Our Bees-ness Model

 We began from nothing in 2003 and now employ a workforce of thousands at our facilties in Western Massachusetts. *

This success flows from a simple, old-fashioned way of running a business:

  • We employ non-native, female workers, exclusively
  • Workers themselves gather the raw materials for our products in the fields and forests of western Massachusetts
  • Workers live at the production facilities in simple, wooden structures with no heat or plumbing
  • A remarkably flat organizational structure lets every worker toil for the entire day, changing jobs as she ages
  • Workers labor in exchange for simple food and basic housing– no other capital expenditures are required
  • A very high birthrate helps replace workers who die on the job. At what other company can three generations work together, side by side?

(*This success has not come without setbacks. During the winter of 2009-10 all our workers died. Luckily, a broker arranged for replacement workers eager to take the positions of the dead.)

How to feed a light hive quickly and easily in the middle of winter

Winter Feeding (the easy way)

Here’s the easiest way I’ve found to winter-feed a hive that is low on honey stores.  In the winter you can’t reliably feed sugar syrup because it freezes, and making bee candy like fondant is a pain. But this is a simple, and effective technique. Condensed to a single sentence, what to do is to leave dampened sugar on top of a sheet of newspaper right over the cluster of bees.  Ideally, you’d do this on a warmer day, in the 40’s or 50’s, but if a hive is in danger of starving, you can do it anytime. Ideally, a hive will have enough honey for this to be unnecessary, but a rainy summer and low nectar flows last year made this difficult in the winter of 2013-14.

(Thanks to Mike Bush at http:/www.bushfarms.com for this method of winter feeding).


Click on any of the pictures below to display a larger image.

A couple of light (short on honey) hives on the first warm, clear day after a lot of snow.

From behind (with bovine neighbors):

How to feed a light hive quickly and easily in the middle of winter

Notice the stick propping up the outer covers for ventilation. A hive makes a lot of water vapor over the course of a winter. Propping up the lid slightly lets the vapor escape, so water won’t condense and drip down on the bees inside.

And from the front.

(I’ve already fed these hives this winter, and you can see newspaper sticking out below the top box, which is basically empty. If you were doing this for the first time, you’d be adding an empty super immediately above a sheet of newspaper covering the bees).

I was a little surprised that there are no signs of cleansing flights at the front of either hive.  Probably with temps in the 40’s, it’s not quite warm enough for flights.  On the first warm day, you’ll usually see hundreds of small yellow dots in the snow around the hive entrance.

The day is warm enough (temps in the 40’s) to proceed.  First, I quickly remove the outer and  inner covers.


This is the bottom of the inner cover, with a lot of burr comb still remaining from earlier in the year.

  Then I check for  a cluster of live bees, inside, usually right at the top.  You can see what remains of an earlier feeding– newspaper with a hole chewed into it and a lump of sugar.

Luckily, both these hives are still alive.  Notice how one cluster is pretty centered in the hive, while the other is considerably shifted to one side)

ClusterHive2.jpg ClusterHive1.jpg


I lay down a sheet of newspaper on the very tops of the frames (or in this case, over the old sheets of paper and sugar):



Then I dump a bit of sugar right on top.


And I dampen lightly with a spray bottle, and slash a few holes in the paper for access.  Done!


Only feed a hive when there’s no other choice. Opening a hive in winter disturbs the cluster and loses heat. In some years, there’s no other choice to prevent starvation.

Installing a Package of Bees

Yesterday I installed a couple new packages of bees at different sites.  Here’s  the process.

A “package” of bees usually contains 3 pounds of bees, or roughly 10,000 workers and a single queen. This box contains a can of sugar syrup suspended under the brown sheet of particle board in the center.


Here’s another view of the package.  Click on the image below to see a chunk of comb these bees have made since being cooped up in this cage with a can of syrup about two days ago.


 The package is going into a hive with almost ten frames of prepared comb (“drawn” comb). The workers will be able to start right away making honey, and the queen can lay eggs once she’s released.  A package that has to draw out comb will take a while longer to get going, so this is a major head start.  (The hive I’m using is from a hive that I lost last winter– the bees got separated from their food stores and starved. I found them with their heads stuffed into cells, desperate to find food.)


Drawn comb looks like this. These frames contain both used brood comb (darker) and golden, covered cells holding honey.  The small section of black plastic on the second frame is an area that hasn’t yet been filled out with comb. I’m using black plastic frames sized for “small-cell.”



First, remove the piece of particleboard covering the can of syrup and the cage with the queen inside.Then, remove the queen cage, keeping the can of syrup covered. I’ll keep the queen warm and safe in my shirt pocket I’m ready to install her.


Here’s a look inside the queen cage. She’s a marked queen, with a white dot.  The bees on the outside of her cage are behaving normally, trying to reach the queen and attend feed and attend to her.

CIMG1003 CIMG1004


Then remove the can of syrup, and cover up the hole.



Finally, give them a squirt of syrup to improve their mood and pour them bees out into the hive.



Once they’re out, remove the cork in one end of the queen cage to expose the soft candy plug, and tape the cage in the center of the hive between two frames where workers can find the queen easily.