Glad to bee back at it! :-)

I got good news!!!! But let me bring you up to date first 😊

The bee blog has been revived after a one year hiatus but the bees were around for all of 2018. We started that season with one surviving hive from which we made three splits. Due to other pressing obligations, we were not able to give the bees the best care possible. So we also didn’t have a honey harvest. And later that year, two of the three splits died from a wasp invasion. With our remaining hive, we held onto hope and with each surviving cold spell, our hope grew. In April 2019, we thought they had made it, but one look into the hive forebode a hive in distress. The queen scampered about alone while a handful of worker bees were faced with multiple eggs in the same cells. In mid April, that hive too, had died. It was a surprise to us given the winter they had already overcome. There was no shortage of honey in that hive. That brings me to believe that the district of Saanich had been spraying pesticides on Lesser Celandine again like they did last year. And each year I send a complaint, however, according to an email I received, they had only treated Holly with Garlon XRT on February 28, 2019 in the adjacent park. I’m not an expert but I wish they would just stop applying any pesticides and herbicides. How can they be so confident that their use of pesticides during the winter months did not contribute to the decline of the honey bees?

At that point, my mom was ready to give up. A lot of hope and work goes into maintaining these hives, and when you’ve given it your all, it’s pretty discouraging to have that kind of outcome.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up yet, mainly because I need honey for my peanut sauce dressing and I refuse to eat any other honey than our own. 😉 I wasn’t keen on buying a hive from someone I don’t know though. I really just wanted to catch a swarm. But that’s easier said than done. First of all, you have to be on stand by at any given time. Secondly, there’s a list of swarm catchers that have seniority and I’m not one of them. Thirdly, Swan Lake Sanctuary was calling dibs on their lost swarm. Hahaha. It really was just all wishful thinking.

Funny enough though, throughout last week we’ve been noticing a few honeybees at our old hives. We had left some frames with traces of honey inside. It was a long shot but my mom seemed to think, we might be able to attract scout bees. On Sunday May 19, as she was heading out, she confidently quipped, “I bet we’ll get a swarm to fly right in today. Call me when that happens ok?!” Yeah whatever mom.

At about 2pm something buzzed me back to reality. I took one look outside and I couldn’t believe it. Right above our old hives, there was a swarm in the air. Hallelujah! It took about another 30 minutes until they were all inside. Honestly, it couldn’t have gone smoother. I didn’t even have to suit up!  They chose our hive as their home. What are the chances of that happening?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What’s amazing about a swarm? When they outgrow their old home, scout bees will search for a suitable new home. When they find one, they report back to the others that are hanging out with the queen at a temporary location. They then collectively decide on the best option and head to the new location. Is that not some pretty amazing communication? Also, swarms are not dangerous. I was standing in one the entire time, and they completely ignored me.

Check out my bee tat on my forehead

Now that I have bees again, stay tuned for more updates coming shortly!

 

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2017 Update!

It’s bee’n rough. 2017 was the year of splits. No, no breakups, thank Goddess! Just trying

The Survivors

to make as many splits from the one surviving hive (the Survivors located in the backyard) as possible. By splitting the hive, we create double or multiple new hives. This is fairly easy to do; however, the success of a flourishing new hive is ultimately dependent on weather conditions and on the bees’ willingness to embrace change.

Our first split. Let’s call them the Front Yard Gang. (FYG)

The front yard gang started out as a small nuc (hive) consisting of 5 frames taken from our Survivors:

  • 1 frame of brood
  • 1 frame with pollen
  • 1 frame of honey
  • 1 empty frame
  • 1 frame with the queen on it (which usually has lots of brood)
  • a couple cups of extra bees.

    Find the queen

They were placed just around the corner from their original hive (the Survivors). We instantly fed them with sugar water. And they did just what we had hoped they’d do. They produced brood. So we added another nuc (5 frames) on top. When they outgrew that, we transferred them to a dadent (the regular sized 10 frame hive). Since the FYG was going so strong, we decided to make some more splits. For the next two new nucs we had a frame of developing queen cells in each. Out of these two new nucs, one successfully hatched. Let’s call this new nuc the Third Generation (TG). The other nuc did not seem to have a queen but a noticeable large amount of bees AND a hatched queen cell. So…we kept thinking, this queen was just away on honeymoon. We had our hopes up that she would appear soon and kept reinforcing the hive with more brood. Unfortunately, she never did make it back or the weather was too bad for mating. So we’ll call this nuc the Queenless One.

