Monday, October 24, 2011

Other people's honey [NOW UPDATED WITH PHOTOS AND BULLSHITTERY 10/25/11]

I alluded briefly to a honey harvest a few weeks ago and you can all thank Thimbleanna for keeping me honest with my report.

However, I must preface my report by saying that the honey I harvested was not mine. I mean, it was OK for me to harvest it - I didn't STEAL it - but it wasn't from my own home hive.

No. Those ladies are still in their inaugural year, during which time they get to keep all the honey they collect and I get none.


So! Good thing I had my four other hives at work to harvest. Because, yes, we keep bees at work. And then, when we harvest the honey - me and the other half dozen beekeepers at work - we get to keep a bit for ourselves and then the rest goes to our cafes. And that's about all I'm going to say about work.

But - to stay true to my word, I will say that we had an excellent harvest, it was and is delicious, the local news videotaped me speaking incoherently on the subject and now we're all cracked out from ingesting so much honey.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch that is my suburban house that looks nothing like a ranch, I've taken off the honey super (the box on top where the bees would normally store honey but in this case just went to get away for the weekend when they were feeling stressed), added the entrance reducer back on at its widest setting and am watching the drones get carried out by their ears as the rest of the hive gets ready to hole up for winter.

Took this picture in the spring, but this is basically what it looks like again. Except without the inner cover stuck in the middle there. Just go with me on this.

I'd share a video of the closing up ceremonies, but I forgot to take one when I went out there in a frenzy last week to get it done before dark.

I apologize for being negligent in my video taking, but if Bubba would stop being so damned allergic to the bees, maybe he could take some fucking pictures while I work this hive.

He's so selfish, that guy.

Also, the GoPro camera is totally fighting me and going dead at the worst times (like, say, when I'm holding a frame of bees over my head), so I just don't trust its ass anymore.

Anyway - the girls are building comb out just the way they're supposed to - with babies (brood) in the middle of the frames and honey on the outside of the frames (for food), so I don't feel too horrible about the way they're going into winter.

Needless to say - it does not look like THIS anymore.

And, HOLY, are those brood boxes heavy (nearly tore out my shoulder trying to lift the second one off so I could get down to the bottom), so I know there is a good amount of honey capped off and ready to feed them during the cold harsh winter we're certain to have here in NorCal.

And that is sarcasm so please don't send me your comments about what a puss I am for thinking we have cold harsh winters here in NorCal. SARCASM, look it up.

Anyway, now that I've spent this whole post describing what's going on in the hive, I see that I really just need some pictures because this is retarded. I'll endeavor to take some when I'm out there this week sugaring them for mites.

What? You've not heard of beekeepers sugaring their bees?

Alright, I'll take a picture of that, too. Though I will have to take all these photos with my little point and shoot camera because my big girl camera isn't getting anywhere near all that mess.

Bee sugaring and photos of said event - coming soon-ish.

[10/25/11 UPDATE: It's "soon-ish"]

So, I had to go out and sugar the bees today, so I thought I'd drop my camera in the powdered sugar, take a few photos and come back here to tell you that getting cracked out on cough medicine before tending to a busy beehive is maybe not the best plan.

You probably could have guessed as much, but still, here we are.

It all happens so fast, my Crazy, that only upon reflection do I see where I've gone awry.

Anyway, for those of you who are interested in just what the hell "sugaring the bees" entails, let me tell you how I do it. And let's all remember that *I* do not represent all beekeepers, expert knowledge or anything related to "years of experience". The way I do things is a combination of bits of gathered knowledge from around the beekeeper circle of friends I keep/the Internets/beekeeping books, time on hand, how I perceive the situation at the hive and tools at my disposal.

Which is how I ended up deciding that I was going to apply the powdered sugar to the bees with my cake sifter.

I'm nothing if not a complete jack off.

See, people, the concept of sugaring bees is pretty well discussed around the web and the other knowledge gathering mechanisms I described. I think we even discussed it in the class I took a few years ago. The concept being that if you cover bees with powdered sugar, they will clean it off themselves and each other and, in the process, also knock off pesky mites.

