Luckily there are lots of places online where you can see gorgeous pictures of people making flawless beeswax candles. This post will not be that. Despite all the easily accessible information out there, I decided to go at it blind. I ordered 5 lbs. of pure beeswax from a local online retailer. It arrived at my house in a bag of little yellow pellets. How hard could making beeswax candles be? Well it turns out it was a lot more difficult than I thought.
Making Beeswax Candles
I had a vague memory of making lovely odd-shaped candles as gifts while in college. They were smooth, pear-shaped lovelies. My plan was that my daughter and I would whip up a quick batch as holiday gifts. I dove in blind, melted the wax in an old pot and started dipping away. It quickly became clear that we were missing some key piece of information that would have allowed our candles to look like, well, candles. Instead we got charming, but very lumpy blobs that I tried not to refer to as turds. Continue reading A First Attempt at Making Beeswax Candles→
The starter kit for Leafcutter bees from Crown Bees is called Beehaven and is a super inexpensive way to give raising native bees a try. It is the cheapest kit on their site at only 24.95. This includes a small bee house, paper tubes for the bees to nest in and 30 actual leafcutter bee cocoons. The kit comes with a certificate that you can redeem on the website to get your bees shipped to you when you want them and when they will thrive in your area. As I talked about last time, Leafcutter bees need quite warm weather. The Beehaven kit is very easy to mount. It is plastic and shaped like a miniature mailbox. The kit also comes with several tubes for the bees to nest in. The instructions suggest putting the bees inside the house with the cloth bag open when you first set it up. However this house is so TINY, that there wasn’t room for all the tubes and the bag on top. I ended up taking out a few of the tubes and sort of shoving the bee bag in. I (hopefully) didn’t squash any of the bees, as most cocoons were empty after about a week. Continue reading Review: Crown Bees Bee Haven Starter Kit for Leafcutter Bees→
There are two kinds of bees easily available online in the US and Canada that will come right to your mailbox in the regular mail: Mason bees and Leafcutter bees. I had a lot of fun setting up my first bee house and watching the mason bees go to town this spring. They don’t live long though and finally the weather here in the Pacific Northwest has gotten just about warm enough for Leafcutter bees. I bet you can’t guess how these gals protect the eggs they lay? They cut leaves to protect each egg.
As we’ve learned, here at Bees and Wax, there are thousands of kinds of bees beyond the honey bee. These are solitary bees that do not live in hives or make honey, but they do the amazing work of pollinating, so we all can EAT. Thanks again bees! Anyway, leafcutter bees are little, smaller than the Mason bee and need hot weather. They prefer it in the 80s (Fahrenheit), but the packaging from Crown Bees says they need it at least over 70 F. They use nesting tubes just like Mason bees, but instead of packing their eggs in mud, they use tiny pieces of leaves that they cut and carry to their nesting tubes or holes. Continue reading Welcome Leafcutter Bees→
What better way to learn about honey bees than by watching movies? Luckily there are quite a few very good documentaries about the bees. When I first became excited to learn all I could I hit the library and checked out the entire row of books dedicated to bees and beekeeping, as I talked about here. I learned a lot from the books, but I ran out of time and several went back to the library barely skimmed.
Watching a movie is just plain old fun, even when you’re learning about a complex subject. These three films are about much more than just bee anatomy, beekeeping and honey. Since honey bees and entire beehives began dying and disappearing about a decade ago, what is now called Colony Collapse Disorder, anyone involved in beekeeping or concerned with our planet has been on a serious mission to get to the bottom of this alarming situation. These three films are no exception. Each one takes a slightly different approach, but all have similar aims of educating us about what is going on and what can be done to make it better. Spoiler alert: Human’s are at fault. It’s actually more intense than you might imagine, going into this world of interaction between us and honeybees. But hopefully you will come away with a better understanding of the state of things, the issues we are currently facing, and possibly an interest in getting involved on your own
Queen of The Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?
My favorite of these three is Queen of The Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? directed by Taggart Siegel. It is actually free to watch on Amazon Prime, if you have that. All of these films can most likely be found at your local library as well. This is a fascinating journey into what has caused Colony Collapse Disorder. We get to hear from many beekeepers and scientists at the forefront of this worldwide crisis best natural weight loss supplements. We see organic beekeepers in France, Germany, Australia and the US and hear their differing opinions and relationships to bees.
We see how very recent human intervention through mechanisation, monoculture and chemical products may be forever changing the viability of bees. Continue reading 3 Movies about Honey Bees: A Fun Way to Learn About Bees→
My mason bees arrived a day early! They came in the mail, as if they were not living creatures. In a regular cardboard box, along with the cardboard nesting tubes I had ordered. The actual bees were in a teeny tiny cardboard box about the size of a thick slice of butter. The instructions from Crown Bees said to cool them in the refrigerator right away.
The information explained what to do if a few of the males had already come out of their cocoons. It said, “This shows that they are healthy, strong and lookin’ for a little lovin’.” That little lovin’ will mean death for the males, so hopefully they get at least a few days to enjoy life out of the cocoon.
My daughter and I took a peak into the tiny box, and two little guys were indeed already out. You can purchase something called a Humidibee for this purpose, but I had not. So we jabbed some holes in an old hummus container, popped the required sugar-soaked cotton ball in (for nourishment), covered it all with a brown paper bag, and there they went into the fridge, right between the strawberries and leftover soup. Apparently they can live up to five weeks out of the cocoon if they’re kept cold so they don’t move around. This seems crazy to me, but my experience level with all of this is, shall we say, at the beginning stages.
I found this great free downloadable poster about the difference between solitary bees and honey bees. It’s much clearer than anything I could write on the subject, so here it is! You can get your own for free right here.
Mason bees are great pollinators and relatively easy to care for. They very rarely sting and do not produce honey. They are solitary bees, which means they do not live in hives or have worker bees. Every female is fertile and they create nests to lay their eggs. This is what the bee house is used for.
I assumed getting ready for mason bees would be nothing more than a quick online read and maybe repositioning the bee house I bought almost a year ago. I was wrong. I got a small surprise while reading up on the Crown Bees website, where my bees are coming from. Nothing too dramatic, but I do want to do all I can to ensure the success of these little pollinators.
My bees will be arriving this week and I was planning to use the mason bee house I bought last year that has been hanging empty in the yard with no sign of bees anywhere near it ever since. What I leaned is that this bamboo house will not work (see below for why)! I quickly ordered some nesting tubes and will hunt around for something protective to put them in that will serve as the makeshift bee house. Continue reading Getting Ready for Mason Bees→
Gwyneth Paltrow got some attention recently when she told the NY Times she had bee venom therapy:“I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy. People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring.”
And Gwyneth is correct, people all over the world have been using bee products for thousands of years in a wide variety of medicinal applications. That spoonful of raw honey for a sore throat is one way many of us use it. And there are MANY other forms of apitherapy. For some of the healing uses of manuka honey go here.
ABOUT: Botanical Interests is a seed company with a huge selection, including many organic and heirloom varieties. Their seeds are non-GMO and high quality. Each seed package has detailed growing information, so everything you’ll need is right there. Their website is easy to use and you can search by seeds that attract bees or butterflies or by many other search options.
PROS: HUGE selection, non-GMO, beautiful and informative packaging, great prices, search terms include ‘attracting bees’, free shipping if you meet the purchase requirements.
CONS: Huge selection can be overwhelming to shop if you don’t know what you’re looking for, only two products that specifically mention bees, not all are certified organic, need to enter payment info if a first time shopper.
Bee Happy Seed Collection
This collection of 6 different seed packets is created to appeal to our native bees. It includes annuals and perennials in a variety of colors and sizes. A curated mix like this is a great and easy way to start if you don’t have specific flowers in mind, but want to attract pollinators to your garden.
I recently mentioned to someone that I was researching beekeeping and excited to start a hive on this Pacific Northwest island I recently moved to. I told her, “When I lived in the city, I didn’t even think about it, but now that I’m here in the country with all this space…” My friend interrupted me. “Oh, its hard to do bees here. They die. People spray a lot around here, you know.”
That got me thinking. There may be factors both within and beyond your control that are well worth considering before making the commitment (and investment) in starting your first hive. At the very least, it’s best to be well prepared and know what you are getting yourself into. Most advice suggests finding a mentor, or an experienced beekeeper to guide you your first year. If you don’t yet have that and, like me, are relying on books and the lovely internet to guide you, take a look at these questions to see if you are in a good position to get started.
Ready to start a beehive? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you buy your first hive.