The Ferrari of Honey Spinners

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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.

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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.

Reserve your seat on The Honey Bus!

Early sales are now open for The Honey Bus, with delivery by April 2.

It’s 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: PRE-ORDER HERE

thehoneybus.com

 

 

 

 

Ever Seen A Queen Lay An Egg?

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.

Honeybee Boogie

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:

 

A Tour Inside Grandpa’s Honey Bus

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!

Grandpa’s Last Beehive

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Before Grandpa passed away last May, he asked me to take care of his bees. He was 89, and although he had years ago reluctantly given up his Big Sur beekeeping career because he was too frail to lift the honey-heavy hives, he still liked to watch the wild bees set up homes in a pile of deteriorating bee equipment in his backyard.

Now all that’s left is one hive. The bees were entering through a small crack in the top left corner.

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When I pried through a seal of gummy brown propolis, I found a very small colony trying to raise eggs in frames that had been destroyed by mice, wax moths and who knows what.

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The frames crumbled in places when I lifted them. I carefully searched, and found eggs and larvae. And a spot of honey.

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Then I saw the queen! (6 o’clock)

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I carefully transferred Grandpa’s frames into a deep I brought from home with four empty wax frames. I heard a collective thrum of excitement from the bees. I think they were overjoyed to have clean wax and more room.

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I used mesh drawer liners and duct tape to cover the entrances for the trip to the Bay Area.

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I secured the lid for the two-hour journey.

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Their new home was waiting when I pulled up at 10 p.m. I transferred them to the garden, removed the mesh (got stung on my right pinky finger), and fed them with a 1:1 sugar-water ratio. I also placed a super of sticky honeycomb on the ground nearby so they could find it in the morning for easy forage. I filled a planter tray with rocks and water so they could have water close by.

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In the morning, they made small, exploratory flights around the garden. I hope, with more room, new equipment, my mothering and Grandpa’s spirit, this little hive will survive.

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R.I.P.

Franklin Peace, 1926-2015

Bee Lesson Number Four

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LESSON FOUR – Fear is 99% Wrong

Bees are more afraid of you than you are of them. A bee does not want to sting you – because it knows it will die if it does. When a bee plunges its barbed stinger into your skin, it rips from her abdomen, disemboweling her.

Working with bees all my life, I’ve discovered that these fearsome creatures are actually gentle, only stinging when I am clumsy and accidently step on them or squish them with my finger. In fact, bees will head butt my veil, warning me to back away from the hive when they are ready for me to close the hive back up – typically they lose their patience after about 90 minutes.

I can put my bare hand into a hive of bees and scoop up a handful without getting stung, if I do it slowly, gently and with good intentions. It actually tickles.

Another important bee lesson: do the thing that scares you because that is the only way to dislodge your fears.