough to ask my biggest question.   I thought it was a simple question.  Here is what I asked:

“What did bees do before we gave them wax foundation?”

Wax foundation

Wax foundation

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?  All I wanted to know was how the bees made honeycomb before beekeepers came along and provided them with rectangular sheets of beeswax with  pre-printed hexagons on them.  But when I asked that question, you could have heard a pin drop in that classroom.
I still don’t understand why there was such a silence.  Maybe it was just too “radical” for a beginning beekeeper to challenge anything about the way bees have been kept in America since 1853.    But in the end what happened was this:

I had asked the question.  But I got no answer.

So I set out on a quest.  What did bees do before beekeepers gave them wax foundation?  Or more to the point, what did bees do — before beekeepers?
In very simple terms that quest led to the founding of Gold Star Honeybees, and our very simple answer to a very important question.  Top Bar Hives – filled with clean, natural wax honey comb – beeswax made by bees, for bees.

“Because this is what bees did before beekeepers.”

What bees did before beekeepers...

Does this attitude match up with yours?  Check us out at  We’ve been looking for you – we need your help in saving the bees.


September 16, 2010

Here’s another bee-autific little blurb in our series of bee-attitudes in need of re-calibrating – this is BEE-ATTITUDE #4:
“Left to their own devices, honeybees will raise too many drones.”  This one really shocks me.  Too many drones?  How many drones is too many drones?  Who is counting them?  Would the bees spend their energy on something they did not need?  It doesn’t seem likely to me…
Add to this the effect that limiting drone production has on genetic diversity, and well… that’s a scary thing too.

And it is often said that varroa mites prefer to reproduce in drone comb – but a quick bit of math will show you that it’s just EASIER to get IN to drone cells to breed, since the larval stage, before the cells are capped, is longer by a day than that of a worker.  But in fact, having already changed the larval stage of all the bees in the hive by forcing the size of the cell in the way that foundation does – odds are pretty darn good that any old cell will do – and think about this – if we’ve been limiting drone product and that’s such an effective way of reducing the varroa mite population, then why are we at the point where all the wax is contaminated with all the chemicals we had to use to treat for varroa mites in hives that weren’t allowed to raise any drones?
Ouch – that one might make your head spin…

I think the bees know what the numbers should be — there’s no such thing in their minds as “too many” drones.

Does this attitude match up with yours?  Check us out at  We’ve been looking for you – we need your help in saving the bees.


September 3, 2010

Here’s another bee-autific little blurb in our series of bee-attitudes in need of recalibrating – this is BEE-ATTITUDE #3:
“Top bar hives don’t overwinter in cold climates.”  This one appears to have originated with an early philanthropic effort to provide some folks in Kenya with some supplemental income.  Sort of a “stimulus package”, if you will.  They used horizontal hives made from local materials – and that used no frames or wax foundation – in Kenya – where the temperature ranges from 45 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit.  I don’t know about you but I’ve been a number of places a lot closer to home, where temperatures could exceed those numbers on both ends, and people are keeping bees in those places in top bar hives, successfully – and I didn’t have to go to Kenya to see that.
I accumulate a lot of data about top bar hives and how they behave in the various locations where people are keeping them, and the growing list of people who are successfully keeping bees in top bar hives in places where the temperatures range from 5 to 99 degrees F is getting pretty long.  So we’re not sure that a top bar hive is only suitable for Kenya’s temperatures…
And we hate to point this out, but logic insists that we must:  It would seem, if you were to ask a whole bunch of conventional beekeepers, that bees don’t overwinter in Langstroth hives very well either… or maybe it’s that bees just don’t overwinter well, period.  I know too many Langstroth equipment users that lost all of their colonies over a winter, whether a vicious or a mild winter, for it to make sense to say that it can be blamed on the equipment being used.  I think that healthier bees overwinter better – and so that’s our focus.

Does this attitude match up with yours?  Check us out at  We’ve been looking for you – we need your help in saving the bees.


