Spirit Bee yellow jacket tips to protect your bees

With the arrival of early spring, here are some Spirit Bee yellow jacket tips to protect your bees.

At the end of winter I’m ready for bee season to begin. I’ve got two “do now” tasks: cleaning bait hives and equipment for the spring swarms, and hanging the yellow jacket queen traps

Last fall when the weather got cold, all the yellow jackets died, all but the future queens. They survived by hibernating over the winter. In late winter on warm days, I find fat sleepy yellow jacket queens snugged under a shingle, squeezed behind the shed window, tucked under a wicker chair, or between stacks of old newspapers.

Yellow jackets have a proper job in the world eating dead meat carcasses and I’m glad they do that, but I draw the line when they harm my bees. I’m a big proponent of letting all things live, but a hungry nest of yellow jackets eating my honeybees is not up for negotiation. Nonetheless, each time I find a new queen, I say, “I’ll make a deal with you… I know you have good purpose in the world, but my job is to protect my honeybees. I won’t kill you if you go far from here and leave my honeybees alone.” This may sound crazy, but I’m sincere and that really is what I do.

What were my results? Semi-good. For the number of queens I spoke to, we had less yellow jacket attacks than normal, so maybe it helps. One year in midsummer I discovered two yellow jacket nests right in the garden, not a hundred feet from my hives. Surprisingly, one hive seemed not at all interested in my bees so I left them alone. The other hive was voracious and eventually I put out a homemade yellow jacket trap (I’ll share it in August) and that fairly well handled the problem. I lost a lot of bees to them, but at least I didn’t lose whole hives.

More Spirit Bee yellow jacket tips

Yellow jackets typically feed within a 500 foot radius of their nest, so yellow jackets outside of 500’ are free to go where they will. Inside the line I have different rules. Hungry yellow jackets can massacre an entire honeybee hive in just a few hours. I’ve seen it happen a few times and it’s terrifying. Years ago I decided I don’t want to put my bees through such battles so I’m proactive. I don’t let nests get started.

Spirit Bee yellow jacket tipsAs soon as the weather warms just a few more degrees, the drowsy YELLOW JACKET QUEEN wakes up from her winter snooze and searches for an underground hole where she’ll make a new home and lay a battalion of workers. You’ll recognize the queen, she’s much larger than you’d imagine. Early spring is the exact right time to depose the queens and claim your bee yard as honeybee territory.

This is one of our best Spirit Bee yellow jacket tips: The easiest way I’ve found to catch the queens is with pheromone traps. These contraptions have yellow jacket mating scent inside a one-way-in, no-way-out container. Pick these up at your local hardware or garden store or online. They usually run $10-15 each and the refills are just a few bucks. I put a few out each spring.

Spirit Bee yellow jacket tips 2

Here is a link to the kind I use. I haven’t tried other brands but they probably work as well. Once you buy the traps, you only need to buy the pheromone refills in coming years. Click on the photo at left to order the product on Amazon, or look for it at your local hardware store.

TipUse DISPOSABLE GLOVES when you open the pheromone packet. It’s stinky and pervasive and if you do this with your bare hands, everything you touch will smell like a yellow jacket just handed you her phone number. The airborne scent will waft onto your clothing and hair. Wear an old sweatshirt you can wash on hot in the washing machine when you’re done. The first time I put one of these traps together, I could smell it on my hair and I had to shower. Don’t use your bee gloves! The pheromone is so pervasive that I bait and set out the traps on a day I don’t plan on being around honeybees at all. You do NOT want your honeybees to wonder if you chum around with yellow jackets.

For my ten acres I use four traps, one in each direction of my bee yard. I hang them in trees, on a T-post in the open field, and at the edge of the forest, each about 200-300 feet away from my furthest hives. Then I wait.

Take a walk around and have a look at how the traps are doing each week. Because they smell like stinky yellow jacket juice, they don’t tend to attract much else, though once or twice I found a stray wasp in there. If you get the traps out early enough, you’ll be surprised how many yellow jacket queens you’ll trap. EACH QUEEN YOU TRAP means 5,000 fewer yellow jacket workers will hatch out this summer.

