November 25, 2015



The holidays are just around the corner, and we’re thrilled to be hosting our annual Holiday Jubilee November 28th-29th and December 5th-6th! Stop into our Portland shop between 1pm and 4pm to show your support for Zenger Farm and to participate in a unique holiday shopping experience.  

Enjoy mead tastings while you shop through items from more than 15 vendors, featuring everything from jewelry to all-natural baby rattles. You'll be able to jump into a holiday-themed photobooth (get your last minute holiday card out of the way!) and have the opportunity to participate in a raffle to win several KB Mason Bee houses or one of our signature top bar hives

All raffle proceeds will directly benefit Zenger Farms, a working urban farm that models, promotes and educates about sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship, community development and access to good food for all.


Check out our amazing vendor lineup here:



Serious Cheesy Puffs

Fuller Foods is a Portland-based craft maker of DELICIOUS cheesy puffs that come in a variety of fun flavors, including sriracha, blue cheese jalapeño, India pale ale, and maple bacon. They are made from local ingredients and contain absolutely no unnecessary ingredients, GMOs, rBST, or "natural flavors".



Nathan Mattis, the owner of Fringe Meadery, is trained in the art of fine winemaking and holds a Masters degree in Viticulture & Enology from U.C. Davis in California.  His training is truly embodied in his products, and we are proud to have Fringe Meadery participate in the 2015 Holiday Jubilee.



Roma Rattles


Roma Rattles is a husband and wife duo that builds, designs and wood burns natural heirloom rattles by hand here in Portland. They built the very first Roma Rattle for their daughter, Roma, and have been creating natural wooden rattles for children across the country ever since.


Stung Meadery

Stung Meadery, based out of Portland, proclaims that their mead is “now”,  made from local honey and aligning rather nicely with the tastes and sensibilities of the times. With a motto like “Drink, Mate & Die”, they bring an endearingly humorous touch to the mead industry!



Sweet Honey Farmacy

What started as a hobby has expanded into something much larger for Sweet Honey Farmacy, a community-supported apothecary. They are two farmers living at the base of Mt. Hood in Sandy whose combination of their love for farming and their knowledge of herbal medicine makes their products truly unique.


Bread and Badger

Bread and Badger is yet another husband and wife duo that create wonderfully sandblasted items in their Portland studio, using their original artwork. They often celebrate the bees with their wares--one of many reasons why we love them so much!


Ethereal Meads

Based out of Battle Ground, Washington, Ethereal Meads creates their products from regional, sustainable honey and fruit in classic styles. Gary Gross, the owner and award-winning meadmaster, loves the nearly endless palette of high quality local and regional raw materials.



Natalie Joy Jewelry

Natalie Joy Jewelry uses both unique and traditional metalworking techniques. Her work mixes clean shapes with melted silver studs and hand drawn style lines, creating statement pieces that have a casual feel. We’re so excited to feature her work at the Holiday Jubilee!


Redbird Studio

Located in the historic Alberta Arts District, Redbird Studio boasts an inventory of everything from watercolor-illustrated cards to t-shirts. Nearly everything is designed and created by owners Paul Evans and Melissa Rau.



Nectar Creek

Nectar Creek handcrafts session meads and barrel-aged meads using the bounty of quality ingredients the Pacific Northwest provides. They combine raw Oregon honey sourced directly from sustainable beekeepers, water and yeast to create a refreshing and one-of-a-kind experience. Come give them a try at the Holiday Jubilee!


Sky River

Based out of Redmond Washington, Sky River Meadery brings the age-old art of making mead into the twenty-first century to create a new tradition.  Lighter and drier than their ancient counterparts, their meads balance beautifully with the foods of today from around the world.


KB Mason Bees

We’re so excited to have KB Mason Bees at the Holiday Jubilee! Their custom handmade mason/orchard bee houses are not only beautiful--they’re also crafted from 100% recycled or repurposed materials. They’ll be giving seminars on good mason bee management practices on the hour, as well as teaching us how to harvest mason bee cocoons.  



Mike Shultz Studio

Working for two years on the Thailand-Burma border, Mike Shultz co-established a fully functioning arts and crafts studio for Burmese migrant youth in 2011. He returned to Portland in 2014 for a teaching/printmaking project, the result of which is a large body of handmade linocut and letterpress prints featuring the plants and animals of Thailand and Burma.  


MeeMee’s Goodies

Melissa, the owner of MeeMee’s Goodies grew up in a canning and preserving family on the Southern Oregon Coast. She loved her mother’s canned peaches, and decided to continue the tradition with MeeMee’s Goodies.


Viking Braggot

Viking Braggot, based out of Eugene, was founded by two recent graduates of the University of Oregon. They provide a full line of braggot style ales that are hand crafted with local area honey, organically grown grain, and ancient herbs. We happily feature them in Mead Market, and are excited to have them at the Holiday Jubilee!


