It’s getting haaaaht out there, and the bees could use a refreshing beverage. But a simple water dish won’t do … oh NO. Bees need a floatie – something to stand on while they drink so they don’t tumble into the drink. Like this mini-pond in our San Francisco community garden in Potrero Hill.
You don’t have to be an aquaponics expert to set up a simpler system. Fill a bird bath with rocks and pour some water in it. Toss wine corks in a bucket of water. And if you own a pool, please cover it when you aren’t using it – the poor bees will drown looking for relief.
Beekeepers wait for spring like kids wait for Christmas, and this time the wait was longer than usual in California. Finally this week the rain let up and it was time to see what had transpired over winter in our San Francisco hives.
Aaron and I were pleased with what we found. Healthy colonies, queens with big, fat, booties, and lots of eggs and honey stores.
Because we had not opened the hives since October, the bees had built bridges of wax comb between the frames, which made them stick together. A little spring cleaning was in order to remove this wayward comb, otherwise known as burr comb, brace comb, or bridge comb.
Don’t worry, we gave it back. The bees will clean all the honey from the wax and return the honey to the hive, putting it back in honeycomb cells and sealing it up for their own use.
They will lick the comb dry, and then we’ll return to fetch the wax, melt it down, and make candles. Apis Recycle-itis!
This new machine makes my heart go pitter-pat. It’s the Italian-made Lega 28-frame radial extractor – so intelligently designed, the only honey spinner I could find that GOES IN REVERSE! The motor is underneath, so it doesn’t get sticky with honey, and the basin is convex, so it pours down through a down-spout that is actually tilted downward. I ordered it through blueskybeesupply.com
My beekeeper friends MaryEllen and Aaron came over to give it a test whirl.
The honey was a bit crystalized from cold weather, so using our collective beekeeper ingenuity, we employed a chick incubator, a heating pad, and a hair dryer to warm the honeycomb overnight before we got started. Plus some blankets and Carhartt jackets for insulation. Aaron was given the honor of the first spin:
The motor was so quiet, a nice purr. We extracted two 5-gallon buckets of winter honey from our gardens in San Francisco. It was a deep brown color, with notes of toffee and marshmallow.
A 28-frame spinner is a bit big for my needs, but more room means my beekeeper friends will extract with me. We got it all done in just two spins, leaving plenty of time to drink espresso.
THE HONEY BUS is the story of my beekeeping childhood in Big Sur, where the wisdom of my grandfather and his honeybees gave me the strength to overcome a broken home.
“Captivating and surprising…. If you’ve ever been stung by a bee you will instantly forget the venom and remember forever the sweetness and redemption bees offer in this extraordinary book.” —Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of How To Be A Good Creature and The Soul of an Octopus
Available in hardback, Kindle or audiobook: ORDER HERE
The nursery is filling up in my backyard hive, thanks to this gal. Look for the bit of red paint on her back to identify the Queen Bee. Watch her deposit eggs into honeycomb cells … and the worker bees wriggle with joy.
Opened my hives today and there was a huge dance party going on. Now that Fogust is behind us and the sun finally reappeared in San Francisco, the bees are in ecstasy. I caught one bee with yellow pollen on her back legs, dancing to alert her hive mates to the source of her bounty:
Here’s Grandpa, the man who taught me beekeeping when I was five, touring the inside of his World War II Army Bus – turned honey factory in his Carmel Valley backyard. He expounds on honey harvesting, why the bees are disappearing, and the proper way to remove a stinger.
This is one of the last videos I took of him before he passed away earlier this year. Note he wears no gloves when he sticks his hands in a hive!