Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Beauty of Pollination - Video

Here is a fantastic video about insects and animals that do pollination. You will love and respect the nature more, please watch it and enjoy it...

The Beauty of Pollination - Youtube Video - 4min

Monday, December 2, 2013

Why do I keep bees?

Is it for money? For honey? Just a hobby?

No, it's not for money. So far, I have spent so much money than I ever anticipated. When spending money, I didn't have even a slight intention to recoup the money in the future. Maybe I will, maybe not.

Yes, I wanted to eat honey, premium honey, my honey. But, believe me, the optimal way to eat premium honey is to buy local honey from a beekeeper, in terms of money, time and effort. Not to keep bees! 

Yes, it started as a hobby. However, I spend so much time, effort, money. It's passed the point of being just a hobby.

More than that, they become the link connecting me back to nature. I am a computer scientist, sitting in front of several computers all day long. I work at VMware, the industry-leading virtualization software company.  Not only I am in the virtual world of computers, but, within that world, I do virtualization doing the performance and scalability analysis of our virtualization solutions with thousand servers and fifteen thousands of virtual machines. (Inception? Needed a spinning top to determine the reality.) 

When I walk down the street, I look around for the flowers, plants and vegetation. When I see some flowers, I think about "if my bees are around, they would collect nectar and pollen", then I get curious about "how that honey would taste".

I fell in love with these little creatures. I love them as much as I respect them. Bees become the link connecting me back to nature. Why do I keep bees? For the love of bees.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Food Safety News: Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn't Honey

This is an interesting article by Andrew Schneider, published at Food Safety News:
More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn't exactly what the bees produce, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News. The results show that the pollen frequently has been filtered out of products labeled “honey.”
Continue: Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn't Honey

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hive Inspection With A Guest Family

Guangjing is my ex-office mate. Last weekend, I joined her family (Daniel, Yuchen  and Jerry) for a lunch at a popular dim-sum place. (Just a side note, I like to try authentic food, and this time I tried chicken feet. But, looks like I need more time to appreciate it.)

And they joined me inspecting one of my hives. I told different stories about bees life, and I hope everybody enjoyed this experience. Thanks to Daniel for helping me during the inspection. Thanks to Jerry for the following photos.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Marla Spivak: Why bees are disappearing

Marla Spivak is explaining why bees are disappearing in this TED talk. This is an awesome talk summarizing exactly what we are facing.

Dr. Spivak has explained four major setbacks causing the massive loss of bee colonies as:

  1. Diseases and parasites
  2. Pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, ...
  3. Monocultures
  4. Flowerless landscape

She states:
This small bee is holding up a large mirror, how much is it going to take to contaminate humans? 
She asks and answers:
What are we going to do about this big bee bummer that we've created?
It's hopeful. We can help bees in two direct and easy ways:
  1. Plant Bee-Friendly Flowers
  2. Avoid Pesticide Contamination
Video: TED talk

ps. Thanks to Adarsh for pointing this talk to me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Honey bee, Don’t you sting me

A commercial ad of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (released in 2013) uses the song “Honey Bee” by Alecia Chakour with guitarist Sam Cohen. YouTube-Video

Honey bee
Don’t you sting me sting me sting me
Don’t fly away from my heart
Don’t you do it
Don’t you fly away…

Searching on the internet, the original song is "Honey Bee", by New Birth (1971): YouTube-Video. (Thanks to Anonymous for correcting me...)

I found another cool song, as well: “Honey Bee (Keep On Stinging Me)” Diana Ross and The Supremes. YouTube-Video

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Silence of the Bees - video

Silence of the Bees - Youtube video
"In the winter of 2006, a strange phenomenon fell upon honeybee hives across the country. Without a trace, millions of bees vanished from their hives... Silence of the Bees is the first in-depth look at the search to uncover what is killing the honeybee."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Queen bee's wedding flight - video - on The Guardian

The Guardian released an awesome video of a Queen bee's mating flight from movie More Than Honey.
"Director Markus Imhoof used mini-helicopters and high-speed cameras to capture an extraordinary video of the inflight mating of a virgin queen bee."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How important are bees?

