Midlands Beekeeping Calendar for December


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As always, all beekeeping is local. Here’s my beekeeping calendar for the South Carolina Midlands for the month of December:


If you thought the beekeeping season was over you would be incorrect. The successful beekeeper continues his/her efforts over the winter to have success in the coming year.

Hive checks this month are tied directly to outside temperatures. Do not disturb the brood chamber or break propolis seals around boxes unless absolutely necessary. On a warm day with temperatures in the 60’s you may briefly remove the inner cover and view down between the frames. Try to not be too disruptive in order to allow them to keep their house (brood box) in order for winter. Use of a stethoscope or an ear against the side of the hive will often tell you all is well inside.

1) Clean, paint, repair equipment, assemble new equipment, build more hive stands, make some of those time saver gadgets, and replace any bad equipment. Remember, when spring arrives you will be very busy and won’t have as much time to construct needed hive bodies, build frames, wire (or wax) foundation, or build stands.

2) Check for excessive moisture in the hive. Lift the cover and note for wetness or mold indicating excess moisture. As needed, ventilate hives with a 1/16th inch crack at the front of the inner cover to prevent condensation and mold. Alternatively, many beekeepers maintain an upper entrance in their inner cover. Other methods of controlling excess humidity in the hive is by using a quilt box above the inner cover or using insulated outer covers. Typically we do not wrap our hives in the Midlands as our winters are not harsh. Remember, the bees can keep themselves warm if they have enough bees and enough food stores. It’s the moisture we are focused on preventing.

3) During winter, it is important to tilt the entire hive forward slightly with a shim placed under the hive in the back. This is especially true for those hives with solid bottom boards. A driving rain can pool water inside the hive and, coupled with lower temperatures and winter debris on the floor, will chill the bees. To a lesser extent we do this to allow condensation that forms above the cluster to run forward and down the front of the inside of the hive, preventing it from dripping on the bees. While this helps reduce condensation from above, it should not be the sole method of preventing overhead moisture (see # 2 above).

4) Continue to assess stores. Continue to heft the back of your hives to check for weight. (Not having to open the hives in the cold weather is why you learned this method earlier in the year to assess food stores.)

5) If needed, feed using a low moisture method such as a candy board or fondant. Another method of winter feeding that also reduces moisture in the hive is the Mountain Camp method.

6) Order packages, nucleus hives, and queens for delivery mid to late March or as early as possible for your area.

7) Review and evaluate how well your bee colonies performed this year and make decisions on how to improve your operation, particularly regarding disease management and pest control such as Varroa mites, small hive beetles, and wax moths. Document your findings in your beekeeping journal.

8) Plan now for changes you’re going to implement next season. Will you explore making splits, raising queens, increasing your honey yield, producing nucleus hives, or pollinating crops for income? Set goals now and prepare for next year’s success.

9) Call, visit, or write farmers or landowners where you’d like to place hives for out yards next spring. Use Google Maps to scout likely locations.

10) Renew your membership in your local Beekeepers Association. Attend local club meetings. Register for your state’s Spring Beekeepers conference.

11) Scout trees and other locations for bait hive placement and prepare swarms traps (bait hives). Read Bait Hives and Swarm Traps by McCartney Taylor, available for checkout from the Mid-State Beekeepers library.

12) Construct a swarm capture bucket for those spring swarm calls that inevitably come during swarm season.

13) Build a nucleus hive now to keep in your car or truck for community swarm captures next spring. These small hives are also very handy to have on hand when you see swarm cells in your own hives and need to move a queen or queen cells to capitalize on, or survive, an unexpected reproductive event.

14) Order or ask Santa for a copy of that beekeeping book you’ve been wanting to read. Read some every day.

15) If, for some reason you have not yet treated for Varroa, this time of year presents the Midlands with as close to a broodless period as we get. A cheap, economical, quick and easy, method of Varroa treatment during this broodless period is the oxalic acid dribble. Read about how it’s performed here: Once a Year Opportunity to Save on Varroa Treatment.


16) December is an excellent month for selling honey. Farmer’s markets, holiday festivals, and other events are great places to sell your golden treasure.

17) Celebrate Lorenzo Langstroth’s birthday on December 25.

The above are general guidelines for the average bee colony in the Midlands of South Carolina. We all have hives that may be outperforming the average. We also have colonies that underperform the average. Use your judgement in making changes suggested here. Beekeeping is an art as well as a science. Only you know the many, many particulars associated with your physical hives as well as the general health and population of your colonies.


Helpful Hints as You Prepare Your South Carolina State Fair Entry


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Entering your honey and beeswax in competition can be fun and profitable. The payouts for first through fourth place awards aren’t going to make you wealthy but that ribbon should make you proud of your accomplishment. Your honey will be judged by Certified Honey Judges, trained in the art and science of honey judging. Your entry speaks highly of your efforts to be recognized as producing a South Carolina beekeeping product that represents the very best South Carolina beekeepers have to offer.

Let me begin by saying I’m no expert. I decided to enter last year’s State Fair for the simple reason that I enjoy almost all aspects of beekeeping. Entering the fair competition was, for me, a way to explore another aspect of something I find rewarding. I had no idea I’d win anything; I just wanted to participate. After doing my research I found that the rules vary a bit from show to show but there are common threads that run throughout – cleanliness, consistency, presentation, and beauty. Your entry should reflect your pride in your product while following the presentation guidelines of the particular show.

Wax and ribbons

This article will attempt to explain how to enter your honey and beeswax for judging at the South Carolina State Fair. It is not all inclusive and the reader is encouraged to visit the State Fair website for particulars related to entry dates, categories, drop off and pickup dates, and other particulars. At the end of the article I’ll list important links to the State Fair and the entry department. Registration may be made either online or via postal mail. And the cool thing is it’s free to enter as long as you do so during the regular registration dates. This year Regular Registration begins July 1st and closes September 1st. You can enter after these dates (until September 16th) but there is a rather costly entry fee to pay for each entry during late registration.

The South Carolina State Fair accepts entries in the following categories related to beekeeping:

1 pound jar extracted honey (light)

1 pound jar extracted honey (dark)

2 pound jar extracted honey (light)

2 pound jar extracted honey (dark)

Pint jar extracted honey (light)

Pint jar extracted honey (dark)

Quart jar extracted honey (light)

Quart jar extracted honey (dark)

1 pound jar extracted honey with comb (light)

1 pound jar extracted honey with comb (dark)

2 pound jar extracted honey with comb (light)

2 pound jar extracted honey with comb (dark)

Pint jar extracted honey with comb (light)

Pint jars extracted honey with comb (dark)

Quart jar extracted honey with comb (light)

Quart jar extracted honey with comb (dark)

1 pound cut comb honey (light)

1 pound cut comb honey (dark)

1 pound beeswax

Best Beekeeper Exhibit

Honey Display

That’s a lot of categories to enter. Wow! And most have 1st place through 4th place awards! Let’s get started talking about how you’re going to take home a ribbon this year!

Before we begin, let’s talk about your timeline. Decide now what categories you wish to enter. Calculate how much honey you’re going to be entering in this year’s State Fair. Do the math. You may find that you’ll need quite a bit of honey. After you determine the categories and the amount of honey you will be entering set aside an additional 25 – 50%. This will provide you with a margin of safety in case of a spill, you need to re-strain, and provides for loss due to pouring from one jar to another. Don’t worry about setting aside too much as it will still be saleable afterwards should you have more than needed. You just don’t want to run short as you prepare your entries – you want consistency in your show batch and that will be easier if you have a bit more rather than a bit less than you plan on entering.

Once you decide what categories you will be entering, register online or by mail. It’s free if you register before September 1st so why wait? Registering will also help you get mentally into setting your timeline of tasks for preparing your entries.

Tip: Fiona Apple sang a song titled, “Slow Like Honey” but you shouldn’t be slow getting started in preparing your entries. Honey moves slowly. Bubbles and foam rise slowly. The steps needed to produce your final entry will take time and your best entry will be one that’s not rushed. It’s one of those hurry up and wait situations. So get started now, be patient, then during the preparation period tweak your entry and progress towards your final finished product.

First let’s talk about those entries involving Extracted Honey in 1 pound, 2 pound, pint, and quart jars:

Extracted honey will be judged on:

Density – water content above 18.6% will be disqualified.
Absence of crystals.
Cleanliness of honey – Without lint, without dirt, without wax particles, without foam.
Flavor – ONLY for honey flavor adversely affected by processing.
Container appearance and cleanliness.
Accuracy of filling.

While all honey entered must be in glass jars, the 1 and 2 pound jars must be in Queenline type glass jars. These can be purchased at most bee supply companies. If you can visit a local bee supplier that carries them you should do so as this will enable you to select the clearest jar without flaws, bubbles, scratches, and other imperfections. At this point you may be thinking, “What does the jar have to do with honey judging?” and you’d be right to think this but remember your presentation is extremely important if you’re going to win against the best beekeepers in South Carolina. We already know you’ve got the best tasting honey in South Carolina, just like I have, but what sets dozens of excellent honey entries apart is going to be the fine points and that starts with presentation. Just like a fine dinner at a nice restaurant versus a trip to your favorite fast food joint, the experience counts. So, start with a jar as perfect as you can find.

Tip: Take that jar and wash it inside and out. Place it in the dishwasher and turn on the extra shine setting. Clean it and polish it until it shines inside and out.

Density – moisture content above 18.6% will be disqualified.
Your honey will be checked for density. Hopefully you remember from your beginning beekeeping class that honey should contain no more than 18.6% moisture. The USDA standard for Grade A and Grade B honey states honey should contain a solids minimum of 81.4% (or 18.6 moisture). All honey submitted for judging will be checked and a moisture content above 18.6 will be disqualified.

Tip: Check your honey before submission to ensure a moisture content of 18.6% or less by using a refractometer. I recently saw one on Amazon for $24.00 but I’m sure someone in the club will check your moisture for you if you don’t have one. A good rule of thumb is capped honey will be 18.6% or less in moisture so take no chances on the honey you’re going to enter by only using capped honey and you should be safe. Rationale:  Honey with lower moisture content resists fermentation. The best grades of honey will not ferment due to the lack of moisture.

Absence of crystals:

Absence of crystals in the entry will also be checked. All honey will crystalize given enough time. The ratio of sugars contained in the honey determines how fast the honey will crystalize. Depending on the floral source some honeys may crystalize in a matter of months. Other honeys may last a year or even longer. Other factors contributing to the crystallization process include the presence of particles in the honey such as pollens as well as storage temperatures.  The judges will check for crystallization by shining a light through the honey to detect minor crystals. Using last year’s winning entry would probably not result in a repeat performance as the honey will probably have detectible crystals. Rationale:  Although we know that honey can always be re-liquified, the lack of crystals assures the market customer that the honey has been properly stored and is fresh.

Cleanliness of honey – Without lint, without dirt, without wax particles, without foam.

Of course no one wants to see a bee body part floating around in their honey. But neither should you worry much about your honey not being ultra filtered either. Pollen is a natural component of honey and is expected. While the presence of naturally occurring pollen is expected, neither should your entry be hazy or cloudy with pollen.

Items such as lint, pieces of wax, and bubbles should be absent.

Tip: Don’t use cheesecloth to strain your fair entry. Start your straining with your standard stainless steel sieve using the finest mesh. Then allow it to sit for a few weeks so that any wax and particles rise to the top of the jar where they can be skimmed off. If you’re not pleased with the clarity an additional straining can be made using a lady’s stocking. Be cautious though as the fine mesh of the stocking can introduce very fine bubbles which will take some time to rise to the surface of the honey for removal. When straining honey let gravity do the work as forcing it through the mesh by wringing will increase fine air bubbles.

This process is going to take some time. Honey is thick and wax particles and bubbles move slowly. Ideally you should set aside your honey now to give it time to start clarifying. After giving it a few weeks you’ll want to open the jar and skim off the particles and foam. You may find you want to then do another straining through a lady’s stocking before pouring it into your specially prepared jar for your entry. Then you’ll wait again for bubbles to rise. Eventually you’ll be satisfied.

Tip: When you make your final pour into your presentation jar over fill the jar to within a quarter inch of the top. This will allow you to skim off any foam or pollen a day or two before you take your honey to the Fair. It will also allow you to remove that extra honey such that your fill line is perfect (more on this later).

Tip: Placing the jar on a window sill will gently warm the honey allowing bubbles and foam to rise a little faster and will reward you with seeing the honey get clearer each day.

Flavor – ONLY as adversely affected by processing.

You don’t get extra points for having the best tasting honey in South Carolina. Actually, some honey judging competitions do have a “black jar” contest where the honey is judged on taste alone. No doubt everyone’s honey is going to taste the best to them and it’s purely subjective so “black jar” contests are separate from standard honey judging.

What you need to know as far as taste goes is that you can lose points for “off tastes.” That is, if your honey has an overly smoky flavor from over smoking the hive when you pulled your honey. Or perhaps poor handling of your bee repellant when you harvested has caused an off taste. Another possibility is allowing your honey to sit too long before processing causing some uncapped honey to ferment which may have affected the flavor. Yet another reason honey can have an off taste is overheating in the extraction process. And if your honey has a taste of spearmint, tea tree oil, wintergreen, or lemongrass oil it’s going to be obvious your entry was adulterated with feed syrup. In conclusion, you won’t get extra points for five-star tasting honey but you can lose points for errors that may have affected the flavor of your final product.

Container appearance and cleanliness:

As already mentioned, the visual presentation of your product is important and reflective of the effort you have made to show off your entry. Don’t let even a speck of dirt escape your detection inside or outside of your jar.

But don’t stop with just polishing the jar, absolutely no fingerprints should be on the exterior or interior of the jar. Your lid should also be spotless without dents, scratches, labels, or signs of rust. Although any lid is allowed, a nice one piece lid allows the judge to easily remove the lid to evaluate the lid and the honey. I prefer white lids although I believe gold tone is also available.

Tip: Take an extra lid with you on the day you take your entry in for drop off. There should not be any honey on the interior of the lid. The steward receiving your entry understands this and will patiently wait while you change jar lids before submitting your entry. (Another method is to use plastic wrap between the lid and the jar and remove the plastic wrap prior to submission).

Judges will not disqualify a jar because of an air bubble (in the glass), but try to get the best jar without ripples, nicks, scratches, residue (stickers, honey, adhesive, finger prints etc.)

Also, if reusing a jar, make sure there are no lingering odors. On opening the jar it should smell like honey.

Tip: When entering pints and quarts show off your honey rather than the jar.  A simple, plain, thin walled (mayonnaise type) pint or quart glass jar allows your honey to be the star of the show.

Important: Do not affix any label to the jar or lid. Your entry will be appropriately marked with an identification slip when received by the show steward on entry day.

Accuracy of filling:

jar1It’s important that you give the customer their money’s worth. To that end, a standard has been set that will be judged in honey contests. A rough estimate is that your honey fill line should be above the bottom of the lid such that no air is observed when the jar is looked at from the side. Stated another way, no light should be seen between top of the honey and lid. Aim for a point at the bottom of the spiral that the lid screws onto.

Photo Credits: (left) Courtesy Southcentral Alaska Beekeepers Asso. (below) Courtesy Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Assn.


(Note that the jar on the right is not ready for judging as there are particles on the inside of the jar around the top. This should have been “cleaned up” prior to submitting it for judging.)

Tip: When doing your final adjustments use the bottom of a spoon to touch the top of the honey removing any floating particles. Also, use your spoon to clean the area around the inside and outside of the glass where the lid will be. The judges will note any debris inside or outside of the lid area.

End of section on Extracted Honey Entries

Let’s take a break before finishing up with the other entry categories. I’ll not give as much information on the following items for a couple reasons. First, the basics already covered are the same: cleanliness and adherence to the standard. The other reason is I have not competed in the cut comb or chunk honey categories. I have done some research though and will gladly share what I know. Additionally, I’ll be running this article by a couple people that have more experience than I for their approval before I distribute the article. And finally, I encourage you to do some research yourself. You’ll find that there is some variation between honey judging rules and guidelines although the basics are usually consistent.  Most of what you will find below is from the South Carolina State Fair guidelines.

Onward we go:

All Classes with Chunk Comb (light and dark – all entry weights)

Chunk Honey is cut comb placed inside of jars before filling the jar.
Neatness and uniformity of cut – Upgrade for parallel and 4-sided cuts; downgrade for ragged edges.
Absence of watery cappings, uncapped cells and pollen
Cleanliness of product – Down-grade for travel stains on comb, foreign matter, wax, foam or crystallization.
Uniformity of appearance in capping structure, color, and accuracy of fill.
One (1) piece of comb in jar.

Comb cut the right way up – it’s a fault to put it in sideways or inverted

(I’ve heard some people melt a bit of wax in the bottom of the jar to hold the chunk of comb down in the jar.)

Cut Comb Honey (light and dark)

Cut comb honey is comb cut from the frame. Foundation should be thin and without wire.

Entry is one pound cut comb.
Neatness and uniformity of cut, absence of liquid honey.
Absence of watery cappings, uncapped cells, and pollen.
Cleanliness of product, absence of travel stains, absence of crushed wax.
Uniformity of appearance.

Single piece, pure beeswax, minimum (at least) 1 pound (16 oz.) but not to exceed 17 oz. There is no standard for molds as long as the wax block meets the above weight guidelines.

The optimum color for pure beeswax is light canary to straw yellow. Wax should be clean, uniform in appearance, and have a pleasant aroma. Cracks, ripples, finger prints, or debris or shrinkage deduct from points. I’ve seen polished wax and unpolished. Last year’s winning entry was unpolished.

Preparation of beeswax for entry is challenging. It will most likely require multiple meltings and strainings for it to become completely free of debris. This can be accomplished using a double boiler or crock pot(s). Never place wax directly on a heat source as it will readily ignite and exposure to high heat can adversely affect the finished product.

I use a couple old crock pots I have acquired at thrift stores. In one crock pot I melt the wax and, using a ladle, I pour it through a coffee filter sitting on top of a metal kitchen strainer. As the melted wax filters through it drops into the second crock pot which is set on its lowest setting. Sometimes a couple filterings like this gets the wax clean but a lot depends on what condition the wax was in to start.

When pouring into the mold melt your wax using the least amount of heat possible. You want to avoid wide swings in temperature as the wax will shrink as it hardens and a wide temperature variation increases this effect. Also, try to let the wax harden slowly to minimize cracking and shrinkage. I pour my wax in my barn, which can easily reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit so it takes a while to fully harden. I usually keep an eye on it and as it cools and shrinks I add just a bit more melted wax to fill any shrinkage on what will eventually be the bottom of the wax block. Also, make sure your mold is level so that your finished product sits nicely on the show table.

Be patient, it may take several attempts to get a satisfactory block that weighs at least 16 ounces but less than 17 ounces.

Elsewhere on the web is this excellent, very detailed description on how to prepare wax for showing. Wax for Show By F. PADMORE

Best Beekeeper Exhibit

I would direct the reader to speak with Cathy Kittle (Fair Booth Coordinator) at Mid-State Beekeepers Association for information on this entry. It involves a physical exhibit related to beekeeping. A beekeeping theme is presented each year. You will need to check with the Fair Booth Coordinator (Cathy) for this year’s theme. Also, there is a space limitation of 3 exhibits. The Booth Coordinator must have you registered in order to exhibit your entry.

