May 16, 2016


Producer Highlight: Fringe Meadery

With summer quickly approaching, crisp and sparkling beverages seem to be on everyone's mind. Portland's Fringe Meadery is leaving an impact on the tastebuds of local beer and wine enthusiasts alike, and in celebration of the coming summer days we decided to interview their founder and owner, Nathan Mattis.




What initially drew you to mead?

Mead came into my life while I was attending school at UC Davis for winemaking. My roommates and I would brew nonstop in our kitchen, and one day we tried making mead.From that point on I never really stopped making it, although it took me a while to actually start brewing for other people.


How did Fringe happen? 

Before college, I had previously worked in the software industry writing stock market code. It just so happened that the stars aligned. My boss was planning to turn a building she owned into a vodka distillery and offered me a job as head distiller. I spent over a year doing this, although mead was always in the back of my mind. My ‘aha’ moment was when I was tasting mead with some friends, and one of them was blown away and told me that I should be selling it. In that moment I was like, “Huh. I really should be”.  After the distillery closed, I decided that it was time to make a meadery happen. I partnered with Ken Bonnin, Jr. of Hi-Wheel Wine Co. to open a winery space where we could co-exist together, and Fringe was born. Production started in 2014--it’s hard to believe we’ve been open for a year and a half already!




Where does the name “Fringe” come from? 

I’ve always liked the word, and always felt that I was kind of “on the fringe”. The mead industry is definitely on the fringe. Plus it’s a fun word to say everyday (laughs).


What types of mead do you make? 

The original goal was to make mead like wine, using the same aging process and alcohol content. A really fun part of making this happen was getting to know all the different honey varietals and flavor notes. I actually have more than thirty types of honey at home now!

The first three meads that we released were created in a wine-strength style, though wine bottle shops don’t usually know what to make of honey wine. When I could get them to try it, they loved it every time. But mead is new to so many people that we decided to start playing with sessions to help bridge the gap.  

The goal is to create whimsical, clean session-style meads that will act as a gateway for newcomers to the world of honey wine. New Seasons was blown away, and we’re excited to make this new venture happen!



What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned working in the mead industry thus far? 

The business skills I’ve learned are invaluable. I really enjoy playing all the different roles that business ownership requires. Besides that, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you really have to take a wholesale approach to make a meadery a business that sustains itself. For me, it’s about finding a balance between what the general consumer might want and retaining the quality and soul of my own personal vision. I’ve also been very surprised by how similar honey and grapes are--the flavors vary significantly based on varietal, seasonality, terroir, and yearly changes.


If you were a type of mead, what kind would you be? 

My oldest mead is a 5 year old blackberry called Black Frankenstein. I kept trying this one, and now there’s just one bottle left in existence. If I could be any mead, that would definitely be the one.


Besides making mead, what do you like to do for fun? 

I really enjoy live music, especially at smaller venues around Portland!

March 22, 2016

1 Comment

Weed of the Month: Dandelion


Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”- A.A. Milne




Photo from 


The dandelion has classically been considered a weed but, unbeknownst to many gardeners, these sweet yellow flowers are some of the first food of the year for bees. Their blossoms are often the first to appear when spring has arrived, and they can be found growing almost anywhere that humans thrive in North America. Bees have no problem finding beneficial uses for this underrated plant and, given the health-boosting properties dandelions can have for humans, it seems that we should take a tip from them!



Photo from


From the flower to the roots, every part of Taraxacum officinale can benefit the health and vitality of humans. Dandelion leaves are a top-notch digestive bitter, so feel free to toss them into that spring green salad for digestive support. Their roots detoxify the liver and, when roasted, make a delicious tea. Their flower heads, besides serving as great source of nectar for bees, can also be harvested to make delicious homebrewed dandelion wine. For the dandelions that you don’t harvest, we encourage you to allow these sunny flowers to flourish for the bees until they turn into fluffy wishes!

A bee friendly reminder: never use herbicides. These toxins are part of the reason why honey bees and native pollinators are struggling for survival. Either let them grow wild and free or pay that neighborhood kid a buck to weed them for you.

