Thursday, June 10, 2021

I'm bringing back the blog!

It will be a slow reboot, and I don't expect to be posting more than once a month. I want to keep it simple so I can keep it going. 

Enjoy this video of me at work in the Garden!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Honey, It’s Just Poop! Urban Bees a Net Positive for the Community

Two new hives this year!
It was going to be just one, but my empty hive box in my neighbors yard had a swarm voluntarily move in a few weeks ago! (after I had already ordered bees to replace the hives I lost 😢)

Check out these two school assignments: Lena's persuasive essay and soap for chemistry.  I give her an A+!!

Mix lye, several different oils, essential oils,
and, of course, honey and bees wax!
Stir in a little lavender from the Land...

Pour it into the molds....

Several weeks later you got soap!

5th period English 
Mr. Slayton
April 3, 2017

Honey, It’s Just Poop!
Urban Bees a Net Positive for the Community

The benefits of keeping bees outweigh any inconveniences caused by their feces and stings. The European honey bee, Apis mellifera, originates in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, but has been spread by humans, and now occurs in every continent except for Antarctica (Mortensen, etc). Although many humans appreciate bees, and amateurs even keep one or two hives of bees in their yards, there are many people who are frustrated with local beekeepers and beehives because of the stings they receive and the messes the bee feces makes on their houses and cars.

Apis mellifera is not only colonized in the gardens of amateurs, but used on a much larger scale to pollinate crops globally. Bees pollinate 30% of global crops, and almost $15 billion of the crops of the United States of America (Mortensen, etc). Without bees, Earth’s food system would be very different. However, in the US and other areas, Apis mellifera is not native, and, in some cases, is causing a decrease in the population of native bees (Hammond/Blankenship).

Local beekeeping is often a way to bring communities closer together. Beekeepers will open up their homes to sell honey when they have excess, and neighbors who barely know each other will come together and talk, all because local honey is being sold. And the local honey is good for the health of the people in the community, as well as building up the community itself. Although official tests have not been conclusive, many people have found that if they eat local honey, their allergies to pollen are less apparent. Because local honey is not filtered as much, small amounts of pollen remain in the sticky substance, and when people ingest it, those small amounts are like allergy shots (Nall), which are injections with a tiny quantity of the allergen in them (Mayo Clinic Staff). Honey can also help with digestion problems, and is soothing to burns. The propolis (a gooey substance bees produce to keep the hive clean) that beekeepers collect also has healing properties (O’Connell). And, as many parents and children know, a spoonful of honey will sooth a sore throat.

The environment benefits from local hives as well. Honey from beekeepers with only one or two hives does not often come from flowers soaked in pesticides. Thus, the honey, the flowers, and the bugs in the area are healthier. And, as with all local food, the honey was not shipped in from a farm far away, and so greenhouse gasses and other pollutants are not emitted by trucks hauling barrels of commercially collected honey. Local honey brings awareness to the people affected by the beekeeping, teaching them about bees. People learn about both Apis mellifera and the bees native to the area, and awareness is raised.

In a good situation, people get used to the bees, and even come to enjoy the quiet buzz that can be heard when no cars are coming past. But in a bad situation, neighbors are annoyed by the bees. In an even worse situation, beekeepers answer a knock at the door to find a disgruntled neighbor complaining about the stings their child has gotten, or the bee poop on their car. As one person said to the author of “Bee - neighbor issue,” “ son has had 4 bee stings this year. ...I deserve a better quality of life. Look, my son has bee poop on his head right now!” And in a more recent situation, a beekeeper in Sunnyside, San Francisco read a post on a local website that said, “Took my car to the car wash... They ran the car through twice but were unable to get the crud off.” That poster claimed that the bee poop on her house and car was a nightmare, and soon after the situation arose, she began truly investigating, and caused the displacement of three local hives. Angry neighbors are a bad thing, but it is also a pain when people who are perfectly happy to have bees in the neighborhood are inconvenienced by the bee poop too, as it leaves yellow stains on white cloths that are hung out to dry near bee hives (Rusty).