In closing, hopefully I have answered some questions related to entering and preparing your honey and wax for judging at the South Carolina State Fair. As I mentioned earlier, I’m far from an expert on this topic but felt the need to get some information out there for those that might want to participate in yet another honey bee related activity. Below are some links that you may find helpful as you further investigate various methods and try to reach for that perfect entry for this year. Happy beekeeping and I’ll see you at the State Fair!

Reference Links:

South Carolina State Fair Entries: https://www.scstatefair.org/sc-state-fair

South Carolina State Fair General Rules and Information: http://scfairgrounds.com/oes/entry_exhibitor/queryPremiumGuide.php?deptID=4

South Carolina State Fair Guidelines for Honey Entries: http://scfairgrounds.com/oes/entry_exhibitor/queryPremiumGuide.php?deptID=4#48

Honey Judging and Standards by Malcolm T Sanford: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/media/entnemdeptifasufledu/honeybee/pdfs/AA24800-Honey-Judging-and-Standards.pdf

Judging Honey by Dewey Caron: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/mb/sites/default/files/docs/breecec/Judging%20Honey%20by%20Dewey%20Caron%202015.pdf

USDA Extracted Honey Grades and Standards: https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/extracted-honey-grades-and-standards

USDA Extracted Honey Inspection Instructions: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Extracted_Honey_Inspection_Instructions%5B1%5D.pdf

Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Honey Contest General Rules: http://www.metroatlantabeekeepers.org/honeyContest.php

Eastern Apiculture Society – Honey Show Prep: http://www.easternapiculture.org/resources/honey-show-prep.html

Southcentral Alaska Beekeepers Association: http://sababeekeepers.com/DemoBooth.html

Showing Honey at Fairs by E.C. Martin: http://beesource.com/resources/usda/showing-honey-at-fairs/

North Bucks Beekeepers Honey Show Preparation: https://www.nbbka.org/honey/honeyShow/preparation.aspx


Happy Birthday Petro Prokopovych

Wikipedia: Petro Prokopovych (1775–1850, Ukrainian: Петро Прокопович) was a revolutionary Ukrainian[1][2][3][4] beekeeper, the founder of commercial beekeeping and the inventor of the first movable frame hive.[5] He introduced novelties in traditional beekeeping that allowed great progress in the practice. Among his most important inventions was a hive frame in a separate honey chamber of his beehive. He also invented a crude queen excluder between brood and honey chambers.[6][7] Petro Prokopovych was also the first to ever model a ‘bee beard’ after delineating and calculating ‘bee swarm behaviour”, inspiring students for generations.[8]

From http://beekeeping.com.ua: Petro Prokopovych was born in Ukraine, in the village of Mytchenky, near Baturyn, where he spent his childhood. The parents sent eleven-years-old Petro to Kiev-Mohyla Academy, where he studied for eight years. 

After the academy he wanted to be a teacher. However, the future genius of beekeeping was to go to a military career. Despite it was quite successful (the state awarded him, etc.), in 1798 he resigned.

At the brother’s small bee-garden the retired officer admired the life of mysterious small flying beings, which were kept in primitive hives, made from pieces of log. 

In 1799 Petro Prokopovych decided to devote himself to beekeeping and in 1808 he already had 580 bee-families. All these years he tried to understand the internal life of bee-family and to improve existing methods of beekeeping. One of directions of his research was looking for a way to take honey without wanton destruction of the family. 

In 1814 the tireless search resulted in the invention of the first in the world dismountable frame beehive, in which it was possible to control family and to actively influence the course of its development. In this beehive Prokopovych for the first time has considered a frame as a module of bee-hive – which used today by millions beekeepers all over the world. It was a landmark in the history of beekeeping, which has begun the epoch of rational beekeeping. 

One more his invention – the wooden partition with apertures, which were passable only for working bees. It made possible getting pure honey in the frames. 

Amos Root highly praised the inventions of Prokopovych: ” His frame has much in common with a modern section frame with openings for passage of bees, the walls of his beehive were joint in the lock. He applied methods, which far outstripped his time “. 

Prokopovych possessed not only the gift of researcher but also that of teacher. The school, founded by him, during 53 years of its existence prepared more than 700 qualified beekeepers with the most advanced experience of that time. The school apiary in 1855 had 2542 bee-families. 
Prokopovych published more than 60 articles in the newspapers and magazines. Many of his findings remain important now; for example, the drugless method of treatment foul brood by driving of bees to a new hive. 

Prokopovych considered beekeeping the most profitable branch of the agriculture and proved it, having become rather rich man. He had 6600 beehives of his own design only. 

Petro Prokopovych is buried  in a village Pal’chyky in the Chernigiv region, where his beekeepers’ school was located. The monument of Prokopovych is erected here,  the Ukrainian Institute of Beekeeping is named after him.

All this plus a great gravestone showing him with a removable frame!

Why did my bees die?


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Why did my bees die?

This is a question often asked and sometimes difficult to answer. The beekeeper looking at a dead colony is left with clues that can sometimes indicate the cause of death. More often though the beekeeper looks at the “crime scene” and makes an incorrect assumption. We’ve all heard it, “Wax moths killed my bees.” or “They got robbed.” or Small hive beetles killed them.” Most often though these are the results of problems that were missed or not addressed earlier.

I like murder mysteries. And, like in murder mysteries, what kills the bees isn’t always the most obvious suspects. It’s not the one the mystery writer wants you to initially think it is. After all what fun would that be? Instead the beekeeper must use some logic in backtracking the history of the colony to solve the mystery. Many times the downward spiral started some time back and we missed it before it lead up to wax moths, robbing, small hive beetles, or other maladies.

This past winter I had a 9% overwinter loss coming into the spring buildup. All in all, in today’s world of beekeeping that’s pretty good. Early in this season’s buildup, in February, I rotated boxes as a swarm prevention technique. I noted that a particular row of hives were not building up as fast as my other hives. As I rotated the hive bodies I inspected and found that they were all queen-right though so I just chalked the slow buildup up to “one of those unexplained things.”

That row of thirteen colonies coming into spring lost six colonies AFTER that first box rotation of spring. All of my other colonies continued to grow and expand.  Granted the ones lost were not the strongest but they had queens (I saw them). How were these different than the ones that were thriving? Time to put on my detective hat. They were unique in that they are all on same row, were not taken down in size last fall (I just ran out of energy), and had older queens. So what killed them? I don’t know but I suspect the stress of the box rotation on an already stressed colony. How were they already stressed? Why did they not build up like the other areas in my bee yard? Thinking about the differences: this group  had older queens, larger hives usually have/maintain higher mite counts,  and were in  an isolated  row in the bee yard.  I don’t know exactly which stressor was the largest but I suspect some or all of the above come into play.

Now my overall losses were at 27% instead of the 9% prior to this event and most likely because I failed to reduce size, monitor this row for Varroa better, and not re-queen in the fall. Which exactly? Beekeepers always want to know which one is the culprit. I don’t know. Maybe it was multiple stressors and not just one. But I do have some excellent suspects! Regardless of which stressor killed these colonies I failed to do that which a good steward should have done for these bees. Ultimately it’s on me.

So, after writing the above I was further pondering the possibilities while making up some sugar syrup, and I was thinking about the stressors and it came to me what killed those colonies. Distilling it down to a single element – laziness. I should have taken those hives down to 2 boxes post nectar flow last summer. I should have monitored Varroa better in that row instead of assuming it would be the same as the newer hives in other areas. And I should have re-queened as would have happened easily if I had made splits last year when I should have taken them down in size. My laziness killed those colonies. So there, I came up with a single cause, identified the culprit, and solved the mystery!

It won’t happen again. Maybe something else but not this.


Happy Birthday Dr. Wladyslaw Zbikowski


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Birth: March 29, 1896

Death: November 1, 1977

Inventor of the Cobana round comb honey sections, later to become “Ross Rounds.”

The modern round plastic section appeared in 1954. It was called “Cobana” and seems to have been designed by a Pennsylvanian beekeeper named Dr. Wladyslaw Zbikowski, a retired physician.

From Badbeekeeping blog of 2010: The gentleman who receives the credit for the modern invention, a retired physician from (get ready) western Pennsylvania designed the round section device which he called Cobanas in 1954. Dr. Wladyslaw Zbikowski (1896-1977) was born in Beaver Falls, PA, but educated in Russia and Poland. He started keeping bees in 1953, after retiring from medicine. Dr Zbikowski made the modern plastic round section the very next year. http://www.badbeekeeping.com/beeblog2010.htm

More on rounds sections here: http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/sectionsround.html

Swarm Catcher Checklist and Tips

This time of year, in my truck, I keep a deep 10 frame Langstroth box with 10 frames installed, screened bottom board, inner cover, and either migratory or telescoping top. And a ratchet strap to hold it all together for transportation. The entrance reducer is either closed or I replace it with #8 hardware cloth folded in a “U” shape. I also have ready for quick loading a swarm bucket with attachable telescoping painters pole and a ladder.

Additional, sometimes useful, items I usually have on hand include: A queen clip, a spray bottle of imitation almond extract, small and large limb pruners, and a spray bottle of sugar water to spray them with before the shake.

Turn your telephone on with volume up this time of year. You need to ask how high. If they say “not too high” ask what that means. Head height? Taller than two men, etc. How large is the cluster – baseball? soccer ball? or basketball? Are they in a bush or tree? If they say they are flying around their front porch ask if they are clustered? (yes, people call because their ornamental holly is blooming and attracting bees). After you determine they indeed have a honey bee swarm and not miner bees, yellow jackets, or carpenter bees, get the address and get there soon.

When you return home with your swarm now in your equipment let them settle down for a couple hours before you open them and insert a frame of open brood from another hive. This will typically lock them to the hive (remember they didn’t choose your hive as their preferred cavity). One final item is to place a feeder on them. They will want to draw comb and it takes carbohydrate to do so. You can get some fantastic drawn comb in a short amount of time from a swarm. Then open the entrance to let them fly and orient to their new home.

Here’s another method used called the queen’s throne. It uses a frame of brood or brood comb to lure the bees into the bucket. In the video he is capturing bees at a school yard and wants to minimize flying bees.

Add any tricks you have below.

Uses of propolis


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The varnishing of cells?

Where does this get a mention? It’s in the study notes..



They asked lots of people too.

In Ribbands, Chapter 27, Huber (1814) observed that new combs become more yellow, more pliable stronger and heavier and sometimes there were reddish threads on the inner walls. Chemical tests showed this was propolis.


Source: Uses of propolis



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This week reports of swarms have increased indicating that swarm season has started in earnest. The flood of calls has yet to begin but will start soon. This picture, from last year shows a swarm capture utilizing my friend Dave’s combination arborist’s tree tool and a homemade bucket with paint strainer modification. These bees were about 28 feet up.

In the US, those interested in catching swarms should visit Bees on the Net which lists beekeepers willing to go out and retrieve swarms in their area.

“At the Hive Entrance” free ebook


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It’s time to start enjoying your bees!

Do you like to watch behavior? Are you itching for more during this “leave ’em alone” period of time after package installation? Okay here’s your treat. Recently a friend, posted a positive review about a book link she had read titled, “At the Hive Entrance” by H. Storch. It was one of my favorites when I started beekeeping. And it’s something you can do now – watch the hive entrance. Just place your chair off to the side of the front entrance about 6 or 8 ft. away and watch. After a few days you’ll start to see the routine of the bees. You’ll notice different pollens coming in on different days. Some days they’ll almost jump into the air on takeoff and zoom in on landings. Other days they’re a little slow. You’ll start to relate this to the temperatures, the flow, the season, and other things. You’ll get a feeling for the range of normal behavior (which also varies depending on seasons). In time, you’ll also notice behavior that’s not their norm which may necessitate an inspection. Which brings up the single warning about enjoying this book – it is only one factor in your assessment – entrance observation. If it looks like something unusual you may have to open them up to take a look. Enjoy.


Ebook is available via: Brecknock and Radnor Beekeeping Association

Scientific Queen Rearing by Gilbert M. Doolittle (free download)


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scientific queen rearing

Scientific Queen Rearing by Gilbert M. Doolittle

I’ve been very busy lately preparing for the upcoming nectar flow and have been neglectful of Beekeeping365. For that I apologize. But after daily work in the barn and the bee yard I have had a few moments to read some each day. This week  I’ve spent my free moments reading Scientific Queen Rearing by Gilbert M. Doolittle. Written in 1889, it’s subtitle reads:

“Scientific queen-rearing as practically applied; being a method by which the best of queen-bees are reared in perfect accord with nature’s ways. For the amateur and veteran in bee-keeping.”

As I have read the book I can’t help but be impressed with the tenacity of Mr. Doolittle. It appears as though he rarely allowed himself to wallow in defeat. One instance of frustration is mentioned in the book whereby he goes home without success in a particular endeavor, the bees behavior having defeated him it would seem. But he rallies and in the next paragraph explains how he awoke the next morning with a new and fresh idea ready to try again.

Relentlessly he overcame difficulties and in the end gave us the product of his efforts which serve queen breeders to this day. I  recommend reading his short book, Scientific Queen Rearing, to increase one’s knowledge on the subject but also as a lesson in perseverance.

The book can be found in its entirety here: Scientific Queen Rearing by Gilbert M. Doolittle

Book Review: The Bee-keeper’s Manual, Henry Taylor


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beekeeper's manual


Bookish Chronicles

The Bee-keeper’s Manual, Henry Taylor

The Bee-keeper’s Manual,


Practical Hints On The Management And Complete Preservation Of The Honey-Bee;

With A Description Of The Most Approved Hives, And Other Appurtenances Of The Apiary.

This review was long due. “Review” would be a misplaced word here. How do you do a critical appraisal of a beekeeping manual written 166 years ago? A technical know-how book is hardly a thing of leisure reading, unless you have an inherent interest in the particular field. I don’t even do beekeeping; neither do I fancy myself taking up this occupation in the future. But this is precisely what is appealing about Henry Taylor’s The Bee-keeper’s Manual. To read the book, you don’t need to have an interest in beekeeping, just a healthy appetite for curiosity.

My curiosity in the subject of beekeeping was sparked when I read Neil Gaiman’s The Case of Death and Honey. Right after reading Gaiman’s Sherlock Holmes short story, I found The Bee-keeper’s Manual while browsing Project Gutenberg on a dull day at work. Enticed by the book’s fine Victorian woodblock illustrations (illustrator unknown) of beehives, I thought “Why the hell not?”

The Beekeeper’s Manual is about the art of beekeeping and not just the technicalities of the apiary—an occupation that needs a Zen-like dedication, for when dealing with bees, as the author says, “Entire quietness is the main requisite.”

Henry Taylor was an amateur bee-keeper extraordinaire. In his words, he took up bee-keeping to seek “occasional relaxation from weightier matters in watching over and protecting these interesting and valuable insects.” Following a friend’s request, he wrote the book as a brief practical handbook on the management of bees. The book must have been quite a success considering it went for six reprints.

Taylor starts off by introducing the poetic sounding Apis mellifica, the domesticate honeybee found in his native country, England. Although outdated to be adapted to modern times, the book covers every aspect of starting an apiary including, but not restricted to, how to deal with bee stings (in case you are attacked by a swarm of bees, stick your head into a nearby shrub). Clear and concise descriptions along with beautiful illustrations show how to construct different hives, protect the hives, manage the hives in different seasons, protect the bees from disease and predators and aid the bees in their work without annoying them.

Bees are sensible creatures. They follow a clockwork precision, yet adapt themselves to changing circumstances. Each bee has its function in the hive spelled out: build cells for the hive, nurse the larvae, lay eggs, and bring farina to make wax and honey, or impregnate the queen.

The last category of bees—the drone—is the most interesting one. The only job of the drone bee is to fertilize the queen bee. Once this is done, the drone bees are kicked out of the hive or killed. Although drastic, this is quite a practical measure from the perspective of space conservation. Additional cells are required in the hive for the larvae that the queen will lay. Also, the drone bees are pretty much useless after the breeding season, unlike the worker bee that works throughout the year. So, it is only prudent to do away with the unwanted drones than to construct new cells. Why carry the extra baggage?

During the swarming season (similar to migration session of birds), the combs in the hive are occupied by larvae. It is also the season when honey is in abundant. However, there is no room to store the collected honey. The bees can’t wait for the young ones to hatch and leave the hive. The flowers will wither and there will no honey to make. Te young bees can’t kick out too early, the brood will diminish. So how do to work around this dilemma? Although, preprogrammed by nature to work and live by a set schedule of weather, bees are clever little fellows. This is what Henry Taylor observes:

Mark the resources of the industrious bees. They search in the neighbourhood for a place where they may deposit their honey, until the young shall have left the combs in which they were hatched. If they fail in this object, they crowd together in the front of their habitation, forming prodigious clusters. It is not uncommon to see them building combs on the outside.

And they quite attached to their brood as well, especially the queen. As the queen moves around the hive, the bees show their affection by bringing their antennas in contact with the queens. She returns this gesture likewise.

She is the mother of the entire community, her office being to lay the eggs from which all proceed, whether future queens, drones, or workers. Separate her from the family, and she instinctively resents the injury, refuses food, pines and dies.

Henry Taylor’s humane perspective towards the bees makes the book a delight to read. The technicalities of beekeeping are quite extensive throughout the book. However, they are easily absorbed due to the author’s empathy towards his subject. Bees are just not the means to obtain an end product—honey and wax. They are “wonderful creatures” that teach “perfect organization and faultless adaption of means to an end, a lesson of humility; and finally, by the contemplation of their beautiful works.”

…How oft, when

wandering for

and erring


Man might learn

Truth and

Virtue from

the Bee!


Source: The Bee-keeper’s Manual, Henry Taylor

Happy Birthday Émile Warré


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Abbé Éloi François Émile Warré ( March 9, 1867 in Grébault-MesnilDied on April 20, 1951 )

Source: Wikipedia

Abbe Warré developed the popular hive based on his experience with 350 hives of different systems existing at the time as well as on the natural behaviors of the bee In order to disseminate his works, he wrote several books: Health or the Best Treatments of All Diseases , Honey, Its Properties and Uses , Health, Guidebook for the Sick and Well- Being and especially the Most Important ‘Beekeeping for all’ , a new edition was published by Coyote in 2005. The previous edition was published in 1948.

Its goal was to obtain a hive closest to the natural conditions of the bee, while being practical for the beekeeper.  He preferred to make savings rather than profits and was looking for savings instead of productivity. His hive was thus based on a small financial investment for its manufacture and its exploitation. He hoped that everyone could have a hive and harvest honey without having to equip themselves with many tools of extraction.

Source: Wikipedia

In the Blink of an Eye

I had one of my bee buddies call me yesterday. He was headed out of town for a few days. He wanted to tell me how well his colonies were doing on the lower Congaree River. Booming! He had just come from inspecting them and said they were dripping out when he lifted the inner cover. He said he rotated boxes and placed a super.

My question to him was, “How much capped brood did you see?” He replied that there were multiple, multiple frames of deep frames with capped brood.

From my experience, if they have not yet started queen cells his efforts may work for a few days tops. By then they will probably start queen cells and swarm. Why? Because a deep frame of capped brood with clinging bees represents about 9000 bees (very close to a package worth). That’s 1000 of clinging bees on each side and ~3700 capped cells per side. Cappped on day 9 and emerged on day 21 means within the next 12 days all of those capped cells will emerge (and all the ones on other frames as well). That’s roughly 7000+ more bees in that brood nest per capped frame in a short period of time. One of the “events” leading to swarming is congestion of bees in the brood nest which can happen very fast this time of year. And my friend said he had multiple frames of capped brood.

