Philadelphia Area Beekeepers to Picnic in our Garden

August 1st, 2012

The Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild will hold their Annual Summer Picnic in the Garden from 2:00 to 6:00pm.

The Honey House Goes To Work

May 17th, 2012

Almost one year after construction began, the Honey House portion of the new shed system began processing honey. This afternoon, Caroline and Don used the extractor for the first time.

Don & Carolyn test driving the new machine & kicking its tires

The extractor was installed within the last few weeks and Don, who is in charge of and has access to bee hives at Green Grow Acres brought a number of frames filled with wax and honey to the garden to give the new system a test. Read the rest of this entry »

Bombus Rides Again

April 21st, 2012

Sharron Cohen, with her inimitable sense of style and language, has just posted an informative and whimsical article on bumblebees in Bug Blog. Take a look, I’ll bet you’ll discover a fact or two which you didn’t know.

Sharron Cohen’s Amazing Bee Photos

March 23rd, 2012

CLICK ON PHOTO to view more amazing bee photos

We are also very lucky to have Sharron as an honorary guest blogger for the ever-popular SWQVgarden Bug Blog.

New Equipment Purchase for Honey House

February 11th, 2012

Queen Village Neighbors Association recently awarded our garden a $5000 grant to purchase equipment for the Honey House. Items identified were an extractor, decapping tub, shelves and a multipurpose workbench. The shelves will be installed on the west side of the Honey House and will replace the shed where we currently store our bee equipment.

The decapping tub and extractor mean we no longer have to travel to Delaware to extract the honey. The workbench will provide an indoor space to work on garden maintenance projects. Space will also be available for early seed plantings. Our new equipment arrived February 12, 2012, and we have begun the work of assembling it.

Carolyn holding honey frame over new decapping tub

The bees cap each frame of honey with beeswax in the process of converting nectar to honey — we cannot extract the honey until we remove the wax cappings. The decapping tub and a special hot knife allow us to do this.

The new honey extractor drum

The extractor is a cylindrical stainless steel drum inside of which are baskets arranged in a radial fashion. Each basket holds a frame filled with honey. The frames spin around and around in the extractor’s revolving drum. This creates a centrifugal force which causes the honey to separate from the comb and flow to the bottom of the extractor.

We strain the honey as it flows out of the bottom via a honey gate and into a honey bucket. After the honey settles for several days, it is ready to be put in jars.

After the honey is extracted, the frames with comb are returned to the bees for refilling. Beekeepers regard these empty combs as “white gold” because they allow the bees to get right back to work manufacturing more honey rather than having to spend time and energy laying down new comb.

Arrival of Honey Extractor

February 11th, 2012

The long-awaited arrival of the honey extractor will enable SWQV beekeepers to expand their program and possibly offer honey extraction services to local beekeepers.

Left to right above: 1) Carolyn displaying new motor for honey extractor, 2) Thom dragging equipment to the Honey House, 3) Packing materials, 4) Closeup of the new motor, 5) Carolyn inspecting new extractor, 6) SWQV Beekeepers Don Shump and Carolyn.

Thom writes: ”After hours of waiting for the delivery truck, Caroline and I met him on Washington Ave. and literally in the middle of the street, transferred 5 boxes into our two cars. We dragged everything into the garden, opened it all up, and we now have a honey extractor of our very own…Caroline was so proud…she has high hopes that one day it will go off to college.”

Unusual Bee Swarm on September 4

September 18th, 2011

It is unusual for bees to swarm this time of year, but one of SWQV Garden’s hives did just that on September 4 — and roosted high in an overhanging tree limb while scouts surveyed the area for possible new nest sites.

Thousands of bees out on a limb

Our beekeepers tried to lure the colony back to their old hive by baiting it with honey and placing it high on a ladder underneath the limb where the colony temporarily rested. The photo below shows beekeeper Carolyn keeping watch over the hive as it decided where to establish its new home. Unfortunately, after a few days in the tree the hive flew off to an unknown destination. Carolyn worries that they will not survive because they do not have time to store sufficient honey to get them through the winter.

Carolyn watching bee scouts evaluating their options for a new home

Photos courtesy of Cheryl Shugars

Article on Native Bees by Carolyn Scott, Sept. 2007

May 24th, 2011

No one knows exactly how many species of bees there are in the world. More than 20,000 species have been identified and there may be many more. All bees, through pollination, are essential to the reproduction of many flowering plants. They also play a vital role in increasing food production especially fruits and vegetables.

Most people, when they think of bees, are referring to the honey bee,  Apis mellifera, commonly found in the garden. The honey bee is a pollinator as well as a producer of honey. However, the honey bee is not native to North America. It was imported from Europe in colonial times. Before it arrived there were just native bees.

There are over 4000 species of bees native to North America. Unlike the honey bee, most native bees do not live in colonies or have queens. They are therefore known as solitary bees. The exception is the bumble bee. It is classified as a social bee because it has a queen and lives in a colony in the ground.

Native bees come in many sizes. They may be small as a gnat or large as a bumblebee. Their colors range from black, brown, green to metallic blue. They are unlikely to sting because they do not have large nests (hives) or a store of desirable food (honey) to defend. Some cannot sting at all. They can be found in parks, gardens, along roadsides, and in open fields. They are active spring to late summer. They nest in the ground, in holes in wood and in hollow reeds. In many species the fertilized female makes her nest, provisions it with  pollen and nectar, and lays her eggs. Offspring most frequently emerge the following spring.

Native bees are fun to watch for they are easily approached and have fascinating behavior. Their favorite flowers in the spring are the pussy willow, cherry, and blooming cattails. You can see them dart from flower to flower collecting pollen in yellow clumps on their hind legs or simply feeding on nectar. Their nests are often burows the size of a pencil along dry, sandy trails or roads. Bumblebees, in the spring, can be seen flying low to the ground, landing and crawling amongst leaves. They are looking for new nests. Their favorite spots are old chipmunk, mouse or mole burrows.

The world of the bee in under threat primarily because of the loss of habitat and use of pesticides. Some species are threatened with extinction. You can help these beneficial and vital insects by offering them honey. Gardens with a variety of flowers provide food throughout the seasons as well as nesting sites and building materials.

For more information check these websites:

Beekeepers at Work: Inspecting the Hives

May 1st, 2011

Click on photo to see album

Winter Beekeeping

February 7th, 2011

Beekeepers worked in the snow to temporarily move hives while trees overhanging the apiary & patio were topped and pruned on January 8, 2011.

Click on photo to view photo album