Getting Bees Ready for Winter

Friends frequently ask me , “What happens to your bees in the winter?”  What happens is an epic struggle to keep the bees alive.  Some people say you aren’t a beekeeper until you get your first hive full of bees through the winter.  If you buy new bees every year because your bees from the previous year died, then you aren’t really beekeeping.  If you are a skilled beekeeper, your bees should have a better chance of survival than “the bees in the trees” also known as feral honey bees.

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Thank Bees for Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Millions of Americans are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, and the grocery stores are bracing themselves for the onslaught of customers.  The fact that hundreds of millions of people in the US can eat a meal that consists of roughly the same menu on the same day is a miracle of modern agriculture as well as a testament to good supply chain management at that nations’ grocery stores.  Have you ever considered how your Thanksgiving meal is impacted by bees?  Many of your Thanksgiving favorites would not make it to the table without the pollination services provide by bees. Continue reading

What’s the Price of Cheap Honey?

People love to ask questions when they find out that we started keeping bees.  One of the most common questions is, “When will you start selling honey?”  That question is usually followed by the comment, “Local honey is really expensive.  You can make a lot of money.”  In our part of the Midwest, local honey sells for anywhere between $8 and $12 for a 1 pound bottle, and those prices are typically set by hobby beekeepers who sell mostly at places like farmers markets.  If you read my previous blog post, you will know that hobby beekeepers aren’t getting rich on their honey.  The question that people should be asking is, “Why is the grocery store honey so cheap?”  The answer to that question will probably shock you.   Continue reading

Biblical References to Bees and Honey

Beekeeping has changed me.  I have never been good at observing what is happening around me.  I am the person who doesn’t notice that someone has new glasses, a new haircut, or an amputated limb.  Months usually pass before I realize a building along my commute has been demolished.  I become deeply engrossed in my thoughts and  miss what is going on around me, but the bees are changing me.  Now I pay attention to flutters in the grass because the movement could be caused by bees on clover.  Weather forecasts suddenly hold my interest.  I notice the progression of wildflower blooms because wildflowers feed the bees.  The fact that bees make me more aware of the natural world may not come as a surprise, but this new sense of awareness has also spilled over into other aspects of my life including my reading of the Bible.  Until I began keeping bees, I never realized how frequently honey and bees are mentioned in the Bible.  Continue reading

Can a Hobby Beekeeper Make a Profit?

Recently I met a friend for lunch, and over sandwiches she inquired about our honey bees.  I love talking about our bees, and she is a good friend who indulges me.  After I provided a status update she asked, “Are you making money yet?”  Her direct question caught me off guard.  Most people ask us when we will have honey available, and I think my friend was curious to know if our colonies had reached a point where we could harvest honey for sale.  Doug and I are first year beekeepers, so we are letting the bees have all the honey this year to get them through the winter.  Nevertheless, my friend’s question made me wonder if hobby beekeepers could make a profit from their bees. Continue reading

Fumagillin-B: The Honey Bee Meets the Supply Chain

The tale of Fumagillin-B is a fascinating example of how global forces, which are frequently unseen by us, have a way of altering our daily lives in very unexpected ways.  Fumagillin-B is a drug used to treat Nosema apis, one of the most prevalent diseases plaguing adult bees, and now it is no longer on the market.  Continue reading