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!

Sustainable Beekeeping thru Nucleus Colonies “Beekeeping 357”


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Early on in my addiction to all things beekeeping I listened to podcasts. Essentially a podcast is similar to a  radio interview recorded for listening anytime via the internet. Podcasts are great to listen to at times when reading a book or watching a video aren’t possible. So, while building frames, mowing the lawn, or driving the car you can still be immersed in learning more about beekeeping. The Kiwimana Buzz Beekeeping Podcast is one of several podcasts available to listeners (links below).

Some time ago I listened to a local beekeeper give a lecture about flexibility in beekeeping. One of the points of his lecture was going with the natural rhythm of the bees and nature. Experienced beekeepers, having kept bees over many seasons, know these things. Spring is the time of increase, a time of plenty, growth, and expansion. Summer follows here in the South Carolina Midlands with dearth and a time for the bees to tighten the belt on resources. Fall and Winter are times when the bees depend on stored resources. This is also when the stress on the hive is greatest due to the climate, pest pressures, viri, and lack of food stores all of which sometimes leads to colony failure.

Going with the flux described above means making increase when the bees want to  make increase. The beekeeper goes with the flow and capitalizes on the ease with which nature and the bees expand during times of plenty. The idea being to capitalize during times of plenty so you too, the beekeeper, have resources during the harder times of seasons ahead. Joe Lewis describes such a method in the podcast below titled Beekeeping 357.

This week we are talking to Joe Lewis from Maryland in the big Ol’ US of A. This is Episode Ninety Nine of our beekeeping podcast.

You can download the podcast directly HERE, or click here to play. Feel free to share the show with your friends.

Welcome To the kiwimana buzz…

Hi, it’s Gary and Margaret here, We are beekeepers from the hills of the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland, New Zealand. Our podcast is about beekeeping, Gardening and bit of politics about environmental issues. We also have been known to go off on tangents about other issues.

This interview was recorded in October 2016.


Joe is a Beekeeper and writer from Bel Air, Maryland which is between Baltimore and Philadelphia in North America. He has a passion for the Honey Bees and took up the hobby after retiring from the US Army. He was self diagnosed with the “Not enough bees disease” over eleven years ago and spends his days trying to locate a cure.

Sustainable Beekeeping thru Nucleus Colonies “Beekeeping 357”

Click one the video below to see a video lecture by Joe Lewis

Here is what you will discover

  • How to cure “The Not enough Bees Disease”
  • The secret to keeping lots of bees and working a full time job
  • Why Five is the right number in Beekeeping
  • What the Beekeeping 357 principle all about
  • How Joe started writing for the American Beekeepers Journal

Resources mentioned in the show

  • Joe Business is Harford Honey, the web site is HERE
  • Book Following the Bloom by Douglas Whynott can be found HERE
  • The Book Beekeeping in coastal California by Jeremy Rose can be purchased HERE
  • Susquehanna Beekeepers Association has a website HERE
  • Joe Lewis Queen rearing Calendar Wheel, download PDF HERE
  • The fifty two most important people in your BeeClub, have a read HERE
  • Our interview with Randy Oliver from Scientific Beekeeping can be found HERE
  • Randy Oliver’s Article Queens for Pennies, read it HERE
  • North West New Jersey YouTube Channel can be found HERE
  • Landi Simone Nucleus Colonies Presentation can be found HERE
  • Our interview with the Great Frank Lindsay can be listened to HERE
  • J Smith – Better Queens Download from Michael Bush Website HERE

Source: Kiwimana Buzz Beekeeping Podcast Episode 99

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

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.

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 2018 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.

Working With the Bees’ Natural Tendencies


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(All beekeeping is local. The dates given below are guidelines for the Midlands of South Carolina. Adjust to your local area as needed.)

This time of year both beekeepers and the honey bees are working towards the same short term goals but for different reasons.

Let’s start with some bee math. We can expect a bee born this time of year to have a life expectancy of approximately 5 or 6 weeks. Of those 6 weeks only approximately 3 weeks will be spent as a forager.

We also know, based on information provided to us by our seasoned mentors, that here in the Midlands we can expect our nectar flow to begin, in earnest, around late March / early April and to last approximately until the first week of June.

To gather the greatest amount of nectar (ultimately honey) and to get the most comb drawn during that 2 month window of strong nectar flow we must have all hands on deck on day one of the nectar flow. Meaning a colony at its peak of nectar gathering abilities, fully staffed to handle the challenge of millions of blooms occuring in a short period of time. (Think of it as having enough wait staff in a restaurant just prior to dinner hour. Too few staff and things just don’t get done.)

The bees want the same thing we do at the same time. They want a full staff on day one of the nectar flow. Missing the mark and showing up with a full staff at the end of the nectar flow is useless and, in fact, a burden on the colony’s ability to feed lots of bees after the nectar is gone.

So, it seems we have a mutual goal between beekeeper and honey bee – lots of bees on day one of what amounts to their work shift.

Let’s make a best guess as to when Day One occurs based on history as given to us by our mentors and say it’s April 1st here in the Midlands. Should I run an ad in Free Times advertising for Help Wanted to help with this year’s nectar flow?

“Seasonal Help Wanted: Honey Bees to help gather nectar during this year’s nectar flow. Must be willing to travel and be in foraging phase of life.”

No, probably won’t work. But using bee math and the bees own instincts for this time of year we can determine how to get those bees. I need a three week old bee available on April 1st. Given it takes 21 days from egg to birth and then allowing for the three week age requirement for the job, I can determine that a new foraging bee on April 1st was an egg exactly 6 weeks before the nectar flow began. Also, since the queen can only lay a set amount of eggs a day – perhaps 1,200 or maybe a bit more, I had better start even before that 6 weeks if I want a FULL staff on day one of the nectar flow.