March 08, 2016


Planting for Pollinators: Your Planting Guide for March



 We imagine that Ralph Waldo Emerson penned the famous quote, “The earth laughs in flowers” while sitting in the midst of a brilliantly blooming pollinator garden.  As the cherry blossoms are starting to flower in the Pacific northwest, we are getting excited to share along in the laughter this spring by planning out our beautiful, buzzing pollinator-friendly gardens.

If you’ve ever wondered which plants you can cultivate to attract pollinators, this blog series is perfect for you. Planting for Pollinators is your monthly guide to building out beautiful pollinator gardens according to your region, following the natural duration of the honey bee foraging season from March to October. We will post different varietals native to your region each month, according to the seasonal timing in which they should be planted. Our goal is for you to look out across your pollinator garden on the cusp of fall and feel satisfied with all the flowers and pollinators that have come and gone.


The following flowers are planted in March to bloom in April and May. 



Pacific Northwest

  • Salmon Berry (Rubus spectabilis) is a native perennial shrub that produces beautiful magenta buds in the spring and tasty berries in the summer. You can find them all along creeksides in the forests of British-Columbia to Oregon along the Cascade Mountain Range. This is a wonderful plant for early-mid spring bee food and late spring-early summer human snacks!
  • Broadleaf Lupine (Lupinus latifolius) Native to the Pacific Northwest from British-Columbia to Northern California, broadleaf lupine has beautiful blue flowers that bloom in late spring. This is an excellent perennial flower to plant in early spring.


 Nootka Rose. Photo from


  • Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) This perennial rose is dappled all along the Pacific coast. It blossoms in late spring/early summer, then turns into rose hips. If you’ve never encountered rose hips, you’re in for a treat. These tiny fruits are high in vitamin C and can be infused in honey for a truly effective winter immune booster.



West Coast 

  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) Who doesn’t know this little spring and summer sweetheart? This bright orange flower heralds the glorious days of summer, and bees love it! It is an excellent drought-tolerant flower that grows well in many different soil types and has historically been used as a remedy for depression, insomnia, anxiety, and promote relaxation.


Wooly leaf mountain lilac. Photo from 


  • Wooly Leaf Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus) This evergreen perennial shrub is happiest in chaparral areas and grows well in clay. It has gorgeous blue flowers that bloom in spring and emit a heavenly fragrance.
  • Douglas Iris (Iris douglasianai) Native to Northern California’s coasts, this perennial beauty is a stately addition to a west coast pollinator garden.




  • Desert Willow (Chilopsis linaris) This eye-popping flower is fast growing and, because of its adaptations to desert living, it is also drought resistant. Southwestern gardeners will find it easy to maintain


 Texas prickly pear. Photo from


  • Texas Prickley Pear (Oputia engelmannii) This native cactus is an abundant nectar source for honey bees, boasts gorgeous flowers, and is native to many regions of the southwest.
  • Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida) A lovely native, this spiny small tree is a wonderful food source for all sorts of wildlife--from deer to small mammals, and birds to honey bees. Blue palo verde has a high nectar flow, which promotes honey production!



The Rockies 

  • Sand Verbana (Abronia fragrans) This plant boasts one of the sweetest-smelling perennial flowers in all of the rockies. Verbana is a superb addition to pollinator gardens.


Sego lily. Photo from 


  • Sego Lily (Calochortus nuttallii) The indigenous Ute people called this flower “sego” and saved early Mormon settlers by teaching them to eat the bulbs when food was scarce. Today it is Utah’s state flower!
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) This is one of the most versatile and useful flowers in all of North America! Not only is it wonderful food for honey bees, it is an excellent herb for human medicinal use. The leaves, when made into a topical poultice, can stop bleeding and has historically been used to treat nose bleeds. The flowers have also been known to make an excellent headache remedy, fever reducer, and boost for the immune system.