Another way of thinking about this is simply that the queen is laying 1000- 1500 eggs a day. Therefore, every day 1000-1500 new bees will emerge. Probably a minimum of 7000 – 12000 per week – about a package worth of bees per week.

Why am I so concerned about all this? Well, it’s the bees end-game to swarm. Swarming = Success They started this effort back in the fall and upped their game in January. And about 4 weeks ago they started the spring buildup. Bees start final swarm preparations 2-4 weeks prior to actually leaving the parent hive. My friend’s efforts are appropriate if there were no swarm cells but his efforts will be short lived unless he takes measures to reduce congestion. And in case you were wondering, that super he placed above will do little to prevent congestion in the brood nest. Simply, nurse bees have a job to do and that job is in the brood nest which is where they want to be – not that super given to them way up above.

Those that have suffered through my presentation on swarm prevention know that swarm prevention can be divided into two phases – early and late swarm prevention. Early swarm prevention starts at the first signs of spring pollen production while night time temperatures still threaten freezing. These measures are low stress which take into account that the bees’ population is still low and unable to heat the brood if we are too aggressive and disrupt their nest too much. Low stress swarm prevention methods include hive body rotation and checkerboarding honey frames in the boxes above the brood nest.

Then there is the second phase of swarm prevention. These are interventions that we can do after the weather warms enough to allow us to disrupt the brood nest. We are able to disrupt the brood nest during this late swarm prevention period because 1) the night time temperatures are higher and 2) we now have many more bees to heat the colony and brood area. The bees can now handle the addition stressors. Manipulations which can now be done late phase to interrupt the swarm urge include opening the brood nest with drawn comb, or even foundationless frames. Another method is an early Demaree which involves moving open brood out of the brood nest and into a hive body and placing above the brood nest separated by an empty super. This will reduce brood nest congestion as the nurse bees will migrate upward to cover the open brood. Pretty disruptive but remember that congestion in the brood nest must be lessened to disrupt the urge to swarm. A final option is to simply make splits moving frames of open and closed larvae out of the brood nest and replacing those frames with drawn comb. A word of caution here, do not insert frames of foundation in the middle of the brood nest. By doing so you may create a wall further restricting the queen. The drawback of making splits instead of working within the parent hive is you are losing 9000 future foragers with every frame you take out. That’s like reducing your nectar gathering work force just before they are needed to make surplus honey.

Swarm prevention hopefully does what the name suggests – prevent swarms. So what happens if the bees beat us and start queen cells. Well, first realize they have more practice than we do at this so don’t despair. If they make queen cells they will be relentless in their efforts and more drastic measures must be used.

After queen cells are created, these measures are called Swarm Control. The easiest is to simply split them which, for the bees, seems like they swarmed. Sure you’ll lose out on a bountiful honey harvest from that colony but hey, they won the battle so make lemonade from the lemons – you get a new colony of bees anyway. Other ways of handling include the Demaree method, and several other methods all of which fool the bees into thinking they have swarmed. Google: Snelgrove, Padgen, or Taranov all of which fool the colony into thinking they have swarmed.

Happy Birthday George S. Demuth




Born on 2 Mar 1871 to Elias Demuth and Susannah Miller. Died 1934

Worked as a Apicultural Assistant with the USDA Bureau of Entomology. Wrote many pamphlets and books on honey bees.

Commercial comb-honey production / by Geo. S. Demuth.

Five hundred answers to bee questions pertaining to their behavior and relation to honey production.

The temperature of the honeybee cluster in winter / by E.F. Phillips and George S. Demuth

Wintering bees in cellars / E.F. Phillips and George S. Demuth

The preparation of bees for outdoor wintering / E.F. Phillips and George S. Demuth.

Comb Honey 1917

George S. Demuth is buried in  Spring Grove Cemetery, Medina. Medina County, Ohio, USA

Lethargy on the Landing Board


This time of year, the bees should be flying with purposeful intent, gathering pollen and looking for nectar. However, it’s also the time of year when we anticipate swarming behavior. This usually first occurs in healthy overwintered colonies a week or two prior to the start of the nectar flow (early deciduous leaf out). There will be some colonies that are ready early and some won’t be ready if ever. When you walk your bee yards notice the behavior at each hive. Just prior to swarming, there will be a lethargy on the landing board. I’ve noticed this several times over the years and only recently been able to understand why. Thanks to Jamie Ellis I now attribute this behavior to the soon to be swarming bees having engorged themselves with honey in anticipation for the coming swarm event. So, as a beekeeper this sign is your very last notice to take action if you wish to prevent losing 50 – 60% of your bees and possibly your honey crop from that colony. The choice is yours to take action then and there or risk seeing your bees take flight. Just look at those chubby bees!

Balance in the Hive


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It’s spring colony splitting time and one thing we should keep in mind as we delve into the congested and complex  hive is having the correct balance of bees of various ages within the hive or split. An upset in the balance of bees’ ages upsets the proper functioning of the colony. Ex.: who’s going to clean the cells and feed the young larva if the colony goes queenless for an extended period and all of the bees have passed that stage in their adult development? Reversible? I wonder to what degree, and about the quality of work that can be expected from a bee that has passed it’s normal period for the work expected.

I’ve read below and elsewhere that there is some flexibility in the bees’ ability to move forward or backward in their age defined activities. However, the quality of the work suffers based on the bees’ physiologically ability to perform a particular task.

When making splits during the spring buildup there isn’t any difficulty finding brood of various ages so as to provide a split with a diverse population. Done well, a split hardly misses a beat and continues to grow and build effortlessly, while poorly configured splits struggle to get going and sometimes fail.


A simple diagram showing the life history of the honey bee worker.
The schedule of worker bee activities is both flexible and reversible, depending more upon physiological age than on chronological age, and is altered according to the needs of the colony. Diagram Source: Sipa Honey Bees

Shallow frames in medium hive body, oops!


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shallows in medium box

Bees fill voids greater than 3/8″ (1cm) with comb. When not given a guide to work with they build it according to their own liking. Hence the marvel of Hoffman frames and hive designs that encourage them to build within the design guidelines.

I made this mistake last year, discovered it, and left it until this year. Somehow I placed six shallow frames in a medium hive body located in the center brood box position. On inspection last year I realized my error when I tried to remove the frames. Oops! Since last summer I have spent many sleepless nights tossing and turning anxiously awaiting spring inspections when I hoped the box would be vacated and I could remove it. Yesterday was the day and last night I finally had a good night’s sleep. 🙂 BTW: These bees get an F for maintaining proper bee space.

Splits – Pushing for Colony Reproduction


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Not long ago, someone asked when we should start feeding the bees. The answer given was another question – What are your goals?

We want to building strong colonies but for what purpose? To catch the nectar flow? To make splits?, nucs?, or early pollination purposes? Each goal has a different start date.

Much of what we do with our bees involves looking forward. Last year I wrote a piece on when we should start the push towards building them up for purposes of capturing the nectar flow. Today, I’d like to think through another planning exercise for the beekeeper wanting to make strong splits from overwintered colonies.

I like bee math!

An experienced mentor and bee buddy of mine called me recently to ask if I wanted to order some early season queens. He caught me off guard just a bit because I really had not done my math homework for the coming splits season. Well, I’d better get hopping and decide if I’m going to order queens or make queenless splits.

And if I’m going to make spilts, when do I need to get busy?

Framing the issue:

We know from prior swarm seasons and winners of the “Golden Hive Tool Award” (given to the first captured swarm of each season) that swarming in the Midlands starts as soon as late, late February but typically early, early March and will remain strong for a month to six weeks into April then taper with an occasional spurts and sputters along the way.

We know that nature provides natural pollen and nectar for buildup in the Midlands around early to mid February (give or take). Some people see some earlier and this is climate and location dependent. So in nature we see feed for the bees a ~ month or so before swarming.

We know that the climate is still a bit dicey March 1st with occasional surprise freezes which could impact the survival of splits. I’m not sure I want to tempt Midlands weather.

March 1st looks to be an intersection between climate and colony readiness.

So, with natures help,some colonies are ready to swarm as early as ~ March 1. What constitutes being “ready?” Well, colony swarm preparations are a topic in itself but one hardwired componet is drone production. So we deduce that swarming colonies will have made drones ready to mate. I presume nature and the bees assume other colonies have done the same so as to provide some genetic diversity. But back to the point. If a colony is ready to swarm with ready drones when did they start those drones? The answer might help me as to when to start pushing buildup.

Let’s try to nail down a date to promote drone production by reviewing our bee math for drones: 3 days as an egg; 6 1/2 days as a larvae, and capped by day 10. 14 days as a pupa – 24 days. Right? Oh, but we must not forget that that drone is but a wee tot when born and needs to get to his “adolescence” to be ready for mating. That occurs after another 14 days give or take. Okay, I need to start making drones 38 days prior to making queenless splits. Right?…Wrong. Remember that if I make a split the bees will have to begin queen cells and we don’t need ready drones at the start of queen cells. We need them to coincide with the time it takes to make a queen and allow her to “harden” ready for her mating flight. Oh my, that probably negates some of my original calculations.

Nature tells me it will start making the splits for me (i.e. swarm) around March 1st. Let’s use that a  date that nature chooses as the earliest date swarms are likely to survive and use subtraction to come to the date I need to start building up my hives in order to maximize my success with queenless splits. March 1st minus 38 days leaves me at January 16th. I know this date as the birthday of Johann Dzierzon, father of parthenogenesis. (In animals, parthenogenesis means development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg cell. Ain’t that a coincidence?) But, as much as I would like to start pushing for drone production on Johann’s birthday, remember I need to deduct (or add back) the time for the colony to create a mating ready queen or approximately 20 to 24 days. My head is starting to hurt. Okay, January 16 plus 24 days = February 7th (or three days before Ormond Aebi’s birthday).

Isn’t it a curiosity that my efforts at calculations results in a bunch of needless time wasting when mother nature gave me the buildup date to begin with – the bloom of Red Maples! That is, when the maples bloom is the start date when nature itself provides the necessary ingredients to maximize successful colony reproduction on a date conducive to climate and impending nectar flow. You can’t fool mother nature. I’m exhausted but it serves me right. Beekeepers should probably reply to questions like this with bloom dates rather than calendar dates.

Catching Honey Bee Swarms


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Swarm in Five Points

Our swarm season has officially begun here in the Midlands of South Carolina. Beekeepers, old and new, enjoy the thrill of the chase which kicks in the excitement factor associated with gathering a swarm.

So what does it take to catch a swarm? I was doing a quick search this morning to determine the ideal swarm catchers equipment list and I was struck by a web page I stumbled upon which detailed the swarm catching of a young sixteen year old making a few bucks while providing a valuable community service during the spring swarm season. What impressed me the most was the young man’s minimalist approach to necessary gear. Basically he had a cardboard office supplies box reinforced with duct tape with a makeshift screen for ventilation on the lid. His second piece of equipment is a plant mister/sprayer with some sugar water. Otherwise he wings it.

I have been caught out without any equipment while driving around and responded to a phone call unprepared, yet the property owner and I have found a box, a ladder, and a pruning shear to successfully capture a swarm. Once home it’s easy enough to put them into a proper box.

But let’s say you really want to gather a swarm this year and would feel more comfortable having a few items in your car or truck ready to make short work of almost any situation. What items are in the swarm catcher’s essentials bag? Well, probably a standard Langstroth box with frames on a ventilated bottom board. If space in your car or truck is a concern a five frame nucleus box (wooden or cardboard) will suffice. You’ll want to be able to keep them enclosed for the drive back so use some screen or otherwise completely block the entrance. Next is a mister bottle of sugar water to wet the cluster down prior to shaking them or moving to your box. Sugar water isn’t essential but the bees will stay together nicely and it gives them something to occupy themselves with while you work with them. Other items which the homeowner may not have available: ladder, pruning shears or loppers, small handsaw, bee suit, gloves. That’s pretty much all that’s needed to handle most situations. An extra suit is nice if the homeowner wants to get involved. Often they are interested and it’s a good time to do some community education.

Here are a couple links if you’re interested in gathering swarms. And also, if you think you’d be interested join one of the online swarm call lists to have your name out there for people in your community to call. Warning: It’s addicting!



Lots to Do in the Beeyard


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11012250_10204623272476593_731496768_nThe first venture into the hives after winter is probably one of the most difficult and dreaded for me each year. The bees have burr combed up all my minor violations of bee space and propolized everything together such that my inspections never go quite as planned. Then there’s always that space between boxes where the bottom bars of the frames above become connected to the top bars of the frames below. The bees, having not been allowed much in the way of drone comb find this a great spot to build drone comb and raise spring drones. The hives in question today, that had been deferred ten days ago, reminded me why I didn’t really want to deal with them ten days ago as I should have.

But things must be handled and there’s always the knowledge that afterwards the hives are easier to work for the remainder of the season.

My first adventure today was into a well populated two story nucleus hive I overwintered. The bees objected somewhat but adequate smoke kept them in check while I rotated a full box off the top and replaced it with drawn comb and returned some of their stores. I was happy to get out of there though as I was spending far too long performing my tasks being a little rusty and not having every widget available as I normally like.

I did the same for several more nucleus hives and started in on the ten framers that still had feeding shims in place. That’s when the trouble started. Entire feeding shims filled with willy-nilly comb in all directions and filled with honey and drone brood. And black with bees covering everything and spilling out over the hive body edges and covering the underside of the inner cover. A little smoke helped move them but nothing short of a rap of the inner cover on the box dislodged them back into the uppermost hive body. Unhappy bees; unhappy beekeeper. Usually though they settled down shortly. Once I had to take a walk with them following me for 100 feet or so. I was probably not working them slow enough in the hive nor fast enough overall to get out of their domain. Get ‘er done, and I was almost there.

I had passengers (bees) in the truck with me as a drove away from the last hive. Windows down, suit on, and proud of myself having gotten the deed done without a sting through my glove or on top of my head as sometimes happens with the veil pulled down tight.

Oh, what’s that? A hive over by my main stretch of ten framers with it’s brick standing on end. Usually I use this brick position to indicate a queenless condition but I remembered from ten days ago why I stood it up then. The bees were too thick and they were too irritable to bother so I deferred and stood the brick up. Having completed all except this one hive I decided to stop and complete today’s task list. Only take a minute – probably.

The bees were still thick under that inner cover and they had the entire feeding shim filled with honey comb and drone brood. Most of it hung down off the inner cover. I smoked them down and waited. They kept coming back up in short order. As mentioned earlier, there tends to be an overall time limit for bees after which they just say, “You’re done here.” I was running out of time and knew it. I had a thought to go back to the barn and get a bottle of Bee Go to run them down out of that shim with its unpleasant odor. But my dilemma was time. Things weren’t going to get better in ten minutes. I was already taking a heavy bombardment of bees against my veil. I decided it would be best to shake the inner cover of bees into the shim and smoke them some more. After a couple shakes most of the bees dislodged and I was able to get the inner cover and the shim removed. I scrapped the honey and drone comb into a ready bucket and thought I’d better close up. Then, as one does when they are tired, a bad decision presented itself to me. While it’s good to know that I’m still capable of decisions at my age, bad ones just stink. I decided as I reached for the replacement inner cover that the bees were so thick I had better check for swarm cells between the boxes. Okay, that’s a quick hive tool between the boxes, a tilt upward, and I should be done – right? Well, there was drone brood between the boxes as I should have known, and maybe in my haste I forgot to smoke them down. Or maybe I did and they were so thick they had nowhere to go. I took my hive tool and scrapped the first top bar and my gloved had was covered. Second top bar and they have decided to cover my entire right arm. Third scraping and they are like Velcro on my jacket and veil. I can’t remember the final strokes as I was in get ‘er done mode. I did get the box down and in place when I started to feel the stings though my jeans and forearms. Oh my! Folks, when they decide they have no place left to light on you other than your jeans you’ve stayed far too long.

I started walking, stopping occasionally to brush some off. New beekeepers, remember I told you to buy a brush! I walked and walked and covered a hundred yards. Finally I headed back. I still had to replace the inner and telescoping covers. I did so and had to walk again with irritable bees. I had made every mistake I could have, overstayed my welcome by a stretch, rapid movements, and kept coming back when they said, “GO!” One last trip and I eased into my waiting truck and drove off fully suited with about twenty bees that decided it best they give me an escort.

Done but not proud of my finesse on this one. Maybe I’ll go back for my smoker later, or tomorrow. Wonder where my hive tool is?

Happy Birthday William Z. Hutchinson


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Birth: Feb. 17, 1851
Death: May 30, 1911

William Z. Hutchinson (1851-1911) was a 19th-century Michigan apiarist and author. He founded the Bee-keepers’ Review in 1888, and served as its editor over the remainder of his life. Hutchinson was an enthusiastic proponent of producing comb honey.


Source: http://beekeeping.wikia.com/wiki/William_Z._Hutchinson

Some Spring Beekeeping Preparations


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Here are some recent pictures. I’ve been negligent posting here while making last minute preparations for the nectar flow.

Pictured above are new hive stands built for queen mating boxes, a Varroa mite alcohol wash jar, Varroa Mite Assessment Vehicle with treatment gear, a shaker box for separating queen from nurse bees, an Oxalic acid treatment sublimator, and a swarm bait hive I hung a few days ago. Not pictured is a nice swarm capture bucket I have mounted on a 23 foot painter’s extension pole.

It’s been busy but through the years I have learned that one either prepares before the nectar flow begins or one stays behind the entire spring. Nature does not wait for the procrastinator.

Build Your Bees


The saying is, “build your bees before the flow not during the flow.” But when, exactly? Well, the answer is based on your location, your current assessment of your colonies, and what you anticipate the weather and bloom times will be providing. In the Midlands we often hear beekeepers speak of the start of the buildup corresponding to the bloom of Red Maple. And, notwithstanding a surprise freeze, that is a good indicator as to where nature is currently and when the bees will put all else aside and dedicate all efforts to their buildup.

Using bee math we can add a little more to try to nail down when WE need to support or add to the bees’ efforts by stimulating brood production. To make a foraging bee, and let’s face it that’s what we need to make honey, a little simple arithmetic is needed. Add together: 3 days as an egg, 6 as a larva, and 12 as a pupa = 21. Then add that to approximately three weeks the adult bee will spend as a house bee before graduating to foraging bee. Oh wow, three weeks to make an adult bee and 3 weeks until forager – 6 weeks total.

Now let’s make our best guess as to when the nectar flow will begin. That’s our target date to unleash our foraging bees to collect nectar. Historically, in the Midlands that date is April 1st. But some years it comes a couple weeks early and sometimes it comes late. This is why beekeepers are also obsessed with watching the blooms and temperatures; trying to predict if we will have an early bloom or a late bloom. Adjust this to your prediction but for illustration, I’ll use April 1st..

Taking our knowledge of bee biology and that we have figured out it will take 6 weeks to make a foraging bee, and estimating that we need that bee ready to work on April 1st, we can guesstimate when the queen needs to lay that egg. That date this year, aside from any surprises nature may hand us, is February 19th.

But wait. I don’t just need the all the foraging bees resulting from the eggs laid by the queen on February 19th. No, I need a true foraging force to start the gathering of nectar from the many trees and blooms that will begin Around April 1st. So, knowing that the queen can lay about 1,200 to 2,000 eggs a day I need to begin a tad before February 19th to get a truly large and efficient foraging force.

