Rendering Beeswax

Greetings!

Today we are going to talk about how to render the wax you’re harvesting from your Gold Star Top Bar Hives — some of the cleanest wax you can get. Here’s a picture of the rig that we use to heat the water and melt the wax. It’s a camp stove powered by a propane tank that you can’t see – it’s off to the right. This is a pot that we can’t use for anything else — it’s dedicated to this purpose. Wax is pretty messy, so be sure you’ve chosen a pot that you don’t want to make spaghetti sauce in next week!  Our pot is about one third of the way full with water in this photo.

Here’s a Rubbermaid tub full of beeswax. That a fairly big accumulation of wax. You’ll see what it boils down to in the end.

Here we are putting the wax into the water. We are using an old stick to stir with. The cement blocks that you see surrounding the camp stove are just there for a wind break. It’s not a requirement unless it’s windy where you are.  (Also in this pic you can see the propane tank.)

Thanks to Ray and Judy who came to help. They’re putting wax in the pot, stirring it up with the stir stick. You can fill the pot just about two thirds of the way full this way. You don’t want to go too much fuller because it will splash over.

So there’s a bunch of wax that was put in, and it’s melting down. You can see here that there’s a piece that hasn’t melted yet. The brown material you see is actually the cocoons that baby bees spin around themselves as they prepare to pupate inside the cell. So when you’re melting the wax, that material comes loose and floats to the top.  It looks a little bit like small brown quartz crystals.  We call it slum gum. So you you stir until all the wax is melted and all the slum gum stuff floats up to the top  (20-30 minutes).

Next you’re going to pour it through a strainer. Again, this is equipment that you’ll never use again for anything else, because it will never be the same again. This is an old kitchen strainer, very coarse, and a five gallon bucket. We are going to pour all of that hot wax with the slum gum through the strainer.

Be very careful doing this!!!  Melted  beeswax is very hot and you can get burnt pretty badly if you spill this on yourself. Here it is going through the strainer with a helping hand to hold the strainer in place. VERY CAREFULLY pour the entire contents of the pot through the strainer, into the five gallon bucket.

So here it is all poured. That’s a bunch of yuck in the strainer that you’re not going to want (except you could, if you wanted, save it to use as a fire starter — it’s loaded with beeswax and will start a fire pretty quick).  Essentially what you’ve done here is the first rendering of your wax. The brown stuff in the bottom of the bucket is wax and water, and the stuff in the strainer is the stuff you were happy to strain out.

We use that same stir stick from earlier to squish it and get more of the liquid to come out.

Now one of the neat things about wax is that, as it cools and hardens, it floats.  That means that bucket full of brown liquid that you saw a second ago now looks this when that wax has had time to cool and to harden up. It floats up to the top and makes a disk. The best way to get it out is to run a thin knife blade around the edges of the bucket, then you push down on one side of that disk and grab the other side of it, which has popped up to where you can reach it now.

Be sure that you’ve let it cool completely before removing it.
So there you go. We did just what we said: We let it harden, loosened it with a knife, pushed down on one side, grabbed the other edge, and lifted it out of there. That’s about a pound of beeswax.

And this is what it looks like on the backside. We wanted to get through that coarse strainer without having to stand there and wait and wait for the wax to drain, so there are still fine particles that floated up underneath the wax, and that’s what you see here.  We didn’t use a strainer fine enough to remove this debris in the first rendering.  A lot of this fine debris you  just scrape off with a spatula or other utensil with a firm edge – but it also means that, depending upon your intended use of the wax – it may require a second rendering. The second rendering we do by taking alternating layers of cheesecloth and putting them in that strainer, melting the wax down in water again,  and pouring it through the strainer again.

So there are two disks, approximately one pound apiece.  The one on the left shows the topside, the one on the right shows the bottom side. Again – please be sure that you use equipment that you have designated specifically for wax rendering because it will never be the same afterwards!  :-)

And there you have it, some of the cleanest wax in the whole wide world, straight out of your Gold Star Top Bar Hive. We hope you have a lot of fun doing this. We also hope you are very careful because beeswax is flammable.

Thanks for listening!

 

Bar By Bar Inspection Of Your Top Bar Hive

On Being A Good Wax Shepherd…
Or, Why You Need To Do A Thorough Bar By Bar Inspection Of Your Top Bar Hive.