  • Golden Tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria) This orange beauty can be found all along roadsides during spring. A sublimely showy flower, golden tickseed makes a beautiful addition to any garden.
  • Prairie Verbana (Glandularia bipinnatifida) These little purple beauties are an eye-catching addition to any pollinator garden, and are native to nearly all areas of the South!


 Texas blue bonnet. Photo from


  • Texas Blue Bonnet (Lupinus texensis) No Texas pollinator garden would be complete without blue bonnets. If you’re a Texan, you probably already have a soft spot for these alluring indigo flowers. This variety grows well in the spring.

The Plains

  • Blue Dogbane (Amsonia tabernaemontana) Dogbane, and other milkweeds, are one of the most versatile nectar sources for pollinators, from honey bees to carpenter bees. Additionally, milkweeds are the only plant upon which monarch butterflies lay their eggs.
  • White Prickly Poppy (Argemone polyanthemos) Honey bees and native pollinators love this gorgeous white poppy. It grows well throughout the plains.


Butterfly weed. Photo from 


  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) This bright butterfly-attractant boasts beautiful bright orange flowers. This variety of milkweed is beneficial for pollinators and humans alike. Its root was chewed by native american peoples when fighting pleurisy.




  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)  This flower is native to the midwest and has gained popularity for its immune-boosting benefits! Bees love the flowers and humans love the medicinal properties of its roots, as can be seen in the vast array of echinacea products available.


 Green milkweed. Photo from 


  • Green Milkweed (Asclepias hirtella) The varieties of milkweed are seemingly endless! These flowers are wonderful for honey bees and all pollinators.
  • Ohio Horsemint (Blephilia ciliata) This purple midwest native is a perennial flower that will not only please your honey bees, it will also attract many species of native pollinators and is deer-resistant.



The South

  • Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) A beautiful member of the snapdragon family, you can find it all through the wilds of the South.
  • Wine cup (Callirhoe digitata) The cupped shape of this sweet purple flower makes it particularly attractive to bees. It can grow in prairies, on grassy slopes, and in wooded regions.


Pink mimosa. Photo from


  • Pink Mimosa (Mimosa borealis) You will never be short on fragrant breezes in your pollinator garden with this beautiful pink flowering shrub. Bees love the fluffy, fragrant flowers and sweet nectar!




  • Allegheny Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis) This native shrub is beneficial to nearly everyone who encounters it. Honey bees love to gather nectar from the clusters of fragrant white flowers, and their tasty berries are edible for both humans and birds, and are high in vitamin C.


Eastern red columbine. Photo from 


  • Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) This alluring scarlet woodland wildflower is truly a show-stopper. Butterflies and bees love it and it is an eye-catching and impressive addition to a pollinator garden.
  • New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) This shrub bursts with beautiful fluffy white flowers in late spring. Interestingly, its leaves were made into a tea and drank during the Revolutionary War.



The North

  • Black Hawthorne (Crataegus douglasii) This short and shrubby hawthorne is a haven of berries for birds and offers delicious nectar for honey bees. Hawthorne honey, anyone?
  • Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum) Not only is this lakeside plant wonderful for honey bee food, but the leaves have historically been made into a topical poultice to treat insect stings, bites and fight skin inflammation. Essential for any beekeeper’s garden.


Lance leaf coreopsis. Photo from 


  • Lance Leaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) These little flowers will add a spray of sunny yellow to your pollinator garden. Honey bees and butterflies love them!

Planting for Pollinators’ Regional Key

  • Pacific Northwest- WA, OR, Northern CA, ID
  • West Coast-CA
  • Southwest- NM, NV, AZ, West TX
  • The Rockies- UT, CO, WY
  • Texas
  • The Plains- KS, OK, NE, IA, MO
  • Midwest- OH, IL, IN, KY, WV
  • The South- LA, MS, AL, GA, NC, SC, VA, FL
  • Northeast- ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, NY, DE, RI, PA, MD, NJ
  • The North- MT, ND, SD, MN, MI, WI

    March 01, 2016


    A Review of 2015 For The Bees



    2015 was a heart-swarming year for bee health advocates and beekeepers around the world. While bee colony populations in the United States still remain in great peril, progress is being made on a legislative level to help increase healthy habitat for honeybees.  