Let’s backtrack to the Survivors. Because we’d transferred their queen to create the FYG, they would have to raise a queen from the brood remaining in their hive. We waited for 16 days but still nothing. Several times we restocked the hive with new brood because she was long overdue. Finally a new queen emerged. Yippee!!! The Survivors were doing well all summer long until their hive was robbed! Can you believe it? And it’s not just a break and enter. It’s a battlefield. Many bees die trying to defend their honey stash as bees from another hive find their way into the lesser protected hive. With such a weakened hive, the bees don’t stand much of a chance for survival. Therefore, we decided to combine the remaining bees, the mega Survivors with the Queenless One WITH a queen excluder in case there now was a queen in the Queenless One. After three days, we checked to find no queens at all. That was disappointing. We dissolved that hive and let the bees find a new home on their own. They’ll be accepted at one of the other hives, if they show up with honey.

If this hasn’t been overly confusing, can you figure out how many hives we now have remaining? Hehe.

In conclusion, the Front Yard Gang is still doing well and the Third Generation has yet to be checked. So we went into winter 2017/18 with two hives. Let’s see what happens next.

 

Some Tansy action

Front Yard Gang

Approaching some Red Hot Lips

Just resting on a Fawn lily

Desperate times?

 

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Summa Time!

Summer’s bee’n great so far and the bees have definitely needed that to recuperate! Here are the newest developments:

Update 1: Unfortunately we lost a record amount of hives during winter 2016/17. I couldn’t believe it! Some of the strongest hives going into winter 2016, had plenty of honey  left but just weren’t able to break away from the cluster to reach their storage.

Update 2: To make matters worse, just when it started to get warm enough for the bees to make their first appearance for a cleansing flight, we spotted this nasty sign in the neighboring park.

I realize Lesser Celandine (Buttercup family) is an invasive plant but it has been scientifically proven that pesticides weaken bee hives and “probably cause cancer.” So what’s the greater evil here? There’s no livestock in or near the park either so their reason makes no sense. It’s like every year they randomly decide on some invasive plant that needs spraying…in previous years, it was Knotweed, Ivy, Holly, etc. I really question their motive and timing. Bees have enough forces against them (parasites, diseases, poor diets, harsh weather, etc.).

We feared that the upcoming applications of Roundup would push our remaining bees over the edge. I’m not usually the type to complain but there’s something very wrong with placing a sign like that in an unsuspecting place as if it were the most natural event.

It was time to protest so we rounded up as many neighbors as possible and made some calls to the district of Saanich. By the end of the day, they had removed the sign and in the upcoming days they proceeded to remove the plant manually (and it only took a few hours). Thank you!! You may just have saved a hive because they were free to roam around without getting intoxicated. Win win for everyone.

Update 3: Due to the loss of so many bees, we’ve been beesy splitting hives (more on this later). The good news is that we’ve not had any swarms and the weather has just been golden! Obviously, we won’t bee harvesting honey anytime soon though.

Update 4: We visited the best beekeeper around, the well known Heinz whose garden showcases his expertise with plants, bees and building. It’s truly unique. Take a look here:

Look how pretty his hives are!

These are another style of hives that he brought from Germany.

There he is, the beekeeper guru! Check out all his nucs!

Update 5: And for your seasonal bee loving flower log, here’s what I managed to capture over the last three months.

The Cotoneaster is extremely popular with bees!

They also love the California lilac. I think blue might be their favorite color.

Grape hyacinth are adorable and bees enjoy them in the spring

Forget Me Not

Lavender!

Cherry tree blossoms! They also love apple, peach and plum

That’s it for now! Happy Summer!

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March Blossoms

Spring is here and the bees have been taking advantage of every sunny moment. I spent some time in the garden observing them. Not only did I get some amazing shots but I learned about some of their favorite travel destinations. You’ll be surprised. Check out the following hot spots for the month of March.

