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Mellifluous Flowers

Took a camera to work this summer and captured the honeybees and native bees doing their thing in my gardens.  This video is dedicated to Sisters everywhere going about their sweet work, giving us life.

Top- Bar Langstroth Hive

Top-Bar Langstroth with Kenyan style Top-Bar in background.

‘What type of hive should I buy?’ asks the beginning beekeeper riddled with indecision, wanting to do the right thing for the bees.  ‘I want to keep bees as naturally as possible and not interfere with them too much.  I’ve heard the Langstroth hive doesn’t allow the bees to make their own comb and that a Top-bar is better.  Is that true?’

This is a common question that receives my frustratingly straightforward answer: Pick one and get started!  The truth of the matter is- if you get into bees just to ‘have’ them, or for honey, or for products of the hive-you will want and need at least two hives, of the same order perhaps, just to keep your operation going. One is never enough. If you want ‘the perfect hive’ and perfection in beekeeping, forget about it.  Another hard fact is that one-third of colonies are lost to lethal and sub-lethal chemicals brought into the hive from the landscape and to disease. If you ask me it doesn’t matter what you keep your bees in- as long as THEY like it- and if they don’t like it, they will tell you by absconding or dying.  To take better care of the greater container of which we are all a part is the bigger issue I think, than the ‘right’ hive- but I digress…

I teach both Langstroth and Top-bar keeping.  Every hive type has its pros and cons.  The Langstroth is nice for beginners because the frames move easily without disturbing the comb much.  I think beginners need to have contact with the bees to see the eggs, brood patterns, nectar and honey etc.. to understand what’s going on within the brood nest.  Though you can see into top-bar hives through windows or screens, I’ve noticed that beginning students are less inclined to disturb the brood nest in a Kenyan once the comb is fixed…which is a perfect situation for the bees, of course- but not so great for a beginner’s comprehension.

Once you’ve spent a season or two working inside a hive, you get a good idea of bee cycles and patterns and fall into their rhythms and timing. Observation coupled with participation and making mistakes are keys to becoming a good beekeeper.  You will learn how to disturb them less over time.  You will begin to ‘learn the bees’ -what is necessary and essential to them- and what is not.  You will have more time to devote to growing an organic Eden full of mellifluous plants for the bees.  Perhaps in that garden you will dream up an even more perfect hive for them, one even better than the Langstroth, Kenyan, Warre or Weissenseifener haengekorb!

Look ma- no foundation. It's a Langstroth Top-Bar Hive!







Apitherapy Course in Portland Oct. 5th-7th 2012

Apipuncture Demonstration Video-Charles Mraz Apitherapy Course coming to Portland Oct. 5-7th 2012

OCT. 5 -7, 2012
17th ANNUAL Charles Mraz Apitherapy Course and Conference
Go to: www.apitherapy.org for details about the program, faculty, hotel and registration.  EARLY BEE REGISTRATION BEFORE 8/31!

Acupuncture originated thousands of years ago from the use of apipuncture, or bee stings on the body’s meridians!  Frederique Keller, L.A.c. DOM and president of the American Apitherapy Society, demonstrates apipuncture on Bladder 23 on Dr. Alan Dennison, MD, at the Charles Mraz Apitherapy Course held in New Orleans last year.  The course is a wonderful opportunity to learn from and connect with beekeepers, healers and doctors utilizing products of the hive and bee venom therapy (BVT) in their practices.

For local (Portland and Columbia River Gorge)hive products, apitherapy and BVT (bee venom therapy) visit Melissabees.





A Video of Honeybees Dying- July 10th, 2012

Here’s a video of bees dying possibly from pesticide exposure.  They were an enormous 10.4 lb swarm equaling approximately 50,000 bees that I hived four days ago. At this point several hundred bees are dead in front of the hive with their tongues sticking out- and since their wings aren’t detached and in a ‘K’ shape we know they aren’t dying from tracheal mites. They tumble down a plywood gangplank I put up to study the dying and keep track of the dead. Certainly they are disoriented at the hive entrance; very little pollen is coming in and they seem to have trouble finding the entrance as there is no one scent fanning or defending it. My guess is they were exposed before they arrived. Perhaps the roses I found them clustered on had been sprayed? We haven’t had this trouble before at our location.  A most mournful sound emanates from the hive, like keening. That’s the hardest part-witnessing the sad song of sick bees.  If I never see again another chemical applicator, row upon row of harsh-smelling chemicals in the garden sections of the big box stores I’d be one happy woman, and so would the bees- because they’d be alive to appreciate one more beautiful flower. I find bees who have died of natural causes on occasion in my gardens, perched on the flowers. Wings flown to shreds, thoraxes rubbed hairless by thousands of trips to the hive. That’s how they go, in the face of a flower, on one last trip working to make life sweeter and infinitely more beautiful. Nothing like the torture in this video.  I hope you’ll join me in some way, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant in protecting the land and its creatures, the bees, and us.

Bee Pharm Bee Venom+ Herbs Joint +Muscle Rescue

A Miracle Healing Balm For Joints and Muscles

I hate to say it, but after twenty-plus years building gardens- my body is feeling it! You could say its closer to thirty years of physical labor- as when I was a teenager I played competitive tennis- serving, returning and chasing down balls on the court. Tennis, construction work and gardening are notorious for wreaking havoc on joints and muscles. After almost ten hours of pruning and planting in a garden today, my hands and elbows were stiff.  As I was driving home from the job site my joints were beginning to argue as they couldn’t find a comfortable resting spot – too much pressure on the wrists hanging from the wheel, or circulation getting cut off from a bent elbow leaning on the armrest.