    • In May, President Obama released a national strategy for promoting pollinator health. With this goal in mind, he set guidelines for pollinator-friendly management practices for federal lands as well as the Pollinator Research Action Plan.
    • In response to over 4 million signatures, the use of the neonicotinoid Sulfoxaflor was banned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
    • Beekeepers and food lovers across the world are in similar battles to protect bee populations and healthy food supplies. The slow foods movement to organic, locally grown foods has helped to reduce the overall use of pesticides in agriculture, therefore reducing pesticide exposure for bees.
    • Meanwhile, in Europe, seemingly inconclusive data and opposition from the National Farmers Union has actually allowed these pesticides to be reintroduced to certain regional crops. So the saga continues…
    • The home improvement chain, Lowe’s, has committed to removing neonicotinoids from their shelves over the next four years. Additionally, Home Depot announced that they would immediately start labeling plants that were pretreated with neonicotinoids, and would completely eliminate their use by the year 2018.
    • One of the world’s largest popcorn companies, Pop Weaver, has declared it will reduce the use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds by 75% before 2018. Fun fact: Over 79% of corn seeds in the U.S. are coated with bee-harming chemicals.
    • Norway saw the development of the world’s first Bee Highway. The Norwegian city of Oslo has strongly encouraged the community to set up bee friendly areas throughout the town. There is even an interactive website to see which gardens, green spaces and rooftops are a part of the effort (Disclaimer: It’s in Norwegian!)
    • After a 137 year ban, Californians welcome back urban beekeeping to Los Angeles. In October, Los Angeles lifted a beekeeping ban that dated back to 1879. This puts LA in line with most other major U.S. cities, allowing residents the freedom to delve into the world of urban beekeeping.  

    While much progress was made in reducing the use of pesticides, there is still a lot of work to be done. Backyard beekeepers, urban farmers, and concerned gardeners are making a continued effort to restore bee populations and maintain healthy ecosystems for both bees and humans alike.

    Here's to pollinator health and continued progress in 2016!



    Written by Vin Gast, edited by Mahala Ray

    February 23, 2016


    Hive Highlight: Brittanie


    We take pride in the hives that we build and are dedicated to offering exceptional support for our customers, however neither of these things would be possible without each and every worker bee in our hive. 



    Name: Brittanie


    Age: 22


    Colony hierarchy: Warehouse Associate


    Are you a beekeeper or a bee lover?

    Bee lover, of course!


    What initially interested you most about the company?  

    I’m very interested in saving the bees. I’d heard a lot about colony collapse disorder and, although I’m not a beekeeper, felt this was a good way to help the cause.  I also really enjoy working in a warehouse full of cedar.  I’m used to it now, but when I first started it was super strong--I love the smell!

    How much honey do you eat every week?

    Probably about a tablespoon, it’s perfect as a light spread on my toast!

    Who’s your favorite queen bee?

    Madonna has always been my main girl. I really appreciate how influential she has been in modern culture, especially in the realm of female expression. I definitely feel more empowered because of her.

    What do you enjoy about working in the warehouse?

    The work environment is awesome. The collective group has a positive energy, and everyone gets along really well.

    What fascinates you most about bees?

    How they all work together! Scout bees are particularly fascinating, the way they work together to find new things to forage. They make a great family.

    What do you do for fun outside of Bee Thinking?

    Netflix and chill, for sure. I also enjoy reading fantasy and science fiction.  

    What do you think bees dream about?

    Making their queen happy [laughs].




    February 18, 2016


    Advice for Beginner Beekeepers

    While the blackberries hit the height of bloom and we move into high bee season in the Willamette Valley, this is the time of year I start to find myself in many of the same, very valuable, conversations with curious, researching, potential beekeepers who missed the window for this year and are planning to join the ranks come next spring.

    Here are a few pieces of advice I always share: 

    Research, thoroughly, before starting.

