Package delivery dates are not yet set. We are aiming for the first half of April, and will be able to dial in closer on those specifics over the coming weeks. This year we will be bringing in the same Carniolan genetics as last year- as well as the Quebecs. All packages will be 4 pounds, all queens will be marked! Price for either strain will be $220. Extra queens are $35. This price is subject to increase! While we do not anticipate this happening, it is possible. Any orders paid in full previous to price increase will not have additional charges. Please order and pay for your bees as early as possible.
This year we are having a drawing. For every package purchased, your name/number will go into a bucket. For every 100 packages purchased, we will draw a ticket from the bucket. The winner will receive either an additional free package, or their payment refunded - whichever they choose. Undrawn tickets will remain in the jar for the next ticket pull.
There is a 3% card processing fee for in-store and online orders. Manual card processing (if you email me your info and I run your card) fees are 5%
The most cost-effective way to place your order is to stop by our store at 12498 Kenai Spur Hwy #3, or mail a check or money order to;
Sarah's Alaska Honey
33735 Gas Well Rd
Soldotna, AK 99669
Please feel free to call/text/email with any questions.
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Okay, so maybe it's not Spring yet, but it sounds a whole lot better than "Will this bitter cold ever end?", or "30 below zero on a Dark January Day". Cold or not, Spring will be here before we know it, and it's time to start planning ahead. We have some exciting changes coming up!
After 14 years of constructing complete hives for folks from Seward to Fairbanks, we will be scaling back significantly. Previously, we have spent several months at a time every spring working very long days in order to fulfill this need. Sadly, the cost of purchasing wood locally is now more expensive than ordering pre-cut hive parts and pieces. We will continue to build some hives locally, but they will be at premium prices. We will be bringing in large quantities of quality woodenware starting in February, and expect to always have equipment in stock. We will continue to do custom orders, our unique Screened Bottom Boards, and finally....Pollen Traps!
There has been an increased interest in beekeeping, particularly over the last several years. As this trend continues, we strive to bring you quality products and services. This year, we are planning to bring in our own package bees directly from the lower 48. We are hoping this will help us keep our costs (and yours) down. Additionally, we are increasing the number of beginner classes, and the areas that we offer them. Currently, we have classes scheduled as follows;
Kenai -Saturday, January 21st, 2 pm. Tuesday, February 24th, 5:30 pm at Sarah's Alaska Honey Additional Kenai classes will run through March, TBA
Palmer - Saturday, January 28th, 10:45 am and 2:25 pm at MatSu College
Anchor Point - Friday, February 3rd, 5:30 pm at Anchor River Inn
Homer - Saturday, February 4th, 11 am and 3 pm at Kachemak Community Center
Anchorage - Friday, February 10th 2 pm and 6 pm. Saturday, February 11th 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm at Aspen Suites.
Girdwood - Saturday, February 18th 2 pm at Thriftwood.
All classes are $20 per person, or $30 per couple. RSVP's requested for Anchorage classes due to limited space.
Beginner classes run 2-3 hours and cover all of the basics of keeping bees your first year. Intermediate and hands-on classes may be offered in Kenai as the season progresses.
We are crossing our fingers for a beautiful, warm, prosperous year!
As always, please don't hesitate to call, or stop by the store at 12498 Kenai Spur Hwy #3. You can also follow Sarah's Alaska Honey on Facebook!
Feeding your girls in the spring is necessary in Alaska as there isn't typically a naturally available source of nectar when they arrive. Here's how I make sugar syrup. This recipe is easy to modify for any size batch without measuring anything!
Start with a pot that is the approximate volume of syrup you want to end up with. For small batches, use a smaller saucepan. For large batches, break out the big pot! Fill the pot about halfway full of water and bring to a boil. As soon as it starts to boil, turn the heat OFF. Dump in plain, white cane sugar while stirring until the pot is almost full. Leave enough room for stirring without slopping! Stir gently for several minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Wait just a few minutes, then come back and stir again to help dissolve any sugar that has settled out on the bottom. Cool completely and store any excess in the refrigerator. Packages needing to build new comb will typically need more syrup, more frequently. Do not feed cold syrup to your bees, room temperature is perfect!
