It’s a bird…It’s a plane…It’s Barclay the Bee!

We are so excited to announce the arrival of “Barclay the Bee,” a little six-legged supergal who is the star of a new comic book by artist Olga Andreyeva.

Created by the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel and The Center for Sustainable Design Strategies at Pratt Institute, the children’s comic underscores sustainable hospitality and the importance of honeybees for the environment. Barclay (who is based on the real-life bees we keep at the hotel) is a new worker bee who learns the ropes of harvesting pollen and making honey while meeting the many fabulous faces of New York City.

The comic is free to download from the hotel’s sustainability blog New York Barclay Buzz. It’s also available in print at the hotel for a $5 donation. One hundred percent of proceeds are donated to support the Honeybee Conservancy! (Would you like to donate to The Honeybee Conservancy directly? If so, please click here!)

We joined the artist, hotel staff, and thirty enthusiastic children for Barclay’s buzz-worthy debut. Olga taught kids how to draw bees on paper and with a computer. The Honeybee Conservancy’s member, Nicole, introduced the children to the real Barclay bees, the beekeeping suits we wear while tending them, and most importantly…their delicious honey!

Watch, enjoy, and please share our video with your friends!


11 2013

Dispatch from Devon: Talking bees on “Talking Bees”

Totnes castle

Beekeeper John Howe on his experiences in Devon, UK, where they are working on getting town council approval to keep bees on the historic Totnes castle meadow.

Hello there from Totnes, Devon!

Been here since December and I am finally getting my feet on the ground in the beekeeping world. Here’s what’s up:

First off, my wife, Ann, and I made the acquaintance of one Larch Maxey an environmentalist and transition town (henceforward “TT”) activist and we have become good friends. A really sweet guy. I approached him with the idea of going in together with me on a beehive on his allotment (patch of community garden). Turns out we’re going into a bigger notion.  You see, he is also a member of a local group called ” Little Bo People” who managed to get town council approval for keeping sheep on the Totnes castle meadow (qv), which is public property. They have now diversified and also want approval for fruit trees and bees on the meadow. So we have put together a proposal to that effect. Larch and I are co-chairs of a Little Bo Bee People (as I call us) sub-committee.

I would be in charge of two hives on the meadow and Larch and the rest of the sub-committee (there are two more) would be my assistants. The proposal is now ready to submit and we shall see what the council decides. I will keep you apprised of developments as they go on.

Cheers then! Later!


11 2013

Dispatch from Devon: a conversation with beekeeper, John Howe

A Q&A with renowned beekeeper, John Howe, who will contribute “Dispatch from Devon,” a series on his experiences in Devon, UK, where they are working on getting town council approval to keep bees on the historic Totnes castle meadow.

Q: John, while you lived in NYC, you were one of the few people to secretly keep bees during the time beekeeping was illegal in the Big Apple.  What inspired you to do this?

John Howe, beekeeper

A: My first encounter with honeybees was as a child growing up in the suburbs of New Haven, Connecticut. Playing in the sprinkler in the summer, from time to time I would step on a dandelion where a bee was gathering nectar, crushing her and – of course – get stung in self-defense. I didn’t much like it.

As a young man, I got a job as nature counselor at a camp in the Catskills, where one day a group of kids and I hiked down the road to a local bee farm. It was a seminal event. For the first time I saw the whole thing: bees, hives, and the honey house where the honey is extracted from the comb. There we each got a turn to crank the handle of the extraction machine. All that golden honey spinning out! We also tasted a delicious sample. The whole experience is stamped indelibly in my mind.

When I moved to New York City I visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where they had an observation hive in one of the greenhouses. It’s long gone now, but I would stare with fascination at all those busy workers.  It made me fantasize about moving to the country and becoming a beekeeper myself.

One warm fall day many years later, as I was sitting at a café across from Manhattan’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a honeybee landed on my table. I watched in rapt attention and even tried to feed it a bit of table sugar.  In a sudden epiphany, I thought – if honeybees could thrive in an urban environment like NYC, I could keep bees right here and now, not in some distant fantasy.

I went straight home and started Googling.  In no time at all, I had joined the most local club I could find— the  Long Island Beekeepers Club. Later I founded, Inc. which has become the largest beekeeping group on the East Coast to my knowledge. I supplied myself with how-to books and located web sites where I could buy everything I needed to build three beehives on the rooftop of the brownstone my wife and I own in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene.

