Top ten Frequently Asked Questions in no particular order:
1. How long does a honeybee live?
A honeybee’s life span is purely determined by the time of year she first emerges from her little honeycomb incubator. A honeybee just entering our world in the middle of high season will work as hard as she can until she wears down, mechanically. Typically this is about 4 weeks, a short but industrious life. A honeybee joining the colony in Autumn will work differently than her summertime sisters and thus she is expected to overwinter with the Queen until the Sun once again warms the Hive and populations boost, marking the end of her journey.
2. How many Queens are in each hive?
A hive is described as one single unit, in the casual observers’ case this could be described very simply as an individual tower of bee boxes. Each singular collection of boxes can only feature one Queen, she is responsible for laying eggs to keep her colony in healthy numbers and ensure any regional pollen is being sufficiently pillaged by her roving daughters. Sometimes a Queen will be weakened by age or illness, the colony collectively senses this and will choose to replace her with a younger stronger Queen that they develop themselves using an egg lain by the current Matriarch; when this young Queen hatches it’s the only time there are two of their kind in the same colony. That same day through a series of hunts and subsequent battles betwixt the two, one will be driven away from the hive throne, be it defender or challenger. This is the cycle of life for the Queen Bee.
3. Are your bees those crazy killer bees like we saw on the news?
No they are not but I remain diligent against such a thing. There are regular reports all over the country of the Africanized Honeybee setting up shop in more varied regions and of course the encounters described by the ever hapless agitator of these ill tempered, Hessian honeybees. As of end of the 2013 honeybee season here in the Pacific Northwest there were no confirmed reports of an Africanized colony being discovered. The Africanized honeybee has very slight anatomical differences from her more civilized cousins and is of course incredibly defensive of their hive, often pursuing a victim for more than a mile to exact their brand of punishment for being stepped on, glanced at, generally interrupted or dug up, etc. The best thing anyone unfamiliar with any honeybee or hive can do is call an expert or follow the lead of an expert whether the bees are suspicious or not.
4. Is Shipwreck Honey organic?
No it is not; that ever elusive, little green tag that all farmers lust after is all but impossible for my operation and some would argue any operation involving honey production. With a forage zone that can span 5 miles but more typically is 2-3 miles from the hive in any given direction, its reckless to suggest that one of my vigorous little pollen pillagers isn’t going to get into something she shouldn’t, a slightly corrupted pollen source or heavily sprayed garden, etcetera. Give me a feral tract of land that can match the most extreme of journeys for a honeybee and I’ll change my tune but until then, as much as I wish it wasn’t so: no dice.
5. Ive seen the pictures of your beeswax, is it for sale?
The main component inside every Shipwreck hive is a food-grade plastic foundation frame, instead of the traditional wooden/wax frames. This deals a devastating blow to wax production of any volume; what precious wax I am able to cull I render down, harnessing the massive power of the sun as my instrument of choice. Then I drop the sun-cooked, raw blocks into a primitive double-boiler system to clean and filter, eventually pouring my lustrous hoard into flawless golden bricks. I then stack this bullion into impressive towers and stare at it for hours, until Tiffany shows up and takes it all for her admittedly impressive soap operation. So, no: not for sale.
6. Do you sell Pollen, where can we get it?
Yes we harvest and sell pollen, historically it has never been a significant pursuit simply because I’m not driven to take it from the honeybees. Usually we have a few ounces available that we open to the market around July. If you are interested there is a private list, we would be happy to add your name and get you dialed in, email us.
7. Where can we buy your honey?
There is a living-document in the Find Us Here! tab just above this page that lists all the current retail and restaurant opportunities in the area to experience or purchase our beloved gold. At the bottom of that very page are suggestions to get on our honey route as well, check it out. The way we see it, this is the gospel of the honeybee and we are simply her disciples, missionaries as it were, set about to spread the word! (elaborate gibberish to say: we deliver.)
8. Do you sell propolis?
Ahh propolis…..sacred propolis. The market for propolis is growing very fast, Ive taken a number of calls this year looking to buy anything I’ve got. Here’s the deal though: I won’t sell it, for me the purest essence of the honeybee lies in her hard-crafted propolis and the substance is far too important in ancient legend and lore for me to simply sell. This stuff is my white buffalo, its big medicine and therefore as such, I only give it away. I can’t really explain it other than I know when and whom to give it too and as much as I hate a stipulative gift, the rule with my propolis is it must go to an elder or somehow benefit an elder. The world market will pass me by and propolis will become huge very soon but I can’t profit off of it, it’s my weird little quirk. For those of you around in my very first year of beekeeping, remember I gave every single ounce of honey away, just to honor the honeybee? This is the same thing except I had every intention of selling honey the very next season and every season after that.
9. What makes the bees so angry that they swarm?
The swarm mechanism inside the collective mind of the honeybee is the most misunderstood phenomenon in the Hive; I mean it’s really remarkable! Did you know in the untamed wilds, feral hives will naturally swarm twice a season, away from the original mother hive? This is a major player in the way they are designed to propagate themselves. It’s no different than any species that will drop a clutch of millions of eggs, only to see a survival rate to adulthood of that very clutch in the single digits. When a hive splits, or “swarms”, the departing portion has spent hours, sometimes days in preparation. They are about to leave the only home they have ever known for the great wilderness of predation and literally, until the scouts find the right new location, homelessness. They gorge themselves on existing honey stores to carry themselves through the coming Troubles, they focus on their Queen to keep her safe, and they prep nursery bees staying behind for caring of the coming brood, still incubating. When they finally leave, they will alight somewhere nearby and terrify humans who are certain the mission of the bees MUST BE MURDER! Really though, with no home to defend, no brood to look after and care for, no food stores to defend and so gorged on honey that they can’t even bend their little tummy’s to deliver a half-baked sting, this is by and far the most gentle and wonderful a honeybee can ever get. The swarming of a honeybee hive is one of Mother Nature’s most magical moments, intuitive and utterly gentle. It’s important the handler of any swarm reflects those exact traits during any work with this fantastic event, even a clumsy Irishman like me.
10. I have a really amazing yard; you need to put your hives there for me
Keep that yard up, we need all the good pollen we can get! We do offer a selective residential program at Shipwreck featuring backyard hives and hive discussions however there are monthly, seasonal-only costs associated with this venture. These rates are fixed and help us carry our work into the future, plus cover our basic costs for buildouts, fuel and what-have you. We began our search for 2014 beeyards late in the Summer of 2013 and have filled our quota for the year however feel free to email us about the coming season and we can discuss your ideas for your yard. Every year I say I am full and every time I am talked into just one more, it never fails.