In the midst of an ever growing list of extinct and endangered bee species, there is a bright spot.
In 2018, for the first time in almost four decades, Megachile Pluto (commonly known as Wallace’s Giant Bee) was sited. Even though this bee was once feared extinct, the individual who found the Wallace’s Giant Bee captured and promptly sold it for $9,100 on Ebay.
The killing and sale of the giant bee sparked outrage, and many feared for these reclusive bees. And then last week, another giant bee was sighted. Thankfully, after photographing this specimen, the individual released the bee alive.
Who is Megachile Pluto?
Discovered in 1858 by Alfred Russel Wallace, as he catalogued the flora and fauna of Indonesia, this bee received a mere one sentence entry in Wallace’s journal. This bee lives on three islands of the Indonesian province of North Moluccas: Bacan, Halmahera and Tidore. Oil palm plantations steadily are replacing the lowland forests where these bees live, leading to an ever increasing reduction of habitat.
Many feared that this bee had become extinct, until it was seen again in 1981. It would be 38 years until the next sighting of Megachile Pluto. And you would know if you saw Wallace’s Giant Bee.
This bee is the largest bee in the world. Females measure approximately 1 ½ inches long with a wing span of 2 ½, while males measure 0.9 inches long. (For comparison, a typical honeybee measures in at approximately ½ inches long.) These giant bees live in active tree-dwelling termite nests. The females have large mandibles, capable of gathering, transporting, and manipulating the plant resins that the bees use to fashion their nests. As with all other species of Megachile bees, Wallace’s Giant Bee feeds on nectar and pollen, and carries pollen in the thick hairs on its ventral surface (abdomen).
Looking to the future
People have seen this bee only a handful of times since its discovery. For that reason, there is no accurate estimates of how many of these bees exist. From a conservation standpoint, Megachile Pluto is a vulnerable species. Entomologists are unsure if the sighting is good or bad from a conservation standpoint. The news coverage the sighting has generated is sure to make more people aware of this reclusive bee. The question is, will people go to these Indonesian islands in search of these bees, or will they be encourage to fight for the preservation of this species. Will they invade its territory, or will they lobby for the preservation of it?
The next time someone sees one of these incredible bees, will they sell it on Ebay, or will the let it be?
There are many credible sources of information on Wallace’s Giant Bee. Here are a few.
Do you have little ones in your life? It could be your kids, grand kids, nieces, or nephews. It could be your friend’s kids, the kids you babysit, or the ones you teach. I bet they’re getting restless right about now. Snow and rain and cold, Cold, COLD! Just when many of us though that winter was going to be mild this year, it slammed into us. That means lately, kids have been kept in a lot more than they would like. They’re getting bored, irritable, and antsy. They’re probably starting to bicker, and drive you crazy. So what can you do?
Here are a few activities that will occupy them, alleviate some boredom.
Edible Peanut Butter Play Dough
Here’s a fun, edible clay that will keep many kids occupied for hours. You will need to mix together:
1 C creamy peanut butter
1 ½ C dried milk
¼ C honey
Mix until the mixture forms a ball. Knead until smooth. Add more dried milk as needed while mixing/kneading to make a smooth, pliable ball that doesn’t stick to the hands, bowl, or the surface it is kneaded on.
Hand out chunks to the kids. Encourage the kids to form the dough into animals and other shapes. Or, break out the cookie cutters. The really cool thing about this clay is that the kids can eat their masterpieces, if you’re OK with that. If the kids will be eating their creations, consider making available dried fruit, candies, baking chips, nuts, seeds, pretzel sticks, and/or shredded coconut to decorate their project. Before letting the kids eat their sculptures, or putting the clay back into the storage container, consider immortalizing their creations with a quick photo. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator. If the dough develops an off odor, throw it out.
Things to consider:
Make sure any kids involved do not have nut or milk allergies.
This activity is not recommended over shag carpeting. Consider covering the carpet if you will be doing this activity in a carpeted area..
Have kids wear an older shirt, since the oils from the peanut butter can transfer from the clay, to their hands, and onto their cloths.
If you want to occupy the kids, let them play for awhile before cleaning up.
Make sure kids wash their hands before and after playing with the clay.
