Author Archives: ecohoneybee

About ecohoneybee

The man behind the beehives!

The 2018 Season is almost here!

What’s Been Going On So Far

As of this first week of March, we’re still waiting for a decent stretch of warmer weather to really get ourselves going. Even with periodic snow showers, hurricane force winds, and a roller coaster of temperatures we’ve been able to get out and assess most clients hives by now and can report a high survival rate with our client’s hives!
Its still too early to predict exactly when we’ll be able to start delivering new hives to clients but we’re hoping for the latter half of April. A few warm days do not a spring make. And with climate change getting worse and worse it is getting harder and harder to predict when we’ll be out of the woods in regards to winter. A few days of 80 degrees followed by several more in the 30’s really wreaks havoc on the environment and the bees.

We sustained some losses to our breeding program this winter mostly due to the extreme cold we had right after New Years. Six degree weather is one reason honeybees are not native to this continent. Our breeding hives are often not as well protected as our client hives because we winter our hives over in much smaller hive boxes and the colonies tend to be smaller. We were also hit with a newer strain of varroa that weakened some of our hives. We’ve tracked this mostly to older frames and comb in our own resident hives. While client hives weren’t so much effected, we have some rebuilding to do here on our end.

For Hives Three Years Or Older

So partly because of this one of the big things we’re working on is to replace the interiors of all our client’s hives that have been with us for three seasons or more. We’re doing this to lessen the chances of a build up of toxins and spores in the hives that stand a chance of creating a bit more of an unhealthy environment for the bees. When we replace frames in hives this season, we’ll be moving over to foundation using smaller cells. We’ve been hearing about the successful research in regards to smaller cells bees and it coincides with what we’ve noticed ourselves. Smaller cell bees take less time to gestate meaning there is less time where they might be exposed to mites in the larval stage. Additionally, smaller bees consume less and more and fit into a smaller space! We’re expecting most of our Queens to adjust to this change and to have much hardier bees as a result. We’re still working out a price on interior replacement. Since it is still quite a new thing, the smaller cell foundation costs about 50% more than the older foundation. And, as usual, one price does not fit all since everyone’s hives are different, some larger, some smaller, and some with newer comb already in them. As always, we will try to make this as painless as possible.

Other Cool Things That We’re Doing!

Since we’ll be bringing home so many older frames from hives, Tom, our behind the scenes breeding wizard, has constructed a solar wax melter to purify and sterilize (using the sun’s heat and UV’s) all this older wax so we can reuse it and then produce our own foundation. Doing this will require the purchase of an embosser (about $2000) to imprint the small cell size pattern into the wax. We’ll also be sterilizing the older frames by bleaching so we can recycle them as well. And some of this purified, melted wax will be used to coat the interiors of our older hive boxes to seal and sterilize them. You can imagine that all of this is a pretty big commitment. But we’re that serious about being on the cutting edge and giving our bees the best chance we possibly can.

Our Spring Process

As with most seasons, our first task is to assess all our client hives as well as our own breeding program. Secondly, we will be working hard to control the growth of client hives to prevent early season swarms. In many cases, we’ll be expanding client hives along with pulling honey frames for extraction so we can create the extra space needed to contain each hive’s spring expansion. Each hive is different along with the environments they are in. With some client’s hives, we’ll expand. Some we’ll be forced to pull brood. Some we’ll have to do both. And, in some cases, we’ll be forced to remove the existing Queen and let the hive re-queen itself. Usually this will only happen when we feel that the chances for a successful fertilization of a new Queen is high. Brood pulled from hives will be reintroduced back into our breeding program to either create new hives or to strengthen existing ones. These are the hives that we will be delivering to new clients hopefully in April.

While waiting to kick things off, we’re frantically building hive equipment. Suffice it to say, our home is overflowing with finished boxes and frames and foundation waiting to be assembled! As always, we’re here if you need us though things are going to get busy really soon. As always, we expect to go from zero to 100 m.p.h. very quickly.

Changes for the 2017 Season

2017 is shaping up to be a bang up year for us here at Eco Honeybees.

The biggest change for us this year is that we will be discontinuing the sale of Top Bar hives. There are many reasons for this and we aren’t making this decision lightly because we love our top bars. After having dealt with top bars all over the DC Metro area for seven seasons and being able to compare them to comparable Langstroth hives over the same period of time, we’ve come to the conclusion that the top bar hives do not have the same success rate as the Langstroths. This is not to say that we’ve haven’t had many clients who’ve had a lot of success with top bars but, overall on a bell curve, this type of hive has diminished chances of success. While all the work and documentation we’ve done over the years comparing the two hive types probably qualifies as solid research, we’re not going to publish it as such. The main reason for this is that beekeeping and hive type data is NOT the same the country (or even the state) over. We believe our conclusions hold true for the weather patterns in the Washington, DC Metro area. Were our company in central South Carolina, chances are the results of our research would be very different. The lesson to be learned here is that, just because something works in one area, doesn’t mean someone in another area will have the same success. Regretfully there are a lot of people out there who purchased the new Australian Honey Flow hives who have learned this after making a sizable investment. But that’s another one of our pet peeves.