Bee stings are something that should be taken into consideration; however, Apis mellifera do not sting without reason. If they feel that their hive or their life is in danger, they will sting. These stings are not dangerous, unless the person stung is allergic to bee venom (Hammond/ Blankenship). And while bee poop is very difficult to remove from cars and houses, it is harmless, and the only problem it causes is a dusty, somewhat streaked appearance. That can become an annoyance to people who enjoy the cleanliness of their cars, but it is not a big deal. The reasons for people pushing for bees to be removed from their neighborhoods are minor, and the things gained by the presence of bees are more important. Local bees cause a positive environmental impact, and the products they create help the health of individuals.

Mortensen, Ashley/Schmehl, Daniel/Ellis, Jamie/Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida. “European honey bee.” Featured Creatures. University of Florida, August 2013. Accessed 23 March 2017.

Hammond, George/Blankenship, Madison. “Apis mellifera honey bee.” Animal Diversity Web. 2009. Accessed 23 March 2017.

Nall, Rachel. “Honey for Allergies.” Healthline. 10 March 2016. health/allergies/honey-remedy#Overview1. Accessed 23 March 2017.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Allergy shots: Definition.” Tests and Procedures. 10 February 2015. http:// Accessed 23 March 2017.

O’Connell, Danielle. “Benefits of Local Raw Honey.” 16 August 2013. http:// Accessed 3 April 2017.

Brenda. “Bee - neighbor issue.” Mary Janes Farm: Farmgirl Connection. 24 July 2011. http:// Accessed 23 March 2017.

Hartsough, Chester. “bee poop.” The Brew and The Bees. 16 November 2016. http:// Accessed 23 March 2017.

Rusty. “Sticky yellow bee droppings are a good thing.” Honey Bee Suite: A Better Way to Bee. 10 June 2010. Accessed 3 April 2017. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Get your honey for the holidays from The Second Garden! We'll be selling from The Garden this Sunday, November 20th from 12:30 - 1:30.

These ladies were very upset at being forcibly moved from their
SF home to live in the Sierra Foothills.

Nice jars, right?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

bee poop

Little birdy flying high 
Dropped a message from the sky 
A farmer who was passing by 
Said, " 'tis a mercy PIGS don't fly


My view of The Garden from my workspace where I make lotions and soap.
That's a dirty window!

Honey bee flying high
Dropped a message from the sky
To a neighbor walking by
"'tis a mercy pigs don't fly!"

Everyone Poops
Many of you reading this will have heard of, or even read to your children, the book Everyone Poops by Tarō Gomi. And as the title suggests every living thing poops. Even bees poop. It's too bad Tarō didn't mention that in the book.  Maybe then it wouldn't come as a surprise to neighbors looking for who or what to blame for the yellow rain in the neighborhood. When you have 40,000+ bees living in a hive, collectively that's a lot of poop! Bees are a lot like us. Babies poop in the bed, the adults clean it up. Adults hold it all night and never poop in the bed. In the morning they go to the bathroom shortly after flying off to work and then once or twice more during the day.

Their poop comes down like rain and gets everywhere. If you live near a hive you may have noticed little yellowish brown oblong spots on your car or house windows.  If you look close, you'll realize that you've seen it everywhere without thinking about it. It's on plants, the sidewalk, your house, your dog. Ever felt a little drop of rain when there wasn't a cloud in the sky? That might have been bee poop! And it's not easy to clean up! Honey, wax, nectar, pollen all end up in a honey bee's gut and what comes out is a gooey sticky mess.

