Saturday, April 1, 2017

Plastic Queen Cages and Packages

Hey Folks, I noticed that this year Mann Lake has switched to using plastic queen cages inside plastic package boxes for their bee deliveries. A few people were unsure about how to use them, so I figured I would post a few pictures and explanations to avoid any bee genocides.

This is an (older) JZ-BZ queen cage, very similar to the one that came in the Mann Lake packages. They have a few advantages over the old wood kind, but aren't as intuitive to use.
Give them a sniff and you might notice a mild fruity smell. The plastic is infused with artificial queen pheromone to increase acceptance of new queens.

When you take the cap off, make sure you cover the opening with your thumb. The queen is quick. Make sure you don't catch a wing or foot. You'll want to stuff the entrance tube with a mini-marshmallow or some fondant to prevent the queen from getting out and the workers in the package from getting to her before her scent has permeated the new hive and overridden their instincts to reject the foreign queen.

The pink bar used to suspend the queen cage in the package can be snapped off the lid. Then it can be used as a bar to suspend the queen cage wherever you want it.

Gently insert the clip end into the grille on the side of the queen cage. Again, be sure not to catch any part of the bees inside. Be gentle.

One of the greatest advantages of the JZ-BZ queen cage is at the bottom. See the bar at the bottom? It pops out.

And when you pop it out, it becomes a queen excluder. The queen is stuck inside and protected from the mass of workers, but if you remove the bar, a FEW workers can pass in and out. This will massively speed up the rate at which her pheromones are spread amongst the workers in the package and make acceptance that much more foolproof.

Once the marshmallow is in and the pink clip inserted, you can press the pink bar through a frame with comb, like I have pushed it between my two fingers.
You should put it near the top of your hive, right between the two middle frames. The bees will cluster around it and keep her warm until she is released.

The new plastic packages. Each side is a door that opens up. Be careful NOT to open these until you have removed the feeder can and the queen cage.

With feed can and the queen cage removed, after the two side doors are opened, the entire package should open like a clamshell. The spread box can then be slowly turned over the hive and the bees can then gently be laid down on top of the queen. No need to shake, no need to remove frames. Just gently slide them in.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Red Hook Harvest Festival!

It's that time of year again! Bust out the observation hive, drink some cider, and talk about bees to anyone who shows up to the Added Value Community Farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The address is: 3-49 Halleck St, New York, NY 11231

If you are interested in coming and helping me man the table, shoot an email to Tim at BoroughBees dot com. You'll get some bee time, lunch, and probably some honey! Downside? Gotta be there early! 8:30-9 early! And it ends at 4!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Our Honey Week Events

As you know, Tim is one of the original founders of the NYC HoneyFest! The BoroughBees crew will be at the HoneyFest on September 13th, but if you would like to come say Hi, ask questions, or buy honey in a less hectic environment, we have two more FREE events for you to attend. Both are through the Gowanus Canal Conservancy!

Urban Ecology Lecture: 
The Role of Honeybees and Other Pollinators in Urban Areas
Timothy O'Neal - September 10, 2014, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM, FIND Furnishings (43 9th St., between Smith St. and 2nd Ave.)
Timothy ONeal, a local beekeeper and founder of, will lead a dialogue on the role honeybees and other pollinators play in our local, national, and global food systems. He will discuss how bees and humans interact with each other, and how those interactions may be improved and made more sustainable in the future. He will be joined for a Q&A session by fellow BoroughBee members Shelly Fank, Kimberly Rubin, and Olivia Weber. Please pre-submit questions to 
Tim ONeal is a New York City public school biology teacher who maintains and consults on hives throughout New York City. He has kept bees for almost 20 years and got his first two hives in middle school. He was as popular as that implies. 
Shelly Fank has worked as an environmental consultant, native plant conservationist, beekeeper, and puppet maker all over the U.S. She's migratory, but her bees are staunch New Yorkers. 
Kimberly Rubin came to New York by way of Maine by way of Illinois. This is her third season beekeeping in Brooklyn. In her spare time she enjoys reading novels that contain obscure references to bees. 
Olivia Weber is a private practice Art Therapist and Yoga Instructor in NYC. She has lived in over 15 states, but was born and raised in Singapore. She speaks Tagalog, enjoys cooking, and makes art. This is her 3rd year as a beekeeper living in constant awe of these tiny creatures. 
Click here to RSVP!

Local beekeepers at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy invite wanna-bees into our own Salt Lot for a tour of our apiary for NYCHoneyweek! Join the tour at Gowanus Canal Conservancy, September 14 at 11:30 a.m. 
To RSVP, email Kimberly at:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy...


 * TONIGHT! Tim from Boroughbees on NY1 Inside City Hall with Errol Lewis, Friday, 8/15 7pm and 10pm

* TOMORROW! Celebrate National Honey Bee Day Saturday, 8/16, approximately 11:45 with our weekly hive inspection in the Brooklyn Saint Marks Avenue Prospect Heights Community Garden at the Redwing Blackbird Hive (at St. Marks and Vanderbilt, behind Zaytoons)


*The Beekeeper  NYC film premiere featuring Boroughbees beekeepers. Wednesday, 8/20 at Anthology Film Archives (Lower East Side at 32 Second Avenue & 2nd Street) The evening program ( begins at 7:30 PM. The Beekeeper, the feature presentation, (trailer here: will screen at 9:15 PM. Tickets for the whole evening are $6 and are available at the box office the night of the screening. Filmed several summers ago, a New York City urban beekeeping documentary, screening on as part of the NewFilmmakers Summer Series.