Yellow jackets don’t come to your hives looking for honey — they want bee meat to feed their young with, and once they identify a target colony, they come in hordes. It’s a lot easier to catch a yellow jacket queen before she’s laid her eggs than it is to fight thousands of them off in August.

So that’s your job right now, before the queens wake up. Get yourself a few yellow jacket traps, follow the directions on the package for setup, then get them in your fields and orchards all spring. Since I started doing this I’ve had nearly no yellow jacket activity in late summer. I won’t say they disappeared completely because I do see a few here and there, but not like we used to get.

An important task among Spirit Bee yellow jacket tips: Learn to identify other wasps.

And while I’m on this topic, please learn the difference between yellow jackets and the innocuous and gentle UMBRELLA WASPS who are native pollinators. Leave those guys alone. Umbrella wasps build umbrella-shaped gray paper nests up under your eaves and other places that are fairly open. They live on the surface where you can see them. Yellow jackets nearly always live hidden underground.

If you get close to an umbrella wasp, you’ll notice they are very skinny in the middle while a yellow jacket is thick-waisted. These little native wasps are sweetly dispositioned and they will not bother you as long as you don’t do anything to harm them. I can pick these guys up on my fingers once they get to know me, and that’s because they actually have been shown to have the ability to recognize faces. If you’re nice to them, they remember. If you’re mean, well that’s another story. So be nice!

Workshops and Talks

Spring is swarm time, the time when the hives get ready to celebrate their success at growing their population enough to split themselves into two hives. Want to learn how to (gently) catch swarms in a kind and respectful way?

Upcoming Swarm classes
1. March 5 in southwest Washington, sponsored by the Preservation Beekeeping club.

2. April 29 in Portland, sponsored by the Portland Urban Beekeepers club.
Click here for more detailed info about both of these. The price INCLUDES membership in the sponsoring club for 2017.

3. On  April 3 I’m speaking about swarms in Tacoma at the Pierce County Beekeepers club. More info, call Story at 253-670-3277.

I’m one of the teachers among a stellar group of instructors at a FOURTEEN DAY course in Montana, May 28-June10. This PDC is focused on homesteading skills. Do read the link, the breadth of ground we cover is remarkable — moving earth, understanding nature’s patterns, sourcing energy and fuel, improving soil, building a home with natural materials, even how to make a pond. I’ll be talking about bees, of course, how animals fit into the homesteading environment, and building communities based on kindness and respect. You will be surrounded by like-minded people and together you will learn the framework to survive and THRIVE in a rapidly changing world. Gee-golly-whiz, I can hardly wait. If you attend this class, Joseph and I will bring you with us to a local hot spring one of the evenings.

Have you read SONG OF INCREASE yet?

Thank you, dear readers, especially those who have written lovely words about the experience of reading this book. I thank you, the bees thank you. The book continues to do really well. Amazon, home of five million books, lists this book in 3 categories (entomology, sustainable agriculture, and gaia earth-centered spirituality) and it’s always in the happier side of the top 100 books in those categories, and some days it even pops into the top ten.

Read more reviews of the book.

You can buy it at your local bookstore.
Get the book from Powell’s by clicking on the cover here:

Ask me to sign a book and mail it to you  $21 to paypal for U.S. mail.

Live outside the U.S.?
Amazingly, it’s available!
See bookstore info for Canada, UK, Germany, Spain, Denmark, The Netherlands, Portugal, and all  of Europe. Also Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The French release is still a few months away. The translator sent me the name and ooh-la-la, it sure sounds fun! Restaurer notre alliance avec les abeilles: Le chant de l’abondance

More Perky Stuff

Robin’s bee recording during the industrious comb-building phase
Put this on when you want to feel inspired to clean your entire house

Robin’s stimulating and soothing Song of Increase MP3 or the CD

Our bee photograph greeting cards
Warmth of the Sun
Honeybee Peace & Joy
Summer Sun

and for free, listen here to the chapter in SONG OF INCREASE Robin and I made about meditating with your hive. Ahh….

Until we meet again, keep buzzing!