    Read as much material and watch loads of YouTube beekeeping videos. After a dearth of beekeeping resources through the 1990s until recently, so many insightful new books have recently been published targeting backyard and hobby beekeepers. Read as many as you can.



    Join online beekeeping forums and just read through the topic and comment threads for months before even developing your own questions. In doing so, you will soon discern how your own management philosophy is shaping by how it agrees with and differs from other, more established beekeepers, and how to identify what you want out of beekeeping by considering the different benefits and drawbacks of each available hive type.

    Take classes, too. There are classes available through local beekeeping groups, retail stores such as our own, and state beekeeper associations. You will want to have a hive in place and line on bees by winter so that once spring arrives, all you need to do is pick up your bees and install.


    Let the bees teach you.

    You don’t know better than they do. You don’t know what they need more than they do; they’ve been doing this for millions of years. Sit back, watch your hive entrances, and listen to the sounds coming from the hive. By doing so, you will learn more than you do almost every time you open a hive to manage it.



    Bees need less management than you think they do.

    Way less than chickens, way less than cats. Most beekeeping management is done in order to make sure the colony has enough space to keep building and filling comb, and to be certain a queen is laying eggs. If you have a foundationless hive, depending on the type, you will also be keeping an eye out for any comb not being drawn straight so you can fix it right away.


    Propping up a weak colony with treatments and feed every year is just delaying the inevitable.

     I might raise some eyebrows for grouping feed into that statement, but I generally find it to be true. Of course, if you buy a package of bees and they arrive while it’s still raining or snowing in your area, you’ll absolutely need to feed. If, however, you catch a swarm of bees, rarely do you need to feed. If the blackberries are blooming in the Willamette Valley, you should still be feeding. To treat or not can be a hard decision. As beekeepers, we of course want to set our bees up for success. It can be difficult to navigate when we are helping our bees with our efforts and when we are hindering them and their long-term colony health or survival.



    To this end, if you can afford to do so, start two colonies versus one. Bees are (sadly) good at dying. They face a host of problematic issues ranging from chemical pesticides applied to forage to varroa mites and other honeybee pests and diseases. There is no worse feeling as a new beekeeper than losing your one and only hive in the first year of beekeeping. Having two colonies housed in the same hive type allows a beekeeper to have interchangeable parts and to be able to take brood or honey from one and share it with the other if need be.


    Being a good beekeeper means being a responsible beekeeper.

    By that I mean being responsible to your community with regard to keeping your apiary tidy so that it doesn’t attract pests and managing for space regularly so that you deter excessive swarms. One primary swarm per year we find to be ideal; it propagates more bees into the environment, and coming from a strong colony that overwintered, those are generally strong genetics. It also means being responsible to your bees, managing them regularly, but not excessively. Every time you open their hive, they cease production. Let them do what they naturally do.


    You will make mistakes.

    Beekeepers don’t like to talk about their mistakes because it’s upsetting and is admittance that despite our best intentions, we are all going to lose bees and mess up from time to time.

    Mistakes and large-scale losses, like the high colony losses from two winters ago in the Willamette Valley, generally make beekeepers want to work harder and more for their bees. Colony losses are generally not decreasing or getting better, and it’s possible that maybe, just maybe, the methods and bees we are working with as backyard and hobby beekeepers will aid researchers and local bee populations in bouncing back and increasing survival rates over the seasons to come. And that is a worthy enterprise, well worth the learning curve.



    It’s always important to remember that beekeeping is agriculture, subject to the whims and moods of nature, as well as environmental factors. There can be a lot of loss in beekeeping, and a lot of humbling. It’s equally important to remember that honeybees are a superorganism; individual bees cannot survive without the colony. As pet lovers and members of a culture that generally values mammals, new beekeepers often bring an attitude that honeybees are companions versus a single-minded colony that requires good stewardship.


    You will get stung.

    Most budding beekeepers realize this, but it’s sometimes surprising how often I still hear this questions. It’s important to remember that stinging is generally a last resort for a honeybee that feels threatened or perceives a threat. Honeybees don’t want to sting, as their barbed stingers mean that they perish, unlike many more common types of wasps that can sting repeatedly.