Still with me? Great because the good, and bad, parts are coming soon.

What this means for you today (Feb. 20th), is that we are just now at that date when an egg layed today will get her work permit as a 3 week old forager on the first week of April. That’s good! Another thing that’s good is the bees have already been ramping up and your queen should be a laying machine right now. What you want to do is encourage that queen and that colony to continue this egg laying, brood rearing mania, tirelessly for the next 60 days. Important: Do you know how to do this?

Now for the bad news. Your reasons for the buildup are not the same as the bees. You both want a buildup and on that point you support each other’s efforts. However, because you have different end goals you have to understand each other’s motivations if you are going to be successful partners.

I’ll try to be gentle but, you see, they (the bees) want to move out. Not all of them; just about 60% and the queen. They’re preparing now for their move. You may have thought they were building up for the nectar flow and you’re right, they are, but they see the start of the nectar flow as providing the means for a successful move. We call it a swarm; they call it reproduction. By moving out at the start of the nectar flow it gives them the best chance of building a new home and surviving.

For the beekeeper this is like half of your employees leaving just as your grand opening day presents itself. And the amount of work to be done is so great that you’ll not get it done if you lose more than half those employees (well, you’ll probably get enough for them but not you).

So, the dilemma is to convince the bees they’d actually like to stay around in their current home for just a while longer. Very Important: Do you know how to do this?

Heck, convince them that if they stay, in June you’ll actually help them move (i.e. make split).

Early Spring? Or not…


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Early Swarms 2016

I’m not at all convinced the warm climate we are seeing this winter is here to stay. But I’m not sure the bees agree with my weather predictions either. Watching the landing boards with foragers in full pollen collection mode and brief inspections tell me that some colonies are already in full tilt brood production.

What does this mean for the beekeeper?

Well, it means lots of excitment watching them grow at a rate that is phenomenal. By this time next month either you will have made room for the extra bees and managed them for swarming or you may be looking up in the trees for half of your work force.

Or it could actually be more dire. Winter food stores up until this point may have been steadily declining at a gradual but predictable rate. So what happens when the queen starts her spring buildup, egg laying extravaganza? Well, between increased consumption of ever more house bees and foragers, plus trying to feed thousands of larvae, the food stores decline can no longer be graphed as a straight line. Now it is a sharp spike upward!

Beginning now is when the beekeeper needs to remember to lift the backs of their hives. And on those pretty days when you get into them to ooh-ahh at their numbers and beauty, look and assess for nectar stores. December and January saw a full pantry with slow, steady declines, but brood rearing brings on food demands that dwarf late fall and early winter.

And a final scare for you. It’s quite a curiosity that starved bees don’t slowly decline due to lack of food. No, for them it’s the Three Musketeers: “All for one and one for all,” meaning they’ll do down together if they run out of food. One day they are all fed, the next, well…not.

Midlands March Beekeeping Calendar


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Swarm Trap in tree

Swarm Trap in tree

March is full of action in the bee yard from growing populations in our hives to first swarms. Weather in the Midlands can still hold surprises – last year we unexpected weather  which disrupted swarming and also caused some early splits to fail.

1) Towards the end of February, and the first of March, if not already done, place swarm traps with pheromone attractant or lemongrass oil attractant to catch swarms. Traps ideally should be 10 – 12 feet above ground but can be lower for convenience and safety.
2) On growing overwintered hives, place first super at beginning of this month. Stop syrup feeding if they are making white wax indicating a flow is in progress. Plan on checks every 7 to 10 days to head off swarm preparations.

3) Inspect for laying queen, disease, etc.

4) Consider spring splits this month if weather is warm, drones are present, and you wish to increase your colonies. Inasmuch as it takes lots of bees to make excess honey, splits will impact a colonies ability to produce surplus honey. The frequently heard saying is, “You can make bees or honey, but rarely both.”

5) Swap (rotate) brood boxes if not previously done. This provides the queen with the typically empty comb from the, now empty, lower box. Also, disruption delays swarming. Video Here

6) Checkerboarding frames above brood nest with empty drawn comb alternating with full frames of honey also provides disruption as well as food availability in case of a period of unexpected colder weather.

7) ‘Open up’ brood chamber (temperature and weather permitting)with drawn comb while keeping in mind not to disrupt the integrity of the brood nest. (Note: ‘Opening up’ refers to adding empty drawn comb for the queen to use.)

8) Look for poor queen performance and mark colony for queen replacement for when queens become available. Wishful thinking and second chances don’t work when you have a poor queen.

9) Notice Flowering Tulip MagnoliaBradford Pear, Pine pollen, Yellow Jasmine, Oak pollen, Azaleas starting. Note lots of pollen coming in as brood expands.

10) If you ordered package bees make final preparations for their arrival – equipment, site preparation. Mark your calendar for package delivery day and prepare for the excitement.

11) Nucleus hive orders will close this month. Place order if needed.

12) Start or renew your association membership.  Attend local meetings.

13) While you still have time, read a couple articles on swarm control here and here. Many more are available: Google search “Swarm Prevention and Control.”

Spring Management: March 1-15th (Temperature above 60 degrees):

  • Rotate brood boxes if two exist or add 2nd if only one exists. If you add a brood box, place it above existing brood box. Use drawn comb if available.
  • Check the brood comb and replace frames that have excessive drone cells, are old, or have other problems.
  • Check for queen cells. Repeat every seven for about 6 weeks. If you find an capped queen cell (swarm cell), verify hive is queen-right and consider making increase by moving queen to new hive to simulate swarm. If you have multiple swarm cells consider making splits by moving frames with cells leaving at least one queen cell in the parent colony.