Here's a quick clip showing how (in my opinion) to best feed your hungry packages in the spring. The feeding shim is simply a spacer between your brood chamber and inner cover. This spacer creates room for a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of sugar syrup. I prefer this method for a few different reasons. First off, it's cheap! Secondly, and most important, the cluster keeps the syrup warm. Workers only have to travel a few inches to the top of the warm bag of syrup in order to fill up and return. With both the Boardman feeder (entrance/canning jar) and the Top-Box feeder, the syrup is far more removed from the heat of the cluster. That means bees have to leave the cluster, travel a substantial distance (minimum 8-10"), fill up on cold syrup, and then make it back to the cluster. In freezing temps, this is quite difficult. The biggest drawbacks to the Ziploc style of feeding are that you can't pour on several gallons at a time like with the top-box type feeders. You must check and refill every few days. Some packages will drain a bag in a day or two. Also, occasionally I have a package that decides they want to build comb in that extra space instead of down below. In this scenario, I scrape the comb out as soon as I notice it, and either remove the shim and feed (if they have stores down below) for a few days, or, I use sandwich bags full of syrup to take up all the extra space, so they don't have room to make burr comb.
It is very important to have a sharp razorblade on hand. After you lay the bag of syrup across your topbars, cut your first tiny slit with the razorblade. Gently press on the bag and let any air vent out. Next make a series of small slits with the razorblade across the bag. It is imperative to make these slits large enough that the bees can get syrup, but not large enough that they can fit through the holes when the bag is empty. Too big of holes, and they will crawl right inside when the bag is near empty. They will get inside, but they can't get back out. It really sucks to open a hive and find hundreds of suffocated workers inside your ziploc.
When it's time to change the bag out for a full one, it can be tricky trying not to squish bees. I hold the new bag right above the old one and lay it down as I'm pulling the empty bag from underneath. Any workers that manage to get stuck underneath anyway can be coaxed back between the topbars by carefully lifting a corner of the bag partway - just enough to lift some of the pressure off of them so they can sneak back down below.
Good luck with your new packages this year, and remember, you can always give me a call if you have any questions!
If you're on the fence about it, jump on over! The grass is about as green, but the gardens and flowers buzzing with your own personal army is amazing!
Package prices and dates have been set, and if you haven't placed your order yet, it is time!
4lb. packages will arrive April 7th and 14th. Strains available are;
AHB (Alaska Honey Bee)
WQD (Websters Queen Daughters)
NWC (New World Carniolan)
Cost is $135
Extra Queen $25
For more information http://web.mac.com/klmalone/Alaska_Honey_Bee/Package_Bees.html
5lb Packages will arrive April 20th. Strains available are;
Cost is $140
Extra Queen $23
For more information http://alaskabeeproducts.net/
Feel free to order bees from these suppliers either directly or through me. All Kenai Peninsula packages will be transported by me from Anchorage to strategic pick-up locations. I have never charged for this service, but as always, I ask folks to pitch in towards my gas if possible. This season I will be making 3 trips instead of my usual 1 big motherload. It can certainly get interesting driving the 160 miles back home with 400-plus pounds of honeybees in the Suburban! (Code-name "The Stinger")
Please don't wait until you pick up your bees to ask for equipment! If you get down to the wire, I may be able to work something out for you, but I really need a heads up if you're planning on ordering hives from me. As always, these hives are completely cut and assembled in small runs right here in my garage! I may or may not have extra's on hand when bees arrive. Remember, quality IS guaranteed!
For equipment orders on the Peninsula, drop-off and/or pick-up is usually the best option. Shipping to other areas of Alaska is quite reasonable, but varies depending on your order.
As always, please don't hesitate to call me with your bee or equipment orders as well as any questions you might have.....or just to chat about bees!
China is at it again, and Americans are fairly clueless as to what is they are actually eating. Chinese honey has long since been banned from importation into the US, but they have found countless ways to circumvent this ban. The latest is in the form of pollen-stripping. This makes determining the origin of the honey nearly impossible, as well as removing any health benefits. American honey packing plants are buying it for mere cents a pound and the general public thinks they're eating an American product! Follow the links for the sickening info, including a list of suspect honey by brand name and store.
Food Safety News
Los Angeles Times
As I peruse the craft bazaars, brimming with local artists who sell their wares, I am increasingly disheartened to witness the false advertising and labeling that occurs. Many people have jumped on the "buy local" and "Alaska Grown" bandwagon. Sadly, as many are (very successfully I might add) exploiting those good folks who attempt to support their local crafters.