Ornamental Plum Tree

It’s the single flowering blossoms that bees still like the best. The hum of their song in this tree was loud enough for me to wonder if there was a swarm close by. But then I realized they were just loving so many blossoms all in one tree so close by.

Camellia

Not as popular as the Ornamental Plum tree, the Camellia still had quite a few bees buzzing around. This little one spent at least 30 seconds here.

Sarcococca

This is a great winter flowering plant. Its sweet and intense fragrance brings all the bees to your yard.

Peach blossoms

Despite not getting a shot with a bee here, they are attractive to pollinators like honey bees.

Wet Mud

I saw at least four different mud spots where several bees were actively soaking up vitamin water? I had no idea this was such a hot spot. Who knew?!

Dirt water

Foraging in dirt water puddles, flower pots and wet soil.

Grass

I wonder if this one was just resting or had found something to graze on. Check out its pollen baskets!

It’s so nice to see the bees back outside. Here’s a shot of them returning with their nectar and pollen.

Do you see 11 buzzing bees coming home?

I only list a very small number of bee loving plants. They’re the ones in our garden but if you want more information, the Honeybee Conservancy has this great guide.

 

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Winter’s back or over???

Just a week ago, the bees seemed to be celebrating the end of winter. As I took this picture, I was thinking this might be the day I get stung as they buzzed around me in the warm sunshine.

February 23, 2017

February 23, 2017

And today it’s back to this…

Feb. 27, 2017

Feb. 27, 2017

That’s the third time the hives have been covered in snow this winter. Here’s a quick recap of all this winter’s crazyness.

November 2016: Relatively warm temperatures, with an average of 14°C and even a high of 19°C on Nov. 8.

December 6, 2016 is when temperatures dropped to 3.5°C and stayed around 5°C that month. The first snowfall was on Dec. 12, 2016.

January 2017: It remained around 2°C until the the cold spell lifted around Jan. 17. It remained around 9°C and then dropped back down on January 30.

February 2017: The first week of Feb. was cold and it snowed for a second time on Feb. 8. From there, February did February with temperatures at 9°C on average. However, winter snuck back in on Feb. 24 and it snowed for the last time on Feb. 27.

With that, I declare winter is over. Here are the bee loving flowers blooming in February:

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Crocuses

Crocuses

Witch Hazel - Blossomed late December until early February.

Witch Hazel – Blossomed late December until early February.

While February wasn’t quite as sunny as last year’s, I still managed to get a sunburn once this month. Stay tuned for an update on the bees coming soon in March!

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Honey Recipes

Truth bee told…

…I am not actually all that into honey. Yes, on occasion I like to dip my spoon into it and lick it off but this doesn’t happen often. I’m not like my dad who has an unwavering need for a slice of bread with honey every day just after breakfast.

But I do love it in other ways. Here are my three ultimate favorite recipes that just can’t be made without our own honey.

3rd place: Honey on frozen lemon lemonlicious

Don’t judge until you’ve tried. I know what you’re thinking. And no. It’s actually not going to be too sour to eat. It’s really quite refreshing and surprisingly non sour. The combination is great.

Super easy, super healthy and gets the job done. You’re craving sugar but you’re getting the healthy kind of sweetness. You also get a lot of vitamins this way.
honey-on-lemon

Ingredients: organic lemons, liquid honey

Instructions: Help yourself to a thin slice of lemon from your tupperware container in the freezer. Drip honey as desired over each slice and take your first bite of zesty heaven. Now you can judge or indulge (permission granted) 🙂

2nd place: Salad dressing

There’s something about substituting white sugar with liquid honey. I think it’s partly the taste but also my conscience. I don’t feel bad about adding a larger amount and its sticky consistency lends itself to a well adhered dressing on every piece of lettuce.

Ingredients:framed-salad-ingredients

Oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard, melted (liquid) honey

Optional: Add dill, quince, blackberry jam, mango juice, lemon, garlic etc.

