Monday, December 27, 2010

Hive with Snow Cap

This photo was taken from my kitchen window in Brooklyn at noon on Monday, December 27, 2010.

The hive base can barely be seen at the snow line. Hidden by the snow is a hive stand that is held up by a piece of plywood on top of a shipping pallet raised above the ground by plastic coke crates. I estimate the snow is over three feet deep below the hive.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

NPR Science Friday: From Hive Politics to Beekeeping

There was an excellent episode of NPR's Science Friday this past Friday about how bees communicate and make decisions when swarming.

The show was broadcast just before Christmas and the 200th birthday of Lorenzo Langstroth, the "Father of American Beekeeping."

I was especially impressed with the recorded sounds that bees make during the various stages of swarming.

You can find a transcript of the NPR show here and/or listen to the show on-line.
Here's the link to the MP3 if you want to download the show and listen off-line.

The Science Friday page has links to videos with segments including the "piping" sounds that the swarm produces when the decision has been made about the location of the new home for the swarm.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Between rain storms: An Iimirie Shim added as a upper vent & entrance

There was a gap in the rainstorms this Sunday that was forecast to last a couple of hours.  I had noticed some condensation on the Seran wrap where the styrofoam hive top feeder rested on the upper hive box.

With the hive feeder on top of the hive there was no way for water vapor to escape from the hive.

I put together an Imirie Shim that I had purchased some time ago. My plan was to put it on top of the hive box and then take the styrofoam feeder off and replace it with the brown plastic multi-feeder.

Outside temperature was 52 degrees. When I tilted up the styrofoam feeder I noticed that there were some bee on the bottom of the feeder.  I slid the Imirie shim in under the feeder but decided not to replace the styrofoam feeder with the multi-feeder until later when the bees were clustered.

Before I packed it in for the day I tacked a wooden hive reducer to the front of the upper hive box, just below the opening of the Imirie Shim.  I wanted to provide the bees with a little landing ledge for when they returned from their cleansing flights on the warmer winter days.

By having the opening toward the front, I figured that air would enter from the lower front entrance and travel up the front wall of the hive and out the opening of the Imirie Shim.

One final act was to put a perforated transportation entrance closer across the lower entrance, with the movable section pushed toward the center so the bees could go in and out at their habitual location, on the left side of the "front porch".

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Wednesday 11/10/2010
New York Arsenal
Central Park, 64th St, and 5th Ave.

The first lecture of the Fall Series given by New York City Beekeeping took place at the New York Arsenal last Wednesday, November 10th. The Arsenal is a huge old building located just inside Central Park where East 64th Street terminates at 5th Avenue.

Jim Fischer conducted the class and Liane Newton, the current Organizer of NYC Beekeeping, handled the sign-in table and helped keep things moving along.

The room was packed and most of the seats were taken by the time I arrived. Over 140 people had signed up for the series of FREE beekeeping classes and some people had to be put on a waiting list.

As more people arrived and people were left standing without seats, Liane and I went up one floor to the outdoor terrace and brought down 10 extra seats. The seats were a little stiff from not being opened and closed regularly so it took a bit of trial and error, as well as a bit of muscle, to get them set up. Eventually everyone had a place to sit.

In the meantime Jim had started the slide show. I’d seen some of his slides before at various events conducted by the NYC Beekeeping MeetUp this summer, but most covered material that was new to me.

The material covered was both interesting and informative. It included introductory material about the different kinds of bees, the anatomy of the hive, and the kinds of forage available to bees in NYC.

One fact Jim mentioned that may not seem immediately obvious to new and future beekeepers in the City:

Bees make their living mostly off trees.

So trees provide the majority of bee food in the city. Beekeepers need to know more about city trees and be involved in the city treescape. The City has a program called A Million Trees. Beekeepers should make a effort to influence the types of trees planted to insure that they are species that provide forage for our bees.

(This is a good place for me mention that I am putting together a Google Map of bee-related information for New York City. The map will contain the location of forage trees, empty and abandoned lots in need of flower seeds, and the approximate locations of bee hives – located to the nearest block or intersection to protect beekeeper privacy.)

One of Jim’s slides two columns showing the contrasts between what the bees want and what the beekeeper wants. The following is from my notes, and I only jotted down the beekeepers wants, so the bee side of the table below may not be completely accurate.

The Bees Want:
The Beekeeper Wants:
Build-up ON the bloom.
Build-up BEFORE the bloom.
To use any queen they can come up with.
To keep the queen provided.
Produce a normal number of drones.
Produce fewer drones.
To reproduce by swarming.
Make honey to survive the winter.
Make as much honey as possible.
Make new comb when needed.
Make new comb often on the beekeepers whim.
To defend their hive.
As few stings as possible.