Assuming I’d like to begin the nectar flow event with all hands on deck and a fully functioning colony (after all the magic in honey bee eusocial efficiency is in their numbers), I need to start at least a week or two prior.

Won’t that early stimulation by feeding cause them to swarm? Won’t they become congested at exactly the wrong time of year? Shouldn’t I split them instead to keep them from swarming? All good questions. Beekeeping isn’t always about easy answers. Yes, stimulation will result in the bees satisfying all of the items needed to lead them to believe they have the perfect situation to do what they want to do – reproduce. On splits, David MacFawn gives a good lecture on the economics of the colony in which he calculates the cost of moving frames during the build up by making splits. A deep frame of brood with clinging bees is approximately 9,000 bees (2,000 adults and potentially 7,000 immatures). Doing the math David calculates that to result in a loss of ~ $75 of honey. (and this does not calculate the stress and loss of efficiently within the superorganism).

When I started beekeeping I was taught to hope for a colony to make 40 pounds of honey per season here in the Midlands. (I suspect many make less than this as on average.) I accepted that. I even met beekeepers that had moved here from the Midwest that quit beekeeping after a few years of our less than ideal honey crops. Then after a few years I started seeing over performers. Colonies that made 80 pounds or more. One year I captured an early super swarm that filled two 10 frame Langstroth hive bodies (deep and shallow). They made 99 3/4 pounds of honey that same year. A light bulb came on for me somewhere along the way. It wasn’t the Midlands to blame. It was my management. Within two years I was averaging 60 lbs per hive and that was counting the ones that failed to make a drop over colony needs.

If you want to produce a large honey crop, it involves management of large colonies. One must simply accept that it takes two things to make honey: 1) a large force of foraging bees that start on day one of the nectar flow and 2) a lot of work using swarm management techniques to prevent the bees from swarming. One must accept that it is work getting into the hives to prevent them from swarming.

I suggest to those wishing to make a crop of honey the free online books and articles available on Swarm Prevention and Control. There are online resources from many, many sources. The older books are also of great value. These resources speak to the management techniques that result in a large population while keeping the bees at home. Hope this is of some help to those that wish to make honey this year.

Happy Birthday Nikolai Nasonov


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Nikolai Viktorovich Nasonov (Feb. 14 1855 ~ Feb. 11, 1939)


Nikolai Nasonov is best known among beekeepers for the Nasonov gland in honeybees which is named after Nasonov who was first to described it in 1883.

“The scent organ of a worker honeybee lies on the dorsal surface of the abdomen, at the front edge of the last abdominal segment. It consists of several hundred gland cells. The Nasonov gland was named after the Russian scientist who first described it, in 1883. (Honeybee Democracy By Thomas D. Seeley 2010)

Nasonov pheromone are emitted by the worker bees and used for orientation. Known as the “come and join us” scent. Bees use the pheromone to find the entrance to their colony or hive, and they release them on flowers so other bees know which flowers have nectar. Nasonov pheromone in synthetic form should be 2:1 ratio of citral and geraniol. It consists of glandular cells which secrete pheromone through c. 600 ducts into a groove between the 6th and 7th tergite. Honeybees release this pheromone for attracting other bees to join the swarm, to mark the entrance to the hive, to mark a source of water while foraging.


Nikolai Nasonov was a Soviet zoologist. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1906; corresponding member, 1897). He was born in Moscow, Feb. 14 1855. In 1879, Nasonov graduated from the University of Moscow. From 1889 to 1906 he was a professor at the University of Warsaw. From 1906 to 1921 he was director of the Zoological Museum, and from 1921 to 1931 he was director of the Laboratory of Experimental Zoology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. His principal works were on the morphology, taxonomy, faunistics, zoogeography, ecology, and embryology of insects, crustaceans, Turbellaria, and some vertebrates, such as mountain sheep and the ostrich. In 1911, Nasonov organized the publication of the comprehensive work Fauna of Russia and the Neighboring Countries, subsequently called Fauna of the USSR. Twenty-five books of this work were published under his editorship. In 1916 on Nasonov’s initiative, a commission was created in the Academy of Sciences of the USSR to study Lake Baikal and to organize the Baikal Biological Station (now the Institute of Limnology of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR). Nasonov was a prolific author producing works in four languages but was not a honeybee specialist nor did he have a knowledge about pheromones. Nikolai Nasonov died in Moscow Feb. 11, 1939


PORTRAIT Nikolai Victrovich Nasonov
Насонов Николай Викторович

Nasonov, Nikolai Viktorovich

Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas D. Seeley
circa. 2012 page 185

Pheromones of the Honeybee Colony

Nasonov, Nikolai Viktorovich (1855-1939)


Miscellaneous References

Nasonov, N. V. 1889. Contribution to the natural history of the ants primarily of Russia. 1. Contribution to the ant fauna of Russia. Izv. Imp. Obshch. Lyubit. Estestvozn. Antropol. Etnogr. Imp. Mosk. Univ. 58: 1-78 PDF


N. E. McIndoo, PH.D. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia Vol. 66 No. 2 (Apr. – Aug. 1914), pp. 542-555

“ It is reported that Nassonoff first described the morphology of the scent-producing organ of the honey bee. His original work in Russian cannot be had here , but according to Zoubareff (1883), nassonoff did not describe the structure of this organ as seen by the writer, and he suggested that the gland cells of the organ produce perspiration.
Nasonov pheromone are emitted by the worker bees and used for orientation. Discovered by Nasonov, Nikolai Viktorovich (1883) from Russia. Known as the “come and join us” scent. Nasonov includes a number of different terpenoids including geraniol, nerolic acid, citral and geranic acid. Bees use these to find the entrance to their colony or hive, and they release them on flowers so other bees know which flowers have nectar.Nasonov pheromone in synthetic form should be 2:1 ratio of citral and geraniol (Born Feb. 14 (26), 1855, in Moscow; died there Feb. 11, 1939. Soviet zoologist. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1906; corresponding member, 1897). It consists of glandular cells which secrete pheromone through c. 600 ducts into a groove between the 6th and 7th tergite.Honeybees release this pheromone for attracting other bees to join the swarm,to mark the entrance to the hive, to mark a source of water while foraging.
Nikolai Victrovich Nasonov ( N. V. Nassonov) 1855 – 1939

Dr. Nasonov studied taxonomy and distribution of various groups of invertebrates. He was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the URSS. He visited Japan (June-July, 1928) for the study of freshwater microturbellarians. For his scientific activities and the publication list, see the following paper.

Académie des Sciences de l’Union des Républiques Soviétiques Socialistes, 1937. À l’Académicien N. Nassonov pour le Quatrevingtième Anniversaire de sa Naissance et le Soixantième Anniversaire de Son Activité Scientifique. Cover page and prefatory portrait + pp.13-32. http://www.ras.ru/win/db/show_per.asp?P=jd-51438.In-en

Literature (a selection):

Nassonov, N. V., 1924. K faune Turbellaria Rhabdocoelida Kryma. Izves. Akad. Nauk, SSSR, 18: 35-46.

Nassonov, N. V., 1925. Die Turbellarienfauna des Leningrader Gouvernements. 1-2. Izves. Akad. Nauk, 20: 817-836, 869-883.

Nassonov, N. V., 1927. Über eine neue Familie Multipenatidae (Alloeocoela) aus dem Japanischen Meer mit einem aberranten Bau der Fortpflanzungsorgane. Izves. Akad. Nauk, 1927: 865-874.

Nassonov, N. V., 1929. Zur Fauna der Turbellaria Rhabdocoelida der japanischen Susswasserbecken. Doklady Akad. Nauk, SSSR, 1929: 423-428.

Nassonov, N. V., 1932. Zur Morphologie der Turbellaria Rhabdocoelida des Japanischen Meeres. Trudy Laborat. Exper. Zool. Morfol. Zhivotnykh. Akad. Nauk, II: 1-115 + Taf. I-VIII.


Source: Historical Honey Bee Articles – Beekeeping History

Happy Birthday Jan Swammerdam

Jan Swammerdam (February 12, 1637 – February 17, 1680) was a Dutch biologist and microscopist. His work on insects demonstrated that the various phases during the life of an insect—egg, larva, pupa, and adult—are different forms of the same animal. As part of his anatomical research, he carried out experiments on muscle contraction. In 1658, he was the first to observe and describe red blood cells. He was one of the first people to use the microscope in dissections, and his techniques remained useful for hundreds of years.

While studying medicine Swammerdam had started to dissect insects and after qualifying as a doctor, Swammerdam focused on insects. His father pressured him to earn a living, but Swammerdam persevered and in late 1669 published Historia insectorum generalis ofte Algemeene verhandeling van de bloedeloose dierkens (The General History of Insects, or General Treatise on little Bloodless Animals). The treatise summarised his study of insects he had collected in France and around Amsterdam. He countered the prevailing Aristotelian notion that insects were imperfect animals that lacked internal anatomy.[1] Following the publication his father withdrew all financial support.[2] As a result, Swammerdam was forced, at least occasionally, to practice medicine in order to finance his own research. He obtained leave at Amsterdam to dissect the bodies of those who died in the hospital.[3]


The most striking features of Swammerdam’s work are his drawings of his dissections. One of his most famous figures was his illustration of the queen’s ovaries. This extraordinarily detailed drawing, accompanied by three pages of description and a 1000-word long legend, was backed up by an attempt to count the number of eggs present in the ovary — he calculated that there were around 5,100 eggs in the ovaries.


At university Swammerdam engaged deeply in the religious and philosophical ideas of his time. He categorically opposed the ideas behind spontaneous generation, which held that God had created some creatures, but not insects. Swammerdam argued that this would blasphemously imply that parts of the universe were excluded from God’s will. In his scientific study Swammerdam tried to prove that God’s creation happened time after time, and that it was uniform and stable. Swammerdam was much influenced by René Descartes, whose natural philosophy had been widely adopted by Dutch intellectuals. In Discours de la methode Descartes had argued that nature was orderly and obeyed fixed laws, thus nature could be explained rationally.[4]

Swammerdam was convinced that the creation, or generation, of all creatures obeyed the same laws. Having studied the reproductive organs of men and women at university he set out to study the generation of insects. He had devoted himself to studying insects after discovering that the king bee was indeed a queen bee. Swammerdam knew this because he had found eggs inside the creature. But he did not publish this finding. In 1669 Swammerdam was visited by Cosimo II de’ Medici and showed him another revolutionary discovery. Inside a caterpillar the limbs and wings of the butterfly could be seen (now called the imaginal discs). When Swammerdam published The General History of Insects, or General Treatise on little Bloodless Animals later that year he not only did away with the idea that insects lacked internal anatomy, but also attacked the Christian notion that insects originated from spontaneous generation and that their life cycle was a metamorphosis.[5] Swammerdam maintained that all insects originated from eggs and their limbs grew and developed slowly. Thus there was no distinction between insects and so called higher animals. Swammerdam declared war on “vulgar errors” and the symbolic interpretation of insects was, in his mind, incompatible with the power of God, the almighty architect.[6] Swammerdam therefore dispelled the seventeenth-century notion of metamorphosis —the idea that different life stages of an insect (e.g. caterpillar and butterfly) represent different individuals[7] or a sudden change from one type of animal to another.[8]



Swammerdam equally made the first precise descriptions of the bees’ mouthparts and of the sting and poison gland. In both respects his description was correct and highly detailed.







Wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Swammerdam

Jan Swammerdam website: http://www.janswammerdam.org/


Swarm Prevention – It’s all about your Goals

Swarm Prevention. It’s all about your goals.
If your goal is to make more colonies and grow your apiary then split away. It’s quick and easy, increases your number of colonies, and can deter swarming.
But if your goal is making a crop of honey this year, splitting may not be your best first option. If you want to make a crop of honey save the splitting for Swarm Control rather than Swarm Prevention.
Swarm Prevention is about taking action before the colony develops queen cells and makes plans to reproduce. Swarm Control is what the beekeeper does to save the day AFTER the colony has started producing queen cells and has decided to go forward with colony reproduction.
So, as relates to swarming, the beekeeper has two opportunities to make splits – before or after the colony starts queen cells. Logically, if the beekeeper wants to make more colonies it doesn’t matter if they split prior to queen cell creation or after cells are started. However, if the beekeeper wishes to make a crop of honey, splitting will always greatly impact their honey crop. For the beekeeper wishing to make honey, splitting is probably left to situations where they have no choice such as after cells have started and the beekeeper finds themselves in corner to prevent colony loss due to impending swarming.
So, what’s the beekeeper wishing to produce a crop of honey to do to prevent swarming? There are multiple methods which may be used to discourage the bees from leaving. All must be started prior to the nectar flow and before the bees have decided to go forward with colony reproduction. Remember, the bees are doing what they do to reproduce NOT to make you a crop of honey.
Swarm prevention has been written about for as long as man has managed bees and more so after the Golden Age of Beekeeping as man developed methods of increasing the yield from bees. Even prior to this, swarming was capitalized on by beekeepers who developed methods of capturing swarms as a method of making increase. A few of the many methods of Swarm Prevention which might be used to retain the bees rather than splitting are: Demaree method, Walt Wright’s Checkerboarding, hive body rotation, shook swarm method, opening up the brood nest, supering early with multiple supers, use of a Snelgrove board, and other colony manipulations.
I’ll leave it to the reader to use Google to find reputable materials online to read if they wish to explore these methods. Most of these methods, and you can use more than one, disrupt the bees’ plans in one way or another. They add stress to the colony which interrupts their lengthy list of checkoffs towards swarming. Bees will not typically reproductively swarm if it jeopardizes the parent colony. The beekeeper, by making smart manipulations, timed appropriately to the colony’s buildup, and with an eye to seasonal cues such as temperatures and blooms, creates a disruption which discourages the colony from swarming or causes them to postpone the event until matters are right again within the parent hive. The beekeeper continues these interventions until the swarm urge lessens – usually within a few weeks after the nectar flow begins.
Swarm Prevention and Control is a fascinating subject to explore. One which beekeepers have been struggling to perfect for hundreds of years. That the bees still sometimes win makes it all the more interesting. But that’s okay too. If they swarm it’s good to know nature is still at the helm and the beekeeper is still left with the possibility of capturing the swarm and making splits with the frames of cells from the parent colony. Everyone wins.

The Hive and the Honey Bee by Langstroth and His Bees


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L.L. Langstroth’s the Hive and the Honey Bee is valued as an extremely important text in the world of bee keeping. Beekeeper enthusiasts and those just wanting to gain a little more information on the small creature buzzing around outside your window. While the book has been updated and revised many times, the original written work is now available completely online,  and extremely easy for all those who are interested to access it.  Langstroth changed the beekeeping world drastically, and his views and advances are laid out in this book.

The text is broken up into different sections, which are all previewed in the summary section of the book. This creates an almost dictionary like appeal, where the reader is able to look up, by section, specific things that they are interested in. This book changed the course of beekeeping, for the first time novice beekeepers were able to have beekeeping at their fingertips- learning more about what used to be a foreign topic. In 1853, when The Hive and the Honey Bee was first published, the Internet was not a factor in the Americans lifestyle.  With the book’s publication the general American public was able to envision themselves as a beekeeper, and easily make their dream a reality.

Read full article here: The Hive and the Honey Bee

Above test edited for clarity.  SBF

Secrets of Beekeeping



“If beekeeping was easy I guess it wouldn’t be interesting.” Fleming Mattox

Reading the old timers’ beekeeping books from the 1800’s and early 1900’s I am struck with their struggles with wax moths and “disappearing disease.” It almost sounds like they are writing about today’s beekeeping struggles. We could say, “but we have mites” but then they also had the struggles of transporting their bees via horse and wagon so maybe beekeeping has always involved a bit of effort.

Books and articles written in the late 20th century talk about the additional problems encountered when tracheal mites arrived and later Varroa mites. These two pests caused many beekeepers to hang up their veil. But there have always been those that persevere through difficult times. And, ironically, some are drawn to the challenge.

I generally dislike articles written from the perspective of singling out a particular bad guy on the topic of current honey bee health problems. Instead I like those articles that state a problem and offer solutions that I can take to my own bee yard and implement. I know that commercial beekeepers take over two million hives to almonds every year which receive compensation depending on their grading. In Georgia, the package bee industry makes so many excess bees every year that it absolutely boggles the mind. My local association alone usually orders from four to five million honey bees each year – and we are only a single club. So, it can be done! I want to be like that guy with the extra bees and I’d like to see all beekeepers succeed with their bees.

Randy Oliver has said in “The Rules for Successful Beekeeping,” honey bees need four things: food, a dry cavity, help managing pests, and protection from toxins. That’s the proactive way of stating their needs and tells us what we can do to help them survive. (If your mind thinks differently he stated the same thing in a different article,  “The Four Horsemen of Bee Apocalypse,” but from the negative point of view,   what kills bees: famine, chill, pestilence, and poisons.) Randy runs about a thousand hives and sets up multiple experiment yards for his scientific studies. He knows bees.

It seems that thoroughly understanding the above four things that honey bees need might be the answer to keeping bees alive and healthy. The problem is each of these four items is accompanied by a lengthy list assessments, methods, timings, and manipulations. Instead of four things to remember I now have many. Not to mention I have to choose wisely among the many options to accomplish these four goals.

Soon after getting involved in beekeeping I got the thought that there might be some secrets involved to being a successful beekeeper. You know, like some sort of insider tricks which weren’t being generally offered in books and articles. I decided to start listening very closely when in conversation with successful beekeepers in the hope they’d let something slip. I checked my own thoughts and beliefs at the door and listened to them talk, hopeful of gaining a tip or trick here and there. Soon it started to pay off. Yes, there were tricks and tips that I hadn’t read about. For the most part these secrets weren’t really secrets though. They were methods and observations that really worked to satisfy, “The Rules for Successful Beekeeping.” Some were old school and some were new school. And the jewels came out when least expected, sometimes during a lecture, in casual conversation, before or after a meeting, during a get together over dinner, or in a bee yard while tending the bees. There was no telling when one of these jewels would just pop out and a light bulb would light up in my head. As for the speaker, I doubt they were even aware that the casual bit of beekeeping wisdom or artistry they had imparted was exactly what I needed to hear at that particular moment.

In closing I’m going to share with you how you too can get the inside scoop on improving your beekeeping. Beekeeping is both art and science. You can read a lot of the science but successful beginning beekeepers learn the methods of successful seasoned beekeepers. And I’ll add that this goes tenfold over for beginning beekeepers. Go to the knowledge base of your club. They are talking bees before, during, and after every monthly meeting and if you’re not there you are missing information on the art of beekeeping you need now or will need later.

I’m still a long ways from being the beekeeper I want to be. I’ve got more things to learn – some from the bees and some from others. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life Is a Journey, not a destination.” Pardon the poor paraphrase but for beekeepers, “Beekeeping is a journey, not a destination.” Enjoy the ride!

Happy Birthday Ormond Aebi



9780913300381-de-300Born February 10, 1916

Died July 19, 2004

Source: Wikipedia – Ormond Aebi

Ormond Aebi (1916 – July 2004) was an American beekeeper who was reported to have set the world’s record for honey obtained from a single hive in one year, 1974, when 404 pounds of honey were harvested, breaking an unofficial 80-year-old record of 303 pounds held by A. I. Root. Together with his father Harry, the Aebi’s wrote two books on beekeeping: The Art and Adventure of Beekeeping (1975) and Mastering the Art of Beekeeping (1979) (both currently out-of-print).[1][2]

He was known to have enjoyed beekeeping all his life. In 1981, Mr. Aebi told the Santa Cruz Sentinel[6] he knew his bees so well that, when out driving, his father would say, ” “Ormond, isn’t that one of our bees?,” and I’ll say, “No, I don’t think so,” or “Yep, sure is.”

