It’s the dead of winter here in the Pacific Northwest (Oak Grove, Oregon), and the bees are buckled down waiting eagerly for the arrival of spring 2010. On Tuesday there was a freak snowstorm that brought our city to a standstill, but the bees perservered in their Warre hives as well as their horizontal top bar hives. Here’s a picture of our backyard with two horizontal top bar hives, two Warre hives and the natural stump hive that is currently vacant.

Today my wife and I stopped by two Warre hives at Sokol Blosser Winery that we hadn’t visited for months.

The good news: The bees are alive and the hives are heavy.

The bad news: Both hives had mice take up residence in the bottom box.

Thankfully it was caught before the mice completely decimated the hives and I was able to remove the mice, their nests and the smelly mess they left. After that I added 1/4″ hardware cloth to the entrance to keep the mice from returning. Hopefully both hives will overcome.

The mouse nest:

We’ve had 3 hive orders in the past two days: a great start for the 2010 year at Bee Thinking, and we look forward to preparing hives for the Spring Rush. Again, if you are looking to get a horizontal top bar hive or Warre hive in 2010, please get your orders in soon!

Happy New Year!

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As the 2009 year winds down we are working diligently to keep up with Horizontal Top bar Hive and Warre Hive orders.  We anticipate the top bar hive orders of both styles will continue increasing as the 2010 beekeeping season draws near. We’ve got our suppliers lined up in preparation for an increase in production and while there have been a few hitches here and there, we believe we’re providing the best top bar hives for the price, produced from as many sustainably harvested and long-lasting materials as possible. But the question remains, what other top bar/foundationless supplies are our customers looking for, if any?

We’re considering a number of options, such as top bar nucleus boxes that will work interchangeably with our top bar hives; top bar observation hives for those who enjoy showing off their bees beautifully constructed comb to neighbors and other events. What are you looking for in a top bar beekeeping supplier? What products would you love to see readily available to the top bar beekeeping community? It is our goal to provide the best service, best products and source for all things related to top bar beekeeping, and without you we cannot do it.

Please respond to this post or use the following link to send us your comments, concerns or suggestions for the 2010 beekeeping season!

http://www.beethinking.com/contact/information

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The past few weeks we’ve been slaving to finish our 170′ fence to enclose the apiary space, as well as create a safe area for our new dog — an Australian Shepherd we’re rescuing from Idaho Falls, Idaho — to romp about. This week we’ll finish the gates and we’ll finally have a beautiful space to host bee classes and wonderful parties.

The first sections being built:

 

Swarm season is winding down, though between trap outs, Zenger Farm and a few swarms here and there, I’ve still been busy. This coming season I plan to do a lot more trap outs and don’t expect to buy any bees whatsoever.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve noticed a lot more drone corpses piling up below the hive entrances. A few days ago I noticed the workers of one of the Warre hives had corralled the drones and were forcibly removing them one by one.

Drone corral:

 

Drone in the process of being evicted:

 

A few of many drone corposes found below the hive entrance:

 

A shot looking in the window of one of the top bar hives:

 

Another:

 

Recently my wife informed me that the head chef of Lovely Hula Hands restaurant on N Mississippi Ave in Portland was interested in some comb honey for one of his dishes. This, of course, was most exciting news, and after being too busy to fill the order for weeks, I was finally able to harvest a bar of capped honey from one of the top bar hives in our back yard yesterday.

The comb with bees still covering it:

 

With the hive from which it came in the background:

 

To harvest this honey I used a method called the “evacuation method” to get the bees off of the comb. The idea is to harvest the honey around dusk, and the hope is that the bees will quickly evacuate the comb and move back to their hive as darkness encroaches. However, I believe I harvested a dash too early, and I ended up with thousands of bees in the air, on the deck, on the comb, on the honey puddles, fighting vigorously over the smallest droplets. Next time I’ll do it a bit later.

 

Prior to cutting the comb, I weighed the entire bar and it was a decent 7lbs. This provided around 3lbs of comb honey squares and the rest I placed in the jar to be crushed and strained.

The comb prior to cutting:

 

After cutting:

 

Perfection:

 

That which will be crushed, strained and placed in jars:

 

Within an hour of harvesting I was at Lovely Hula Hands, doing my part to make Portland one of the best farm-to-table dining experiences in the world!

I leave you with a bee chain hanging on by a single leg!

 

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I spent the day in wine country today doing a trap out at Cristom winery. After that I figured I should check on my 9 warre hives at the other wineries since I hadn’t seen them for a few weeks. The first 6 went swimmingly and I was making good time.

Trap out:

Then I got to Lachini vineyard. These bees are notoriously hot, but I figured it’s helpful due to the rural, wild space in which they reside, as their ferocity should thwart skunks and other would-be intruders.

I checked the bottom boxes for comb building — hive 2 was full up and ready for a third box. Hive three was exceedingly violent, and as soon as I tilted the top box up to check inside I received a face-full of bees and quickly closed it up and walked back to the car speedily.

As I normally do after checking on my hives, I took off my suit and began e-mailing my hive update e-mail address with the status of each hive. Then out of nowhere I was bombarded by 5-10 angry bees. In my hair, on my face, buzzing angrily. I was caught off guard fumbling with my phone and began moving away. Their assault continued and I soon I began running away, swatting furiously attempting to get them out of my hair.

At 50 yards they were unrelenting — the assault continued. At this point I was sprinting…thump! I tripped in a hole and my glasses went one direction and my phone the other. With bees in my hair I was able to find my glasses, but had no time for my phone.

100 yards and still going. The bees wouldn’t cease. I’m panting, spluttering and somewhat hobbling away, hoping that the enraged guards would give up the chase and return to their abode. I trip again. At this point I’m attempting to crush the bees in my hair to no avail.

At around 200 yards their attack finally ceased and I clutched my knees breathing heavily. I’m phoneless, exhausted, in the middle-of-nowhere and in the distance I can see at least 10 bees patrolling in massive, sweeping circles at least 100 yards wide. My water and suit were in the truck right next to the hives, and my phone is in foot-high grass somewhere. I began laughing at what any onlookers must have thought watching me swatting, falling and swearing in the field.

Slowly I began to creep back toward the truck, hoping the bee patrol wouldn’t notice me. 50 yards in and they were on me again. There I was again swatting and galloping away with a parched mouth. A few more attempts to get back to the truck and finally I decided to bolt for it, get in the driver seat and come to my senses. I ran, bees following closely behind, hitting my head a few times. I opened the door, jumped in and to my frustration the window was open. I fumbled for my keys, turned on the truck and got the window up, somehow avoiding any bees.

At that point I moved the truck far from the bees, suited up and got out and spent 20 minutes searching for and finally procuring my phone.

Needless to say I will be crushing all three of the queens at Lachini and replacing them in the near future. In addition, at any site with hot bees I plan to park farther away and only remove my suit once I’m safely in the car!

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This weekend it hit me: the first 10 packages of bees could arrive as soon as April 4th. This Saturday! Needless to say, I was a flurry of action this weekend, installing screens, cutting plexiglass, creating roofs, cutting bottoms and completing numerous other tasks I’ve been putting off. There is a lot more work to do before Saturday, so each evening this week I will be working tirelessly to get the hives ready!

The first 10 packages will be installed into 9 top bar hives and one Warre hive and placed in residential areas close to Oak Grove, Oregon. The second 10 packages will be arriving around April 20th and they will be placed in wine country at various organic and biodynamic wineries.

Pictures soon.

 
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