Monday, December 15, 2008

Free hive tools!

I received a flyer in the mail from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. The folks at BMBF are giving away hive tools for the holidays, but you can request yours anytime during 2009. You just use the code "FHT" (free hive tool?) when you place an order, and you will get one. You have to order something, of course, and they will only give you one regardless of how many times you order during the year. I order stuff from them, and they have good products. I also have a brushy mountain hive tool, but I really only use it to pack pine needles in my smoker. I prefer the maxant style hive tools, but you can buy those from brushy mountain as well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quick Robin, to the bat house!

Since cold weather is coming on, there is not much going on with the bees other than what is discussed in the post below. One of the things I have been wanting to get for awhile is a bat house. The models that were available at the local outdoor stores did not impress me. So, I checked this book out from the library and used it to make my own bat house.

I made the whole thing out of some leftover cedar boards and plywood from a construction project. The only thing I had to buy was some $4.99 red stain for the plywood parts. I can't wait until spring to put it out and see if some bats take up residence.

Below is a shot of the four inner chambers. There is only 3/4 of an inch between them, but that's enough for the bats:

Bee update

My original hive has plenty of honey and is hunkered down for the winter. They are most likely going to be fine.

Some bad news on the front of hive number two, however. The hive is situated on a place on my property where I do not see it everyday. I went out one Saturday morning to check on it, and it had been knocked over onto its side. I have no idea how long it was like that, and it rained the day before. When I put it upright, it felt much lighter than I expected, which indicates that the bees may not have enough stores for the winter. I have not inspected the hive, but I think that the queen is still alive because the hive is generally quiet and appears to be acting normal. Even if being knocked over does not do them in, lack of food probably will. I'll try to do some emergency feeding over the winter and see what happens. I have heard that fondant makes good emergency bee feed.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bumble bee observation nest

I went to an open house event at an agricultural research facility, and I saw something that is really cool: A bumble bee nest!

The plastic top of the box that they are in is a little cloudy, so it is not possible to get a really clear picture. But you can still make out the pollen pots and see some individual bees. While I was observing them, I saw a new worker crawl out of the cell where it developed!

Pretty soon, these bees will start producing lots of drones and queens. The queens will mate and then hibernate underground for the winter. The drones and the worker bees will die in the fall. In the spring, the queens will emerge and look for a new nest so they can start laying eggs and start the whole process over.

From what I understand from the host of this display, the bees were purchased earlier this year and are used for pollination.

Bee update

I know haven't posted here for awhile, and that is partly because I have not been doing much for the bees for awhile. Since I did not harvest any honey, I am not feeding very much this year. Last year I made the mistake of feeding too much which I believe made the bees too strong early in April which led to a mid-April swarm. My original hive has a super of honey, so they should make it through the winter just fine. My other hive also has a fair amount of stored sugar syrup from my feedings earlier in the year. Basically, the bees have managed themselves.

The only thing that I did do was treat for varroa mites. In my first hive I used Apistan strips, and the second hive I gave them one packet of Api Life VAR. The directions called for two packs, but the mite counts were so low I did not think that a second pack was necessary. I guess the consequence of this is that the mites that were in capped cells for the two weeks that the Api Life VAR was on the hive were shielded from the mite treatment, but I am not too worried about this given the low mite drops prior to treatment.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

You gotta eat

Here are some still pics of the praying mantis incident.


Nom nom nom


This video has nothing to do with bees, but it does relate to insects. I have a bush in my yard that is loaded with praying mantises. This is a video of a praying mantis eating a cicada, while another praying mantis snatches the cicada from the first. It's dog eat dog out there!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Well, I saw Lon Chaney walking with the Queen...

If this picture from last year is bearding, what is the pic below? Werewolfing? I have noticed that my second hive beards like crazy, with bees covering the entire front of the hive bodies (the white supers are just concealing a feeder jar). I wonder if this is common among Italian bees?

