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San Mateo Ecovillage



Our Adventure in Beekeeping = Honey


May 10, 2010: This is just the beginning a webpage where I can talk about our honey production and share products for sale.  Perhaps I should research some of the blog resources and do this as a blog rather than a website. I will also gather some beekeeping resources, but there is so much good material out there. For a start, here are some of the uses of honey from the National Honey Board.


Brian with the hives 2009

Brian, my honey, on the upper deck with the hives in the summer of 2009.

    Bee guild Members at the Maker Faire  Bee guild at the Maker Faire

In 2009, we extracted about 50 pounds of honey.  In an amazingly unsophisticated way, we put it in jars and I mostly sold it at school.  There was also lots of honeycomb. Brian gave away a good part of his honeycomb at the Maker Faire at the booth with the San Mateo Bee Guild as we did not know how to package it.  I now realize that it was probably close to 20 pounds of honey comb which sells for at least $10/pound.  We just spread lots of joy.

    Brian inspects his experiment  comb without frames

When we checked the hives in the spring of 2010, I got to see the result of Brian's experiment to see what the bees would do when making comb without frames.   Unfortunately we lost the bees.  Brian said that he would not continue keeping the bees unless I participated.  I went ahead and took the Bee Guild's beginning class.  We harvested some of that comb from the previous season, more to go, in chunks and have begun to sell it.

We ordered one package of bees through the club and set up one new hive on May 7, and then Brian captured a swarm about a week later to create a second hive.  Since we already had the traditional type of bee boxes that most people use, we are also using them.  At the class, I learned more about beekeeping with a top bar hive which is more traditional in other countries,  such as Kenya.    I had first heard about it from a man from Kenya who lived with us at San Mateo Ecovillage.  I learned more in the bee guild class, and made a video of that presentation by Carolyn Chancey which I have included below. We have enough regular boxes for one more swarm, but if we get more, I hope we can try a top bar hive                             
flying bee


We need to get our packaging act together before the Maker Faire and San Mateo County Fair this year. I began research to find out if we can sell at a local farmer's market.  I also listed us on an interesting resource page called Local Harvest. Growers can have an online store through them.  I don't think we will have enough to warrant that, but perhaps the guild would like to get together to create an online store.
May 11, 2010: Today was my first day to inspect the hives since the bees were installed.  The first hive is doing well.  You can see baby bees.  The swarm hive shows some evidence of eggs, but it is a small hive and eggs are sparse and irregular.  Since the numbers were low, we attempted to spot the queen, but were not successful. We will have to check back in a week or so to see if they are hatching.

Sanda in bee gear with the hives Brian inspects frame Brian looks for the queen  close up of a frame

May 22, 2010: We had our first experience selling our honey to a public audience at the Maker Faire this weekend. The comb honey was particularly popular.



May 26, 2010: Last night Brian got a call at work to pick-up a swarm. He said he could come this morning. I went with him. He tried an interesting strategy that worked with varying success. We will know better later. Rather than using a cardboard box or a nuc box, he actually brought along a hive box with frames, someone with previous drawn comb, which will be where they will live. He put an inside cover on the box attached with a hinge; it has a small opening in the top. It makes it easier because they won't have to be moved again, but it sure did not make it easier to collect them. (I found an interesting forum conversation about how some other beekeepers collect swarms and from an urban beekeeper's blog and another blog from a rural area in Oklahoma. Like they say at the San Mateo Beekeepers' Guild meetings, if you ask 9 beekeepers how to do something, you will get 10 answers.) They were swarming around a branch on a bush at the fence line. Brian pruned the branch and shook it over the box, first with the lid open and then with it closed. He got the majority of the swarm, but did not know if he got the queen. Some mini-swarms remained in the tree and on the fence. He kept scooping them up. Most went in. I asked him if he thought they would continue to go in. He asked if I noticed that their butts were up in the air. He said that meant they were telling the rest of the swarm that they had found a good place to live and come on in. He said that they would even call the queen if she was not already inside. He told the owner of the property that he would come back late tonight to pick-up the box as if he went back later this morning, they might be out foraging.


Hmmm....this is sounding more and more like a blog. I suppose I should create one....but the two I linked to above are so good, I don't know that I can compete.

OK, I began the blog and I will need to see which format I prefer. You can see my brand-new blog here.


May 27, 2010: Well, we went back late that night, and to our great disappointment they were gone. We were not sure wh

June 1, 2010: From something I read on our yahoogroup, I suspect that because the box was sitting on a concrete slab all afternoon, it got too warm causing the bees to vacate.
Did you recognize the background on this page? Yesterday and today we were dealing with the balance of our honey that was still in crumbled comb. We had to do a lot of reading to figure out what to do with it. We ended up putting it in two large stainless steel pans and heating them to 150 degrees to melt the wax and then letting them cool. Today we cut off a piece of the corner of the solidified wax and drained the honey out of the pan. (We still have to figure out the implication of honey that has been heated to 150 degrees.) Well after we poured off most of the honey, Brian wanted to let the balance of the honey drain off the back of the wax slabs. We leaned them against each other. As I glanced over at them, I thought how beautiful they were and took a picture with my iPhone. Now I need to figure out the next steps to clean this wax for use in candles or cosmetics. I am glad I am a member of a bee guild and can talk to others about it. Less than two weeks until the fair.



June 13, 2010: I went to the San Mateo County Fair. I ultimately spent four days at the fair. It was definitely not as busy and successful as the Maker Faire, but then I really had very little honey left to sell. Few club members had honey to sell as the fair was so early this year.

After the fair, Bonnie O'Brien, one of the long time members of the guild ask me to help her make a website for our honey product line, Bumblebear Products. I began an initial site temporarily hosting it on my own site.

June 15, 2010: We finally had time to check our hives. The larger hive was so full that bees were hanging out at the entrance because they did not have enough room to go inside. We were at least one week late. We made up a shallow honey super to make comb honey and added it to the hive. I will be leaving shortly for a trip for the rest of the month, and I bet when I return the honey comb will be full.

I hope the hive does not swarm....or if it does that we can catch our own swarm. Hmmmm....I wonder if we should set up another hive near by so if it swarms, the bees find a close ready made home.

I also began discussing the idea of making a page on the club website with links to websites for all the Beekeepers Guild member sites. Since many of us were getting ready to travel, we planned on a meeting in mid-July.


June 30, 2010: I returned from my first trip of the summer a few days ago, but most of our gardening energy was going into finishing our new chicken house. We finally got to the hives this morning....briefly, as we were both going to be gone for the long weekend again. We wanted to add another comb honey super to the original hive but did not have time to add wax foundation, not even a starter strip. We are going to take a chance to see what the bees will do. It is all about experimentation.
July 10, 2010: We got back to the hives this morning. The bees are looking good. Even the smaller hive is looking great, lots of new bees. On the smaller hive, we added a second brood box and a honey super. On the original hive, we looked at the box with the empty frames and it did not look too bad. We had a couple of frames with foundation ready so we swapped out two. Then we added another box for comb honey and changed the order putting the first comb honey box on top. It is probably about ready for harvesting.



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