Honey Bees are a great addition to any farm or garden.

Here is a little information and discussion about our experience with honeybees. We do not have any hives currently at Olallie Daylily Gardens.

In 1998, we decided to try something new at Olallie Farm. With the expert guidance of David we undertook our first foray into the the keeping of bees. Below you'll find a bit of our first year experience s with bees. I think made about every mistake there is to make managing my bees. Regardless I got 100 pounds of honey from 3 hives all of which were newly installed this year
One of the most amazing things about bees is that they are so unpredictable; you can never be sure how they are going to act or react. Furthermore a hive of bees that seems weak may end up being your best hive and a strong hive may end up having poor survival through the winter.
This photo is from 1966 when I was just 10 years old. My father Dan Darrow raised bees. Here Dan looks for the queen. Dan was the inspiration that got me started on Bees!


The first step is to find a good spot to set up hives. It should be level with sun but with some protection from wind and midday heat.

 Here David levels the ground
for the foundations of the hives.


These two hives are set up with
one super and are ready for bees.


Next we quickly shake the worker bees into the hive. The less time spent fussing with the bees the better, but one must not work to frantically or bees may be killed.


We bought three packages of bees
which you can see David separating.


After the worker bees have been shaken into the hive the queen is placed into too. Special care must be taken to prevent the workers from killing her. Once the queen has been accepted the hive is left undisturbed for 2-3 weeks with only periodic sugar water feedings to encourage fast increase.


Anwyn and Quinn look at the queen in her special cage. The queen is in a cage to protect her from the over zealous workers who may in their confusion attack and kill her. The queen is separated from the workers by a plug of sugar. The workers will chew through the sugar and in that time accept the queen.


Throughout the months of June July and August our honeybees needed regular inspections to make sure they were doing OK. That way you can be assured that the hive is healthy and reproducing well. Once a beehive has reached a certain population and there is a good honeyflow its time to put on honey supers, to allow the collection of honey for extracting and bottling.
Notice how David works the bees without gloves , he believes that this is important to more gently handle the frames and minimize crushing of bees.



Using a smoker to "Smoke" bees helps to calm them and make them more manageable. Here we are smoking the top of a box to drive the bees down in preparation for setting another box on top.



David is using a hive tool to pull a frame to check on how big the bee population is.

Setting aside a frame of bees gives you more room to work the hive without killing bees. Its amazing how many bees can fit in a hive! Here you can see an example of a really well populated hive. You must be careful though because if the bees think they are too crowded they will swarm.

David looks for the queen among hundreds of worker bees. Its important to determine that the queen is alive and laying eggs. This can be done without even seeing the queen as long as a good brood pattern is observed.

This frame has drone (male) comb at the bottom right hand corner, above the drone comb is capped honey, and to the left of the capped honey is capped brood. Usually excess drone comb is scrape off and discarded as its no benefit to the hive.


A queen excluder is put in to prevent the queen from going into the upper supers and laying eggs in the honey supers. It is a thin piece of plastic with holes big enough for a worker bee to fit through but too small for a queen. This ensures that a box of frames will be filled only with honey.

Here you can see capped honey which is ready for extracting. This is a white Pierco plastic frame. Some people feel that bees dont like the plastic frames at first ,but the real selling point is the Pierco frame is virtually indestructible.

Honeybees will visit daylilies, but I doubt they get much nectar from them.

Starting seeds in the spring is always an exciting undertaking. It can be challenging too, as anyone who wants to grow a large quantity of plants knows. Because that can end up being hundreds of plants if you grow multiples of plants, including both vegetables, herbs and annual flowers. I have been experimenting with 98 cell trays. I found these work well for trialing older seeds and getting a jump on starting those seeds that need warm temperatures.

The great thing about the 98's is that you can start lots of plants in a small space. A 98 refers to the number of cells in a flat.

I set up a 3 tier wire shelf unit and suspended 16" LED lights over the flats. I made sure to get the lights very close (with in inches) of the plants. Artificial light does not have the intensity of sun light and as such needs to be very close.


This flat above, started on 2/20/19 were about this size 3/19/19.  If you wonder how I keep track of the different plants in a cell flat. I make a map using A-N across the bottom and 1-7 up and down. Thus I can assign an alpha numeric note for each seedling. I put a couple of labels with N7 and A1 to use as a reference.


Starting lettuce in 72 flats also works as a way to get lettuce up and growing in a warm spot, and then transplanted to a cooler spot to grow on. 

I transplanted these into window boxes and grew them on in a cold frame. Temperatures went down to just above freezing with no problems.


This close up shows:

1) Zinnia: Zinnias germinate fast and grow quickly 2) Pequin pepper: this tiny pepper like all peppers are slow to germinate and grow.

3) Lemon Gem Marigold: The sporadic germination is the result of the age of the seeds. 4) Carrots: also part of an old seed trial, with poor germination.

5) Amethyst purple Basil: These are 2017 seeds and the germination was amazingly good. Notice the distinct half circle of the first leaves (cotyledons)

6) Cracker Jack Marigolds: Also from 2017, great germination and growth.


As the seedlings grow, they get quite densely packed. This can quickly lead to problems if the plants aren't watched carefully. Particularly drying out.

1) Agastache: Being in the mint family they have a distinct wavy leaf and square stem 2) Loose Leaf lettuce and behind it Kale. 3) Genovese Basil with its distinct wide curved leaves. 4) Peppers: once they get going, peppers grow as fast as almost any plant.


Here is an example of some Echinacea trials:1) Echinacea seeds from 2017, produced surprisingly good germination. 2) Red Cabbage: These may need a bit more light as they are getting leggy and leaning. 3) It seems that Lettuce seedlings really prefer lots of room, the best growth I got was from single seeds that sprouted and grew alone.



I frequently plant a "mini" row of one seed variety. In a 98 that equals 7 "cells" to a row. In that situation, I'll write one label with and arrow pointing down. On the left you can see I planted Marigold 'Brocade Mix', I put in a sideways arrow and a number (21) to indicate that there are 3 rows of 7, for a total of 21.



Here are Marigold, Pepper and Tomato seedlings. The Marigold and Tomato plants have well developed roots. These plants are about ready to be transplanted. The pepper plant has hardly any roots evident, and so could be grown on longer in the 72 cells. Multiple plants in one cell can be teased apart by dipping them in water to loosen the roots.


As close up of 1) Basil seedlings, that have just sprouted. Notice the half round leaves. 2) Pepper seedlings with their distinct pointy first leaves.


The 98 trays can be set in water holding trays, which can help keep the plants watered as they grow larger. However it is important to occasionally let the water tray dry out and water from the top as needed, this will allow the soil to dry out a bit so reduce fungus issues.


Transplanted 98 seedlings, go nicely into 2" or 3" pots, and will fill in and produce roots quickly.


Close up of Genovese Basil (on the left) and Tom Thumb Lettuce in the center. Single seeds grew quickly into big plants.


A nice mix of 98 cells on the right and larger 3" pots on the left.  Looks like an instant garden. A bunch of the plants on the left are from cuttings.

Tomato transplants in 3 inch pots have quickly filled in and are almost to the point when they need to be transplanted again.


Here are some results of older seed trials this spring 2019.

Little Gem 2018: great germination.

Anuenue Lettuce 2015: poor germination, but some did sprout.

Argula Slo-Bolt 2017: great germination.

Green Deertongue lettuce 2016: good germination.

Cosmos 2017: good germination. 

Pequin Peppers, collected seeds from 2018-2019 best germination of any peppers.