Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Middle Bar Frame

Just after our nuc transfers on 8 May 2015, we received some pictures from Dale Wright, who received a colony at that event. They show how the middle bar frames work and what the bees do to build onto them.

These pictures were taken just after the nuc transfers. From the looks of things, it seems that the bees are building smaller comb on the middle bar frames, really not built to hold anything other than the essentials. However, the following pictures were taken when Dale checked his hive after two weeks.

Look at the difference that just two weeks makes! The bees have almost completely filled up the frames with comb they built without any help!

A lot of people have asked us why we prefer to use the middle bar frame instead of using a plastic or wax foundation. This is all going towards our sustainable bee research and helping the bees become healthier. In general, using the middle bar frames are beneficial to the health of the bees. They build the comb on the middle bar frame the way they want instead of the way that we want them to. Stan Moulton, our beekeeper, has done extensive experimentation and has concluded that these frames are indeed healthier for the bees' sustainability. As he likes to say, "We need to stop telling the bees what to do. We need to leave the bees alone."

You can purchase middle bar frames by clicking here.

Here is a series of videos of Stan explaining how the middle bar frames work and their benefits to the bees:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Biology of Honey

Over the weekend, I was able to help Stan Moulton with our last nuc transfer of the season. I found myself with a significantly deeper knowledge of bees this time around, but I also left with a lot of questions. One of the big ones was: "How is honey made?"

A photo posted by Bee Champions (@beechampions) on

In doing some research, I discovered that the process of making honey and its many uses is actually quite fascinating. My research helped me learn things that I would never have known and deeply broadened my understanding and respect of bees.

The Significance of Honey

As we have already learned in previous posts, honey is absolutely vital to our survival because of the service they do in pollinating our food supplies. But it is culturally significant as well. In fact, honey has been found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. This gives us another thing that is particularly beneficial to us: the unlimited shelf life of honey. The pharaohs recognized it and venerated it, being buried with jars of honey that are still edible today, thousands of years after they were laid to rest with the deceased kings. Another amazing aspect of honey that it is one of very few food sources that has all significant nutrients to live off. In other words, you can literally eat honey your entire life and you would not be any worse for wear for it. According to Matthew 3:4 in the King James Version of the Bible, John the Baptist lived in the deserts of the Holy Land living off honey.

How Honey is Made

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination. Chemistry was one of my worst subjects in school, but even I was surprised by the simplicity of the process. Below is a fantastic video on how the chemistry of honey works.

The science is simple: flower nectars are basically made up of sugar water. When a bee extracts it and takes it back to the hive, chemicals secreted by the bees break the sucrose into fructose and glucose. Further chemicals are used to convert the glucose into the honey substance that we know. The process is also surprisingly fast: a large hive can produce up to 7 pounds of honey in a day!

Honey has been a significant part of our society for thousands of years. Used for healing and food, the honey is made by a simple process that nature has refined over thousands of years of use. It makes honeybees that much more important, not only as a pollination source, but as a food source when times are tough. Or if you just wanted a natural sweetener that will never expire.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Anand Varma's Photographic Journey into the Lives of Bees

Everyone loves a good TED talk, right? Well, there's a TED talk about bees! I was e-mailed the link to this absolutely fascinating video on a National Geographic photographer who was asked to document the first 21 days of a bee's life to illustrate how destructive the varroa mite has been to the bee population.

While watching this video, I was given a new insight into one of the issues that is causing the bee population to drop so dramatically: the Asian varroa mite. It is this deadly parasite that has caused the bee population to weaken over the first 21 days of a bee's life. They feed on the bees when they pupate, which is probably the most critical time of a bee's development.

As you can see in this picture, the varroa mite is tiny, only about the size of a pinhead. But they have weakened the bees and are causing them to die off in droves.

Despite this, there is hope. In the video, Anand Varma talks about his work in conjunction with UC Davis and in their breeding program to help the bees regain their strength. There have been some drawbacks with this invasive research, but work is being done to ensure that the bees can withstand the onslaught of these deadly invaders.

However, the big question is this: how can you tell if your backyard beehive has been infested with varroa mites? Stan Moulton, our beekeeper here at Bee Champions, gives great trainings on how to see if your hive has been infected. You can find those videos herehere and here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why the Bees are Dying

In my last post, I discussed the depressing prospect of the dying bee population and how that would impact us as a whole. For this post, I will discuss what exactly is happening to cause the bees to die off in such vast numbers.

Yesterday, one of our founders at Bee Champions, Steven Daniels, forwarded another article to me about the bee losses in America, this time by the New York Times. The article goes into more depth about what is exactly killing off the bees, and discusses this with the men from Penn State University who are studying the sudden loss. They ended up reaching two conclusions: pesticides and varroa mites.

There was also another overarching disease that was spreading: Colony Collapse Disorder. Without a firm cause or consistent symptoms, they simply used this term to describe the collective sicknesses that the bees were dying from.

I will not rehash the findings in this post, as you can read them in the article itself. There is also a ten-minute video roughly halfway down the article that was absolutely fantastic, and I highly recommend that you take the time to watch it.

Click here to go to the article by the New York Times.