All month:

  • Inspect queen/brood status, if weak, mark colony for re-queening when new queens are available.
  • If running 2 brood boxes, rotate boxes to maintain space for queen to lay as well as for swarm prevention technique.
  • Last week of month, place minimum 2 empty supers of drawn comb or 1 super if using frames of foundation on strong colonies (assuming no major beetle problems).
  • Medium strength colonies should receive 1 empty super if using drawn comb to allow them room to both guard and grow.
  • Replace 2-3 frames of old drawn comb in each hive body with frames of new foundation.
  • Remember to remove all medications from colony according to product label directions prior to adding honey supers.

14) I would be negligent if I did not mention that between now and the nectar flow the chances of your colony starving are the greatest they have been all year. Why? Because your bees have ramped up brood rearing to a level that requires a great deal of nutrition. They are consuming their pantry at a rate that is unsustainable until the nectar flow begins. Ideally, they don’t run out before the nectar flow starts. But it is up to you to monitor their remaining stores to prevent them from starving. You’ve gotten them this far. Don’t let them starve just days before nature’s bounty presents itself.

15) Email your Association’s Secretary, asking what you can do to help. Volunteer to lend a hand in your organization. Many hands make light work. If you’d like to see your organization grow, offer  to help and maintain your current level of member services. Your help is needed.

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.

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. I’ll bump that article to the top at a later date when it’s more relevant. Today, though, 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_nThere’s lots to do in the bee yard today since mother nature has stolen at least two weeks preparation time out from under us here in the Midlands of South Carolina.

I had a few, okay maybe a half dozen, hives that were just too burr combed up in the feeding shim to properly handle than I would have have ten or more days ago. Things weren’t better today.

The first venture into the hives after winter is probably one of the most difficult and dreaded for me each year. They have burr combed up all my violations of bee space and propolized everything together such that not much goes 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. That the hives in question today had been deferred spoke to the fact that 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. They 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 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 boxes. 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 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 bang the inner cover against the shim and smoke them some more. After a couple raps 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?

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.

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

First Lessons in Beekeeping – C.P. Dadant, Published 1917


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A review of First Lessons in Beekeeping by C.P. Dadant. The current edition is written by Keith Delaplane and is widely available in hardcopy. The original is available via download here: First Lessons in Beekeeping by C.P Dadant

“Camille Pierre Dadant (1851–1938) was the son of Charles Dadant, one of the fathers of modern beekeeping techniques, inventor of the Dadant beehive, and founder of one of the first beekeeping equipment manufacturers. The business is still extant and run by the family, as is their publication, American Bee Journal” – publisher review. I’ve chosen this […]

The full article can be read here: First Lessons in Beekeeping – C.P. Dadant, Published 1917 — Gastronomy Monk

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

Will your bees be Olympians this year?


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It takes preparation to get to the Olympics. Are your bees going to the Olympics this year?

Time is short. Will you be ready? Have you coached them up and prepared them for the adventure of the spring nectar flow? Are they building strength in population? Are they healthy? Is their mite count 1% or less? Is your equipment ready?

It takes approximately 6 weeks to prepare a bee population of sufficient size to fully capitalize on the nectar flow. The time to stimulate that increase is now. It is time to do everything you possibly can to get your bees healthy and increase their populations. The saying is, “build your bees before the flow, not on the flow.”

One either prepares before the nectar flow begins or one stays behind the entire spring. Nature does not wait for the procrastinator.

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/


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. 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 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 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 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 loud as you want.

Keep a close eye on them.

Swarm Control by Bill’s Russian Bee Blog


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Here are two articles on a topic we should brush up on now that swarm season is almost here. The first article is on Checkerboarding, a swarm prevention technique invented by Walt Wright. The second article is titled, Swarm Control and Management by Dr. James Tew. (The second article is a little misaligned but you should be able to find it elsewhere.)


Checkerboarding is a relatively new approach to swarm prevention. Although it has only been published for about 15 years, it defies the old adage that “swarming is inevitable.” This submittal is intended to substantiate or quantify the advertised reliability.

Implementation of the checkerboarding (CB) manipulation is disgustingly simple. The manipulation consists of removing alternate frames of honey from the top box and replacing those frames with empty comb suitable for rearing brood. Since there is no brood nest disturbance, it can be done in late winter before the brood nest expands into the top box of capped honey. After the initial manipulation, to sustain swarm prevention reliability, maintain empty comb at the top for the colony to grow into with brood nest expansion. If that sounds too simple to be effective, you are in good company. Almost nobody believes it would get the reliability that is inherent in the approach.


Read the full article here: Swarm Control — Bill’s Russian Bee Blog

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.

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 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

Notes and Beehives


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Sitting inside thinking about the recent rains beating down on the hives, it occurs to me that I’ve not written about my experience using markers for writing on and identifying hives.

This may appear as an advertisement of some sort but I assure you it’s simply a suggestion for those that are tired of marking and numbering hives only to realize weeks or months later that your notes or numbers have long since faded away. I tried everything to simply number my hives so I could match up my notes with the hives. I tried permanent markers, sign markers, and every marker I tried let me down. It seems the sun and the weather is a lot more brutal and persistent that I realized.

