Dear Reader, it is Easter time, and in Ohio this means the beginning of bee season.
The colonies that successfully overwintered in my bee yards are bursting at the seams. Which suggests to me that swarm season may come earlier than usual this year…I usually expect my first swarm call on Mothers Day. It’s one of the most exciting calls of the year, and all my nerves are alert for it. Which is why I love this “Praise of the Bees” image. Because it is in every way full on glorious bee.
In this image, beekeepers smoke a swarm and cut the branch on which it hangs. This swarm will then become a happy hive in the beekeeper’s yard. Bees fly in the air, and it seems to me that they’re all over the blooming trees and shrubs and flowers. Another beekeeper cuts comb from a suspended long hive, honey runs through a sieve, and his assistant collects the small amount of honey in a jar. (I like that this is a sustainable practice. They are not taking more than the bees can give and not more than the beekeepers can use.)
For several months each year, I’m this busy. I’m deliriously, exhaustedly busy and I’m happy with that. And who wouldn’t be? It’s so freaking exciting.
So, friends, if you happen to find a swarm hanging sweetly in a tree or on a bush or on a lamp post or wherever, please contact me. I’ll be delighted collect it. I might look tired and dirty when I see you, but I will be happy. And I think it will make you happy, too.
I’ve received a very nice invitation to Easter dinner on Sunday. And I’ve been invited to contribute a fruit salad to the meal. So I’ve been thinking about fruit salads and what makes a good one. I mean, most of them are pretty run-of-the-mill, right, Reader? What on earth can make you excited about a fruit salad?! So you understand my dilemma.
Well, I’ll tell you what can make a special fruit salad…HONEY! And good coconut. And good pecans. And whipped cream. So, my dear Reader, I’ve decided to whip up a wonderfully exuberant Ambrosia. Because Spring is exuberant. And Easter is exuberant. And all the world is exuberant. And the image above is not only exuberant in its colorful Easter-egg-like bees, but embedded in it is a quote from St. Ambrose, the patron saint of bees.
Legend has it that a bee landed on the infant St. Ambrose’s lip; when she flew off, she left a drop of honey on his mouth. When St. Ambrose’s father discovered the honey on his son, he took it as a sign that little Ambrose would grow up to speak gently and smoothly and with a honeyed tongue.
Reader, in this present election season, one in which our attentions have become riveted to hateful speech and vitriol and the power of language to do harm and raise ire, it’s good for us to recall the healing power of speaking gently and with a honeyed tongue. So St. Ambrose is my man this Easter. Therefore, dear Reader, I shall be making Ambrosia, a fruit salad named after our sweet-talking saint—a fruit salad with just a touch of honey…honey collected from my own bees.
Thanks to Francesca, the young artist who created this very exuberant pastel.
The temperatures these past couple of weeks have given those of us in Ohio an opportunity to check on the bees and to feed sugar candy or honey to those colonies running low on stores. I’ve made a wonderful discovery, Reader: By my calculations (which might be off by a smidgen because my record keeping isn’t perfect), every single hive in which I introduced a queen from Anarchy Apiaries is still living. What a joy to open a hive in which a colony is quietly working toward spring.
Colonies with genetics from my own queens…queens that I started from local surviving stock…are still flying as well. Though I’m not ready to produce quantities of queens, Sam Comfort is. So, if your hive died this winter, I suggest you consider replacing your queens mid summer with those from Anarchy Apiaries.
Reader, plant wildflowers. Plant wildflowers for as far as the eye can see. Go wild. Live it up.
Also, read this NYTimes article.
Mother’s Day marks an exciting time for beekeeping in Ohio, Reader—it is now officially swarm season. So, if you’ve discovered a swarm of honeybees hanging in a tree or in a bush or on a lamppost or in some other unexpected place, please please please contact TwoHoneys. If your swarm is at all reachable, we’ll come right over and collect it (and if I can’t personally run right over, I know people who can).
We’ll then take your swarm to one of our bee yards where we’ll introduce it to a nice, dry, comfortable hive box where the bees will immediately begin to set up housekeeping and collecting nectar from our local flora.
In a time of unprecedented bee losses, Reader, the swarm you discover is the sign that something is right in the world. :) A swarm at this time of year indicates that a strong hive near you successfully overwintered in a snug location and has outgrown its space. The swarm you’ve discovered is the sign of a strong hive…I call it a “survivor hive.” And all smart beekeepers want local, survivor hives…these survivor genes are those we hope to propagate in order to develop hardy bees that can withstand Ohio winters and forage on Ohio flora.
A swarm is a gift to the world, Reader. And it has come to you. How wonderful is that?!
Happy New Year, Reader, and what a perfect time for our thoughts to turn to the bees. :)
These past weeks, I’ve received a surprising number of emails and phone calls from those lucky people who received beehives for Christmas. And I must say, what a terrific gift idea! And for this very reason, next Christmas I plan to offer TwoHoneys gift certificates.
So, here are my January and February suggestions for those of you looking forward to your first season with bees:
- Beekeepers are a smart bunch, and they read, read, read.