Clean the play surface before handing out the play dough.
Even the best behaved kids are going to be tempted to nibble on the clay (which is ok, if you’re OK with it). Keep this in mind when handing out chunks of clay to play with.
Refrigerate unused portions for another day.
Sensory Play Box
Let your child play with a homemade sensory box. In a box or bin, place dries pasta, dried beans, beads, small toys, buttons, small smooth pieces of glass, washers, small pom poms, etc. Pebbles, sand, fake paper grass, toilet paper tubes, and fake flower tops and leaves can be fun too. Make sure to use a variety of textures, colors, and sizes.
Allow the kids to free play. Some will make up little games, others will play pretend, or they will explore differences between the items in the box. For extra fun, include a spoon, a measuring cup, and a magnifying glass. A pair of chopsticks, tweezers and/or tongs can also be very fun when added to the box.
To get a bigger bang from your box, you can change things up. You can turn your sensory bin into more than one activity. For example, give your child an ice cube tray or egg carton and encourage them to sort by different textures, colors, shapes, types of item, etc. Or challenge them to see which items they can pick up with chopsticks. Regardless of how the kids choose to play, many kids will play quietly with a sensory box as long as you let them.
Things to consider:
Small items pose a choking hazard.
If the child will be sitting on the floor to do this activity, consider putting down a small blanket or sheet. When the child is finished playing, simply pick up the floor covering, and pour the items back into the box.
Shorter, flatter boxes/bins work better than really deep ones.
If you want to occupy the kids, let them play for awhile.
Recreate the magic of a movie theater right in your home. Our top picks are: Epic, A Bug’s Life, James and the Giant Peach, and Antz . A single movie, or a marathon – your choice. All it takes is a good movie(s), a few treats, a drink, some popcorn, and a very dark room, and you’re ready to go. Besides candy and popcorn, consider cheese chunks, dried fruit, nuts and small pieces of fresh fruits and veggies. Don’t forget to have intermissions as needed, for bathroom breaks, to stretch, and to refresh treats and drinks.
I was asked over my shoulder a few moments ago “But what does this have to do with honey bees?” My answer to all of you is, as much or as little as you want it to. The Play dough can just be play dough, or it can turn into a discussion on bees, how they make honey, and why. The sensory boxes can be bee themed if you like. Or not. If they are, you can ask “What/why” type questions to get your kids minds going. Questions like “Why do you think bees like flowers?” The movies can be any type of movies. They can just be a movie if you want. Or they can be the starting point for many discussions on insects, pollinators, or bee. That’s the beauty of these activities. They can be whatever you want or need them to be.
Customers at markets and even everyday friends always come up to us with bee or honey related questions. Things like: “What is honey made of?”, “Why does various honeys taste different?”, “Why does honey crystallize?” “Can I stop or slow the crystallization?”, and “Can honey freeze?”. Well, we are here to answer these questions of yours. Just keep reading and if your question wasn’t answered here, leave a comment and we will get to it next time.
What is honey made out of?
For some people, the answer is simply as follows:The bee drinks up the nectar, takes it back to the hive, and spits it back up. This is what becomes the honey we are so fond of.
But that’s not enough for others. They want to know what honey looks like chemically? Is it all one compound, or is it a mixture?
Honey is a little bit of water (averages ~18%) with lots of other stuff dissolved into it. Mostly, different types of sugar. Fructose (~30% – 44%) and glucose(averages ~25% – 40%), are the two most abundant sugars in honey; these are both monosaccharides. Monosaccharides are the simplest form of sugar that when broken down become energy. Several different disaccharides (a double sugar made of two sugar molecules bound to each other, like sucrose) are next, with a combined average percentage of ~9%. Then oligosaccharides (sugar molecules made up of chain of several single sugars attached to each other) are next with a combined average percentage of ~4%. These are all followed by the minute amounts of enzymes, amino acids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, organic acids, pollen, and other substances that make honey more than just a mixture of sugars in water.
Why does various honeys taste different?