One item that came up during the discussion was that Tim, who has kept bees for thirteen years and runs the blog Borough Bees, is interested in obtaining one or more swarms of bees to provide hives for the Value Added project in Red Hook. So keep him in mind when swarming season arrives if you wind up with an extra swarm and no place to put it.

General information:

The series of 10 (or possibly more) classes will be the equivalent of a college course in beekeeping.
This set of classes and demonstrations is intended to provide a cost-free comprehensive foundation for new beekeepers and to foster a community of cooperative beekeepers who work together throughout the year to help each other learn more about beekeeping.

The goal of NYC Beekeeping is to operate in a non-profit mode, to help people get own bee equipment at a discount through group purchases. Larger pieces of equipment to harvest wax and honey will be shared as a group co-op purchase.

People will be given an opportunity to extract and bottle their own honey as a group in a proper commercial kitchen. People were told that messing up their own kitchens is something they would not want to do.

(All of the above is a refreshing contrast to other bee “courses” I have seen offered in the city that provide a single one-day class for something like $150. The other organization also asked for part of your honey crop if you used their equipment to extract your honey. )

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Brooklyn Beekeepers Club Anual Honey Tasting & Open Bar

Last night I attended this months meeting of the NYC Beekeepers Assoc and saw a handout for the following:

Honey Tasting
The Brooklyn Beekeepers Club's Annual Honey Tasting will be held Thursday Nov. 4 from 6-9pm at Choice Greene, (214 Greene@Grand) Brooklyn.

One block from the 'G' train on Lafayette/Classon or a 10 minute walk from the 'C' train at Franklin.

$12 at the door includes open bar (with our signature honey sangria), the honey tasting, and chance at dozens of door prizes!

$5 at the door if you bring honey to sample.

*FREE for BBC members

(I learned that $20 memberships for the club will be available there)
See the handout at:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bee on the salt shaker: What do you do?

I was preparing lunch this morning in my kitchen and reached for the salt shaker. On the top of the salt shaker was a honey bee.

She probably flew in through a gap in the cat door last night, attracted by the neon lights in the kitchen.

What would you do? Pick up some solid object and try and smash it?  This would be a violation of Rule One of beekeeping.

Rule One: Don't box with bees. They are faster then you are.

What I did was to gently pick up the salt shaker, open the back door, stick my arm out of the back door and give my wrist a sharp twist, dislodging the little honey.

The is not the first bee I've found in my kitchen in the morning.  Several times it the past I have entered the kitchen on a bright summer morning and found one or more bees trying desperately to get out through the closed window or screen.

My solution at such times was to pick up a hand towel, press it gently against the glass, scrunch it up slightly and then shake it out on the back porch, freeing the bee.

A much better solution then going postal on the bee.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturdays NYC Beekeeping meeting for Fall and Winter preperations.

I just gave 4 stars to FALL & WINTER PREP FOR YOUR BEES meeting run by New York City Beekeeping.  

If you want frequent eyes-on and up-close bee knowledge presented in a format that is free and open to all, then the NYC Beekeeping is a constant source of satisfaction for NYC beekeepers.

In spite of subway problems and feeling under the weather I was glad I attended.

The single tip to paint the edge of your queen excluder red so you can see it at a glance and be reminded to take it off your hive before winter starts could, by itself, make the difference between disaster and a live hive in the Spring.

The slide show was full of useful images that illustrated the right an wrong ways to go about caring for your bees.

I still find myself thinking of the two images of bees treated with powdered sugar. On the left was a bee that looked normal if a little pale. This was a bee that had been properly "poofed" with powdered sugar.  The right side image showed bees that were so over coated with powdered sugar that they looked like some strange breed of bees that spend their days flying through Antarctic blizzards.

If this blog entry is being read by the new crop of beekeepers in following years then be sure to attend NYC Beekeeping Fall and Winter prep meeting the next time it is offered.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Work is the Curse of the Beekeeping Class

Consider this quote from Oscar Wilde:
     "Work is the curse of the drinking class."

Isn't the same thing true for beekeepers?

It's getting cooler in the mornings and the bees are not hanging out on the hives' porch when I go out to get my daily "fix" of observing the comings and goings of the little honies before heading off to my job.

It's warmer in the middle of the day and no doubt they are out and about, but I won't be there to see them.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde:
Work is the curse of the beekeeping class.

(But it gives the hobbyist beekeeper the where with all to buy the necessary hive furniture.)

Saturday is supposed to be mostly sunny.

Sunday's forecast is for showers.

