Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Weekend: Exciting Things

It was a long weekend, but I got a LOT done, all of which I'll be talking about here over the next couple of days (promise.) Last week, I gave you a picture preview of at least one of the things accomplished this weekend- all of the honey in those supers has been extracted, bottled, and stored (and eaten).

Today, however, I am preparing for the NEW New York, a DIY-themed green block party that is being held on Saturday October 2nd at 3rd street between Hoyt and Bond in Gowanus. I was kindly asked to host a beekeeping table, so I will be there armed with beekeeping equipment, flyers, and yes... BEES!


Here's the official blurb:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hive Tools: 101

Take a minute to consider the lowly hive tool. They are rarely discussed, yet they are one of the few basic tools (along with a veil and a smoker) that every single beekeeper requires regardless of comfort level or experience. It is more or less impossible to do any manipulation of your hives without one. Bees are remarkably good at gluing EVERYTHING together. In the week or two between inspections, your bees will seal every single crack with propolis. Inner and outer covers? Superglued. Hive bodies? Unified in stickiness. Frames? I've seen all ten frames hoisted out as a single unit. (Don't do this.) Without your trusty hive tool, you might get as far as seeing the bees fly in and out of the hive (which, for the record, is pretty enjoyable), but you won't get much further.

In the showcase: A variety of of hive tools!  Show us around the fabulous prizes, Becky!
Image from

Hive tools are used for the following basic beekeeping tasks:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beekeeping 101

As some as you may know, I'll be teaching an Introduction to Beekeeping course later this month at Brooklyn Brainery. One of the reasons I started this blog was to share basic beekeeping information with anyone with the curiosity or desire to read it, especially those individuals looking to try beekeeping on their own. Ideally, I want to build this blog into a resource covering beekeeping as a whole in an understandable and approachable manner. I hope.

So... be (I bet you were expecting a 'bee' pun there) on the lookout for articles with the 101 tag. In 101's, I'll try to focus on clear, concise, and balanced explanations of basic techniques, equipment, and more! When there are multiple schools of thought or courses of action, I'll cover all of the ones I know about, let you know which ones I've tried, and which ones I prefer, to help you sort through the dizzying array of beekeeping methods that threaten to overwhelm many new beekeepers.

As always, feel free to email me with questions or to suggest topics that you would like to see covered.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Against Idleness And Mischief

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

-Isaac Watts, 1866

Monday, September 13, 2010

Say Hello to My Little Friends

It is a little known fact that Tony Montana was an avid beekeeper.
Scarface and Tony Montana (c) Universal Pictures.

Obviously, I like bees. I don’t know if you’ve figured that out yet, but it’s true. I like the bees themselves, the honey they produce, the comb they build, the amazing and complex society they maintain- every aspect of this hobby is satisfying in its own unique way.

I anthropomorphize bees fairly often. Bees to a beekeeper are like pets; what cats and dogs are to most people. Talking about them, I might mention that they were in a mood (good or bad), or that they just wanted to be left alone for a while. There’s a good reason for this. Every hive I've worked with has had a different personality. An individual bee is just a bee, but a hive has a unique personality or character that is the product of a huge number of variables. Genetics, weather, food supply, and more all play a part in determining a hives personality. We’ll talk about all of those things later.

For now, I want to introduce you to some of my little friends.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ow... Part 2

So… you just got stung.

And it hurts. It’s important to remember that it’s SUPPOSED to hurt and not freak out. In part one, I talked a little bit about how stings come with the territory and how, eventually, you’ll come to accept it and lose your fear. Today, I’m going to tell you a bit about what may happen to you when you are stung- what falls in the wide range of normal reactions, and what doesn’t.

A common first reaction.  You won't be this person for long.
Illustration by ???

The vast majority of people will feel the sting first as a needle of pain at the sting site. Personally, I compare it to a hard pinch, and I think that the actual pain lasts about as long.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Interview with FarmTina

I was recently interviewed on a local (Brooklyn) based urban agriculture blog, FarmTina. I had a lot of fun answering her questions, and the experience encouraged me to start this blog. Read the interview, and when you're done, check out her site- it's really fun, and very informative.

FarmTina: The first question I think everyone wants to know... WHY?! Why beekeeping? And why do it in a place like Brooklyn?

Tim: I grew up in the country with parents who were very interested in growing and purchasing local, organic, and sustainable food. Going to get honey was my favourite trip, and every time we visited that beekeeper, I would pester him with questions- how do they make honey, how do they fly, does it hurt when they sting you, do you have names for them all, etc, etc, etc. By the time I was in Middle School, I knew that I wanted to do it for myself, so I did. With my dad's help, I purchased the gear, ordered some bees through the mail (which is a story in and of itself), and got to work.

Read more at!


It happens. Every beekeeper gets stung at some point, no matter how careful they are.

It comes with the territory.

The more you get stung, the closer you get to overcoming your ingrained childhood fear of bees, or anything that looks like them, and that's a good thing. It's important to remember that every sting is a sacrifice for the colony; another worker that won't be coming home and has to be replaced.

Bees are not out to get you.

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Bees

Bees can be shipped to you in the mail, which is both clever (or at least thought to be a decade ago) and a little bit scary for everyone involved. At a commercial queen raising company in Georgia or one of the other southern states, a newly mated queen is put into a wooden-framed, mesh-sided box with a feeding can and 3 pounds of her nearest and dearest. All in all, it amounts to 10,000 possibly cranky bees in a flimsy looking, open air crate, appearing ready to burst out in an angry swarm at the slightest provocation (or so it may seem to the average postal worker.) Unless you have a local beekeeper willing to sell you a 'nuc' (a 5 frame starter hive) or a local bee supplier who stocks package bees and isn't too terribly far away, ordering bees through the mail is a good (and sometimes lone) option. It's fast, easy, and barring any disasters, convenient, although it is now generally considered to be stressful for the bees.

Bees came into my life via a 4 A.M. call from the local post office on a school night.

"Mr. ONeal?"

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Bees?  In my neighborhood?

It's more likely than you think.

In this modern age of globalization and raspberries in January (I love raspberries in January), there is a growing trend towards locally grown and sourced foods.  CSA's, community gardens, and backyard farms are booming, and they all rely on the pollinating talents of the honey bee (Apis mellifera, for the technical.)

Smoking, legally.
More and more urban dwellers are exploring beekeeping as a satisfying, safe, and altruistic hobby and it's a trend that I hope continues unabated.

In many communities, beekeepers face an uphill battle.  People tend to fear bees (partially encouraged by sensationalist media reports of Africanized Honey Bees) and the first question they often ask is, "Isn't it DANGEROUS?"  Many of their concerns are unfounded, but there are years of prejudice and an instinctual fear of anything that stings to overcome.  Many beekeepers, urban ones in particular, keep their hives hidden for fear of being labeled a neighborhood nuisance, or worse, a menace.

I hope to use this blog to dispel some of those fears and teach people a bit about the science and art of beekeeping.  With a little bit of luck and help from my readers, beekeeper and non-beekeeper alike, I want to do my part to dispel the myths surrounding honeybees, educate, and maybe even inspire some to pick up a smoker.