The exact percentages of the different substances in honey determine how a honey tastes. These percentages are highly dependent upon the types of flowers that provided nectar to the bees. This is why honey from one plant source tastes different than honey from a different plant source. The relative concentrations of the different sugars affect how sweet the honey tastes. Honey’s with higher fructose concentration taste sweeter. On the other hand, differing relative ratios of the trace aliphatic acids (amino, and organic) in honey are what impart the characteristic flavors to different types of honey.
Why does honey crystallized?
The sugars cause a phenomenon called crystallization because honey is a very concentrated sugar solution. When it first forms, there is more sugar dissolved in the water than the water should be able to hold. That means when it forms, honey is a supersaturated sugar solution. If a seed crystal forms in the honey, or is introduced into the honey, sugars can come crashing out of the solution.
Differences in water content of the honey, storage temperature, and glucose content all affect weather or not a honey will crystallize, and the texture of the crystals that will form. Honeys with higher glucose content, as well as those with lower water content are more likely to crystallize. Any given honey is most likely to crystallize fastest between 55℉ (13℃) and 63℉ (17℃). Seed crystals occur at the greatest rate between 41℉ (5℃) and 46℉ (8℃).
Below 41℉ (5℃), crystallization will not occur at all.
Because different honeys have differing ratios of sugar to water, and fructose to glucose, different honey varieties are more or less likely to crystalline.
Can honey freeze?
Water freezes, so does honey? The short answer is no, at least, not like you might think. And here’s why. Honey is more than just water. It is a little bit of water (14%-20%), with a mixture of mostly sugars dissolved into that small amount of water. This solution is very viscous, and It doesn’t behave like pure water at all. As water cools, the water molecules become regularly arranged, it becomes a crystalline solid (ice) at 32℉ (0℃). The process of going from a liquid to a crystalline solid is called freezing.
As honey is cooled, it becomes increasingly viscous and slow moving. At 32℉, where water freezes to ice, honey is still a free flowing liquid. Once honey gets down to -4℉ (-20℃) it appears to be a solid, but it is actually still an extremely slow moving liquid. When it reaches -44℉ it begins to change into a glass. By the time it reaches -60℉, the honey is now in a glassy state. A glassy state is a semi amorphous state. An amorphous state is made up of a disordered jumble of molecules bound together. Since honey does not turn into a crystalline solid, it technically does not “freeze.”
Can I keep my honey from crystallizing?
The best option for long term to store the honey is to keep the honey below 41℉. While your fridge should be set down around this temperature, the temperature can fluctuate allowing the honey to reach the 41℉ to 46℉ the danger zone for seed formation. The freezer is a safer bet because it is not likely to reach the danger zone even with opening and closing and causing the temperature to fluctuate. As was said before when the temperature is below 41℉, all crystallization stops. So, if you have the freezer space, this is an option but make sure that there is a 1 inch head space, to allow for any expansion of the honey as it cools.
You basically have two choices. Between 70℉ (21℃) and 104℉(40℃), or below 41℉(5℃).
If you want to slow down the whole crystallization process, store your honey above 70℉. So, not your unfinished basement in the winter. If your cupboards are on an exterior wall, check their temperature to make sure they stay warm enough. Also make sure your storage area doesn’t get too hot. Storing honey above 104℉ degrees will cause a loss in quality. And remember, given enough time, raw honey stored above 70℉ may develop crystals, but storing at this higher temperature will greatly slow it down.
Any More Questions?
So, with that we hope covered some questions you all may have had about honey. However, if we haven’t, feel free to leave us some more and we will answer them in due time as well. If you have other questions regarding our products then click this link if you have a question like: “My dog just ate my lip balm, will he be okay?”. As crazy as it sounds, we have even answered that. Stay tuned and we will see you all again!
Who knew that chickens and bees would have one very tragic similarity?
Certainly not us.
You see, chickens and bees can both easily drown.
We discovered this quite traumatically this past Wednesday; at 5:30 P.M., all three of our daughter’s chickens were hanging out on the back deck, sunning themselves. Less than two hours later, when our daughter went to put the chickens in their coop for the night, one of them was nowhere to be found. We frantically searched our backyard, and then the immediate neighborhood. Out of desperation, we traversed the backyard again. To our great horror, we found Lily in the pond. The poor thing had drowned.
