31 October 2013

smoke, sugar and stung

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smokey Agape
Ever since Hurricane Sandy swept through the island a year ago, a good nectar flow has yet to come. With the October nectar flow not being the exception, the young honey bee colonies had to be fed. Colonies are fed supplementary feed to ensure continued colony development through nectar and pollen shortages. By supporting their populations and promoting comb building with supplementary feeding, the bees will have the strength and space to take full advantage of the nectar flows, once they come.
"The relative unpredictability of nectar flows in the tropics and subtropics makes it more difficult for the beekeeper to prepare the colonies." Source.
Most of the farm's colonies are young swarms from this March and are not strong enough to sustain themselves through the dearth. We fired up the smoker with cardboard and coconut husk (usually dried lemongrass is used but it was too wet) and cracked open the hives from the back of the hive rather the front. Smoke disorientates the bees and sends them scurrying across the comb, usually the opposite direction. So when opening up a hive, smoking them from the back will send the bees to the front, where they are less likely to challenge our disturbance. Two baggies of cane sugar syrup were carefully placed as close to the back comb as possible. The bees will chew up the plastic in an attempt to remove its presence from their nest, only to discover a sweet syrup which they will store away.

In the midst of feeding, a honey bee had crawled underneath my left sandal strap and when I lifted my foot, I was stung. I quietly thanked her for her venom.

After feeding, Kwao, Agape and I discussed which sugar was best to feed which led to some research:
"Refined beet and cane sugar are pure sucrose and, of course, are safe and nutritionally equivalent. Unrefined sugars have poisoned bees." USDA
"It matters a lot if it's granulated white sugar or anything else. Powdered sugar, brown sugar, molasses and any other unrefined sugar is not good for bees. They can't handle the solids." Bush Bees.
On the prohibited list for supplemental feeding of Certified Naturally Grown's Handbook For Natural Beekeeping:
"Brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, sugar produced from GMO beets. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Purchased liquid sucrose or sugar syrup which contains any additives or stabilizers." 

30 October 2013


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greensboro dawn

caribbean sea

kitten + jungle

The flight from Miami, Florida to Kingston, Jamaica was a smooth thirty minutes. When I stepped out into the muggy air, I immediately spotted Kwao - the only six foot eight inch tall dread-locked Rastafarian who warmly welcomed me to Jamaica. He then directed the Land Rover north, through the streets of Kingston, lined with goats, dogs and vendors. We bought a few bunches of guinep without getting out of the car and continued on our way through the twisting lush mountain roads. Once we hit the north coast, a rainbow seemed to sprout from the sky-blue sea and a few moments later, a double welcomed me to my home for the winter. Agape greeted me with a hug and I met the five brothers, ranging from ages two to thirteen, throughout the rest of the evening as they ran about, barefoot with beautiful heads of sun-bleached dread-locks. I spent the rest of the day as a newborn bee would after chewing away her pollen-wax cap, crawling unsteadily out of her crib and orientating herself. I am in awe of the lush beauty here.

20 October 2013


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Honeybees have hummed a steady song in my chest since I was twelve years young. The Universe manifested the education and experience I've been seeking : by Hallo-ween I will be in Jamaica for a four-month honeybee keeping internship. This world wide web-log is here to document my work this winter with the lovely Adams family at Yerba Buena Farms.

GOAL : To explore the diverse perspectives / ideas / concepts of simple, humble and pure honeybee stewardship. To expand my knowledge and experience with active research, observation and experimentation. To understand and practice sustainable top-bar beekeeping in context to a rural farm in Jamaica.

  1. To fully understand, and implement treatment free and sustainable beekeeping. 
  2. To develop extensive knowledge and experience with top-bar hive management and construction techniques. 
  3. To determine the advantages of a top-bar hive in comparison to Langstroth hives. 
  4. To collect and examine the various uses of bee products such as honey, wax, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly. 
  5. To gain an in-depth knowledge of various approaches to queen breeding and rearing to strengthen and diversify honeybee genetics for pest and disease resistance. 
  6. To develop experience in conducting wild honeybee extractions. 
  7. To enhance leadership skills to be able to lead workshops, trainings and meetings for local novice and professional beekeepers as well as the children’s group Robins Bay Bee Club that visits the farm.
  8. To gain exposure to Jamaica’s culture and environment in order to better understand sustainable agriculture relevant to a developing country. 
 These goals were inspired by Megan Langer, one of Yerba Buena Farm's past interns.