Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How many bees does it take to change a lightbulb?

I'm not sure how many bees it takes to change a lightbulb, but I know how many bees it takes to pollinate one meyer lemon tree....A LOT!

When Yukiko and I were up at our Tarpon Springs apiary, I saw to my delight, that the flowers are finally in bloom. The citrus flowers are just about to explode! The area we have the hives situated is at a friend's house who has many unusual exotic fruit trees so we're expecting really unusual delicious honey from that location. Many of the plants aren't blooming yet but here are a few of them at least:

While we were there, I checked one of the two remaining deep hives and found several frames which were completely chock full of brood. Brood is the unborn bee babies that look like brown capped rounded mounds that you can see the nurse bees in this picture keeping warm below:

You can see a few holes of empty cells that are not in a more complete state like the rest of them, but most of those cells had larvae in them waiting to turn into these magical honey bees! Really it was an incredibly dense frame of babies on the verge of being born. I am expecting quite a nice explosion in their population when these frames all burst forth in the next few days. More bees equals more of everything, honey, pollen, wax, propolis etc! Exciting stuff!

This last picture is one of the two remaining deeps we have. Deeps are just a deeper box that is used. It is a bit more than nine inches in depth, vs most of my other hive bodies which are called "mediums" at 6.25 inches deep. The deep hive body size were an industry standard until not too long ago. Deeps have some advantages but their main disadvantage is they become very heavy once laden with honey and pollen! My back is already thanking me for deciding to go with mediums.

Nonetheless the deeps do present an impressive wall of wax as you can see from this picture. This picture also perfectly illustrates the more natural method of beekeeping that I use. I do not use any foundation (wax or plastic insert between the wood frame). this means that like in the wild, the bees build all of the honeycomb from the top of the frame. They make all of it and as you can see in the picture they build it in engineered stages. Many times they will make bridges to span the gaps using their own bodies. Several bees will make a chain holding onto their girlfriend's legs so they can work more efficiently around the frame. Here is a picture of that from last year:

Fascinating stuff right? Next blog I will discuss the different ways and kinds of pollen that come into the hive and how we harvest it. The colors are something to behold! Stay tuned....

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fun at the Markets

(Yukiko and one of our passionate customers, Lori)

Yukiko and I both enjoy the customer interaction at the markets and special events we attend. It's always satisfying to have passionate repeat customers come back for more and even pick up new things once they see the value for the quality intrinsic in the product. As you can see from the above picture, if customers purchase $20 or more in products they receive a handy yellow tote bag for free that includes their name in Japanese written out by Yukiko. People enjoy this kind of personalized treatment and we like that they are so pleased with our service with a smile!

People become passionate customers because of the quality and freshness of our products. We do not take any shortcuts in the name of profit. You hear the sentence, "The most fresh, most local product....yada yada.." but with us it really is true.

Our pollen is a great example of this. You simply cannot find a more natural chemical free, FRESH Bee Pollen from anyone in our area, and possibly in Florida. FRESH is in caps because to really harvest Bee Pollen properly, you have to take it from the beehive each and every day and put it directly into a freezer or fridge to keep the beneficial enzymes intact. I will blog about Bee Pollen and post pictures of the past few days pollen collection, but for now, just wanted to stress that there really is a difference in Musashi The Bee products and our dedication to quality above just making a buck.

Here are a few pictures of our market so you can see what our booth looks like if you come visit us at any of events. Our calendar is available at http://www.musashithebee.com/

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A New Beekeeping Season!

A new beekeeping season is upon us here in the Clearwater Florida area. The cold has affected us like anyone else and the bees have been quite delayed in their preparation this "Spring". I put Spring in quotes, because the past few months have been bitterly cold, at least bitter as far as I'm concerned. We were able to purchase our nucleus hives (nucs) only one week later than we did last year. So just last weekend, we made the trek to Groveland Florida to pick up our 11 NUCS!

Yes, I can hardly believe we expanded to that degree, but it is certainly needed. Our customers are growing at an astounding rate due to our exacting quality standards in our honey, pollen, beeswax and skin care products. We are so pleased everyone is enjoying the Musashi The Bee products and more importantly, we see many repeat customers each time we are at the market who are passionate about what we do. That positive feedback makes the hot summers in a beesuit and the beestings all worth it!

We only live about 1.5 hours from Groveland, but because you have to pick the bees up in the early morning before they are all flying around, we had to wake up before the crack of dawn last Saturday to leave to get them.

There wasn't a hitch putting them in the back of our pickup truck, and we draped the breathable net over the hives stacked in back. This keeps all but the most dedicated bees from escaping causing havoc during our ride. I always worry about escapees harassing motorcyclists on the way home and sure enough, as we're only five minutes on the road back we come to a stop light where right next to us are 5 Harley riders. As I'm a motorcyclist myself, I'm completely sympathetic to the variety of hazards present on the road. I'm sure none of them considered pulling up next to over a half million bees in the back of a truck was going to be one of their concerns for that ride, but there we were.

No one seemed to be swatting themselves or making any unusual movements as we wait for the light to turn green, so I was relieved. The light turned green and we all pulled forward but I was preoccupied with putting some distance between myself and the bikers who were riding at a very leisurely pace. I was pretty nervous about them getting stung. The very next thing I know, there is a police officer behind me, lights going, clearly I was being pulled over.

As the officer came up to my window, he informed me I was doing 48 in a 35 zone. I began to explain my panic because of all of the bees in the back of the truck and some motorcyclists. At the moment I am trying to explain this the Harley riders roar past and the officer says he couldn't hear a thing I said. I shortened my pleas to just a hand gesture pointing out the buzzing activity out back.

Oddly, the officer began asking poignant questions about the hives. After four or five questions, it was clear he had an interest in beekeeping that went beyond the weird incident of pulling over someone for speeding with 11 beehives in the back of the truck.

I answered his questions as best I could, he only gave me a warning and I gave him my phone number and email to call if he wanted further help in beginning this fascinating hobby/business of beekeeping!

He was a very nice fellow and it sure made our day to not only not get a speeding ticket but to have a fun story to tell in the end. If he's reading this, thanks again for just a warning!

We continued on to Tarpon Springs. This year is our first outyard as we have a friend who was looking for the pollination benefit of the hives and we wanted more room to expand (we have 18 hives total now). Our friend has a couple of acres, which is a huge spread for us city folks, even in Tarpon Lake area which is about 20 minutes north of us. So it's a gorgeous location for the bees, lots of sunshine but a treeline break from strong winds. I had placed two of my original beehives at his location and they were doing swimmingly so we added five more this past Saturday. He has seven very active beehives at this point and we're very anxious to see what the honey tastes like, as he has quite a few exotic plants and fruit tress as that is his hobby. In a few weeks, we should get to see the difference between our backyard honey and this Tarpon Honey. Very exciting stuff!

We then arrived at our home with the rest of the beehives and promptly moved them in and took a few pictures. Yukiko doesn't get into her little bee oufit much as she is busy with the website, artwork, Beeauty Queen (tm) http://www.beeautyqueen.com/  line of skin care products etc. So I have to snap a picture whenever I can of her knee deep in the apiary!

That last picture above is from the last deep hive. I decided to take it and keep it for show purposes at the market. I keep it in the freezer until market days to keep it fresh. People are always fascinated by how delicate and intricate the honeycomb is!

 I am only using mediums now. The deeps seem to do really well with more room for the queen to lay eggs, but like everyone else the deeps are just way to  heavy to deal with regularly, once you've transitioned to mediums. I gave a lot of thought to going with 8 frame mediums this year but stuck with 10 frame medium woodenware because the plastic bottoms from Brushy Mountain http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/ are just so much easier to deal with. Plus I don't have to paint them as they are plastic.

I would never go for plastic hive bodies, but these bottom boards seem a much more sensible solution than wood due to the wear and tear wooden screened bottom boards receive!

Let the Blogging Begin

I have been so busy getting ready for our second full year of beekeeping and preparing for the markets, that my blog effort was delayed until just now. Stay tuned here for all the activities with Musashi The Bee (www.musashithebee.com)

We just took more pictures of bees working different flowers in our neighborhood. This will prove helpful to other beekeepers in Florida and of course for our customers to see the incredibly diverse floral source of our all-natural, chemical free honey.

I do not use any chemicals in our beehives, and utilize organic methods of beekeeping, to include "Crush and Strain" harvest method. This is the most pristine natural way to harvest honey and it all it requires is some hand crushing and marble pestle. There are no extractors, pumps, hoses, metal drums, pvc pipes or forklifts or any of the large operation necessary evils once production becomes more important that quality.

Our entire harvesting operation revolves around one simple tool, a marble pestle which I crush all the brand new honeycomb! All of our honey comes from honeycomb that was just built by the bees. This new honeycomb is fresh, light clean and a beautiful beeswax color! Compare that to the wax or plastic foundation most large beekeeping operations use year after year after year. It's a significant difference that is clearly visible to anyone who has ever seen the difference. You CAN see the difference in the pictures I will include here and at www.musashithebee.com, as well as our sample hive we keep in our booth at the local markets in the Tampa/St. Pete area!