We didn’t know that chickens aren’t the best swimmers, and they cannot fly out of the water like water birds. They can float, and even swim a bit, but once their feathers get wet, the weight of their soaked feathers causes them to sink like a rock. This means that even if they do manage to swim for awhile, the chicken still is in danger of drowning.
So, ponds are a very real hazard for chickens. Same with buckets, kiddie pools, and even deep puddles. A chicken is very likely to drown in the event their feathers become drenched and begin to weigh them down.
Unlike bees, you cannot just throw a few rocks and/or floats in the water, and assume that the chicken will be able to get itself out of danger.
If they cannot get out by themselves chickens are in danger. They will swim until they become exhausted and then drown, become waterlogged then drown, or they can become soaked and succumb to hypothermia if it is too cool outside. If the chicken panics and flails when it hits the water they will saturate themselves and possibly breath in water, making them even more likely to have trouble in the water.
Providing a walk-out pool or pond does not ensure that the chickens will be safe. It turns out, when thinking chicken and water, think 1-year old human baby and water. If you would worry about your infant or toddler drowning in a given situation, it is a concern for your chickens too.
So; If there are chickens in your lives, make sure that you are aware of this danger.
If you let your chickens near water, keep a vigilant eye on them, and help them out, if they find themselves in the water. Even if they are in a walk-out pool or pond, if they get soaked and are in water that is too deep, get them out of the water before it is too late. Dry them off it is cool, since they can get hypothermia easily when soaked. Finally, consider chicken-proofing water features and emptying other sources of water that pose hazards to you chickens.
Chicken are land fowls that depend on foraging and roost in low sitting branches. Case in point, they aren’t like ducks, they don’t do well with water. So; if you have chickens as a pet and want them to live long and happy, keep an eye on their surroundings. If there is remotely deep water, consider putting up your chickens up for the time as rain passes and puddles dry. If you have ponds, try out some netting to keep your chickens out to prevent unnecessary tragedy.
Our post tonight is in loving Memory of Lily the Chicken.
She will be dearly missed by her chicken sisters,
as well as her human friends and family.
Informative Link discussing how chickens are different than waterfowl with respect to swimming.
Imagine the breeze making brilliant scarlet flowers swing and sway. Buds of lush red bouncing against stems of green in a field of stark and stunning beauty. Small and sedulous bees visiting each bud, collecting and pollinating. All is peaceful as nature unfolds before you, the blue sky is deep and expansive as it stretches passed rolling hills and looming, majestic mountains along the horizon.
How beautiful, ethereal, and captivating right? But to those who know; those who understand, it is a constant reminder of battles fought and life lost. A memento of struggle, conflict, and loss; whether a brother, a parent, a child, these lovely flowers are also a reminder of those lost to war.
The remembrance poppy is an artificial flower made to represent a common red field poppy. It was promoted by Moina Michael after the WWI poem “in Flanders Fields” was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
The American Legion adopted it as a symbol to commemorate fallen soldiers in 1921. Today it is still used as a symbol in America. It was also adopted by the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, where it is still used extensively in those countries.
Poppies for the Fallen
This Memorial Day, why not take the time to remember those who have fallen by planting poppies. Every time you see the bright red blooms, it will be a reminder to remember all that was beautiful about those we have lost.
For those of you planting for the bees, not only are the poppies a beautiful reminder of those you’ve loved, and an honor to those who have lost their lives serving, it is also a plant that the bees love.
Check out this link for an in depth discussion of poppies and memorial day.
5 ways to leave mom feeling like the queen of the hive
Mom’s are loving, selfless, fierce cornerstones of support at their best, and crazed, tyrannical groughes at their worst moments. But most of them rarely feel like a queen. They’re too busy alternating between working to support their families, and cleaning up messes, kissing owies, breaking up fights, cooking, cleaning, and doing all the other things mothers do.
So basically, they’re too busy taking care of the needs of others.
For Mother’s day this year, why not make your special mom feel like a queen? Try one of these ideas for a day that will leave her feeling like royalty:
Clean up without being asked. Pick up all the laundry and wash it. Tidy the flat surfaces. Dump the garbage. Do the dishes and wipe down the counters. Vacuum. Talk to your kids, if they are big enough to participate. Let them know what you are doing, and why. Then, do it all with a smile. Do it all without expecting praise. Do it as a gift. Make it about that special mom, and not you.