Ormond told me a curious story that day though, which I’ll retell just as he told it to me. Ormond was a character with very strong beliefs, beliefs that I don’t happen to share, but he was earnest and sincere and his beliefs do make for a good story. So here it is.

He said that Jesus came to him in a dream one night and told him that if he wanted to increase the productivity of his hives that he should attach a wire to the queen excluders of his hives. Jesus was very specific about the length of the wire and Ormond carefully complied with Jesus’ instructions.

For those who don’t know, the queen excluder is a series of parallel wires placed closely together in a bee hive. It sits between the lower brood boxes and the upper supers, the boxes where the honey is stored. It functions to keep the queen from laying eggs in the boxes that contain the honey in them. She’s too big to fit between the wires, but the worker bees can still come and go unimpeded.

So Ormond attaches the precisely measured wires to the queen excluders and waits. Sure enough, just as Jesus promised in the dream, the productivity of the hives increases significantly.

Ormond is a religious man, and so he doesn’t think it is too surprising that Jesus’ advice worked. He mentions his experience to his beekeeping friends, and word eventually reaches the biology department of Stanford University.

Stanford University finds it surprising, very surprising. They come to his home in Santa Cruz to investigate.

What the scientists eventually conclude is that somehow the wires that Ormond attached to his hives were acting as antennae, turning the hives into natural radios and piping in the local classical music radio station to the hives. The bees loved it. (KSCO AM 1080, if you’re curious, it is now a right-wing talk radio station. I wonder what effect Rush Limbaugh would have on honey production.)[7]

In his later years he was diagnosed with Diabetes, which did not seem to affect his health, but did contribute to his decision not to continue beekeeping when his swarms were destroyed by varroa mites. He worked as a part-time handyman at a daycare next door to his home for the last several years of his life, and continued to write to friends he made worldwide due to his books.

Source: Wikipedia – Ormond Aebi


Exponential my dear Watson


Exponential, my dear Watson.

Pardon the Sherlock Holmes paraphrase. But for the bees right now it’s “exponential.”

They take every food morsel inside the hive and everything they can gather from outside and bet it all. Nothing to be saved this time of year. Spendthrifts and gamblers. Betting the house on the upcoming nectar flow. Right now the nurse bees are eating as much as they can hold in an effort to maximize production of brood food. The queen is laying as much as she can and together a symphony is playing at breakneck speed.

If their timing is right they’ll reach a large population at the exact moment or just prior to the beginning of the nectar flow. Their goal – reproduction – swarming. Hopefully. Because if a freeze or extended stay inside occurs their exponentially large population can easily deplete their food supply since the nectar flow has not yet started. Interestingly, bees will share the food until it’s gone. But when it’s gone it’s gone and for the bees it’s not only their food but also the means by which they heat themselves and young. If the bees don’t time their buildup correctly, they risk en masse starvation.

Now, you’d think I’d be trying to discourage them from building up so fast. In some ways maybe I can and in other ways I can’t deter them from their program. But one thing I do regardless is keep supplying open comb to the queen. In turn she lays in it and makes more bees. Wait, wasn’t I suppose to be discouraging more hungry mouths?

Therein lies a management paradox for the beekeeper. We need more bees to make a large honey crop but more bees means more mouths to feed and the chance of starvation before the nectar flow begins. And more bees can also increase the likelihood of swarming – sorta. But by opening up the brood area and letting the queen lay they are less likely to swarm. So the dilemma is solving both issues by opening up her brood area AND keeping a close eye on the colony’s food stores. In essence, you, the beekeeper,  get to act like a bee and join the symphony too, playing as loudly as you wish.

Keep a close eye on them.

Happy Birthday Charles Henry Turner by Ron Miksha


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Charles Henry Turner (February 3, 1867 – February 14, 1923)

Here’s an excellent post by Ron Miksha of badbeekeeping blog recognizing a bee scientist who went unrecognized in his own time. Thanks Ron for bringing many of us up to speed.

You probably know that Karl von Frisch figured out how honey bees use their waggle-dance to communicate. He won the Nobel Prize for that and for other studies of bee behaviour. I think it was well-deserved and his experiments withstood criticism and independent confirmation. His discovery was intuitive and required hundreds of replicated experiments conducted over years of work in personally risky circumstances in Nazi Germany. But there is another scientist who came close to figuring out many of the things which brought von Frisch fame. The other scientist did his experiments in America, decades earlier. But he’s mostly unknown, largely forgotten.

Read entire article at: The Man Who Discovered that Bees Can Think — Bad Beekeeping Blog

Happy Birthday George Whitfield Demaree


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Henry County, Kentucky, USA
Death 14 Jan 1915 (aged 82)

Shelby County, Kentucky, USA

Christianburg, Shelby County, Kentucky, USA

George Whitfield Demaree was born January 27th, 1832 in Henry County Kentucky. As a beekeeper he is credited with the development of a method of swarm prevention which retains the total population of bees in their parent colony thus greatly increasing honey production. This can’t be emphasized enough – it takes lots of bees to maximize honey production. Other swarm methods which employ splits will adversely affect honey production.

Demaree, also known as “Mr. D” by his contemporaries – was a lawyer, magistrate, breeder of prize Jersey cattle, and a renowned beekeeper on his farm in Christianburg, Kentucky. He was a pioneer in “swarm control,” and his findings allowed bees to be transported out West for the pollination of crops that helped make permanent settlement possible.

The method was first published by in an article in the American Bee Journal in 1892. Demaree also described another swarm prevention method in 1884, but that was a two-hive system that is unrelated to modern “demareeing”.

As with many swarm prevention methods, demareeing involves separating of the queen and forager bees from the nurse bees. The theory is that forager bees will think that the hive has swarmed if there is a drastic reduction in nurse bees, and that nurse bees will think that the hive has swarmed if the queen appears to be missing and/or there is a drastic reduction in forager bees.

The Demaree method is a frame-exchange method, and as such it is more labor intensive than methods that do not involve rearranging individual frames. It requires no special equipment except for a queen excluder. In this method, the queen is confined to the bottom box below the queen excluder.

The method relies on the principle that nurse bees will prefer to stay with open brood, and that forager bees will move to frames with closed brood or with room for food.

In the modern Demaree method, the queen is placed in the bottom box, along with one or two frames of capped brood (but no open brood), as well as one or two frames of food stores, and empty combs or foundation. A queen excluder is placed above the bottom box, thereby restricting the queen to the bottom box but allowing bees to move freely between the bottom box and the rest of the hive. The original hive, along with all open brood, is placed above the queen excluder. The method works best if the nurse bees are remove far away from the queen. The distance between the queen and nurse bees can be increased by placing the brood nest at the very top of the hive, with honey supers between the upper brood nest and the queen excluder. If any swarm cells are present, these must be destroyed by the beekeeper. The relative absence of queen pheromone in the top box usually prompts the nurse bees to create emergency cells. After 7–10 days, the beekeeper destroys the emergency cells, and then either removes the queen excluder (thereby ending the “demaree”) or repeats the process a second or a third time until the swarming impulse is over. (Note: Developed queen cells in upper box could also be harvested for use after they are fully capped and ripe.)

The Demaree method makes it possible to retain the total colony population, thus maintaining good honey production. The technique has the advantage of allowing a new queen to be raised as well.

Ref: American Bee Journal, Wikipedia, Six Mile Creek History

The Russian Scion


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Final stages of Scion creation.  Another coat of propolis, essential oils, and wax and it’s ready to hang.

After reading about the Russian Scion last year I have been eager to make and employ one in my own bee yard. Having used swarm traps with great success I know that swarms can often be retrieved before flying off. However, sometimes issuing swarms choose high branches or remain out of sight of the beekeeper. The scion adds another opportunity to the beekeeper prior to the swarm trap. Since I am home most days and walk my bee yard daily, hopefully I’ll be able to attract them to the easily retrievable scion, and hive them instead of relying on the traps which are also located on site. Below is a good post found on http://www.beesource.com posted by DocBB with some nice pictures:

I found a almost unknown device for us but which is of a common use in every Russian apiary is the “Scion” – (Привой и роевня)

It is a trap or a shelter to catch the swarm as early as possible without (may be) climbing trees.

Can you find it here on the plan?

There are many “designs” but it is commonly settled not far and in front of the hives entrances , one or several of them according to the size of the apiary

The traditional model is a 20-30 cm wide and 30-40 cm plank with one cleat fixed vertically in the middle , more or less rolled with burlap and coated with
alcoholic solution of propolis and flavoured with essential oils (lemongrass, etc.)

as on this blog

the “scion” is then hanged at around 2 to 2,5 m high.

It seems to work !

and the use of one or more old frame is not forbidden

or an old propolised burlap

Source: DocBB on www.beesource.com Forums

Happy Birthday Johann Dzierzon


As many of my beekeeping friends might remember, I started December vowing to answer to, and identify myself as, “Lorenzo” to reservation takers, waitresses, and others. I am pleased to report that this has worked out well, with the exception of that overly serious State Trooper, so I am extending the practice another month. But Lorenzo Langstroth’s birthday month has come and gone and it is time to pick another beekeeper to honor. I encourage anyone so inclined to participate in this exercise of giving and responding to the name of a famous beekeeper for the month. Who knows when a question on the Certified Beekeepers test may become a simple remembrance due to your participation in this venture. So, with no further delay, during the month of January I will give and respond to the name, “Johann” in honor of Johann Dzierzon born January 16th, 1811. Apparently he also went by the name “Jan” so try each out from time to time to see how that flies. Try it out, it’s pronounced exactly as it’s spelled. Hey, I’m not sure it matters.

Below Source: Wikipedia Entry

Johann Dzierzon (16 January 1811 – 26 October 1906), was a pioneering apiarist who discovered the phenomenon of parthenogenesis in bees and designed the first successful movable-frame beehive.

Dzierzon came from a Polish family in Silesia. Trained in theology, he combined his theoretical and practical work in apiculture with his duties as a Roman Catholic priest, before being compulsorily retired by the Church and eventually excommunicated.

His discoveries and innovations made him world-famous in scientific and bee-keeping circles, and he has been described as the “father of modern apiculture”.

Scientific career

Stack of Dzierzon hives. Illustration from Nordisk familjebok.

In his apiary, Dzierzon studied the social life of honeybees and constructed several experimental beehives. In 1838 he devised the first practical movable-comb beehive, which allowed manipulation of individual honeycombs without destroying the structure of the hive. The correct distance between combs had been described as 1½ inches from the center of one top bar to the center of the next one. In 1848 Dzierzon introduced grooves into the hive’s side walls, replacing the strips of wood for moving top bars. The grooves were 8 × 8 mm—the exact average between ¼ and ⅜ inch, which is the range called the “bee space.” His design quickly gained popularity in Europe and North America. On the basis of the aforementioned measurements, August Adolph von Berlepsch (de) (May 1852) in Thuringia and L.L. Langstroth (October 1852) in the United States designed their frame-movable hives.

In 1835 Dzierzon discovered that drones are produced from unfertilized eggs. Dzierzon’s paper, published in 1845, proposed that while queen bees and female worker bees were products of fertilization, drones were not, and that the diets of immature bees contributed to their subsequent roles.[15] His results caused a revolution in bee crossbreeding and may have influenced Gregor Mendel‘s pioneering genetic research.[16] The theory remained controversial until 1906, the year of Dzierzon’s death, when it was finally accepted by scientists at a conference in Marburg.[12] In 1853 he acquired a colony of Italian bees to use as genetic markers in his research, and sent their progeny “to all the countries of Europe, and even to America.”[17] In 1854 he discovered the mechanism of secretion of royal jelly and its role in the development of queen bees.

With his discoveries and innovations, Dzierzon became world-famous in his lifetime.[14] He received some hundred honorary memberships and awards from societies and organizations.[12] In 1872 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Munich.[14] Other honors included the Austrian Order of Franz Joseph, the Bavarian Merit Order of St. Michael, the Hessian Ludwigsorden, the Russian Order of St. Anna, the Swedish Order of Vasa, the Prussian Order of the Crown, 4th Class, on his 90th birthday, and many more. He was an honorary member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. He also received an honorary diploma at Graz, presented by Archduke Johann of Austria. In 1903 Dzierzon was presented to Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.[14] In 1904 he became an honorary member of the Schlesische Gesellschaft für vaterländische Kultur (“Silesian Society for Fatherland Culture”).

Dzierzon’s discoveries concerning asexual reproduction, as well as his questioning of papal infallibility, were rejected by the Church,[12] which in 1869 retired him from the priesthood.[18] This disagreement, along with his public engagement in local politics, led to his 1873 excommunication.[19] In 1884 he moved back to Lowkowitz, settling in the hamlet An der Grenze,[12] (Granice Łowkowskie).[20] Of his new home, he wrote:

In every direction, one has a broad and pleasant view, and I am pretty happy here, despite the isolation, as I am always close to my beloved bees — which, if one’s soul be receptive to the works of the Almighty and the wonders of nature, can transform even a desert into a paradise.[12]

From 1873 to 1902 Dzierzon was in contact with the Old Catholic Church,[12] but in April 1905 he was reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church.[12]

He died in Lowkowitz on 26 October 1906 and is buried in the local graveyard.[12]



Johann Dzierzon is considered the father of modern apiology and apiculture.[21] Most modern beehives derive from his design. Due to language barriers, Dzierzon was unaware of the achievements of his contemporary, L.L. Langstroth,[21] the American “father of modern beekeeping”,[22] though Langstroth had access to translations of Dzierzon’s works.[23] Dzierzon’s manuscripts, letters, diplomas and original copies of his works were given to a Polish museum by his nephew, Franciszek Dzierżoń.[9]

In 1936 the Germans renamed Dzierzon’s birthplace, Lowkowitz, Bienendorf (“Bee Village”) in recognition of his work with apiculture.[24] At the time, the Nazi government was changing many Slavic-derived place names such as Lowkowitz. After the region came under Polish control following World War II, the village would be renamed Łowkowice.

Following the 1939 German invasion of Poland, many objects connected with Dzierzon were destroyed by German gendarmes on 1 December 1939 in an effort to conceal his Polish roots.[10] The Nazis made strenuous efforts to enforce a view of Dzierżoń as a German.[11]

After World War II, when the Polish government assigned Polish names to most places in former German territories which had become part of Poland, the Silesian town of Reichenbach im Eulengebirge (traditionally known in Polish as Rychbach) was renamed Dzierżoniów in the man’s honor.[25]

In 1962 a Jan Dzierżon Museum of Apiculture was established at Kluczbork.[12] Dzierzon’s house in Granice Łowkowskie(now part of Maciejów village was also turned into a museum chamber, and since 1974 his estates have been used for breeding Krain bees.[12] The museum at Kluczbork houses 5 thousand volumes of works and publications regarding bee keeping, focusing on work by Dzierzon, and presents a permanent exhibition regarding his life presenting pieces from collections from National Ethnographic Museum in Wrocław, and Museum of Silesian Piasts in Brzeg[26]

More at: Source: Wikipedia Entry

Ways to Succeed with your Bees


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Several years ago, at the 2013 South Carolina Beekeepers Conference, I attended a presentation given by Florida Agricultural’s “Hall of Fame,” 3rd generation beekeeper, and recently passed away (February, 2022) Chief Apiary Inspector Lawrence Cutts.

The audience literally groaned as he described at length, one by one, all the negative aspects of beekeeping: the viruses, mites, increased costs, and various diseases. After each lengthy, gruesome description of a malady he raised his voice and proclaimed,

“Never before, in all my years, have I been so excited to be a beekeeper.”

Finally, after much more deliberation, he gave up the punchline: “Why be excited? Because never before in all my life has beekeeping enjoyed the attention it is getting today in the media and public eye.”

The point being, beekeepers are enjoying the attention and support as never before. Beekeeping organizations on all levels are being gifted with a wonderful resource of an ever increasing number of enthusiastic beginners eager to take on the tasks of learning both the science and the art of beekeeping. It is, indeed, an exciting time to be a beekeeper. Clubs and associations have won the lottery with the influx of excited newcomers and the many talents they bring to our organizations.

Can we as local and state organizations meet the needs of these beginning beekeepers and move them towards success in their new interest? Talking with some of our older association members, I’ve learned that at one time interest in local beekeeping was much less than seen today. Meetings were small enough they could be held in any small group room, and sometimes a beginner came. In those days a mentor usually coupled with a beginner and taught them the basics. I looked into this mentoring model of teaching and discovered that it wasn’t uncommon for a new beekeeper to visit the mentor’s bee yard for a season before getting their own bees. And once the mentee received their bees, either through a spring split or swarm the next year, they may have left them at the mentor’s bee yard over the mentee’s second year to work in the presence of the mentor with appropriate guidance.

Times change and nowadays we find ourselves needing ever more mentors to serve our new members. Ironically, as pointed out by Lawrence Cutts, the new beekeeper today has been drawn to a hobby that has increased in difficulty due to an increase in pests, chemicals, lack of forage areas, and increased costs.

Simply stated, the job of mentoring is getting bigger and bigger, beekeeping is ever more complex, and new beekeepers are joining and needing our support more than ever before. All the while, the need for mentors is far outpacing an ever dwindling supply.

To complicate matters, not only has there been in increase in beginning beekeepers, most new beekeepers wish to start their own hives the first year at their homes. I do find the occasional member that started by visiting a mentor’s bee yard for their first year, or spent a year attending club meetings and activities but that seems to be the exception to the rule.

This mentee/mentor dilemma needs solutions to help the new beekeeper become successful. While there are things mentors and clubs can do to help new beekeepers be successful, here I will focus my attention on the new beekeeper and their role in getting themselves through that first year and beyond.

Surfing the web, and various discussion boards, the prospective beekeeper looking for advice is repeatedly told, 1) join a club and 2) get a mentor. That’s good advice but it falls far short. Joining a club is great but sending in your $10 won’t get you any closer to becoming a better beekeeper. And just finding a mentor won’t either unless he’s a good friend or neighbor that’s willing to swap lessons for apple pies. First of all, the number of experienced beekeepers is far fewer than the number of new beekeepers. Add to that that most experienced beekeepers have bees to take care of themselves, limited free time like most, and finding one that is close enough and willing to teach a new beekeeper may be a challenge – finding one that has the heart and willingness to make home visits is like finding gold!

I’m going to suggest a new angle towards getting the new, prospective beekeeper everything they need to find success in this challenging mix of science and art we call beekeeping.

