Thursday, April 30, 2009

No bees?

By now, you probably know that the honeybee situation is dire. There are just far fewer bees than there were a quarter century ago, certainly less than there were fifty years ago. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) got a lot of media attention for a while, and is still a major, unresolved problem, but bee populations were plummeting long before CCD. Pick the reasons: pesticides, climate change, habitat destruction, agricultural industrialization, the fact that a lot less people keep bees now and so genetic diversity is limited, a combination of some or all of these. We are, after all, living through the sixth great extinction of species on Earth, the only one we are responsible for, so there is no reason bees should be immune.

One of the ways this shortage manifests itself is that there aren’t an endless supply of bees to be had. The long winter meant more hives didn’t survive, so demand is strong, while bad weather in bee breeding southern states means there are less bees to go around. We've just gotten the news that we won’t be getting any bees until the end of May. This is late for a first year hive. They should already be building out the comb now.


Prospect Park, Wellhouse.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Integrated Pest Management. This grid comes with a screened IPM bottom board. It allows you to count the aptly named Varroa destructor mites, a serious pest to bee hives, which fall through the screen onto this grid. We're going to be sugaring the frames to take care of the mites. This is a labor intensive method, but with only one hive to care for, not really a problem. Sugaring means that you sprinkle powdered sugar onto all the frames in the hive, covering the bees. The sugar helps to dislodge the mites and makes the bees clean each other extra hard (they'll eat the sugar), which may dislodge even more mites.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bees in Brooklyn, Bees on the Internet

Yes! It looks like we have a home for the hive. Details to follow.

Meanwhile, you may enjoy this interview about beekeeping here in the city. Rod Huntress’s Radio Free Cupcake is an internet radio project documenting his curiosity about food. I’m looking forward to future installments.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bees in the mud

A dozen bees were in the mud on the Lookout Hill steps in Prospect Park this morning. Gathering water, perhaps also salts and minerals. I wonder if there's a feral hive somewhere on the hill.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Bee-Ins

Urban bee consciousness is growing by leaps and bounds, and that’s a good thing. Gerry at Global Swarming has a wrap up of recent items, and of course there are the Presidential hives on the White House lawn that are all the ... rage.

Above: tipped off by Amarilla, I went past Anthropologie on 5th Avenue and 16th St. in the Inner Borough to see their window display for Earth Day. An average hive produces 130 of honey a year is what this window wants you to know.

Skeps again

Justice and Prudence are looking over your money, honey, with that beautiful gold skep between them. Or at least that’s what that old long-haired billygoat Ben Franklin wants you to believe. This plaque is the old South Brooklyn Savings building on the corner of on Court and Atlantic, now Trader Vic’s Joe’s. It’s a lot more golden in real life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Out of the strong...

Lyle's Golden Syrup may go a long way to explaining British teeth. It's liquid sugar (technically, inverted sugar, a byproduct of the process of converting sugar cane juice into granular sugar) and once you've had it on steel-cut oatmeal, the kind that takes thirty minutes to make, you'll know it makes a strong run for maple syrup's lead in the non-honey sweetsstakes. The reason it's here is that it's label still sports the same dead lion and bees trademark that Abram Lyle cribbed from the Old Testament back in 1904. Crack it open to Judges 14:14 -- Samson slays a lion, and then later notices that bees have made a comb in the corpse. He says, at least according to various translators, "Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness." I'm wondering if the translators didn't confuse the "white man's fly," as Native Americans called the honeybee, for a real fly. Anyway, you can easily imagine an American company re-branding away from such weirdness a while back, but Lyle's keeps the faith.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The search for a hive site continues. We’ll be checking out some places this weekend. Then, deciding what color to paint the hive. White is traditional, but I think we’ll go for something a little more blending-in, something a little more, "hey, when did you put a Shinto shrine to the household gods in your backyard?" sort of color.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

E.V. hiving 2

The entrance reducer is set to the smallest opening so that the hive, which is underpopulated in the beginning, can defend itself from raiders and robbers as it gains strength and numbers through the spring. Always set the opening up, so that it doesn't become clogged with dead bees.
Pry off the top of tha package. take out the queen cage, make sure she's ok.
Then a bunch of heads intervened so I didn't get a shot of the pouring, but you smack the package on the ground to settle the bees to the bottom of the box and pour them into the hive. You can open this picture up to see them inside the hive already.
Afterwards, people went to pick up their bee packages. It was a cold morning, and early, farmers' hour, so very few people were on the street. I wonder what it might have been like to wake up and look out your window and see about 20 people clustered around a pick-up, picking up these strange, dark packages.

E.V. Hiving 1

At an undisclosed location in the East Village...
Four hives. Two cameramen (AP, some German outfit). One photographer (NYPost). One radio newswoman (public radio). I moved ahead quickly to get a shot before the crowd.
A package of Georgia-born Italian honeybees.
The queen cage. The queen is marked with a blue dot to help her stick out during inspections.
The cage is set up between the frames. The worker bees will eat their way into the queen, the delay allowing the queen's chemistry to spread around the entire hive. Without that time delay, the workers would kill the queen.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Yeah, that's right, Plan B. We'll get the southern belle bees two weeks later. And we'll get a space. If you have suggestions, we're open to them. We need a readily accessible place that gets morning sun. There should be about ten feet of flyway in front of the hive. Ideally, we'd like a garden, but a roof will do. Or, hell, a roof garden... Accessibility for the beekeepers is key, and logistics include moving, if we're lucky, a 50-60 pound super full of honey in the summer and maybe the fall. Which means you'll be getting some of that.

Note that a hive just sits there, the bees do their thing, and you might not even notice it after a while. Although I can sit by one and watch the action at the entrance for a long, long time.


The garden that was to host the bees has just decided that they won't be hosting them after all. They had confirmed, but must have had second thoughts.


If you're reading this delightful piece by Alicia Kachmar in Brooklyn Based, which I understand is read even by people across the big puddle, then welcome to this blog about bee-keeping to be in the big but not so bad city.

We intrepid Brooklyn-based bee keepers are actually planning to hive this weekend. That means we'll be pouring the bees into their new hive. That's right, pouring them in. Stay tuned! Although no two beekeepers seem to do it exactly the same way, this should give you a pretty idea of how some of them do it on the west coast:

Monday, April 6, 2009

This just in

OK, it actually showed up fairly recently. Scientific American on urban honey. Andrew Cote has the money quote.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Thank heavens for longer days. After working 9-5 today (I gotta get religion!), I just had time to prime the hive.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Two nails at each top end, one at each bottom end. Brads to reinforce the edges of the top.
Ten frames, one with wax foundation.
The wax foundation. A thin sheet of wax reinforced with metal rods, imprinted on both sides with hexacomb. Smells really good.
Ten frames are ready for the hiving.