September 23, 2016

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What Sustainability Means to Us

The word sustainability is often used vaguely, and with so many murky definitions, it can be hard knowing what’s really intended. Here is what sustainability means to us here at Bee Thinking.

It’s paramount that in our work of crafting hives that we aren’t causing harm to forests while helping bees, and we know our customers feel the same way. We take concrete steps to source wood that is FSC certified and responsibly grown and harvested, and now we are the first hive producer to become FSC certified.

Our passion for bees is as immense as is our concern for the environment and nature. That’s why we source wood that won’t harm our forests. Here are just some of the ways that we aim to nurture the balance of our ecosystems, support the bounty of our beautiful land, and encourage beekeepers to join us in our mission to promote pollinator health.
Since 2008, sustainability has been at the forefront of our minds. In fact, the first wood we ever sourced was salvaged western red cedar—trees that had fallen in storms or had been harvested due to disease. Even though we have outgrown that wood source, we haven’t outgrown our commitment to using local and sustainable materials.

We believe that beekeepers care about the environment and are committed to doing their part to help. We think beekeeping suppliers should do the same. 

After plenty of careful research, we decided to source our wood from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. FSC is a highly respected, third party certification that currently sets the bar for defining sustainable forest management. FSC is an international organization that provides principles and audits with the strictest requirements to ensure lumber comes from forests that maintain natural integrity, protect indigenous rights, and support surrounding communities.

As a result, FSC wood often commands the highest market price because of its quality and because it is harvested with minimal impact to the environment and the surrounding communities. We believe that by supporting the demand for sound forestry practices in the construction of long-lasting bee hives and woodenware, we benefit honeybee health by producing a beehive that is truly sustainable and considers all of nature. Not only is our wood FSC certified, but it all comes from sustainably-managed forests in Oregon and Northern California, reducing the carbon footprint tied to transportation, and helping the local economy.

Here at Bee Thinking, we use two types of wood to make our beehives: sugar pine and western red cedar. Sugar pine grows in southern Oregon and northern California. They are the largest of the pine trees, and John Muir called it the "King of the Conifers" for that reason. Sugar pine trees grow very straight, are dimensionally stable (meaning they resist warping, shrinking), and process beautifully through our machines with minimal tearing or cracking, making it the ideal pine species for bee hives.

Western Red Cedar is the premier beehive material. Native to the Pacific Northwest, Western Red Cedar is rot resistant, stable, lightweight, has tight straight grain, and insulates better than pine. It is revered for its beautiful grain and coloration, and due to its decay resistance, doesn't require paint in the elements. Our cedar is harvested within a couple hours of our Portland location.

We work extremely hard to use every scrap and shaving left over as we create hives. We use these pieces to produce birdhouses, mason bee houses, wooden feeders, and extra cedar shavings for quilt boxes both on our website and in our retail shop. We are always working to develop the new products and accessories our customers ask for, in a way that utilizes every bit of the wood we’ve brought in and in keeping with the design aesthetics we are known for.

Our efforts don’t end with wood sourcing, but apply to all aspects of our business. Each year we ship thousands of hives to our customers all over the world. To mitigate the environmental impact of shipping, we invest in carbon neutral offsets through our shipping providers whenever possible.

We hope this helps to make clear what we mean when we say we are committed to sustainability in every aspect. If you want to hear even more about our sustainability philosophy, check out the below video with our co-founder, Matt!

September 15, 2016


Are you ready for winter? Everything you need to winterize your hive.

Winterize your hive

Bzzzz, not brrrrrr! Although you may still be enjoying some final rays of late summer sunshine (if you're lucky), now is the time to get your hive ready for winter.

Proactivity is of the utmost importance when preparing your hive for winter. When the weather drops below 55º(f) you should, under no circumstance, open your hive. Doing so breaks your bees' propolis seal which they built up for insulation. This means you should be prepping your hive now, so that when the temperature drops, your hive is ready to weather the elements. 

We've got the tools of the trade to get your hive set up and ready to go from the inside out. What's even better is that everything is 20% off right now for our Hive and Harvest Sale so you can winterize your hive for less!  

Overwintering tools

1. Langstroth Peaked Roof   2. Langstroth Insulation Box   3. Tung Oil   4. Entrance Reducer   5. Universal Hive Stand   6. Double Jar Feeder


Do you have more questions about overwintering? Check out our Vimeo or Youtube channel for our information-packed overwintering video series. 