  1. The new beekeeper should find a local club or association and start attending meetings. Local clubs provide opportunities to learn. See if your local club is a fit for you. Are meetings educational? Is time made at each meeting to allow you to network to find a bee buddy or mentor? If you don’t feel it’s a good fit then look elsewhere for a club that fits or join multiple local clubs.
  2. Start your search for a good beginning beekeeper class. Half-day or single day classes are good for determining if beekeeping is something you’d like to learn. Better introductory beekeeping classes span multiple evenings or weekends and offer or encourage Master Beekeeping Program Certified testing. If you’re more advanced look for a club that provides intermediate level topics at meetings or pushes their members towards Journeyman level material and courses. If your local club minimizes education, look for a class at the next closest club and attend their meetings too. The drive may be worthwhile.
  3. Sign up and take the next beginning beekeeper class offered. Read the handouts; read the book. Don’t be satisfied to be spoon fed the information and don’t limit yourself to only the information in the class. Consider this class your toe in the door, your introduction, the beginning of your adventure. Beekeeping is challenging with a steep and expensive learning curve; challenge yourself to learn this craft.
  4. Visit your local library and check out books on beekeeping. You will find some entertaining, some are scientific, and some histories. Read all that you find helpful.
  5. Decide right now that coming to monthly meetings is an important part of your continuing beekeeping education. Monthly meetings are opportunities to learn. Miss one at your own risk. Many club meeting topics follow the bee’s annual cycle through the seasons. Important things to do and observe are discussed at meetings. The meeting you miss may be the one that offers the information you needed to hear that month.
  6. Volunteer for club activities. Club activities are opportunities to learn. If your club offers community outreach at festivals and events talk to your club’s event coordinator. Volunteer to work with someone else “talking bees” with the public. If you took the beginning beekeeper class you know 100% more than the general population. Listen to the experienced volunteer you are paired with and learn from them. Talk with them during breaks. If you enjoy speaking to children there is real need to visit with elementary classes. Senior centers also appreciate visits and often contact clubs to schedule brief talks.
  7. Watch your bees. Even if you aren’t going inside the hive. Get a chair and sit and watch them coming and going. Soak it in. At first you’ll not have anything to compare their coming and going with. As the seasons progress, nectar flows begin and end, temperatures change, their behavior will change as well. Soon you will notice subtle changes in their behavior on the landing board. With time you’ll know when something’s wrong and needs further inspection – just by watching them.
  8. If your club has social events like pre meeting dinners, occasional social events, or days in the bee yard, attend them. Club social events are opportunities to learn and meet other beekeepers. Beekeepers tend to want to talk about bees – exhaustively. Only other beekeepers want to talk about bees as much as you. You will learn a lot talking with others at these events. Bee social. Network.
  9. Find a bee buddy. A bee buddy may be another first year beekeeper in your neighborhood or a second year beekeeper that lives close by. Your bee buddy is the one you call when your hive swarms and you need to borrow a box. A bee buddy is someone to visit and look at their hives; they come over and look at yours too. Bee buddies show you how to do new things with your bees. Find a bee buddy at meetings, events, or during meeting fellowship time.
  10. Enter your hives as often as is prudent. During some seasons the bees are docile and tolerant of your intrusions. In the spring visit them often – even every week. When you enter the hive go in with an idea of what you wish to accomplish in mind. What do you want to observe? The first few times you will be so filled with excitement you’ll forget to look for those things you set as your goal. That’s okay, look on your next visit. There are other seasons when the bees are best left alone such as when they are arranging and securing their winter home or during colder months. Take every opportunity to observe them.
  11. Join your club’s online discussion group if it has one. You’ll find quick answers to questions you have. Often a photo and description to the group will result in helpful responses or allay your anxiety about something you’ve never seen before. If you do have an emergency often a club member can swing by after work and take a look. Both girls and guys participate in forums and sometimes you find that you’re neighbors!
  12. Read your club’s newsletter. Local happenings are listed. Important dates too. Sale ads and articles of interest as well as your club’s minutes, scheduled speakers and topics keep you informed. Often the club will have an article or beekeeping calendar directly related to seasonal beekeeping letting you know what to observe and do in your hives that month.
  13. Attend local educational offerings. Local educational offerings are opportunities to learn. Some clubs  bring in out-of-town speakers for special topics of interest. Other times clubs or local beekeepers offer day classes on specific topics of interest: Queen rearing, Moving hives, Making Splits, Africanized bees, oh my!
  14. Attend state conferences. Conferences are opportunities to learn. Even if you can’t stay for two and a half days, at least go for a single day. The information you hear will be from seasoned beekeepers and scholars in bee research from around the country. They have a knack for breaking it down for us simple beekeepers though so it all works out. Have lunch with fellow beekeepers. If you overnight, find out where your club or neighboring club will be having dinner and socialize. Carpool with your bee buddy. Hang out in the hotel lobby and talk bees until late.
  15. You may never need  if you’re doing all of the above, but if you do: Email your club’s Secretary to see if a bee buddy or mentor lives close to you. Preferably one that also attends meetings. Sit with them, or watch and listen to them teach at the front of the room. If you don’t understand something ask after the meeting. Offer to help do hard work like pulling supers, rotating boxes, or extracting honey. Tell them you’ll gladly help with their next swarm retrieval. Ask them tough questions that show your enthusiasm and that you’re making every effort to learn. If they know you’re dedicated to learning, attending, and making an effort it makes all the difference in the world.
  16. Set high goals for yourself; going from mentee to mentor. Take on the challenge of the Master Beekeeping Program which will guide you to becoming a better beekeeper. After your beginning course, take the Certified level testing. After a period of time you will feel more comfortable with your beekeeping and should take the next step towards Journeyman Certification. Become a mentor by volunteering as a club officer, presenting at a club event, or taking on a mentee yourself. Teaching and serving is an educational opportunity for you as well as for others. It’s also your opportunity to give back and grow from mentee to mentor in whatever job role you feel comfortable.

In the end it’s all about learning about bees, their biology, behavior, and management. Along with that come the seasons, foliage, the bees’ cousins, and foes. Beekeeping is both fun and challenging. It’s learning the biology of animal husbandry along with the age old craft of keeping bees. The new beekeeper that wants to succeed should throw themselves into learning this craft by taking advantage of every opportunity that presents itself rather than assume it will come as a result of passive learning. Today’s prospective beekeeper has more resources that ever before: monthly meetings, progressive educational offerings, club outreach opportunities, fellowship, books, YouTube videos, discussion groups, conferences, and more. Take advantage of every offering available and you will succeed. Now, get to a meeting!

Lorenzo Langstroth’s Birthday


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toast to langstroth

A Toast to Langstroth

This year, beekeepers are celebrating the 210th year anniversary of “the Father of American Beekeeping.” Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth was born Christmas Day, December 25, 1810 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. L. L. Langstroth developed the modern hive after exploring existing hives including the pre-cursor to the top bar hive. Francis Huber invented the Leaf Hive in 1789 in Switzerland. The leaf hive had movable solid frames that touched making the box like top bar hives. The leaf hive was examined like pages in a book.

(photo: In 2010 the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild began a wonderful Christmas tradition. They gather each year at 106 South Front Street, Philadelphia; the birthplace of Lorenzo L. Langstroth on Christmas Day, which is also Langstroth’s birthday, for a Champagne / mead toast to Langstroth.) A Toast to Langstroth)

In the summer of 1851 Langstroth developed the hive that is still used today and the “bee space.” Langstroth patented the first movable frame hive on October 5, 1852. Henry Bourquin, a fellow beekeeper and Philadelphia cabinetmaker, made Langstroth’s first hives. Langstroth hives encourage rapid inspection without enraging the bees. Weak colonies can be strengthened. Strong colonies can increase space. Queens are quickly replaced. Diseases, pests and parasites can be quickly determined and remedied. Inspection by removable frames is now required in the United States. Langstroth also began using queen excluders to confine eggs to the lower boxes. Removable frames encouraged honey extraction without destroying the comb. Honey comb requires 7 to 14 pounds of honey for every pound of beeswax. Besides increased honey production, the beehive no longer had to be killed to remove the honey.

Langstroth published “The Hive and the Honey-Bee” in 1853 still in print today after 40 editions. Langstroth died October 6, 1895 while preaching a sermon on the love of God at the Wayne Avenue Presbyterian church in Dayton. L. L. Langstroth is buried at Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio. Langstroth’s epitaph reads —




Winter Solstice for Bees



The 2021 Winter Solstice will officially begin Tuesday, December 21, at 10:59 am EST. The Winter Solstice means something different to honeybees and to beekeepers. It’s typically associated with the beginning of winter for most people but for the bees, and beekeepers, it’s the beginning of spring.

Very slowly, as the days begin to lengthen, the queen will begin to increase in the number of eggs she lays. On a colony level, for the bees, the goal is to have a full staff of bees ready to reproduce on a colony level (i.e. swarm) at the beginning of the coming nectar and pollen flow. This gives the swarming bees the best chance of survival.

In preparation for this reproductive event, brood rearing begins during the first months of the new year resulting in hives bubbling over with bees by early March. But this increase in population and reproductive stimulation has other ramifications for the beekeeper wishing to discourage that workforce from leaving.

The beekeeper seeks to:
1) encourage population growth to make a good honey crop while
2) protect the colony from starvation as the bees burn through their storesin order to feed ever increasing numbers of larvae, while
3) discouraging upcoming swarm preparations.

In short, your goal is to encourage an expanding bee population, monitor their food stores, and as February and March approach, to try to keep their minds off swarming. It’s like walking a tightrope!

Happy Birthday Emily Dickinson


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Happy Birthday Emily Dickinson – Born Dec. 10, 1830

The Bee
By Emily Dickinson

Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry
Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.
His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.
His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee’s experience
Of clovers and of noon!

A team of archaeologists is rediscovering just how extensive Emily Dickinson’s garden was. Historical evidence shows Emily Dickinson’s Garden contained an abundance of blooming flowers. Archaeologists recently uncovered portions of a pathway leading to nineteenth-century flower and vegetable beds.Emily Dickinson – was an American poet born in Amherst, Massachusetts. (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) ~ during her lifetime she “was known more widely as a gardener, perhaps, than as a poet”. Emily Dickinson’s niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, remembered “carpets of lily-of-the-valley and pansies, platoons of sweetpeas, hyacinths, enough in May to give all the bees of summer dyspepsia. There were ribbons of peony hedges and drifts of daffodils in season, marigolds to distraction—a butterfly utopia” Archaeology – Remnants of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens Sought

AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS—Emily Dickinson is known today as one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century, but in her lifetime she may have been more renowned for her gardening. At her family estate, she helped to tend an orchard, a greenhouse, and an expanse of flower and vegetable gardens. The size of these gardens was dramatically decreased in the decades after Dickinson died in 1886, but now a team of archaeologists is searching for their remnants. Last summer, they uncovered portions of a pathway leading to nineteenth-century flower and vegetable beds. “If we can follow out the historic path to its end, then theoretically we would find the location of past gardens,” Kerry Lynch of Archaeological Services at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told the New York Times. If they do locate these gardens, the archaeologists hope to find seeds or other botanical evidence dating back to when Dickinson was alive.

Archaeology – Remnants of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens Sought

Emily Dickinson


Happy Birthday Amos I. Root


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Amos Ives Root – Born December 9, 1839 (1839–1923)

Biography of A. I. Root
Written by E. R. Root

A. I. Root was born in a log house, December 9, 1830, about two miles north of the present manufacturing plant of The A. I. Root Co. He was a frail child, and his parents had little hopes of raising him to manhood, although some of the neighbors said his devoted mother would not let him die. As he grew older his taste for gardening and mechanics became apparent. Among his early hobbies were windmills, clocks, poultry, electricity, and chemistry —anything and everything in the mechanical line that would interest a boy who intensely loved machinery. Later on we find him experimenting in electricity and chemistry; and at 18 he is out on a lecturing-tour with a fully equipped apparatus of his own construction.

We next find Mr. Root learning the jeweler’s trade, and it was not long before he decided to go into business for himself. He accordingly went to an old gentleman who loaned money, and asked him if he would let him have a certain amount of money for a limited time. This friend agreed to lend him the amount, but he urgently advised him to wait a little and earn the money by working for wages. This practical piece of advice, coming as it did at the very beginning of his career, was indeed a God-send, and. unlike most boys, he decided to accept it. Imbued with a love for his work, and having indomitable push, he soon earned enough to make a start in business, without borrowing a dollar. The business prospered till A. I. Root & Co. were the largest manufacturers of real coin-silver jewelry in the country. From $200 to $300 worth of coin was made weekly into rings and chains, and the firm employed something like 15 or 20 men and women.

It was about this time, or in 1865, that a swarm of bees passed over his shop; but as this incident is given so fully in the introduction I omit it here. Not long after he became an A B C scholar himself in bees, he began to write for the American Bee Journal under the nom de plume of “Novice.” In these papers he recounted a few of his successes and many of his failures with bees. His frank confession of his mistakes, his style of writing, so simple, clear, and clean-cut, brought him into prominence at once. So many inquiries came in that he was finally induced to start a journal, entitled Gleanings in Bee Culture of this, now his business grew to such a size that the manufacturing plant alone covered five acres, and employed from 100 to 200 men —all this and more is told in the Introduction by the writer.

As an inventor Mr. Root has occupied quite a unique field. He was the first to introduce the one pound-section honey-box, of which something like 50,000,000 are now made annually. He made the first practical ail-metal honey-extractor. This he very modestly styled the “Novice,” a machine of which thousands have been made and are still made. Among his other inventions may be named the Simplicity hive, the Novice honey-knife, several reversible frames, and the metal-cornered frame. The last named was the only invention he ever patented, and this he subsequently gave to the world long before the patent expired.

In the line of horticultural tools he invented a number of useful little devices which he freely gave to the public. But the two inventions which he considers of the most value is one for storing up heat, like storing electricity in a storage battery, and another for disposing of sewage in rural districts. The first named is a system of storing up the heat from exhaust steam in Mother Earth in such a way that greenhouses and dwelling-houses can be heated, even after the engine has stopped at night, and for several days after. The other invention relates to a method of disposing of the sewage from indoor water-closets so that “Mother Earth,” as he calls it, will take it automatically and convert it into plant life, without the least danger to health or life, and that, too, for a period of years without attention from any one.

Some of the secrets of his success in business may be briefly summed, up by saying that it was always his constant aim to send goods by return train, and to answer letters by return mail, although, of course, as the business continued to grow this became less and less practicable. He believed most emphatically in mixing business and religion—in conducting business on Christian principles; or to adopt a modern phrase, doing business “as Jesus would do it.” As might be expected, such a policy drew an immense clientage, for people far and wide believed in him. But how few, comparatively, in this busy world, go beyond the practice that honesty is the best policy! While A. 1. Root believed in this good rule he did not think it went far enough, and, accordingly, tried to adopt and live the Golden Rule.

The severe strain of long hours of work, together with constantly failing health, compelled Mr. Root to throw some of the responsibilities of the increasing business on his sons and sons-in-law. This was between 1886 and 1890. At no definite time could it be said that there was a formal transfer of the management of the supply business and the management of the bee department of Gleanings to his children; but as time went on they gradually assumed the control, leaving him free to engage in gardening and other rural pursuits, and for the last ten years he has given almost no attention to bees, devoting nearly all his time to travel and to lighter rural Industries. He has written much on horticultural and agricultural subjects; indeed, it is probable that he has done more writing on these subjects than he ever did on bees.

Note: He did not invent a section box for holding honey, but only a box just the right size to put 8 into a Langstroth frame.

For the last twenty-five years he has been writing a series of lay sermons, touching particularly on the subject of mixing business and religion, work and wages, and, in general, the great problem of capital and labor. As an employer of labor he had here a large field for observation, and well has he made use of it. Perhaps no series of articles he ever wrote has elicited a more sympathetic response from his friends all over this wide world than these same talks; and through these he has been the means of bringing many a one into the fold of Christ.

It has been a rather difficult matter to get a picture that was in any way satisfactory to the members of his family. Finally the writer, one day, with a Kodak, took a “time view” of him in his favorite place of resort, the greenhouse, among his “posies,” where he spends hours of his happiest moments. This view shows him just as he appears around home in his everyday work clothes. Ill health, or a sort of malaria that has been hanging about him for years, has forced him. during winter, to wear a fur cap and to keep his overcoat constantly on, indoors and outdoors, with the collar turned up.

Mr. Root, ever since his conversion, in 1875 has been a most active working Christian. No matter what the condition of his health, he is a regular attendant at church and prayer-meeting. He takes great interest in all lines of missionary work, and especially in the subject of temperance. He annually gives considerable sums of money to support the cause of missions, and to the Ohio Antisaloon League; and now that the heavier responsibilities of the business have been lifted from his shoulders he is giving more and more of his time and attention to sociological problems.—E. R. Root.Source:
The ABC of Bee Culture, page 438, 1903

Online Books by A.I. Root:

Root, A. I. (Amos Ives), 1839-1923: The ABC of Bee Culture: A Cyclopaedia of Everything Pertaining to the Care of the Honey-Bee: Bees, Honey, Hives, Implements, Honey-Plants, etc.; Facts Gleaned From the Experiences of Thousands of Bee Keepers All Over Our Land, Afterward Verified by Practice Work in Our Own Apiary (100th thousand; Medina, OH: A. I. Root Co., 1905)

More at: The Online Books Page – A.I. Root

Happy Birthday Karl von Frisch


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By (Figure design: J. Tautz and M. Kleinhenz, Beegroup Würzburg.) – Chittka L: Dances as Windows into Insect Perception. PLoS Biol 2/7/2004: e216. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0020216, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1374858


FrischKarl Ritter von Frisch, (20 November 1886 – 12 June 1982) was an Austrian ethologist who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973, along with Nikolaas Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz.[2][3]

His work centered on investigations of the sensory perceptions of the honey bee and he was one of the first to translate the meaning of the waggle dance. His theory, described in his 1927 book Aus dem Leben der Bienen (translated into English as The Dancing Bees), was disputed by other scientists and greeted with skepticism at the time. Only much later was it shown to be an accurate theoretical analysis.[4]


The “waggle dance” is used to relay information about more distant food sources. In order to do this, the dancing bee moves forward a certain distance on the vertically hanging honeycomb in the hive, then traces a half circle to return to her starting point, whereupon the dance begins again. On the straight stretch, the bee “waggles” with her posterior. The direction of the straight stretch contains the information about the direction of the food source, the angle between the straight stretch and the vertical being precisely the angle which the direction of flight has to the position of the sun. The distance to the food source is relayed by the time taken to traverse the straight stretch, one second indicating a distance of approximately one kilometer (so the speed of the dance is inversely related to the actual distance). The other bees take in the information by keeping in close contact with the dancing bee and reconstructing its movements. They also receive information via their sense of smell about what is to be found at the food source (type of food, pollen, propolis, water) as well as its specific characteristics. The orientation functions so well that the bees can find a food source with the help of the waggle dance even if there are hindrances they must detour around like an intervening mountain.

As to a sense of hearing, Frisch could not identify this perceptive faculty, but it was assumed that vibrations could be sensed and used for communication during the waggle dance. Confirmation was later provided by Dr. Jürgen Tautz, a bee researcher at Würzburg University’s Biocenter.[11]

Source: Wikipedia

Online Book: The Dancing Bees by Karl von Frisch

Blenheim bees – news article and response — Oxfordshire Natural Beekeeping Group

As the local natural beekeeping group, we’ve got to know and respect Filipe. The recent article in The Guardian about his findings at Blenheim has led to some heated debate in the Twittersphere. In the following article, Guy Thompson addresses some of the controversy. By Guy Thompson This piece in the Observer has caused a […]

Blenheim bees – news article and response — Oxfordshire Natural Beekeeping Group

Happy Birthday Everett Franklin Phillips


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E.F. Phillips


Born November 14th, 1878

Died August 21st, 1951

From The Hive and the Honey Bee Book Collection at Cornell:

In 1925, a Cornell professor of apiculture named Everett Franklin Phillips set out to create a major repository of literature on bees and beekeeping. He envisioned this library as an “accessible storehouse of our knowledge of bees and beekeeping.” By 1926, Phillips had persuaded over 223 people from twenty-nine states and twenty-six foreign countries to donate thousands of books and pamphlets, and the E.F. Phillips Beekeeping Collection at Cornell was born.