Bar By Bar Inspection of Top Bar HiveTop bar hives, right or wrong, are considered a “natural” beehive.  And it’s true, top bar hives allow the bees to make their own natural beeswax comb.  Making their own comb lets the bees make a more natural cell size since they are not forced to use wax foundation with embossed hexagons preprinted on the wax; and the combs are made in the natural catenary curve shape that bees make when they are not constrained by rectangular frames; and natural beeswax honeycomb, made by bees, for bees is the primary reason that I advocate for top bar hives – although, to be fair (and accurate), you can keep bees in a Langstroth hive without foundation as well, it’s just that Langstroth boxes are so much heavier to lift than single top bars.

But somehow the idea of “natural” got tied up with the idea of “leave-em-alone” beekeeping, and here is where we’ve run into trouble.  We have asked the bees to come and live in this artificial box that us humans have made (whatever kind of box it is that we have chosen) and there’s really very little that is natural about asking them to do that.  So perhaps we need to shoulder some responsibility for making sure that what is going on inside that box is what needs to happen.

One important aspect of beekeeping today is that it is, of necessity, “managed” beekeeping.  If natural beekeeping is our focus, we should really look to “manage” in the most “natural” way possible.  But that is not the same thing as bonking your bees, pouring them into the hive and then going away and “leaving them alone” until August.  It just doesn’t work that way.

Neither does the idea of removing the shutter from the window, glancing at the visible edges of some comb, and saying, “Oh, they look good.”  There are only two things you can tell by looking through the observation window in your Gold Star hive, or any top bar hive, and they are:

  1. The feeder is full/empty – so you should leave it alone/refill it; and
  2. The bees have/have not built comb on all the bars in their space – so you do/do not need to add more bars.

This kind of inspecting does not constitute actual beekeeping – this is only what we call “bee-peeking.”

So what am I leading up to here?  Well, I’d like to coin a new term – the Triple B inspection.  What that means is that you need to regularly inspect your top bar hive “Bar By Bar.”   You need to remove and look at each and every bar of comb in your hive, thoroughly, in detail.   This is the only way you are going to gather all the information that you need to understand the status of your hive and your bees.  It is also the only way you can perform your biggest responsibility as a new top bar beekeeper – and that is shepherding your bees’ comb building.  There are plenty of sayings concerning the building of wax by bees – and the one that should alarm you the most, early in the season, with a brand new top bar hive, is this:  “A wax problem never gets better – it only gets worse.”  Your bees, should they get off to a bad start by cross combing, (building comb diagonally across multiple bars) will not suddenly just “figure it out” and start building comb straight on the top bars.  Each successive piece of comb will echo the shape of the one before it – it has too, remember?  The bees build their comb “bee-space” apart, and so the original “anchor bar” sets the stage for the entire rest of the hive.  If the bees choose to ignore your comb guide, and they may, because sometimes “bees do as bees please,” then you can quickly find yourself with a hive that you are unable to inspect at all, and quickly, in this case, can mean less than a week.

The primary requirement of managed beekeeping is the maintenance of “movable comb” – comb that you can remove from the hive and inspect for disease and other issues.  A bad case of cross-combing can make your hive a “fixed comb” hive – which was essentially declared illegal in the beekeeping world when many beekeepers’ fixed comb hives were wiped out in the early 1900’s by a huge American Foul Brood epidemic.

So it’s important that you be a good wax shepherd, especially in the very beginning while your bees are filling your brand new top bar hive with their beautiful natural comb, and it’s important to do thorough Triple B inspections, examining your hive bar by bar so that you are supporting your bees in the best way possible, and not just leaving them alone in their wooden box, and calling that natural.

And one more thing about inspecting… I am more than willing, when time permits, to talk with top bar beekeepers about what is going on inside their hives.  However – if you haven’t done a bar by bar inspection within a day or two of asking me to perform some “arm chair diagnostics” on your hive – then we probably won’t have enough information for me to ask pertinent questions, and I can’t really help you.  And while I love to be helpful – it’s not fair for you to usurp time from others who are doing responsible, thorough Triple B inspections and doing their best to manage their bees in a way that is both natural and responsible*.

So please… inspect.  Learn to do it quickly, calmly, thoroughly, and regularly.  Correct any cross-combing issues you encounter immediately.

Don’t let “natural” become “irresponsible.”  It’s important – for the bees, and for us.

*Stay tuned for upcoming Live Q&A Video-Cons with author Christy Hemenway, founder of Gold Star Honeybees.  For more information Join our Email Newsletter here.

