Honeybees

Facts, updates, and personal reflections on honeybees. Read about our own honeybee hives, as well as news on the state of honeybees in Vermont.


busy beehive vermont inn 2014 sept
busy beehive vermont inn 2014 sept

Beekeeping at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast is SWEET!

I think beekeeping has got to be one of the coolest hobbies I could have ever discovered. (Did you know? We have three backyard beehives at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast.) Spending time outside, watching the truly awesome activity of the hive, and then there’s the whole honey harvest – it’s just incredible! Add to this great mix the concept that I’m actually doing something to help our environment?! Just doesn’t get much better!

Today’s high is inspired because today was the day that we removed the surplus honey from the hives. All three of our hives had died late this past winter (probably due to a sudden cold snap after the bees had dissembled from the cluster that had been keeping them warm). And then the replacement bees we ordered came late. Very late – mid-June. So while any beehives that had survived the winter had been working since April, and even other newly purchased bees (that were delivered on time) had been working since mid-May, our bees were nearly two months behind. I was grumpy and not so optimistic about the season they’d have. Fast forward to today.

Of our three backyard beehives, one has not prospered. Without knowing exactly why they were struggling, I just did my best to nurture them along, providing pollen and honey to give them energy and strength. Today, this hive proved strong. It is not populated enough to give me any honey, but with a little continued assistance from me, I think it will be strong enough to make it through the upcoming winter.

 

This post was written Sept 5, 2014, by Julie-Lynn Wood, innkeeper and beekeeper.

By contrast, the other two hives, despite their slow start, have been rocking it! If you’re not familiar with beekeeping, surely you at least know that bees make honey.   Bees make honey because they eat honey. And lots of it. A beehive needs about 80 pounds of honey to survive a Vermont winter. (Eighty pounds is 66 of those familiar little teddy bear squeeze jars of honey!) But bees are like hoarders, they just keep making more and more honey, even with they have enough for themselves. Enter the beekeeper. As summer winds down and Autumn rolls in, beekeepers check on their bees and remove any surplus honey. Sometimes, sadly, there isn’t any. But most years, the bees have made more than they need. This year, our bees made lots more. We’ve only done the first step of the honey harvest by removing the honey from the hive, and it isn’t until the next step of removing the honey from the honeycomb itself that we’ll know precisely how much honey we have. However, it seems that each hive, in addition to its own 80 pounds of honey, has made us 60 pounds of surplus honey. That means 120 pounds of honey for us! And that means … we’ll have SWEET Christmas presents this year!

Anyone who knows me learns quickly that I love beekeeping. Honey or honey. But that said, the honey sure does make it even better!

In just one week, on Saturday September 13, 2014, we’re co-hosting (with Goodman’s American Pie of Ludlow) our annual Vermont Golden Honey Festival here at the inn in Proctorsville. You should come by and check out the local, raw honey that’s for sale, as well as the SO MANY bee-themed products – honey apple pizza, beeswax lip balm, honeyed jellies and baked goods, beeswax furniture polish, headbands with bee fabric, honey wings and honey mustard, scarves with honey inspired colors and so much more. For more information, give us a call (802=226-7744) or check out our facebook page by clicking or by searching VT Golden Honey Festival. It’s going to be a ton of fun!

National Honey Month in May – Celebrate Honey Bees!

Happy National Honey Bee Awareness month!

At the Golden Stage Inn, we love love LOVE our bees.  Here are some great bee facts and trivia to celebrate National Honey Month.  We hope some of these stories and tidbits inspire you to take a peek at honey bee activism, beekeeping, or the hives at Golden Stage Inn.