It's a nightmare!
You might have to squint, but there are literally
hundreds of bee droppings all over our car!
It takes some warm water and elbow grease to get it off your car completely.  It can be a nightmare! At least that's what my neighbor believes.  She put it, "Your hobby is my nightmare."  Some of you may be able to sympathize with her, but most of my (few) followers will think her worries a sad example of a first world problem.  And one that ignores the greater good that bees play in the environment and in food production. But she is not alone in being furious by being made to live under a constant barrage of bee poop.  A quick Google search of "neighbors complain about bee poop" yields these quotes (among others):

This year the landowner at the rear of my house installed approximately fifteen hives. Consequently, for three months now my house and cars have been smothered in bee poop. The beekeeper has said he will move the hives further along the field and this may alleviate the problem. I wonder if this is true. The nuisance is prolific; all my windows need cleaning daily as well as the cars.  

Look closer. That's poop on our car!
The woman said she is embarrassed to have people over because they go "EEEUUUUWWW" when they see the bee poop. The man said he is going to have to re-side his house since the bee poop won't come off with a pressure washer. 

I deserve a better quality of life. Look, my son has bee poop on his head right now!

But that's not all! There's this thread from right here in Sunnyside, SF! 

On September 8th, Sap falling on cars and houses:

The original post: I was wondering if anyone knows where all the sap (or infected tree with bugs) is coming from. We thought it was from the palm tree on our street, but it seems to be in many other areas. This is the first year it has been this bad. It's on the side of the houses where the wind blows and all over the cars. It's very hard to clean off. Not sure if it is sap or what.
         - When I saw this, I was pretty sure she was describing bee poop. I stayed quiet, hoping her concern would go unaddressed.  I wasn't that lucky. Took about 2 weeks before she came knocking on my door.

If it is small yellowish drops, that is bee poop. Super hard to clean. Someone could make a fortune inventing bee poop solvent.

If anyone knows a home mixture to safely remove the drops from car paint, I would sure love to know it. I ran my car through the car wash on bayshore 4 times. There was still poop that survived the trips.

Original poster: Thanks for all the responses. I am all for bees living in nature, but I am not sure if we need so many bee keepers in our neighborhood. It has really decreased our outdoor enjoyment. It is on our chairs, house paint, windows, cars, everything. What a drag.

Took my car to the car wash because they recycle water instead of having water run into the gutter. They ran the car through twice but were unable to get the crud off.
We noticed this happened last
 year but it has particularly heavy this year. It's a never ending struggle to keep the spots off my car and it is quite annoying. If you leave the gunk on the car for any length of time and then scrape them off they"ll eat through the car finish and fade the paint.
Anyone have a brainstorm as to how to deal with this please post them here so we can quit wearing our fingernails down to nubs. Thanks!

The original poster is the neighbor living a "nightmare" due to my "hobby". Not only that, turns out she lives right behind us on the other side of the Sunnyside Conservatory. But you can see, she's not alone in her frustration. If you know me, you know I try to be a good neighbor, and it pains me that I may be contributing to someone's discomfort.  But is it really so bad to have bee poop on your car?  If I really am causing a nuisance in the neighborhood, I need to know and I'll do what I can to mitigate the problem. 

This neighbor has gone door to door to survey the neighborhood to... I'm not quite sure what her intention is.  She says it's to survey the neighborhood to see what can be done to solve this problem because "we just can't live like this".  To me it feels a little like she's gathering torches and pitch forks to run me out of town. So what do I do?  