September 14, 2016


We're Growing! Join Us for Our Grand Opening

We’re growing! Come celebrate with us as we officially launch the West Coast’s only dedicated mead bottle shop!

We are thrilled to announce that our Grand Opening celebration will take place Saturday and Sunday, October 1st and 2nd, between 1-4pm.

Everyone is welcome at our Grand Opening. Fun and festivities will abound, including:

  • Complimentary mead and honey tastings
  • Pourings from featured meaderies
  • Surprise giveaways
  • Kid-friendly activities

Eight years ago, we began all of this in a garage. Our co-founders, Matt and Jill, built and shipped every one of our hives themselves. From there, we built a warehouse and a modest retail space. Today we are proud to have customers all over the world who enjoy our high-quality beehives and equipment.

We soon found that many beekeepers were using their honey harvests to brew mead, an ancient fermented beverage that combines honey, water, and yeast. With our co-founder Jill’s, background in fine wine, the creation of Mead Market was a logical progression--from hives, to honey, to mead.

Mead Market is Bee Thinking’s sister brand; a bottle shop that now has the largest mead selection of any bottle shop in North America. With an extensive selection of local, domestic, and International meads bottled (and on tap), we’re ready to show Portlanders just how varied, and modern, mead can be.

We feel so grateful toward our Portland community for always supporting us since the very beginning. Portland has allowed us to thrive here for the past eight years. We're excited to host an event to celebrate our growing business and the epically wonderful community that made our growth possible.

We're excited to see you there! "Bee" sure to RSVP on Facebook.

September 09, 2016


The Comb Joint

Honoring tradition, while maintaining modern aesthetic and design practices, is what we do best. That’s why we designed our unique comb joint, an upgrade from the traditional finger joint traditionally used to make hive boxes. Our signature comb joint makes for stronger, more efficient, and more striking hives. We’ve been so excited to share the news; you may have already heard about our new and improved joinery. Let’s get down to what makes this joint so special.

One of the biggest components that makes our boxes and joinery so special is that they are made using a CNC machine, which is a state-of-the-art piece of milling equipment that is far more accurate than a traditional hauncher. “CNC” stands for Computer Numeric Control. This means the machine’s movements are operated through specific numerical commands entered into a computer, as opposed to manually controlled wheels and levers. This level of precision allows us to get the perfect cut every time, meaning our boxes fit together easily and securely. We know that most of our customers buy our boxes unassembled, and this kind of precision makes assembly a cinch. 

The new comb joint also has 9% less exposed end grain in comparison to a standard finger joint. If you’ve never heard of end grain before, end grain refers to the end of the board where the wood was cut. It’s also where water could seep into your hive and cause damage. 9% May not seem like a lot at first glance, but considering there are four corners per box and multiple boxes per hive, this 9% can make a big difference. This significant decrease of exposed end grain makes for a more weather-resistant hive, meaning it will last you and your bees for many more years to come.

Lastly, bees inspire us every day, including when we hit the wood working table. We designed this semi-hexagonal shape to mimic a comb cell—a shape bees instinctively employ for its strength and efficiency.

Don’t forget that our 20% off Hive and Harvest Sale is still going on! Additionally, our pine hives are 25% right now! This is the best time to get your own box with comb joints and see our new and improved joinery for yourself.

Watch below to learn even more about the comb joint from Bee Thinking co-founder, Matt Reed!

September 07, 2016


Safe for You, Safe for Your Bees: 100% Pure Tung Oil

Along with our precision-milled beehives, our tung oil is one of our most-beloved products—for good reason! There are many benefits that make our tung oil special.

100% Pure Tung Oil

Many other tung oils are filled with chemicals and solvents. Our tung oil is 100% pure and all natural with no additives. To us, it makes sense to use an all-natural finish on our beehives because it really allows us to stay true to our natural, treatment-free beekeeping philosophy. The absence of solvents also means our tung oil is more concentrated. It takes a little longer to dry, but in the long-run this makes for a more durable, highly water-proof hive so you can feel confident heading into the winter months!


Unlike other surface treatments, tung oil actually bonds with the wood to make it waterproof and lends protection from the elements for years to come. Buying a beehive is an investment, and having to replace it every few years just doesn’t make sense! Applying a simple coat of tung oil once a year (summertime is ideal!) is a great way to keep your investment protected against extreme weather. You can use it on either your Western Red Cedar or Sugar Pine hives.