Once the beehives were up, I ordered a package of bees, which arrived by truck from Georgia the following April.  I dumped them unceremoniously into the hives and they thrived.  I had a honey crop the first year.  (I later discovered that I was, in fact, one of the first of what is now a huge cadre of Brooklyn beekeepers.)

I had been a school teacher most of my professional life, and so I wanted to share my beekeeping with children.  I bought a see-through observation hive like the one at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and stocked it with worker bees, drones and a queen, marked with a colored dot on her back to make her easier for the kids to see.

Mostly through word of mouth, my program has thrived as my bees did, and it is producing its own kind of sweetness:  schoolchildren who instead of screaming when they see a bee, come to understand and want to watch it instead.

I have now moved to England, but return to my Brooklyn house each Spring to do the program.

I’m just getting started beekeeping and teaching here.

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10 2013

Teen Beekeeping

A report from Teen Kids News on teen and kid beekeepers, Colony Collapse Disorder and how you can help the honeybees that pollinate so much of our food!

Want to help the bees? Sign up to:

  • Be a Bee Ambassador
  • Invite your teacher to inquire with us about curriculum materials
  • Plan a school campaign with us
  • Explore beekeeping in your town and send us pictures


10 2013

We depend on pollinators for over 1/3 of the food we eat

A stunning video from TED.  As described:

Pollination: it’s vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film “Wings of Life,” inspired by the vanishing of one of nature’s primary pollinators, the honeybee.

An abridged version showing only the footage of the pollinators is shown below. In it, you’ll see a variety of bees as well as bats, butterflies, humming birds and other pollinators.

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The full TED talk about pollination and pollinators can be viewed here:

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09 2013

Why bees are disappearing: A TED talk by Marla Spivak

Have you seen the new TED Talk by Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota professor of entomology and 2010 MacArthur Fellow? She talks about the decline in honey bee populations, monoculture, pesticides (including neonicitoids) and how important it is to plant bee-friendly flowers.

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09 2013

Beekeeper’s Calendar: September

Queen Bee Arthur's hive at Myrtle Village Green in Brooklyn

For the first time in months, I didn’t feel like I would keel over from heat stroke when I put on my gear last weekend. We had a brief snap of early fall weather in Brooklyn and the bees and I made the most of it.

September’s goldenrod and aster in bloom may mean you’ll get a nice fall honey flow. If you’ve been checking your mites regularly, you’ll have a good idea whether you should extract a fall crop or whether you should be treating for mites instead. You also won’t want to take off the honey if you’re actively feeding.

Speaking of feeding, how heavy is that hive? You’ve gotten your honey, but do the bees have enough for the winter? You want at least 60lbs of honey so there are ample stores over winter. If your boxes feel light, start feeding syup until the bees won’t take more.

You’ll notice your queen’s laying will slow down even more this month. The brood nest won’t be huge, but you should be able to spot fresh larva and eggs. Drones will also start to disappear in September.

If the brood nest looks bare, maybe fall requeening is for you. While many beekeepers requeen in the spring, there are some advantages to tackling it this time of year – like having a vivacious young queen to winter over with the hive and build up your population in the spring. Bees accept new queens best during a light nectar flow, which makes the early fall work well. Queens may also cost a little less in fall than in spring.

Do your best to make sure your colony is really queenless. If the queen is still alive, you’ll need to find and kill her before introducing the new queen. Also check for queen cells in the hive before introducing.

Did any Jewish beekeepers out there use their own fresh honey at Rosh Hashanah dinner this month? Share your sweetest new year recipes in the comments below.

In bloom: Goldenrod, aster, mint, thistle


09 2013

Beekeeper’s Calendar: August

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There are lots of things to look forward to in August — late-summer vacations, ripe peaches, hive robbing like in the video above… wait, maybe not that last one.

By August, the summer nectar flow has definitely tapered off for most of us. If you haven’t already harvested honey, it’s time to remove the surplus, leaving some space for any late summer or fall flow as the goldenrod and asters bloom.

The hive population will continue to decline from its peak in the high summer and the bees’ attention will turn to the winter ahead. So should yours. That means ensuring you have a strong colony with ample honey stores.