The August 19 issue of Time Magazine published an article The Plight of the Honeybee — Time Magazine, By Bryan Walsh. The cover is in black with a honey bee in the foreground as it is absconding!
"You can thank the Apis Mellifera, better known as the Western honey bee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls of food you’ll eat today."
The title of the magazine is shocking:
A world without Bees.
And the subtitle is thought-provoking:
The price we'll pay if we don't figure out what's killing the honeybee.

Dr. Mercola:
"There are about 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food globally and, of these, 71 are pollinated by bees. In the US alone, a full one-third of the food supply depends on pollination from bees."

Kenneth Eade, Bless the Bees:
"The bees have survived over 100 million years of evolution, but it has taken us less than 30 years to kill almost all of them off. Bees are responsible for pollinating 60% of the world's food supply and 90% of all flowering plants. Without them, the human race would face starvation."

Monday, August 26, 2013

Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life

Very interesting article: "The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life" by Natasha Geiling. Some highlights:
- Through millennia, the archeologists discover, the food remains unspoiled, an unmistakable testament to the eternal shelf-life of honey.
- Honey is, first and foremost, a sugar. Sugars are hygroscopic...
- It has a pH that falls between 3 and 4.5, approximately, and that acid will kill off almost anything...
- Bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase (PDF)... this enzyme mixes with the nectar, breaking it down into two by-products: gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide...
- The earliest recorded use of honey for medicinal purposes comes from Sumerian clay tablets...
- The ancient Egyptians used medicinal honey regularly, making ointments to treat skin and eye diseases...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Backup Nucs

I started my beekeeping journey early this year. So far, as a hobby, it is very fulfilling and exciting. I harvested my first honey a couple of weeks ago. I read somewhere that the best and sweetest honey is the honey straight from your hives. And that's absolutely true. It's priceless, and my honey is the best I have ever tasted. How exciting is this?

I would like to share with beginning beekeepers the most important lesson I have learned this year: To have small nucs as backups. Just in case your queen becomes non-laying or fails in some other way.

I attended an advanced beekeeping class in May: Queen Grafting. (Thanks to Janet and Rick Baxter for organizing the class and their hospitality.) It was a hands-on workshop with instructor Linda Monahan from Yosemite Gateway Farms. She has been keeping bees for 4 years and uses no treatments on her bees. We had the opportunity to try grafting queens under Linda’s supervision. And it was a success: I had 3 queen cells that I grafted myself.

My plan was to have few small nucs as reserves on the side. First, I had to find enough frames of capped brood with nurse bees to introduce these queen cells. Luckily, I found a local beekeeper who could provide me those frames. I bought 6 frames. At the end, I had 3 nucs with 2 frames each. Then I placed them such that the entrance of each nuc was facing a different direction. This would help foragers and queens returning from their mating flights know easily where to return.

After 10 days, I checked these mating nucs. In the first nuc, the queen had hatched, mated successfully and started to lay eggs. I saw lots of larvae. It was such a joy to see young brood. On the other hand, I did not see any brood in other nucs. I got impatient thinking that those queens had not emerged, and immediately tried to re-graft. I also tried Serge's method of cutting a piece of comb with larvae and installing it horizontally with a piece of toothpick into these nucs. One week later, when I inspected these nucs, I didn't see any queen cells but lots of larvae. It appeared that these queens took their time to mate and start laying.

Finally, I had my backup nucs ready with mated and laying queens. It was a great peace of mind to have the resources if a queen failed in the honey production hives. Here is one of these young queens with her royal chamber.

Soon enough, I had two hives that went south. One queen became non-laying. And the other hive almost died. I still don't know why, but I saw a pile of dead bees in front of the hive, which is really heartbreaking. I could not see any sign of disease in the hive, but I am a beginner, so I don't know exactly what I should look for.