Check out this enormous bee poop! That's on the
inside of my car left by a bee that got out when I
moved Adena's bees up to The Land.
I'm not the only neighbor with bees. And not even the neighbor with bees closest to her!  Right across the street from her a neighbor has (had) three hives.  He very graciously agreed, at her urging, to remove two of his hives! I succumbed to pressure, and just this past weekend moved my hive that used to reside in my friend's garden who also lives behind us.  Her hive was about the same distance from the distraught neighbor's house as the two hives I have in The Garden.  I drew the line there, however, and said I was not moving my two hives that I, and many neighbors other than her, have grown to love and enjoy. In our negotiations, she reluctantly agreed to not pursue any further action - she has already talked to the agricultural commission, went to a meeting of the SF beekeeper's association (she got no love there, as you might imagine), and went around taking pictures of windows and cars and google mapped hives in the neighborhood. We will revisit the issue in the spring when the bee population is once again on the rise and we can see what the result of three less hives in the neighborhood is.  A neighbor on the block just a bit further from her than my hives also has a hive. A woman a couple blocks away has many hives, Glen Park School has a hive (at least they used to), and many other neighbors in the surrounding neighborhood do as well.  So I am very skeptical that removing a few hives is going to make a difference in the amount of bee poop on her car. When she is not satisfied I fear she won't quit till she has purged every hive from the neighborhood. That can't be the solution.                                   

Do bees belong in the urban environment? 
I love my bees.  I sometimes will just watch them for minutes (hours would sound better, but I'd be lying) go in and out of their hives. Bees are so important to our human survival and the entire planet.  They are an integral part of the ecosystem and without them, the system would collapse. If you're still reading this, then you've undoubtedly heard that we can thank honey bees for every third bite of food and you know about colony collapse disorder.  Next time a bee poops on you, you might say, "thank you." 

But urban bees aren't essential to our survival.  My bees aren't pollinating almonds or apple orchards. They are not part of the natural food web of the world. In fact they may be outcompeting native bees of California. 😟  Urban bees do, however, serve a purpose beyond being someone's hobby. First and foremost, they provide honey for consumption.  Who can't get behind a locally produced food that is fun and arguably a healthy alternative to more traditional sweeteners? For those suffering allergies it may help build up immunities to pollen allergies. Honey and it's accompanying wax can be made into many great products including candles, soap and lotions. Most importantly, urban bees raise awareness to the plight of bees around the world thus highlighting the fragility of our planet. Can anything than the fate of our planet be more important!

What do you think? Should urban beekeeping be regulated? Maybe all hives should be registered and a limit imposed on the number of hives in a given area.  Is there a solution I haven't thought of? I'm hopeful that my neighbor will grow to accept some dirty windows as an acceptable inconvenience of urban living.  There are so many great things about living in San Francisco. Is it really a nightmare to live under a yellow rain, where some neighbors, when a bee drops a little love on them, look up and give thanks for what we have.

Stay sweet!

As I sat under the apple tree
a honey bee sent her love to me
and as I wiped it from my eye
I said “thank goodness cows can’t fly!"

Little birdy flying high 
Dropped a message from the sky 
A farmer who was passing by 
Said, " 'tis a mercy PIGS don't fly
Little birdy flying high 
Dropped a message from the 
A farmer who was passing by 
Said, " 'tis a mercy PIGS don't fly

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Honey (and more) from The Second Garden

It was a bad year for my bees. All five hives, three in San Francisco and two in Nevada County didn't make it through the winter. And it was a bit of a rough start this spring, as well. Starting up 4 hives was a lot and in April I was running around between my three locations in Sunnyside and teaching full time. I was worried something was going to have to give.  Somehow I and the bees made it! Although one of the hives had queen problems. I noticed supercedure cells (emergency queen cells) when inspecting the hive the second week after settling them in.  I waited a few days before checking on them again and by then it was quite clear that the queen wasn't laying well, if at all. So I ordered a new queen (you can order a single bee by overnight mail!) and after a week of worry, the hive accepted the new queen.  Now they're thriving like my other three, though they're about a month behind in terms of honey production.
Two hives in The Garden, two in two different neighbor's gardens
Next week I plan on my first harvest of the summer. It won't be much, I'll be happy if I can get 10 lbs out of them.  But its just a start.  If all goes well, I'll be harvesting every two weeks for a couple of months and will be able to satisfy most of the appetites of friends and neighbors for local honey! Crossing my fingers, I'm letting people know now that I will have honey for sale on Wednesday, June 29th, at my usual time of  4:30 - 6:00 in The Garden.