Posted in Bee Swarms, Bee Workshop, Bee-centered beekeeping, Natural Bee Care, Natural Bee Care Book, Natural Beekeeping, Organic Beekeeping, Protecting bees from yellow jackets, Song of Increase, Spring Bee Care, Swarming Bees, Treatment-Free Beekeeping, Yellow jacket bee care tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Spirit Bee yellow jacket tips to protect your bees

Give a Song of Increase gift for the holidays

Song of Increase gift
If you’ve been wondering what to get your bee-loving friends, how about a Song of Increase gift? Paypal today and I’ll sign it and get it in the mail to you same day.

Tell me who to dedicate it to and I’ll inscribe it to that person. It can even be YOU. I’ll include a colorful bee bookmark of my or Robin’s bees, like this image at the top of the page.

If you’re sending the book as a gift, I will gift wrap it and send it directly to your friend’s home. They’ll open the mailing packet and inside find a wrapped gift with a tag that says it is from you.

lavender$20 includes tax, first class postage, a color-rich bee and flower photo to use as a bookmark. This beautiful book has a luxurious embossed gold cover. If you haven’t seen the book up close, you’re going to be surprised how gorgeous it is. A Song of Increase gift is ah elegant gift for anyone who loves bees!

Watch the video about the book. Yes, please do. Full screen so you can see the little bees up close.

Tell me this:
1. What name shall I inscribe the book to?
2. What’s the mailing address?
3. Is this a gift? Should I gift wrap it? Who should the tag say it’s to and from?
4. Here’s where you go to pay for it:

U.S. orders only. I can sign out-of-country orders but the postage gets steep sometimes, so you may be better ordering through Amazon (free shipping for Prime members) or your local bookstore.

If you don’t need your book signed, just click an image link below to order Song Of Increase directly from a bookstore. I’m so grateful that each of these companies is carrying the bees’ books. And I’m really, really grateful the voice of the bees is being heard and heeded.

Get the AUDIOBOOK on Audible.com

BAM Indie Bound


screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-9-52-42-am screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-9-52-11-am


Posted in Bee-centered beekeeping, Natural Bee Care, Natural Bee Care Book, Natural Beekeeping, Song of Increase, Treatment-Free Beekeeping | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter means making difficult bee decisions

two-beesEach winter is different, but many times winter means making difficult bee decisions. In a normal year the first frost would have laid its silver tips on the fields six weeks ago, but this fall has been wetter and warmer than any other. My bees are awake, drippy wet flowers lounge in the fields, and curtains of drizzle keep the bees on their front porch. Some have ventured out in the brief spots of sunbeams but not all have found their way back. One fat splotch of rain on that little furry body is enough to ground a flying maiden, and if the sun’s warmth doesn’t quickly dry her out, she perishes in the field.

My measuring of honey stores is based on normal fall and winter weather and in late September everyone looked to be in excellent shape. By now frost should have shut down the flowers in the Pacific Northwest, the weather should have gotten colder, and the bees should have been starting to huddle together in cluster for warmth and dreamtime. That would be normal for late November.

But the weather’s wacky. In October the pear tree in the north yard filled a broad branch with delicate white flowers. The yellow peace roses and dandelions are blooming again, and yesterday our chest-high rosemary bushes shot forth hundreds of blue flowers. The nearest tree hive a scant twenty feet away had dozens of bees at the entrance sniffing the waft of rosemary blooms, so near and yet so far. I watched from the kitchen window but didn’t see a single bee visit all drizzly afternoon.

hollow-tree difficult bee decisions

What a conundrum. If it stopped raining, the bees could harvest the still-blooming calendulas, cosmos and borage. Or if frost arrived as scheduled, the cold would have knocked down the flowers and set the hive to sleepiness. But instead they’re wide awake, stuck inside and eating honey that was meant for springtime. Difficult bee decisions, indeed!

This was the year I determined I was no longer going to feed my bees. I provide a farm’s worth of nutritious forage from late winter through mid-fall and as a treatment-free keeper of bees, I’d decided that strong hives shouldn’t need feeding and that I was propping up weaker hives by doing that.

