Michelin Rated Honeybees

A look at French Laundry’s inspiring organic garden and Honeybees in Yountville, California.

Brand Foreman here. I’ll start this blog entry by stating that I love my day job! I’ve been fortunate enough to be working on a design project up in Rutherford, CA in the heart of Napa Valley. So recently I’ve been up in the area taking note of popular destinations in the region. In my note and photo taking wanderings I stumbled into The French Laundry. Of course I had heard of it (if you have not check the link) but I really had no idea exactly where it was. Wandering the main drag of Yountville found me walking right past it.

No I did not drop in for a bite to eat, but I did wander across the street to take a look at their organic gardens. What struck me as most interesting about them is that these are not gated or barb wired off to the public. They are actually set up as if to invite you to walk amongst them – and I did! So inspiring to check out and to think that the fruits and vegetables from these gardens go directly onto the plates of a 3 Star Michelin rated restaurant.

And who do we owe a great deal of thanks and respect to for this wonderful organic produce? Sure Tucker Taylor and Aaron Keefer (< whom I chatted with while there – a friendly lad) are the gardeners responsible for taking care of this wonderful plot of productive soil. Sure the chickens are cool, they “cluck” and probably supply some good fertilizer. What caught my eye and that I think deserve a lot of the culinary accolades are the Honeybees from their onsite bee hives.

Just think, no honeybees, no organic produce! What a bland tasting world would that be like? I think Thomas Keller just got chills up his spine! Honeybees clearly play a critical role in what makes French Laundry, French Laundry.

Have you dined at French Laundry or seen their gardens? Tells us about it, Foie Gras and all!

Bees “Across the Pond”

The Honey Club is a great organization located in the UK.

When first getting involved with The Bee Ranchers I did a lot of research on other companies and organizations that were similarly looking to help the honeybee population. Of course I started really looking locally/regionally. In doing so, it was not too difficult to stumble upon other organizations outside our region, across the United States and even within other countries and different continents.

One in particular that caught my eye was The Honey Club. An organization that summarizes it’s agenda as follows:

The Honey Club is a social enterprise that aims to create the biggest bee-friendly network in the world, starting with our local community in Kings Cross, London. Our mission is to save bees, learn more and give back.

We like the sound of that and based upon their blog, looks like they are up to some interesting things over there – plus they are based out of a kick-arse design firm Wolff Olins. Give them 5 minutes of your time and learn how they are making a sincere effort to better support honeybees “across the pond”.

http://honeyclub.org/about

We’ll be sending them a hello and thanks for their efforts which in turn, will hopefully show them that their message and network is growing globally!

A great event!

Mike Vigo, Ranch Foreman, gives a few observations on the recent showing of “Queen of the Sun, What are the Bees Telling us?” in Alameda last week.

It was a great turnout! Judging by the amount of movie goers who showed up, the plight of the honeybee is important to many people throughout Alameda and the East Bay.

A lot of people asked how they could support honeybees? You can help out the honeybee in many ways; by planting “bee friendly” vegetation, supporting your local beekeeper by buying local honey and having a backyard hive! Here is a great resource for identifying the right plants for a bee friendly garden:

Urban Bee Gardens

There is always a “silver lining, in every dark cloud”. The recent malaise of the honeybee has energized a ton of research and worked to help better understand why the bees are disappearing and that is a positive step forward.

Thanks to all who turned out to support this event sponsored by Alameda Marketplace. It was a pleasure to meet all the folks I spoke with that night and it was great to see Alameda’s supportive, honeybee loving Community!

Did you make the movie night? Did you enjoy the event? Tell us what you thought!

For more information on the movie, click HERE!

Beetography

What the heck is beetography you ask?

Technically it is a made up word but an oh-so perfect new word to describe our love of bee photographs. And what not a better way to celebrate this new classification of photography than to focus on one of our favorite beetographers, JP Lowery.

JP is an old friend of ours who hails from northern climes and has a knack for shooting very small critters in and around his garden. Fortunately for all of us some of those small critters are honeybees. The following photos are just a few of JP’s great shots. Can’t unleash the whole folio of images he has given us, we’ll post them from time to time for some great eye candy. Thanks again JP!