    What potential beekeepers often don’t realize is that each colony has a different character, and all colonies go through cycles based on the season. Sometimes an aggressive hive, often called a hot hive, can be made more docile by splitting the hive or replacing the queen, but by and large a hot hive will be found next to a docile hive, which is next to an even calmer one. As a beekeeper you will come to know your hives and which you feel most comfortable wearing full gear to work with and which might require simply a veil and gloves.



    Similarly, seasons will affect your colonies. The focused bees of spring are often disinterested in the beekeeper, intent only to forage and produce honey. Thus, it can be a surprise in autumn when a usually calm colony will fiercely defend all of their hard work and guard vigilantly against robbers.

    Beekeeping can be addictive, therapeutic, and rewarding. Thankfully there are many resources for backyard, rooftop, hobby, and sideline beekeepers; far more than there were even five years ago. If you are considering becoming a beekeeper, find a buddy who has bees and spend time in and around the hive with them. It is great to have support and encouragement, especially in the first years of beekeeping when the learning curve is largest.


    January 14, 2016


    Preparing for Spring



    Spring will be here before you know it, and whether you’re a master beekeeper or just starting to explore your newfound love for bees, here are some helpful tips for spring preparation.


    For the beginning beekeeper:

    • Join a local beekeepers association to become connected in the community, and gain invaluable insight from seasoned keepers.



    • Once you know the basics of beekeeping, you’ll need to decide what type of hive is right for you. 
    • Get your bees! You can pre-order bee packages from us (pick up at our Portland brick and mortar location only), or find a treatment-free apiary near you! 


    • After you’ve purchased your bees, it’s wise to invest in a beekeeping starter kit. Our kit includes a hat and veil, gloves, a brush, a stainless steel smoker and an Ultimate Top Bar Hive Tool. Just about everything you need to start a successful hive!
    • Another, arguably better approach to procuring bees is to bait a swarm using lemongrass oil, which contains many of the same compounds found in the pheromone that scout bees release when they’ve found a suitable hive. Putting it at the entrance of your hive, or in a nuc box, increases the chance that a swarm will choose to make it their new home! More information about baiting and trapping swarms can be found in the book “Swarm Traps and Bait Hives”.



    Now, if you’re saying “All this is great, but I’m a veteran”...


    • First and foremost, reinforce your hive with tung oil. Tung oil is a natural, chemical-free way of increasing the longevity of your hive. Ours is 100% pure with no chemical additives, unlike many tung oils on the market.
    • It’s always a great time to invest in some new harvesting equipment as well. We recommend the crush-and-strain system, and our bucket strainer system does the job well for harvesting honey from natural comb. Or, if you want to eat your honey straight out of the comb, use a comb cutter to prepare it!
    • Interested in using your wax? Harness the power of the sun and melt it down with our Solar Wax Melter to fulfill any of your wax crafting needs.



    • Now that you know your stuff and have an established routine with your hive, why not do it in style? Straight out of Germany, the Rauchboy Smoker is one of the highest quality smokers out there--and did we mention how beautiful it is?  
    • This time of year is also great for reflecting on your experiences with your hive, and appreciating all the highs and lows. Winged: New Writing on Bees is a great way to prompt this appreciation, as it’s poetry reflects beautifully on the timeless relationship between bees and humanity.



    • Need a new calendar for the start of 2016? How about one of our beautiful Lark Press honeycomb calendars


    We at Bee Thinking are so grateful to be constantly surrounded by passionate and world-wise beekeepers like yourselves, and we are truly looking forward to waggling through 2016 with you!



    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.

    September 10, 2015


    Beeswax Basics and Wax-Cloth

    For foundationless beekeepers who crush and strain their honey, beeswax becomes an inevitable byproduct of any honey harvest. Rather than discard your wax, we’d love to help you turn it from a waste product to an ingredient for crafting and wellness. Before we cover that process, let’s cover the beeswax basics:  View full article →
    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.

    View full article →