At first I tried to use permanent Sharpies for labeling hives. They make a clear and nice looking mark for stencils and labels but they faded in sunlight lasting only a couple months in daily direct sunlight, rain, etc. I moved on to their marker designed for Signs (also designated permanent) with disappointing, similar results. Then my friend showed me a really permanent marker he uses to label his hunting equipment and other outdoor property. The trick to finding a really permanent outdoor marking pen is in the name. If it says SOLID marker then you are getting real paint and not ink. I can’t remember the name of the one my friend originally showed me but since that first Solid Marker Pen I have started using Deco Color ID: Solid Stick. The ID Solid Stick is the perfect paint marker for most surfaces and is thermal resistant to extreme temperatures from -10°C to 200°C. This paint stick is opaque, water proof, fade resistant, dries in 5-7 minutes, and can be used indoors or outdoors. Use it outside on glass, tires, concrete, garbage cans, street address identifiers, PVC Pipes and plastic tubing/sheeting and much more! Indoor uses include sporting gear, toys, bicycles, boots, pots and pans, ect.  Available in 5 colors:  Red, Yellow, Blue, Black and White. They are available at Hobby Lobby for under $5 which is a little more expensive than I’ve found online but worth the price. They are truly permanent it seems. I started using them two years ago numbering hives. Last year I started using the hive tops as my notebook making notes, writing dates, hive status, etc. and so far the numbering and writing looks the same as the day I first wrote on the hive covers. In fact, the paint pen is so permanent the only way to remove the marking is to paint over older notes. Truly a product that works.

How to Catch A Swarm-N-A-Bucket!


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Source: Little Creek Bee Ranch

When you see a swarm of bees like this, over 12 feet in a tree, what to do? I’ve lost several very large swarms of Honey Bees, only because they where so high up in a tree (15 to 22 feet), that I had no chance of getting them back. It’s heart breaking to just stand there and look at them, knowing you aren’t going to be able to catch them. They might stay there for a day or two, but that’s about it. Therefore, I came up with a serious plan for being able to catch them back. If you’ll pay close attention to how we go about this, I’m certain you’ll benefit from these tips.

Get your gear together, and setup. The pole and bucket that you see, is PRICELESS! The pole is a paint pole, that extends. The bucket us called a Hipps Swarm Bucket. Yes, you can figure out how to make your own if you’d like.

You might need a helping hand in order to get this job done. Bees that have swarmed, are heavy with honey. Once the main swarm of bees hits the bottom of the bucket, you can’t just TIP the pole over and dump it into the hive….the aluminum pole will just snap. After the bees hit the bottom of the bucket, one person holds the pole upright, while the other person screws the black handle lose, and let the pole slide down into itself, and THEN you can dump them into a hive.

Get the bucket positioned under the swarm and give a solid push. Make certain that the swarm itself is even inside the bucket, before you thump them off the limb. You’ll feel the weight hit the bottom of the bucket, and then it’s up to you and your helper to get the pole upright, and keep it that way. Once the swarm hits the bottom of the bucket, pull the chord hard and close the lid on top of the bucket. Before I put the bucket up in the tree, I spritz inside with some sugar water.

Once the pole is under control, losen the handle and let the bucket come down to a managable level. Then you can walk over and dump them into a hive body. Be sure to take out several frames in order for the bees to have plenty of room to make it into the box.

You may even have to go back up with the bucket in order to get another shot at the remainder of the bees. You may do this several times, at least. The point here is; once the initial swarm has been in the bucket, that BEE SMELL from the Queen becomes your “bee lure”. Use it to your advantage. The bees will come down into the bucket in order to find the Queen. You should have gotten the Queen in the first grab.

You might even leave the pole and bucket up against the tree for a few minutes, in order to the bees to settle in the bucket. You might even put in a few old, black brood frames if you have some extra. Bees love these black frames!

Have your helper take off the hive lid, and dump in more bees. This is repeated about 4 times, or more.

Notice on the hive above, the porch entrance is blocked with a towel. I have placed sugar water on them. I left the hole in the box OPEN. Once the bees get oriented inside this box, they’ll start coming out for a look.

You can go back up for more bees.

Dump them in the box. Each time, you must COLLAPSE the pole.

Leave the pole against the tree for a few minutes. Bees that are flying around, will settle down, and find their way into the bucket to have a look around. You can close the lid again, and bring them down. They’re a bit confused and lost. Help them find their new home!

Letting them settle into their new home.

Let the bucket lure in more bees.

Be patient. Let the smell in the bucket do it’s magic. The bees will look for their Queen BY SMELL. They’ll smell her in the bucket and go down to investigate.

Collapse the pole, bring down more bees.

Dump into hive body. Put the lid back on top of the hive body, but upside down…which makes it easier to remove and put back on. We want this lid to stay on while we work the bucket. I want the bees to come back out of the hole, and begin to fan. They’ll “pooch and fan”, telling their sisters to “Come home! Come home! The food is here, and the Queen is here! Come home!” This is what you’re looking for, so watch the bees closely.

Once most all of the bees are in the box, put the lid back on properly.

Give the hole a squirt of sugar water. Let them get oriented to the front of this box.

When you bring your bucket back down, with more bees in it, just set the bucket facing the front of the hive, or tap the bucket off upside down in front of the hive. They’ll quickly figure out where their new home is located.

All of these bees got up and made their way into their new home. After about an hour, these bees where all settled down in their new home. We left the hive in this wagon over night, giving the Scout bees a chance to make it back into their new home also. Later that night, well after sundown, I came out and plugged the hole with Cotton. Early the next morning, I gently moved this wagon to where I wanted to place them on my property. Sadly, within a week, we had a bad cold snap, and temps got well below freezing and we lost all of these bees. I was heart broken, after having done all that work. We fed them properly, but to no avail. They don’t always grab food that is close by. On the flip side, this was our first big catch with our Pole & Bucket system. We learned a lot, and felt much more confident about our abilities to catch HIGH SWARMS. If there are swarms that are over 22 feet up in a tree, we’ll just let them go. By doing so, I populate the surrounding area with “wild bees”, in hopes of a KICK BACK swarm in the next few years.

