Bees-Day 7

I checked the new bees yesterday on day 7 and they have 3.5 combs built already with lots filled with the sugar water nectar I feed them. We are supposed to feed them for (I think a month) to offer support as they establish their hive which is good as we are not into the nectar flow out this way yet.

At first I couldn’t find the queen, even with a bright yellow dot on her (you can get the queen marked for easier ID). I mean how hard could this be on only 3 combs but I couldn’t see her. It took me 3 times of looking at the combs (both sides) before I finally spotted her. For a moment I thought she was gone, died or left but no finally there she was. They were hiding her!

The Queen is Out and About!

I got my bees last Wednesday and Sunday Caleb, Elodie and I checked them and the queen was released from her box (or as Elodie says-cage-which is more correct). The queen has a yellow dot on her to spot her easily. This will not harm her but helps you see her better. I gave them some more sugar water solution (until they get established) and they have already built about 1.5 combs of wax! Amazing. Busy as bees…

Bees- day 2


I checked the bees today and they still haven’t released the queen out of her own little box yet but probably will by tomorrow. The queen comes in a little box inside the big ‘shoebox’ with the rest of the bees. All the bees have to release her. If we humans released her right away, they would probably kill her as they are all not from the same hive and need to acclimate to each other. There is a little sugar plug on the end of the queen’s box which takes the bees about 3 days to eat through thus releasing her. While they eat the little sugar plug out, they are getting use to her pheromones and by doing so will accept her. The name ‘queen’ is actually a misnomer as she does not boss the others around but is really a ‘mother’ bee, in essence a baby machine! There is no ‘leader’ in the bee colony, all the bees make decisions by consensus and the colony thinks like one organism. Kinda like the Borg in Star Trek!

What do Bees Have to Do with Gardening? Everything!

So what are bees doing in a gardening blog? Why am I writing about them? Well, bees and gardens go hand in hand. Without bees we wouldn’t have our crops. They pollinate over 90% of all food crops in the world. So please bear (oh oh, bad word for bees) with me while I get another hive established on the property. I’ve learned so much from Caleb and his hive this past year and I’m very excited to get my own. I hope this year is better for the bees than last year. We need more rain this summer.


The bees are in their new diggs!

Wednesday we received our bees and put them in their new diggs (I mean home—I mean hive). Caleb came over early (7am) and realized the stand for the hive was too tall for me (he’s like 6′ 4″ and I’m 5′ 6″) and needed to be cut down so off he went back to his shop to work on it. Meanwhile the bees were delivered to our shop, Liquid Light Glass, (all quarter million of them!) and were surprisingly quiet. I think they liked the warm ‘hot shop’ after being in a cold truck. First we called everyone on our list to make sure they would get picked up that day. Then Caleb dropped off the stand and I went back to the ranch with the stand and the bees.  I set up and leveled the stand and hive (bees like their homes on level ground, just like us) while the bees buzzed crankily in their little shipping shoebox’ box (they did not like the ride on the dirt road). So I let them calm down before taking them over to their new topbar hive. We decided to put them in later in the day so they would have overnite to adjust to their new diggs. Caleb came out to make sure I did it correctly and Elodie took pictures of the ‘bee installation’. Amazing success and no one got stung!

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What’s the Bzzzzzzz?

Tomorrow the bees are coming!  That means about 240,000 bees will be arriving at the studio! Hopefully they will arrive around 9am INTACT. Of course they are not all mine but 15 total orders are on my order and Mike Masse has an extra 5 packages in his order. Honeybee genetics where we all bought them has ganged all the packages together and has used our studio address to deliver them to. The new owners of these bees will be coming and picking up their bees throughout the day. I have one package out of the 15. Each package weighs 4 lbs and there is about 3000 bees per pound so each package has about 12,000 bees to help all us budding or established beekeepers get our hives started. Caleb is coming out with my hive and stand at 7 am to place it on our predetermined site and then we will go to the studio to pick up the beezzzz to pick them up and then back out to the property to place them in their new home. Can’t wait!!

My First Bee Class with Les Crowder

Sunday I took my first official bee class (Intro to beekeeping) with Les Crowder. Mind you I’ve learned a lot in the past year with Caleb and his bees but I want to get more information and experience. Les is a professional top bar beekeeper with 30 years experience who also instructs. We all got to handle the bars with bees on them, find the queen and drones, pet the bees, and even divided a hive that was getting ready to swarm. The class was fantastic!  Can’t wait till the next class: Spring Hive Maintenance. The class couldn’t have come too soon- tomorrow the bees come!

I ordered my bees!

I ordered my honeybees! They’ll be the Italian variety. Benissimo! They say the Italian bees are very docile and gentle and great honey producers. They will arrive on April 27-overnited from Honeybee Genetics in California. I will get a topbar style of hive.

What do bees have to do with vegetable gardening? Everything! With out pollinators we would have no produce. We have many pollinators-hummingbirds, moths, butterflies, native bees, some beetles and of course the honeybee.

I already have some bees on the property but they belong to a friend of mine. I have learned from him about them and excited to get some of my own. Last year I put in some bee flower gardens to provide more food for them (I will continue putting in more this year as well) and of course they have the vegetable and pumpkin gardens to get pollen and nectar from as well. I was amazed how well the bees did out here considering we did not have a good year as we only got 2 rainstorms all summer and they were late in the season as well. But after we got the rain, lots of native plants blossomed and they were ‘busy as bees’ collecting their food in the fall until winter came. Now they are mostly holing up in their hive-much like we are.

Sunflowers and Flowers In The Vegetable Garden

Titan sunflower at dawn

The sunflowers are in full swing right now in the garden. In the entry way are ‘Titan’ sunflowers. I call them the guardian angels of the garden. They can get huge (up to 24 inches) although mine did not this year as they were planted late (like middle of June). Still beautiful.