I simply merged these colonies with the backup nucs that are healthy with young, laying queens. One hive recovered immediately. And the other one, I am still monitoring with my fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

First Honey (Alum Rock)

I harvested the first honey from Alum Rock. 1 medium frame. Full of honey, sweet honey...

Alum Rock - Backyard Honey
Untouched Comb Honey

Un-treated Bees
No Drugs
No Antibiotics
No Chemicals
No Supplements
No Bee-wax Foundation
No Plastic Foundation
No Plastic Frames

As natural as it can bee...

Here is Ursula, our host, helping me. We were about to start inspecting the hives. Thanks, Ursula, for providing a nice cozy home to the bees in your wonderful garden.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

First Honey (Palo Alto)

I harvested my first honey, today. 4 medium frames. Full of honey, sweet honey...

Palo Alto - Backyard Honey
Untouched Comb Honey

Un-treated Bees
No Drugs
No Antibiotics
No Chemicals
No Supplements
No Bee-wax Foundation
No Plastic Foundation
No Plastic Frames

As natural as it can bee...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mating Nucs Update 2

I prepared three nucs with couple of capped brood frames and one queen cell each. When I checked two weeks ago, I saw larvae in only one nuc. So, I thought the queens on other nucs didn't emerge, so I bought an extra queen, Jeremy Rose's russian queen. I installed her in a cage to one nuc.

The day I planned to release her, I opened the hive, pulled out the first frame and saw a queen just in front of my eyes. Usually, I am terrible in spotting the queen. What a luck :)

On the fly, I did a split. I have now 4 nucs, all queens are laying eggs. How exciting this is?

Here are two of these queens and their royal chambers:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mating Nucs Update

I attended a Queen Grafting Class and prepared three mating nucs. I checked these mating nucs, today.

Nuc 1: It turns out that queen hatched, mated successfully and started to lay eggs. I see lots of larvae. It is so exciting to see young brood.

Nuc 2&3: I did not see any brood in other nucs. I had checked the nucs after three days the queens supposed to hatch, and in these two nucs, the queen cell wax was completely torn down. In Nuc 1, which has a laying queen now, I saw the queen cell intact during that inspection.

Since Nuc 1 has some larvae, I followed Serge method: I cut two pieces of comb with young larvae and installed them horizontally with a piece of toothpick into these Nucs 2 and 3.

Nuc 2 even draw a comb with a queen cell. I grafted this queen cell with a young larva from Nuc 1, as well.

Unfortunately, these small nucs are not strong enough to raise good queens. But, this is an experiment at the end. Let's see what will happen...


  • Check the nucs immediate at the day when the queen supposed to hatch to make sure they either hatch or they are destroyed by the colony before hatching.
  • Give each nuc at least couple of queen cells. One queen cell is too risky.
  • Better yet, let the queens hatch in the original hive, protect them with hair rolls and then transfer into the mating nucs.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Failed queen

I was correct about the queen in the hive, where my first swarm is installed. She did not lay eggs for about 2-3 weeks. There was no larva, no new bees. And they missed the period to raise a new queen. So, without an outside queen, they would slowly die. But, I hope I saved it:

I got a box of bees from a fellow beekeeper. That swarm is caught in Fremont. I placed a sheet of newspaper in between, placed a box on top and installed this new swarm on top. Bees will chew up the newspaper and by that time they will get used to each other's pheromones and they will become a big family. I hope the queen came with the swarm will take over the hive.

Here is the hive right after I installed the swarm. There were lots of bees hanging outside and flying around the hive:

It looks like the queen was safely placed inside the box, and I saw few bees fanning in front of the entrence telling the bees outside: "This is our new home, come inside." I saw bees marching in. After 20-25 minutes, they all settled down:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Top Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder

I attended a class on Top Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder this weekeend. It was a hands-on two-days workshop.

Les talked about building an inexpensive topbar hive and keeping bees in it for honey, beeswax, and propolis. Many different topics were touched: hive design, honeybee biology, getting bees going in the hive, comb management for expansion and swarm prevention, harvesting honey, beeswax, propolis, making divides, raising queens, getting ready for winter.