Get you a pole at Atwoods and a make you up a bucket or buy one from Brushy Mountain. You’re sure to need one, if you’re going to keep bees!! Otherwise, you’ll be standing there just like I did for 2 years, wondering what to do.

Source: Little Creek Bee Ranch

Catching Honey Bee Swarms


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My bee buddy Dave.

One of the first things that will present itself to us in the spring (actually late, late winter) is swarms. And they are great fun too (unless they are your bees). There are many ways to capture swarms such as trapping and climbing ladders. But one device I have learned to appreciate more than any other for getting me up where I need to be is the extendable pole bucket swarm catcher. I made my bucket after seeing someone else’s. They aren’t difficult to build using an old bucket and a painter’s pole. Oh, the reason I’m posting this today is because this is a great winter project and one you don’t want to be wishing you had built when you see that swarm hanging in a tree.

Trapping Honey Bee Swarms


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Last spring, first swarms came very early to the South Carolina Midlands- around February 15th. That sounds like a long time from now but it will get here sooner than you think and swarms are unforgiving with beekeeper tardiness. Building and getting ready for swarm trapping is something that you should consider doing during these off months of winter. Remember, once swarm season starts you’ll probably be caught up in preparing your own hives for the primary nectar flow and have a limited amount of time to prepare traps. However, for those who are prepared there will be free bees. Here are a few sites I recommend:




And multiple videos by outofabluesky:

I promote swarm traps as another part of good beekeeping. Swarm management starts within your own hives and can go a long way to reducing the number of swarms that issue from your apiary. Intensive management can come close to eliminating swarms. However, life happens and you will experience the occasional swarm. Some thoughts on the matter:

1) The swarms you catch in a trap will typically perform better than the ones you knock out of a tree.

2) You’ll lose a portion of the swarms that issue for various reasons like too high in a tree, etc. It’s really nice when that swarm you had to leave in the tree shows up in your trap the next day.

3) Coupled with good swarm management in the hive, and capture of those swarms easy to gather, adding traps is good stewardship. Dr. Lawrence Connor in his book, Increase Essentials, says only 1 in 6 swarms survive their first winter. By capturing them you’re increasing their chances of survival.

4) Swarm captures makes better neighbors. Some neighbors will be as fascinated as you are at the miracle of swarming; others won’t. Capturing your own swarms may prevent you some heartache.

And finally, here’s an excellent, free, eight page article on the biology on swarming and nest selection with excellent advice on swarm trapping:

Bait Hives for Honey Bees by Thomas D. Seeley, Roger Morse, and Richard Nowogrodzki


Woodenware Assembly


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Before there were nail guns, powered screw drivers, exterior screws, star and hex bits, and more, there were specialized nails developed for a wide variety of applications.

Long ago, and remember when we talk about Langstroth hives we are talking mid 1800’s, there were multiple options in the ranks of the simple nail. Common nails and spikes, crate nails, cigar box nails, cooler nails, egg case nails, box nails, and more – all fine tuned for the job by shank and head size for a particular job.

Box nails, which we use for hive bodies, are slimmer than common nails of the same penny size and have a slightly blunted point which helps avoid splitting. Along the way, a 7d box nail was deemed ideal for the material and dimensions of bee boxes. It may even have been sold as a bee-box nail. It’s probably still the best nail for the job, but newer fasteners and power-nailers have lessened the demand, making it harder to find.

If you order your hive bodies from one of the major bee supply companies they typically will not come with nails. However, you may be able to order them as a separate item along with your boxes. What you’ll get is the traditional 7d box nail used for ages before the advent of modern fasteners found in big-box hardware stores.

However, what I most typically use is a substitute for tradition. Pictured are 6d, 2 inch, galvanized nails. The galvanization brings the shank size up a bit and provides a little protection from the elements. And they are easy to find in any hardware store. To pay homage to the 7d of yesterday, I usually take a few minutes to look for it on the shelves but I’m always disappointed.

Sometimes a board visually speaks to you and announces it is going to reject your attempts to apply a nail to it. I used to use soap on the nail to ease the boards objections, and the inevitable, but I now have a new helper – beeswax! Often we don’t know if our efforts help or not, but when a nail completes its task without incident we can assume credit with having eased the board’s objections to becoming a box.

I’ve noticed some prebuild boxes are now being assembled with staples. Perhaps in response to inquiries, we’re told the staples (or nails for that matter) are for holding things together until the glue dries. This may be true and I’ve started stapling the lighter, 5-frame nuc boxes but I’ll not risk my well being to a heavy, deep, 10-frame box joint coming undone sometime in the future while 30,000 bees are inside. So while I use a generous dab of waterproof Tightbond III on the hive body joints, I also appreciate the security and tradition of a nailed joint.

Ref: beesource.com

Waxing frame foundation – one of many winter tasks


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Every year I hope to have extra wax for candles and such. However I end up using all of it adding extra wax to the foundation for the benefit of the bees. The extra wax entices the bees to build their comb as well as encourages them to build it uniformly within the confines of the frame.