As illustrated in the video and in my previous post, you can do your part in preserving the bees! You can begin your backyard beekeeping experience by buying beekeeping equipment here and starting a new colony, or you can participate in the "Just Bee-Cause" Hive Sponsorship Program to contribute to sustainable bee research and population growth.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Impact of Losing the Honeybee

As I was working today, my father forwarded me an interesting article from the Associated Press that really caught my attention. The article illustrated just how seriously the issue of the loss of honeybees should be taken.

The Effects of Honeybees on Us

First of all, how do honeybees affect us? To really understand the impact of this terrible occurrence, we have to understand what they do for us. If you were to ask a regular person how a bee impacts them, they probably wouldn't have an adequate answer. Most would answer that bees pollinate things. But do we really appreciate what that actually means?

By definition, pollination is the process of taking the pollen from the anther (male part) of a plant to the stigma (female part) for the intent of reproduction. Virtually all plants are fertilized in this way. Though there are other animals that fertilize plants - beetles, wasps, bats, etc. - none are as important as the honeybee, which depends on pollen as one of its major food sources.

Let's bring things into perspective for a second. Most of our food source is plant matter. And any food that isn't plant matter was fed from plant matter. So, in a very literal sense, our entire food source is dependent on plants. And the plants are dependent on fertilization so that they can continue to grow and spread. A very good friend of mine owns an orchard in Idaho and he depends on the bees to fertilize his trees so that he can feed his family. What if, one day, there was no fertilization going on? We would exhaust our food source very quickly with no way of sustaining it.

Albert Einstein has been attributed as saying: "If the bee disappeared off the face of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Now, I don't know about you, but Einstein was a very smart man. If he saw the consequences of bee annihilation fifty years ago, then that time has certainly come that we need to pay attention to what is going on around us.

Are We Truly Losing the Honeybee?

The answer to this question is a resounding "YES!" The article from the Associated Press claims that as much as forty percent of the bee population has been lost in the last year!

Let's take a moment to illustrate just how dire this is. As of today, 13 May 2015, the world population was estimated to be about 7,243,000,000 people. That's quite a hefty number! Now, what would happen if we lost forty percent of our population by May 2016. Our population would sit at 4,345,800,000. That's a casualty number of 2,897,200,000! In one year! I don't even want to think of what kind of disaster would have to occur to destroy our population by that magnitude!

Can We Help?

Of course you can! Though the situation is dire, it is certainly not irreversible. Everyone can do their part to help bring back the honeybee. One program that we are pushing for here at Bee Champions is the "Just Bee-Cause" Hive Sponsorship Program. Even if you can't or have no desire to keep bees, through our program, you can do your part to help create a sustainable solution for the bees. Click on the previous link for more information on the program.

If you are interested in reading the article from the Associated Press, you can read it here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Nuc Transfers, 8 May 2015

On Friday, 8 May 2015, we had our first major nuc transfer of the 2015 season. Taking place in Pleasant Grove, Utah, where we keep a large number of our nucs, it was a blast for everyone involved. A great variety of people of people showed up, from first-time keepers to seasoned veterans of beekeeping, from families starting a new hobby to individuals continuing a treasured pasttime, from as far as Las Vegas and Wendover to as near as Pleasant Grove. It was exhilarating to see the excitement in the faces of everyone involved. We hope you enjoy the pictures taken of this wonderful event.

As we started out, using the four-wheeler was the fastest way for us to be able move everyone's bees effectively.

As our customers came to pick up their new colonies, they checked in here.

Even the children involved had a great time!

New keepers would receive instruction from the experts as their nucs were transferred to their new hives.

Because it was a rainy day, the bees were docile enough that even
those not dressed in beekeeping clothing could stand close enough
to participate.

We had several families show up as a whole. What an awesome way to begin their new hobby!

Stan Moulton, our resident expert, gave amazing instruction to the novice keepers.

This is just a preview of the sheer number of nucs we had available to
transfer to new hives.

New beekeepers were instructed on how to effectively transfer their colonies safely into their new hives, paying close attention to not hurting any of the bees.

It was an extremely busy day for the Bee Champions employees as so many people came to collect their new colonies.

Stan Moulton was often surrounded by hordes of eager beekeepers
ready to learn all they can from him.

There was a lot of excitement surrounding our amazing new observation hives. To purchase one, click here!

This is an example of our raw deep box, of which, many were
purchased for new colonies. Click here to purchase one yourself!

This is an example of our medium boxes. Click here to purchase now!

New beekeepers were so excited to purchase new hives that our
employees struggled at times to keep up with all the new orders!

Each participant at our event went home with one of our new bumper stickers!

Some of the new beekeepers brought their own hives. Some were truly exquisite, like this one.

Beekeeping can be a great hobby for even children!

This shows the assembly of our new feeders. You can purchase them here and here.

There were a variety of ways that our customers transported their
bees home. Most opted to bring trucks, though some simply taped
the entrance and drove home in their cars!

It was great to see families working together to have a great beekeeping experience.

This picture shows the sheer beauty of our facility in Pleasant Grove, Utah, at the base of the Wasatch Mountains overlooking Utah Lake.

For more information, be sure to check out our website and our online store. For more information on classes and our nuc transfer dates, click here.