Saturday, November 24, 2012


Well, it's been rainy and blustery lately (a typical Thanksgiving week in Seattle!), but we woke up to sunshine today. Looking at this picture of beehives taken around 1900, our weather is downright pleasant and mild!

Bees in winter quarters, packed in chaff hives. Bee-house at left. About 1900.

We hope you (and your bees if you keep them) are having a peaceful holiday weekend.

Note: The image is from Cornell University Library's collection and has no known copyright restrictions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks for Honey

In celebration of Thanksgiving, here's our adaptation of the Apple Krisp recipe from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook. This recipe is sweetened with honey and is very tasty! We've made it many, many times, and we're making it for this year's Thanksgiving gathering, too.

Trish adds that we're also thankful that our beehive hasn't blown over in the blustery Thanksgiving week weather. Seems like this is always a rainy and windy week in Seattle!

Apple Krisp

8-10 medium cooking apples (a mix is nice--we often use Fujis)
juice of 1 lemon
3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup flour (we like white whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup butter (Trish suggests you might try coconut butter instead)
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice (we sometimes use nutmeg instead)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup orange juice

Cut the apples into thin slices (we don't peel the apples, but peel them if you wish). Drizzle the apples with fresh lemon juice. Spread half of them into a large baking dish (we generally use a 9x12 dish).

Melt the butter and honey together (this will smell delicious!). Combine with oats, flour, salt, and spices. Crumble 1/2 of this mixture onto the apples in your pan.

Cover with the remaining apples and the rest of the topping. Pour the orange juice over the top (water works fine in a pinch).

Bake 40-45 minutes, uncovered, at 375F.

You could add raisins or dried cranberries or dried cherries, etc, if you want. In the summer, we make this with fresh peaches and blueberries instead of apples--if you use peaches or pears instead of apples, Mollie Katzen suggests you reduce the baking time to 25 minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Heading into Winter

I just read a couple of interesting posts on other beekeeping websites about bees in winter. The first is a thorough overview about what honeybees' lives are like during the wintertime, with details on how they cluster to stay warm and when and why they'll leave the hive in the colder months. See this page on All Things Plants for more details.

Then from Bee Rancher Buzz, a bee blog based in San Francisco comes a little tip about bee-friendly gardening as we head into winter. If there's something flowering in your garden, why not leave it for the bees? The blogger talks about letting herbs flower to give the bees a late-season treat. We did this with herbs this year as well as with some veggies in the garden that went to seed. In particular, we found that the bees loved fennel when it flowered. It may be a bit late for us Seattle gardeners to leave much to the bees, but if you're doing some cleanup and find something that's still flowering, why not leave it a little longer for our bee friends?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Happy Friday to You

Thanks very kindly for reading our new blog and following us on Facebook, where the blog feed shows up on our Hands off Bees page. Several people have just started reading/following us this week--hello and many thanks!

You may not know that in addition to being a fan of bees, I write poetry about bees. (My day job is teaching English at a community college.) Trish suggested that I share a bee poem of mine to end the week, so here's one that also appeared in the literary magazine, Softblow. The title is the scientific name for the European honeybee.

Apis Mellifera

From the Latin for honey-carrier,
from the Greek for healer,

bees may fly six hundred miles
if not squashed, sprayed with insecticide

eaten, or killed by disease. Worn-out
worker bees will die in about

six weeks and must quickly
be replaced if the colony will take

all the pollen and nectar of summer.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What Is a Warre Hive?

A Colorado beekeeper named Nick has a great website about his experiences using Warre hives. He even has the instructions posted if you want to build hives yourself. This page in particular gives a good overview of what a Warre hive is.

There are a couple of differences between the hives on Nick's page and the hive in our backyard. Trish built a higher stand for her hive whereas Nick's hives are closer to the ground. Also, Trish just put a piece of burlap between the top box and the quilt box, rather than pasting a cloth down. But basically, this is the kind of set up Trish builds when she builds a beehive; the nice thing is that the Warre is fairly adaptable--for example, you can put a feeder inside the quilt box, and the bees can eat without leaving the hive.

There's lots of useful information on Nick's site, and I could refer to specific parts of his site for days and days, but I'll just share one more tidbit I found there, a link to Heifer International, where you can donate a hive of bees to a community in need. I've given Heifer gifts in honor of family members before; maybe for the holidays this year, I'll give bees!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tea for Bees

We're seeing honeybees on clearer, warmer parts of the day, but it's getting to be that time of year where we just have to hope there are enough bees in the colony to keep each other warm through the winter and that there's plenty of honey, too. We're pretty sure they have a good amount of honey, and Trish did decide to supplement their stores with a bit of bee tea.

Instead of just serving up plain old sugar water, Trish uses 1 part organic chamomile tea to 2 parts organic sugar. In the spring, it would be 1 to 1, but a thicker syrup is better this time of year because it requires less energy for the bees to convert the thicker syrup to honey. She also adds lemon to bring the pH of the sugar closer to the pH of honey. Then she adds a pinch of salt, which reduces the strain on their metabolism (according to Gunther Hauk). Finally, she adds a tablespoon of honey she saved from the beehive last year; this contains important enzymes for the bees.

Over the past week, the bees have consumed 1 pint of bee tea.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Friendly Neighborhood Bee

This tiny bee came to trick-or-treat on Halloween. Her mom (who gave us permission to post this picture when we told her we have a bee blog) was also dressed as a bee, and her dad was dressed as a beekeeper. We were pleasantly surprised to find an updated version of the vintage bee costume in our post from earlier this week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bees on Campus

Did you know there are hives of honeybees at Edmonds Community College (which is where I'm busy teaching when I'm not busy writing about bees)? If you scroll down a little on this page about some of the campus efforts around sustainability and food, you'll find a little background info about the bees as well as links to four issues of the "Bee Facts" newsletter with the latest Edmonds CC bee news. The bees moved in during April of 2011, thanks to Chemistry instructor Mary Whitfield. There's also a nice article about bees on campus in the Edmonds Sphere blog.

Do you know of other schools where bees are happily coexisting with students?