Keeping it Simple Beekeeping

Friends, if you ordered a new queen from me in 2016, Sam Comfort from Anarchy Apiaries is the guy who raised her.  I couldn’t be more pleased his queens. And with Sam…who is a delight.

If you don’t raise your own queens from local surviving stock, and if your bees overwinter some long, cold months, I suggest you get your queens from Sam. Or, if you’re near Cincinnati, contact me. :) I probably have a few of Sam’s queens on hand for you.

But it’s not hard to rear your own queens. You might screw it up initially, but think of what all you’ll learn. And it’s not the end of the world if you don’t immediately succeed…then again, you just might. What fun that would be, yes? And eventually, you will. :)

Here’s the way it goes:

Here’s the way it goes, Reader: I taught my friend; she taught her son. She just sent me this image saying, “My son is teaching his friend.”


My friend's son teaching his friend

A Bee in Catherine Comello Stehlin’s Window




Catherine Comello Stehlin has died. Some people are simply forces of nature, and when they leave us, they leave gaping holes. That’s the way I feel about Catherine, and I didn’t even know her that well. I wish I had. I loved her from the moment I first spoke with her on the phone, and I grew to love her more through several conversations and by watching her spirit-filled life on Facebook. I won’t go on and on, but I am not usually this crazy about people.

They say that when someone important to us dies, we should tell the bees. Which I have done. They need to know about the shifts in our world.

Anyway, several years ago, photojournalist Emily Maxwell spent some time with a few local beekeepers documenting the plight of the bees and urban beekeepers. Emily recorded Catherine’s voice, and I like hearing it. To hear it for yourself, click on this link and then watch the slideshow titled “The Rise of CCD and Urban Beekeeping in Cincinnati.” There, at about the half-way point, you’ll find images of Catherine and her fire-escape bees. And you can hear her voice as she talks about them.


(photo by Emily Maxwell)





Facing the Cross-Comb Music

I’m sort of dreading today’s work. I’ve neglected the two top-bar hives I keep at the Veteran’s Memorial Community Garden in the East End. I let them go it alone for too long, and they’ve built a hive of cross comb. It’s bad.

So, today I’m determined to take my rubber bands and my zip ties and my serrated knife and get things straightened out over there.

To make matters worse, one of the colonies creating severe cross comb is also living in one of the hive bodies that succumbed to a TBH design flaw. Some of the cedar fencing I use for the hive bodies is simply too thin to hold the weight of a hive full of bars loaded with bees and comb and honey. Under tremendous weight, the cedar siding begins to bow. When the siding bows out, the top bars, which usually rest on the edge of the siding, slip down so that the comb squishes onto the bottom of the hive. And in this recent heat, the wax melts on the floor of the hive. None of this is good.

I’m gonna face the music today (because our high temperatures should only reach 80 degrees…which means I can work with the comb without it disintegrating in my hands). I intend to spend hours doing right by the bees that I previously neglected.

Comb by comb, I’ll cut the cross comb from the bars. Then I’ll reattach the straightened comb to its bar using either rubber bands or zip ties. Or both. Then I’ll place the newly reattached comb into a new, improved TBH.

I will reward myself with lunch at Eli’s. :)

I’ll take pictures of it for you. If I remember.

I expect to run into Joe Cocoran there. Talk about a ball of fire.


Matt and His Bees Rock in Columbia Tusculum

I visited Matt’s hives with him yesterday. He keeps two top-bar hives in his home garden—right there at the center of Columbia Tusculum, Matt tends a wonderful little garden (he’s also very very involved in tending the Columbia Tusculum community garden on Columbia Parkway…just above Starbucks). Fruit trees and vegetables and flowers and bees all live and work their magic there.

Notice that Matt’s hands are bare during this inspection. He usually wears gloves, but he also usually gets stung…and Matt experiences quite a significant local reaction to bee stings! But wearing gloves doesn’t seem to eliminate the stings. So, I encouraged Matt to go at it barehanded. Sometimes I laugh at myself for encouraging behaviors like that.

Many of us find that we’re more dexterous barehanded. Fewer clumsy movements translates into fewer riled-up bees which translates into fewer stings. So, Matt braved it with naked hands. And he got stung. Sorry, Matt. But he gets stung anyway, so I don’t feel too terrible about it. Sorry about that, too, Matt.

Next challenge for Matt: We’ve got to find a hat and veil that look good, that work well, and that fit his minimalist approach to beekeeping. I’m not crazy about his current version. He can save his current hat/veil combo for visitors to his hives…I think I’ve got a good idea for a new hat and veil set up for Matt. He’s gonna look great in it. Trust me.


Matt and a bar of his bees


The queen (she's touching the wooden bar)
Matt's peach tree (from which he gave me beautiful peaches)

The TwoHoneys Top-Bar Hive Tool

You may know, Reader, that I’ve been trying my hand at blacksmithing. And you may also know that I once had a hive tool like this one, but I lost it somewhere. Yeah, I have no idea how I can lose so many nice things, but I do. It’s probably laying in the grass near a top-bar hive somewhere.

BackYardHive Top Bar Tool

But before I ordered yet another of these nice BackYardHive tools, I decided to try my hand at making one myself. And with the help of Christopher Daniel, I did. I haven’t yet incorporated the nice bronze, bee wing-like elements you see above, and I probably never will. I’ll make my personal marks some other way.

Anyway, I’m sure to get better at these with practice, and if you’d like one of your very own, Reader, I’ll make one for you! I’ll have to charge a little something for it, but it won’t break the bank. And I’ll make your hive tool completely unique…no two alike. Guaranteed.

TwoHoneys top-bar-hive tool


P.S. I’ve decided to get creative with tagging. Forgive me as I get warmed up.

Build One, Sell One, Build One, Sell One

Dang! I had hoped to get a picture so you could see the newer, heavier, all-cedar, top-bar hive, but I sold it yesterday. I can’t keep these things on hand.

Now I’m off to build another one (though I think I need to order a gizmo part from Sears for my table saw…it’s not cutting perfectly).

In the meantime, Deb made a visit to her top-bar hive yesterday. Those bees are doing great…they’re quickly filling their hive with comb and brood, and a lovely cloud of bees rises from the hive in the sunlight every afternoon. It feels good to have bees flying through the air and through the yard.

Debbie's Bees
First bite of honey from Debbie's Bees