Lip balm container annoyances

Putting together lip balm has been a frustrating task.

What I’ve tried:

1. Setting up lip tubes from Mann Lake on the counter and pouring the melted concoction in each tube with a beaker. The problems I encountered- a sloppy mess was created, containers were knocked over onto the counter, it took forever, and it created a sunken in look on the lip balm rather than an even pour.

2. Setting up lip tubes from Mann Lake on the counter and pouring in the melted concoction in each tube with a pipette. This resulted in fewer sloppy messes and fewer containers knocked over. The problems I encountered- it still took forever, I had to keep a close eye on the level of melted concoction and continuously squeeze in more to create an even look, pipettes had to be disposed of after only a couple uses due to wax solidifying inside of it.

3. Lip Balm Filling Tray from Bulk Apothecary. This was a genius idea which got me really excited. The problems I encountered- The Mann Lake tubes didn’t fit the tray, therefore I needed to order a new brand of tubes. I was advised to by Milliard brand.

4. Lip Balm Filling Tray from Bulk Apothecary and Milliard brand tubes from Amazon with Onlinelabels.com Lip Balm Labels. 18318771_10212462425292288_290528891_oThese tubes fit the tray perfectly, which had me so excited. I was able to fill 50 tubes at once. You can overfill the tray to prevent the sunken in effect. Once it dries, you can use the scraper to remove excess wax and leave it with a perfect, even top. The labels fit perfectly. The problems I encountered- It left a tiny mess on the counter, the Milliard caps were a little too loose. Loose caps result in the lip balm easily getting a dirty film around the opening of the tube.

5. Milliard brand tubes from Amazon with Milliard brand lip balm blank labels. I purchased these labels because they have a tab that can help keep the cap on (at least before someone decides to use the lip balm). The problem I encountered- the label doesn’t wrap all the way around the lip balm tube. Like…what? I’d understand if they were different brands, but they aren’t. What a waste of money.  Garbage.

6. Milliard brand tubes from Amazon. This batch of Milliard brand tubes had such loose caps, I contacted the company to complain. They sent me a free pack of 50 tubes and an apology. Hooray for nice customer service! The problem I encountered- The caps were still too loose. Even worse than the last batch. If I tipped the lip balm upside down, the caps would fall right off. Time to give up on this brand.

7. California Home Goods Lip Balm Crafting Kit and Onlinelabels.com Tamper Evident Tab Lip Balm Labels. A new pouring tray from Amazon that came with 50 tubes. I read reviews from other people that said that most tubes would fit this tray. The 50 tubes it came with fit perfectly, with only 2 or 3 loose caps. My new tamper evident lip balm labels are also awesome. The problem I encountered- California Home Goods does not sell lip balm containers separate from this kit and they brag that all standard sized tubes should fit. I purchased more from Amazon and hoped for the best.

8. 25 Lip Balm Containers – Empty Tubes sold by Pure Acres Farm on Amazon. I haven’t poured any lip balm into this yet. Why not? The problems I encountered- It does not fit either the California Home Goods tray OR the Bulk Apothecary tray. I will try rubber banding them all together and trying the pipette method again with these, but I won’t be purchasing this brand again.

9. Premium Vials, Empty Lip Balm Containers on Amazon- To be updated upon arrival.

Interesting fact (opinion): I confidently recommend onlinelabels.com for labels.

Treat for mites, or nah?

This is a hot topic in the beekeeping community, and no opinion is necessarily correct. Mites are currently the main killer of honeybees. They are parasitic bugs that weaken the bees, damage their wings, and kill them off relatively quickly.

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See the little round mite on the emerging drone bee

The mites lay eggs on bee larvae, and the eggs usually hatch at about the same time as the new bee emerges. The mites remain attached to the bees and suck their blood out for food and sustenance. This affects them in the following ways:

  1. It weakens the bees and the larva
  2. The bees weigh less than normal
  3. Their lifespan is shortened
  4. They have less ability to navigate their way around and find their way home
  5. Bringing home less pollen and nectar means less food for their family
  6. They can be born with deformed wings, which results in the inability to fly

10541396_823646644063_86980994505566243_oThis was a drone bee climbing up a blade of grass. It would continuously climb up the blade over and over again. It could not fly because it was born with damaged wings from mites. 

So, obviously the bees should be treated for mites, right? That is very debatable.

For many people, the idea of using chemicals to control the mite population is painful to think about. Honeybees have existed just fine for all of eternity until recently. Leave them alone.

Personally, I wanted to avoid using treatment. I lost about half of my hives because of that.

  • The 1st year, I used no treatment. All of the hives died.
  • The 2nd year, I treated 1 out of 2 hives as an experiment. The untreated hive died in early fall.
  • The 3rd year, I was planning to wait until fall to treat the hives. One died by early September.
  • Last year, we had so many swarms (new hives) we didn’t know when to do it. Our strongest, most honey-producing hive died in September.