 

How Gold Star Honeybees Supports Top Bar Beekeepers

Top Bar Hive WorkshopAt Gold Star Honeybees we are in the business of building top quality, effective, natural top bar hive kits. We started doing this back in 2008, testing different design features and different materials to make our kits the very best value, and to save new beekeepers from having to make all the same mistakes we made, inventing a top bar hive from scratch. We invest a lot of our time supporting our customers, novice and experienced beekeepers alike, and providing resources that help them keep bees successfully in Gold Star top bar hives.

We post videos on our YouTube channel – which you can subscribe to – where we answer many of the questions we get asked on a regular basis in video. We send out a regular Constant Contact ® email blast, containing lots of relevant information, that you can sign up for. We wrote a how-to book on keeping bees naturally in top bar hives – it’s called The Thinking Beekeeper – A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives – which you can buy from Gold Star Honeybees ®, or from Amazon, or from your local bookstore, in fact, you may even be able to find it in your local library! We have an active Facebook page where we post lots of current events and links to interesting stuff, and where you can post stuff too, and we manage a top bar beekeepers group at yahoo.groups.com, where top bar beekeepers can exchange information and even find each other in the real world, to mentor and support each other.

So it’s a little amusing when we get a call from someone who is completely frustrated with the top bar hive that they built, and they beg us to save them from themselves. Don’t get me wrong, we love it that everyone is getting it that bees are important to our food system, and that so many people are clueing in to the fact that without bees, there would be a VERY limited amount of food available, and it’s great that so many people have gotten so interested in and become so passionate about beekeeping.

But surely folks, you realize that I didn’t start this business immediately after tumbling off the back of the turnip truck. We’ve put a lot of our own blood, sweat and tears into learning what it takes to make the best possible top bar hive – into discovering what works and what doesn’t, what features are essential and what features are just fancy bells and whistles, or the result of overthinking the whole thing. We’d like to save you some trouble – and let you stand on our shoulders, taking advantage of the mistakes we made as we learned how to do it well. We like helping people do a good job of providing an environment where bees can thrive!

Bees are not rocket science, but we know that sometimes people do get pretty intent on engineering a hive way beyond the needs of the bees. Sometimes we all sort of “overthink” it when it comes to bees. But there’s a balance to be struck – and we think we’ve hit it with products that are effective, well-made, and affordable. We hope you think so too – and we look forward to being a part of your beekeeping journey. Bzzzzzt!

Open Hive – July 13, 2013 with mid-season shift

The highlights of an inspection of a Gold Star Top Bar Hive, ending with a “mid-season shift”.

This video includes labelled pics of drone brood, worker brood, drones, eggs, larvae, a queen, and a travel hole made by the bees through their comb.

Photos by Bill Kiggen. Inspection took place at Gold Star Global Headquarters in Bath, Maine – done by Christy Hemenway, company founder and author of “The Thinking Beekeeper.”

Thanks to Lady Antebellum for the accompanying tune – American Honey. All copyright belongs to the artist.

COMB COLLAPSE ALERT!!!

COMB COLLAPSE ALERTIf you’ve been researching natural beekeeping and top bar hives on the Internet, you have probably come across some websites that suggest that you paint beeswax on the points of your top bars, in an attempt to show the bees where you want them to build their wax combs. At first glance, this may seem like a good idea, but there are some serious drawbacks to doing this.

One concern is that melting the beeswax can be dangerous, but that’s not the worst of it.

The real problem with waxing the top bars is this: the wax that is painted on will never be attached as securely as if the bees had built it directly on the bar; and what may happen next is called a “comb collapse.” The bees build a full bar of comb, fill it up with brood and pollen and honey, and then suddenly, especially in the heat of summer, the entire comb collapses – falling off the top bar and down into the hive. This makes a huge mess, causing honey to leak throughout your hive, and it may also land on the queen when it falls, killing or injuring her, and leaving you with a queen-less hive.

To prevent these problems, we suggest that you use a top bar with a very good comb guide, and then simply let the bees draw their comb directly on that comb guide. There is no need to paint wax on the bars… just let the bees do their bee thing.

Initially, however, there was a second goal behind painting wax on the top bars. And that was to put the smell of beeswax into an empty top bar hive. A brand-new, empty top bar hive contains nothing to anchor the bees; nothing to make it smell like home. So having the smell of beeswax in the hive was an attempt to solve a problem occasionally experienced by new beekeepers known as “absconding” – an event where the bees abandon the hive and fly off.