*Urban Ecology Lecture Series at Gowanus Canal Conservancy: The Role of Honeybees and Other Pollinators in Urban Areas Wednesday, 9/10, 6:30-8pm at FIND Home Furnishing 43 9th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215   RSVP for free tickets here:

* NYC Honey Fest with Boroughbees observation hive and honey extraction events: Saturday, 9/13, 11am-sunset Rockaway Beach 97 (97th & Ocean) Free, daylong festival features art, food, music, film, kids’ arts and crafts, and a bee-product marketplace. Fun for the whole family, Honey Fest is a perfect way to close out the summer by spending the day at the beach.

*Gowanus Canal Conservancy Apiary Tour with Kim from Boroughbees: 9/14 11:30 AM to 12:15 PM on the Salt Lot at 2 Second Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215


*Tim from Boroughbees on WFUV Cityscape: The World of Beekeeping in NYC:

*Shelly from Boroughbees on Fiorella Eats (from Smorgasburg Food Book Fair):!Food-Book-Fair-Food-Book-Farm/c4ij/39F786DB-C8D0-4C7F-A31E-F69152CF2988

Monday, August 11, 2014

Public Extraction Pictures

We recently hosted a free public honey extraction, courtesy of the Brooklyn Kitchen, who provided the space, and additional assistance from Jim Fischer of NYC Beekeeping, who kindly lent us his motorized extractor and uncapping machine. Through their generosity, we were able to extract the honey of many community beekeepers completely free of charge! Minus a small jar of honey for my collection!

Prepping the extractor for the first load of HONEY.
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

We got there early to rinse out and set up all the equipment in the back classroom; having a real restaurant style Kitchen made a world of difference. All the honey buckets went into the industrial dishwasher and came out sparkling clean.

Beekeepers from around the city had been invited to sign up for extraction slots and began to show up almost immediately. With two separate extraction set ups, we got to work quickly uncapping the honey and getting it into the extractor.

Loading Loren's uncapped mediums into the motorized extractor. She brought quite a few helping hands!
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

The uncapper really did make an easy job compared to the knife method. Still, I never got it to work as quickly as the people in the videos! Maybe it takes practice....
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

The automatic 'sideliner' extractor is pretty cool, but works best on FAT frames that the bees have drawn out thickly. It works by rolling the frames between what look like curling irons, which press through the cappings, allowing the honey to flow out. If the frames are skinny, the wooden side bars will prevent the rollers from making good contact with the caps. When that happens, a quick scratching with the uncapping fork will take care of it.

Uncapping forks are great. I'm just gonna mention that. They're also super cheap!
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

The motorized extractor was great to have; it could empty 9 mediums in 2 or 3 mediums going full tilt. With a motor salvaged from an old washing machine, this thing packed some serious oomph and could get going at quite a clip. If the load was unbalanced, the entire thing would walk across the floor unless held in place. By me.

A way to minimize this is to snatch a wooden pallet from the street and secure the extractor to it using large screws or bolts. You can then get a lot of people to stand on the pallet and weight it down. It will still vibrate and be mildly terrifying, but it won't go flying off into the wild blue yonder.

Definitely NOT an OSHA violation.
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

Filters are slow, but effective... if you are patient.
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

Kim demoed the manual extractor and got her workout at the same time! Great!
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

The manual extractor isn't as fast, but is a bit more flexible. While the motorized machine can only take medium or shallow frames, the smaller manual extractor can take deeps, mediums, or shallows, in any combination, as long as you balance it. We noticed that the motorized model had problems with plastic frames; the side bars were too wide to fit in the guides, so they would go flying. Not a problem for the manual extractor! It took a lot longer to get the honey out, but for the people who brought honey in anything but a medium, it was the only choice.

She's a multi-tasker.
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

Honey Tasting and Sales Table
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

We also ran a honey tasting from our hives around Brooklyn. Almost all the honey was light and linden-y, although the moisture content varied significantly between our rooftop and garden hives, which affected the flavor significantly. 

Shelly, impressing the guests.
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

And impressed they were!
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

Mike brought about 36 frames of fresh linden honey. With the extractor going full tilt, it took less than an hour to process his honey from start to finish! In fact, it only took 18-20 minutes of spinning! Everything else was uncapping, prep, and clean up!

Mike, hard at work.
Photos Courtesy of Mackenzie Anne Smith.

Stay tuned for another free extraction event, coming up this weekend in Brooklyn, led by NYC Beekeeping. It won't be open for viewing by the public, but any beekeeper who has honey they need out will be able to sign up for FREE extraction slots!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Picture Dump

Been spending more time behind the camera than in front of it. Thought I would dump a few pics of what we've been up to for your viewing pleasure.

“Busy, busy, busy, is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable
the machinery of life really is.”

― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle

Olivia, inspecting.

Kim, copying.

Queen, crawling.

Worker, carrying.

Bees, festooning.

Neighbors, onlooking.

Frames, foundationless.

Ladies, curious.

Shelly, educating.

Plant, pollinating.

Nurses, caring.

Honey, dripping.

I feel like my photography has improved since I started the blog. My equipment has, at least. Wish I could say the same about my writing!


It's raining, it's pouring, the public hive inspections are canceled. 

You get the idea. No bees in the rain. Individual bees have less thermal mass than a raindrop. When a worker gets caught in the rain outside the hive, she will do her best to take shelter. If she gets wet, it is likely that she will lose so much heat that her wing muscles will cease to function. Without those muscles, she can't warm herself and she will die. 

I think there is a Death Cab For Cutie song along those lines....