Wednesday, September 24, 2014

World's Oldest Beehive Discovered in Scotland...

World's Oldest Beehive Discovered in Scottish Chapel

                              Image from

We have read a lot about the demise of the bee colonies but recently the world's oldest beehive has been found. Located in the medieval Scottish Rosslyn Chapel, which dates back to 1446, two ancient hives have been found, skillfully carved in the stone work under the roof's peak. They are thought to be the first man-made stone hives ever found.
The discovery was made whilst some stone conservation work was being carried out which involved dismantling the peaks of the roof. Apparently the hives were still in use until just recently when the chapel was temporarily covered with a canopy and the bees de-camped.

Image from the BBC

The only clues to the hives' existence were flowers intricately carved into the pinnacles -- it is charming that there were holes through which the bees could enter and exit. These were visible from the outside.

The architects in charge of the restoration had no idea that this extra historical treasure existed. One said: "The hives themselves are the ideal size for bees to inhabit. It was a big hollow about the size of a gas cylinder and the hive had obviously been abandoned." The inside of the hive is covered with some coating to protect the stone and stop the wild bees from eating away at it. Honeycombs were also found in the peak.

Since the hive was so high above the ground, it is clear that no one would be able to reach it to get the honey. It is thought that the ancient stone masons who built the chapel simply wanted to provide a safe location for a wild honeybee hive, protected from bad weather.

The hive has been sent to local beekeepers in an attempt to identify the type of insect that made them and it is hoped the bees will return once the renovation works are complete.

Image from the Times: Illustration from 15th century manuscript

The Chapel was featured in the finale of the film of The Da Vinci Code. As a result, tourism has increased from around 25,000 visitors a year to up to 140,000. Hence it has been undergoing restoration work. Apparently there have always been bees in the roof.

According to the Times, reverence for bees dates back to Egyptian times. As depicted in temple pictures, they kept them in cylindrical hives and sealed pots of honey were found in Tutankhamun's tomb. In Scotland, hives are often made of baskets which can be lifted and moved around.

Original Source:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Big E Observation Hive Drama...

It seems someone doesn't like honeybees!  I worked in the MA building at the Big E last night, and we discovered that some had blocked our observation hive entrance!
 Here we have club member Leo Scarnici to the rescue!  Leo is a tall guy, so you can see that someone had to work to get that entrance blocked.  Who would do such a thing?  It's a mystery.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Brushy Mountain's "Back to Basics" September

After storing your honey for several months it now appears cloudy. Do not be alarmed, your honey has crystallized. Crystallization is not an indication of your honey worsening or deteriorating. Crystallized honey is not harmful or expired. Crystallization is the natural process of honey when it leaves the hive. Honey can even crystallize in the hive if your colony is unable to sustain hive temperature in honey super.

You will find that some honeys will crystallize faster than others. Honey is a highly concentrated sugar solution with more than 70% sugar and less than 20% water. Fructose and glucose are the two primary sugars found in honey. Glucose will crystallize faster due to its low water solubility. The ratio of these two sugars will determine how quickly your honey will crystallize. This is why some honeys will last months or years without crystallizing while others will crystallize within weeks of extraction. 

Other factors which affect how quickly honey crystallizes include:
  • Temperature. Storage temperature has a huge influence on the crystallization process. Storage temperatures between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal temperatures for crystallization. Temperatures below 50 degrees will slow down the crystallization process as the honey becomes thicker. Honey will resist crystallization at higher temperatures above 70 degrees. Crystals will dissolve when temperatures exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Particles. During extraction particles of debris are caught by the honey. Pieces of beeswax or pollen grains will act as a base for the glucose crystals. Unfiltered honey contains a higher number of particles; therefore, it will crystalize faster than finely filtered honey. Also consider the particles in air and be sure to allow your honey to settle before bottling to allow air bubbles to be released.

Honey can be returned to its lucid form if it becomes crystallized. Gently warm the honey by placing the bottle into a water bath or, depending on size of container, a sunny window. Do not heat honey beyond 104 degrees or it will destroy enzymes, begin to caramelize the sugars and alter the flavor. Heat the water bath slowly and bring the temperature of honey up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating must be done with care if the honey is to retain its nutritional value. If you have left your honey in pails, use a melt belt to bring the honey temperature up to a safe range or use a honey bottler & liquefier as a double boiler.

Some honey enthusiasts enjoy honey in its crystalized state. It is easier to use in cooking and will spread better on toast. See what your customers prefer.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Brushy Mountain's Question of the Month: September

This has been one of the best honey flows in the past couple of years. Everyone who we have spoken with has been able to extracted at least one super of honey. In the North Carolina region, many beekeepers have commented that they were able to harvest a sourwood crop. Believe it or not, too much honey can be a problem. What is the best way to store it? What works best when labeling and marketing honey?

What are you going to do with all the excess honey now that you have finished extracting and bottling? Of course you will want to keep some for yourself but how should you sell the rest? The presentation of your honey can generate a demand to help you avoid a surplus. Whether you sell your honey or give it as a gift, presentation is important.
  • The Right Jar. There are many varieties of jars and everyone will target a specific audience. ClassicMuth and Hexagonal are elegant glass jars that will increase the value of the honey. The Plastic Classic and Flat Panel Bears are more commonly known and tend to be more cost efficient. Consider that the jar is not only for containing your honey but also for display. Ensure it is clean and clearly shows your honey. An embossed design will help your jars stand out from competitors. Check out our newEmbossed Hourglass Jars for a unique design.

  • The Right Size and Top. Not everyone wants to buy 2lbs. of honey that they have not had before. The 2 oz Mini Bear is a good size sampler that sells great and if they like it enough, they will be back for more! Offer more sizes (1lb, 12oz, 8oz…) so your customers can choose how much they want. Would you prefer a flip top style lid or ahi-flow spout cap when dispensing your honey? Would your customers enjoy the same as you? This may be a test year so that you can better understand what your customers would like next year.

  • Label It. When you’re not there to talk about your honey, your label will be speaking for you. A label makes your jar look professional! Let your customers know it is pure and natural honey from your hives. Give them the contact information in case they want more next year. Use the correct size label for your jar. A panel bear label does not visually fit on to a 2 lb. jar. Add the tamper proof seal so your customers will be confident in the honey’s integrity.

    Most states have labeling requirements when selling honey. They require certain information pertaining to your honey. Honey is sold by weight not volume, such as fluid ounces.

  • Other Products. Don’t stop with just your honey. You will do better is you have a variety of products. Throw in those bars of soap you made with your soap making kit, light thecandle you made from the wax in your hive, open up the mead you made with your honey. Sell the fruits and vegetables your bees helped pollinate. Offer them more than honey and provide the story behind it!
What should you do if you did not sell all your honey? Will it go bad before next year? Storing honey is easy. Store it at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and in a tightly sealed container. Wipe off any drips or leaks that will attract insects before storing the honey. Do not fret if you return later to find your honey is cloudy. Honey is not a perishable item but it will crystallize. Read Back to the Basics to better understand crystallization.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Big E Promo Video...

Another great video from club member Leo Scarnici!  Leo partnered with club vice president and Big E fair chair, Tom Flebotte to create a promo video to spread awareness about our beekeeping school, and our presence at The Big E! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Big E!

We're so excited for the Big E!  It starts Friday, September 12th! Our bees are already buzzing in and out of our booths in the MA Building and in Farmarama.

MA Building
 MA Building
Come see us and the bees at the Big E!