  • For guests who want to tour a honey bee hive, warm weather is just around the corner.  Join us on a sunny day to take a look at honey bees busy in their hive collecting nectar and raising brood.  Golden Stage Inn will provide protective beekeeper’s clothing and all the information you could ask for.  Learn all about honey bees’ social lives, ecology, environmental threats, and taste the sweet rewards of honey galore.
  • Did you know that honey bees dance?  It’s true!  While the dances are awfully cute and a joy to watch, they are not all fun and games.  Honey bee dancing is an intelligent form of communication.  Scout bees go out to find great forage, which means places with lots of flowers and nectar.  They come back and tell the rest of the hive about the special spot they found.  The dance tells every other bee how far away the flowers are, which direction to go, and how good of a forage spot it is.  Check it out!
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  • Though the VT Golden Honey Festival is several months away (the date is set for September 13th!), you can get a glimpse of the festivals joys by examining our backyard beehives and tasting pure raw honey.
  • This May, Innkeeper Julie is installing new bees into the hives.  Sadly, the old hives did not make it through the rough winter, perhaps due to lack of forage in the summer or extreme cold in the winter.  The date is not exact, but if you’re around the area in early May, check in to see when our bed & breakfast’s new bees will arrive!
  • The Honey Month in May helps raise awareness about the importance of honey bees to agriculture and the ecosystem.  Did you know that 100% of almond trees are pollinated by honey bees?!  If this species were to go extinct, there would be no more almonds…ever!  Other important crops dependent on honey bees include:
    • apples
    • coffee
    • avocados
    • limes
    • watermelons
    • sunflowers
    • clover and alfalfa (essential for dairy & farm animals!)
    • cucumbers
    • all sorts of berries
    • lemons
    • beans…
    • the list goes on!  Read about all of the crops that honey bees help pollinate here.
  • $14.6 billion sounds like a lot, huh?  If you put a price on the honey bees species value, that was the going rate in the year 2000!  Due to inflation, increased demand, and an increasing human population, it’s likely that honey bees are even more valuable today.
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You can help the honey bees too!

Start a backyard beehive, or if it’s too much work or you are allergic to bees, support your local beekeepers in their work.  Learn more about colony collapse disorder and help educate others.  Visit the Golden Stage Inn to get a live honey bee hive tour, or stop by during VT Golden Honey Festival on September 13th, 2014 for educational workshops and honeybee-related vendors.

Organic-Beekeeping-backyard-beekeepers-honey-vermont

Honey Bees work hard to create honey out of nectar from flowers. Did you know one honey bee will create only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime? …it takes a hive! [Image courtesy the Grafton Nature Museum]

Reasons to Love Vermont in May

It’s a hidden secret that Ludlow, Proctorsville, Cavendish, and other nearby towns in Southern Vermont are great places to spend a bit of springtime.

Vermont Snowdrops, Ludlow VTThat could mean a road trip, a getaway, or a family vacation during spring break.  New England is known for its muddy spring season, which can sometimes be cold… But Southern Vermont is beating mud season with improved roads and cars.  The forsythia, crocuses and daffodils are blooming as robins search the ground for worms.  Fresh spring breezes and blue skies remind us summer is just around the corner.  Behind the occasional dirt and rain, there are tons of reasons to love Vermont in the spring….especially if you are a guest of Golden Stage Inn!

  1. Honey Bee Installation at Golden Stage Inn B&B

  2. See The Spitfire Grill at Northern Stage

  3. Build a Living Willow Structure at Fletcher Farm School for the Arts

  4. Billings Farm & Museums Opens May 1st

  5. “Get the most from your garden” talk with Evening Song Farm

  6. May 24th is Opening Day at President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site

  7. Girls and Guns Weekend at Golden Stage Inn!

 