Parkrose Permaculture

Located in the NE Portland neighborhood of Parkrose, Parkrose Permaculture is a farm committed to regenerative agriculture and education. Their small-batch salves and balms are made with their own organically-grown herbs, local beeswax, and organic oils. They also make Waldorf-inspired items for children, including beeswax wood polish kits, fairy garden kits, and knitted goods.  


We can't wait to see you there! 


If you're planning to attend Portland's favorite holiday shopping event, Little Boxes, you're in luck! We're on the roster and will be participating in alignment with the Holiday Jubilee this weekend.












November 06, 2015


Winterizing Your Bee Hive

Preparing to winterize your hive can be a daunting task, even for an experienced beekeeper.

If you’re working with Langstroth and Warre hives, you’ll want to remove surplus boxes that could potentially become dead space for cold air, robbing valuable heat from clustered bees during winter months. Also, if you’re using screened bottom boards, closing ventilation inserts will help to trap heat inside the hive. Bees expend an incredible amount of energy over the course of the winter to maintain a consistent 90-degree temperature inside of their clusters. Help them conserve as much energy as possible is crucial.

At the same time, it is also important to create a way for any excessive moisture to leave your hive. Because bees generate heat with the beating of their wings, that heat will rise and form condensation when it mixes with the cold air at the top of the hive. While some condensation is important offering bees an important water source when they can’t leave the hive and offering insulation excess moisture can become a challenge for colonies who are already struggling. However, condensation tends to get a needlessly bad rap, but as Dr. Thomas Seeley has cited, bees in natural cavities have a warm, somewhat moist environment in the winter months.

Moisture enters the hive a number of ways. Leaks in the hive roof, between rickety boxes or inadequate ventilation are potential issues to pay close attention to. When working with a Warre hive, ensure that your quilt box material is dry and lofted in order to allow for proper ventilation. If you have a Langstroth hive, you might want to consider propping the inner cover up slightly to allow for excess moisture to be released.

If you live in the extreme north and feel there may be a need to add batting to the exterior of your Langstroth or Warre hive to fend off the encroaching cold, consider wrapping your hive with tar paper or a heavy construction paper. If you’re working with a top bar hive, consider filling cavity space with straw, hay, or even an old woolen blanket to create a thermal barrier. However, be careful of over insulting. Too much insulation could block the heat of the sun. An overly warm hive could also increase bee activity, which would then increase honey consumption. David Heaf points out that the minimal use of honey stores occurs at 41 degrees Fahrenheit. “Either side of this temperature honey consumption arises.” (Heaf 83)

Having a wind barrier or wind break is also something to consider when preparing your beehives for a long winter. Bales of hay provide a nice natural way to limit the impact that icy winds can have on a hive. Be careful though! Michael Bush points out in his Practical Beekeeper series that hay bales are nothing more than “a mouse nest waiting to happen.” (Bush 421)

With all hive types; helping bees protect their stores is crucial going as move into the colder months. Mice, wasps, and even other bees can be predators looking to invade your hive. Preventative measures like mouse guards and entrance reducers can help restrict larger predators from entering the hive, as well as allow your bees to mount a formidable defense by limiting critical pathways to honey stores. Additionally, ensuring that boxes with larger stores of honey are not at ground level is also another good way of helping bees defend what they worked so hard making all spring and summer.

If you have been using a queen excluder during the spring and summer months, removing that tool is strongly encouraged during the winterizing process. Bees will migrate throughout the hive during the winter months as they continue to utilize honey stores. By removing the queen excluder, this ensures that the colony will not have to make the tough decision of following the food, or keeping the queen warm. Ultimately, it allows for more flexibility to let the bees do what they would naturally do.

Some final best practices that beekeepers should consider are periodic visual inspections throughout the course of the fall and winter months. However, avoid upsetting the hive during the winter. Opening or disturbing the hive could put a significant amount of stress on the colony, causing bees to rapidly deplete their food stores in a way they might not otherwise. A beekeeper may want to invest in a stethoscope to listen to your bees without disturbing the hive. Also, keep an eye out for signs that predators have been trying to access the hive. Lastly, pay attention to the hive entrance and make sure that the front door is not blocked by dead bees or debris, restricting access to vitally important airflow.

August 13, 2015


The Mysterious Bee Escape

Few of our beekeeping supplies can seem as perplexing to new beekeepers as the 8-way bee escape. On its own, the yellow plastic bee escape hardly looks intuitive (is it a hummingbird feeder? A water trough? A Frisbee?). Once mounted to a Langstroth inner cover or other exit board, however, the bee escape board becomes a beautifully simple honey-harvesting tool.