Perhaps Phillips’ biggest coup was his ingenious plan for raising the money necessary for creating the library’s endowment: he convinced hundreds of New York state beekeepers to set aside one of their hives for the library. When a hive had raised $50 from honey sales, the beekeeper’s obligation was completed.

Seventy-five years after beekeepers helped Phillips create one of the world’s finest collections of books and journals in beekeeping, a new generation of apiculturalists is leading efforts to digitize major parts of that collection. The idea for The Hive and the Honeybee emerged following the 2002 conference of the Eastern Apiculture Society, which was held on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca . In the years since then, individual beekeepers and beekeeping organizations from around the country have contributed funding to make some of the greatest works from American authors on beekeeping available via the Internet. With this generous support, collaborating staff from the University of Delaware, Mississippi State University, Mary Washington College, the Finger Lakes Beekeeping Association, and Mann Library at Cornell University launched The Hive and the Honeybee site in the spring of 2004, offering to the public the full text of ten rare books from the Phillips Collection, chosen by a team of scholars for their historical importance and usefulness to beekeepers today.

Ongoing giving by American beekeepers has continued to expand the collection, and we are proud to announce that the Hive and the Honeybee today consists of the full text of over thirty books from the Phillips library as well as the first forty volumes of a landmark American publication, the American Bee Journal, an influential English language beekeeping journal read by scholars and practicing beekeepers and still being published today.

We hope that eventually The Hive and the Honeybee will contain every major pre-1925 beekeeping work in the English language. The texts in this digital collection are fully searchable, and will also become part of the Core Historical Literature of Agriculture (CHLA).

How fitting E.F. Phillips would find that beekeepers are again playing a central role in realizing a major new development for the Phillips collection. And how thrilled he and his original beekeeping collaborators would be to see the internet make a storehouse of beekeeping knowledge accessible to the world today.

Mann Library would like to extend special thanks to the Eastern Apiculture Society and Mike Griggs for providing the initial inspiration and funding to create The Hive and the Honeybee online library. We are equally grateful to the many generous beekeeping associations, extension agencies, and individuals across the United States –from Florida to Maine and New York to Washington State –who have provided funding for the continued development of this digital collection.

A downloadable bookmark showing the website address for The Hive and the Honeybee collection is available for desktop printing. To make a gift toward The Hive and the Honeybee please make your check payable to Cornell University and mail to Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University , Ithaca , NY 14850 . To find out more about supporting this growing collection, please contact Eveline Ferretti, Albert R. Mann Library (tel.: (607) 254-4993; email: ef15@cornell.edu).

Digital Books Available at: http://bees.library.cornell.edu/b/bees/browse.html

E,. F. Phillips Obituary: https://academic.oup.com/jee/article-abstract/45/6/1124/2205462/Everett-Franklin-Phillips-1878-1951?redirectedFrom=PDF


The Honeybee and the Maple Tree by Rock Bridges Trees



The Honeybee and the Maple Tree have an interesting relationship. In the very early spring when the perfect combination of freezing nights and warm days allow, the maple tree runs sap. This process is what allowed the ancient Americans to learn to harvest maple sap to create Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar.

All of our North American maples produce a sweet sap in the spring. The Sugar Maple-Acer saccharum is the most famous. Sugar Maple has the highest sugar content and is the most efficient source for sap to make Maple Syrup. Red maples and Silver Maples are the other two large maple species that are most familiar to us and likely to produce sap for the bees.

Read the complete article here: The Honeybee and the Maple Tree — Rock Bridges Trees

Anger of Bees


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“I confess I do not like the term ‘anger,’ when applied to bees, and it almost makes me angry when I hear people speak of their being ‘mad,’ as if they were always in a towering rage, and delight in inflicting exquisite pain on everything and everybody coming near them. Bees are, on the contrary, the pleasantest, most sociable, genial and good natured little fellows one meets in all animated creation, when one understands them. Why, we can tear their beautiful comb all to bits right before their very eyes, and, without a particle of resentment, but with all the patience in the world, they will at once set to work to repair it, and that, too, without a word of remonstrance. If you pinch them, they will sting, and any body that has energy enough to take care of himself, would I do as much had he the weapon.” A.I. Root, 1882.

Source (free online download): The ABC of Bee Culture

A Metaphysical Life by Bad Beekeeping Blog


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Happy Birthday Richard Taylor.

Richard Taylor (November 5, 1919 – October 30, 2003), born in Charlotte, Michigan, was an American philosopher renowned for his dry wit and his contributions to metaphysics. He was also an internationally known beekeeper.

Today is the  anniversary of the birth of one of my beekeeper-heroes, Professor Richard Taylor. He was an early champion of the round comb honey system, a commercial beekeeper with just 300 hives, and he was a philosopher who wrote the book on metaphysics. Really, he wrote the book on metaphysics – for decades, his college text Metaphysics introduced first-year philosophy students to the most fundamental aspect of reality – the nature of cosmology and the existence of all things.

Although his sport of philosophy was speculative, unprovable, and abstract to the highest degree, Richard Taylor was as common and down-to-earth as it’s possible to become. I will write about his philosophy and how it shaped his politics, but first, let’s celebrate his beekeeping.

Read the complete article at: A Metaphysical Life — Bad Beekeeping Blog

The nobility of keeping bees: Henry David Thoreau


The Generous Beekeeper

Henry David Thoreau Henry David Thoreau

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance.

Henry David Thoreau

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Happy Birthday Julius Hoffman


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Julius Robert Hoffman was born October 25th, 1838 at Grottkau in Silesia which was then part of Prussia. Today, Grottkau is Grodkow, in Poland. As a boy, he lived near Johannes Dzierzon so was able to learn beekeeping from him. In 1862, 24-year-old Julius emigrated to London and four years later moved to New York where he was employed in the organ and piano business, while still keeping a few hives.

julius hoffman

In 1873 he moved to Fort Plain in upstate New York to become a serious beekeeper, building up his apiary to some 700 colonies in the Canajoharie area of New York, where the dairy farms were plentiful and grew much alfalfa.

Until Hoffman devised his self-spacing frame, frames were spaced by eye, if at all, or by a range of often not very practical systems. This did not matter before motor transport existed as beekeepers did not move their hives. Large-scale beekeepers used a number of permanent apiaries with on-site or horse-drawn extracting equipment.

Julius Hoffman devised a frame side bar that was wider in its upper third to give the correct inter-comb spacing. The width of the side bar is reduced in its lower two thirds to allow bees to circulate round their combs. The end bars of the ‘close end’ Quinby frame were the full depth of the frame so it did not permit bee circulation and could easily be glued firmly in place by propolis.

When Al Root visited the Hoffman apiary in 1890 he saw the advantage of this frame at once and, by 1896, was using the Hoffman frame in all his apiaries.

Julius Hoffman died May 1, 1907 in Montgomery, New York, United States.

Text (edited) from: Bee Craft

Happy Birthday John S. Harbison, early Californian Beekeeper, Inventor, Author


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John S. Harbison


Today is John S. Harbison’s Birthday.
September 29, 1826.

1857 – Made the first shipment of bees into California, Introducing commercial beekeeping into California, laying the foundation for the industry in that state.

1857 – Invented the section honey box.

1859 – Invented the Harbison, or California hive.

1860 – Authored the book; ‘An Improved System of Propagating the Honey Bee’

1861 – Authored the book; ‘The Beekeeper’s Directory’

1873 – The firm of Clark & Harbison shipped the first car load of honey across the continent from California.

John S. Harbison September 29, 1826

There is no product of San Diego County that has done more to spread abroad her fame, than her honey. It has acquired a reputation in the markets of the world of the highest character. It is well known to the agriculturist that a section capable of producing such honey must possess superior advantages of soil and climate, and, as a result, the attention of a class of people has been directed hither who might have been influenced by the ordinary reports of the wonderful fertility of the country. Certainly, the man who was the pioneer in making known the fact that San Diego County was an apiarian paradise, is entitled to be classed as a public benefactor. It is concerning him that this sketch is written.

John S. Harbison was born in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, September 29, 1826. He comes of a sterling American stock, and can trace his lineage back through several generations. His grandfather, John Harbison, and his grandmother, Massey Harbison, were among the first settlers of Western Pennsylvania, locating near the town of Freeport, twenty-eight miles above Pittsburgh, on the Alleghany River, where the first grist-mill in that region of country was built and operated by his grandfather. In those days that part of the country was subject to many Indian outbreaks, and the Harbisons experienced their full share of the trials and sufferings incident to a life on the frontier. His grandfather acquired fame as an Indian fighter, and participated in numerous engagements in repelling the frequent murderous raids made on the settlers by the treacherous tribes of Indians inhabiting the country from the Alleghany Mountains on the east, Lakes Erie and Michigan on the north and west, and the Ohio River on the south; arid as a volunteer soldier, took part in the several expeditions led by St. Clair and Wayne, which subsequently resulted in quelling all the Indian disturbances. Mr. Harbison’s grandfather on his mother’s side, William Curry, was a chief armorer in the Continental service, and was one of the memorable minute men of the Revolution, who were a picked body of men that could be relied upon under any circumstances and were detailed to execute the most hazardous and important undertakings. He fought in eight battles in that memorable struggle, and was with Washington when he crossed the Delaware on that stormy Christmas night and defeated the astonished Hessians encamped at Trenton.

The youth and early manhood of John S. Harbison were passed upon a farm, but in 1854, having an attack of the gold fever, he made up his mind to come to California. In October of that year he sailed from New York on the steamship Northern Light, via Nicaraugua, connecting on this side with the Sierra Nevada, which had taken the place of the Yankee Blade, the latter having been wrecked just after leaving San Francisco. He arrived in San Francisco November 20, and immediately started for the mining camp known as Campo Seco, in Amador County. Here he found that gold mining was not all his imagination had pictured, he worked hard and received very meager returns. Considerably discouraged he left the mines in a few weeks, and went down to Sacramento. Glad to turn his hand to anything, he secured work in the Sutterville saw-mill, where he stayed several months. In the meantime Harbison h id made up his mind he would give-up the avocations for which he had little taste, and devote himself to something with which he was acquainted. He sent home to Pennsylvania for a general assortment of seeds, and a small invoice of fruit trees. He received the first consignment in February, and secured ground in the town of Sutterville, near Sacramento City, where he started the first nursery of fruit and shade trees in the Sacramento Valley. During the fall and winter of 1855, and again in the fall of 1856, he made large importations of the choicest fruit trees from the most celebrated nurseries in the East. From these importations was started that great series of orchards which line the banks of the Sacramento River and adjacent country.

In May, 1857, he returned to his Eastern home, and began preparations for shipping a quantity of bees to California. He finally started from New York with sixty-seven colonies, and landed them safely Sacramento, after a journey of about four weeks. This venture was so popular that he went East again the next fill, and obtained a second supply of bees, which also were safely brought to this State. He continued the business of nurseryman and apiarist near Sacramento until February, 1874, when he removed with his family to San Diego, where he has resided ever since.

Mr. H. has had some trouble with fruit-raisers, and the result was a conflagration of a whole apiary. Apiaries are usually burned by saturating each hive with kerosene, and then applying the torch; but in the case above, the hives were placed together and burned.

In the fall of 1869, Mr. Harbison formed a partnership with Mr. R. G. Clark, for the purpose of introducing and keeping bees in San Diego County. They prepared a choice selection of one hundred and ten hives of bees from Mr. Harbison’s apiaries at Sacramento, and shipped them by the steamer Orizaba, which landed in San Diego on the morning of November 28, 1869. Mr. Clark remained in charge of the bees, making all the explorations for the most suitable ranges for the location of apiaries and production of honey. Other importations were made by the firm, and the partnership was continued for the period of four years, at the end of which time a division of the apiaries and effects was made. Mr. Clark soon after disposed of his apiaries, purchasing land in the El Cajon Valley, where he established the first raisin vineyard in the county.

The great success attending the enterprise of Messrs. Clark and Harbison, and the world-wide fame of their San Diego County honey, very soon attracted the notice of bee-keepers and farmers of all parts of the States, and as a result, many were induced to come here, who took up public lands, established homes, and commenced the business of beekeeping and tilling of the soil.

In December, 1857, Mr. Harbison invented the section honey box, an invention which has done more for the advancement of honey production than any other discovery in bee-keeping. For this he was granted a patent, January 4, 1859. At the California State Fair, held at Marysville, in September, 1858, Mr. Harbison exhibited the first section box honey.

In 1873 the firm of Clark & Harbison shipped the first car load of honey across the continent from California. Mr. Harbison was awarded a medal and diploma for his exhibit of San Diego County honey at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, in 1876. Besides his labors as a practical horticulturist, a farmer and apiarist, Mr. Harbison has found time to contribute occasionally to current literature on those subjects with which he is familiar, and is the author of a book of four hundred and forty pages, entitled, “Bee Keepers’ Directory,” it treats of bee culture in all its departments and is a recognized authority on the subject of which it treats. Although it was published in 1861, it is still considered the most practical work of the kind ever issued.

Mr. Harbison was married to Mary J. White, of New Castle, Pennsylvania, in 1865. The result of the union is one son, who died in infancy, and two daughters, both 6f whom are living.

Image The City and County of San Diego: Illustrated and Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Pioneers, Page 157, 1888
The ABC of Bee Culture, A. I. Root, 1903 page 415

Additional information here: http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/1969/october/harbisonimages/

Happy Birthday William Longgood



Born September 12, 1917. William Frank Longgood was a Pulitzer Prize winning author, reporter, and teacher. Born in St. Louis, he lived much of his life in New York. More here

He came relatively late to beekeeping but shared a nicely written book titled, The Queen Must Die, and other affairs of bee and men. Not quite bee biology but a wonderful presentation of bee behavior and philosophical thoughts on same.

Here’s a nice review found here on WordPress by Bees with ebb:




Happy Birthday Lloyd Raymond Watson


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Cuba, Allegany County, New York, USA
Death 24 Feb 1948 (aged 66)

North Hornell, Steuben County, New York, USA

Alfred, Allegany County, New York, USA

Dr. Lloyd Raymond Watson was the first to demonstrate a method to instrumentally inseminate a queen honey bee.

It wasn’t until the 1920’s that Lloyd Watson was able to demonstrate to the beekeeping community that instrumental insemination was possible. Watson used a stereomicroscope, a light source, and hand-held forceps to open a queen’s sting chamber. He was then able to inseminate her with capillary syringe filled with drone semen. Although not always reliable, his refined technique had some success, which was a vast improvement over previous attempts.

(PDF) HISTORY OF ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257297540_HISTORY_OF_ARTIFICIAL_INSEMINATION [accessed Jul 25 2018].

Extension Article by Sue Cobey:  Instrumental Insemination of Honey Bee Queens

Happy Birthday Albert J. Cook




Birth: Aug. 30, 1842
Michigan, USA
Death: Sep. 29, 1916
Shiawassee County
Michigan, USA

Albert J. Cook (1842-1916) was a 19th century educator and writer who influenced an entire generation of American beekeepers. He served as an instructor at Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan Agricultural University) in 1866 (Michigan State University later) where he offered one of the first collegiate courses in beekeeping culture.

Cook published the first textbook on American beekeeping, The Manual of the Apiary, in 1876 based upon his lecture series. The book was an instant success. Beginning as a mere brochure, this textbook expanded through ten editions in less than a decade, growing with each edition.

Albert J. Cook, professor of zoology and entomology, established the insect collection at Michigan Agricultural College (Agricultural University of Michigan) in 1867. By 1878, the collection consisted of nearly 1,200 local specimens collected primarily used for demonstration classrooms, for comparison, and to aid in species identification for farmers Michigan.

External links


  • Manual of the apiary. Chicago: Newman & Son (1880).
  • Wintering bees. Lansing: Agricultural College of Michigan (1885).
  • Report of apicultural experiments in 1891. (1892).
  • The Bee-Keeper’s Guide; or Manual of the Apiary pp. 543. (17th ed.) Chicago: Newman & Son (1902).

Source: http://beekeeping.wikia.com/wiki/Albert_J._Cook

Happy Birthday Maurice Maeterlinck


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Tucker Collection – New York Public Library Archives

From Wikipedia:

Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck[1] (also called Comte (Count) Maeterlinck from 1932;[2] [mo.ʁis ma.tɛʁ.lɛ̃ːk] in Belgium, [mɛ.teʁ.lɛ̃ːk] in France;[3] 29 August 1862 – 6 May 1949) was a Belgian playwright, poet, and essayist who was a Fleming, but wrote in French. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911 “in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers’ own feelings and stimulate their imaginations”. The main themes in his work are death and the meaning of life. His plays form an important part of the Symbolist movement.


From Amazon.com on his book titled, The Life of the Bee.

In an exuberantly poetic work that is less about bees and more about life, Maurice Maeterlinck expresses his philosophy of the human condition. The renowned Belgian poet and dramatist offers brilliant proof in this, his most popular work, that “no living creature, not even man, has achieved in the center of his sphere, what the bee has achieved.” From their amazingly intricate feats of architecture to their intrinsic sense of self-sacrifice, Maeterlinck takes a “bee’s-eye view” of the most orderly society on Earth.
An enthusiastic and expert beekeeper, Maeterlinck did not intend to write a scientific treatise, even though he details such topics as the mathematically accurate construction of the hive, the division of labor among community members, the life of the young queen and her miraculous nuptial flight, and the movement and meaning of the swarm.
An enchanting classic by one of the most important figures of world literature in the twentieth century and winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize in Literature, this fascinating study is a magnificent tribute to one of the most orderly communities in the world. It is also filled with humble lessons for the human race.


The Rule of 72 and Mite Control


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The rule of 72 and mite control.

The rule of 72 is a financial rule of thumb that says that 72 divided by an interest rate will tell you how long it takes for any given amount of money to double.

There are a lot of factors involved but this is also true with many other things in life. For example, we could determine a similar calculation for mites in honey bee colonies.

How is this relevant? The relevance is in the doubling effect. A financial planner will tell you to start saving early for this reason. No matter how much, or little, it matters to start early. Why? To get more doublings.

Your first year’s savings may take 7 years to double. That may be doubling from $1000 to $2000. Not much in the big picture of retirement, huh? But remember there’s another $1000 for each year you saved after your first year. And so it goes. Compounding takes effect and the total grows.

In ten years lets say you have$15,000. That $15,000 doubles in another 7 years plus any additional you have added. By the second doubling you’ll start to see the effects of compound interest.

So, here’s the kicker. By the time you are ready to retire, let’s  say you have $500,000. That’s great but what if you had started 7 years earlier? Think about this. The answer is you’d have another doubling in the equation. That’s right, $1,000,000. The big One Million. Or an additional $500,000 in just seven years. Crazy huh?

And to the point of this post. A mite population has a rule of 72 which can be calculated by it reproductive rate. What does that mean when it comes to mites? It means, just like the rule of 72 and money, it isn’t the first doubling that kills the colony, it’s the last doubling. Now doesn’t this explain some things that sometimes seem unexplainable? Like sudden colony crashes and what appears to be abscondings? That last doubling is simply overwhelming. The viral load transmitted by the mites becomes unsurvivable by the bees. Of course, with bees, the rule of 72 with mites in beehives has a limiting factor – the survivability of the bees.

