Splits, Lip Balm, Piping Bags, Soap

Honey Bee Queens in the shipping cages, with attendants

Spring is a busy time. I made splits to make up for some of the winter losses, using queens I bought from BeeWeaver in Texas. Last year, I tried “walk away” splits–splitting a hive in two, and making sure both sides had eggs, so that wherever the queen ended up, the other half could raise their own queen. It was not a success. While they all eventually raised queens for themselves, it took over 2 months–much too long, from my point of view. It may have contributed to the poor overwintering, too. So this year, I’m spending the money and buying queens, which will speed up the process, and add some good genetics to my yards.

A goal of mine is to keep parasitic mites under control with few or no treatments. I’ve never used any of the chemical strips in my hives, preferring mechanical controls, like drone trapping, powdered sugar dusting, etc. Even the organic treatments–like Mite Away Quick Strips–take time and are costly. My hope is that Weaver’s breeding program is as good as they say, and I can reduce or eliminate mite treatments in my hives.

As I posted on Facebook, Chai Spice lip balm is back! I just dropped some off at the People’s Market in Lansing, and GreenStar will have some within the next few days. I’ve changed my formula, slightly. I’m keeping the richness of shea and cocoa butters–they are soooo nice for your lips! but I switched from olive oil to rice bran oil. Olive is wonderful–it’s moisturizing, a humectant, great stuff. But rice bran oil doesn’t have the strong flavor, and is wonderful for (ahem!) mature skin. It has loads of Vitamin E and Vitamin B. I think the trade is a win-win! Give it a try and let me know.

Another change I’m making–tidier fills for the Ithaca Winter Balm. IWB is whipped, which means I can’t fill the containers by pouring. I need to glop. It’s not pretty, and the process can get messy. So short of buying a filling machine (which may be in my near future), I’m experimenting with piping the whipped mixture into the tins. I’m not a baker–at least not a decorative one–so handling the piping bag is not my strong suit. With some practice, though, it will get easier. And I think the results are worth it. What do you think?

I’m moving fully to my new, 10-pound slab molds from Bramble Berry for most soap production. I really like the molds, and my customers seem to, as well! The soaps are about the same weight as before (over 4 ounces, about 4.5), but because they are narrower and thicker, I initially worried that people would think they were smaller. Well, sales are still brisk, so I gather no one minds. For anyone out there who prefers the “deck of cards” shape, there is a solution: GreenStar will be carrying “cut your own” bulk soap from Avital’s! Those soaps will be made in the  5 lb “loaf style” molds. You can cut your own and pay by weight.

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