2019 – The season of doom

2019: Uncatchable swarms

See the top of that tree? That’s how high they went. Every. Time.

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For the first swarm, we called Chris Veazey who climbs trees for a living. He graciously climbed this pine tree covered in poison ivy and with no bee jacket.

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Alas, they re-swarmed across the street while he was attempting to remove them. Huge kudos for the effort.

We had a total of 7 swarms (that we know of) with every one of them completely out of reach. While swarms are a “good” and “natural” thing, it didn’t help us much. We replaced 3 queens, but they weren’t able to recover.

2019: A new allergy

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Dan has had some ridiculous reactions to bee stings; especially if they got him in the foot. It would turn red and swell up like a balloon for days. On one special occasion, while mowing the lawn, he got attacked – his face turned red, he had trouble breathing, and he puked on the way to our (thankfully super close) doctors’ office. He had his first ambulance ride to the emergency room at Strong where it was confirmed he was in anaphylaxis.

I was ready to quit beekeeping because I prefer he not die, but instead, he started going to an immunologist for weekly bee venom injections. These are 97% effective in preventing allergic reactions and they are currently reduced to one shot per month.

2019: My first year doing this:

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Do you see her? I found her, smushed her with my hive tool, and watched her insides come out.

 

I replaced her with a “nice” queen immediately after.

 

We were able to extract about 10 gallons of honey in July and absolutely none in the fall. The hives were so weak after all the swarming that I combined our hives into 4. I treated them for mites, made sure they had enough food for the winter and closed shop for the season.

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Dan got this extra gigantic full-body bee suit for Christmas to prevent the girls from sneaking in for a complimentary sting.

He also promises to wear shoes AND socks in the backyard from now on.

 

 

 

2020: An adventurous year so far

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 6.53.22 PMI gave them a bunch of sugar patties to make sure they were still well fed and hoped for the best. A month later we were down to 2 hives. A week after that, 1 hive.

And then last week, this happened:Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 11.01.32 PM

IMG_2789So, so, so, lame. This is the first year since my first year of beekeeping that I lost 100% of our colonies. Three hives appear to have died from mites, and one died from humidity/mold.

Some positive things:

  • We completed our first course in the eCornell Master Beekeeping program and start our next course next week
  • We sold out of honey thanks to our amazing neighbors
  • Without honey, we were able to expand a little and sell lip balm and bath bombs
  • We’ve made some new friends
  • Our new set of bees will be arriving soon

Interesting fact: Our amazing health insurance, which I am forever grateful for, is the only reason that we can afford both immunotherapy and EpiPens, and therefore continue beekeeping (for now).

 

Bee Updates

Yes, I’m a slacker with blogging!

But that doesn’t mean we quit the most expensive hobby. I’ll give a list of updates and then try to remain consistent throughout this season.

1. This has been a very successful year with honey and lip balm sales. We’ve really  gotten to know more of our neighborhood, which is awesome!

2. The lip balm container problem may have been resolved.

3. Mighty Mite Thermal Treatment is our current attempted method for dealing with mites.

4. We went into winter with 6 hives and entered spring with 3.

5. We did another on-site presentation with some of our neighborhood children.

6. We attended the annual Geneva Bee Conference.

7. Two more package bees were purchased and we briefly had 5 hives.

8. One of our hives that swarmed (quite an event that I’ll write about another day) actually absconded.

9. With 4 hives left, another one swarmed- much too high to catch.

10. For the first time, we purchased a queen.

11. With 10 queen cells brewing (as potential replacements for that last swarm) several hive splits were attempted.

12. More than anything, we really want to figure out queen rearing. $$$

13. We’ve decided to enroll in the eCornell Master Beekeeper program.

Here’s a little swarm video:

Interesting Fact: Our hive that absconded? That was the last of the mean-queen descendants, so we are glad they left.

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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.

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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Besaw’s Bee Balm and the people that like us

We owe a million thanks to our friend Allie Schnurr and my dad. We started messing around with a consistent recipe for bee balm, and with that we entered the stressful realm of creating lip balm labels.

We wish it wasn’t so difficult to come up with a decision. We wish we didn’t have to put an address on them. We wish we didn’t torture Allie by changing her free “favor” into a free job. And we are very grateful that my dad was willing to mess around with his printer, use up his ink, and drive to and from our house a bunch of times.

The labels were brought to a group of brutally honest 5th and 6th grade students who gave feedback which influenced more changes. We ended up choosing this one for our peppermint flavored Besaw’s Bee Balm. 18360848_10100229564453493_929221017_n

Our friend Robert Frank is letting us set up a mini-display tomorrow night for First Friday at the Hungerford Building. We’ll be on the 3rd floor from 6-9pm. Stop by and check out local artists, buy some stuff, and maybe buy some Bee Sauce or Bee Balm from us!

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