A comb dripping honey

The Risen Jesus Ate a Hunk of Honeycomb and Was Happy

A soon-to-be-eaten comb of dripping honey

 

Reader, today is Easter, the day on which Christians celebrate the risen Christ. Today is also the day on which I will be making my soon-to-be-famous Ambrosia fruit salad to take to the Easter dinner. I shall provide images later.

But here’s what I want to tell you, and it has something to do with Easter. First, I should let you know that I was reared a very good Southern Baptist. My family was in Sunday School and church almost every Sunday. Which means I know my Bible and its stories quite well. Full disclosure: I have since moved on from my conservative Southern Baptist upbringing—from a church where the people are wonderful but whose theology excludes me—to a more open, more liberal church, and I don’t always show up on Sundays. I’m relaxing with it all. Which seems much healthier for me.

I tell you all of this because I have just discovered something in the Bible that I didn’t know until this Easter morning, and here it is: The gospel of Luke tells us that after Jesus arose from the dead—as the resurrected human Jesus interacted with his fellows—he ate a hunk of honeycomb.

Jesus appeared to his disciples, and in a move that I love because it shows me that he and I think a lot alike, Jesus asked if they had any food. That’s what I would do. Food is one big thing I love about being human. And what did the disciples offer him? Broiled fish and a hunk of honeycomb.

Now, some versions of the Bible omit the honeycomb. I don’t know why…I might explore that in another post. But a number of versions include the honeycomb. Look it up…Luke 24:42, 43. Look it up online so you have several versions to compare. The Bible says Jesus took what the disciples offered and he ate it. There you go: Christ arose and ate broiled fish and honeycomb.

Which is sort of exactly what the newly emerged bees do. First they eat pollen, which is a source of protein…like the fish…for muscle development; then, to fuel energy to those newly developed muscles, they eat honey. Which is what Jesus did. I know for a fact that he loved the honey in its comb more than the broiled fish. Which might be why the Biblical writers omitted it…perhaps to make Jesus appear all serious. I like to think of Jesus happy, so if I were writing this story, I would have kept the honeycomb.

Bee Love 2013

The 2013 Bee Love Tee

Bee Love 2013
Bee Love T-shirt 2013

Introducing the Bee Love 2013 T-shirt. Designed by Jody Fritz Pieper. If you want one, contact me and I’ll get it to you. I wear it almost every day. Because it’s wonderful and feels good.

TwoHoneys Bee Co. T-shirt design

T-Shirts for Sale

TwoHoneys Bee Co. t-shirt design

Reader, as you know, I’ve got some mighty fine bee t-shirts. My friend Suzanne started us off with some very cool designs…so cool, in fact, that I’m hoarding them. I don’t want anyone else to have one like it. Just me. I may eventually loosen up with this stinginess.

There are now two wonderful t-shirt designs available to you…the one above has been designed by our very own Nicola Mason. The t-shirt plus shipping will cost around $20 (even less if I get orders for a few of them). Simply email me (liz@two-honeys.com), and I’ll get one to you.

And I still have Bee Love shirts for sale…same price…$20 each.

All the shirts with the designs shown here are available in white, American Apparel, v-neck. The designs spread across the back in the shoulder-blade vicinity, and they are perfect. They look good and feel good. I know because I wear one almost every single day.

Bee Love: TwoHoneys Bee Co. t-shirt design

 

 

Diagram of How to Remove Bees from a Tree or a Structure

Reasons to Let the Bee Tree Be

Good morning, Reader. Amazing that a week can fly by as this one has.

Today I go to look at the bees in the tree. However, I’ve decided not to attempt removing them…unless I can convince the guy who owns it to cut the tree down. He says it’s pretty much dead anyway, and without access to the comb and queen and eggs and larvae, there’s little reason for me to attempt to collect the bees. Why? Well, all I would have at the end of the process is a single generation of bees.

Without the queen I have no egg layer, so the hive can’t propagate. Even if I couldn’t get to the queen for some reason, I’d like to get my hands on the comb because the comb contains all the eggs and larvae with which the bees could raise a new queen. But without access to the eggs or larvae (which is all in the comb, which is all inaccessible in the tree), the other bees have nothing with which to make a new queen, and they will all die out in a couple of months.

I could use the single generation of bees if I needed workers to beef up one of my already-existing weak colonies (and I don’t have any weak colonies…small, yes…weak, no), but in this current dearth there’s nothing for worker bees to do…no foraging, no comb building, etc. They’re all washboarding on the hives right now, and they only washboard when there’s no work to do. Additional workers would simply suck up the nectar and the honey from the hive, and I need that for the bees already living there.

So, if my goal is to build up a weak colony of my own, then collecting the bees from the tree works fine. But I don’t want to do that at this time of year.

All this thinking is good exercise.

Here’s a picture from The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture. If I wanted to collect only the bees and not the queen or the comb or the eggs or the larvae from either a tree or a structure, this is how I’d rig it up.

Diagram of How to Remove Bees from a Tree or a Structure

My First Split

I discovered a couple of swarm cells in Tomboys before I left for Florida last week. I thought for sure Tomboys would swarm before I returned, and they may have…hard to tell.

Today the swarm cells were still there, so in order to keep the bees from swarming and to take advantage of the new queen cells, I used the swarm cells from Tomboys to make a split and create a new hive.

(I KNOW…I should have taken more pictures, but here’s the problem: My iPhone operates by touch, and my gloves aren’t exactly like skin, so in order to use the iPhone for pictures, I have to take off my glove, take the picture, put the glove back on, etc. Time consuming and awkward.)