Hopi sunflowers

Inside the entry are some other sunflowers-Hopi sunflowers, and Chianti sunflowers. We also have wild sunflowers that grow here in NM, they just haven’t found my garden yet.

Tip Top nasturtiums

I love the green and white dappled foliage of these Tip Top nasturtiums against the other greens in the garden.

Borage is a bee plant

Borage is a companion plant to strawberries and the bees love them too. I’ve never seen the strawberry plant so lush and the bees are crazy for them!

Scarlet Runner Bean

Scarlet Runner beans are a vining pole bean and produce a beautiful orange flower. Here a bumblebee is visiting some flowers.

Entrance to the garden

Scarlet Runner beans compete with the Rattlesnake beans for the arbor.


The zinnias look great mixed in with ornamental corn, tip top nasturtiums and cosmos.


The cosmos next to the silver leafed squash are in full bloom now.

All the flowers have added to create a beautiful entrance and attract beneficial insects as a bonus. I even saw some hummingbirds this year in the garden which I haven’t seen before. If you didn’t plant flowers in your veggie garden this year, you should perhaps consider them for next year. They add so much beauty and I love hearing the bees in the garden doing their thing.

Grow Sunflowers and Other Flowers this Year for Bees!

Queen of the Sun movie poster

Fact: Of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees. Without them, we would soon starve. We need to be educated and take care to not poison bees with pesticides and herbicides.  We need to protect the bees.

Just saw ‘Queen of the Sun’, a movie about bees and their plight and our plight in the world-Excellent movie. The movie won 8 awards at film festivals. Since I now have a bee hive on the property, I want to take care of them and their beekeeper, Caleb is going to teach me through the year. In return I hope they pollinate everything! Bees and gardening go hand in hand.

Along the same lines, believe it or not, I just saw an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ called ‘The Burns and the Bees’ that was addressing the bees problems and it was great! It was done in 2008. The bees are getting some press-even in a cartoon. Hope as humankind gets educated, the bees make a comeback!

In the meantime, grow some flowers and especially grow some sunflowers this year for any bees that may visit your garden. Sunflowers are not only beautiful to look at but the bees like them as well.  Also grow a succession of flowering plants through the whole growing season such as Russian Sage, Lavender, Asters, Black-Eyed Susan, Penstemon, Zinnias and Agastaches. These are a few of many flowering plants they love. You want lots of vegetables this year? Well, then help the bees find your vegetables by planting some flowers in your garden that they like. Also look at what pesticides and herbicides affect bee populations and avoid them.


Yea! Here is Caleb's top bar hive this morning

For 2 years I’ve been waiting for one of my beekeeping friends to bring over one of their hives but no one had any extra bees or top bar hive to bring. I’ve wanted bees to help with pollination in my veggie garden and thought what a great relationship that would bee. My friends get space to put their hive and I get pollinators.  I promise not to use chemicals that will harm the bees and will give them water. I didn’t think I would be interested in bees that much. I don’t want to take care of more things. I’m already overloaded. I just want pollinators and they can do the beekeeping thing. But still, I’ve wanted them.

closeup top bar hive this morning

So last week I was ecstatic when Caleb, a friend of mine, told me he would move his hive here to the garden area. Finally. Yea! I’ve been waiting with great excitement all week for him to come not quite knowing what to expect. Caleb is a 3 year beekeeper and I can tell by the way he talks about his bees that he’s good and he cares about them. Yea, like children-all 10,000 of them! (the hive will grow to around 50,000 this summer)

Yesterday afternoon he came over and scoped out the property to see where he wanted to keep his bees. He picked out a lovely site that was nestled in some trees facing southeast (that is the direction they want to fly out in the morning) plus they will get protection from the hot west sun and wind this summer. They would be within 50 feet of the vegetable garden. Excellent! He decided to put the top bar hive up on a stand he built. He dug a hole at the site and buried his stand so the top bar hive won’t blow away during our high wind periods. Then we had dinner and off he went to pick up his bees at sunset after they came home to the hive.

water for bees

While he was gone, I brought down a bowl of water and put some twigs halfway in it so the bees can walk down the twigs to get to the water. Caleb said you have to move bees at night because when they come out in the morning they will have to recalibrate their internal GPS so they can find the hive again by the end of day. He came back an hour after dark and he had the top bar hive with the bees inside covered with a towel in the back of his truck. They were upset about the bumpy ride on our dirt road. How do we know? Because they were LOUD! They were humming loudly and sounded upset-no actually they sounded pissed. Glad the towel was covering the hive. So he let them settled down and once they were quiet he picked up the box and with flashlights we took them to their new place.  After we got there and Caleb attached the top bar to the stand, a few bees came out just inside their entry hole to check it out but they stayed in. Wonder what the neighbors thought last night with us walking all over the property with flashlights carrying a coffinlike box! I’ll have to show them the bees!

First bee out on top of top bar hive exploring it's new surroundings

This morning was cold (about 38°F) so only a few of the bees came out to explore. While I’m working, they will come out when it is warmer. I hope they like their new property!

Later today, Caleb will come back and put up some plywood to protect the hive from rain (hah! fat chance of that) and he needs to put on their ‘porch’ that they like to land on when entering or leaving the hive. I wonder if bees have an air traffic controller for take offs and landings?! Perhaps they do have an air traffic controller. Perhaps our traffic controllers could learn a thing or two from their traffic controllers. I can see this is gonna be fun! I’m learning a lot from Caleb. Bees are fascinating creatures with an incredibly structured society. Caleb said they can follow the sun even when it is on the other side of the earth with their GPS-how cool is that?! Looks like I’m going to need a bee hood soon to learn more..