Monday, December 26, 2011

Finally getting to it

I've been meaning to do a painting of our hives for some time now. So, here it is, my first go at it. This one is in pastels. I still need to tweak it a bit--the far hive doesn't look quite right.
I might try another in acrylics at some time. I just haven't taken the time to work at my paintings lately, but I hope to devote more time to them here during the winter months when there isn't a whole lot else going on I can do outdoors.
Maybe I'll do a winter one as well, once we get some snow out there. Not that I'm exactly asking for snow, mind you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not Only Reindeer Flying


A year ago at this time, we were knee deep in snow. Today, almost 48 degrees and sunny, it feels almost like spring and the bees are out flying. With the sun so low in the sky, hive #2 gets some sunshine but #1 remains in the shade except for awhile in the morning. As a result, the bees were out having a great time from #2 but little activity from the other. This is always so fun to see, especially when I walk out and the only activity I can ascertain is a faint hum as I put my ear to the side of the hive.
Kathy and I hope everyone is looking forward to having a good winter break, great time with families and friends, and we wish everyone a very merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stocking stuffer

     Still looking for those last little items to stuff in the stocking?  This year, I'm giving the "kids" (they're both over 25) the beeswax.  Literally.  Mann Lake Bee Supplies sells a nice little mold that produces 1 oz. little cakes with the word BEESWAX embossed on the top.  You can pour 5 of the little cakes at one time.  Here is the result of my first pouring.
     The mold is very nice.  After pouring and letting them set and harden, all I had to do was to turn the whole thing upside down and they fell out very nicely.  They really look great and I think they and other family members will enjoy having some pure beeswax for all those sticky drawers and many other uses.
     The wax came almost 100% from the cappings when we harvested honey.  I had some from the previous year, and combined I was able to get a bit over 7 ounces.  Here's a quick rundown of my process.
     1)  After squeezing as much honey as I could out of the wax, I washed it thoroughly in the sink, breaking it up with my hands.  Then I  used a large slotted spoon to dip the wax out of the water.  I placed it on paper towels on top of newspaper and pressed as much water out as I could.  At this point, the wax is very crumbly and sticky.  I left it to dry overnight, putting it on fresh paper towels before going to bed.
     2)  I gathered the wax together into a ball and placed it in a clean, large soup can.  I put that into a metal coffee can filled about half way with water and put it on the stove with a low flame.  Since the soup can was still a bit light, I used a metal clamp to hold it to the side of the coffee can.  Of course, if you have an old double boiler that would work very well too.  Be sure to secure the can with wax in some manner so it won't tip over into the water.  You DO NOT want water to get into the wax, even a few drops.  It will create pockets throughout your wax and it won't look good.
     3)  While the wax is melting, I prepare a second clean soup can by taking a piece of an old t-shirt and placing it over the top of the can, securing it with a rubber band.  Press down on the cloth gently with your finger so there is a slight depression.
     4)  When the wax is fully melted,  pour it slowly into the can so the cloth filters out the impurities.  It will drain through quite quickly, though a little will harden on top of the cloth.  I quickly remove the cloth, even if there is still a tiny bit of melted wax on it, and pour the wax into the mold.  If you wait too long, not a problem--simply take the can with the filtered wax and put it in the hot water pan for a short while until it is fully remelted.
     Next season, I plan to keep a coffee can with me so I can keep the scrapings when I remove burr comb from the frames.  I've usually just scraped it off my hive tool onto the cement blocks that serve as the hive base, letting the bees clean up any honey that might be in the wax, but I've read that that can promote robbing and attract unwanted insects or other pests.  Instead, I'll keep the area cleaner and gather even more wax for projects like this.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Walter Kelley Newsletter

Walter T. Kelley Company is a beekeeping products business located in Kentucky.  They turn out one of the best newsletters I've seen from any of the companies.  They're always informative and entertaining as well.  I particularly enjoyed two articles in this month's issue--I Wonder by Lady Spirit Moon and Dronings from a Queen Bee by Charlotte Hubbard.  Both writers show the deep feelings they have for their bees, feelings shared by many beekeepers.  You can check it out at their website under the Education tab on the page or you can subscribe.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Think Like a Bee

Listen to Marla Spivak, who developed the Minnesota Hygenic queen, with her latest thoughts about bees and how we as humans interact with them and can benefit from them.  From NPR's "The Promised Land", the episode is called "Think Like a Bee".