One vendor in particular whom I spoke with this past weekend was advertising "All Alaskan Ingredients" in her products. One of these products just happened to be Rosehip Soap, which I also make. She had an incredibly fine-tuned spiel about using all Alaskan ingredients, and how she either grew or collected everything from the wild. She reassured me it was completely Alaskan. Only upon further probing (In fact, the THIRD time I asked directly "every single ingredient is Alaskan?") did she uncomfortably and a bit angrily tell me that "Not everything I need grows in Alaska, some of it is tropical. If it was going to all come from Alaska, I would have to use moose or fish oil, and that wouldn't smell very good, now would it?" I mustered an understanding nod as I smelled the Rosehip Soap. "Wow, it has quite a strong scent!" Again, she jumped into her polished monologue about gathering the ingredients herself, the loofah effect of the powdered rosehips, etc. Knowing first-hand that you really can't smell the rosehips, I asked "So all that scent comes from the wild rosehips?" Not really even trying anymore to hide her annoyance with me, she said "MOST of it comes from the rosehips, but there is a tiny bit of rose and geranium oil added just to round it out". At this point, I knew my playing stupid act wasn't passing with her at all, but didn't really care. "Is it Alaskan essential oil?" "Ma'am, I try to use as many Alaskan ingredients as I can possibly find!" (Too bad that's not what her signs said) Feeling I had made my point, I thanked her for her time and let her off the hook without mentioning the fact that her signage and labeling were obviously and purposefully misleading, not to mention her verbal product descriptions.
Now before I get beaten up in a dark alley for saying all this, I do want to mention that I purposely waited until there was nobody at her booth to have this discussion. I'm also very aware that this kind of thing happens regularly. A fellow beekeeper mentioned to me several years ago that in order to sell honey as "Alaskan", it only needed to be 51% Alaskan. The remaining 49% could come up from the lower 48 by the drum for a mere fraction of the price, thereby significantly increasing my profits! I nearly choked. Many stores and even gas stations sell "Alaskan" products that are anything but. With the almighty tourist dollar at stake, folks are scrambling to put the word Alaskan on anything. Too often, the most Alaskan part of many of these products is the label. Lucrative? I have no doubt. Misleading? Wrong? Rotten?
Ok, deep breath.......
I guess my point is this;
I can't compete. I won't compete. I REFUSE to compete. On their level, anyway. My signs and labels aren't fancy. I don't have a graphic designer hired to help me catch peoples eyes with fancy labels. I have a whiteboard and a marker, a kid with a woodburner who'd rather make signs than do dishes, and some scrap wood and cardboard. I make my labels on a thriftstore printer or they are handwritten. I regularly employ the use of both Duck tape and child labor. I experiment with recipes in my kitchen and innundate my family and friends with products to try in exchange for feedback. I try to make my labels and packaging appealing, but that is NOT where my focus is. My focus is on the products themselves. Plain, simple, natural and quality. Who wants to wash with a bar of soap that's neon blue and smells like a Glade Plug-in? Okay, okay, I concede. Teenagers do. (hence the "Axe" craze). Personally, I hold my breath when I even get close to those sections in the store. Gross....If that kind of thing works for you, great. If not, give me a call! My personal care products speak for themselves, and come with my personal guarantee. If you don't like it, bring it back and tell me why so that I can make adjustments if needed. Get your money back and take it to the box store if that's what you prefer, or let me customize something for you!
Just had to get that off my chest 🙂
I’ve gotten a number of calls the last week or two from folks asking if it’s too late to get bees this year. Although some package bee suppliers have stopped taking orders, there are several more that are still taking them. In fact, some lower 48 suppliers ship to Alaska clear into May! I personally wouldn’t recommend waiting past April 1st, but even after that, if you are diligent, you can likely hunt down a package of bees. Feel free to let me know if you end up in that situation, and I’ll see what I can do to help you out.
I’m still taking orders for equipment as well. I make everything your bees need from the ground up. I take pride in my equipment and I stand behind it! I will have a few extras on hand throughout the summer, but if you’re planning on ordering, and haven’t done so yet, I’d appreciate a heads up. My packages will arrive April 16th, and I’ll need some time to get my outyards set up. Last year I had 2 people pick up bees from me that hadn’t ordered equipment yet. Not from me, not from anywhere! Just so we’re all clear, that IS NOT OK! Bees don’t enjoy hanging out in those screened boxes, they want out! You need to be prepared to hive within a day or two of receiving your package at the most. Try to be ready to go before your bees show up, and hive them as soon as possible! With our short summers, they need every spare minute to prepare themselves for the incredible Fireweed Bloom!