This hive was started with four frames and a caged queen. They are on plastic foundation, and were not drawing it out very quickly or very well when they had only one box. Before I added the second hive body, I coated the plastic frames with beeswax and they drew that box out in no time flat. They got so strong that I took off the hive top feeder and am just using a feeder jar. My other hive, although healthy, is much weaker than these guys. Of course, I am not feeding the other hive, but I have not removed my only honey super yet either. I fear that this hive may swarm early next year.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Plastic frames

Earlier this year, I purchased a whole bunch of Pierco plastic frames. I bought 40 black deep frames for the brood chamber and 40 white medium sized frames for my honey supers. I was very much attracted to the "no assembly required" benefit of plastic frames. These frames also have a slightly lower price and the bees do not seem to propolize them as much as wooden frames. Furthermore, they resist wax moth damage to the frame itself.

The only draw back of plastic frames is that bees just don't seem to want to draw comb on them as readily as bees wax frames. Last year my hive drew a medium super of plastic frames pretty easily, but I was feeding them very heavily with a hive top feeder when they were drawing comb on these frames. This year, my second hive is all on plastic frames, but they did not seem to want to draw them out. When they did draw comb, it was shallow and not what I consider to be quality drawn comb.

Although plastic frames are advertised as "beeswax coated", I could sneeze more beeswax on them then what they come from the factory with. I had read in various bee magazines and heard from other beekeepers that coating plastic frames with beeswax will entice the bees to draw them out much better. I tried this, and boy did it work. The frames I had coated in beeswax were drawn out quickly, and the comb looks like the kind of high quality comb you see drawn on frames with bees wax foundation.

Below is a pic of a deep frame before and after being coated with beeswax. Keep in mind that the frame on top was advertised as "beeswax coated". I like Pierco frames, but I criticize them for the scant amount of bees wax in which they put on these frames. I would even be willing to pay for these frames if they came with a decent amount of beeswax on them.

If you are having trouble with plastic frames, purchase some beeswax that you know is disease free, melt it down, and spread it on your plastic frames with a paint brush. Your bees will draw it out much better.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Marking the queen

My new queens are unmarked and I wanted to mark them. This makes them easy spot, easy to determine the age of, and you know in an instant if the queen you are looking at is the one you put there. Due to an unfortunate incident involving paint and a home renovation project, I am not allowed to paint anything within 100 miles of my house. Therefore, my Omniscient Beekeeper marked the queen for me.

There are 5 colors to paint your queens, the color you use depends on what year the queen was born in. Years ending in 1 and 6 are white, 2 and 7 are yellow, 3 and 8 are red, 4 and 9 are green, 5 and 0 are blue.

"When You Read Good Books" is how I remember this.

You can buy queen marking pens, but we just used child safe paint (i.e. non-toxic) and a small paint brush.

Not too shabby for a first mark.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

So far so good

As we approach the tail end of the main nectar flow in my area, both of my hives are rocking along just fine although I am worried that the swarm from my established hive may have eliminated any possibility of a crop of honey this year. Since I now have two unmarked queens in both hives, I need to get my hands on a paint marker so I can mark them. Marking is a good idea so I know that the queens I see are the ones I are supposed to be there. Here are a few tidbits from last weeks inspection that I just now transferred from the camera to my laptop:

This is a frame from the established hive that is full of eggs (the white specs). The eggs contrast nicely on the black plastic foundation:

Below is a frame from hive #2 which shows some eggs if you look closely. This queen, which is Italian, is doing fine also. This hive just needs to draw out two boxes of comb this year and they will be fine.

Here is a pic of the Italian queen that I installed myself in hive #2:

Below is a pic of the Carniolan queen that my establish hive raised themselves after they swarmed. She is laying nicely as the first pic on this post shows. Notice how much darker the Carniolan queen is when compared to the Italian queen:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Just another Tequilla Sunrise...

A gentleman who retired from beekeeping 15 years ago gave me some unprocessed wax cappings and let me use his solar wax melter to process the wax. If you have never seen a solar wax melter work, you would not believe how hot it gets. I put my beer making thermometer in the melter along with the wax, and it got up to 180 degrees F. It was not even very hot today, but the sun was shining. This goes to remind us how much energy the sun sends us for free each day, but the plants are the only ones who seem to be able to harness it effectively. We humans resort to paying $135 for a barrel of oil!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sing for the moment...

Above is a video of two queens in cages piping at each other. Piping is what queens do to alert each other of their presence. They can do this even in cells. The piping in this video only happens once and very quickly at the beginning.