- Devour everything on Michael Bush’s website. Devour every word and image.
- Alternatively, buy Michael Bush’s book…same information…the website is free, but the book is more organized.
- Read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping. WHICH IS NOT FOR IDIOTS! This book is written for smart people by two very smart people.
- Join the beekeeping forums through which beekeepers from around the world become friends and share knowledge: Beemaster and Bee Source. For some reason I can’t explain, I lean toward the crowd over at Beemaster.com.
- Learn the difference between Langstroth hives and top-bar hives.
- Don’t discount the idea of running top-bar hives. I love them. Keep an open mind about it. I implore you.
- I run about half Langstroth hives and half top-bar hives, though I strongly strongly strongly prefer top-bar hives for backyard beekeepers or urban beekeepers or older beekeepers or young beekeepers or physically-challenged beekeepers or female beekeepers or short beekeepers.
- To learn more about top-bar hive beekeeping, please read Les Crowder’s Top Bar Beekeeping
- If you’ve determined that you’ll run Langstroth hives, Reader, I STRONGLY encourage you to run 8-frame, medium-depth equipment. This is a rather new practice, so if you’re not keeping up with the reading, you’ll probably follow the old path. And it will take you years to work your bees out of the old-thought system and into the newer one.
- I also STRONGLY encourage you to let your bees build their own beeswax foundation. In other words, don’t purchase any type of foundation for your frames. Your bees will respond exuberantly. And exuberance cannot be overrated.
- Once you’ve finished your first reading list, feel free to contact me. We can decide where to keep your hives and how to get your bees.
- In Ohio (which is where I live), we order our bees in February.
- The bees arrive mid April, which is when we need to have our equipment in place and our tools in order.
There. That should get us all started into the new year, yes?
I’m bursting with pride for Amy.
When I first met Amy, she had sort of an inferiority complex about her beekeeping skills. I tried to convince her that she could learn to be a good beekeeper…it’s just that no one had taken the time to teach her what to do.
So, I placed a few hives in her yard and we began working with the bees together.
Before I added my bees to her yard, Amy already had a single hive that had survived the winter, and we nurtured it along…perhaps we didn’t anticipate the strength of the flow this spring, because yesterday, when I was out of town at Deb’s mom’s burial, Amy text me with this image and said rather matter-of-factly, “There’s a swarm in my pear tree.”
Holy Smokes! I about fell off my chair when I saw this attached image. There sure as hell is a swarm in the tree. I text Amy back to tell her I was out of town but that I’d be back in the afternoon and could help her collect her swarm then. Or, I told her, she could call me, and I could talk her through how to do it on her own.
But before I knew it, Amy had sent me the following images. Without any suggestion from me, she had already climbed on a ladder, cut the swarm-containing branch from the tree, dropped the branch into a bucket, and then dumped the bees from the bucket into an empty hive we’d set in her yard for this very occasion. AMY DID ALL OF THIS ON HER OWN WITH NO INSTRUCTION FROM ANYONE. She operated solely on instinct. I love that. Love it love it love it love it.
(By the way, Amy’s life is not limited to bees. She has a helluva lot going on over at her place, and you can keep up with her over at her blog).
Reader, this is a reminder that we LOVE to collect swarms of honeybees.
If you’re lucky enough to find a swarm of bees hanging in a beautiful (some say “terrifying”), morphing, humming weight—from a tree branch or from some other structure—please contact us at 513.675.9897 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll collect the swarm, introduce it to a wonderful new home, and place it where it will pollinate your local gardens and forests.
The good news is…I am almost satisfied with my beekeeping hat. The bad news is…almost isn’t good enough.
Which means the quest for the perfect beekeeping hat continues.
Currently, I wear a dang good hat. I found it online, ordered it, and have worn it for months now. Then I went to the Apple store at Kenwood Towne Center and discovered a Tula kiosk right outside the Apple store with my hat hanging all over the place.
This is the hat I wear now:
I like it because the straw is firm enough to keep its shape no matter how much I toss it around. And the brim is wide and stiff enough to hold the veil draped nicely away from my face. It fits fine. For some reason, though, I don’t like the look of the crown. The crease bugs me a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute sucker for a beautifully shaped crown on a good hat. But I want my beekeeping hat to be creaseless. I want it round. I don’t know why.
So, this is the hat I’ve got my eye on now. I’ll probably be wearing it by the time you see me next.
Perhaps you can’t tell the difference between the two, Reader, but I can. And I can report that I am not far from being satisfied with my beekeeping hat. I will look awesome in it. I may just go get that hat today…if it’s not available at the Kenwood Towne Center kiosk, then I’ll order it. (Tula Hats is located in Austin, Texas…which is practically my hometown. Which makes it even better.)
On another, non-beekeeping note: Below is the hat of my dreams…it’s worn by Mattie Ross in the newest version of True Grit. Made of pecan-colored pure beaver with a 1″ black satin ribbon with a little bow on the side. Sigh. I’m definitely gonna have it one day.