Archive | June, 2011

The Bee Dance

30 Jun

Remember when I mentioned doing an interpretive dance to celebrate pollinator week? Well it turns out, I already did one. Two summers ago Mike’s family and I went up to Eagle Island, Maine to visit his aunt and cousins. At the time, they had just started their hives and we took part in an inspection. I was so curious about it then that I got to be involved and take the hive notes.

Hive opening led by Mike's aunt

The more hesitant folks (including Mike) stood at a safer distance to watch.

The hesistant crowd

Me and the hive

Frame full of bees

Bee Birth

Bee Birth

The Brooklyn crew

At the time I had no idea that I would be opening a hive myself but I was super curious about how it all worked. I am glad that I got a taste of beekeeping then. It fueled my love for it now.

Next hive opening is happening tomorrow at lunchtime if anyone wants to come join us in Brooklyn!


Hive Inspection # 4

28 Jun

Last week’s hive inspection was very intense. We had two deeps to look through and plenty more bees to deal with. Aside from the fact that I got stung , it was a success.

We saw plenty more capped brood, which means it is only a matter of days before we have even more bees will join the force.

There is still a lot of honey on the top deep. We aren’t sure if we should extract it now to make room for more bees or let the bees figure out how to best use their space.

Frame with some Brood

Frame full of bees

Although we didn’t actually see the queen this time, we did see plenty of evidence that she was there. I swear a saw some eggs but Mike and Deb had a hard time seeing them. There was a good amount of larva and capped brood. We also witnessed a bee birth.

Bee Birth

I hope we see the Queen during the next inspection but there are so many more bees to sort through. I have to find my camera charger so I can be prepared for some epic bee pictures.

Queen of the Sun

24 Jun

Last week, Mike, Deb and I went to see the documentary Queen of the Sun. It was playing for a week at Cinema Village in the East Village, so we made the time to go. I just found out that it is playing in Brooklyn, starting today through 6/30. Visit this site for more information and movie times. Everyone should check it out or at least put it on your Netflix queue for when it is released.

The movie is about how bees are disappearing, mainly in the United States. Scientists call it colony collapse but they haven’t figured out what is causing it. Before I saw the movie, I had no idea that there was such a thing as industrial beekeeping. It is scary to think that we could be contributing to the death of the honey bee since almost 40% of our food is pollinated by honey bees. Even if someone never wants to step near a hive, they can make a difference by not using pesticides or chemicals in their yard.

Check out the movie or read the NY times article about it. And if you do go see it, keep yours eyes out for Deb. She is in the part about how bee keeping was illegal in New York City.

It’s time for the Pollinator

23 Jun

If you think I couldn’t get any more dorky than wanting to remix this song to sing to my bees (it’s time for the pollinator), then you were wrong. It is National Pollinator Week!!!!! Sadly, there aren’t any events taking place in Brooklyn, so we are going to have to celebrate ourselves. I will probably do an interpretive bee dance and eat some extra honey. Here are some pictures of the bees pollinating away that Deb took in our backyard.

Pollinating Clover in the grass

Off to the next one

Making a "bee" line for the tomatillos

Pollinating the tomatillos

Pollinating the Hydrangea

The Sting

22 Jun

It happened. Our perfect record has come to an end. I’ve been stung. I totally deserved it too.

I had just got back to Brooklyn after being in New Jersey celebrating my Grandmother’s life. We hadn’t inspected the hive in a week and a half and I was anxious to get in there. Earlier in the day it looked like it was going to rain but then the forecast said that it wouldn’t start until later in the evening. Mike had to volunteer at the coop at 7:30 so we had to be quick about it. Without discussing a plan of action or talking about who would do what, we started the inspection. Just as we started, we heard Deb pull in the driveway and told her to hurry up and join us (and bring a camera since mine was dead). That is how unprepared we were, I didn’t even have a charged camera!

We got through the top deep and 8 frames of the bottom deep before it happened. There were more bees in the hive so it is more intense. The 9th frame had a beetle on it and as I went to tell Mike to kill it, it happened. I got stung. I didn’t freak out and drop the frame or cry. I put the frame in the hive and walked away. The bee keeping books say that when you get stung, you should immediately smoke the sting. The sting sends a smell signal to other bees that there is danger. Smoking it masked the smell. You aren’t suppose to pull our the stinger but scrape it with your finger nail instead. I’m not sure why. Mike said that my finger was still pulsing after I scraped it, but I didn’t notice. I was too startled by how much it throbbed. It didn’t swell or turn extremely red. At least I know I am not allergic.

Finger, post sting

An Unexpected Visitor

20 Jun

Last week, a health inspector came to the house unannounced. The first time that this happened, beekeeping was illegal in New York and Deb had to donate the hive. Since beekeeping is now legal, this time was different. Here is what the email from Deb said:

“This afternoon an inspector from the Health Dept. appeared on the front stoop, and I thought we’d been busted again! But he was just making the rounds of all the registered hives in the city — he said there were 54 in the five boros, which seemed low to me. Just wanted to make sure we were set up properly, the bees’ flight path was not criss crossing someone else’s patio and, most important, that they had a good source of water. Liv, (our upstairs neighbor) thought our operation deserved an A (though a “B” might have been more appropriate), so we made one. Billie stood guard. xo”

"Inspection Sticker"

Billie Jean standing guard

Last July, restaurants in New York city started to receive letter grades from health department for their cleanliness. Most restaurants get As and Bs and occasionally one will say “Grade Pending”. When Mike and I went on date night last week we ate at a restaurant with a B rating. The food was ok but there was a bottle of cleaning solution and a rag left on the table next to us.