Detail mom’s car. Wash and wax it. Clean the windows. Armorall the tires and Dash. Vacuum the carpets. Add an air freshener for good measure. You could even go all out and hang a charm to her rearview mirror. It will remind her of your thoughtful act every time she drives anywhere.
Plan a small family outing, and make it something she has been wanting to do. Watch and listen. Mothers drop hints and clues all the time about their wants and dreams. Make one come true. It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be genuine. Maybe it’s a new garden store she wants to visit, a movie she really wants to see, or a hiking trail she wants to try. Coach the kids in advance, so they know that they shouldn’t complain. Explain that being selfless is something people sometimes do for those they care about, and remind them that mom usually picks activities that need to get done, or that others want to do, not what she really wants to do. If that doesn’t work, explain that the activity is a present. Remind them that mothers are selfless all the time.
Call a friend or relative of hers, and send them to lunch or dinner on you. Sometimes, moms are so busy taking care of others, they don’t always get the chance to really connect with their friends or family. Remember to make sure that the kids get fed, and the mess from it is cleaned up before mom gets back.
Pamper her like a queen for the day. Have her sit down and relax. Let her have total control of the TV remote, or offer up a few of her favorite books. Make sure the kids know you are the go-to person if they need anything. Bring her drinks and food so that she doesn’t have to get them for herself. Finally, make sure you clean up any messes you make, so your special mother isn’t faced with a disaster after she gets up from her time spent relaxing.
Remember, you don’t have to wait for mothers day to come around to make the mothers in your life to feel truly royal. And your gestures don’t have to be grand or expensive.They just have to be thoughtful and genuine. So what will you do this Mother’s for your mom?
A female bee is made when a queen egg that has been fertilized with drone sperm is allowed to develop into a bee. This bee is almost always a worker bees, though rarely, a new queen can develop. Female bees have 32 chromosomes, 16 from mother and 16 from the father.
An egg laid by either 1) a drone laying worker or 2) an unfertilized queen will produce a drone bee. Because drones bees don’t have a father, they have only 16 chromosomes, and they are all from their mother. This makes them haploid.
Drones look different from queens and workers. They have big eyes, big blunt bodies, no stinger, and are somewhere between queen and worker in size. They are friendly and docile, and cannot sting.
Each type of bee have their own jobs. Queens are in charge and lay eggs that will become future workers; there is only one in a hive. Workers work at all the tasks that needs done in the hive and there are tens of thousands of them in a hive. The workers cover the cleaning and child care, to guarding the hive and foraging, they do it all. Except for the one thing they can’t do,they can’t have sex with the queen to fertilize her eggs. That’s what the drones are for. There are hundreds to thousands of them in a hive. They make up about 5% of the hive population during foraging season a their main job is to fertilize queen eggs.
Lots of people will tell you that all drones do is eat, sleep, sit around, and have sex. Some of you are shaking your heads, thinking Just like every other man. But is that really? Or are we humanizing the drones? Or minimizing their contributions? It turns out that the lives of drone bees are not as idyllic and lazy as many people assume. But then, life rarely is as it appears.
The life of a drone goes something like this:
The first 3 days are spent as an egg, then the next 6 ½ days are spent as a larva, and finally 14 ½ are spent as a pupa. At the 24 day mark, the drone is now an adult. Newly emerging adult drone bees send their first 3-4 days begging food from nurse bees. While it is true that drone bees will continue to eat the nectar and pollen brought in by worker bees for the rest of their short lives, they also help the worker bees in the hive maintain a desirable incubation temperature for developing and emerging bees, and they are better at it than the worker bees..
At 14 days of adulthood another job is added. The drones become sexually mature and begin leaving the hive during the day to spend time in drone congregation areas. Drone congregation areas (DCA’s) are areas where drone bees gather. When a drone leaves the hive, it will visit these areas, sometimes several of them in a day. These areas are 100 – 650 feet in diameter, and 50-130 feet above the ground. Often, these areas are used year after year, though why that is is unknown. (This is truly amazing when you realize that drone bees do not live through the winter, so how do they know where to go?) While drones have been shown to travel as far as 4 ½ miles to reach a DCA, drones prefer DCA’s close to their hive. DCA’s usually have hundreds to several thousand drones visiting at a time, and the drones come from as many as a thousand hives. It is only in these DCA’s that drone bees pursue queen bees. So far, it all sounds like a pretty cushy life, but this is where it starts to suddenly get a bit darker for many drone bees.