When you inspect, make sure you’re seeing good laying activity from the queen. If you can’t locate the queen or there appear to be problems in the broodnest, now is the time to start thinking about fall requeening. Don’t wait till it’s too late! We’ll talk more about requeening next month.

If you got a late start or just haven’t built up as much as you would have liked, you might also think about feeding during the dearth to help build up winter stores.

But be careful not to start a feeding frenzy on your bottom board, caused by a strong hive raiding a weaker one. The smell of honey, from opening the hive or putting the feeder on, can trigger robbing that may be difficult to contain. You’ll see aggressive fighting between bees at the entrance and on the ground in front of the hive.

The best way to deal with robbing is to prevent it. Use your entrance reducer to help the bees defend their colony. Cover up the supers when you’re harvesting and be careful not to spill any syrup while filling the feeder.

The other big August task is checking your varroa levels, especially if you did only cursory checks during the summer flow. Take varroa counts using your preferred method whether it be a sticky board drop count, drone brood checks or the sugar roll. I like the sticky board approach because it gives you a cross-section of the whole colony and doesn’t kill any bees.

So how many mites is too many mites? That’s a good question. You definitely want low mite levels to ensure healthy winter bees, though. The threshold for treating ranges by location, by time of testing and by your general sensibility, but I would think about treating if your mite drop count hits double digits per day on average, over a 3-day count period. If you do decide to treat, make sure all supers are off the hive before using any chemicals.

In bloom this month: Not much. You may get buckwheat, smartweed and some early aster and goldenrod.


08 2013

The Honeybee Conservancy is now part of Sakroots’ Karma Circle!

Sakroots has launched Karma Circle, a charity program that includes The Honeybee Conservancy. We need your help spreading the word!

Sakroots is a lifestyle collection that appeals to the artist, musician, and nature lover in all of us. Their Karma Circle partners artists with charitable organizations like ours that share in Sakroots’ belief in peace and harmony among all things. The Honeybee Conservancy has been partnered with Marq Spusta, a concert gig poster artist based in Pacifica, CA. His print “True Love,” is inspired by a secret garden bejeweled with birds and bees.

After clicking on your favorite item on, you can add a donation to The Honeybee Conservancy. Sakroots will match your donation.

Send us a photo of you with your Karma Circle item on the The Honeybee Conservancy or Sakroots Facebook page! In the meantime, watch the True Love video…

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08 2013

Beekeeper’s Calendar: July

Bees Bearding

Bees bearding - Creative Commons photo by Phil Windley

With July’s arrival, I’m hoping for sunny skies after a cold and damp spring here in the Northeast.

Swarm worries are less prominent this month, though you’ll need to be on the lookout for robbing as the summer dearth approaches. Your main focus in July will be honey harvesting, though.

As the nectar flow continues, add, remove and extract honey supers as needed. If you’ve got extra supers on hand, swap on a fresh box as soon as your remove a full one. Otherwise, extract quickly and get an empty super back on the hive.

Continue to monitor your varroa levels, though don’t use chemical treatments on the hive as long as honey supers are on. The entrance reducer can also come out as long as there’s a good nectar flow, which should extend through part of this month.

The queen’s laying will start to decline slightly from the booming levels of spring, but you should still see ample brood and eggs in your brood nest during inspections. The hive will be bustling, but try to spot the queen if you can.

On hot, humid evenings, you might see a large clusters of bees on the outside the hive. This so-called ‘bearding‘ isn’t necessarily cause for alarm – think of it as the bee-equivalent of what we Brooklynites call ‘stoop sitting’ on a hot summer night. It’s a clue you may need to provide better ventilation for your hive, though. Make sure you’re getting good airflow through the screened bottom board, add another super to relieve congestion or prop open your outer cover with a couple of pennies or a small piece of wood to provide additional ventilation.

Once you’ve harvested some honey, here’s one final task for July: Mix 1/3 cup of honey and freshly-grated ginger into a pitcher of your favorite ice tea. Set out a lawn chair near your hive, pour a tall glass and enjoy watching your bees at work.

In bloom this month: Russian sage, anise hyssop, buckwheat, sunflower, alfalfa, buttonbush, devil’s walkingstick


07 2013