Easy and Versatile

Applying tung oil to your beehive is a simple, three-step process:

  1. Using a smooth cotton cloth, old t-shirt, or paper towel, apply one thin coat (about a tablespoon) of tung oil to your hive. Make sure to spread with the grain, from side to side.
  2. Wait 3 hours, then remove excess oil. Patience is key!
  3. After 24 hours, repeat steps 1 and 2. Once it dries, you are all ready to go!

      Additionally, 100% pure tung oil is food safe and therefore incredibly versatile. It’s not just for your hive! You can also use it to treat wooden cutting boards, furniture, and birdhouses.


      While some choose to paint their hives, we prefer admiring the natural beauty of the wood itself. Pure tung oil enhances the natural color of the wood and leaves a satin finish. Check out these before and after photos below to see the difference that a couple coats of tung oil can make:

      Check out the video below to learn even more about tung oil, including a demonstration of applying it to your Bee Thinking hive:

      Click here to get your own bottle of 100% pure tung oil, now 20% off during the Harvest Sale!

      September 02, 2016


      Leave Them Bee: New Windows for Langstroth Hives

      Bees are fascinating creatures—but we don’t have to tell you that. All their hard work is manifested within the hive, through beautifully drawn comb, plenty of brood to keep the colony going, and sweet honey stores to survive the winter. One of the most exhilarating parts of the beekeeping experience is sitting back and watching your bees work.  

      That is why we are excited to announce that we now have Langstroth hive boxes with windows. Now beekeepers everywhere can enjoy watching their bees work without disturbing them, regardless of their hive style. We want to give every beekeeper the chance to observe, marvel, inspect and even learn from their bees!

      As you may know, these are new for us. Up until this point we have only had observation windows available for Warre and top bar hives. But, we listened to what our customers want, and you want to see your bees! So we started our careful planning and design process, and here we are.

      Perhaps the best part about this new development is that observation windows allow for you to check on your bees without disrupting them. Since there is a window on either side of the hive, you can get a clear picture of the entire box without ever opening it. This was important to us as we designed these boxes. We wanted you to be able to see as much bee action as possible!

      And observing from a distance isn’t just courteous, it’s practical. Especially as temperatures fall, opening your hive can put your bees at risk by disrupting the methods of insulation they have put in place. With windows, however, you only need to remove the small cover to make sure your hive is alive and well. We can already hear your bees thanking you!

      Our new windows come with a wooden, easy-to-remove cover, so insulation is not compromised. Even better, the window cover comes adorned with a CNC precision-milled bee design, with hollow wing cutouts as handles. Now you can show off your love of bees while adding a unique touch to your hive and apiary!  

      To see our new windows in action, check out the video below:

       Finally, don’t forget our Harvest and Hive Sale is going on right now! This means that you can get your brand new boxes with precision-milled windows for 20% off in premium Western Red Cedar, and 25% off in sustainably harvested Sugar Pine. We hope you are as excited as we are about this exciting new feature leaving our Portland mill.

      September 01, 2016


      When and How to Feed Your Bees

      To feed or not to feed? Arguably one of the toughest questions to answer as a beekeeper, but fear not! We’re ready to share a wealth of information that should help you navigate this tricky topic.

      Feeding is a somewhat controversial topic in the beekeeping field. A natural beekeeping philosophy does not support feeding your bees at all. This would cause bees with weak genetics to die out over the winter and be replaced by a strong colony splitting in two in the spring. That being said, there are some extenuating circumstances that may leave beekeepers with no choice but to feed. For example, if a summer forest fire wipes out bee forage for the season, an otherwise genetically-strong colony would not have the resources to make enough honey stores for the winter. When these circumstances arise, beekeepers who would not otherwise feed may choose to do so to support the survival of their bees.

      How do I know if I should feed?

      There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. There are so many factors to consider when making this decision! Climate, honey-to-brood ratio and your bees specific strain will all affect whether or not they’ll be able to survive off their honey stores. In general, we like to say that your colony should have honey stores that are about equal to their brood stores, but of course this depends. Read up on the specific strain of your bees to learn more the climate they were bred for and how this will affect their behavior. Italian bees, for example, are bred for short winters and thus, tend to eat through their honey stores too quickly when living in a colder climate. Read up on your bees’ specific strain, factor in your climate, and talk to other local beekeepers to create an effective plan.