When a queen is fully developed and fertile, she will leave her hive on her nuptial or wedding flight, and makes her way to a DCA. While in the DCA, only the healthiest, fastest, and brightest drones will be able to catch her to mate.This means that only the best drones will be able to pass on their genetic material. The queen will mate with roughly 10-20 of the drones on one of her mating flight while it is said they only have one flight queens have been known to make up to three mating flights to gather enough semen. The semen collected will fertilize all the fertile eggs she will ever lay in her lifetime.
Now here’s for the really dark part for the drone bees. During the act of mating, their genitals are ripped from their bodies, killing them. For the next male to mate, it will have to remove the genitals of the previous male that mated with the queen.
And if that isn’t bad enough, when resources run low the drone bees are forced from the hive, and their developing bodies are pulled from the cells they are in and pushed from the hive. It usually happens at the end of summer, or the end of fall at the latest. This makes the drone lifespan the shortest of the three classes of bees.
In case you are wondering, The queen lives for 3-4 years on average. Worker bees vary at 1 ½ – 2 months in the spring, summer and early fall and 4-5 months if born in the late fall. Drones lives much shorter adult lives at 2wks to 4 months, with 2 months being the average.
So, in the end, the drone really has a kind of sad and short life that one can’t really shake a stick at. His part to play if rather crucial but in time of urgency, he will become a needed sacrifice for the greater good of the hive. We are sure that many men don’t envy that idea and we don’t think anyone else really should either. Yet, this is what is means to survive as a bee and we are sure that these incredible organisms to cherish every bit each member of the hive has to offer. What are your thoughts? Don’t you think it would be kind of scary if we lived like bees? Share your thoughts and whatnot with us either here in the comment section, on our facebook page, or on instagram with #MoreBees.
The 27th of this month will mark the passing of a day that is often ignored,
National Arbor day.
You’ve likely heard of it when you were a kid in grade school. They probably told you that trees were important. You probably did a craft project. You may have even helped plant a tree at your school.
Odds are, many of you haven’t given Arbor Day much thought since then. So, I’m really glad you’re taking a look at this post.
For those of you who don’t remember, Arbor Day is a day to reflect, and act…by considering the importance of trees, and by planting them. Arbor Day in America has its roots in 1872 Nebraska, where a million trees were planted in the largely treeless prairie state in a single day, April 10th. The founder of Arbor Day was Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor. It was globalized largely through the efforts of a Connecticut man named Birdsey Northrop, and the newly formed American Forestry Association. Today, Arbor Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. The name varies, but the ideas are the same and, the actual date of celebration varies, just as the climates and growing seasons varies in each country. Click on this link to see when and how other countries celebrate.
So why are trees so important? It’s more than just because of their aesthetic value. They also pack a very big environmental punch. From acting as carbon sinks and producing oxygen, providing habitat, and stabilizing land, to moderating ground temperature, and storing water, trees are immensely important to the world as we know it. They can even be more than that. they can, and do provide, building materials, fuel, food, and even medicines and with proper management, they can do so indefinitely.
We’ll be planting a Bee Bee tree in our yard this year for Arbor Day. We ordered it from Bowman Farm and Nursery out of Hillsboro, OR. Do you plan on celebrating Arbor Day this year by planting a tree in your yard? Or will you participate in an organized celebration &/or tree planting through your town, scouting troop, or gardening club? Many cities and organizations sponsor Arbor Day activities. The City of Portland has a fabulous Arbor Day celebration scheduled for April 21st. It will be held in Mt. Scott Park from 10am-3pm. Check out this link for more information.
The bees will absolutely love the Bee Bee tree. It will feed lots of them, and they will in turn help feed the world. Some people probably think that one tree, cut down or planted, will make little difference in this world, but each tree matters. Taken together, they mark the movement towards a world that is a little better or a little worse, depending on which is greater, the rate of cutting or the rate of planting. The benefits and resources they will provide can either be plentiful or scarce, so we definitely need to be weary of what we do with this wonderful gift of nature. So plant a tree for a better life and a better future for yourself, your family, your world.