On the right are 15 sheets of unwaxed plastic foundation. In the middle, 15 sheets factory waxed. On the left , 15 home waxed using a minimal amount of wax but covering all cells. But regardless of the amount of wax, the aroma difference of the home waxed far exceeds the factory wax. So fragrant the bees were landing on me to investigate while I coated the foundation today.

Current Beekeeping Activities by sassafrasbefarm


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Feeding the bees pollen substitute

Some things don’t change much year to year in beekeeping. At least not the chores. There is some comfort in the routine. This year is much like last. Building boxes, cleaning frames, painting and maintenance. And building bees for the spring. ~sassafrasbeefarm

This time of year can be as busy for the beekeeper as the spring nectar flow period. But now it’s all about preparation. My experience, since beginning this beekeeping journey, is that there is never enough time during the nectar flow. In fact, time becomes precious even before the nectar flow with the need to rotate hive bodies or employ other swarm reducing measures, placement of swarm traps, movement of hives to out yards, making splits, and lots of last minute surprises.

So, here are few pictures of what I occupy myself with during this so called off season:


Order queen pen and my favorite markers to write on the hives.


Making sugar cakes for the tops of the hives.


Adding extra wax to plastic frames.


Collecting and bagging pine straw for my smoker.



Building boxes, bottom boards, and tops.


Adding some color to the entrance reducers.


Painting entrances to the queen mating nucs


This is Advantech – a new material that resists weathering.


Painting everything. Three coats!


Joy! I found three 50 pound sacks of sugar I had forgotten!


A century old tale of ‘Beekeeping in the South’ by Mary Bammer


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In 1920 the American Bee Journal published a book called “Beekeeping In The South; A Handbook on Seasons, Methods and Honey Flora of the Fifteen Southern States”. Written by Kennith Hawkins, a Beekeeping Specialist and “Former Special Agent in Bee Culture”, this book paints a nostalgic picture of what it took to keep honey bees in the south a century ago. While major players of today’s industry like the infamous Varroa mite are missing from this text, it is surprising to see just how well the author’s advice holds up in today’s beekeeping industry. Below is an excerpt from this book, a chapter entitled “What a Beginner Must Learn”, shared here with permission from the American Bee Journal.

1,503 more words

Book is accessible online at: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/115789#page/1/mode/1up

Read the complete article here: A century old tale of ‘Beekeeping in the South’ — UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department

The Number 6 Method of determining honey bee queenlessness


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Always eager to improve methods of hive assessment, I have now developed the non-invasive queenlessness test method, hereafter known as The Number 6 Method.

Step one: Suit up well. No, really well as in “rubber bands around your pant’s cuffs” well. An extra cap under your veil is also advised.

Step Two: Clear the yard of bystanders.

Step Three: Crank up your riding mower and proceed to cut a swath directly down the front of your hives at normal cutting speed. If the mower hits a stob or cuts off during this procedure be prepared to abandon ship.

Step Four: Do not stop but as you loop away from the hives take a brief glance at the front of the hives. If a hive appears to be swarming out the front entrance console yourself that they aren’t swarming.

Step Five: If this was the hive you suspected of being queenless, the final assessment should present itself almost instantly in the form of a cloud of 50 -100 bees now chasing you and your lawnmower.

Step Six: Feel good about not unduly disturbing the bees with invasive inspections to determine queenlessness. You deserve a pat on the back as you shift into Number 6 on the lawnmower’ s speed control. With any luck they won’t follow you more than 100 yards. Be amazed at how honey bees can stick to your veil like Velcro.

Step Seven: Properly performed, this test should be conducted at the end of your beekeeping day. Returning to the bee yard sooner that 12 hours is not advised.

Embarrassing as it is, the above is based on a true story.

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

Swarm Trap (Bait Hive) Placement Time


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Swarm trapping can be fun. For beekeepers it satisfies the same urge fishing does for fishermen. A lot of care goes into choosing and selecting the equipment and bait in hopes of finding the right combination which will most closely match the criteria the bees are looking for in a new home.

After several years of swarm trapping I think I have my preferred trap design down pat. A double 5 frame nuc, with old propolised frames only in the upper box (one frame with old comb, and four with starter strips coated with beeswax), bottom box is empty, bottom board with small screened drainage hole is attached, 1 1/4″ entrance hole with bird excluder (nail) and with closure disk for quickly closing the entrance for moving, main entrance blocked (screw used as handle if it needs to be removed), ratchet strap holds it all together. It’s not heavy and easily to transport. I’ll place this now and bait it with my secret recipe scent attractant in about a month. Placement of traps are 75 to 200 yards away from the main bee yard and along tree lines. Height is best at 12 – 15 ft. but I’m not keen on lugging ladders through the woods so I keep them at manageable heights. Scout bees will give the swarm trap a through inspection with points given for correct cavity size, correct entrance size, odor, dryness, height, and location. The more of these you satisfy the more points you earn and the greater the likelihood they will choose the trap.



Worried about your bees? Have a listen!




Worried? Go listen!

As winter progresses the bees will typically move to the top box, work your way around the box. You should hear a sound that resembles static – not quite the rumble one would expect. If you don’t hear anything don’t go wild banging but use your free hand to deliver a gentle rap to the side of the hive which usually increases their buzz for a couple seconds.

Honey and Cheese Pairing by Honey Hunter


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If you love honey, you will love cheese and honey even more. This paring will linger with you like a deep romance. As the holiday season approaches it is not too late to find a honey for your cheese board.