  • honeybee hive swarm july 2013Honey Bee Installation: the date is not exact, but if you’re interested in seeing honey bees introduced to their new homes, contact the innkeepers for more info!  The honey bees will arrive around the second week of May.  Once the flowers start to open up, you’ll be able to tour the hives (or watch a hive tour from indoors!).  We can’t wait for this year’s honey harvest and another season of backyard beekeeping adventures.
  • The Spitfire Grill is a new musical at Northern Stage, and will be running through May 4th.  Based on a movie and book, the Spitfire Grill tells the uplifting story of small town camaraderie through song and drama.  The musical won the Richard Rogers Award.  Check out the preview below!
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  • Living Willow Structure Class will be taught by Bonnie Gale, who appeared on Martha Stewart in 2010 for the Cultivating Life Show.  The class goes from 9-4 on May 24th and 25th at the Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts.  Students will practice making a joint structure on a living fence.  Then, they will make an individual living willow arch to take home!
  • Billings Farm & Museum opens up again in May!  Watch sheep-shearing and herding with Border Collies on May 3 & 4.  Celebrate VT dairy on Memorial Day Weekend, May 24th and 25th.  You’ll sample delicious Vermont cheeses, learn to make ice cream, churn butter, and meet local cheese makers.  Billings Farm is located in Woodstock and is about a half hour drive from our Bed and Breakfast in Ludlow, VT.
  • Gardening Talk with Evening Song Farm will be useful and interesting.  Held at Cavendish Fletcher Community Library, within walking distance of Golden Stage Inn B&B.  Evening Song Farm is a successful CSA operation located near Rutland VT.
  • Explore President Calvin Coolidge Historic Site, opening on Memorial Day weekend!  The Killington Stage Race will be fun to watch, and you can see the new exhibit “The Coolidges, Plymouth, and the Civil War.”
  • And last but not least, experience Girls & Guns Weekend at Golden Stage Inn!  You’ll get two night’s lodging for two people (including delicious breakfasts and treats of course).  Plus, we’ll provide one fully paid for admission the the Women on the Range course, hosted by Black River Valley Rod and Gun Club.  Learn to shoot rifles, shotguns, pistols and bows and arrows with other women.  All adventure-seekers, outdoors enthusiasts, and wannabe hunters will love this unique Vermont Inn special.  See our Girls & Guns Specials Page for further info!
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A Beekeeping Workshop with Renowned Vermont Natural Beekeeper

Honey bees are an essential fact of the innkeeping life here at Golden Stage Bed and Breakfast.

Our hive tours entertain and educate guests; the harvest season brings folks from far and near to our annual Honey Harvest Festival; and, of course, the golden reward of raw honey from the inn’s backyard sweetens guests’ morning tea and breakfast treats year-round.

Golden Stage Inn Honey bee hives in winter

Julie and I attended a natural beekeeping conference this weekend with renowned organic beekeeper Ross Conrad of Dancing Bee Gardens in Middlebury, Vermont.  Ross Conrad wrote the first book in the United States about organic beekeeping practices, so naturally we had to check this out!  The beekeeping workshop was part of Grafton Nature Museum’s 2014 Adult and Family Programs.  The theme this year is ‘The Birds and the Bees.’  Conrad also did a presentation for this series that Julie attended a few weeks ago about Colony Collapse Disorder.  Coming up this week is a talk with Sara Zahendra about Native Bumblebees, and on April 9th, Bridget Butler ‘The Bird Diva’ will present a workshop on bird-watching!

So, back to the organic beekeeping workshop…

Though I have not yet started my own backyard beekeeping, I figured I could still pick up some advice or inspiration from the talk.  Sure enough, I walked away with my head positively buzzing with knowledge and excitement about keeping bees.  Here, I’d like to share with you some of the lessons I learned from Ross Conrad!

