What’s the difference: Solitary Bee vs. Honey Bee

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.

difference-poster-pt. 1

difference-poster-pt.2

There were a few facts I was very surprised by on this poster. How about you? For example, that 90% of worldwide bee species are solitary. The honey bee sure gets all the attention! Continue reading What’s the difference: Solitary Bee vs. Honey Bee

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Getting Ready for Mason Bees

mason bee house full

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

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Apitherapy: More Than Just Bee Sting Therapy

bee-pollen-colourful
Bee Pollen

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.

However, apitherapy is much more than just bee sting therapy. Although that is certainly the most dramatic form of this type of alternative medicine. Continue reading Apitherapy: More Than Just Bee Sting Therapy

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Product Review: Botanical Interests Best Seeds for Pollinators

PRODUCT: BOTANICAL INTERESTS SEEDS

PRICE: 2.99 – 18.99.

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

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.

An even simpler option is their packet of flower mix called Save the Bees Seeds. This mix is designed to bloom from Spring to frost and covers 60 square feet. Continue reading Product Review: Botanical Interests Best Seeds for Pollinators

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How to Save Money on Bee Hives: Sale & Full Price

photo credit: Joy Vanbuhler
photo credit: Joy Vanbuhler

Once you’ve decided to go ahead with your first beehive, the search is on for the equipment and supplies you’ll need. If you’re still on the fence about keeping bees check out this post on questions to ask yourself before starting.

The very first thing you need is, of course, a bee hive. If you’ve done a search for ‘bee hives sale’ or ‘cheap bee hives’, you know there are lots of options and it can be overwhelming. There are three basic types of hives: Langstroth, Top Bar and Warre. The most common one is the Langstroth, with stackable boxes fitted with frames see here. The top bar has (can you guess?), bars on top that bees build their comb from. These are becoming more common and there are lots of options on the market. The warre hive is less common, but is also a great choice for beginners. Most hive sellers have great information on their websites about the differences. This is an especially clear comparison chart of the three kinds from Bee Thinking in Portland, OR.

Take some time to read up on all of them to make the best decision for you. There is really not a right or wrong, from my point of view. Although beekeepers all have their own preferences. You will too.

photo credit: Lissa M. Cowan
photo credit: Lissa M. Cowan

It’s recommended to start with more than one hive, if you can. But, as you know, it starts getting a bit spendy pretty quickly. Most price estimates for the minimum investment are around $500 for ONE hive including bees and extras. This post is for you if you are short on cash or simply want to keep costs to a minimum to get started.

How to Save Money on Setting up Your Bee Hives: Sale or Full Price or Used?

Here are some ideas for ways you may be able to save money when setting up your first beehives.

      1. Consider finding some items used. Check beekeeping forums, Craigslist and local beekeeping associations for listings from beekeepers looking to clear out. Please note, it is very important if you are considering a used hive that you find out if the colony had any diseases or if any chemicals were used. This can affect your new hive and is the biggest concern with a used hive. However, great deals can be found as well. My local Craigslist had a used top bar hive listed for $100 this week. Beekeeping clothing can also be found used, along with other washable tools.
      2. Start with one hive only. This is actually not recommended by most advice I read, but it might be the only way you can get started if you don’t have the cash for more. One disadvantage here is that you’ll have nothing to compare it to, if something goes wrong. But it’s a start!
      3. If you are a wood worker, consider building your own top bar hive. These are the simplest kind to build and don’t require the extra parts that the Langstroth hives do. Plans can be purchased for cheap, however the cost of lumber may be a concern.
      4. Consider a starter kit that has everything you need (except bees) for one price. You may save a little money by getting it unassembled. The least expensive hives are mass produced Langstroth style hives. But as your hive grows you will need to add additional boxes and frames.
      5. Think about waiting to purchase any honey extracting equipment until the second year. Sometimes it is recommended to wait a year, letting the hive get well established before harvesting any honey. Look for alternative methods that require little gear.

