Category Archives: Beekeeper at work

Beekeeping Class at UNF Co-Op

Carson is collaborating with the Ukiah Natural Foods Co-Op to teach a series on beekeeping. Join us for Part I on Wednesday, August 16 at 6 pm. In this first class, Carson will provide a general introduction to beekeeping with plenty of time for Q&A. Subsequent classes will deal with timely issues: the winter class will explain how to start and care for a new hive, and the spring and summer classes will cover pest management, hive nutrition, and honey extraction.

Tickets are $5 for Co-Op members, $10 for non members: click here for tickets and more information.

Carson smoker

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It’s that almond time of year

If you drive through California’s central valley in the next month, you will see and smell the incredible expanses of almond blooms. Carson & Bees is pollinating orchards in Williams, which helps the business and also helps the hives bulk up for the coming spring and summer honey-making season.

Here’s a funny and  timely article about the different pronunciations of California’s favorite nut: http://kvpr.org/post/i-say-almond-you-say-am-end-whos-right

2017 almonds
Carson, just after unloading hives into the not-yet-blooming almond orchards

Carson & Bees receives Good Farm Fund grant

We are honored to announce that we are the proud recipients of a 2017 Good Farm Fund grant! We applied for and received funds to help us expand our business this year by buying new frames – this will enable us fill the empty boxes we own with bees to create new hives.

The Good Farm Fund, a project of North Coast Opportunities, is doing incredible work in the Lake and Mendocino County communities. They also throw excellent fundraiser dinners twice a year – once near Christmas and again in June – which are well worth attending.

You can learn more about the GFF here: http://www.goodfarmfund.org/

2017 bee frames
That’s a lot of bee frames! We bought them during a 40% off sale, which increased the grant’s impact on our business even more.

Carson & Bees adds two new members to the family

Hello! Since last we wrote, Carson and Elizabeth got married (September 18, so lovely) and bought a house in Ukiah (woo!) which we’re remodeling. Most notably for the business, we recently expanded Carson & Bees with Beasty and Turbo.

Carson purchased Beasty at auction in April, an F-550 diesel truck that he converted to a flatbed this summer. He is one handy man.

If Beasty is the curmudgeonly uncle of the team, Turbo is the snappy new fella. He is a Hummerbee “Turbo Standard” forklift, also diesel, a specialty piece of machinery specifically designed for driving pallets of bees through almond and fruit orchards. Together they’re quite a pair, and perfectly compliment their skilled leader!

We’ve been at the Ukiah Farmers Market almost every week, so come say hello any Saturday from 9-12 if you’re in the area. It’s actually a pretty impressive winter market – even in January and February we’re getting all of our produce there, plus cheese, meat, prepared food, cool crafts, and consistently good live music!

Fit for a queen

Honey bee hives will naturally produce their own queen, but it’s an imperfect system: sometimes the queen cell doesn’t take, or the queen dies (or is killed by bees who are still loyal to another queen’s pheromones), or the hive is not strong enough to wait a few weeks until its new queen emerges, mates, and begins to lay eggs. That’s why beekeepers often take matters into their own hands by breeding their own queens.

Carson taught himself this tricky and delicate process last year, with mixed success – some of his queens made it, but most didn’t. When you consider the precision involved, including exact temperature and timing requirements at all stages of the process, it’s a miracle this ever works out! With last year’s experience under his belt, Carson is at it again.  Here is is creating twenty queen cells. Fingers crossed that about half of them hatch… and that Carson’s timing is perfect so he can separate them before the first queen to emerge kills the rest!

queen grafting 1

queen grafting 2

To find out more about the laborious and varied processes of breeding queens, you can read this detailed explanation.

The art of shaking bees

It’s spring, and that means bees are available for sale to beekeepers who lost hives over the winter and want to rebuild, or new beekeepers who want to get started. (Note: we have a few packages for sale if you’re interested; call 489-1587 by May 5 to reserve yours!)

Bees typically come in three-pound packages with a new, mated queen. (Did you know that queens have just one 10-day window to mate, and if they aren’t successful, they can only lay unfertilized drone brood?)

bee packages
Carson hoists five bee packages on their way to be shaken into their new homes.

Installing packaged bees in their new home isn’t as simple as cracking it open and placing them on top of or next to an empty hive. You have to literally shake the little buggers out. Watch as Carson first removes the queen’s little box and places it in the hive, then cracks a can of sugary water for them to feed, and finally shakes the bees out (all without gloves). Be sure to turn your sound up!

Carson swears that it doesn’t hurt the bees to be shaken and even pounded out, though one can imagine they aren’t thrilled about it based on how many times he gets stung.

First honey extraction of the year

This year Carson & Bees was fortunate to have several hives in a gorgeous mustard field, and Carson was able to harvest 15 gallons of spring honey as a result – a very early extraction, but the supers were too heavy to resist.

Carson honey frame

Even with an automated extractor, it still took Carson and a friend several hours to uncap all the frames, and work went on well into the night:

extracting at night

The end result was well worth the effort!