In prior years I’d winter-fed the smaller hives with 50-50 results. Some lived, some died, but at least those who perished didn’t die from lack of food. As years pass, I find my commitment to raising healthy bees puts me in places where ethics and compassion tangle. The long view is that I want to provide the living situation whereby local bees can successfully weed out weakness and grow stronger each year. The short view is that it’s hard to watch a perfectly healthy hive go hungry.

wildflower-field difficult bee decisions

This year — my thirteenth bee year — I came to the realization that humans should not be taking on the tasks of a healthy hive. The difficult bee decisions are not ours to make. Over-management is erroneous human thinking that causes us to believe we understand bees, that we know them so well we can think like a bee. And not just any bee, we act like we are the OverLord bee who knows what’s best for the colony and thus we introduce all kinds of situations that throw perfectly good hives into disarray.

Strong hives, on their own, bring in appropriate amounts of pollen and nectar at the right time for build-up and slow-down. They make and clean the structure; create medicines that maintain health; communicate with a radius of thriving plant and ethereal life; share space with “not-bee” critters who live in the fall-away; and they do it all on their own timing. For those who pay attention, bees also teach deep bee wisdom.

As winter came on, I felt really good about my decision to step back and allow the bees to determine the rules that govern their lives. Absolutely no more fussing on my part. Bees rule. I am not a bee.


And then we had this wonky fall where the bees, of necessity, plunged into their winter honey stores to feed themselves. At the end of November, when I hefted the back of the hive to feel how heavy it was, oh dear me they were mighty light.

Most were fine, but my smallest hive was way light. Which brought me face-to-face with the rule I’d just given myself, don’t interfere. The intent had been to let them sort out the stronger hives from the weak — a good goal and in keeping with my philosophy — but dang, now I have to figure out is this year just a fluke and would it be dumb of me to let a hive die because of weather? Those old difficult bee decisions came back to haunt me.

Isn’t it curious how whenever we finally think we know something, Life plunks us down in a situation that tests our resolve?

It’s the weather, not the bees, I argued with myself. How do I withhold honey that’s sitting in my kitchen, from hungry bees growing through a climate-challenged winter? Or is this the point — that we all have to survive these changes and some will not make it due to circumstances they cannot control. Only bees who put extra aside will make it and those who run a little shy in fall will be drastically lacking in February.

v 1206210_G2N- 1107180I want to have the courage of my convictions, to always know what proper action is, and to boldly step into doing the right thing. I spend countless hours ruminating on right action, yet even with considerable bee communication skills, I don’t always know the perfect answer. Treatment-free beekeeping is hard because all our actions are geared toward providing conditions that support the sustainability of the colonies in their own individual situations. That’s a good definition of compassionate tough love and I’m not always up for the tough part.

I am not pleased to tell you I caved. I removed four empty combs, combs that had been chock full two months ago, and I fed the small hive. I don’t know if they’ll make it or if that was the right thing to do. As I refilled the dish with crumbly wax and honey, my mind was in the uncomfortable human moment where I question everything I do, wishing for divine guidance yet knowing the true test is — win or lose — that I do the best I can.

JQ smiley beesTami Simon, founder and publisher of Sounds True, interviewed Jacqueline on her weekly author podcast. Click the link below to hear the interview:

Jacqueline Freeman speaks about her bee journey  (40 min.)

“Our mission is to find teachers and artists who serve as a gateway to spiritual awakening and to produce, publish, and distribute their work with beauty, intelligence, and integrity. Sounds True authors include Eckhard Tolle, Pema Chodron, Caroline Myss, Seth Godin, and Thich Nhat Hanh.

If you’re looking for holiday gifts that inspire, they’ve got plenty. Jacqueline’s book is on sale for $11.36.

Click here for pre-holiday book sale!

Posted in Bee-centered beekeeping, Buzzing bees, Food for bees, Helping bees survive winter, Natural Bee Care, Natural Bee Care Book, Natural Beekeeping, Organic Beekeeping, Song of Increase, Treatment-Free Beekeeping, Winter Bee Care | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpiritBee: Our farm in the fall

Today it drizzled off and on all day. I put on my raincoat and trundled up into the bee yard. Inside the open-walled bee gazebo, I busied myself putting boxes away, sweeping dead bees out the door and listening to the tappety sound of drops falling on the greenhouse roof. I found a few spider webs under the warre hive so I got out the yellow brush to sweep them away. Years ago the bees told me they hate “that nasty yellow brush” so I re-assigned it for spider work. I busied myself making the room neat.