      When should I feed?

      If you decide to feed your bees, you will need to do so before winter arrives, because bees will not drink liquid feed when it is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t forget that you can also support your bees’ diet by providing plenty of late season foraging, which we discuss in more detail in our Late Season Planting for Pollinators video and blog post. Being proactive is important!

      How do I make feed?

      At this time of the year, you’ll want to use two cups of sugar for every one cup of warm water. Remember to use white granulated sugar, not brown or raw sugar. Bees cannot properly digest dark sugars! You can also add a pinch of a crushed up Vitamin C tab to the mixture, because nectar is naturally more acidic than simple sugar syrup.

      What kind of feeder should I use, and how do I use it?

      There are many different types of feeders to choose from, and different hive designs require different feeders. Here at Bee Thinking, we offer a double jar feeder, an entrance feeder, a round hive top feeder, and a gallon hive top feeder.
      In a Langstroth Hive, place your inner cover over the top-most box that your bees are occupying. Set the feeder over the hole in the inner cover and surround it with an empty box followed by your outer cover. Alternatively, you can use an entrance feeder by sliding it into the entrance of your hive. While you can use any of our feeders for a 10-frame Langstroth, the gallon hive top feeder is too wide for an 8-frame hive.

      In a Warre hive, cut a flap in your separator canvas the size of your feeder. Put it back in place on your top bars and fold the flap back. Place the feeder over the cut-out you made. Enclose the feeder with an empty hive box, and put your quilt box and roof back in place. For Warre hives, you can use a double jar feeder or a round hive top feeder.

      In a top bar hive, place the feeder in the empty cavity of the hive body. You can prop the divider board up with sticks, or drill cork-sized holes in the bottom for your bees to crawl through. Place the feeder in the bottom of the empty cavity and place empty top bars back on top. You can use a double jar feeder or an entrance feeder.

      No matter what type of feeder you choose, deciding to feed your bees in the late summer could ultimately save the colony. Good luck!

      For even more information, check out this video we made as a part of our Overwintering Series:

      August 27, 2016


      Sustainable. Quality. Valuable. Introducing Sugar Pine.

      After years of searching for a sustainable source of pine, we've found material that's not only suitable for the bees, but is responsible to the environment, handsome, and available at a great value. As always, we are committed to bringing you the highest quality products while staying true to our core values of using sustainable, local materials.

      We are excited to announce that we will now offer our Langstroth hives using sustainable Sugar Pine sourced from FSC Chain of Custody suppliers in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s why we are thrilled to be offering Bee Thinking pine:

      View full article →
      August 25, 2016


      Summer Salad Dressings with Raw Honey

      The content for this article was provided by Hillary Bergh of Hillary Bergh is a 5th generation chef with a passion for kitchen play. Growing up in the kitchens of her family’s multiple restaurants gave her a solid foundation that was then developed further while working as a manager at Bouchon Bakery, chef and wine club manager at Swanson Vineyards, and executive chef at Google with Bon Appetit Management Company. She holds two culinary certifications along with a nutrition certification and is currently earning a bachelor of science in healthcare management.

      Like a breath of fresh air, a new salad dressing in your repertoire can do wonders for an everyday salad or as a finish for grilled veggies. In the height of summer, nothing is better than a bright, crisp salad and some grilled goods shared with your favorite company under a warm summer sky.

      Here you'll find four fresh salad dressings inspired by raw honey. Wildflower honey is recommended for these dressings, as it will have basic "honey" flavor notes rather than dominating flavors associated with many varietal honeys. A good quality extra virgin olive oil will solidify in the fridge and may contribute too much grassiness, so blend with flax or hemp oils or use a more neutral olive oil. Coconut water is used to reduce the amount of oil necessary while also contributing depth in flavor and boosting the honey sweetness.

      Citrus Honey Salad Dressing


      • 1 whole navel orange
      • 1 whole lemon
      • 1-3 Tb raw wildflower honey
      • 1/2 cup olive oil, flax oil, and/or hemp oil
      • 1/2 cup coconut water
      • 1-2 tsp sea salt


      • Cut off the stem and blossom ends of both the orange and lemon and large dice, leaving peel on. The white pith will help thicken the dressing and the zest lends extra flavor.
      • Combine all ingredients in stand blender or quart mason jar with immersion blender. Start with 1Tb of honey and 1 tsp salt.
      • Blend to smooth, taste. Add additional honey and salt if desired.
      • Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Before using, bring up to room temperature and shake well.