I hope that these tips are helpful to you as you look around for the best deals and sales for beehives. I’d love to hear how your project is coming. Let me know how it’s going in the comments below.

Happy Bee-ing!

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Are You Ready to Start a Beehive? A Few Questions First

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. beekeeper_with_hive“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.

Continue reading Are You Ready to Start a Beehive? A Few Questions First

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Starting a Bee Garden: What Plants Attract Honey Bees?

wild flowersGrowing bee-friendly plants is one of the most helpful things each of us can do to help the the critical state of bees today. It’s spring and many of us are getting back out to the garden. Perhaps that display of seed packets has caught your eye at the grocery store. Whether you have acres or just a few pots on the porch, planting with bees in mind is a great idea. This is also a terrific way to involve kids of any age in gardening and in learning about bees and pollination. You could give each kid a small bee-patch to make their own bee gardens. What plants attract honey bees will vary by region. Check out this incredible resource for a specific pollinator-friendly planting guide for your region. You can enter your zip code and get a wonderful guide, tailored to your area.

A general list that works for most parts of the US and Europe includes the following: Sunflowers, Coneflower, Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Verbena, Catnip, Lavender, Sage, Rosemary, Oregano and Yarrow. Any of these would be a good place to start. Continue reading Starting a Bee Garden: What Plants Attract Honey Bees?

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Little Things You Can Do to Help Save Honey Bees

bee on flowerMost of us are aware that the last 25 years have seen alarming decreases in the numbers of bees. Bees are responsible for pollinating around 70% of our fruits and vegetables. The main reasons for their decline are pesticide and insecticide use (especially neonicotinoids), parasites like the varroa mite, a reduction in flower-rich habitat and monoculture farming practices. This dire situation has inspired many to learn beekeeping and start keeping their own bees. However, this requires a financial investment up front and for a variety of reasons, not everyone wants to keep bees. Not to fear, there are lots of smaller things you can do to help save honey bees. It can be as small as putting some flowers in your window box, buying local honey or donating to an organization that’s helping bees.

Small Ways that Anyone Can Help Save the Bees

Continue reading Little Things You Can Do to Help Save Honey Bees

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Raw Honey vs. Processed Honey: Know What You’re Eating

honey drippingThere is a lot of talk about the health benefits of honey. It seems that honey can do everything from prevent cancer to clear up your skin, depending what you read. But all honey is not created equal. The benefits depend on what kind of honey you are eating. And how you are eating it as well. We talked about the powerful benefits of true manuka honey in an earlier post. But what about the honey we use every day?

Raw Honey vs. Processed Honey: What’s the Difference?

Most of the honey in grocery stores has been filtered, processed and/or pasteurized. This means that all of the pollen and other good stuff has been removed and the honey has been heated. The pastuerization process heats honey to about 160° F.  The process of heating honey destroys the enzymes, antibacterial qualities and much of the naturally occuring nutrients found in raw honey.

If you are just looking to sweeten your tea, perhaps processed honey is just fine. However, if you would like to benefit from the many immune and health promoting qualities of honey, go for unprocessed, raw honey. Continue reading Raw Honey vs. Processed Honey: Know What You’re Eating

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What is Manuka Honey Used For?

If you don’t quite know what manuka honey is, don’t worry. I didn’t either, until recently. I heard from a reader that she and other horse owners use manuka honey with their horses for treating lacerations. They apply it directly to the wound. This intrigued me so I dug a little deaper. Turns out there are lots of answers to the question: What is manuka honey used for?  But first things first…

What Makes Manuka Honey Special?

manuka-tree-flower
Manuka or Tea Tree Flower

The manuka tree or bush is native to New Zealand and only grows in parts of New Zealand and Australia. While regular raw, unfiltered honey has tons of nutritional benefits, manuka honey takes this to a whole new level. It is much more nutrient rich with much higher levels of the enzymes that convert to hydrogen peroxide and result in powerful anti-microbial properties. Continue reading What is Manuka Honey Used For?

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