No bees were going in and out so I thought to get the stethoscope out and listen to them. I pulled the drawer open and was surprised to find a sleepy cluster of paper wasps. They rolled their drowsy heads to see who just pulled back the blanket. I barely woke them and managed to get the scope out without a fuss. I knew they’d go right back to sleep as soon as I closed the drawer. Trust me, paper wasps are good natured, dear little beings, and I’ve grown quite fond of them.

Though it was rainy, I spent a good hour watching the entrance boards of a few hives. I always see something worth watching and yes indeed, I saw another interesting thing today.


We planted an acre of mixed sunflowers for bees, and then later for birds

There was no action at the front door. I watch anyway because, well, that’s what I do. I like to watch bees. A second-year hive had again built a propolis scrim in their entrance, dividing the opening into five different doorways, all eminently defensible. After 20 more minutes of me tinkering around, the rain stopped. And then, big surprise, a FLURRY of bees suddenly whizzed in from Lord-knows-where, landed in clumps on the entrance and dashed inside.

Hee-haw! When it started raining a half hour earlier, those foragers were too far out in the field to make it back. A single drop of rain on a bee’s back is enough to splooch her down in the wet grass, unable to fly again until dry. No bee wants to meet her end that way. Each found a dry-ish place to hunker under till the rain stopped.

But once the rain stopped, each little forager made a mad dash flight for home, full speed ahead. They dropped out of the sky in rapid clusters onto the entrance, rushing in before the next dark cloud found them far a-field. They landed 5-6 a second for a few minutes, scooting in with golden pollen on their thighs. How tuned in to the weather they are, waiting and watching, knowing it will turn soon and then blasting home the moment the weather broke.

They were foraging on autumn flowers. Each of the photos below is a bee flower that’s in bloom on our farm at the end of September. A few sunny days ago I counted 26 kinds blooming and took these pix. It’s a dreamy time when bees are foraging on autumn flowers. That’s all their interested in. No need to feed sugar, and they have no desire to rob each other. Ours are also getting nectar from ripe green grapes on our arbor and from the mushy pears under the pear trees. Until I kept bees, I didn’t know they ate fruit, but they do.


sunflowers have new pollen every day for weeks

Every year I plant more sunflowers. This year we put in an acre of them. While some flowers bloom for a few days, sunflowers bloom for weeks. Look closely at the center and you’ll see that it is made of hundreds of single florets. Sunflower florets open from the outside to the center, a few new florets blossoming each day, adding a few inches to the curve. Bees on sunflowers walk a labyrinthian spiral as they gather the nectar and pollen. 

Living in the pacific northwest, our mild winters and rainy weather reward us with a flourish of early spring flowers, bazillions of them that bloom through to early summer. July is when our drought season begins and, though most folks think it rains all the time here, we can go a hundred days without rain in July through October. 


buckwheat blooms 4-5 weeks after planting

That kind of weather puts the kibosh on the abundant bloom and we’re pretty spare from midsummer on. So I direct all my flower planting efforts to what will flower from late summer through fall, when bloom is sparse.


purple asters expand their area every year

In late summer bees struggle. It’s hot and dry, and once the flow has played itself out, we go into dearth. Dearth is stressful. The weather is warm enough to forage, but there’s not enough out there for everyone. Some colonies take it upon themselves to start casing other hives, testing front doors to see if the guard bees are weak and the front door is penetrable. If it is, they’ll let their home hive know and come out in force to break through the weak hive’s entrance and the pillaging begins.



veronica (speedwell)

While nobody enjoys seeing a honeybee hive decimated by other honeybees, this is Nature’s way. A strong hive will repel invaders, but a weak hive can’t hold down the fort. It succumbs and loses all the honey they collected through spring and summer. While it sounds ruthless, robbing adds to the larder of a stronger colony, improving the more robust hive’s chance of surviving winter. At the same time, it clears the gene pool of the small and ineffective lightweight colony. The strong survive.