First of all, hornets are not bees. They are hornets. But they do have wings and a stinger, so I am somewhat interested in them.

I found a hornet's nest in a flower bed, and I put it along with its sole inhabitant (the hornet queen) in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer so I could inspect the inside later.

Below is the hornet queen after she spent 24 hours in my freezer. She looks pretty mean.

Below is a photo of the hornet larvae. I am not an expert on hornets, but I assume that the queen starts building the nest, laying the eggs, and gathering food all by herself until the "worker" hornets are born to help her out.


I installed my new queens last week, and today I inspected each of my two hives. Both hives released the queens as they should, and therefore both queen cages were empty.

In hive number two, which is my new hive that has only four frames of drawn comb, I did not see any eggs or larvae, but I did see the beautiful Italian queen walking on the comb. I need to mark her next time I inspect this hive. You can use any child safe/non-toxic paint to do so. I also noticed that both hives were quieter during my inspections. Hive number two seems to be starting to draw out the plastic frames, which they did not want to touch last time I inspected. As soon as they get some room, I expect this queen to be laying like crazy.

In hive number one, my original hive, I did not see the new Italian queen but that in itself does not concern me, because there are a lot more frames and more bees in hive number one. What does surprise me is that I saw capped brood! I inspected this hive one week ago and saw no eggs or larvae. It takes 9 days for worker brood to be capped, so either there was a queen, eggs and larvae that I missed last week or this new queen is breaking the rules in the book. I am really not sure what to make of this. This brood was on a white plastic frame, so I guess it is possible I could have missed the white eggs or white brood last week, but I am not so sure. I still did not see a queen, but given the capped brood and visible larvae, I am not to worried about this hive.

I have gone from not knowing anything about bees, to knowing everything (so I thought!) about bees, to realizing that they are complex creatures that will take years of study to understand. They are a challenging hobby.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

She ain't no human being...

I continue to be lazy with my updates, so I am backdating a few posts, starting with this one. My last post noted two challenges: making sure both hives were able to successfully requeen themselves and to get a crop of honey.

Well, after a careful inspection neither of my two hives show any evidence of a queen. I don't see any queens, nor do I see any eggs or larvae. Therefore, I need to purchase a queen for each of my two hives. I called around and found two unmarked Italian queens for $20 each. I installed one in each hive, and I have my fingers crossed that the queens will be accepted by each colony. The queens come in a cage with about 5-10 attendant bees. I have read it is best to remove the attendant bees before putting the queens in the hive. I chose not to do this, because I did not want to risk losing a queen.

The cage the queen comes in has candy on one end that bees like to eat. The theory is that once the queen cage is placed in a hive, the colony will eat the candy and release the queen. By the time the candy is eaten which takes a few days, the colony will have become accustomed to the queen and she will be accepted rather than killed. Fingers crossed...

Here is a crucial swarming fact that I learned: after a swarm, it will take 55-60 days before a new bee emerges that was laid by the queen that the bees raised themselves. Given that it takes 21 days for a worker bee to emerge, that means that the post swarm queen will not lay an egg for 34-39 days! Summer bees only live for about 6 weeks, so the population of the hive will dwindle pretty significantly after a swarm. This is the primary reason that it is difficult to get a crop of surplus honey after a swarm. IMHO, this is also a good reason to purchase a queen rather than let the bees raise their own. However, this break in the brood cycle that results from letting the bees raise their own queen is a good way to kill off varroa mites since the VMs reproduce in capped brood cells.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Despite my lack of updates, much is going on

I have been very remiss in keeping this blog updated. My bees have actually been keeping me fairly busy. To recap, there were two major events that happened in my apiary recently. The first is that I pulled a four frames of my main hive (one with a queen cell) to start a second hive and to possibly prevent a swarm. The second major event is that my main hive swarmed anyway.

This leaves me with two challenges. Number one, I must make sure both hives requeen themselves. Number two, I want to try to get a honey crop off of hive #1 even though this is more difficult after a swarm.

I think getting a crop of honey off the main hive will be very possible, mainly because I simply pulled the honey super off of that hive and moved a medium super that was sandwiched between two deeps and being used as a brood chamber to the top of the hive. I put a queen excluder beneath the medium super, and hopefully some honey is on its way. To my surprise, the medium super had hardly any brood in it and already had a good bit of honey.

I'll have to wait and see about challenge number one, making sure both hives requeen properly. I did not thoroughly inspect hive #1 because the weather was a bit chilly, so I did not see a queen or eggs in that one, but I will be able to better assess the situation after a thorough inspection. I did thoroughly inspect hive #2, and no queen or eggs was present, although the queen cell had hatched. I also spotted an emergency queen cell. I would expect the queen that hatched to be laying eggs by next weekend, so I know more at that time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bittersweet day in the beeyard

Today is somewhat of a sad day for me. I noticed lots of queen cells during my inspection last weekend, including one that was capped. I put that capped cell and three other frames into a nucbox to start a new hive and possibly prevent a swarm. Unfortunately, that course of action was unable to prevent a swarm. I arrived home from work today and my omniscient assistant beekeeper immediately noticed that there were only a few bees bearding the landing board, which is unusual. Since my hive is on a scale, I checked the weight and I noticed that it decreased 9 pounds from last night. That is a sure sign of a swarm. The above pic is the last picture that was taken of my queen, which was taken during Saturday's inspection before I pulled the nuc off of the main hive.

So, the good news is that I now have two hives since I did a split last weekend, but the bad news is that the main hive swarmed. I was unable to find the swarm anywhere.

Where ever you are queen, good luck and thanks for the memories.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Swarm in the works?

My hive is doing so well that I am a little bit afraid that my bees might try and swarm on me. Last weekend, when I inspected my hive, I convinced myself that the cells in this picture were just drone cells. However, looking back it appears that these are the beginnings of swarm cells. I am going to have to keep my eye on these, and possibly pull a nuc off this hive in an attempt to prevent a swarm. The benefit of that is that I will get a second hive, but the downside is that my honey production will not be as great as it otherwise would have been.

Another downside is that I will owe my wife $20. She claims that she can read animal behavior very well, and before I even inspected the hive she bet me $20 that the bees were planning on swarming. I agreed to take the bet. She told me that she can read animal behavior so well, she could see that our cat wanted in on the action for $1. So now it looks I am out $21. Rats.

The benefit of letting your bees raise their own queen is that it causes a break in the brood cycle, which does not hurt the bees so much but it does hurt the varroa mites which reproduce in capped cells.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Time to super up

The nectar flow must be starting in my area. I put my hive on a scale last week, and with the cold weather it has been steadily losing about half a pound or so in weight each day. Today, however, the weather was quite nice and my hive gained four pounds. On my way home, I noticed there are quite a few dandelions beginning to bloom. This all suggests that the nectar flow is here and it must be time to put on the honey supers!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It bites to have mites

I overwintered my hive with drone comb, and I am wondering if that may have been a mistake. The first inkling of this is when I noticed that my mite drop was higher than I would like (about 25 mites in 24 hours), so I decided to do a sugar dusting and pull out the drone comb. Luckily for me, most of the cells on the drone comb were still capped. This means that that most of the mites were still in those capped cells and had not yet hatched. I pulled out the drone frame and replaced with with a new drone frame of drone comb. I am somewhat lucky with the timing, if I had waited until after these drones hatched, I would have a healthy crop of mites on my bees.

In addition to swapping my drone frame, I also dusted the bees with powdered sugar. Hopefully, today was a big setback for the varroa mites in my hive and a big boost to the health of my bees.

I also gave the bees some light sugar syrup (two parts water to one part sugar) to boost production of new bees. I had noticed that lots of bees were getting water from a nearby bucket with rainwater. When bees are gathering water, that is a sign that brood production is underway (and also a sign that there is no nectar flow underway). I want my bees to raise lots of new bees so they can gather nectar to make honey, but I don't want them to build up too soon so that they swarm. I am walking a fine line, I suppose.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Here kitty kitty...