Anyway, you can find me att the Pacific Standard down on 4th Avenue, 7 PM Friday nights after work, having a pint of fine microbrew beer, if you want to join me in drowning my sorrows.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Warning to Bugs

I found this bit on the internet and had to grin. I hope no bees were harmed. 

A Notice to Bugs found on a Buddhist Temple

Notice to Spray Pesticides

   This is to inform all ants, insects and other creatures
that we will be spraying pesticides in 5 days time. This 
temple is a place for cultivation. Please do not disturb or
cause alarm to residents. We hope all ants, insects and other
creatures can leave this place as soon as possible to avoid 
being harmed.
    We hope all guarding spirits can help insure all these 
creatures leave the temple in time.
   We dedicate all merits from the Compassionate Mantra 
to all ants, insects and other creatures so they can be reborn 
in the Pure Land of enlightenment.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I found this poem on thee BEE-L mailing list
and tried to contact the author to ask if it had been published anywhere
but never got a reply.

I feel this poem resonates with the theme of this blog.


Our abode is modest—small wooden boxes
painted cloister-white, scattered upon a
sunny hill.  There we sustain our meager
existence on eager diet of water, honey, and
pollen we gather in the wild.

We are all filial piety.  We cluster around
our Mother Superior, who bore us into our
existence.  We will defend her, our abode, and
our way of worship to death.  Kamikaze runs
in our veins, and we each carry a dagger.

Daily we divide our simple chores: baby-sitters,
maintenance crews, guards, and hunter-gatherers.
Practicing Puritan work-ethic, we trod miles to
collect nectar, our bread and butter.  Unsung
environmentalists, we live in perfect harmony.

We seldom talk, never balk, for we know talk
is cheap.  We communicate in silence and a few
body-languages.  We respect tranquility—-our
modus operandi.  We do have a few men around
for emergency.  Like most men, they wax their
one-track minded thoughts day in day out.

Large mouths, they consume three times as much,
and when they are around, they call too much
attention to themselves.  They are expendable.
At the first sign of frost, we abandon them, for
they are big and fat and lazy and stupid.

We rise to work at the first hint of dawn; we
toil the natural soil till Vespers, the sixth of
the seven canonical hours.  Throughout our
hard lives none of us whine—-we are content.
When our body can no longer house our soul,
we know the time has come.

Quietly we leave our humble abode behind
to meet the face of our maker, alone.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cartoon: Become a Beekeeper! (Shipping and Handling Extra)




SEND $9.99

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Honey Trail and Leatherwood honey

The speaker at tonight's NYC Beekeepers Association meeting was Grace Pundyk, author of The Honey Trail.

She gave an excellent slide show with pictures of her hives at her home on Bruny Island, Tasmania and her honey travels in Yemen, Borneo, Turkey, Russia and China.

I reserved a copy of the book at the Brooklyn Public Library.

On the way home I got off the Q-train and stopped in at the Big Bananna on Kings Highway. I had remembered seeing Tasmanian Leatherwood honey for sale there years ago and they still had some bottles. I picked up a 17.5 oz bottle for $9.99.

 Amazon has it for $12.99.

Here's  a link to a map of where the honey comes from in Mole Creek, Tasmania.

I must have passed right by the place a decade ago when a friend of mine and I were on our way to climb Cradle Mountain (zoom out and pan to the left).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Koan of Ones: A Small Batch Way of Feeding Bees

What does feeding bees have to do with the formula: 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 equals 1 to 1.

The late, great Certified Master Beekeeper George Imirie had over 70 years of beekeeping experience when he died in 2007. In his writings he often pointed out that having drawn comb was the best asset a beekeeper could have. He also wrote that bees will not draw out frames of foundation into comb without the presence of a nectar flow. In the absence of a natural nectar flow it is necessary to create an artificial nectar flow by feeding bees a mixture of one part sugar and one part water.

Most of what you read on making sugar water for bees deals with mixing large amounts at one time. As a beginning beekeeper, raising bees in an urban environment, I find it inconvenient to buy and mix large amounts of sugar water in one batch. I travel by bike or mass transit or foot so I tend to buy sugar in five pound bags. I have a fair size pot to mix the solution in, but if I mix more then 5 pounds of sugar at a time it tends to get messy. In addition, since I transport the sugar water from the kitchen to the hive in 2-liter bottles, it is awkward to carry more then two 2-liter bottles at a time.

How do you turn a five-pound bag of sugar into a 1 to 1 mixture of sugar and water?  If you remember the rule of thumb “A pint’s a pound the world around” you can calculate that you need 5 pints of water to mix with 5 pounds of sugar. However, measuring out 5 pints of water can be a tedious process involving pouring measuring cup after measuring cup of water into the pot. And what if you get distracted and have to start over?  Sigh.