What we are doing this year (so far):

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On our 2 surviving hives (not our new Carniolans), we treated them with Mite-Away Quick-Strips which is made of Formic Acid. There are multiple methods of treating mites, and there is no certain one that we consider to be best. We chose this because the treatment could be done in 7 days before we put honey supers on the hives.

These photos show how much the bees do not like the strong scent of formic acid. They spent much of the first 24 hours bearding on the front of the hive to avoid it.

Hopefully, someday, honeybees will be able to build up a tolerance to survive the mites without human intervention. But until then, we plan to treat them as needed.

Interesting fact: Varroa mites really like the nurse bees.

But, is it organic?

“Is the honey organic?” is a question that is often asked.

Nope. Let me tell you why.

Honeybees can travel up to 5 miles to gather their pollen and nectar. Right now, the girls are all about the Dandelions. Are the Dandelions in your yard certified organic? Is the soil organic? Maybe your yard is organic, but is your neighbors’?

I have no idea where they came from to get their bright yellowish Dandelion pollen.

So, why do some honey businesses call themselves organic? Well, if their hives are placed in the center of an at least 5 mile radius certified organic farm, then they can label their honey organic.

We live in the city in Rochester, NY. We cannot prove that everyone’s yard is free from chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, etc. Harvesting organic honey would be completely impossible here.

Interesting fact: If you buy raw, local honey that also claims to be organic, the business is either lying or ill-informed.

Attempted robbery

I took some videos last weekend. The ladies were in full force of fighting off robbers. They are trying to get ready for the winter and have no space for thieves. If you are interested in seeing some serious security guard work, check the links to YouTube.

Video 1: a 5 second long video that shows the quickest way to get rid of a robber. https://youtu.be/5vdw3e3MrWs

Video 2: Watch them push away the wasp.   https://youtu.be/D3YjSsCtr4U

Video 3: If the intruder tries to fight back, they will lose.  https://youtu.be/1bfmOlEROt4

Interesting fact: Bees rob other hives because their source for nectar is scarce.  They tend to attack other weak hives so that they have a better chance of surviving.

Sorry, we’ve been busy as bees

Our blog has been on the furthest back burner since July, but that doesn’t mean that the bees have been abandoned. Here’s what has happened since our last post.

“A Swarm in July, Let Them Fly”

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I thought about letting them go, but they were right in front of my face. There are risks with capturing swarms later in the summer. Firstly, they are supposed to be grumpier at this time of the year which means the beekeeper is more likely to be stung. Secondly, the chances of them building up the hive in time for winter are slim. This was a risk I was willing to take, if for nothing else, the learning experience of catching a swarm in July.

“Hey Dad, can you build me a nuc box, like right now?”

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When catching a swarm, you need a place for them to live. Well, we were out of hive boxes. They lived in a styrofoam nuc for about a week, and then my father constructed this for us. They have since filled the first box with 5 frames of honey, but the second box is empty. They haven’t even started building up comb on the frames, so we will have to insert some capped honey frames from other hives.

We extracted 6 gallons of honey at the end of July.

After extracting the honey, we rendered more wax than we’ve ever rendered at one time.

 

Then we got married and gave honey as our wedding favor. Super cute label by our Allie.

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As for September, this is what the ladies in our 6 hives have looked like for the past few weeks:

 

We should be extracting more in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

“Shut up and let us do our jobs”- bees

I have made it a point to not check on the girls in weeks. Also, it’s been raining a whole heck of a lot. With all this time, they have been able to work without steady interruption, and in some cases, their progress is really showing.

Here is hive #1.

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This is currently competing for the award of “Weakest Hive.” On April 30th, this was the strongest hive, but since it swarmed 3 times, it is now just a tiny little thing. The last and final swarm of the season left their honey supply almost empty and without a queen for several weeks. There is still a chance it could make a comeback, as there are 2 frames filled with worker cells.

 

Here lies Hive #2, our first swarm caught, and the hive we are pretty certain that Dan is allergic to.

IMG_0284Do not let the 3rd box, our honey super, fool you into thinking that this one is doing well. This hive was once thriving and full of jerks, but it is now struggling to survive. While I was in there, I saw a queen emerge from a supercedure queen cell. Some of the worker bees noticed this happening and decided to get in there and murder her. Selfishly defying nature, I gently pushed away the worker bees so I could watch the queen. She climbed down the frame, where I’m sure the murder was completed. This hive has a whole lot going on that is all wrong. There are spotty worker cell frames in places where they shouldn’t be. There are several queen cups all over the place. I might downsize them to a nuc box if they don’t get it together soon.

 

Here is our precious hive split, now in 2 nuc boxes. Hive #3

IMG_0285While hive #1 couldn’t stop swarming, we decided to try hive splitting. We took one of the many frames with a capped queen cell, a few frames of worker bees, and some empty frames, and threw them in one of these boxes. We were pretty sure this was going to be a failure, but figured it couldn’t hurt to try. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but these boxes can only fit 5 frames, where our other hives fit 8. They are really working hard to fill up the second box. I plan to leave them alone until I treat them for mites.

 

Here is hive #4, our bees from swarm #2.

