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.