But there’s a smell that works better than melted beeswax on the top bars to prevent absconding – and that smell comes from the pheromone found in brood comb. Brood pheromone is very attractive to bees. So today, we suggest that you use a “starter kit“- a kit made up of a small piece of brood comb and a wire to attach it to the top bar, along with a small dose of lemon grass essential oil, which emulates queen pheromone. These two smells are very strong attractants for your bees, and this does a much better job of convincing your bees to stay in the hive, and preventing them from absconding.

So please, I know you read it on the Internet – but don’t paint wax on your top bars.

Let the bees take care of that!

Beekeeping Vocabulary… Sorting out the jargon

Few industries use so many interchangeable terms to describe their equipment and methodology as beekeeping. For example – the individual boxes that make up a Langstroth hive stack may be referred to simply as supers, or they may be called deeps, mediums or shallows, an indication of their size. The beeswax comb that the bees build inside their nest might be called wax, or foundation, or comb, or brood comb, or honeycomb – similar terms and yet they mean different things. And how does one sort out the nuances of colony versus hive? Or frame versus top bar?

beekeeping jargonAdd into this mix the glowing terms that are commonly used to describe honey – such as pure, raw, natural and organic, and now there’s even more room for confusion. Organic is a regulated term with a specific legal definition, but pure, raw and natural are not. Organic honey is quite difficult to come by – since it requires that all the forage the bees visit and all the nectar and pollen they collect must be organic – and it’s nearly impossible to know that without having ownership of and control over many hundreds of acres of land. But the words natural, raw and pure, while they are lovely words, and conjure up beautiful visuals of glowing amber liquid, have no specific legal definition in the food industry.

This is why it’s important to be very specific when you are speaking, and to ask direct questions when you are listening – so that you are sure that the information being exchanged is accurate.

Another aspect of beekeeping where having a clear understanding of the terminology is becoming very important is when beekeepers are considering the purchase of bees for starting new hives. Depending on the protocol of the source apiary, the bees may have been treated with “heavy chemicals” – including antibiotics and miticides containing organophosphates and synthetic pyrethroids; with “soft chemicals” such as formic or oxalic acids; with nothing but essential oils or other not-toxic options; or – with absolutely nothing.

There are some terms coming into common use to categorize these protocols – including “chemical-free” and “treatment-free” – but just like in all other areas of beekeeping, these unregulated terms leave room for interpretation and confusion. So here again it’s important to ask questions to get the answers that you need. In The Thinking Beekeeper, I suggest that beekeepers can and should ask pointed questions about what treatments have been used in the apiary they are buying bees from. This is important to your own beekeeping – but it’s important on a different and deeper level as well… Because only by knowing this information can you help to support the apiaries that are working to shift the crucial paradigm – away from the use of toxic chemicals in beehives and agriculture, and toward methods that support the bees’ natural systems.

So… Ask the questions! Get the answers. You deserve to know.

Shipping Package Bees Through the Post Office

Anyone who has ever purchased a “three-pound package” of honeybees to be shipped through the United States Post Office knows that it can be a bit of a “you pays your money and you takes your chances” proposition.

post office beesThe US Postal System has a long history of shipping packaged bees through the mail.  There are many anecdotes out there about the beekeeper receiving the harried 6am phone call from the local post office:  “Your bees are here!  PLEASE come down here and GET THEM!  NOW, please!!!”  It’s truly amazing how well it does work – putting three pounds of bees, a queen, and a can of sugar syrup feed into the hands of our mail system.

This spring, Gold Star Honeybees shipped nearly three hundred 3# packages of treatment-free, small-cell raised honeybees – the perfect bee for starting an all-natural-wax top bar hive, and for the most part things went beautifully.  Many customers wrote us to report that there were so few dead bees on the bottom of the package that they could actually count them.  In some cases, there were only a dozen casualties, maybe twenty.  That’s a terrific success!

However, shipping bees through the post office doesn’t always go perfectly.   Bees are easily affected by things that the post office cannot control – even though they live by the famous creed:  Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

So it’s ironic that weather is the biggest concern when shipping bees – too hot, and bees die; too cold, and bees die.  Being left outside on the loading dock on a freezing night can mean the death of the entire package.  Being locked up inside an area with no ventilation and too high a temperature can also kill a package of bees very easily.

This is one of the reasons that at Gold Star Honeybees, we do our best to manage these dangers.  We try to ship only during times of the year when the weather is likely to support the safe arrival of the bees.  Throughout the industry, a rule of thumb is that if the package arrives, and contains no more than one inch – (Yes, I said an inch!) – of dead bees on the bottom, that it is still a viable package.    We work hard to do much better than that!