Instructions: Mix desired ingredients in the magic bullet et voila! Prepare desired salad and add this delicious salad dressing.
salad-extraordinaire

First place: Granola/ Muesli

It’s the DIY version of this Starbucks cup but instead of paying $5, you get it for much starbuckscheaper and it’s customized to your specific needs AND it comes with the best honey ever.

Ingredients:

Oats, coconut, walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, mango juice, coconut oil, salt and honey.

Instructions:

Decide on which oats, nuts or other tasty tidbits (chocolate chips perhaps) you’d like to wake up to each morning. Throw these all together and mix in some coconut oil. Bake it for ~30-60 minutes (depending on your desired level of crunch), stirring occasionally and adding mango juice and/or coconut oil. I like to pre-roast my sunflower seeds in coconut oil with salt.

granola-nuts

Top it with some honey (can be done now or later in your bowl – see pic below) for the last 5 minutes and you’ll have nicely tanned clumps of wholesome-better-than-Terra-Breads breakfast. Eat with home-made yoghurt. To die for!! (ok that’s extreme) But definitely worth a try if you’ve bought at least one of these (Starbucks cup – top pic) and liked it.
postcard-worthy-muesli

What I like about these recipes, is that they’re fast to make and you can wing it! No tedious measuring of ingredients. Just taste to perfection! Mmmmmm…Christmas all over again!

Stay tuned for survival updates! It’s been so so cold…

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Wrapping the wee ones in warmth

Eeek, it’s cold out and tonight it will dip down to -5°C ! I worry about the little ones and have tried my best to keep them warm. We just took a quick peek inside and sure enough, they’ve generated so much heat that my awesome insulation job now requires some ventilation. Hopefully the sheets of newspaper will soak up the condensation. I don’t want to ventilate too much because I think there are still enough cracks anyway.

Check out our ghetto layering system. We do it this way because it seems to work and it’s what we’ve got. Everyone insulates differently. I’ve seen styrofoam walls, old neoprene jackets, plastic bags, stacks of hay and in nature a hollow tree.

In the top dadent, we have a newspaper, several layers of wool and woven rugs.

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Around the outside, we’ve also got three layers. The first one is bubble wrap.

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The second one is bigger bubble wrap.

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The third one is an old camping foamie.

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Hopefully this will be sufficient. It is to contain their generated heat a bit longer and to provide some wind protection. I’ve tried to seal off the gaps.

In addition to insulation, bees keep warm by generating heat through their amazing metabolism. That’s why they will need enough stashes of honey in their hive. Again, no guarantee. If those stashes are just a little too far from their “cluster,” they somewhat become “paralyzed” with chill and will not make use of it. Without continuous consumption, they will die of starvation or hypothermia.

With so many forces against them, we supplement feed them to give them a better chance. That white roll that you see in the below pic, is a mix of honey and icing sugar.

food

Yummers!

Next post: recipes made with our honey. Stay tuned and bee warm! Cheers 🙂

 

 

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December Flowers

¡Ay, caramba! Time buzzes! I can’t believe it’s already December!

Today I did some of my own research on bee loving flowers, particularly at this time of year when food sources are scarce. I’ve decided to take inventory on existing blooming flowers in our garden for every month of the year so that bees always have a guaranteed “coffee shop” aka nectar sips and pollen pods. Here’s what I found:

Heather

Heather

A classic. Subtle beauty. Resilient. I was lucky enough to spot a bee on this one just last week when temperatures were still above 10 C.

Creeping Rosemary

This one is blooming in December!

Good on salmon and chicken and it still blooms in December. What more could you ask for?!

Fatsia

Fatsia - a pompom tropical look alike that likes shade. At first we thought, it was super populated by bees until we realized they were all wasps. But, that's only because wasps seem to withstand colder temperatures better and were out foraging.

A pompom tropical look-alike. At first we thought it was super populated by bees until we realized they were all wasps. But, that’s only because wasps seem to withstand colder temperatures better and were out foraging.

Mexican Orange Blossom

A fan favorite, it's a good one to have but don't confuse it with its look-alike, a useless weed (see above right pic). To differentiate, crush a leaf and keep the one that has a stronger orange-like scent.

A fan favorite, it’s a good one to have but don’t confuse it with its look-alike, a useless weed (see above right pic). To differentiate, crush a leaf and keep the one that has a stronger orange-like scent.