Even if the bees aren't ready to give me any honey, I'll be here, the gate open, with lotion, lip balm, soup, and Garden tours.  We may be able to check out The Tower
as well. Currently no one is scheduled to be in it Wednesday.

And- The Garden Bazaar was a great success last year, so I'd like to do it again. I've picked July 30th as the day so please save the date.  An official announcement will happen soon. Once again we'll have music, food, face painting, neighborhood garden bounties, and crafts to share, buy and trade.
Carter and Lena modeling bracelets Lena sold at last year's bazaar
If you have anything you would like to barter, sell or share, please let me know.  The more the merrier!

If I don't see you next week, some Honey Sale soon.  Until then, stay sweet!

Love the slo mo!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

New Hive - Some creative writing by Lena Hartsough

Here is an assignment Lena did for school. It was inspired by our recent hive installations.  Lena is a great help in all of my beekeeping activities.

New Hive
by Lena Hartsough
One of the four hives in it's delivery box that I installed this spring.

We are all together. In a space and all clumped as if a swarm. But our-Queen is not there. There is a Queen, but she is not our-Queen. We are moved, but the clump stays together. There are barriers all around us, like a hive, but trapping. There are no ways to stretch our wings or fly. We are angry at the not- our-Queen, for she is unfamiliar and will not help us. We try to get to her, to sting her and rip at her wings and head. We cannot reach her through the small-barrier-hive that is around her. We stay in our barrier-hive, trapped, for a long time. There is nectar for us, but it is not nectar. It is nearly tasteless.
Then the nectar-that-is-not-nectar is taken away. There is an opening, but before we get to it, it is covered. The not-our- Queen is taken away too. Then our clump in the barrier-hive is moved. We are put into more barriers and the opening is uncovered. There are more barriers above us, with the not-our- Queen in her small-barrier-hive.
Over the next lights and darks, we get out of the barrier- hive, and find the big-sky through a small opening in the other barriers. We continue trying to sting the not-our-Queen, but her smell is nice. We need a Queen, and the not-our-Queen is a Queen. Maybe she can be our Queen. But we still cannot reach her through the small-barrier-hive.
Separated from her sisters...

The not-our-Queen is taken away. We are angry. She would have become our-Queen. We fly and try to sting, and the not-our-Queen is brought back. Now the small-barrier-hive has squishy-nectar-solid instead of one of the barriers. We chew through it, and the not-our-Queen comes out. She is our-Queen now, and we will protect her and love her, as a hive does.

Safe in their new home...

And if you've ever wondered how a new hive settles into their new home, Lena also wrote this up as part of her assignment:

When a beekeeper gets a new hive, the bees come in a box with a frame of wood and sides made out of screens. Three pounds of bees are in this box, which amounts to around ten thousand insects. The queen is in a very small box with screens forming the walls, and for the first four days or so the hive has an instinct to kill her, as they see her as an intruder and a threat to the hive. A can of sugar water is inside the bee box, acting as a stopper, and from this the bees get their nutrition.

When the beekeeper is ready to put the bees into their new home, they take out the can and place some sort of cardboard or scrap of wood on top of the opening to keep the bees from all getting out at once. The box containing the queen is taken out and strapped in between two frames inside a hive box with rubber bands. Frames are made of wood, and sometimes contain a plastic center that has the shape of honeycomb. The bees use them to line with beeswax and then fill with honey.

There are two ways to get the rest of the bees into the new hive: The beekeeper can shake the bee box over the hive box that contains the queen until most of the bees have fallen into the hive, or the bee box can be placed inside a second hive box, this one empty of frames. The box with the queen in it is stacked on top of that box. The next day, the beekeeper takes out the lower box, as most of the bees have climbed into the upper box.

After another couple of days, the bees have gotten used to the queen’s smell, and accept her as their queen. The beekeeper replaces the cork in the queen’s box with marshmallow, and the bees are able to chew through it and get their queen out.