Encaustic Painting

Encaustic (wax) paintings have been done by Greek artists as far back as the 5th Century, B.C. Wax is an excellent preservative and one of the first and most interesting uses of encaustic painting was the pigmentation of wax used to seal ships. This pigmentation was used to decorate war ships. Encaustic painting, by definition, is the art of using bees wax to create images.

What are the steps involved in using encaustic painting? Provided that encaustic painting involves layers of wax to create pictures, the art is delicate. Beginners willing to learn encaustic painting should be patient – it is a complex art, but can also be enjoyed by beginners and even children. Below are some of the basic steps to encaustic painting;

  • Step 1: Melting wax

To work efficiently with wax, it has to be in liquid form. Heating the wax is the first step in this artistic process. The liquid wax is then mixed with color pigments to acquire your desired color. Different wax produces different results. For a clearer effect, use transparent wax. Using wax and dammar resin is the quickest way to start off your encaustic painting. Melting the wax can be done on a burner and applied as liquid wax. Another, more simple method that can be fun is to place a piece of paper on a griddle and melt the crayon-like wax bars directly onto the paper.

  • Step 2: Painting

At this stage, your wax is warm, liquefied and ready to use. Hot wax gives out a nice aromatic smell. The fresh aromatic smell is refreshing, enjoyable and relaxing to work with. The painting occurs in several thin layers. Painting is done on a hard surface such as wood. Brush gently and quickly before the wax solidifies, it saves you the trouble of re-heating.

You can use many tools when painting with wax – here are a few commonly used tools.

  • Paint brushes
  • Sponges
  • Encaustic Painting Iron
  • Low Heat Stylus Tool
  • Wire brushes
  • Hot plates
  • Rubber and metal wax sculpting tools
  • Heat gun
  • Texturing scrapers and spatulas

  • Step 3: Fusing the layers.

After brushing, the painting is nearly done. To create the desired effects, fuse the layers over heat. This is the tricky part. Too much heat may take you back to stage one and blend the colors more completely rather than subtly. After fusing, the painting is allowed to cool. Once cool, you need to polish up the painting. The best thing about encaustic painting is that, the steps can be repeated and redone until you are happy with your results – some paintings may take people years.

Encaustic paintings can last for years and can be extremely detailed. The wax may keep going back to solid state or melt during fusing the layers. Bees are small insects but they largely affect us. Through beeswax, one can have a career in painting.

Here are some samples of encaustic painting that I find inspiring:

Tranquil Grove by LOUISE DUCHARME

Painting by Francisco Benetiz

Painting by Ruth Hamill

Imported Honey 

Americans have a special taste for sweet things including honey. Today it is estimated that they consume in excess of 400 million pounds of this commodity annually. About 75% of this honey is for industrial use while the remaining 35% is for domestic, and hotel consumption. Many large companies use honey in sauces, cereals, beverages and baked products. Over the last decade, the United States has not been producing enough honey for its consumers as a result of habitat degradation, misuse of insecticides, and climate change and air pollution among other factors. In order to deal with the high demand, the country imports about 350 million pounds of honey from outside our borders every year.

It’s important to us to educate consumers about the benefits of real, local honey as well as the problems that the importation of false and low quality honey has on the bees and beekeepers.

What are some of the problems beekeepers and bees face as a result of this imported honey?

Bee diseases

It’s believed that imported honey can contain bacteria and viruses contagions and spur an epidemic on bees here locally. A bacterial infection such as foulbrood disease can kill millions of bees in a very short span of time and actually happened in China a few years ago. Areas known to have foulbrood or other highly contagious diseases could be banned more efficiently if honey was a more regulated import.

Honey prices

The importation of larger amounts of low quality or even fake honey has driven honey prices across the nation down. Consequently, this mass availability of cheap honey is detrimental to hard working beekeepers. In recent years, there have been measures from the U.S Commerce Department to hinder other countries from dumping low quality and cheap honey into the American market. While imposing hefty tariffs on imported honey is a step towards the right direction, it has not stopped smugglers and other players from smuggling cheap honey in the U.S. The best way to battle this is by informing consumers to verify their honey is both real and local. 

Low Quality

The high demand for honey has triggered a massive supply of the product and has led to the importation of cheap but low-quality honey into the U.S. Most American beekeepers are concerned that honey suppliers are opting to use all manner of tricks including the use of artificial sweeteners added to the honey in order to make a higher profit and volume. Since there is currently no testing of imported honey to verify its quality and authenticity, it is all too easy for poor quality or even fake honey to be imported and sold in grocery stores.

Misinforming Labels

A high number of local beekeepers have expressed their concerns in regard to the original source of honey that forces them out of business. Chinese honey makers resorted to illegal tactics to mask the origin of their honey – they will send it to countries approved for importation of honey and ship it through those ports instead of directly from China. They will even label their honey from false countries of origin. In addition, it is common for honey to be labeled with misleading information. So, it may be labeled as “local”, “pure”, “raw” or even “organic” when it is none of those things. 

Pesticides – Negative Impact

Negative effects of pesticides on bees.

Today, insecticides and pesticides are being used as a solution to pest and disease control measure in agriculture. Continued studies of the impact of these methods show that the impact goes well beyond the prevention of weeds or plant eating insects. There are lasting effects on both the environment and pollinators like bees. Pesticides damage the bees’ ability to survive, gather food, pollinate, and produce honey.  It is a common misconception that bees are only affected by insecticides – the research clearly states otherwise. We can also suffer from pesticide effect on bees through the contamination of bee products if steps aren’t taken. Here are some of the proven effects that pesticides have on bees.

  • Affect the bee’s brains.