I met with many great people, respecting the nature, bees and advocating for organic non-treatment beekeeping philosophy, which I am totally in.

Les is a great guy, and very passionate for bees and environment. Such a great story teller, full of interesting stories, it's like listening an audio book that you can not give a break.

Check out this website and notice his attitude towards bees:
For the Love of Bees

Thanks to Les for this opportunity and of course signing my book.
Thanks to Julia for organizing this event.
Thanks to Susan for hosting a full class of people in her patio, home and letting us inspecting her wonderful top-bar hives.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mating Nucs for Queens

I attended a Queen Grafting Class. It was a hands-on-workshop with instructor Linda Monahan. And looks like it was a success, I had 4 queen cells that I grafted myself.

My plan is to have few small nuc as a reserve on the side. I gave away one queen to a local beekeeper who needs a queen. Then I had to find enough frames of capped brood with nurse bees to introduce the rest of the queen cells.

Luckily, I managed to find a local beekeeper, Jack Ip, who could provide me those frames. Jack is an experienced beekeeper following natural beekeeping philosophy. His blog is full of information and interesting stories: Los Altos Honey Bees.

I bought 6 frames from Jack, 2 per nuc. Here are my nucs the day before, transferring the queen cells.

On Memorial Day, we introduced the queen cells to their sisters.

At the same time, my host at Palo Alto gave me a lead, her neighbor who is also willing to have some hives in their backyard to support honey bees. What a luck? Now, I have 4 different place to keep my hives. I decided to keep these nucs at this new location. Couple of days later, I moved these nucs to their final home. Check them out:

Please, notice that the entrance of each nuc is facing different direction. So that field bees will know easily where to return, and of course the queens returning from mating flights.

According to the schedule, queens should have emerged today. How exciting it is?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Queen Grafting Class

This Saturday, I attended an advanced beekeeping class: Queen Grafting Class. It was a hands-on-workshop with instructor Linda Monahan from Yosemite Gateway Farms:
Linda has been keeping bees for 4-years and uses no treatments on her bees. She is involved with the Organic Beekeepers, attending their Arizona Symposium. Linda has had a 75-80% success rate with grafting and she will share her knowledge with us.
We had the opportunity to try grafting Queens under Linda’s supervision.

If the grafted Queens take, they will be ours. We are yet to hear from Janet to know if any of those cells are accepted by the bees to raise a queen.

By the way, I would like to thanks Janet and Rick for their hospitality.

Friday, May 10, 2013

BalYolu: Honey tasting walking journey

This is an interesting project from my home country, Turkey by Catherine Jaffee, a Colorado native, a Turkish Fulbright Scholar, a National Geographic Young Explorer, and a global entrepreneur.
"We are organizing the first honey tasting walking journey of its kind. This journey is a seven-day trip in Northeastern Turkey that is led and inspired by local women who are training to become world class beekeepers and rural entrepreneurs."

Few pointers:

Friday, May 3, 2013

My colonies

I managed to acquire some survivors, I hope:

  • 2 hives at Alum Rock. Both are swarms. One caught at Cupertino, and I installed it. Other one liked my empty hive and claimed it as their home :) They are definitely survivors, but no idea whether they are treated or not.

I bought 4 packages.

  • 2 from Bee Kind, Sebastopol. 3lb non-treated local bees.
  • 2 from Honey Bee Genetics, Vacaville. 4lb Italians (only these are treated.)

I placed them one each location:

  • 2 hives at Palo Alto.
  • 2 hives at Portola Valley.