Another concern is about how long bees can survive inside the package they ship in.  Given reasonable weather, bees are capable of surviving for up to 10 days – (Yes, I said 10 days!) – inside a package, as long as it is properly protected from the elements, and as long as they don’t run out of food.   But really, like the bumper sticker on a pilot’s car might say, bees “would rather be flying!”  So another thing we work hard to do is to limit the amount of time that the bees spend in transit.  Bees are shipped quickly, via Priority Mail, and are insured.  The customer’s phone number is included on the package label so that the post office can notify the beekeeper as soon as possible upon arrival.

Occasionally something dreadful happens and a package does not survive the shipping process.  A package with all the bees lying in a heap on the bottom is a heart-wrenching sight, and we cry with the beekeeper every time this happens. Customers should be aware that when they go to pick up their bees, if there are more than an inch of bees lying dead on the bottom of the package – they should refuse the shipment, and immediately contact their supplier.  Then if possible, arrangements can be made for a replacement to be shipped, or a refund to be made.  It is then the task of the supplier to make a claim through the post office for insurance purposes.

All of this combines to make it possible for new beekeepers to get started with healthy, chemical free bees in natural top bar hives.  With careful management, we can minimize the risk and see plenty of new beekeepers starting healthy hives with healthy bees.  A heartfelt thanks to the United States Postal Service for doing what they do so well!

Join our newsletter to get information about our package bees as soon as it posts!

Top Bar Beehive: Getting it Right With Building Your Own

If you’re new to the world of the top bar beehive and top bar beekeeping, you are probably finding that there is a lot of information available to you via the Internet.   This subject has garnered tremendous media attention since the advent of Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, in 2006.  On the one hand, this is great – but on the other hand, it can be pretty confusing for the new-bee beekeeper.

Tips on Building a Top Bar Beehive

Here are some tips on building top bar beehives that work!

  1. Put a really good comb guide on your top bar.  The best comb guide we’ve found is a sharp bevel point – one that runs the entire length of the Top Bar Beehivetop bar, but with ends that angle in from the hive body – this serves to discourage the bees from attaching to the sides.
  2. Don’t make the top bars too tall.  The taller the sides of the top bar, the more space there is for bees to get squished between bars.  The top bars do not have to support any large amount of weight, so they can be fairly thin, there’s no need for them to be built like I-beams!
  3. If you’d like to have an observation window in your top bar hive – make it out of window glass.  Other options such as Plexiglas can become cloudy, making it impossible to see into the hive, and Plexiglas often warps – creating gaps large enough for your bees to get in and out of the hive, and creating cold drafts – a very bad thing in winter!
  4. Make sure your top bar hive is large enough and holds enough top bars to allow the colony to grow to a size that will survive the winters in your area.
  5. If you plan on having more than one top bar hive – do make sure that they are all built to the same design.  This will save you so much frustration!  Most new beekeepers aren’t aware that when the bees lose a queen, that they are able to make a new queen – but that can only happen if the beekeeper can give them a bar of comb that contains very young brood.  If your top bars aren’t interchangeable – you will not able to save a hive that suddenly goes queenless!

Top Bar Beehive Kits

Gold Star Honeybees offers top bar beehive kits that work for anyone’s level of woodworking skill, budget and time constraints.  At $50, our DIY#1 hive kit is the least expensive of our top bar hive kits, but you must purchase, cut and assemble ALL of the required lumber, as well as the glass window, paint, and caulk needed to build the hive.  The DIY#2 hive kit is $295, and it contains thirty of our quality top bars, you need only buy the lumber required to build the hive body, the roof, and the legs.  For those who are short on time and tools, our Deluxe top bar hive kit ($495) comes complete – you need a screwdriver and a staple gun – that’s it! – to assemble  the entire hive in a few hours.  Visit our webpage at www.goldstarhoneybees.com for more information on Gold Star top bar hive kits.

My response to the United States 2012 Census of Agriculture

Dear readers:  If this sort of thing gets under your skin too – feel free to repost this! — Christy

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January 26, 2013

United States Department of Agriculture

National Agricultural Statistics Service

1201 East 10th Street

Jeffersonville, IN  47132

 

RE:  United States 2012 Census of Agriculture

Dear USDA –

Thank you for sending me the US 2012 Census of Agriculture survey to fill out.   It is good to know that someone somewhere is collecting data regarding farming – since it is such an important part of our food system, and important to have this data.

And it was very nice to learn that if I filled out the survey online that I could skip questions that didn’t pertain.