Would you like to receive 10 free trees to plant in your yard? By signing up with the National Arbor Day Foundation, you can receive 10 free trees. They even offer different options for the type of trees. 10 Free trees from Arbor Day Foundation
When I was a small child, my class went to visit a museum devoted to many different cultures. It was made up of a cluster of small cottages, with each dedicated to a different culture; such as Denmark, China, and Hungary. Yet, the House of Ukraine stuck out to me the most when I looked upon a basket of ornate and fantastically decorated eggs on display. I was so ecstatic about these pretty little eggs throughout the rest of the day and until we all went home. I remember when I tried to tell my mom about these eggs with unique lines and brilliant colors that my younger self couldn’t properly explain, and there was no computer to look up proof of these Easter wonders as the internet did not exist – it was the early 1970’s. So, that fantastical image of the decorated eggs sat in the back of my mind for years and years, until one day when I was home from college.
It was spring break; as I recall, I had left college and returned home to visit my family. My high school friends came over to hang out and ended up taking me to some sort of bazaar or fair that I can’t quite recall the name or proper title of. Several booths of artisans, crafters, and self established little businesses filled the gym of this local college where I encountered a wonderful ghost from my past. This lady there was decorating eggs, just like the ones from when I was a kid.I was so happy to see them took it upon myself to learn of these neat little wonders. One of the coolest things I remember she was using beeswax to write designs on an egg. “It has to be beeswax. No other wax will work.” She told those of us watching. What I know now is that other waxes paraffin or soy do not have the properties that beeswax has and they won’t seal the egg or come off the egg cleanly at the end. Beeswax has very unique properties that are gentle enough to not harm the egg shell.
My bored friends drug me away before I could learn more. It was the late 1980’s and information still was’t at your fingertips like it is now. When I went back to school, I was so busy with classes and work, that I quickly forgot about the eggs again.
Later on in life, I popped into the bookstore, looking for a recommended title on parenting, and saw a book on decorated eggs. From the sublimely simple to the gloriously intricate, the book was dedicated to Eastern European egg art. Ukrainian pysanky, Polish pisanki, Croatian pisanici, Sorbian pisaci. The book called to me, but my time and funds were limited, so I put it back, and got the book I had come looking for. With three small children and a full time job there was not time for such a luxury. I was so busy keeping up with day to day life, and my thoughts of eggs were put aside again.
Since then, computers have brought the world to our fingertips. I’ve learned that most countries in Eastern and Central Europe have egg decorating traditions, and these traditions have a few things in common. The eggs are prized possessions, and often given as gifts, meant to bring luck or protection to the owner. Many of the motifs, patterns, and colors have traditional meanings; such as green meaning spring, hope, and growth and purple meaning fasting, faith, patience, and trust., ect. Many of the cultures that make the Pysanky eggs happen to keep similar traditions. The craft is passed from one generation to the next, with many families having their own recognizable style. Almost all of them are made using a wax-resist method, and all of the wax-resist methods rely upon beeswax.
Beeswax is necessary for the wax-resist methods because it adheres well to to egg shells; doesn’t crack, rub, or scrape off; and fills in even the fine pores of the egg shell. Other waxes either don’t stick well or don’t fill the pores of the eggshell. This means that only beeswax keeps the colored dyes used in the wax-resist method exactly where you want them to be. Only beeswax can give fine crisp lines and; when done, the beeswax melts off, without causing discoloration to the egg.
The kids are much older now, but life isn’t any simpler. Now, we keep bees and make and sell beeswax and honey body products. There still isn’t much spare time. But I do get to make my own colorful creations using beeswax. They are not eggs they are our soaps and without it, our products just wouldn’t be the same.
Neither would the decorated eggs of Central and Eastern Europe.