Research has shown that use of pesticides such as coumaphos and neonicotinoids has an effect to the bees’ brains. The bees become slow learners and these chemicals can make them forget some of the floral scents. Neonicotinoids are widely used in agriculture for coating of agricultural seeds and even seeds for backyard gardeners. This pesticide affects the central nervous system of the bee after it has fed on nectar and pollen that has been contaminated through the use of this seed coating method. Research has also shown that these bees produce fewer offspring and forage less due to the longer effects of pesticide poisoning. 

  • Death

Some of the pesticides in use today can immediately kill bees upon contact. One way to reduce this type of exposure to bees is to spray at night when the bees are home in their hives. If the bees bring this type of chemical back into the hive while foraging, it can cause death not only to the exposed bee, but also to the rest of the hive. Other pesticides spare the bees life for a moment only to go back home where they die. We encourage people to be conscious of the types of pesticides they use – there are chemicals that have proven to be slightly more bee and pollinator friendly than others. 

  • Colony collapse.

Colony collapse has been identified as the sudden death of adult bees in a colony. Combinations of pesticides, parasites and pathogens all of which are found in the hive have been reported to cause this mysterious collapse. 

These are some of the harmful effects pesticides have on bees. To protect the bees, there should be co-operation between government officials, beekeepers, applicators and the growers. Use of liquid pesticides is less harmful as compared to dust pesticides. Farmers should apply the pesticides in the evening and they should be aware of the hives locations before doing any application. These are some of the measures one can use to protect the bees

Bee Attractants

Whether you want to attract bees to your garden to help pollinate, or you would like to attract a new hive of bees to live in your managed apiary, there are several things you can do to try and get the bees where you want them. New and experienced beekeepers will often put out bait hives or swarm traps in the hopes of collecting another hive of bees for free.

A swarm trap can be a full hive, a nucleus colony, or even a planter box trap. Basically, anything dark that the bees can live in. Once you decide what trap is suitable for your bees and requirements, you need a bee attractant to use to maximize your chances of catching bees.  

  • Lemon- grass oil.

Lemon-grass oil comes from the lemon grass and it actually mimics the queen bee’s pheromones. Lemon-grass oil extracted from lemon grass is actually used as a repellant for most insects, however, honey bees are attracted to this unique smell. When scout bees are looking for a new home, they will smell this familiar scent and be attracted naturally to the area that smells of their favorite bee – the queen. 

  • Old honey comb and wax

Bees like the smell of their home and of other bees. Using wax comb can be a great way to get the scout bees’ attention. Putting old combs in a new hive not only attracts the bees but it saves them a lot of work once they move in. Building honeycomb from scratch is extremely taxing and although when they swarm they stock up on food so they can be productive in their new homes, with honeycomb already in place the queen can begin immediately laying eggs to produce more bees.

  • Borage flowers and Calendula (Marigold)

Borage flower has a clear blue color. The leaves to this flower are edible to man. The star shaped flower stands out in a farm due to its bright color. Borage is an annual flower. It has the ability to attract bees. It has pollen and nectar which release a nice fragrant that bees like. This, and other bee friendly plants, is a great way to get bees into your yard without actually becoming a beekeeper.

These are a few natural bee attractants. The source of natural bee attractants is nature itself. Plants and flowers are natural and most used attractants.

Save The Bees – Bee Friendly Plants

Bees need plants and flowers for pollen in turn they help spread the plant in other areas. The relationship with pollinators and plants is a highly evolved and is often more complicated than it seems. For example, bee’s UV vision and extensive color vision (see this article on their eyes) allows them to see the slight changes in the flowers’ surface and can appear to the bees as a target marking the sweet nectar “bulls eye”. Some plants are more visually pleasing to bees, and others take advantage of the bees extensive sense of smell and are extremely fragrant. This is also why bees may check you out if you’re wearing a floral perfume. In Texas, there are plants and flowers that have adapted to the environment that are especially friendly to bees. There’s an assortment of flowers, shrubs, vines and trees that are friendly to bees. 

  • Giant spiderwort

In scientific terms, it is known as the tradescantia gigantean rose. The shrub belongs to the spiderwort family. It is a good nectar source for bees. It has a nice strong fragrance that attracts bees miles away. The plant can form hybrids with any combination. A fun fact about this plant is that it was named after John Tradescant, a gardener who served Charles 1 of England. It is a perennial plant. Their leaves have a simple complexity. It blooms between March and April. The best thing about the Giant Spiderwort is that it can grow on all soils.

  • Aromatic aster( symphyotrichum oblongifollium)

Characterized by narrow leaves and stem, the aromatic aster has pink or lavender blue flowers.it is a perennial plant which blooms between September and November. It grows on well drained soil such as sandy soil and on rocky grounds. Aromatic aster is also a nectar source.

  • Texas kidney (Eysenhardtia texana)

It is a many- branched shrub that was once used for kidney and bladder ailments. Its name came from its ability to heal these ailments. It is also a perennial tree that blooms from May to October. The plant hosts the Dogface butterfly at its early stages.

  • Lantana (lantana urticoides)

Texas lantana is a spreading shrub with much branched branches. It blooms between April and October. The shrub does well in both poorly and well-drained soils. In addition to attracting bees, it also attracts birds and butterflies.

  • Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis)

It has larger, more sharply pointed leaves. It produces numerous flowers. These types of flowers are mainly planted by highway departments and garden clubs. Generally, it is among the state flowers of Texas. It grows annually with blooming time between March and May. The down side of the Texas bluebonnet is that it is toxic. The sensitivity of its toxin varies with age, weight season and physical condition.

Other bee friendly flowers in Texas include Argarita, Texas redbud, Zexmenia, Goldenrod and Butterflyweed. All this plants are a good nectar source to bees. A variety of wildflowers allows the bees to gather all of the essential amino acids that they need to complete a well-balanced diet.