Have you ever seen an observation hive? It’s a vertical hive with plexiglass walls. You can watch the workers bring in pollen and daintily scrape it off their hind legs into a cell, see the queen lay eggs, watch brood hatch out, all the things that you just don’t get to see in a regular hive. They are really, really cool! I have a 3 frame observation hive that I keep in the middle school science class. It’s always my favorite to fill with bees, there is nothing on TV as good as “The Bee Channel”. The 5th graders ALWAYS want to come watch the bees and find the queen. This year, to make it easier, I decided to mark the queen. This consists of getting the queen out of her cage in to a “queen marking tube” and putting a dot of paint on her thorax. Sounds easy enough, right?
I had everything I needed at hand, I thought…………The key thing I didn’t remember to do was to Duck tape my pantlegs to my boots. As soon as I dumped the package of bees into the observation hive, I remembered! There were plenty of bees in the air, and on the deck….and on my boots. Not a big deal, really. Continuing the job, I shook the package empty, and as the loose bees began to make their way towards their fanning sisters, I picked up the queen in her cage, ready for marking. Feeling utterly confident in my skills, I opened the queen-marking tube, and popped the cork out of the queen cage. BZZZ!!! And, oh crap! She was gone! I looked on the deck at my feet, searching through the dozens of bees crawling around. No queen. I began checking the arms of my suit, the bees on the bench, the railings…..No queen. I coulda kicked myself. Continuing the search, I poked through the deepest clusters in the hive itself, No queen. Back to the crawlers on the deck, the side of the house, No queen. About this time, my 8 year-old peeking through the sliding glass door said “Hey Mom, there’s a bunch of bees on your back!” I turned to look at my reflection in the door. Sure enough, there was a baseball-sized cluster of bees on my back! I knew immediately where the queen was! Awesome, right? Not really. I tried turning my jacket sideways far enough to reach the cluster, but it wasn’t happening. My options for queen retreival were pretty limited. With a disgusted sigh, I grabbed my jacket by the shoulders and gave it a good hard shake. The cluster fell, with about half the bees going into the air. Now I was back at square one, looking for the queen.
It was about this time that I really missed that Duck tape. BZZZZ! Those bees on the deck? They were crawling onto my boots, and right inside my pantleg! I began my comical “get the hell outta there” leg shake, much to the amusement of the kids watching from inside. Trying not to step on any bees, knowing the queen was again MIA, I shook a couple more out of my pants before pulling up my pantleg and scraping the stinger off. As the fire set in to my leg, I began my search again, and within seconds, saw the queen on the deck, inches from my boot. Yay! I scooped her into the marking tube, and primed the marking pen. About this time, I started to feel a familiar heat and burn in my ears…….Anaphylaxis. Quickly, I dotted the Queens thorax with white paint and unceremoniously dumped her into the hive, slamming the door. Getting dizzy and nauseous, I continued the bee-leg shake and took off my gloves and veil as I hurried back into the garage. Ahh, liquid (AKA fast-acting) Benadryl. I chugged straight from the bottle, a dose (or three?) and sat down. Updating the kids on what happened, I retreived my Epi-Pen, hoping to not have to use it. By this time, the boys, (10 and 11) were in the truck honking. They were going to drive me in my 5-speed mazda the 12 miles to the hospital! Hahaha, um, no, but Thank you! I told them that if need be, we’d just call 911. I’m not the kinda girl that calls 911. Sitting back down with my Epinephrine close at hand, I began the “C’mon, Benadryl” chant. The boys stood in front of me and helped me scratch my head, which felt like it was in an ant hill. So far, so good, no trouble breathing……sore throat, but not swelling profusely yet. My eyes were burning, swelling and itching. C’mon, Benadryl. The boys discussed proper technique and placement of the Epi-Pen should I happen to fall over, and did “rock, paper, scissors” to see who would get to give me the shot, and who got to call 911 as they continued scratching my head. C’mon, Benadryl. I could feel it starting to kick in, and knew I’d be okay. Within a few more minutes, my head stopped itching, although my eyes felt like I’d been in a firefight. Somewhat to their dissappointment, I told the boys we weren’t going to be needing either the shot or 911. Time to get back to work……. Checking to make sure there were no bees still on my jacket, I put it back on, and retreived the observation hive. Bringing it inside, and shucking my jacket again, the kids were lined up wanting to see the queen with her white dot. Hmm, no queen on this side……no queen on the other side….What the heck? Did she fly away AGAIN? I was sure I got her inside! Then I saw her…….Bees were packed tight against the plexiglass, in a big tight knot around her. They hadn’t accepted her as their queen yet, and were basically suffocating her. I could see her abdomen squished up against the glass, and she was unable to move with the workers balling her. ARGH!! Still feeling fairly lousy from the sting reaction, and quickly getting very tired from the Benadryl, I put my jacket back on, and ran out the backdoor with the observation hive. Opening the door to the hive, I picked up that whole cluster of bees, and began flicking angry workers off the queen. They were pretty persistent, but I managed to get her back inside her cage. The poor thing was shaking and breathing heavy, but alive! The cage itself went in the hive this time, guess those 5th graders will just have to wait a few more days to see her!