Every market season, all the way into the fall, people tell us how they are going to get bees. Many think that they can just go out at any time and buy some. Many people don’t realize that by the time they see us in the markets, it may just be too late to get bees for the year. You see; most of the sales of bees occur in spring, and orders often have to be made in March or April. So, by the time you see us in a farmers’ market in June or July, it’s likely too late for you to go buy bees for the year. So, if you are going to have bees this year, now is the time to get the ball rolling
What should you do and when should you do it? Before anything; you should get your money together to start keeping bees can cost as little as $400 and up to $2000 depending on what equipment you get.
First, you need to see what your local laws and regulations, zoning codes, and CC&R’s have to say about it. Bees may or may not be in your future.So take a few moments to find out if you are allowed to own bees where you live, and if there are any restrictions
For example, most Oregon cities in the Portland Metro have regulations covering the owning of bees, Clark county doesn’t.
Second, get online and see when bees will be available for your area, and when orders can be placed. Keep in mind that demand outpaces availability in some area, and make your order as soon as you are sure you are ready. Ready means you have figured out what you want, and you have bought and set up a hive so it is ready to house the bees (or will be buying an assembled hive with your bees). See links below for some suppliers.
Before ordering your bees, jump online, go to the library, or go to a bee supply store, and research, research, research. Find a mentor and check out local resources: clubs, associations, and the likes. Because there are lots of things to consider when making your choices.
What will be your main goal in keeping bees? Providing local pollinators, creating survivor stock, or harvesting honey? Each goal can affect the type of bees you buy and the type of hive you house them in.
What kind of bees should you buy? Russian, Italian, or Carniolan? What is the difference between each type? What are their pros and cons? Which is best suited to your goals? And what is the availability of each? All of these questions should be considered when making your choice. Here’s a great discussion about bee types that covers some of these questions.
How should you get your bees? Should you order a package, which is a wire mesh box full of bees with a mated queen included, but no frames? The packages are sold by the pound usually, and a pound of bees is usually between 3,000 – 4,000 bees or should you buy a nuc (nucleus colony), which is a mini hive (usually 3-5 frames of drawn wax with honey, worker bees, and a mated queen bee). So which is better? Nucs cost a bit more, but because they contain frames of drawn wax, they are ready to go. Package bees need to expend time and resources to draw out wax but the bees will feel like they are a swarm and will draw out wax more quickly then the queen can start laying eggs bees can start storing honey and pollen. Because of this, it can take a little longer for a package to take off, and you will likely have to supplement feed a package if it is early in the season, and there aren’t sufficient resources available yet in terms of open flowers in your area.
Next, consider What kind of hive you should get. Where will you get it? How much will it cost? Will you buy it pre-assembled, will you buy one you need to assemble yourself, or will you look up plans and make your own? You might even decide to buy a kit that includes a basic hive along with some tools &/or bees. This article has a nice discussion of the three main types of hives you are likely to encounter: the Langstroth, the Warre, and the Top-Bar Hive.
If you go with Langswroth you will need to pick if you are going with 10 frame or 8 frame. I recommenced you go with 8 frame, a box full of honey can weigh a lot and the two extra frames push the weight further from your body pulling on your more. It is what commercial beekeepers use and it is lighter than the 10 frame boxes. The other choice is to deeps or mediums boxes for you hives. I suggest mediums because they are lighter, a box full of honey can weigh a lot and the the shorter boxes will cut the weight down. An eight frame medium box full of honey will weigh about ½ what a 10 frame deep box will weight.
You also need some basic tools, A hive tool, frame grip, smoker (something you should try to use infrequently), Vail, protective clothing, marking tools, queen catcher, feeders, and queen excluders. There is a big list of options for the beekeeper..
What to do if you miss this year’s bee boat? You make sure you have thoroughly considered all the questions above, and you get everything ready for early next spring to place your order. Continue to educate yourself. Cultivate your new friendship with mentor(s), neighbors with bees, and local bee club and association members. Take a class or see if you can spend time this spring, summer, and fall shadowing a few established beekeeper, to learn the ropes.
By the way, that last paragraph applies to those of you who have already gotten bees. Further your knowledge. Help others further theirs. Remember, knowledge is power. And if the bees are going to flourish under our hands, we need to educate ourselves.
Here are some links to explore.
Examples of regulations covering the ownership of bees. This is not an exhaustive list. Please look for laws for your specific housing community (if it has CC&R’s), city, county, and state.