Anyway, I took Michael Bush’s advice from Beemaster.com: I stacked two medium boxes together; in the center of the top box, I put 4 deep frames (one containing the swarm cells [these will supply the queen], one containing honey [this will supply food until there are active foragers] two containing brood [these will build up the colony with workers]; I filled the remainder of the boxes with empty, medium-depth, foundationless frames. The bees will certainly build some funky comb beneath the deep frames because there’s so much empty space there, but I can clean that mess up later.

I scooted Tomboys over a little bit, and I placed the new, as-yet-unnamed hive facing the entrance of where Tomboys previously sat. The foragers who left Tomboys this morning (before the move) should be confused as to which hive they belong when they return—50% should enter the new hive and build up the population there; 50% of them should head back into their Tomboys home. I’ll to reverse the two hives in 7 days to balance it all out.

I don’t know if I should name the new hive yet or not. This thing feels quite experimental, so I don’t want to pin any hopes on its survival.

Here’s what the set up looks like now:

On another note: Girls of Summer are building great comb on their new foundationless frames. Neither Amazons nor Tomboys are doing a thing with theirs yet…but I think each of those hives is trying to build up post swarming, so they aren’t drawing any comb whatsoever.

How to Make Foundationless Frames

I tried to follow some internet directions on how to start foundationless frames, but they seemed sort of messy and complicated. And yesterday I discovered a pretty good and very quick system and completely clean process that I’ll share here.

Here’s an empty deep frame with a split top…there’s a little groove in the top (the frame in the photograph is actually resting on it’s top) into which the wax foundation usually slips, and that’s where we’re going to install a guide of wax that will give the bees some direction. It tells them where to begin and which way to build their comb.

I have some unused beeswax foundation (the kind with the wire running through it). I bought the foundation before I decided that going foundationless made more sense for me and my bees. It works perfectly for this process. I simply break or tear the foundation along the wire…it breaks naturally there. Then, I lay the strip along the groove in the top of the frame.

I cover the length of the frame with the strips of foundation. Then I place my hand on the wax to soften it a bit.

Once the wax is pliable (and this works much better if it’s done in a warm room), I press a series of popsicle sticks through the wax and into the groove.

The popsicle sticks provide a frame around which the wax will wrap.

I wrap the wax up and around the popsicle sticks. The warmth from my hands softens the wax perfectly and makes it pliable. I mold it and shape it as I go.

That’s all there is to it! I now have a nice little start of wax from which the bees will hang their own comb. This process involves zero mess and requires no additional tools (other than the hive tool I use to chop off a little bit of that last popsicle stick so it’ll fit).

This takes me about 3 minutes per frame…no wax melting, no wax painting, no syringes or application tools. Just a little bit of pre-formed foundation, some popsicle sticks, and the warmth from your own hands will do it.

And I guess I’ll use these tiny leftover popsicle sticks in my smoker. Yep. This is as much about recycling and simplifying as it is about anything, right?

Simplify

I’ve been doing a shitty job of keeping TwoHoneys updated. You’d think nothing is going on with the bees. But a lot is going on out there! And a lot is going on regarding my learning curve, Reader. It’s skyrocketing.

You know that we have one established hive; it’s the swarm hive we captured a year ago from my friend Chris and named Amazons. One other hive, a hive that originated from a package of bees we ordered, died over the winter.  This year, we installed two more packages of bees in their own hives, and those bees should do nothing but build comb and raise brood and store enough honey with which they’ll depend on to survive the winter. Those hives are named Tomboys and Girls of Summer.

The Ohio River Valley is in the thick of a honey flow, and I’ve installed three shallow supers on Amazons in which they are building beautiful comb and storing glorious-looking honey. This is the honey we’ll harvest and eat and give as gifts.

Harvesting honey, however, usually requires a honey extractor—which is an expensive piece of spinning equipment. And, as you know, I usually lean toward less equipment…I like to make and bake bread using only my hands and a cookie sheet. I’m leaning that way more and more with the bees.

So, I’ve been mulling over this extractor thing. Do I want to spend about $500 on a piece of equipment I will seldom use? Should I rent one? If I rent one, I’d have to plan when I want to extract honey, then I’ll have to drive a long way to get the extractor, and then I have to clean the thing and return it. I hate that idea. I could borrow an extractor from my friend Christy, but for some reason I hate to borrow stuff like that. And I’d still have to plan when I want to harvest, drive to get the extractor, clean it, return it, and think of some nice way to repay her, etc.

My parents are visiting us soon, and I know they are freaking excited to have some honey. And I want them to enjoy a little bit of it at the time of their visit without all the fuss of an extractor and without my having to spend a lot of time harvesting a big load of honey. It’s a bit too early to do a full-blown harvest. I want to take only a frame or two (or three or four) and get some honey from them and leave the rest alone. So, I’ve been reading and thinking.

Which brought me to a couple of quiet websites that briefly mention a honey-harvesting method called “crush and strain.” I thought, “WHAT?! I’m not about to crush all that honeycomb those bees have worked so damned hard to build because they’ll just have to do it all over again, and I’m not going to make them work their brains out for nothing.” Oh, Reader, I am sooo wrong about so many things. The more I learn, the more sense I get.

Thanks to this video over at Linda’s Bees, I have now decided to crush and strain all of our honey…some when the parents visit and the rest whenever the heck I’m ready.

No fancy, expensive, loud equipment for us. It doesn’t seem natural. I’m going rogue.