Happy Birthday George W. Imirie, Jr.



Birth: Aug. 27, 1923
Death: Aug. 6, 2007

imirie1By Patricia Sullivan

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 6, 2007

George Wady Imirie Jr., 84, a master beekeeper who tirelessly promoted the value of bees and beehives, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 6 at the Casey House in Rockville.

As a beekeeper since 1933, Mr. Imirie knew enough about the stinging insects to brave the swarms at his Rockville home without the usual head-to-toe beekeeping garb.

“Bees don’t like socks, especially woolly ones,” he told a reporter in 1997. “A hat is a good idea, because if a bee gets tangled up in your hair, it’ll sting you. I don’t wear a shirt, because that way, if a bee is on me, I can feel it and brush it away.”

Far more than stings, Mr. Imirie worried about the decline in bee colonies over the past several decades, infestation of the wild bee population by mites, and the level of knowledge and skill of those who keep apiaries.

“He definitely was someone who didn’t feel it necessary to tolerate any ignorance around him,” said Marc Hoffman, a member of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association, which Mr. Imirie founded. “He would interrupt someone to ask, ‘How many hours is it before the larva emerges from the egg?’ and you’d better know the answer.”

But he also shared his knowledge, writing an opinionated and blunt newsletter called the “Pink Pages,” which addressed how to prevent swarming, how to prepare in fall so bees would overwinter well and how to deal with pests. The newsletter was read by beekeepers around the world. He coined a phrase now popular in bee circles, “Be a bee-keeper, not a bee-haver.”

In addition, Mr. Imirie and his sons thrilled Montgomery County Fair visitors and schoolchildren with demonstrations with a live hive of honeybees.

A Bethesda native born to a family that has been in the area for 298 years, Mr. Imirie started tending hives at age 9, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He dropped the hobby when he went to the University of Michigan for his undergraduate degree.

He was studying for a graduate degree in atomic engineering when World War II broke out. He was briefly in the Army, then joined the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M., working on the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the war, he studied engineering at Washington University in St. Louis and American University, one of his sons said. Mr. Imirie returned to Bethesda and helped run the family auto parts business for most of his working life until it was sold 18 years ago.

Mr. Imirie resumed beekeeping on his six-acre property in Rockville. He set up the hives in a square around a gnarly old apple tree. A hedge trimmed to a height just taller than Mr. Imirie surrounded the yard so that when bees emerged from the hives in search of nectar they would fly high enough to clear the bushes and avoid bystanders.

He founded the beekeepers association in the 1980s and for many years ran it almost single-handedly. After five strokes in 1990, Mr. Imirie began using a scooter. Throat cancer further slowed him in the late 1990s.

When Maryland agreed to produce auto license plates with a beekeeping insignia, Mr. Imirie was given the prototype, BEE 001, which he affixed to his scooter.

The association named its annual award for education after him.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/05/AR2007100502370.html

Birth: Aug. 27, 1923
Death: Aug. 6, 2007

Happy Birthday Walt Wright


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walt-wrightWalt Wright was born and raised in Burtonsville, MD, then a barefoot country boy area, and now suburbia of a sprawling Washington, DC. He enlisted in the Air Force to get electronics training, and served as a radar repairman. After service time he joined General Electric in maintaining overseas sites of the Security Service (spell that SPY).

Still with GE, in 1960 he relocated to Huntsville, Ala./Redstone Arsenal to make his contribution on the nation’s quest to put a man on the moon. Development of the propulsive stages of the Saturn V moon rocket was accomplished by NASA on Redstone Arsenal. His responsibility on that program was electronic compatibility of subsystems within stages and compatibility between propulsive stages and the electronics of the instrument ring. No interaction (interference/noise) was permitted between systems on the man-rated launch vehicle.

For the Shuttle program, an added responsibility was systems engineer for on-board Range Safety components. The Air Force has autonomous authority to destroy any launch from the Cape area that poses a threat to populated areas of eastern Florida. Astronauts on board is no exception. If the launch strays from the predicted trajectory, the Air Force can destroy the vehicle by radio command. On-board equipment to implement destruct includes the command receiving and processing electronics and pyrotechnics to disperse propellants.

Walt is aware that the above work history provides very weak credentials to be considered as a honey bee “expert.” He took up beekeeping in his late fifties to supplement retirement income. Confident in his trouble shooting skills, he accepted the challenge “very early” to get to the bottom of the swarming problem. He credits observation skills, sharpened by years of electronics trouble-shooting, for solving the riddle. He was surprised that it was as easy as it was. When his hypothesis was in place in three years, he thought at first it must be in error. Surely, thousands of beekeepers, looking into millions of hives, could not possibly have missed the obvious. His conclusion: beekeepers see, but do not observe, or ask themselves why the bees do what they do.

Honey bees are motivated by survival of the colony. Survival of the existing colony is priority one. In the spring, priority two is the generation of the reproductive swarm. Not even that much is described in the popular literature. Walt concentrated his investigation of swarming in terms of colony activities that support those survival objectives. His findings are a radical departure from literature conventional wisdom. As an example, he claims that all the elements of “congestion”, such as bee crowding and nectar in the brood nest, are deliberate steps to implementing the reproductive swarm process, and not the other way around. The literature has congestion as the “cause” and that’s backwards.

Getting his observations published has been slow moving. Editors of the magazines have an obligation to their subscribers to weed out the chaff from crackpots. Natural skepticism creates mostly rejections of submitted articles. For the year 06 he resorted to writing articles on general beekeeping techniques to build a base of credibility.

He looks forward to presenting his observations through Beesource. It should not be necessary via this medium to appease editors or their advisors. As a start in telling it like it is, he announces point blank: The mystery of reproductive swarming has been solved.

Walter William Wright
August 24, 1932 – February 6, 2016



Title Publication Date
*Spring Reversal Not Good Management for All Areas? American Bee Journal Jan-96
*Spring Management is Mandatory With Tracheal Mites American Bee Journal Feb-96
*A Different Twist on Swarm Prevention, Part 1 American Bee Journal Mar-96
*A Different Twist on Swarm Prevention, Part 2 American Bee Journal Apr-96
*Checkerboarding – A Preliminary Update on My Swarm Control Method American Bee Journal Jun-96
*Checkerboarding Works American Bee Journal Jul-96
*Swarm Prevention Alternative – Checkerboarding Results and Conclusions American Bee Journal Nov-96
*Tennessee Early Spring Management Bee Culture Dec-96
*Playing It Safe Bee Culture Feb-97
*Swarm Prevention in Tennessee Bee Culture Mar-97
*Apply Survival Traits of Honey Bees for Swarm Prevention and Increased Honey Production, Part 1 American Bee Journal Feb-02
*Apply Survival Traits of Honey Bees for Swarm Prevention and Increased Honey Production, Part 2 American Bee Journal Mar-02
*Nectar Management 101 Bee Culture Feb-02
*Is It Congestion? Bee Culture Feb-03
*Survival Traits of the European Honey Bee Bee Culture Mar-03
*Seasonal Colony Survival Traits Bee Culture Apr-03
*Swarm Preperation Bee Culture May-03
*Colony Spring Operation Bee Culture Jun-03
*Colony Decision Making – And a Look at Observation Hive *Behavior Bee Culture Oct-03
*Evils of the Double Deep Bee Culture Nov-03
*Survival Traits #6 – Operational Effects on Nectar Accumulation Bee Culture Apr-04
Pollen Box Overwintering Bee Culture Sep-04
Do You Get Black Locust in the Supers? Bee Culture Jan-05
Are They Supersedure or Swarm Cells? Bee Culture Jul-05
Fall Feeding Bee Culture Nov-05
Nine Frame Brood Chamber? Never! Bee Culture Jan-06
Drone Management Bee Culture Mar-06
Deficiencies in Design of the Queen Excluder Bee Culture Apr-06
Advantages/Disadvantages of Swarm Prevention By Checkerboarding/Nectar Management Bee Culture May-06
The Reasons Why the Queen Excluder Limits Honey Production Bee Culture Jun-06
“Attic” Ventilation Bee Culture Jul-06
Yarn # 1 – Little Momma Bee Culture Aug-06
*Backfilling – What’s That? Bee Culture Sep-06
Freebees Bee Culture Oct-06
Nest Scouts and the Dance Language Bee Culture Nov-06
Boardman Feeder/Stimulative Feeding Bee Culture Feb-07
Splits Are a Sound Investment Bee Culture Mar-07
*The Capped Honey Reserve Bee Culture Apr-07
Art of Beekeeping Bee Culture Sep-07
CCD – Another Opinion Bee Culture Sep-08
How Many Eggs CAN a Queen Lay? Bee Culture Nov-08
More on the Pollen Reserve BeeSource POV Mar-09
Adverse Effects of the “Patty” Bee Culture Apr-09
Propolis – Another 5 Percenter Bee Culture May-09
Objections To The Double Deep Bee Culture Dec-09
Colony Age Effects Bee Culture Feb-10
Small Hive Beetle – My Perspective Bee Culture Jul-10
*Prevent Swarming – Before The Bees Even Think About It Bee Culture Feb-11
*Increased Honey Production of Checkerboarded Colonies Bee Culture Apr-11
*CB Saves Work, Time, And Expenses Bee Culture Jun-11
*Nectar Storage Before The Main Flow BeeSource POV
Nectar Management Works! – by Rob Koss BeeSource POV
Management For Honey Production BeeSource POV
Supplement To Management For Honey Production Handout BeeSource POV
Note: Title with an asterisk (*) in front are pertinent to Nectar Management.

A Defensive Colony

Anyone would have gotten a kick out of my encounter this morning.

The same colony that gave me a “warm greeting” a couple weeks ago during a feeding jar exchange lit me up today.

I’ve been moving some of the 5-frame nuc hives over to 10-frame equipment lately. This particular hive is just gangbusters and had outgrown its stack of three 5-frame deep nuc hive bodies. I was going to move them over to ten frame equipment 2 weeks ago but EAS pushed me into a compromise position – I ended up adding one more 5-frame deep hive body.

So, today I approached the stack of four 5-frame hive bodies with the goal of transferring them to two 10-frame hive bodies. Knowing their previous attitude, I made up my mind I’d treat them with textbook preciseness and tick off all of the finesse points I’ve learned in my eleven years of beekeeping. Surely this would be a good test  of my expertise.

Proper smoking front entrance and through a crack created as I eased open the migratory cover. Allow to settle, and eased open the cover. Surprisingly there were a lot of bees and they had been busy filling those frames I had just placed two weeks ago. I transferred the frames into the awaiting deep positioned alongside the nuc hive. I remove the now empty nuc hive body and set aside without brushing so as to not stir up any bees needlessly.

The bees were much thicker in the next hive body. I smoked myself well and across the top bars before entering. Frame after frame of capped honey surprised me as I was hoping I’d be moving some brood into that waiting first 10-frame deep. After a few pauses to smoke myself, my gloves, and the top bars I was beginning to wonder if maybe this wasn’t going to go well. After all I had 2 more nuc hive bodies to go and they were already beginning to roar.

I decided it was just as well moving forward since returning the ten frames already moved would probably be just as disturbing.

Given the first ten frames were all honey or nectar, I moved that hive body off the new bottom board and away from the action. I then placed an empty ten frame hive body on the new bottom board to receive what I knew would likely be the brood nest.

This is when things got interesting. All beekeepers know there is a certain speed at which things must be done within a hive. Too fast and the bees object, too slow and they get restless. Both too fast and too slow create unhappy bees and an unhappy beekeeper. As I started into that third nuc hive body, after a gentle smoking, they started serious objections. After each frame removal I had to step away and smoke myself, gloves, and jacket. Once again I removed the empty nuc hive body without shaking the remaining bees or brushing so as to not stir or create more discontented flying bees. But they were on my hood at this point and my smoking now extended to my pants legs all the way down to my ankles. The new beekeeping pants I was so thrilled about because they were light and airy were now a handicap and I had already taken a few stings to the legs. My jacket was holding them off but they were velcroed to my arms and veil. Walk away and smoke.

At this point I had to reload the smoker as I had unloaded most of it on myself since starting this hive. One box to go I told myself as I re-smoked those pants again.

The last five frames met with more and more objection and while my PPE was taking a beating it was performing well except when my skin would touch the fabric and the embedded stingers would then come in contact with my skin and burn. More walkaways and self smoke. At last all frames had been moved. I slid the new 10-frame hive over into the spot of the old nuc hive and moved the last nuc hive body along with bottom board and a couple pounds of bees to the other end of the 10 foot hive stand. The bees covered the upper edges and top of the new 10 frame equipment and refused to move down after a bit of smoke. I decided I needed to complete my effort and retrieved the 10 frame hive body that contained all the nectar and honey and placed it on top making some attempt not to crush bees by sliding it into place. Probably a fail but an attempt nevertheless.

Now  to shake the bees from that last nuc hive body and bottom board. I had already decided the bees in the other nuc hives bodied would be allowed to return on their own. The air filled with indignant bees on returning the bees from that last nuc hive body with a shake. I figure half went into the new hive and half went on me. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Damn thin pants! With every movement I was brushing against embedded stingers in my gloves and jacket.

I placed the inner cover and telescoping cover on them and, unlike other colonies I have transferred, these bees did not get their reward of a jar of sugar syrup. Sorry, no time for niceties.

Jumped into my truck and I hightailed it out of there. One hundred yards away I stopped to secure the contents in the truck bed, remove my PPE, and any clinging bees. I’m soaked with sweat so I drive up the local fast food place to claim my 99 cent iced coffee as a treat and head home to put my gear away.

As I remove equipment out of the truck bed I am attacked by more bees – apparently my tee shirt, along with sweat is heavy with alarm pheromone.

After battling a few bees I am finally able to go inside and count my stings. Looks like about 20 but it’s hard to tell as some look like stings on top of each other.

I think I’ll leave that colony alone for a week or two.

Next time I’ll move the aggressive colony down to the end of the hive stand first and place the receiving hive in the place of old colony. Lesson learned.

Bees 1; Larry 0

Yellow Jackets by sassafrasbeefarm


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Yellow jackets. Not that you can see any in the picture, this was a call for a honey bee removal. I’ll give the caller credit for thinking they couldn’t be yellow jackets because they weren’t in the ground and they were in a hollow (sort of) cavity. Sometimes those pesky yellow jackets do things differently.

From Wikipedia:

Yellowjacket or Yellow jacket is the common name in North America for predatory social wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as “wasps” in other English-speaking countries. Most of these are black and yellow like the eastern yellowjacket Vespula maculifrons and the aerial yellowjacket Dolichovespula arenaria; some are black and white like the bald-faced hornet, Dolichovespula maculata. Others may have the abdomen background color red instead of black. They can be identified by their distinctive markings, their occurrence only in colonies, and a characteristic, rapid, side-to-side flight pattern prior to landing. All females are capable of stinging. Yellowjackets are important predators of pest insects.[1]

Yellowjackets are sometimes mistakenly called “bees” (as in “meat bees”), given that they are similar in size and sting, but yellowjackets are actually wasps. They may be confused with other wasps, such as hornets and paper wasps. Polistes dominula, a species of paper wasp, is very frequently misidentified as a yellowjacket. A typical yellowjacket worker is about 12 mm (0.5 in) long, with alternating bands on the abdomen; the queen is larger, about 19 mm (0.75 in) long (the different patterns on their abdomens help separate various species). Workers are sometimes confused with honey bees, especially when flying in and out of their nests. Yellowjackets, in contrast to honey bees, have yellow or white markings, are not covered with tan-brown dense hair on their bodies, do not carry pollen, and do not have the flattened hairy hind legs used to carry it.

These species have lance-like stingers with small barbs, and typically sting repeatedly,[1] though occasionally a stinger becomes lodged and pulls free of the wasp’s body; the venom, like most bee and wasp venoms, is primarily only dangerous to humans who are allergic or are stung many times. All species have yellow or white on their faces. Their mouthparts are well-developed with strong mandibles for capturing and chewing insects, with probosces for sucking nectar, fruit, and other juices. Yellowjackets build nests in trees, shrubs, or in protected places such as inside man-made structures, or in soil cavities, tree stumps, mouse burrows, etc. They build them from wood fiber they chew into a paper-like pulp. Many other insects exhibit protective mimicry of aggressive, stinging yellowjackets; in addition to numerous bees and wasps (Müllerian mimicry), the list includes some flies, moths, and beetles (Batesian mimicry).

Yellowjackets’ closest relatives, the hornets, closely resemble them, but have larger heads, seen especially in the large distance from the eyes to the back of the head.[1]

Read more here: Wikipedia

It’s Time We Talked About Feeding

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Master Craftsman Beekeeper David MacFawn feeding his bees using a bucket feeder.

It’s time we had a heart to heart talk about feeding.

It can be a touchy topic and there are lots of opinions on feeding bees but the bottom line for many first year beekeepers is that there may be no other option.

Lately I have been getting lots of email and telephone calls from people regarding bees on their property, at hummingbird feeders, fig trees, or trash cans causing some concern. And then there is the snow cone business owner with bees harassing his customers and covering his garbage bins. And the call from Krispy Kreme Donuts describing large numbers of bees around their dumpsters and trying to enter the building. All of this is symptomatic of the problem in the bee yard – hungry, irritable bees!

My concern at this time is not so much ensuring the bees have enough stores for winter because there is still time enough for that (if they have built enough comb to store winter stores). Instead I am worried that the little scamps may not have enough NOW. Even with honey stores honey bees prefer nectar to carry out day to day operations and without incoming nectar (or syrup) they will become increasingly irritable and will mob otherwise unlikely sugar sources.

So why am I worried about day to day operations? Soon the bees that will be overwintering will be produced. These bees will have to be “fat bees” to get through the winter. Sooner than that though will be the bees that raise and feed the “fat bees” using the secretions from their glands to produce the jelly the larvae will eat. Those bees will, likewise, have to be strong and healthy. So, we have to raise healthy bees now to ensure our winter bees will get the best possible care and nutrition before they undertake the task of surviving winter.

My first real summer of beekeeping I had a series of events that took me away from the house (and bee yard) for a few weeks. It was around this time of year and basically I had been gone for about three weeks (off and on). When, after three weeks, I returned my bees were looking bad and I couldn’t put my finger on it. They had some honey stored and I was feeding as much as I thought they might need. Some anyway. When I was home. Well…

One of our own MSBA Master beekeepers came by (name withheld to protect the innocent) and helped me as I went through a few hives. Diplomatically I was told the larvae looked dry. Not enough jelly in the cells. Probably not enough feed. I got serious and a started feeding in earnest (and stayed home the rest of the summer). It turned them around and within a month things were ticking along just fine again.

I know, it’s expensive. But it’s probably cheaper than feeding the dog and when has the dog made honey for you anyway? Plus, it’s paying it forward – get this hive through winter and a simple split will double your hives for cheap next spring.

A final comment on bees harassing non-beekeepers: If you think it is their problem, certainly not yours, you’re not looking far enough ahead. In reality, that neighbor or business owner has every right to take action to eliminate a pest that is threating his/her business or the enjoyment of their property. And even if local ordinances allow beekeeping, nuisance laws still exist. And bees making a pest of themselves may get sprayed by others. Occasionally I get calls to come help but there isn’t much that can be done if bees have identified a food source. I suspect most people and business owners simply eliminate the problem and don’t tell. Do the right thing and keep your bees satisfied and busy at home.