Yesterday, after I’d fed and watered the chickens, I grabbed a two-gallon bucket and a ladder to pick some apricots for canning. But my morning didn’t go as planned when I spotted a cloud of bees swarming in the very fruit tree I was preparing to climb into. Nothing like a honeybee swarm to make you switch tasks in a hurry.


Honeybees clustered around the queen in a swarm

Honeybees clustered around the queen in a swarm



There’s a centuries-old saying among beekeepers: A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay . . . a swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon . . . a swarm of bees in July ain’t worth a fly. My beekeeper neighbor says simply, “A swarm in July . . . bye bye.” The rhyme echoed in my brain. Even early July? Should I try to save them? I donned my beekeeper suit and gathered together the items I would need for the rescue.


Ironically, in late winter I had hung a swarm catcher in the tree next to the swarm. A swarm catcher makes it easy to hive the bees since they are all inside the bucket-shaped unit with a small hole on one side and a large covered opening on the other. They go inside and you dump the bees into the hive box. I’ve had three swarms this year and not one of them went into the swarm catcher despite me putting attractant (a type of scented oil) in the vial inside the unit. Go figure!


Yesterday’s swarm wasn’t as big as the two I captured in May and June. I’m not even sure if I could save this one, but trying was better than losing them. I decided to help the small population along but putting into their hive some frames of comb and honey.


A swarm at this time of year (approaching the end of swarming season) will require extra food if the bees are to make it through autumn when they kick out the drones and then winter when their food and nectar sources become scarce.


Lavender and sunflowers are beloved by bees

Lavender and sunflowers are beloved by bees



I draw hope from the fact that August in the Bay Area brings blooms to certain species of eucalyptus and also star thistle. My bees also have access to lots of lavender. I have planted several types of it around my farmette.




Giant sunflowers in bloom

Giant sunflowers in bloom in dinner-plate size



The sunflowers in my garden are blooming now and will (thanks to consecutive planting) over the next several weeks. And I’ve got two raised beds designated as bee gardens full of blooming flowers and herbs like borage that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.



It remains to be seen if this July swarm will have any worth at all. I think they’re going to need a lot of help. That means keeping my eyes on them as I take care of my chickens and keep the summer canning going.




If you enjoy reading about the workings of an urban farmette and also appreciate a good, clean mystery, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and A HIVE OF HOMICIDES.  I also write wellness and spirituality books–SACRED TRAVELS (soon to be updated to include color images), RITUALS FOR LIFE, and MY POCKET MEDITATIONS.


All my books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other traditional and online bookstores everywhere.



All available online and in bookstores everywhere

Meera’s mystery series


More than 150 rituals for sound mind, strong body, and meaningful connections to the people around you

More than 150 rituals for sound mind, strong body, and meaningful connections to the people around you

Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus...all it takes is a moment

Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus…all it takes is a moment






read comments ( 0 )

Growing Blueberries in the Bay Area

Author: Meera, August 4, 2017

My Henny Penny Farmette is not far removed from ranch land populated by cows and dotted with towering oaks and pines. In the blistering heat of summer, the surrounding hills and canyons support little more than star thistle and wild grass that dries to become the perfect tinder for wildfires. Until recently, I doubted I could ever successfully grow blueberries that need the moist, acidic soils, more common to the Northeast and deep South.



Luscious blueberries--a great source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber

Luscious blueberries–a great source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber




However, after reading the University of California paper on growing blueberries here in the West, especially in the nearby Central Valley and also the Santa Clara Valley, I decided to try a couple of plants. See,



I chose to grow Sharpblue (a southern highbush type of blueberry). These plants have beautiful blue-green foliage and a compact growing habit. When they reach their full height, they will stand 6-8 feet high and 4-6 feet wide. The plants are self-fertile.



This plant produces both flowers and fruit throughout most of the year; the fruit can be picked from midsummer through the fall. To my surprise, the plant bore fruit this year.
Northern lowbush blueberries grow well in northern U.S. states and in Canada where moist soil and long hours of winter chilling fulfill the plant’s growing requirements.



For best results in the Bay Area, choose highbush blueberries such as the following: Sharpblue, Sunshine Blue, Bluecrop, Blueray, Ozark Blue, Georgia Gem, Misty, Reveille, Cape Fear, and O’Neal. Plant them in acid soil that drains well and is porous.



They may also be planted in containers on patios but require plenty of water and six hours of sun. In the hottest areas, provide part sun/shade.



Highbush types of bluberries produce throughout the summer into fall

These highbush “Sharpblue” berries produce throughout the summer into fall




Blueberries taste great in pancakes, muffins, strudels, and coffee cakes. They’re delicious in jams or stirred into yogurt (my favorite). Just a single cup of this low-cal fruit is packed with Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Freeze extra berries to enjoy later.



Try making this taste-pleasing recipe posted online at for Blueberry Nectarine Granola Crisp. See, 





If you enjoy reading about farmette topics, gardening, and keeping chickens and honeybees, check out my series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing in New York.