IMG_0286Ignore the crooked hive cover. These girls were mad at me for messing with them. Dan was stung twice, and I was stung once. I figured I best adjust that cover once they calm down. These are the bees who swarmed between 2 fences back in May. They appear to be doing really well right now. I do not expect to be taking any honey from them this year, but hopefully they will make it through the winter and be awesome for us next season.

 

Lastly, hive #5. Our sweet Carniolan bees who have never swarmed on us, and the lovely Queen Ruth.

IMG_0288This is what we call success. I harvested a ton of wax from them, and gladly saw that our first honey super is 90% finished with capped honey. They are working hard on the second one.

Swarm town

Today was a perfect day for swarming.

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They hang off the edge, they make a loud humming buzz that can be mistaken for a weed whacker, they crawl up the front of the box, and then they swirl through the air before landing at their first stop.

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As discussed in our last post, we prepared to have them land in a box that is perched on our tree. They chose a different location in our neighbors’ yards, in between two fences.

IMG_1916We “rescued” them by having one of us pound the fence on the wooden side, while the other swept the bees into a box on the wired side.

So are swarms really bad? They aren’t ideal for beekeepers, but they are part of the bees’ natural order. This will slow down the honey flow, which means less honey for us.

BUT! Since we were able to capture them, it’s like we got free bees! We started the year with 1 hive that survived the winter. We purchased 1 more.  Now, because of 2 swarms and one hive split, we have 4 1/2 hives.

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Interesting fact: Our Carniolan bees, the type that are known for swarming, are showing no signs of taking off soon.

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For the love of lemongrass

This is our first year being proactive with catching swarms. Our hive that swarmed a few days ago is prepping to swarm again. To increase the chance that they conveniently land in the same tree as the last swarm, we sprayed the lower branches with a mixture of water and lemongrass essential oil. Lemongrass oil mimics the pheromone that the scout bees send out when they are looking for a new place to live, so they are naturally attracted to it.

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Since we now both smell like lemongrass, the bees are attracted to us. We’ll be staying out of the yard for a couple hours.

Wish us luck!

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To catch a swarm

The beginning of May is also the beginning of swarm season. Hilariously, we posted a note to one of our neighborhood social websites early in the morning informing that if anyone sees a bee swarm, to please contact us, and we’ll remove it for free. A few hours later, this was found in our own tree.

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Swarms are inevitable, and we’ve been fortunate enough to witness at least one per year. It’s fortunate because it is one of the most mesmerizing things to see. We knew a swarm would happen soon, as we noticed that one of our hives was in the process of creating 2 new queens. We decided to try splitting the hive and creating a new one. This could create a couple different scenarios. Ideally, with a lot of luck, the original hive would decide not to swarm.  That would result in having the original hive with a new colony being created. Sadly, the queen made up her mind, and decided they have to take off anyway.

When bees swarm, their first stop is not far from the original hive. Typically, they stay in one large clump for up to 48 hours. All swarms that we have witnessed from our hives have landed about 40 feet high up in a neighbor’s tree, completely unreachable, and then they leave for their new “permanent” home within 5 hours.

You can see where our hives are located. The swarm landed right where this beekeeper is pointing:

fullsizeoutput_a7dAs a first time swarm catcher, he asked for some advice, but ultimately figured it out on his own. The bees were attached to a branch, so the branch had to be cut off. The girls were placed into a cardboard nuc box, and then we began the fun process of installing them into a deep super.fullsizeoutput_a7bWe provided them with some food, a few empty frames, and hoped for the best.

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Interesting fact: Swarming bees are harmless. Be nice.

Making of Besaw’s Bee Balm

Rendering bees wax is the hard part, which we will write about another time. That yellow thing next to the coconut oil is the beeswax. The rest of the items in this picture are the other ingredients we used.

IMG_0086First you take the beeswax and you shred it. You shred it. You shred it, shred it, shred it! This isn’t easy. It might look like it is as easy as shredding cheese in this picture, but it actually feels like you are shredding a brick.18318747_10212462425332289_1505142232_oNext, you mix in some of the oils with the beeswax, and you melt it in a double boiler until it is pure liquid. If you are feeling risky, you don’t have to use a double boiler. However, if you aren’t careful, and it actually starts boiling, hot oil shooting out at you can not only be painful, but also a serious pain to clean up. We’ve done that before, and it wasn’t pretty.18318247_10212462425252287_1967225059_oWe’ve tried several methods of pouring this hot concoction into lip balm tubes. With some 6th grade students, we tried using a beaker from science class. We tried using a teeny tiny funnel that was special ordered. Both of these ideas were effective but messy.  Finally we discovered the beauty of little disposable pipettes. We also found this cool contraption you see on top of the lip balm containers. This holds them all in place so that they can cool down easily without accidentally knocking them over while being clumsy.

18318771_10212462425292288_290528891_oAfter it dries, we cap and label them. Then we sell them for $3.00 each, or 2 for $5.00 if we are feeling saucy.

Interesting Fact: Trial-and-Error, with an emphasis on error, is what beekeeping is all about.

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