So I set out to do just that on a cold Saturday morning in Maine, even though I suspected I wouldn’t find many of the questions relevant.   Beekeeping is absolutely crucial to growing almost all food, and yet it’s been my experience that the business of a natural beekeeper doesn’t align well with any of the categories or the questions asked in an agriculture survey about farming in the US.

My suspicions were correct – the categories did not pertain.  Not even the ones about beekeeping – in Section 19.  Your assurance that I could skip irrelevant portions of the survey was not correct either.  But the final straw, the one that convinced me to write this letter, was that when I got to the very end of the survey — after trying my best to make my beekeeping-related small business fit the categories, feeling like I was trying to fit the proverbial square peg into its round hole  – the entire survey website blew up, crashed the internet browser and left me with only one option – starting over.

I’m sorry.  I’m not going to do that.  I’m going to offer you better, more meaningful information instead – information that you will need to incorporate into the next Census of Agriculture, due to the changes that are surely coming – and that are being caused by the way we currently grow food.

Which is where the problem begins.  The way we grow food is broken.  Monoculture agricultural practices, synthetic fertilizers, toxic chemical pesticides, and genetically modified crops are destroying what was formerly a natural and sustainable system.

The practice of growing thousands of acres of single crops may look to be efficient, but what use is efficiency if the practice of monoculture breaks the very system it is attempting to improve?

Chemicals are “required” in monoculture farming – not because the pests are a bigger problem than they are in organic farming, but because the imbalances inherent in a monoculture create an environment that supports the pests, and destroys the balance that would keep them in check.

Organic growing practices, and the balanced and integrated growing systems that support each other are the way forward if we are to preserve the health of the planet and the generations still to come.  Don’t be confused by that mild sounding language.  Here is what I just said, in plain words:  If we want to stay alive – we must change the way we are growing food.

More chemicals are not the answer.  Genetic modification is not the answer.  Systemic pesticides are not an improved version of sprayed-on pesticides.  The use of chemical inputs is not improving anything – it is only poisoning the planet, our children, and us.   Again, don’t be confused by the mild language – these things are killing the earth and killing us.  Slowly perhaps, certainly much more slowly than the gun problem we seem to have here in the US – but in the end we will all be just as dead.  Is “Big Ag” too blind to see this?

My business, Gold Star Honeybees works to support natural backyard beekeeping with quality beekeeping equipment, and good information.  So I build top bar beehive kits, I teach classes across the United States, and I authored a book called The Thinking Beekeeper that contains the information I teach in the class.  I run a beekeeping business that does not lease huge tracts of land, does not hire large numbers of people, does not truck bees around the country, does not process and sell vast quantities of honey, and does not pour synthetic fertilizers on the land.  It seems, based on your survey that if I am not doing those things, I am not involved in agriculture.

And yet without naturally raised bees – pollinating organically grown food – what will happen to farming?  What will happen to our ability to grow food?  The current system is currently taking us down a road to hell… do we have to get all the way into the fire and brimstone before we think to make a change?

But… attempting to be a law-abiding citizen, here are my responses to the survey:

Section 19:

Question 1 – Yes, this operation owned bees in 2012.

Question 2 – I kept 5 top bar hives.

To the best of my knowledge they were all still alive on December 31, 2012.  (You do understand that you don’t see your bees when it’s below 48 degrees, don’t you?)

I think I collected approximately 30 pounds of honey.  (I don’t keep close track.)

But the dollar figure to enter under “Value of Sales of honey “ – that’s an interesting question.  I did not sell any of my honey – I kept it for my own use.  It’s very good medicine for my pollen allergies – did you know that? Such honey is priceless.  It is the only honey I can get that I know was produced locally so that it contains the pollen to which I am allergic, and that was made by chemical free bees, living on their own clean, natural wax.

Maybe it’s just the beekeeping portion of the survey – Section 19 – that needs to be revised.  You may not be aware of it yet but there is a paradigm shift occurring in the bee world just like there is in the organic food world – away from the use of chemical pesticides and artificial inputs, and toward the restoration of a system that wasn’t broken before we humans (with our big brains and our opposable thumbs) tried to fix it.

But I think it’s far more likely that the whole agricultural system, and the whole agriculture survey, needs revision.  I hope we as a country, choose to make the changes we need to make before it’s too late and there is nothing left to save – and no way to grow safe, healthy food.

Sincerely,

Christy Hemenway, Founder
Gold Star Honeybees
PO Box 1061
Bath, ME  04530
207-449-1121
www.goldstarhoneybees.com