      • Serve with a salad of cucumber, tomato, and fresh corn, or drizzle over roast chicken and grilled asparagus.
      • Pair with Moonlight Meadery Wild, Nectar Creek Sting, or San Francisco Meadery Wildflower meads.

      Honey Ginger Salad Dressing


      • 2" piece of fresh ginger
      • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
      • 1-3 Tb raw wildflower honey
      • 1/4 cup olive oil
      • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
      • 1/2 cup coconut water
      • 1-2 Tb soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos


      • Combine all ingredients in stand blender or quart mason jar with immersion blender. Start with 1Tb of honey and 1 Tb of soy sauce.
      • Blend to smooth, taste. Add additional honey and soy sauce if desired.
      • Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Before using, bring up to room temperature and shake well.


      • Serve with shredded cabbage for an asian inspired slaw, or drizzle over shrimp and grilled zucchini.
      • Pair with Blacksnake Sweet Virginia, Skyriver Semi-Sweet, or Enat Tej meads.

      Honey Berry Salad Dressing


      • 1/4 pint of fresh blackberries, raspberries, and/or blueberries
      • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
      • 1-3 Tb raw wildflower honey
      • 1/2 cup olive oil, flax oil, and/or hemp oil
      • 1/2 cup coconut water
      • 1-2 tsp sea salt


      • Combine all ingredients in stand blender or quart mason jar with immersion blender. Start with 1Tb of honey and 1 tsp sea salt.
      • Blend to smooth, taste. Add additional honey and salt if desired.
      • Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Before using, bring up to room temperature and shake well.


      • Serve with salad of baby greens, steamed beets, berries, and almonds, or drizzle atop grilled pork loin or grilled mushrooms.
      • Pair with Honeymaker Reserve Dry, Die Hochland Extra Dry, or Fringe Meadow Blossom meads.

      Honey Dijon and Poppyseed Salad Dressing


      • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
      • 1/2 lemon
      • 1-3 Tb raw wildflower honey
      • 1/2 cup olive oil, flax oil, and/or hemp oil
      • 1/2 cup coconut water
      • 1-3 Tb dijon mustard
      • 1-2 tsp sea salt
      • 1 Tb poppyseed




      • Cut the end off  the lemon and  large dice, leaving peel on. The white pith will help thicken the dressing  and the zest lends extra flavor.
      • Combine all ingredients except poppyseeds in stand blender or quart mason jar with immersion blender. Start with 1Tb of honey and 1 Tb of soy sauce.
      • Blend to smooth. Add additional honey and salt if desired. Stir in poppyseeds.
      • Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Before using, bring up to room temperature and shake well.


      • Serve with salad of bright greens and spinach or drizzle over grilled salmon and roasted carrots.
      • Pair with Chateau Lorane Vandal Gold, Hierophant Matricaria Chamomile, or Stung Trinity meads.


      August 18, 2016


      Join The #MyHoneyMyWay Contest On Social Media!

      Right now, beekeepers all over the country (and world!) are harvesting honey from their hives and enjoying every drop. We, too, have headed out to our apiary and pulled a few frames from particularly strong colonies. There really is nothing like fresh, raw honey straight from the bees themselves!

      One of our favorite things about honey (besides that it is delicious) is its versatility. We use it in everything from salad dressings to barbeque marinades to tea and mead-- even in beauty products! There are so many ways to harvest it from your hive too! A bucket strainer system is  a simple, yet effective, approach, but you could also use an extractor, or a good old fashioned comb slice and store set. Whether you enjoy the process, or like to keep it simple, we’ve got a solution sure to fit your honey harvest needs.

      In celebration of honey harvesting season, we are holding a contest all week long. Getting involved is simple: just share a photo with us, on Facebook or Instagram, of how you most enjoy honey. Use the hashtag #MyHoneyMyWay and tag us @beethinking. We will choose a winner at random to win this honey-lover’s goodie bag!

      You have until 11:59pm PST on Sunday, August 21 to enter, so grab your camera and get creative! “Bee” sure to follow us on social media @beethinking to see if you are the winner!!
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