I like to think that our hive is very well kept and meets the highest sanitary levels, even if I never wear gloves when I work with the bees.

The Queen of all queens

17 Jun

Like a queen bee, my grandmother was the epicenter of my colony-sized family. Having one son and seven daughters, my grandmother managed to keep most of the family within a 30 mile radius. Even my 10 cousins are in the NJ area. There was never a holiday or a birthday (and there are many) that didn’t have at least 15-20 relatives in attendance. Even those worker bee aunts that live out-of-state manage to visit multiple times a year. What is more remarkable is the amount of coordination my mother and her sisters have. Just like worker bees in a hive, my aunts each take on a task and always come together to create endless buffets of food and dessert. I credit this to my matriarchal grandmother. She was the master of hosting a party in her apron and from the kitchen. Even the birds in the neighborhood ate well. My grandmother was endlessly generous with her time and energy. She will be missed greatly.

Grandma and me at my brother's wedding 12/06

Grandma at my cousin's wedding 07/08

Grandma at her great-grandson's christening

My aunts and Grandma 10/06

Six of the sisters

Grandma and her daughters

Buzz Worthy

16 Jun

Since the hive returned to Brooklyn, my friends and family members have begun sending me all things bee related. It started with a Facebook message asking me about a swarm in Little Italy. Yes, I had already heard about it. No ,I wasn’t involved. Same thing happened with the swarm in Chinatown. My cousin texted messaged me at 8am to see if I was a part of it. I wasn’t a part of it, but it looked cool.

My coworkers have also taken an interest in the hive since it does add some humor to meetings. One coworker sent me information about the documentary Queen of the Sun. Turns out that Deb was in the movie! She had been interviewed at a rally back when it was illegal to keep a hive in New York City.
Another coworker gave me a silver bee pin. She thought I would make better use out of it.

bee pin

Bee Pin

A childhood friend sent me information about beekeeping at Rutgers University. Apparently beekeeping is becoming popular up in my home state!

The best has been to be tagged on Facebook in a bee picture that a friend of mine took.

All of this bee enthusiasm has encouraged me to continue blogging about my bee adventure and to make bad bee joke whenever possible. I have great ambitions to beecome the equivilant of a crazy cat lady. Thanks!

What Not to Wear

14 Jun

Just like any hobby, there is a certain uniform one should wear during beekeeping. Bees prefer light color clothing. When I do a hive inspection, I put on the only non colored clothes I own. I imagine when it becomes 100 degrees in Brooklyn later in the summer, I will refuse to be covered head to toe in clothes. You’ll see me in shorts and flops while inspecting.

My best white outfit

Since Mike doesn’t own any light-colored long sleeve shirts, he usually puts on a collared dress shirt. I’m normally the one with a face full of bees so I get to wear the veil jacket combo. It is very hard to see through the mesh so sometimes I take it off mid inspection (not advised).

I don’t wear gloves when I inspect the hive. Beekeepers for Dummies suggestions that you have better dexterity without wearing them. Plus, I love how my hands smell after an inspection. Don’t worry, I try not to sniff my fingers in public.

However, I do wear nail polish often. Recently my friend, Buzty, had me try this new crackle nail polish. I was so afraid that the bees were going to mistaken my nails as some invading alien bees that I had to take it off before they saw it.

Crackle Nails

I use Bath and Body Works shower gel everyday and am about to buy more since it is on sale!! Now I am afraid to wear anything too floral or fruity and be mistaken as a pollen source. I have stopped using fragrant lotions and started using unscented Aveeno. I have complete stopped wearing perfume, especially since the one my lovebug got me smells like roses.

We also don’t eat bananas any more. I haven’t had to experience this yet but apparently when bees are threatened they send out an alarm signal that smells like bananas. If you eat a banana, your breath might smell like an emergency. It makes me wonder how many bee stings are associated with people eating bananas.

Batting a thousand

13 Jun

Mike and I opened the hive on Friday after work. It was just the two of us because Deb was away for the weekend. Mike and I tried to be as prepared as possible but once I am arm deep in bees, all bets are off.

Me opening the top deep

We inspected both deeps to see if the bees had made any progress. There was some activity up there but we didn’t find any eggs or larva.

using the hive tool

There was tons of activity in the bottom deep.

Smoking the bottom deep

For some reason when I took out the frames, the bees were clustering in the lower corner. They reminded me of the game Barrel of Monkeys.
Bee Chain

Bee Chain

It’s funny to watch the bees gorges themselves with the honey after being smoked. I love that they get their whole body into the comb and then their bums stick up in the air.
Bees in comb

Bees eating honey

Mike and I tried to be very methodical and efficient with this inspection because there was double the amount of frames to go through. We took more pictures and wrote down a detailed report. The best part is always when we find the queen. Since we haven’t been able to see any eggs, it is a relief to see that we still have a queen.
Queen Bee


So far we have been really lucky with our hive inspections. The sting count is still at 0 and we are 3/3 with finding the queen. I am hoping we can keep this streak going through September.