I am little overwhelmed with 6 hives as a beginner beekeeper these days. But, this is such an amazing experience, so far :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Novice Mistake and Hive Management

Yesterday, I did a very invasive operation on the 2nd hive. Here is what happened:

When I checked the hive on Wednesday evening, I see lots of bees hanging out at the back of the hive and some at the front. They were outside of the hive just sitting. Even if I don't have any experience with bees, I knew it was strange. I could not figure out what's happening so I decided to give them some time to settle. Then, yesterday evening I went there to do an exterior inspection, hoping that they all moved inside. But, nope, they are still sitting outside the hive like bums :)


Then light bulb lighten up. I have Brushy Mountain equipments, and screened bottom board. I forgot to put the white board in place. There is about one inch wide space under the screen. One third of the bees managed to get inside the hive box; one third of the bees land under the screen, building combs; and the rest are hanging out outside the hive just sitting.


I had another empty hive on my car, immediately decided to take an action to transfer every thing into the extra hive and immediately placed the white bottom screen board.

Due to my ignorance, I caused a very bad situation for the bees, and caused lots of stress to them. I had to disturbed them unnecessarily, and moved them into another hive. I feel bad about my mistake, well what can I do? I am a beginner... :(

On the other hand, I am proud of myself for figuring out the problem in time and then fixing it, (hopefully, it was a successful operation). Well, this is called  hive management ? :)

Such an exciting and intimidating experience it was yesterday...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Second Bee Colony

I start to appreciate the idea of having local bees more and more. I found a swarm from Cupertino, and installed it 5 days ago. My first bee colony, check out some pictures here.

I go foundationless. Today I went to check weather they are building combs properly. I was scarce to death to see burr comb. The good news is they are following the guides of the starter strips. I was so happy.

Furthermore, I had another empty hive placed near the first hive. The hive was sitting on an Ikea table on the ground, so it's about 1.5 ft high. I had put some swarm attractants, since I don't have any old or new comb to use. And, guess what another swarm  reclaimed it as their new home.


Freebees, and local bees, it can get better only if they are from untreated colonies :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bee Sting Allergy

Having checked out for stinging insect allergy is a must for anybody considering beekeeping.

People may have allergies against: honey bee, white-faced hornet, yellow hornet, paper wasp, yellow jacket, common wasp. And, yes, one can have an allergy against honey bee sting but not any other ones.

Couple of months ago, I visited my doctor to get the tests. After waiting few days very anxiously, the results came. A scale between Class-0 to Class-6 is being used to indicate the possibility of having allergic reaction. It turns out that I'm "Class-0: Negative" for all, except honey bee. For honey bee, it is "Class-1: Very Low Positive". Well, according to my doctor: "This can not predict what type of allergic reaction I would have to honey bee whether it would be just small or large but still local reaction to sting or it would be life threatening reaction."

The next thing that my doctor checked is the tryptase level. People with high tryptase level would have increased risk and severity of the allergic reaction... This condition is called systemic mastocytosis. Mine turns out to be normal, which is a good news. But not so good. After all these mambo-jambo, my doctor told me "without a clear history" she can not say that I don't have any risk with bee-stings, and she offered to prescribe Epipen for me to carry around, just in case...

"Well", I said, "Doctor, looks like I need to build up some history... Let me go ahead and build some..."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My First Bee Colony

Last Wednesday night, I got a call from one fellow beekeeper from Santa Clara Bee Guild. He said "I happened to have captured a swarm today, would you like to get?" I was so excited and it took only 5 minutes for me to reach to his house to pick up the box.

The swarm was caught at Cupertino. (For the record, to track the lineage.)

I let the package sit in my car during the night, of course with cracked open windows and sunroof. I installed them to one of my hives early next morning. I think I did all the right things and installed the swarm successfully.

Usually, bees accept the new hive as their home easily, but sometimes they don't like it and abscond. Well, I hope they like what we offer them as a nice cozy home. Now, it's up to bees to decide whether to accept our offer or not. We'll see...

After three days, I did a quick exterior inspection. There is some foraging activity, which is good. And also checking the screened-bottom-board, I see lots of wax flakes on the board; this means that they start to build comb inside, which is great. Looks like bees are happy with their new home :) I hope they are building the combs within the frames, otherwise it is going to be really messy to deal with.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shopping List for a Beginner Beekeeper

Tom Vercoutere, from the Beekeepers Guild Of San Mateo County, has great quotes about hobby beekeeping. Here are two of them, which I might have changed slightly:
- You are in this business to spend money. If not, you are in wrong business!
- This is your hobby; spend money.