I have some unused hive bodies and a few extra plastic frames, so I decided to try my luck with establishing two bait hives. The theory behind bait hives is to simply make a nice place for bees to live and hope a passing swarm will decide to take up residence there. Of course, the success of this strategy is a function of swarming activity in the area. European bees can swarm about once a year, and part of good beekeeping is to reduce swarming tendencies to less than that. Africanized honeybees can swarm eleven times or so per year. Luckily, AHBs have not made it as far north as I am. The best time to catch a swarm is in April, May or June. A swarm caught later than that will not have sufficient time to draw comb and make enough honey to make it through the winter.

I obtained two viles of swarm lure from the State Department of Agriculture to improve my chances. I set up one bait hive "by the book". That is, it is the size of two medium bodies and it has a one inch hole for an entrance. It is also about 10 feet off the ground, sitting on the stairs leading to my woodshop. I would have liked to have some empty drawn comb to put in it, but I have don't have any that is not being used. Instead, I just have a couple plastic frames and foundation in it.

The other bait hive breaks the rules. It is simply two medium nuc bodies stacked on top of each other, and it is sitting right on the ground. I threw in two frames of plastic foundation for good measure.

With a whole lot of luck, maybe one of these hive will catch the eye of a swarm.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Whiskey for my workers, beer for my drones...

As noted in my first inspection of the year, I found some capped drone cells on the drone frame. Tonight on my hive's landing board, I found the first drone I have seen this year. Unfortunately, he was dead and had obvious varroa mite damage (deformed wings). As soon as the weather permits, I will get the mites that did this and make them pay...

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Tisket, A Tasket...

...a yellow pollen basket. Actually, it is a corbicula with yellow pollen, but the point is the same. I like this picture for some reason.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hornets: the other things with wings and stingers

My assistant beekeeper made me look like a fool. She spotted an object lying on the ground in the distance, which appeared to me to be a chunk of concrete. She identified the object as a "bees nest" (she knows hornets are not bees, but she calls them bees to irk me). I then did what any self respecting beekeeper would do. I asked her if she was smoking crack, because I know a hornet's nest when I see one, and that is not a hornet's nest. Turns out she was right, and I was wrong. It was a hornet's nest.

Obviously, this time of year the nest was not in use, and the gray paper wrapper that would normally surround the comb was gone. There were two distinct layers of comb were the hornets were raising their brood.

The below pic is pretty cool- it is of the lower layer of comb. The cells on the bottom layer are much larger than the cells on the first layer. I think the larger cells are queen and drone cells. Like bumblebees, hornets produce queens and drones at the end of the season. The queens mate and then go underground where they emerge in the spring and build a new nest. This is totally different than what honeybees do. A strong colony of honeybees will make a few new queens, and then just before the new queens emerge, the old queen and half the workers will leave the hive and start a new hive somewhere else. This is called swarming. Back at the old hive, the new queens then emerge and duke it out as to who will become the new queen.

Anyway, check out these hornet queen cells:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Silver Lining...

If there is anything good that has come from CCD, it is the way the media has portrayed the hobby of beekeeping. There is a repeat of a good piece about CCD on 60 Minutes tonight, and there was an article in The Examiner that really put hobby beekeeping in a good light.

As beekeepers use antibiotics or chemicals in the fight against mites or viruses, the overall ability to fight off infection declines, entomologists say. Commercial beekeepers, particularly, may turn to antibiotics because they can't risk losing bees.

But hobbyists can. And that means the bees they raise - and that survive - are stronger and will withstand whatever is decimating commercial bees. These bees, known as "survivor bees," could prove to be the saviors, some bee experts believe.

"We need the smaller beekeepers, and it's a fascinating hobby," said Ken Kloepper, president of the St. Clair Beekeepers Association in Illinois. "They can provide a great service to their communities. We need new young blood to keep this thing going."

Monday, February 18, 2008

First inspection of 2008!

Today, I was able to do my first hive inspection of the year. Let me say right off the bat, my bees are kicking butt and taking names. There were many more bees in the hive than I expected, they have plenty of honey (more likely sugar syrup) stored, and there are several hand-sized patches of brood on several frames. They are bringing in tons of pollen (which is used to make new bees!). The additional super of sugar syrup that I left on the hive remains hardly touched. In fact, I doubt I will need to use a queen excluder this year when I super up for honey, since that super of syrup will keep the queen from laying eggs above it. I was worried that I might need to start feeding soon, but the way things stand right now, I won’t need to worry about feeding for a while.

The most surprising sight in the hive was the presence of capped drone brood on my drone frame- although I did not see any hatched drones. Thinking like a bee for second, I am a little worried that they might decide to swarm. Although this is only a second year queen, they have a ton of food stored, so the queen might decide to establish a new colony (by swarming) since this one is doing so well. If that is the case, I will see some swarm cells in another month or so, in which case I’ll split the hive. That will really put a hurting on the honey crop I was hoping for this year, but I will have two hives instead of one. The beekeeper wants the bees to make honey, but the bees want to make new colonies of bees.

Here they are trucking in a whole lot of pollen:

Here are the capped drone cells:

J. Crew announces a line of beekeeping footwear...

And no, they are not mine.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The weather is beautiful

After a few weeks of bitterly cold temperatures, today the weather turned out very nice. My bees took full advantage of the nice weather to do some cleansing flights and other chores outside the hive. It was so nice to see a flurry of activity going on around the hive. It brought back pleasant memories of Spring!

One of the tasks the bees were performing was bringing out the dead. I like to inspect the dead bees to make sure there are no obvious signs of disease. It is difficult to see in this photo, but one of the dead bees had a varroa mite on the underside of its abdomen.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bee a Beekeeper

If you are interested in keeping bees, and you live in or near central Maryland, you should consider taking this course. The course is pretty well put together and you are guaranteed to learn a great deal about beekeeping. The course is spread out over the course of a month, with a two and half hour session once a week followed up with a "hands on" class in an apiary (which is a place where bees are kept, derived from the latin bee word "apis".) The environment is informal and there are no tests or anything of that sort.

I have noticed that some other courses around the country are basically set up as a crash course- a one eight hour session. I don't see how anyone could learn anything about an unfamiliar subject in such a manner.

If you can't take the course, but are still interested in learning more about bees, there are plenty of good books that you can check out at the library.

Monday, January 21, 2008

At least they don't produce maggots...

Anyone who is interested enough in bees to read this blog probably knows that honeybees were brought to America from Europe. I was just reminded of a funny term the Native Americans used for honeybees: "white man's flies".

Monday, January 14, 2008

Random Bumblebee Facts

Although it does not directly relate to honeybees, the book I am currently reading is pretty good. It is about bumblebees. More specifically, it is about how bumblebees survive in a world of limited resources. Here is a hint: like the rest of us, they learn to be efficient. I had never heard of this book before I picked it up at Borders in the insect section, but anyone who knows about my other blog might find this sentence from the preface somewhat interesting:

"Ironically, while the work on bumblebees in Bumblebee Economics was used as a scientific justification for capitalism as espoused by political free-market advocates...".

Anyway, here are some interesting things that you might not know about bumblebees, and how the evolutionary strategy of bumblebees differ from honeybees:

1. All female bumblebees, like the queen honeybee, have a stinger that is not barbed. This means they can sting multiple times. (OK, most people learn this when they are 5 years old and barefoot.)

2. Bumblebees do not swarm. They produce multiple queens, who mate in the late summer and then find a place to hibernate underground. In the spring, the queens locate a new nest (usually an abandoned mouse nest) and start a new colony. Initially, the queen does all the work until brood is established, including collection nectar and pollen. As the colony grows, the queen devotes more time to laying eggs. In honeybees, of course, the queen is nothing but an egg layer.

3. Bumblebee queens do not lay eggs in cells of honeycomb. Instead, they basically make a clump on pollen, put it on the floor of the nest, and lay eggs on it. The larvae spins their own cocoons which are later cleaned and reused for storing honey and pollen.

4. Bumblebees are tundra adapted insects. Their evolutionary forefathers were from very cold climates.

5. If the queen dies, the workers will lay eggs which become drones (this can happen with honeybees as well).

Cool stuff.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

All is quiet on New Year's day...

Today, I received a bottle of Barenjager as a gift. It is liqueur made from honey. In German, Barenjager means "bear hunter". The lid to the bottle is shaped like a straw skep, and the picture is of some medieval dude luring a bear into a trap with a bee skep. It tastes pretty good straight up- very sweet and very much like honey. At 70 proof, it is honey with a kick.