Would you consider yourself a beetographer? Are you interested in showcasing some of your shots on our site? Just ping me and I’m sure we can arrange to make you famous! We’d enjoy seeing the images people are capturing out there.

Has Spring sprung?

If the blossoming and buzzing fruit trees are any indication, the answer might be yes! The image below (Brand Foreman’s backyard) is probably a common sight throughout the Bay area lately. Hard to walk outside or drive around without seeing many fruiting trees with their blossoms on full display.

Just standing near one of these trees and it sounds like Spring is humming along! The trees in my backyard are literally humming / buzzing with activity. The honeybees are going nuts! An awesome site to see and cool thing to hear this early in the year. We can’t help but wonder what this portends for the honey harvest this year – an early bounty perhaps? Only time and eventually the bees will tell.

Below are some additional shots I took on a lunch break in the backyard on 02/27.

Honeybees VS Yellowjackets

One of the first questions we are typically asked by our prospective clients when discussing setting up a hive on their property is, “will the the Bees bother me?”. The simple answer is an emphatic “No”. Now certainly the location of a hive is carefully taken into consideration and typically positioned in an area that is not adjacent to high traffic or high use or play areas.

While the Bay Area serves as prime habitat for honeybees (pictured above), it unfortunately also serves as prime habitat for yellowjackets (pictured below). No regions are immune to this aggressive backyard pest and unfortunately they are often mis-identified as “bees”.

We are here to set the record straight, honeybees and yellowjackets are very different from one another and given the right information to look for, are actually quite easy to differentiate from one another.

Take a close look at the picture below and then read a few facts about how they differ from one another:


Honeybees and yellowjackets are distinctly different in color with yellowjackets having a more primary yellow coloration to the honeybee’s orangish/amber/brown.

Honeybees have a lightly fuzzy / hairy look to their bodies while yellowjackets have an almost glossy / waxy hairless look to their bodies.

Honeybees are pollinators and collect pollen within the hairs on their legs, yellowjackets do not have these hairs and are rarely seen with collections of pollen on their legs.

Honeybees eat nectar and are often found hovering around and pollinating flowers, yellowjackets are predatory (meat eaters), and while not attacking normal prey, can be distinctly found hovering around picnic tables and BBQs.

A honeybee’s flight pattern can be characterized as almost smooth in appearance, while a yellowjacket can be very fast with a rapid side to side movement prior to landing.

Honeybees have glands that can produce wax for construction of their honeycomb, yellowjackets do not have these wax producing glands.

Now that you are in the know, we’re sure you won’t mistake Yellowjackets for Honeybees. Should you have a stubborn persistent problem with yellowjackets in and around your yard there are several helpful resources that can inform you on how to eliminate and or mange these pests. Start with your local County Vector Control:

http://www.contracostamosquito.com/yellowjackets.htm

Hive Down

Well we can’t say this is how we wanted to start our BLOG but it does in many respects highlight the difficulties that local (and cross country) bee keepers / ranchers are having. Over the past few years, there has been a great deal of focus on what many experts are calling Colony collapse disorder. What it is exactly and how it strikes our friendly Honeybees has yet to be pinned down. All the experts know is that there has been a significant decline in healthy honeybee colonies across the nation (and parts of Europe).

As for the pics above and below, an unfortunate sight. One of our favorite backyard colonies – dead. Definitely not Colony collapse disorder but the effects of Varroa destructor – mites. This past Fall, we confirmed that several of our fellow bee keepers around the East Bay got hit pretty hard by mites. Something we all watch for. It is preventable but not always caught in time.

The intent of the Bee Rancher BUZZ BLOG is to provide and share information and news – both the good, and the bad (as in this case) to our clients and fellow Honeybee lovers all over the Bay Area. As they say, information is power and hopefully we can channel some of that power toward helping our local Honeybee populations.

Are you a San Francisco Bay Area beekeeper? Did you have difficulties with mites this past year (2011)? If so we’d like to hear about it and how you are dealing with them.