So, I listened to Tom, followed his wisdom, and spend money for my hobby...


I managed to find two locations to place couple of hives each. In total, I am planning to have 4 hives.

2 Packages of 3 lb Beekind's Own (Local Survivor Stock)

   TOTAL: $216.00

Honey Bee Genetics
2 Packages of 4 lb with Hybrid-Italian

   TOTAL: $252.00


I decided to have two extra hive equipments just in case. So, my shopping list is for 6 complete hives.

Here is my shopping list:

Her Majesty's Secret Beekeeper; their retail store in the Mission, SF was closed in Jan 2013. It's an authorized Brushy Mountain Bee Farm Dealer. I drove up to Modesto, CA to buy the bulk of my shopping list at their warehouse with some discount.
6   IPM bottom board
6   Telescoping cover
6   Inner cover
6   Entrance reducer
24  Medium hive bodies
140 Frames Wedged-top Divided-bottom
6   Entrance mouse guard
2   Imrie shim
5   L shaped frame rest
10  Medium  plastic foundation
1   Comb cutter
1   Bee quick
1   Frame jig
1   Hive tool
2   Top feeder
2   Entrance feeder
4   Division Feeder
1   Hive strap
1   Smoker fuel
2   Bee escape
1   Fume pad
3   Waxed nucs
6   Beetle blaster

   TOTAL: $883.47

Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
  720 1 $19.50 Goatskin Gloves MEDIUM
  985 1 $22.50 Moving Net
 264C 1  $1.65 Cage Queen Marking Tube
  253 3 $10.50 Pheromone Lure
253SW 3  $5.85 Swarm Attractant Wipe 
 561H 1 $15.95 Case of 100 Hive Corner Protectors

SubTotal: $75.95
Shipping: $15.15
   TOTAL: $91.10

Mann Lake LTD
Code QTY ItPrice Total Product
HD-122 2 $13.50 $27.00 Wood Bound 10 Frame Excluder
FD-110 2 $19.95 $39.90 10 Frame Top Feeder w/ Super
HD-380 1  $5.95  $5.95 Red Marking Pen
HD-100 1  $3.50  $3.50 Queen Catcher
HD-388 1  $4.75  $4.75 Queen Marking Tube
HD-585 1  $8.95  $8.95 9 1/2" (24.13 cm) Hive Tool 1 - 11
HD-660 1  $4.95  $4.95 Bee Brush
HD-650 1 $19.95 $19.95 Frame Perch
HD-587 1 $19.95 $19.95 9 Frame Spacing Tool - Stainless
HD-565 1 $29.95 $29.95 4" x 7" (10.16 cm x 17.8 cm) Dome Top Smoker
DC-687 1  $2.95  $2.95 Oil for Beetle Blaster pint (473.12 ml)
CL-605 1  $9.95  $9.95 Medium Economy Leather Gloves
FR-911 1 $10.90 $10.90 6 1/4" (15.88 cm) Unassembled Select Frames - WedgedTop; GrooveBottom - Case of 10

SubTotal: $188.65
Shipping: Free
SalesTax: $13.93 
   TOTAL: $202.58

Ultra Breeze Suits LLC
$163.00 Ultra Breeze® Ventilated Beekeeping Jacket

   TOTAL: $163.00

Power Tools and Accessories

Harbor Freight
Item#  Price Product
95275 $40.00 Pancake Air Compressor, Oilless 1/3 Horsepower, 3 Gallon, 100 PSI
68019 $15.00 18 Gauge 2-In-1 Nailer/Stapler

   TOTAL: $200.00

Grand Total


And, it keeps growing...

Beeginner’s Column: "How to convince your landlord to host hives?"

A shorter version of my blog post "How to convince your landlord to host hives?" is published in the Newsletter of the Beekeepers' Guild Of San Mateo County as Beeginner’s Column: