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

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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 09, 2016

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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

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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!

Long-Lasting

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.

      Beautiful

      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!

      August 17, 2016

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      Introducing Our New Comb Joint

      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.

       

       

       

      More about the comb joint below

       

       

       

      July 26, 2016

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      Wedding Gift Ideas for Beekeepers and Bee-Lovers

      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.

    1. The Fresh Honey Cookbook


    2. 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!


    3. Raw Honey


    4. 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!


    5. The Gardener’s Gift Set


    6. 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.


    7. Beeswax Candles


    8. 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.


    9. Top Bar Hive Starter Kit


    10. 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.

    11. Bee Thinking Gift Certificate


    12. 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!

      July 22, 2016

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      Let the Overwintering Series Begin!

      When the sun is shining and the days are long, it can be tough to think about winter. For bees though, winter preparations began in spring. As a beekeeper, you will want to begin preparing now. Why? Over 44% of honeybee colonies didn't survive the U.S. winter last year. Some areas saw losses of over 65%. This is why overwintering is such a crucial subject to all beekeepers. Bees work hard to keep warm and ration food stores in cold months. As beekeepers, it's important to help make these processes be as seamless as possible.

      So what exactly is overwintering? The term encapsulates multiple systems and processes. Essentially, overwintering is helping bees prepare their hives for the harsh, cold months to come. We're located in the Pacific Northwest, so we'll be using this region as an example, but it will be important to remember that all timelines and practices we provide are completely dependent on your climate. We always encourage connecting with other beekeepers in your area to learn more about overwintering in your specific region.

      Let's start with what our bees are up to right now. During mid-to-late summer months, the queen and worker bees scale back brood production. In a way, they're doing math! They will maintain the optimal amount of brood for the overwintering cluster to generate heat that can survive on their available honey stores.

      It's important to remember that no bee is created equal. The brood-to-honey-store ratio is variable due to the climate the bee strain (or breed) has adapted to. For example, Italian bees have large brood clusters since Mediterranean climates have short winters. When Italian bees are kept in cold climates, they often eat through their honey stores too quickly and don't survive the winter.

      When you conduct your mid or late summer hive inspections, you'll want to make sure your bees are slowing brood production and storing more honey. If they're not, you'll need to consider some of the techniques we go over in this series to aid in their survival.

      Another point to start considering is keeping your bees warm throughout the often chilly late summer nights. As a rule, when the temperature drops below 55 degrees (f), do not break the propolis seal on your hive. Your bees created this seal for insulation. Breaking it allows cool drafts into the hive that make it much harder for them to keep warm. This is why you need to be setting your hive up for winter before the temperature drops, ideally in August.

      We'll be covering a series of important topics in more depth in the weeks to come. These topics include:

      • Late season planting for pollinators
      • The dos and don'ts of honey harvesting
      • When and if to feed your bees
      • Weatherproofing and insulating your hive

      In addition to this blog series, we will release corresponding videos for each topic that show these overwintering processes in action. The videos will feature our staff entomologist and Education Coordinator, Rebekah, who is a proud beekeeper and ready to teach you the very best overwintering practices. You can check those out on either our Vimeo or Youtube channel.

      Welcome to our Overwintering Series, and bring on the winter!

      July 14, 2016

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      July 07, 2016

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      November 06, 2015

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      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.