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:





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.

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.


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.

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.


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


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.


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.

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.


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


The second one is bigger bubble wrap.


The third one is an old camping foamie.


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.



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:



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 - 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
















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.



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!



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


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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A two queen “problem”

So the other day we made an interesting discovery which in the 16 years of beekeeping we have never seen before. As we began running a routine checkup of one of our nucs, we noticed several unusual things right away.

First of all, the green dotted queen was hanging out on the outside frame and was moving very slowly. We thought, “oh no…she’s not doing so well. Maybe she got squashed a little by us?”

green queen

But the real surprise came when my mom discovered a second queen on the third frame she pulled out. There she was…still unmarked. A young, golden and fat fast moving queen eager to proceed with her biological duties.

new queen 3

Do you see her?

Do you see her now?

Do you see her now?

Who's got her bum up?

Who’s got her bum up?

Naturally we felt a tinge of guilt towards the green queen because it was obvious that the new queen was running the hive or if not, she sure gave that impression. What could we do? Well, there were only two choices:

a) Nothing. The two queens will coexist until the new queen leaves for her maiden flight. Upon her return, the stronger queen (most often the new one) will kill the weaker one. Or, one queen will fly away leaving the nuc with half of the honey and worker bees (aka a swarm).

b) We could take one queen out and have an immediate new nuc.

In either case, it’s not so bad to have a “two queen problem.” As much as I wanted to see  which queen would actually win the fight, I did feel some loyalty towards the green queen and didn’t want to lose any honey/bees. So we decided to take out the green queen and transfered her to the littlest white mating nuc.

Yummers! Can't wait to get me that yum yum sugar water!

Yummers! Can’t wait to get me some of that yum yum sugar water!

Three days later, the green queen seemed much better. She was a little faster again. Apparently she had recovered from the shock of a potential threat to her royalty as the one and only. We once tried to retire a queen by setting her free but the poor queen was only programmed to do one thing and so she continued laying eggs even outside of the hive. I don’t know if a natural death exists for queens. In any case, no hive will keep a queen that is sick or not functioning that well.

Here she is...the blue queen we tried to retire.

Here she is…the blue queen we tried to retire.


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The first harvest of the year is bottled up and oh so sweet. A whooping 23kg!


We’re anticipating a second harvest very soon.

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Spring Cleaning!

2016…entering my 4th season of beekeeping and have yet to experience what it feels like to be stung. I have been stung but it was so long ago, before I started beekeeping, that I really can’t remember the pain or gain (good against arthritis). It’s mid March of the new year and I can’t believe how much freshly collected nectar I saw today. Despite the rain and some cold weather, the bees have been busy and are out and about today.

Check out our little hustlers:

bees a hustlin'

Alright, so let’s get down to work. One thing we wanted to do today was clean out the bottom board which after the winter season was laced with wet dirt. Knowing that bees like to run a highly hygienic household, this degree of debris is in need of a spring cleaning.

bottom board replacement

Lucky for them, the entire bottom board got replaced with a previously torched one. Nothing like changing into dry clothes, right?! Also notice the new placement of the hive. We would like to relocate this one back to the front yard for the summer but can only do so in one meter daily increments. Otherwise, bees won’t find their way back to their home.

Backyard hive 1 meter move

As we make our way down to the bottom board, we also replaced layers of insulation (pieces of wool carpets) with dry ones. We’ve used newspaper before but they tend to chew that up, possibly because they don’t like the smell of it.

hive insulation layers

Overall, we were impressed. So far we know that two productive and strong colonies have made it through the winter. We saw pollen, brood, nectar, the green queen and excess cell formations. Check out their extra work:

extra cells

With a little welcome back present, I think the 2016 spring crew is off to a great start.

welcome back present

And on such a warm day, I look forward to another harvest! Stay tuned for more to come soon! I have some updating to do from 2015 still! You won’t want to miss it 😉

Magnolias blue sky

Enjoy magnolia season!


Posted in beekeeping, Bees, Check-ups, Spring | 1 Comment

Honey 2015!

Cheers to the best honey season of all years!!! We made a total of 89 kg this summer! And we’re keeping it all to ourselves!!! haha, (sorry).


You might not be surprised at all. Summer 2015 was dry, hot and started early. We began our first harvest on April 30 and from one hive alone, had the first 9 kg of maple tree flavored honey hidden well away from dad. The harvest continued at a rapid rate:

May 9 – 4.5 kgIMG_20150930_164214148
May 13 – 7 kg
May 22 – 4.5 kg
June 22 – 13.5 kg
July 2 – 17 kg
July 13 – 6 kg
July 16 – 9 kg

We’ve never stopped harvesting this early on in the summer but by July 16, the blackberry harvest was over and that signals the end of the main nectar collection. We are 89 kg rich compared to last year’s lousy 13 kg total. 2013 we made 36 kg.

It’s interesting to keep a record and I’m sure different beekeepers will harvest different amounts at different times. For us, all it takes is 4 full frames of honey to fill the extractor. (Click on  “Extractor” to see how we extract the honey).


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