We’ll continue to support our existing Top Bar clientele but that mostly entails transferring their bees and top bar comb into new Langstroth boxes. Should anyone be interested in a more in-depth explanation of our reasoning behind this decision, please call Larry at 703-801-2281. Emailing an answer back requires enough of a novella that it’ll take a while to give written replies.

Otherwise 2017 will continue along mostly unchanged from 2016. We’ll continue using our new mouse-proof bottom boards. We’re happy to announce that we have seen absolutely ZERO mouse infestation on any of our hives with this new in-house designed bottom board.

Our waiting list continues to fill up rapidly. We’re seeing a sharp increase in commercial clients this season to include several country clubs. These commercial clients tend to purchase 2-6 hives at a time so this starts to tax our capacity quickly and fills up or list of available hives. So, as the demand increases, it behooves you more and more to not procrastinate on getting onto our waiting list.

We’re seriously starting to look around for an employee. Being that our business model is unique, we’re having to feel our way through this process. With all the success we’re having, managing and controlling all our client’s hives during the spring is becoming more than a one person job. We’ve had a a lot of success with college and high school interns (and will hopefully again have more of them this spring) but we’re quickly seeing the need of having a someone with their own vehicle out there doing monthly hive inspections after having been trained and vetted by Larry so that he can concentrate more on acquiring and setting up new clients. We can promise you won’t get rich but you will make a positive difference in this part of the world.

Our New Custom Designed Bottom Board for 2016!

After several years of trail, error, and testing in our own yards, we’ve finally come up with a new design for our bottom board that we’ve had enough success with so as to be able to release it into all of our new client’s hives for the 2016 season.

You’ll notice that this new bottom board has only two small entrances, one on each side, for the bees to access the hive.  Additionally, these entrances are partially blocked by heavy duty screening.  What we’ve created here is a board board that doesn’t require the additional purchase of an entrance reducer or a, less than pretty, metal mouse guard.  Over the years, we’ve seen significant damage done to hives by mice up to and including the destruction of the colony itself when it is dormant and unable to react to the intrusion.  We’ve also been amazed at just how little space is needed to mice to get into a hive.  The small cut out in a standard entrance reducer won’t keep them out and they can get through a metal mouse guard by bending it.  This new design has solved the mouse issue in our own hives and nucs, is one piece, and doesn’t require additional items to be added to the hives.

Yes, this is a solid bottom board.  Yes, we know that a lot of people like using screens to keep hives cool in summer and so they can use sticky boards with grids printed on them so they can spend their evenings counting mites and parasites that theoretically drop through the screen onto the sticky board.   We’ve used both over the years and have opted to stick with the solid bottoms exclusively.  At Eco Honeybees, our views are this:  In regards to solid versus screened bottoms, first off, metal screens rust away over time and the bottoms are not that strong.  Secondly, we opt more for keeping the hive warm during the colder months than cool in the summer.  If the hive interior gets warm, the bees will happily hang out on the exterior of the hive.  And, lastly, while doing mite counts is nice, this works under the assumption that you can have a hive that is totally free from parasites.  We work from the other assumption end.  We assume that every hive has parasites to some degree and treat every one of our client’s hives as if they do.  A smart beekeepers who sees no mite or parasite evidence on a sticky board is still probably going to treat for them just to be safe.  We have the same view and therefore feel no need to do mite counts.

Old fashioned purists will also notice that we’ve done away with the traditional “landing zone” porch that has been pretty much standard back to the beginnings of the Langstroth hive. Please remember that porches are for people and a porch on a hive is there only for our own amusement.  While some might think the deletion of the front porch is heresy, quite frankly, the bees just don’t care.  Our Top Bar hives never had landing zones, and feral hives in trees or attics also don’t have them.  We know these bottom boards are very different from the norm but they work for us very well.  Most things Eco Honeybees does deviates from the norm!  We’ve been told that what we’ve been doing is the first substantial change to beekeeping in the past 120 years.  Beehives for non-beekeepers?  Unheard of!  Why should our bottom boards be any different?

Here are some photos of our new bottom board:



2016 Season Plans

For 2016, we are planning to have a total of 75 complete Langstroth hives available to the public within our service area.  As in previous years, our definition of a complete hive includes three deep boxes with 10 frames per box.  Our frames use the wire reinforced wax foundation.  Also included is a two chamber screened top feeder, telescoping top cover, solid bottom board, and our own custom designed bottom stand.  All our equipment is assembled and finished by ourselves.