Click on this link:



Murders at a N. California winery is a catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie

Murders at a N. California winery is a catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie





Click on this link to see The MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE: Click on this link:


The second novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series comes out September 27, 2016

The second novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series




read comments ( 0 )

Preparing Honeybee Hives for Spring

Author: Meera, February 18, 2016

Recently, I conducted a mid-winter check of my honeybee hives. With my beekeeper neighbor’s help, we opened my Henny Penny Farmette Hives A and B to search for signs of an increase in the mite population, the presence of other pests, and evidence of mold. Inspecting and treating bees with medicines when necessary are important bee management practices.




A dusting of xyz and medicated strips help keep the bees resilient against the threat of mites and other pests

Miticide strips can effectively control mite populations; organic strips are available




We found one bug that I couldn’t identify but my neighbor explained it lays a narrow worm and must be removed before its numbers increase. This we did. We also found three frames in Hive B that had a few spots of mold. We threw away the frames and replaced them with wax-covered frames in the lower hive box where the queen had already produced lots of bee babies.



There appeared to be adequate stores of honey, baby bee food, and lots of baby bees. In fact, we removed a few frames of honey from both hives. In their place, we inserted frames that previously had the honey drained off but wax left intact (these I always freeze before putting back into hives since freezing kills mites, larvae, and wax moth), making it easier for the bees to start building comb.




Honey can widely vary in color and taste, depending on the type of pollen the bees have collected

Honey can widely vary in color and taste, depending on the type of pollen the bees have collected




The honey I harvested is dark-colored and earthy tasting, typical of autumn honey when the bees collect pollen from eucalyptus, star thistle, and other sources available in autumn. In contrast, spring honey is light-colored and slightly citrus tasting from pollen gathered from blooming citrus trees and wildflowers.




Medicated strips to help fight mites are hung three or four frames inward from the edge of the hive box

Hang medicated miticide strips between frames inward from the edge of the hive box for mite control.





Since we found evidence of mites, we hung miticide strips between frames to combat tracheal and Varroa mites. Also, we sprinkled powdered sugar medicine (Tetra-Bee Mix 2X Medicated) over the frames to control risk of American foulbrood. Treating the hives thus will enable the bees to remain robust. I expect their numbers to swell with warmer weather which, in turn, translates to new swarms in the spring.



*Apivar is an effective treatment of Varroa mites. One strip per four to five frames works through contact and should be placed in high bee activity areas. Not to be used when honey supers (top hive boxes with frames of honey) are on.


*Tetra-Bee Mix 2 X Medicated is recommended for control of American foulbrood caused by paenibacillus larvae and European foulbrood caused by streptococcus pluton susceptible to oxytetracycline in bees when used as directed.


My newest mystery will be released September 29 from Kensington Books in New York.

My newest mystery will be released September 29 from Kensington Books in New York.



For more beekeeping tips, delicious recipes, and a wholesome whodunnit, check out my Henny Penny Farmette cozy mysteries: A BEELINE TO MURDER (paperback release in October 2016), MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE (hardcover October 2016), and HIVE OF HOMICIDES (October 2017). Find them on, and other online and conventional bookstores everywhere.



Meera Lester's debut novel (release date 9/29/2015)

Meera Lester’s debut novel (release date 9/29/2015)



read comments ( 0 )

I opened my hives this past Sunday with the help of my world-class beekeeper neighbor. We checked on the the condition of eggs, the number of new queens, the growth of baby bees, the presence of mites (none detected), and the amount of honey (lots).



The male bees (the drones) over the last weeks have been engaged in some crazy flight patterns in front of the hive as the mating of the queen takes place. The old queen has done her egg laying and the hives have lots of babies with nurse maids and other worker bees. From the hives comes the clearly audible sound of humming and the fragrant scent of honey.



The drone (male bees) are vital for mating with the queen; after that, they are unnecessary and are elminated

The drone (male bees) are vital for mating with the queen; after that, they are unnecessary and are eliminated



The drones are not now needed and the workers in the colony are doing away with them. I found a stack of drones at the front door of the hive this morning. Strange sight to see, indeed. But no more so than the many queen houses (formed from honeycomb by the worker bees). These houses are where the new queens are nourished; each contains royal jelly.



Search for the tubular circles and you've found the queen houses

The tubular circles are the houses where the baby queens will be cared for by the workers. The houses contain royal jelly for the feeding of the new queens



My neighbor told me to wait three more weeks to take honey, but since I didn’t take any honey during the fall/winter and there were huge stores of it in my hives and coupled with the fact that there’s a plethora of flowers now to provide pollen for the bees, we decided it would be okay to remove some frames. So, I took six frames (weighing roughly ten pounds each) from the hives.



The honey I harvested has a pale lemony color–significant for the wildflowers and almond and fruit tree blossoms from which the bees collected the pollen to make that honey. In the fall, the honey is darker and earthier tasting, thanks to pollen from the star thistle and eucalyptus blooms.



When we had finished with my hives and walked back to my neighbor’s house, we spotted a swarm overhead. We grabbed the pots and wooden spoons and started banging. The bees took refuge in the tall pepper tree and that’s where my neighbor rescued them. In all, it was quite a spectacular Sunday!




read comments ( 0 )