When done weekly for about three weeks before they are wintered over, your mite problem should be solved without the employ of any gnarly chemicals and also your bees get to pretend that they are a creepy wiggling cake for a few minutes.

What I haven't been able to accurately glean from all my knowledge gathering is exactly *how* to apply the powdered sugar. Because "sugaring the bees" is like every other beekeeping topic in the known world, which is to say that it's frustratingly vague and incomplete and differs 100% from one beekeeper to another.

All instructions and methods for beekeeping, from what I've found, are not so much instructions as they are "guiding concepts".

Which annoys the fuck out of me.

Alas, I still needed to sugar the bees, and since no two beekeepers do it the same way, I decided to introduce yet another new way and employ my own method - the cake sifter. My thinking being that if the goal is to coat as many bees as possible with a nice even layer of powdered sugar, one might use a cake sifter since that is how one would cover a cake with a nice even layer of powered sugar and - hell - cakes and bees are the same, right?

OK, so my thinking didn't extend to join the similarities of honeybees and baked goods under one roof, but I think you get where I was going with the cake sifter's capabilities to cover things with a nice even layer of whatever, right? Just say yes.

So, yeah. I went out to the hive with my cake sifter loaded with powdered sugar and proceeded to smoke them lightly and then rock their world by taking the brood boxes off again.

Rock me, Amadeus. (Come on. You know you were thinking it.)

Unfortunately, I couldn't get the stupid GoPro charged up and working when I was ready to go sugar the bees, so I brought Bubba's camera instead because - hooray - my point and shoot is in Arkansas already getting ready to shoot photos of people catching trout in a few days.

Don't get distracted though! This is about sugaring the bees and me finally taking pictures of said event. So just remember that I apologized for not taking a video that would have better illustrated the wiggling cake phenomenon that occurs when you open a busy hive and then suddenly sift powdered sugar on their heads.

First, they're stunned. They all stop moving and, in my imagination, crouch down like the dog does when I put a toy on her head, as if to say, "SOMETHING'S ON ME. DO.NOT.MOVE." Then they all start wiggling around to clean themselves and their neighbor and they quickly disappear into the hive leaving the stop of the frames mostly empty.

The process takes less than 30 seconds, which is why the top of this box looks so sparsely populated - they'd already headed downward by the time I fished the camera out of the cake sifter WHOOPS.


Dude. Is there something in my hair?

After this, I promptly forgot to install the beetle jail (that'll be next week's fun task) and to remove a frame to show you the nicely built comb these gals have set themselves up with for winter with babies in the middle and honey and pollen on the outsides. It's quite impressive. I should really show you a photo.

Oh, right.

Maybe next time.

For now, I'll leave you with my flip-flopped feet at the hive, which I know amuses Thimbleanna to no end.

I need a pedicure.


  1. Is it wrong that it makes me want to snicker how they say "googlers"? Very cool though ;)

  2. Wow! That's so cool that you have beehives at work! Thanks for the link to the video -- very fun watching. You crack me up too -- out there playing with the hive in your sandals!

  3. I can only imagine how that conversation went in their bee brains:
    Bee 2: Uh oh
    Bee 2: Uh, dude. It kinda tastes good. Just have a lick
    Bee 1: YOU STUPID DRONE. YOU EAT WHATEVER TASTES GOOD. OF COURSE IT TASTES GOOD IT'S. Wait. I think it's sugar. Never mind. Carry on friends. We've reached the golden days. It is now raining sugar. HOLY SHIT IT IS RAINING SUGAR!

  4. I went to a bee keeping conference at Auburn last year. I was the youngest person there. My in-laws bought everything they needed to keep bee hives and then never set it up. So kudos to you for putting so much effort into it.

  5. Love it! And seriously, what other method could there possibly be other than a flour sifter to nicely coat those bees. What? Just throw some sugar on them? It would be totally clumpy and some bees would be covered while others wouldn't.

    Also it reminds me of the scene in Super Troopers where they cover Farva in powdered sugar... "It's delicious."
    (in case you don't know what I'm talking about)


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Look at you commenting, that's fun.

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