After mixing up the sugar water you have to store it somewhere until you can get it out to the bee hive. As mentioned above, I find two liter bottles convenient for this purpose. Since the mixture has to go into two liter bottles anyway, why not use the same bottles to measure out the water?

I went to the Google search engine and typed in the “5 pints in liters”.  Good old Google came back with the answer: "5 US pints = 2. 36588237 liters.”

This told me I needed to pour ONE FULL TWO LITER BOTTLE OF WATER into an empty pot.

I went back to the Google search box and typed in “cups in .36588237 liters”. Google answered with “.36588237 liters = 1.54649435 US cups”.

This told me I needed to add ONE FULL CUP OF WATER to the pot.

After that I had to add ONE HALF CUP OF WATER to the pot.

At that point I was “close enough for government work” to being finished measuring out the required amount of water. 

I heated the water to boiling and then waited half an hour for the water to cool. This is very important because if you pour sugar into boiling water the sugar may caramelize and be bad for the bees.

After the water had cooled enough so that I could touch the side of the pot without burning myself, I added the five pound bag of sugar to pot and stirred it until it was completely dissolved.

The sugar water was then poured into two 2-liter bottles, almost filling them.

If you follow this procedure you will end up with a convenient amount of sugar water to feed your bees the 1 to 1 mix of sugar water required to get bees to draw comb from foundation. Let the water cool to room temperature then pour it into the feeder tank on your hive.


ONE 2-liter bottle of water     plus
ONE cup of water                  plus       
ONE half cup of water            plus
ONE 5-pound bag of sugar   
ONE to ONE sugar water that will almost fill two empty 2-liter bottles.

Thus the Koan of Ones:
A Small Batch Way of Feeding Bees
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 equals 1 to 1.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why Dō - A Way with Bees

If you look up Do (Way) in Wikipedia you will see it described as a spiritual, martial, or aesthetic discipline that evolved in Japan.

“In Japanese, a Dō implies a body of knowledge and tradition with an ethic and an aesthetic, and having the characteristics of specialization (senmonsei), transmissivity (keishōsei), normativity (kihansei), universality (kihensei), and authoritativeness (ken'isei)”

If you surf to the article that contains a List of Dōs you will see it includes various martial arts such as my personal favorite Aikido, the Way of harmonious spirit, which is described as Compassionate hand-to-hand fighting.

In addition to the martial arts you will see many dōs that, like beekeeping, are not of a combative nature. These include:
  • Chadō, or sadō, or chanoyu, the Way of tea
  • Kadō or Ikebana, the Way of flowers
Flower arrangement
  • Kōdō, the Way of incense/fragrance
Appreciation of incense
Traditional Japanese brush calligraphy
  • Tao or Dào (Chinese usage), the Way of the universe. The cosmic ordering principal of nature.
Inspired by the above list I suggest that it might be useful to consider developing and exploring a Way of Beekeeping.

If Aikido is the Way of harmonious spirit, then perhaps a portmanteau word could be duct-taped together, MacGyver-like, to create the term:
AiBeeDo : the Way of harmonious Beekeeping.

The westernized loanword akidoka, meaning “a person practicing the art, regardless of their degree of accomplishment” could be further modified for use in a beekeeping context to create the term: AiBeeDoKa: a person practicing the art of harmonious beekeeping.

Perhaps a shorter term, beedoka, might be easier to remember as a way of referring to a person practicing a harmonious Way of being with and keeping bees.

As an urban beekeeper, living in a dense residential neighborhood in a Big City, I think that developing a Way of keeping one or two beehives in a harmonious manor might be a Good Thing for myself, the neighbors, and the bees.

Discovering, navigating, and sharing that Path on a regular basis is my intention for the Beekeeper’s Dojo.

- Dennis

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Dojo?

I'm new to blogging and new to beeKeeping.

When beekeeping was legalized  in New York City in March of this year, I became a member of two local beekeeping organizations: the New York City Beekeepers Association and the New York City Beekeepers Meetup Group.

As I learn more about beekeeping from the local the beekeepers organizations and from surfing the internet I needed a place where I could pass along what I had discovered to other "NewBees" and get feedback from others on the same Path.

Over a decade ago, when I turned 50, I took a year of beginners classes at Aikido of Park Slope twice a week. The experience at the dojo taught me the value of commitment to practicing on a regular basis.

If you look up the word Dojo on Wikipedia  you will find it described as a Japanese term that literally means "place of the way"  The term dōjō is also used to describe the meditation halls where Zen Buddhists practice zazen meditation.

I intend the Beekeeper's Dojo to be a place where I can post my meditations, insights and lessons learned as I proceed in my practice of beekeeping.