When I got home I took an invigorating shower with Dr. Bronner’s ‘All One!’ Peppermint Soap, wrapped up in a comfy robe and massaged Bee Pharm’s Bee Venom+Herbs Joint +Muscle Rescue into my forearms, elbows, wrists and fingers.  Immediately I felt the warm halo-like glow of bee venom and stimulating herbs bringing blood flow to the area.  You can see the pinkness in this fuzzy picture of my arm, and if you look closely, the line where the application ended: 

I really love this stuff.  It comes in a handy little container and is easy to apply. Whenever I wake up in the morning with a crick in my knee, elbow, neck or finger I rub Bee Pharm Joint and Muscle Rescue where it hurts and the pain is magically transported away within minutes!  No need to stick your hands in a hive to receive the healing benefits of a bee sting, just rub this balm directly on your skin. If you work with your hands in a trade of some kind, are into sports, or work at a computer – give it a try, you’ll be amazed with the relief you get.

BeePharm Apitherapy Products are made by Frederique Keller, Lac, DOM, president of the American Apitherapy Society, who is a frequent guest on Dr. Oz demonstrating the health benefits of products of the hive.  To purchase her products go to BeePharm, or if you would like to sample and purchase in the Portland Metro area or carry BeePharm products in your store, contact me here.

Clean Teeth with Propolis

Put a dab of Glen Heaven Brazilian Green Propolis  on your toothbrush along with your regular toothpaste and become a model patient for your hygienist!  That’s what happened on a recent visit to the dentist when my hygienist commented on how little plaque there was on my teeth and how great my gums look, despite having braces.

I got braces nine months ago and was a stress case for awhile trying to keep the’ little train trestles’ as I call them, clean.  (At almost forty, I’m convinced that braces are better suited for the reticence and insouciance of youth).  Still, I’m stuck with them- and since I like to smile without the worry of grossing someone out with the crud in my teeth I wised up and started brushing with Crest and a little propolis.  I’ve used it for seven months now, brushing as little as 2x per day.  In recent months I haven’t been as diligent with flossing and despite the apparent neglect my teeth seem to be doing well.

Propolis is made up of the sticky resins of plant and tree buds that the bees gather and combine with wax and saliva to plaster the inside of the hive to create a hygienic living environment.  Propolis has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobial qualities that help keep the the hive and the bees disease-free.  The bees use propolis medicinally to protect and bolster their immunity.  For humans, propolis has broad spectrum protective and generative qualities.

According to a 2006 Brazilian study of the use of propolis gel to treat chronic periodontitis, propolis  was shown to exhibit in vitro antimicrobial activity against periodontal pathogens.

Clean Teeth with Propolis Photo by Shawn Sundby

Glen Heaven Brazilian Green Propolis in a 100% aqueous solution can be used as an antibiotic  mouthwash or with toothpaste.  Your mouth and teeth will look and feel like they just had a cleaning. Ask any dentist and they’ll say dental care takes a back seat for the average Joe until there’s a big problem and its too late!  Given the sad state of our economy and the cost of dental and health care on the rise, propolis may offer some folks reprieve, thanks to the bees!


Save the Bees- A Documentary Film by Aiden Wood and Saylor Sundby

Save the Bees, Part 1- ‘The Quest’

Aiden Wood and Saylor Sundby of Hood River, Oregon, affectionately known as The Bee Men are on a mission to become honeybee stewards.  They attended my beginning beekeeping class this spring and explained that they were on quest to visit honeybee experts across Oregon and Washington to learn about the plight of the bee and figure out what they could do to help.  The two ten year-old boys’ quest was given wings and wheels by their mothers, Holly Higdon-Wood and Katie Sundby, who are a part of a home school group called The Gorge Discovery School, created expressly for this kind of experiential learning.  By the time the boys buzzed into my class, they were already well-versed in the honeybees’ struggle from their travels.  Sitting in the front row, they were quite observant students and asked thoughtful questions- the hallmarks of excellent beekeepers and problem solvers.  Knowing ‘The Bee Men’ and their supportive families gives me a lot of hope for the bees and our futures!  Check out the documentary The Bee Men made of their educational adventure, aptly titled ‘Save the Bees’:


Honeybee Swarm Removal,Collection and Rescue-Columbia River Gorge & Portland Metro Area

Call Melissa Bees if you know of a swarm that needs a home!  Melissa@ 503-313-0378 or Tim@425-503-7666

Melissa Elliott Photo by Jeff Hardman


Coby with his new colony, Saylor and Melissa

Melissa Bees helps Grow Organics start Bee Garden

Jeff and Ketrina Jerome recently opened Grow Organics in Hood River, Oregon.  It’s a darling store full of DIY kits and equipment to outfit local residents with everything they’ll need to get started with organic growing and not to mention beekeeping!  Jeff asked if I would teach beekeeping classes and already we’ve spawned a new generation of holistic beekeepers in the Columbia Gorge.  Jeff and Ketrina showed me their property and their vision of having a bee garden.  Last Sunday I delivered a hive full of Carniolans to kick off their project.  Congratulations, Grow Organics on your grand opening.  Here’s to healthy landscapes and hives!