All’s well that ends well, right? I went to bed with a half-inch thick welt on my now super-sized leg, feeling pretty darned lucky overall!
1 package hived, 22 to go……stay tuned!
Once again, package day has come and gone. Although we got home with all the bees safe and sound, it was not without entertainment! As usual, I overextended myself, and stayed up all night long the night before. Unable to turn down those extra equipment orders, and wondering if the neighbors were bothered by the sound of the saws and planer running all night, I kept at it! My wire embedder took a nose dive at about 4am, and I had to keep unplugging it for a few minutes after every single wire. Considering there were had 70 frames with 4 wires apeice, I was not a happy camper. I did get them all done in time to leave, but just barely.
There was a “severe winter storm” warning for Turnagain Pass. This is not the kind of weather to be traveling in with a Suburban full of bees and no sleep! We crossed our fingers and prayed for a safe trip. Brandon had gotten a solid 3 hours of sleep, so he volunteered to drive. I snuggled up in the passenger seat with a blanket and kicked off my boots. The 90 minutes I slept was pure bliss! Then the phone calls started in………..
“Sarah, where are my bees?” “What time will you be back in town?” “Have you left Anchorage yet?” and of course the requisite “Mom I got in trouble at school again”.
By the time we got to the cargo transfer docks, my ear was sweaty and I was just a tad bit cranky. Thankfully, the bees were ready to be loaded up when we arrived. Eighty-four 4 pound packages to be exact. With an average 5,000 bees to a pound, we were pushing 2 million stingy critters who had enough traveling. There didn’t seem to be too may “fliers” loose, but as we chatted before pulling out of the parking lot, there seemed to be quite a few loose bees coming out the windows of the Suburban. As we pulled out onto the street, I turned around to take a peek, hoping to see the rest of the fliers heading out the windows. No such luck. What I saw instead was a cracked open package with bees pouring out a dozen at a time. As ridiculous as this may be, Brandon and I are both allergic to bees. I muttered an expletive or two, and told Brandon to pull over, and get out quick! Donning my gloves and veil, I climbed in the back and performed yet another Duck tape miracle. On the road again, with all windows down to let the fliers out, we got quite a few odd looks! Brandon graciously drove for me, so I could start returning phone calls to expectant beekeepers. Although we were thankful that it wasn’t snowing, it would have been nice to not have pounding rain and high winds! We made it safe and sound, and by the time we got to our first drop-off point, there was quite a group of people waiting for us! I never charge beekeepers in my area for the delivery of their bees to the peninsula from Anchorage, but most of them chipped in on my gas, which was really nice! The packages were in excellent condition, and everyone was happy. By the time we got home, Brandon and I were more than ready for bed! No such luck though. I still had nearly 50 packages, only 23 of which were mine. As the beekeepers flooded my garage, I handed out packages and tried to answer questions coherently without falling asleep mid-sentence. Beekeepers are a chatty group of people, and by the time they all left, I was whipped!
Now the sawdust on my garage floor has been replaced by package bees patiently waiting to be hived, scattered assorted beehive parts, and sticky sugar syrup used to spray the packages down. There is a consistent buzz that is a little unnerving, and that unique sweet pheremone smell that almost promises a prosperous summer season….