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August 04, 2015


Checking Hives with the Rauchboy Smoker

As busy beekeeping equipment suppliers and hive builders, own beekeeping adventures often happen in the early hours. With the morning sun soaring upwards, two of our staff beekeepers and I packed coffee and breakfast out to our apiary. We wanted to check up on a few hives, and we used the opportunity to field test our new Rauchboy Smokers. The smokers recently arrived from Germany, and we're excited to become one of the only US retailers to offer the Rauchboy. 

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May 14, 2015


Bee Day

If you’ve never seen the Live Animal arrivals terminal at an airport, let me tell you—it’s a fascinating place. The live animal area at Portland International Airport has seen everything from purebred puppies to steel-caged cheetahs, and yet our packages unnerved them:

“You’re kidding right? You’re telling me 800,000 bees are coming off that plane?”

No kidding! Last weekend Bee Thinking co-founder Matt Reed and I traveled out to PDX to pick up nearly 80 3lb packages of Russian-Carniolian bees from our preferred supplier, Honeybee Genetics in Vacaville, California. We like Russian-Carniolans for their hygienic behavior, and we work with Honeybee Genetics because they share our commitment to treatment-free beekeeping. If you're new to beekeeping, these 3lb packages are one of the standard ways new beekeepers purchase bees to start a colony. The boxes typically include about 10,000 workers and one queen in a special queen cage. For more information on packages and installing bees, check out our Youtube page!

apparently it takes a while for bees to deplane…


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July 02, 2014

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Did Pesticides or Starvation Kill Those Bees?

Dead bees on a bottom board

Almost two weeks ago on the sunny morning of June 19th I visited Dena Rash Guzman's beautiful 60 acre organic farm where she keeps, among other things, her honey bees that make up Lusted Road Honey Company. I was there to aid in the inspection of her colonies housed in a variety of hive designs -- Langstroth, Warre and horizontal top bar hives. She told me she was particularly concerned about the Warre hive, as in the past day or so she's seen a tremendous number of dead bees suddenly appear on the bottom board. 

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February 02, 2014


Top Bar Hive Plans

Top bar hive plansThey are finally finished! It took a few months longer than expected, but the plans to make our top bar hive are ready for purchase and immediate download from this page:

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June 21, 2013


Top Bar Hive Nucleus Box

Earlier this month we finally completed our first run of top bar hive nucleus boxes. They are a wonderful addition to the apiary of any top bar beekeeper! Perfect for swarm catching, splitting colonies, and overwintering small nucs. Conveniently sized, we carry them in the back of our cars and trucks at all times so that we're always ready for the next swarm call!

They are constructed from the same beautiful kiln dried Western Red Cedar used on the rest of our top bar hivesWarre hives, and Cedar Langstroth hives. They feature 7 top bars and 1 divider, and a roof covered in sheet metal to keep out the elements. Pre-drilled and easy to assembly in a few minutes. $99 with free shipping to the lower 48 states.

Top Bar Hive Nucleus Box Lid On
Top Bar Hive Nucleus Box
Top Bar Hive Nucleus Box Lid Open
Top Bar Hive Nucleus Box Open
February 02, 2009


The First of Many Hives

On Saturday evening, in preparation for our house warming, I worked diligently to create the first cedar top bar hive of 20 that will be placed throughout the city in April. I wanted to have one (mostly) completed for family and friends to see, as some of them will have them in their yards in a few months! The new wood worked splendidly - just wet enough to be manipulated easily. In addition, the political signs I received from the City of Gresham worked relatively well for the roof.  I am quite pleased with the result, and look forward to finishing the rest.


From Shop


From Shop

I am trying to build all 20 as efficiently as possible. Therefore I'm building them in mini-assembly line fashion: 10 legs at a time, 8 follower boards, then 6 sets of end boards. This way I can quickly put them together from the store of parts I've already finished. In addition, I'm standardizing the sizing of every piece so that parts are interchangeable. Should I end up with more than 20 hives, I think this added work will pay off tremendously.

Follower board assembly table:

From Shop

Over the past couple weeks I've been mapping out my preliminary hive locations and tallying up the miles if I visit them each weekend from April-September. Due to this evaluation, I am rethinking a couple of my sites and attempting to find more that are close by, or close to other sites. This way I can spend more time beekeeping and less time driving through the season.

For the remote locations that I do not want to give up, such as the wineries in Dundee, I am seriously considering the use of Warré hives for their reduced maintenance needs. This way I will still be using foundationless hives with top bars, but won't have the need to drive 80 miles to Dundee each weekend, thus giving me more time to build, prepare, etc. In the next couple weeks I intend to begin creating a Warré, with the possibility of creating 8 before the end of April.

I expect to have the top bar hives finished by the end of February, this giving me ample time for the rest of the preparations. Stay tuned!