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!
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!
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:
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!
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.
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:
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 →
There’s a reason we included “thinking” in our company name. Since day one, we haven’t stopped thinking of ways to design the strongest, smartest, most beautiful and efficient beekeeping products available. This means sweating the small stuff, including the joint that holds our boxes together.
So we listened to a lot of customer feedback, and did our own research. We examined all kinds of existing joints, looking back over hundreds of years of woodworking techniques throughout the world. We ultimately took inspiration from the bees themselves to make a strong and efficient joint that we think you’ll love. Since the very beginning, our boxes have used interlocking finger joints; the industry standard for hive construction. This makes sense! Finger joints are strong, attractive, and suitable for most woodworking endeavors. But we couldn’t help but to explore any possible modifications to make our joints even better.
Our new Comb Joint includes everything we love about the typical finger joint but is also specially designed to be sleeker, stronger, easier to assemble, more efficient, and longer lasting. Our new Comb Joint features interlocking semi-hexagonal pieces similar to honeycomb. We used this shape for the same reasons bees do: it’s highly efficient and it’s strong. The inset frame rest leaves no weak points, making for an incredibly strong box from top to bottom.
With approximately 9% less end grain exposed compared to a traditional finger joint, there's less area for wood to seep in and damage your hive.
The joint is milled using a CNC machine, which is five times more accurate than a traditional hauncher, allowing us to get the perfect cut every single time. Assembly of our new boxes is quicker and simpler with miniscule opportunity for error. We want beekeepers, novice and experienced, to spend less time setting up and more time keeping bees!
Finally, we know that appearance matters with any addition to your home or garden, and we take that seriously! Our new design is sleek, compelling, modern, and completely unique. It is sure to add something special to your yard or apiary.
We have spent endless hours in our workshop and are extremely proud of what we designed. We will continue to invest in our mill, using the latest woodworking technology to craft products that make the beekeeping experience even more special. We’re confident that you, too, will love the latest generation of precision milled joinery leaving our mill in Portland, Oregon.
There’s a reason for the term busy bee! Bees forage for pollen and nectar all spring and summer in order to produce brood and store enough honey to survive the winter, often literally working themselves to death. The good news? You can avoid this while also adding color and beauty to your late summer garden!
Providing late-blooming flowers can immensely help honeybees with food scarcity they may encounter in late fall. Although you always have the option to feed your bees if they don’t produce enough honey, fresh nectar is a far healthier choice than sugar water, which is tough for bees to digest. (We'll be going over when and if to feed in a later installment.) For now, just remember that it's always better to plant than to feed when possible.
Here are some planting for pollinator tips:
By growing a variety of plants that bloom from early spring until late fall, you will provide a consistent nectar flow for your bees to produce as much honey as possible before going into winter. Try to grow a variety of flower sizes to appeal to all different pollinators in your area. Even if it's too late to plant flowers in your area, you can still plant a variety of cover crops. Cover crops protect your soil and are great for foraging pollinators. In the Northwest, these include legumes such as vetch, clover and field peas. Mustard plants and buckwheat are also great options!
Late season planting for pollinators can be easier than you think. Letting “weeds” like clovers or dandelions grow provides a great food sources for bees. In the Pacific Northwest, milkweed and yarrow weeds are plentiful and we have no intention of yanking them! Also, letting spring greens and herbs go to seed is an great and easy option. Finally, you could plant a second round of classic flowers like sunflowers.
Not only does our Langstroth Living Roof add a beautiful, lush finish to your hive, but it can be a great resource for pollinators! Place it atop your hive and plant sedum or any other type of plant. We choose sedum because it’s a hardy, succulent plant that’s particularly good for bees because it blooms in the fall. Not looking to give your hive a face lift? You don't have to put the living roof on a hive. It could go anywhere in your garden for increased pollination power. Bees from your hive may not forage right on top of their home, but other pollinators will. Attracting these other pollinators will help the plants your bees do forage on to flourish. Isn't the circle of pollination beautiful?
There are a ton of resources for figuring out exactly what to harvest and when. The Xerces Society has a great website with lists of what, and when, to plant for early and late seasons in different regions of the country. These lists are also in Xerces’ Attracting Native Pollinators book.
Be sure to stay tuned for next week’s story on honey harvest dos and don'ts and remember to subscribe to our Vimeo or Youtube channels to watch the entire overwintering series.
Summer is a busy time for our bees, but also for love-birds tying the knot! Wedding season is in full swing, and you may find yourself heading to one wedding after another. Finding the perfect gift for the happy couple can be a challenge. However, whether they have green thumbs, their own backyard hives, or are lovers of honey and wax, we have wonderfully unique gift ideas that go above and beyond yet another toaster that they don’t actually need.
Written by chef and beekeeper, Laurey Masterton, this cookbook is full of new and innovative ways to use nutrient-rich honey in your next meal. Help the newlyweds avoid take-out every night of the week with some sweet meal-time inspiration. Examples of recipes included are: grilled honey pineapple, baby back ribs with sage honey, and strawberry-rhubarb ice cream. Yum!
Either paired with a cookbook or as a stand-alone gift, a jar of raw honey is as tasteful as it is delicious (see what we did there?). What makes this such a special gift is its uniqueness: each jar of honey has its own signature taste, depending on the region and flower species that the bees collected nectar from. Truly one of a kind!
The perfect combo pack for the couple with four green thumbs! This gift set is specially curated to help anyone’s garden bloom by attracting local pollinators to your garden and yard. Includes a pollinator seed pack, flower windmill, bear-shaped hummingbird feeder, cedar songbird house, and a copy of Attracting Native Pollinators from The Xerces Society.
Did you know that beeswax candles actually purify the air while they burn? Our long-lasting beeswax candles are made from treatment-free wax and are a sophisticated way to decorate and brighten the newlyweds’ home. You can even mix and match a variety of shapes and heights to fit any room’s style.
Beekeeping is an exciting hobby that does a lot of good for pollinators and plants alike. Our top bar hive, precision-milled from Western Red Cedar, is an excellent hive model for beginners as it requires no heavy lifting for inspections. Even better is that hive inspections can easily be a partner activity: One person can hold the comb while the other inspects it. Our starter kit has absolutely everything a first-timer needs to start their beekeeping adventure.
Are you heading to a beekeeper’s wedding, but you’re unsure what’s already in their toolkit? Give them the gift of choice with a gift card! This way, they can easily shop online or stop into our store for a new hive tool, smoker, or honey harvesting system. Voila!
There you have it: Five simple yet thoughtful gift ideas for the newlyweds in your life. Next time wedding bells start ringing, remember all the ways you can celebrate while also helping our critical pollinator populations!