August 16, 2010

Here’s another bee-autific little blurb in our series of bee-attitudes in need of recalibrating – this is BEE-ATTITUDE #2:
Sheets of wax foundation are provided to give bees a “head start”.  Someone should explain this truth to the bees.  Early in my beekeeping career I was astonished to find that when I asked a panel of beekeepers at an “Ask the Beekeeper” session of Bee School just what bees did before we gave them these sheets of wax foundation – that no one really seemed to have a good answer to this one.  Since then, as a top bar beekeeper, I have learned a bit about natural wax and I have to wonder — giving bees a head start on what, I wonder?
Here’s a little anecdote about wax building:  A top bar beekeeper, worried that perhaps having melted beeswax on the points of his bevelled top bars still wasn’t quite enough encouragement for his bees to live in  his new Gold Star Top Bar Hive, added a top bar that he had modified to hold a sheet of wax foundation, cut to fit into his new top bar hive.  Nine bars of freshly drawn natural wax later – they still had not touched the bar with the foundation installed in it.
At the very least, really, we ought to rename the stuff – since if you pay attention to how bees make wax – you’ll notice right away that bees don’t build from the ground up – they generally hang from something and build down.  Occasionally, they even start at one wall and build sideways…

Does this attitude match up with yours?  Check us out at  We’ve been looking for you – we need your help in saving the bees.


August 2, 2010

There’s an interesting phenomenon that seems to occur in the beekeeping world… maybe you’ve noticed it too.  We call it The Theory of Immutable Truths.  It’s the theory that says that any statement that is repeated oft’ enough becomes true.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be logical, you just have to say it lots  and lots of times.  And since beekeepers like to tell their stories over and over, there are a lot of “truths” that have attained that status in the 157 years since the invention and patent of the Langstroth hive in 1853.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting a couple of these supposedly immutable truths that we personally have seen honeybees “give the lie to”.  Here are the most prominent “truths” that a novice beekeeper may encounter early in their new found endeavors:

Bees must go “up”.  This one appealed to me when I first heard it because it seemed to simplify things.  If bees must go up, then all I need to do is keep stacking up boxes in a tower, and the sky would be the limit!  Then I got one of those phone calls that I plainly should have allowed to go to voice mail –>  someone had bees in a building.  In a house, specifically.  In the roofline of a house, to be exact.  Did I want them?  I said yes I did,  and so I fetched my bee jacket and gathered up what tools I expected to find useful, and off I went to relocate some errant honey bees.  What did I find when I got there?  You guessed it.  Bees that were going (gasp) sideways.  Sideways for a long ways, in fact.  That call was the first in a long line of phone calls received by what has since become a thriving department of Gold Star Honeybees – the Live Bee Relocation Department.
Now I don’t know about you but I know that humans have a tendency to get some things backwards.  This would appear to be one of them.  When the Reverend Lorenzo Loraine Langstroth created his moveable frame Langstroth beehive – using the logic of three-eights of an inch of bee space and a box he had hanging around in his garage – he created something else as well.  What, you ask?  He created the beginnings of an immutable truth!  We began to use a beehive that only allowed bees to go up, and the truth that sprung forth from this was “Bees must go up!”
Since that early phone call I’ve relocated a lot of bees from various situations in buildings.  And I’ve seen situations where bees occupied large branches of trees – that reached out horizontally from the vertical tree trunk.  The thing to know is that bees are “cavity nesters.”  They need to build their homes inside a cavity, or an empty space.  And they accommodate themselves to the cavity they have chosen.  If that cavity goes up, then so do the bees.  If that cavity goes sideways, well… you can see where that’s going, I bet.

Now doesn’t that make more sense?

Does this attitude match up with yours?  Check us out at  We’ve been looking for you – we need your help in saving the bees.

The Swarming of honey bees…

July 26, 2010

Low-hanging swarm on rose bush in Lewiston, ME 2009

Swarm on rose bush

“A swarm in May –
is worth a bale of hay.
A swarm in June –
is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July –
isn’t worth a fly.”

Why is this old adage so often repeated?

Because it tells us a bit about honeybees and their needs.  A swarm is the honeybees’ method of reproducing.  In a swarm, the entire colony organizes itself so that the “old” queen – the one who flies off to find a new home – takes with her the right number of nurse bees and house bees and worker bees and drones, and leaves behind not only all the honey comb the colony has built, but also all of their existing stores of food, and brood – the “unborn babies” – ensuring that the colony who stays behind can raise their new queen, and she can take her mating flight, and their life can begin again.

In May the colony is likely a bit ahead of itself – a bit small to build up quickly, a bit early in the season for the nectar flow.

In June, things are just right – swarms are larger, nectar and pollen are everywhere, and when they find a place to begin their new colony – they go “gangbusters”!

In July, things are a little bit past prime.  The nectar flow has been in full swing for awhile now, and most colonies are already built up to maximum size and strength.  A swarm in July may or may not have time to bring in the food stores, and raise the brood they will need to survive the winter.

Does this attitude match up with yours?  Check us out at  We’ve been looking for you – we need your help in saving the bees.