I don’t like to see any hive go down the tubes, but the longer I keep bees, the more I’ve learned to defer to what Nature has in mind. In the past I fed small hives all winter. I don’t do that anymore. In my bee yard, bees survive on what they gather and I rarely feed. I make exceptions for bee trees who’ve fallen to the lumberjack’s chain saw and I will feed in an emergency like that, but for the average hive, no.


oregano blooms all summer

This has been a slow lesson. In the beginning I didn’t want to see any hive lose out. I’m treatment-free (I don’t apply chemicals or even organic medicines), and I’ve always been clear about that, but I never looked at feeding as an issue. If a hive was light, I pitched in and fed back honeycomb (never sugar in any form).


These lavenders are on their THIRD bloom this year!

I did that for a decade. Some years I fed back all the honey I’d collected. Because I fed the small hives, most of my hives made it. Never felt bad about it for a minute either.


calendula blooms from June until frost

Then I had an insight about my role. I realized I wasn’t meant to be a colony’s forager who delivered food (honey) to them. Bees need FLOWERS. If I am keeping bees, my responsibility is to work with the plants to provide more flowers for bees to forage on. Aha! I’m not supposed to be a bee feeder, I’m meant to be a gardener!

red clover

red clover

Sugar was never meant to be food for bees. The pH is wrong for their digestive systems. Sugar doesn’t supply significant nutritional value, and it lacks the bacteria that enable the bee’s gut to process properly. Studies show that bees fed sugar tend to be weaker and have a propensity for nosema. Of course they’ll eat it — as would you if you were starving and someone offered you a candy bar. 


evening primrose, also a favorite of moths because it blooms at dusk

Don’t imagine for a second that the bees are somehow making and storing real honey from the sugar you’re feeding them. They are processing and storing sugar into the cells, but the sweet treat is not true bee food. Bees that go through winter and early spring living on sugar aren’t as healthy as bees who’ve been eating what Nature feeds them. If you put out a dish of sugar water when abundant nectar-y flowers are in bloom, they will go to the flowers every time. Sugar gets eaten when forage slows down and there’s little left to eat. Studies show that bees who eat from a wide variety of flower sources are indeed healthier than bees who have limited choices. If we truly want them to be their healthiest, we’ll put more effort into providing the flower buffets they most need.

So, fellow gardeners, that’s our task. Plant for the bloom in times of dearth. Keep sugar off their menu. And plant as wide a variety of flowers as you can, so the bees have lots of choices.


a favorite bee flowers, autumn joy sedums









Speaking With Bees

If you’ve been following for a while, you know I speak with bees. Yep, I do. And I listen because they’re mighty good teachers.

Now you can listen to the book, “Song of Increase.” Robin Wise and I recorded the audiobook this spring and Sounds True just published it. This means you can listen to the entire book on any audio-digital media, like your iPhone or Android or through Audible.com. Whoopee!

Robin is my dear friend. Her bees have the most beautiful watering stations, filled with crystals and moss and flowers. Bees thrive in her care. Robin is an audio engineer and has done many documentaries for NPR. She won the Robert Woods Johnson award, the Robert F Kennedy Journalism award, the Peabody award (3 times), and a bunch of others. She’s a consummate professional and I am thrilled she helped bring this audiobook into the world. 

Most of the chapters have three parts:  a story about my bees doing something interesting; factual or scientific information that further explains what they were doing; and then what the bees have to say on the topic. In the audiobook, I read the first two and Robin, in her mellifluous bee-enlightened voice, reads the parts from the bees.

To hear samples of the “Song of Increase” audio book, just hit this link below.

Here are some audio samples.

The opening of the book, “When the bees speak, I listen.”

“The hive is a holy place.” We’ve stepped so far away from seeing them this way. Let’s return ourselves to being respectful again.”

“The Song of Unity: How bees see themselves, their colony, and the world.” In the bees’ words, how they see themselves.

“The Bees: Living in Unity.” We bear increase into the world as we sing the world into aliveness. We meet each task with a steadiness of spirit.

Posted in Autumn bee care, Bee-centered beekeeping, Buzzing bees, Natural Bee Care, Natural Bee Care Book, Natural Beekeeping, Organic Beekeeping, Song of Increase, Treatment-Free Beekeeping, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment