Saturday, February 1, 2020

Build a Bee Bath

As honeybees are starting to get ready for spring and pollinating flowers, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what we can do to help them. There are 4 things honeybees forage for when going out of the hive: nectar and pollen for food, tree sap to make into propolis (sticky glue to keep the hive clean), and water (because all animals need water to survive). Sometimes it can be hard to find water, and when they do, they also have to worry about drowning. Honeybees need a spot where they can land and drink water without falling in. You can build a small watering hole for bees in your backyard!

Bees also like places with recognizable patterns. Decorating your watering hole with distinct shapes and colors will help the bees navigate back and forth from the water, to the flowers and back to their hive safely. Here are some instructions to make a watering hole for honeybees.

Step 1: Find something for the bees to land on. It can be small rocks and pebbles, corks, styrofoam, marbles or anything you can think of that will give the bees something to land on.

Step 2: Find a container with a wide opening that can hold water. If you are using rocks and pebbles (or something else that sinks), find a container that is shallow. If you are using something buoyant, then any depth of water will work. A plastic bowl, an old and empty pot, and plastic cups are all great options.

Step 3: Decorate your container: Start with a solid color base. Then draw pictures or put on stickers that have simple color schemes. Geometric shapes will work, but if you want to get creative, you can use hearts, clouds, animals or anything with clearly defined lines.

Step 4: Fill it with water and keep an eye out for honeybees and other pollinators to come by for a break.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

2020 Representatives Crowned in Illinois

The new American Honey Queen and Princess were selected at the 2020 American Beekeeping Federation Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois.

2020 American Honey Queen
Mary Reisinger from Texas

2020 American Honey Princess
Sydnie Pauslrud from Wisconsin

Congratulations ladies! They will travel the United States promoting honey and beekeeping and post interesting articles about bees and honey along the way. Keep an eye out for the sweetest representatives in America!
Image courtesy of David Loeb

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Cooking with Honey

Did you know? There are more than 300 unique flavors of honey in the United States! Each of them has a different color and flavor. This is dependent on the nectar sources the bees visit while foraging. If we have a honeybee visiting mainly an orange blossom grove, then that is what we would define as orange blossom honey. There needs to be at least 45% of the nectar and pollen from the dominant source for it to have a prominent flavor. Knowing this, we can play with different types of honey in some recipes to see how it can change the flavor. 

Darker honey tends to be more robust and strong. Lighter honey tends to be more light and mild. Lighter honey like orange blossom, black locust or an early spring wildflower is great in things like smoothies and spreads. Darker honey like buckwheat, chestnut or late fall honey are great for salad dressings, meats and baking because it will have a strong honey flavor.

When cooking with honey, it is likely that things can get messy pretty quick, so here are some tips! A good trick to use is spraying your measuring cup or spoon with non stick cooking spray and the honey will slide right out. Honey will natural crystallize, but it’s still good to eat! Just place the jar or bottle in some warm water. Honey should be stored at room temperature. Honey comes in different forms. Try cream honey, chunk honey and comb honey. See how you can add variety in you meals with these forms.

One of my favorite ways to start my mornings is with a homemade honey berry smoothie. Not only is it a sweet start, it is also a great source of natural energy! My recipe is below, but you can change it up to add your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Princess Nicole’s Honey Berry Smoothie

½ cup milk
2 tablespoons Honey
1 frozen banana
½ cup frozen blueberries
½ cup frozen strawberries 
½ cup frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons of almond butter(optional)


Combine all ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a glass. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Sting of a Honeybee

Most people have been stung by a bee in their lifetime, but the sting of a honeybee is a little bit different. When a honeybee stings, it also affects them as well as the individual stung. A honeybee doesn't like to sting. They will only sting to protect themselves or their hive because a honeybee can only sting once, and then it dies. If you look at the end of a honeybee stinger, it looks like the end of a fish-hook that is barbed. When the honeybee stings you, its stinger gets stuck in your skin because of those barbs. When the honeybee flies away, the stinger is still stuck in the skin of the human which causes the honeybee's stomach to rip apart, killing the honeybee.

If you ever get stung by a honeybee, the first reaction will be to pull the stinger out of your skin, but
don't pull it out! When the honeybee flew away, she left that stinger in your skin along with the venom sack. If you pull the stinger out, you will push more venom into your skin, causing a bigger swelling reaction. The best thing to do if you are stung by a honeybee is to use your fingernail and gently scrape the stinger out of your skin. A natural swelling reaction will occur with a honeybee sting so don't worry about swelling. The cause for concern will come if after a sting, you have trouble breathing or swelling of the airway. In a case like that, medical attention is necessary! As for a normal sting with some swelling, the swelling will go down in a couple of days. If you would like the swelling to be lessened, one thing you can do is to take baking soda and mix it with a little water, creating a toothpaste consistency. Put this on the area affected and the baking soda will help draw the venom out, lessening the swelling reaction.

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A lit Smoker
When a beekeeper goes to the hive, they may use some equipment that will help to minimize the amount of stings they receive. One piece of equipment a beekeeper will use is a bee-suit. The bee-suit will cover the beekeeper from head to toe and prevent the honeybees from from having direct contact with a beekeeper's skin. Another piece of equipment the beekeeper will use is a smoker. A smoker is basically a tin can the beekeeper will build a campfire in and then use to smoke the bees. The smoker doesn't hurt the bees at all but instead calms them down by masking their form of communication. Honeybees communicate through smells. When they get alarmed, they release the alarm pheromone that smells like bananas. This is signalling to all the other bees that there is something attacking the hive and they need to fight. This is where the smoker comes into play. The smoke will mask those pheromones and help the bees to remain calm while the beekeeper checks on them.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Flavors of Honey

Honey is one of the best foods both for you and flavor wise. Did you know there’s over 300 varieties of honey in the United States? Honey comes in many colors and flavors. Some are a strong and dark in color like buckwheat honey. Others are a light, almost water white, with a light flavor like basswood. 

The flavor of honey is dependent on the nectar sources gathered by the honeybees. Because of this, different states have different kinds of honey. The different flowers where the nectar comes from is what determines the flavor and color of honey.

If a bee visits the flower of a fruit tree, such as an orange or apple tree, traces of that flavor can be found in the honey. This makes them great to use in smoothies. If a honey bee visits the buckwheat, a cover crop with grain like seeds, the honey is darker and bolder in flavor and is wonderful in cooking meats and baking.

A fun experiment would be to find all the flavors of honey available in your area to find your favorite. Each time you go to a new state try their honey to see how it’s different from yours.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Eye of the Bee-holder

Image result for eyes of a honeybeeYou may have heard the phrase, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," but have you ever wondered what beauty looks like through the eyes of a bee? The honeybee has five astonishing eyes to take in the wonderful world around it! Honeybees have three eyes on the top of its head. These eyes are called simple eyes as they sense the light around the bees. The other two eyes are on the sides of the honeybee's head and are called compound eyes. These eyes are used to detect patterns and shapes the bee might need to see such as plants.
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Waggle Dance the honeybees use to communicate
Honeybees use their amazing eyes to see different colors! They can see more colors on the purple end of the color spectrum than humans can! The reason for this is so honeybees can find flowers with the sweetest nectar. Honeybees are a lot like humans in that they have favorite colors. Honeybees use the color of the flower to be able to sense the sweetness of the nectar. Many times, honeybees will go to the sweetest nectar flowers before going to the rest of the flowers around.

Once the honeybee finds the flower, they go back to the hive to tell the rest of the forage worker bees where to go! Unfortunately, honeybees don't have GPS that they plug the coordinates into. What they do to direct everyone to the flowers is dance instead! The honeybees communicate by doing the waggle dance. This is where the honeybees will go back to their hive and run around in a figure 8 to communicate with the bees. Directions are determined based on the direction the honeybee is facing and the angle in relation to the sun! It's not quite a GPS system like we use, but a very unique way honeybees communicate with each other!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Bonuses Beyond the Hive

Honeybees do a very important job of pollination. Did you know that they provide bonuses beyond the hive? Beeswax is where bees store their honey. It can be used for so much more. Honey a great sweet treat but has a number of bonuses beyond the hive. 

Beeswax is the where everything in the hive is stored. It’s used in candles, many cosmetics, and used other strange uses. Surf boarders use beeswax to keep themselves from falling off the board. To reduce the use of plastic people are making reusable beeswax wraps. Beeswax is also an ingredient in chewing gum. People used to and to this day chew on honeycomb. It acts like a natural gum and is a tasty treat.

Honey has used in cooking for thousands of years and has many other uses. Honey has been used in medicines since ancient times. It cleans wounds, reduces pain and heals burns. One study shows that it helps get a better nights sleep. 

Both beeswax and honey are high in moisture which makes them great to use in homemade cosmetics. Beeswax is found in a lot chapsticks and lotions. Honey is amazing in a used in a face or hair mask. Below are two links for some great homemade products. Both made with the bonuses from the hive!

Check out these articles for DIY Beeswax Wraps and Honey Face Masks.