  1. Treat your bees well.  Some people buy hives with the expectation of having a low-maintenance pet.  Bees should be cared for just as you would any other livestock or living creature.  Visit their hives once a week; be attune to their state of health; do what is natural and good for the bees rather than simply caring about the size of your honey harvest.
  2. To begin beekeeping, learn by doing!  As a beginning beekeeper myself, I really took this message to heart.  I can attend as many talks as I want, and read every book about bees, but that will not make me a good beekeeper!  The best way to learn beekeeping is to do it.  Just as in real life, we must learn from our failures.  Conrad said, “When your hive fails, that colony was giving you a gift.  They are helping you learn from your mistakes and be a better beekeeper in the future.”  A beekeeper must take that opportunity to learn – to evaluate what went wrong and how she or he can do better next time.  There are local beekeeping clubs to help you get started with networking all across the country.
  3. There is no correct way to keep bees.  Every beekeeper has their own method.  Some are organic, some use pesticides.  Some are hobby beekeepers, some are commercial.  Everyone has their own philosophy and rules when it comes to honey bees, and you will figure out your own once you spend time with your hives.
  4. Always control for mites. Ross Conrad’s three priorities with raising bees are health, honey and dryness.  Keeping your bees healthy comes first!  If you do nothing for varroa mites, which every hive will inevitably deal with, your bees will have weakened immune systems.  This means their chances of succumbing to diseases, pests or difficult weather conditions will be threatened.  Conrad listed many ways of controlling for varroa mites organically, so that your bees and honey are not exposed to pesticides or toxins.
  5. If you hold a bee in your hand, the world will be beautiful… because beauty is in the eye of the bee-holder!

Dancing Bee Gardens Raw Honey

Visit Vermont to meet the honey bees at Golden Stage Inn bed and breakfast and sample some local honey!  Stay tuned to hear about our bee installation this spring.

Vermont Zombie Honey Bees caused by Parasitic Fly

The honey bees at the Golden Stage Inn are waiting out the winter to make another delicious batch of local Vermont honey this summer, but always on a backyard beekeeper’s mind is the threat of what is known as “Colony Collapse Disorder.” While the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder remains a mystery and may be more complicated than one simple answer, a parasitic fly may have something to do with it. Before October 2013, this parasite had not been observed any further East than South Dakota…but a recent spotting will cause concern for Vermont beekeepers this summer. The phenomenon of ‘Zombie Bees’ (or even ‘ZomBees‘) has reached Vermont and now threatens the East Coast. See where Zombie Honey Bees have been spotted across the United States using this map, and visit www.zombiewatch.org to help monitor the spread of the ZomBee syndrome through citizen science.

Vermont Zombie Honey Bee killed by Parasitic Fly

Save our pollinators!

The parasitic fly causing the zombie-like infection is called Apocephalus borealis, and has been known since the 1920′s as a parasite of yellow jackets and bumble bees. John Hafernik discovered that the zombie fly infected honey bees as well in 2008, just two years after colony collapse disorder began to affect honey bees and their hives. Apocephalus borealis lays its eggs in the stomach of the honeybee. The infected honey bee leaves its hive, exhibiting symptoms such as nocturnal activity, attraction to light, and disoriented, spasmodic movement. It is this convulsive movement that the term “ZomBee” came from, as the bees move very similarly to zombies in Hollywood movies. They are not actually undead; they simply appear to be. When the eggs hatch, the honey bee dies. Unfortunately, Vermont was the first state in the East Coast to record a sighting of this parasitic attack back in October 2013 in Burlington. It is unknown whether these Vermont zombie honey bees are an isolated case or a forewarning of more Apocephalus borealis infestations to come.

Colony collapse disorder is a serious threat to both backyard beekeepers and large-scale, commercial beekeepers. Since 1/3 of the fruits and vegetables we eat depend upon bees to be pollinated, this disorder doesn’t just affect the insects – it affects our cuisine and nutrition as people!  Vermont zombie honey bees may be a new threat to beehives across Vermont or even New England, which is why it’s important to continue research and become a beekeeper! Even if you are not a beekeeper and don’t plan on keeping honeybees, you can help in other ways. Purchase local Vermont honey as your sweetener. Welcome beekeepers to your community. Know what chemicals and pesticides have been found to harm honey bees and contribute to colony collapse disorder. Plant a bee-friendly garden with native wildflowers. Learning about bees is not just environmentally-conscious…it is fascinating and fun!!

Bzzzz. -Sophi Veltrop, Golden Stage Inn Undead Insect Researcher

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