Local Honey

First things first. With honey, I always like to start local. There is nothing that pleases me more than to support the bees that pollinate the flowers in my neighbourhood in London. Also as a member of the London Beekeepers’ Association, I am proud to support small scale artisan beekeepers from my home city. However, it is not always easy to get local honey as demand far outstrips supply

Read the entire article here: Honey and Cheese Pairing — Honey Hunter

Swarm Traps


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Time to build your swarm traps. Re use the worst of your used or recycled frames covered in the smell of a hive. Strips of foundation, wax or plastic painted with last years wax for increased odor. If you have a frame of partially drawn comb place it in the center of the trap. They will be attracted to the scent and availability of the drawn comb. A few drops of lemongrass oil on a Q-tip placed in… a partially closed baggie placed on top of the frames helps. Entrance should be 1.5 square inches and box size should be about the size of a deep Langstroth (38 – 40 liters). Don’t break a leg trying to position the swarm trap high in a tree. Be safe, place it as high as is comfortable – if it is a well built trap and meets their needs they will choose it.

Queen Rearing – Caught in the Middle


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Caught in the middle with bees!

Starting out, the first two or three years, it seems easier, safer, and more financially prudent to simply buy queens from the local association prior to making spring splits. If you have 2 or 3 hives that need splitting it’s not too costly and ensures a greater degree of success to buy the queens and make splits installing the purchased queens. It almost always results in a good outcome.

Then, if your bee fever grows, you begin to have more colonies and the check for those queens adds up to serious cash – cash better saved for other beekeeping toys. Additionally, aren’t we suppose to be selecting breeding stock and rearing our own queens that survive our climate and the mites? Plus, raising my own allows me to drop that cool word, “sustainable.”

I’ve been resistant to rearing my own queens for the past couple years although I know I should have been doing so. I’m not quite sure if I’m just lazy, busy with other bee projects, afraid of failure, or just not interested in queen rearing. But, at last, it’s time.

I’m not sure if my eyes are good enough anymore for grafting. I thought about buying some of those jeweler’s or watchmaker’s glasses. But then I’d also be buying more dedicated queen rearing equipment as well. Cell punching helps and I’m waiting for  a class which may convince me to adopt a simple grafting method. Regardless, most all the grafting methods neccessitate multiple boxes, transfers, more bee stuff and can be a bit pricey. Simplier (non grafting) equipment like the Nicot or Jenter systems are also costly.

On the other extreme is the walkaway split, making sure the queenless split has larvae of appropriate age and allowing the bees to make an emergency queen. Additional methods of cell crushing can be added to improve the outcome but making multiple walkaway splits is a bit scary – what if half of them don’t make it? I’m a little OCD and looking for a little more control and perhaps even better outcome.

So, remembering the low tech methods of our forefathers, and with a mind to keeping costs at a minimum, I decided on using one of the throwbacks like the Miller or Hopkins methods. A mentor once suggested the Hopkins method to me and it sounds easy enough and promises to raise more queens than I’ll need. Basically it involves taking a frame of appropriately aged larvae and placing it horizontally over a densely populated queenless split. It’s low risk as well, if all goes poorly, such as a sudden change in the weather, the worst that can happen is I re-unite that split with their parent colony. So that’s what I’ve decided to attempt this year. Another adventure in beekeeping! Above are pictures of the 2″ shim I’ll be using to place the frame over the colony. Also a link below if you’re interested in reading more about the Hopkins method of queen rearing.


Is a Warm Winter Good for the Bees?


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An article by the Northeast New Jersey Beekeepers Association

Bees overwinter best when they are held at a temperature that keeps the cluster quiet and eating very little honey. That’s why sometimes we say we are putting the bees to bed for the winter. Though bees do not hibernate like bears, they cluster, produce heat, eat and wait for warmer days. There is an ideal temperature between 30-40 degrees F that keeps the bees quiet and eating the least amount of food. The warmer the weather the more the bees eat. AND oddly enough, the colder the weather (below 30 degrees F) the more the bees eat to generate heat. Does an unseasonably warm winter mean trouble for bees? (Click here to continue article)

South Carolina Mustard Based Barbeque Sauce

I made this yesterday to serve with a smoked pork butt. My son kept adding more to his pulled pork sandwich which is a sign of approval. It uses 1/2 cup of honey so it’s sweet but the vinegar tartness comes through as well, followed by a mustard bite. The accompanying article taught me something I didn’t know, that the origins of the mustard based sauce comes from the German immigrant influences in the Carolinas. I thought this cool as I am from that ethnic origin. In closing, Carolina mustard based lovers, never let them tell you it’s wrong! Full recipe here: Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce Recipe – Chili Pepper Madness

It’s Time to Plan for Spring by sassafrasbeefarm


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Red Maple – Harbinger of Spring

Sooner or later, if one stays in beekeeping, it becomes apparent that success is directly related to being proactive in one’s management of the bees rather than reactive. After all, this is exactly what the bees are doing. The bees never wait until the last minute to put up stores for winter. Nor do the bees wait until the day before the spring nectar flow to gather a full house of foraging bees to harvest nature’s bounty. Rather, the bees work months ahead to make sure they have everything needed to succeed. You too should follow their lead in preparing now for spring beekeeping if you want to have the best chance of success.

For short term goals I would direct you to the beekeeper’s calendar for your area which will guide you as to the tasks at hand for the immediate future. This article will discuss longer term goals.

Let’s consider some likely beekeeping for colonies here in the Midlands which you can work on during the coming months:

– Establish your goals for 2021
– Inventory your current assets
– Assess your needs (equipment mostly but may include outyards, personnel,etc.
– What knowledge will you need to be successful?
– Lay out your time management plan.