The bee colonies we provide will continue to be our own locally bred Russian/Carny hybrids that are part of our breeding program.  All the colonies we provide will have already wintered over at least one winter or be a daughter Queen of one who has.  Our breeding program is going beautifully and the bees that it is producing are getting noticeably stronger each season.  We’re seeing about a 75% survival rate with the bees from the hives that we are managing.  This is VERY good news compared to the 60%-70% failure rate seen with the more commonly seen Italian colonies sourced from Georgia.

As of this writing we’re working at keeping our pricing for a Langstroth hive the same as the past two years at $550 per hive delivered.  This might go up by around $20 as we haven’t gotten a final price on all the equipment, the bulk of which we have yet to receive.

If you’re thinking about getting onto our waiting list for a hive, we strongly recommend contacting Larry at 703-801-2281 as soon as possible to do so.  Almost half of our predicted stock of hives is already spoken for.  We will be doing a few garden shows in February, mostly notably the Rooting DC Festival late that month, and our list usually fills up quickly from show attendees.  Larry will be giving a keynote lecture on the Local Bee Crisis at the Rooting DC event in the afternoon of February 28 in NW DC.

For all those who inquire:  We still are not able to sell just bees in either package or nuclear form. Breeding programs take many years and are as such that we currently only have enough colonies for the clients whose hives we manage and to sustain/grow our breeding program.  Also, being that this is the DC area, space is at a premium and there is no place close by where we could (legally or logistically) have a mass breeding program of 200+ hives.  So, by necessity, our breeding is on a smaller scale.  Because of the time and effort we’ve invested over five years in our breeding program, we’re pretty insistent about being able to manage the colonies we create throughout the year even though they are owned by our clients.  We are very protective parents because this is all about the bees!

Because of the El Nino weather pattern, we are very hopeful that this winter will be shorter and warmer than we’re used to.  In 2015 we didn’t really get to start delivering hives till the end of April.  We’re hoping that, for 2016, we’ll be able to start delivering in mid- to late March but that is ultimately up to Mother Nature.

While much of what you’ve just read is total beekeeper-speek, we do recognize that the vast majority of our clients are not beekeepers and don’t know the jargon or the technical ins and outs of beekeeping.  We’re not trying to confuse you or pull wool (or wax) over your eyes.  As always you’re welcome to call anytime, contact us through here, or write Larry directly at with any questions about how we operate and what we’re doing.

2016 is going to be a great year!  Our list of satisfied clients is growing and we’re also noticing a real change in the environments where we’ve put hives.  As time goes on, these hives do better and better as they both adapt to their new homes and also help to build their environments to suit their hive’s needs.  We’ve seen that our clients are having to do less and less feeding to support their hive in autumn.  The colonies we’ve been breeding are getting stronger each year and, given proper support, are surviving winter with flying colors!

So!  Plant clover and wildflowers!  Fire lawn services that use chemicals.  Boycott Monsanto and Mosquito Guard!  Plant fruit trees and berry bushes that give back to you and the bees instead of trees that just sit there.  Until someone funds NASA, this is the only planet we’ve got!

And yes, Eco Honeybees is officially supporting the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016.  That should be obvious.  If only bees could vote…….



Hive Waiting List Update February 10, 2015

Just wanted to give our clients and site visitors an update about our waiting list for the upcoming season.  Taking a break from our non-stop building of hives to do so!

Currently we’re completely sold out of our Top Bar Hives for 2015.  In the Langstroth arena, we’re over 50% sold out as of today.  You have to remember, we’re never sure exactly how many hives will be available as that number is based totally on what survives the winter.  If we have a weather disaster worse than last year’s Polar Vortexes we’ll have fewer hives available than if spring started tomorrow.

So, if you’re contemplating getting on our list, it is better to do it earlier rather than later.

For our Top Bar Hive clients.  As luck would have it, the supplier in Tennessee we were hoping to start working with has turned out to be more fantasy than reality.  So, as a result, we will be starting our Top Bar hives this spring in April with Italian bees.  The intention is to do this to get them started and then re-Queen them with our own tried and tested Queens.  This has worked well for us in the past and will do so again!

So if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to write or me Larry with them at 703-801-2281!



Bee Transport

Views on Honey

For thousands of years the primary reason humans have learned to keep bees is for the honey. For a very, very long period it was pretty much the only form of sweetener available. Honey’s other uses in medicine and for making drinks such as mead are also big reasons why humans felt they could be successful in a cottage industry supplying honey to buyers.

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