No flowers and smells disgusting

Weed-like plant and smells disgusting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mahonia

Excellent winter food and resembles a small tree.

Excellent winter food and resembles a small tree.

Red Hot Lips

Cute and practical. They are drought proof and grow like a weed.

This cutie is also drought proof and grows happily in any soil.

Bergenia

yes

There’s not a lot of these blooming in our garden at the moment.

Pineapple Sage

The underdog although it has so much to offer. It attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees and has a pineapple-y smell. Easy to grow and showcases an abundance of trumpet-shaped flowers even in December!

As the underdog, it has so much to offer. It attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees and has a pineapple-y smell. Easy to grow and showcases an abundance of trumpet-shaped flowers even in December!

Calendula

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As a well-known local, these grow wild and are great for bees.

Rhodos

Occasionally bees will try them out when nothing else is left.

So now you’ve seen our collection. What do you have blooming in your garden that attracts bees? Oh, and one more thing. The above flowers are all deer-resistant! A must when you live in Victoria and surrounding islands.

With such a mild climate, we can expect to see some days when bees make an appearance. However, there’s no guarantee that bees will take advantage of a flowering December garden when temperatures dip below 10°C. Did you know that inside their hive, they form a cluster of bees that can shiver to generate a balmy 30°C on a cold winter day? No wonder they prefer the indoors!

Still, let’s give them the best possible chance to get through those cold wet months. If you want to get a head start to the new year, bees really love snowdrops and crocuses in January. So start planting those now. It’s not too late!

Check out our plant sale stand in the front 🙂

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Season 2016 update and a Queenless hive

Quick Summary

Honey harvest: A solid total of 57kg of pure liquid gold. Not as impressive as last year’s 89kg but this year’s season started too soon and ended too soon. It was too dry and by the time the blackberries blossomed, it was all over. Here’s a breakdown of when we harvested this year:

May 2: 11kg20160508_174421
May 4: 6kg
May 6: 6kg
May 18: 18kg
June 4: 7kg
June 8: 4kg
June 28: 5kg

How do you save a Queenless hive after the drones have already been kicked out???

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was inspecting frames and supers of a large hive. Everything seemed to look great but as I got to the bottom of the hive, I started to realize there was no brood anywhere! I also didn’t see a queen. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. We would introduce a frame with eggs from another hive but at this time of year, the drones have already been expelled from the hive and even if a new virgin queen were to be born, there’d be no date for her.

So a quick decision was made to combine two hives so they would have at least one queen. minty-beesThis is a bit tricky. A new colony introduces a new scent that triggers an alarm. A battle would ensue, with each clan thinking their territory had been invaded. To mask the scent of strangers, we added a sheet of newspaper sprinkled with “Wintergreen Essential oil” (strong mint scent) in the separation of the newly united hive. And to separate the potential of two queens (just in case we’d overlooked the second one), we included an excluder.

excluderNow we were set. The worker bees would eat their way through the newspaper to get out.

A few weeks later, I had to check to see if it had worked. I did not see any queens but I was happy to see lots of brood and eggs on one side of the excluder.

 

And that’s a wrap! In the next coming weeks, we’ll be insulating the hives and we’ll vaporize for mite control. Hopefully, that will be sufficient to get them through the winter. Contact us in the spring if you’d like to acquire a set of these endangered species!

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Sugar Shake Test

Bee inspection time! We want to sell a few nucs so we called up the bee inspector to take a peek and run a sugar shake test to check for mites.

So here’s my first time watching the shake get done.

sugar jar 2

As many bees as possible are captured and immersed in icing sugar in the jar to rid them of any mites they may have. Mites cannot hold onto bees with powder

sugar jar

After a couple quick shakes, the bees are released into the hive and their sisters indulge in their sweetness to clean them up quickly.

sugary bees

Meanwhile the contents (powder sugar and potential mites) are poured into a container of water. If any mites are present, they would now be floating on the top but do you see any? I don’t! I think our bees are mites free.

mite test

Hip hip hooray, our bees passed the test! We couldn’t find a single mite. Pretty pretty good.

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