What can you do now to ensure your spring will be the best spring ever? Let’s start with considering your goals. Often, I have heard questions asked at monthly meetings that get the response, “Well, it depends.” Answering the question usually goes into what the beekeeper’s goals are. Are they making bees or honey? Do they want to grow their apiary or just manage a few hives for pollination? Are they hoping to produce enough honey to sell or do they want to make queens or nucleus hives for sale? What our management practices are depends directly on our goals. If you are planning a trip to California for almond pollination, you’ll start feeding pollen substitute in early January, but if you do that with colonies you are leaving here in the Midlands you may end up with your bees in trees before it’s warm enough to manage splits. So, before we begin, take some time to decide now what your beekeeping goals will be for 2021 – everything else hinges on this decision.

This time of year, with the reduction in time spent managing your colonies, is ideal to inventory your assets. Get out and inspect your supers, scrape frames, and make sure you have enough equipment to handle your spring goals. Write down your current inventory on paper or start a planning notebook. Later, as you begin to see the plan come into place, you be able to compare your list of current assets against your list of needed assets to accomplish your goal.


After you inventory your assets, write down your shopping list of equipment for ordering later. In addition to woodenware you may need lumber for hive stands, or other less obvious equipment like a new tire for your trailer. Making a list now will help you stay within budget. What’s important now is to develop the plan and determine what is needed. Wait until the plan firms up before ordering equipment as plans may change based on current assets, or other unexpected events which can come up during this planning stage.

Also included in the planning stage is thoroughly thinking through your plan. If it involves establishing out yards, have you located and secured permission for land use? If not then you may want to use any of several methods including the ‘stop and knock’ method, Google maps, or an ad in the local or state Market Bulletin.

Education may also be needed in the planning stage. If your goal is making increase you may want to order books or attend a local course on making splits and nucleus hives. Queen rearing may become something that you’ll have to consider. And if you are not ready for queen rearing, then making plans for purchasing queens to place in those splits if you hope to have them ready in time for spring sales. Purchasing queens would then become an item on your budget which may cause some changes to the original plans. Be flexible.

The idea here is considering all the implications of your plan. Hammer out the timeline now so that you can adjust early in the process. Once spring comes, you’ll be busy managing your bees, so time spent planning during these cold days is time well spent.


Once you’ve completed the assessment and planning portion of your spring preparations it’s time for implementation. Time to finally start the project. By now you have purchased the needed equipment, read up on aspects of your goals, and laid out a timeline for your tasks which includes consideration of the bees’ and nature’s timeline. Let’s get started!

Over winter, it’s time for equipment maintenance and to build boxes, frames, and other woodenware if needed. Also, you may need to visit potential out yards to determine suitability. If you are planning on renting colonies for pollination a pollination contract with dates and other particulars needs to be written and established with the farmer. Will you need more bees or queens? If so, make sure you get your orders in on time to reserve your bees. Also, make it a point to attend as many educational bee meetings as possible. You never known when someone will offer up that nugget of knowledge you’ve needed to hear that will save you a mistake in the future. The final part of implementation will be the actual harvest of the product, the sales of the honey or bees, or the pollination of the crops. Or perhaps the establishment of an out yard which will serve you in the future. As you work through implementation enjoy the process. It’s great fun to see a project come together step by step.

In closing, now is the time to make those plans for success next spring. Start daydreaming now, develop a viable plan, and implement your plan to ensure success next year no matter what your goals may be.

Honey Custard French Toast by In Dianes Kitchen


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I have never made French Toast with Honey Custard before and it was delicious! This recipe will feed 6 people or you could freeze any leftovers. I could eat this Honey Custard French Toast for any meal, not just breakfast.


  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 loaf French bread, sliced into 12 pieces 3/4” thick

Read fully recipe here:  Honey Custard French Toast — In Dianes Kitchen

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 Winter Solstice means something different to beekeepers. It’s typically associated with the beginning of winter for humans. But for the bees it’s the beginning of spring. Very slowly, as the days lengthen the queen will begin an 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 plant nectar and pollen production (best chance of survival). That means preparations such as brood rearing begin during the first months of the new year resulting in hives bubbling over with bees by March. But it has other ramifications for the beekeeper wishing to discourage that workforce from leaving. The beekeeper seeks to 1) encourage brood rearing while 2) protecting the colony from starvation as the bees feed ever increasing numbers of larvae, while 3) discouraging swarm preparations in the same time period. It’s like walking a tightrope!

Garlic and Honey Roasted Squash by Honey Hunter


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I love autumn, the season when the leaves turn red and the farmer’s market close to me is abundant in winter squashes.

Butternut squash is available to buy for most of the year (in supermarkets), however some of the more unusual varieties of squash only appear at this time of the year. It is worth looking out for them in farmer’s markets and of course they taste fabulous roasted with honey (as are honey roasted carrots).

Honey roasted squash is a simple and easy to make side dish and below is a quick recipe.

The cooking is mostly hands-off, and the prep is easy!

For a list of ingredients and instructions visit: Garlic and Honey Roasted Squash — Honey Hunter

Honey Cookies by The Honey Cottage


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Have you noticed; when you make a switch to something your taste buds just won’t let you go back?

I used to love store bought cookies and when other people made cookies. Until, I tried this recipe. Now no matter what I try to eat, it just tastes way too sweet for me. I really love this recipe because you can add little things to make it taste different. I also like that I can freeze them so if I am not in the mood to make them, I have some ready! However, they never last long enough in our house. I really have a bad habit of eating them for breakfast too!


1 cup of honey

1 cup peanut butter

½ cup softened butter

1 egg

¾ cup chocolate chips

1 ¼ cup of white wheat flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Full recipe here: Honey Cookies — The Honey Cottage