Alcohol wash to get a mite count in a beehive by Southeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association


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This is an excellent article on assessing mite counts in your beehives. Thanks to J.Morgan, Karen Ferguson and SIBA for sharing.

When I lost what I considered my best hive over the winter of 2013, I sent a sample of these bees to the Beltsville bee lab. It came back with a mite count of 10.7 mites per 100 bees. That’s a high count for most people, and certainly for any of my hives. There were no problems with tracheal mites or nosema. Click here to see a video of a deadout similar to the one that these bees were sampled from.

I wanted to better understand how the bee lab ran these tests so I didn’t have to rely on shipping bees to the lab every time I wanted an accurate mite count. It turns out, it’s not too difficult to do accurate mite counts yourself using either an alcohol wash (that kills the bees you will use for your sample) or a powdered sugar method (that doesn’t kill your bees, but coats them in powdered sugar and allows you to dump them back in your hive.) The “best” method is still a philosophical debate. In our club, we have decided that the alcohol wash is a more accurate method, and killing 300 bees (about a half cup) to know the mite loads in the colony is better than watching the entire hive die a slow death as a result of viruses vectored by varroa.


Continued here: Alcohol wash to get a mite count in a beehive — Southeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association


Sugar Free Lemon, Chia, Honey Cakes by Gourmet Casa Kitchen


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Coming home I felt revitalised to get on with the never-ending chores and to-do’s though feeling much more centred and energised. I even managed 45 mins before leaving to pick up the kids to whip up some of my favourite afternoon treats. My Lemon, Chia, Honey Yoghurt Cakes ready and waiting for the troops to come for then the chaos begins…

Get the full recipe here: Sugar Free Lemon, Chia, Honey Cakes — Gourmet Casa Kitchen

Protecting your Drawn Comb by sassafrasbeefarm


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wax moth destruction

First and second year beekeepers! You may be pulling honey supers, extracting, and have empty drawn comb. Or maybe a hive failed leaving you with drawn comb. Drawn comb is gold! You can always buy more bees, catch a swarm, make a split, or otherwise replace bees. But drawn comb can not be purchased. Having drawn comb exponentially increases a colony’s productivity versus starting on foundation. A spring package on drawn comb typically makes honey the same year.

Beekeepers must protect their drawn comb from wax moths which will take every opportunity to destroy your bee’s legacy.

Here are a few excerpts from an email I sent discussing protecting drawn comb:


Be thankful they are on plastic foundation. Otherwise you often have to replace the foundation. And if they are in wooden frames wax moths will actually bore holes in the wood as well. On plastic you can scrape it off and re-coat with wax for next year.

As for the freezer: You can Google wax moth, life cycle, etc and find some research. It’s like anything else, dependent on temperature and length of time of exposure. Two days may be sufficient IF your freezer is at 0 degrees F. If your freezer is kept at 10 degrees F it may take 6 days. And if at 20 degrees F it may take 14 days. (These are guesses but you get the idea.)

There is a temperature range for wax moth reproduction. When the temperatures get cool enough outside they are no longer a threat. I guess there are some people with a limited number of frames who can store them in the freezer until the weather cools enough.

Every year we get posts on the local discussion board with pictures saying they froze the comb for X number of days and then placed in in a Tupperware or other container and under the house or some similar dark place only to find the comb destroyed by spring. Last year in bee school a member of the class asked me about this specifically and said if he placed them in the freezer for days and then immediately placed it in lawn trash bags and sealed them completely and absolutely shouldn’t that work? I told him that “in theory” his plan would work but my experience is some eggs will hatch and if conditions are right they will destroy his comb.

On Para-moth (paradichlorobenzene) crystals: They do work but it is not a one and done application. Use them generously. Periodically check them through the storage period and replenish them as needed. They do “melt” as they release their gas into the supers. I’ve seen some people tape the edges of the supers to make a gas seal. Unfortunately this dark, sealed environment is also ideal for the moths when the para-moth dissolves and no longer provides protection.

Using open air and light: I did this one year with good success. I simply have too many supers now. Also, anything I place outside now is subject to squirrels who seem to like the comb, pollen, honey residuals.

BT (bacillus thuringiensis aizawa): Reports are, this works well. As you know it used to be a recognized method of wax moth control in bee hives but the company decided to not renew it’s license for use as such. Data used to be on the Clemson site. BT for use on crops is recognized as non chemical, organic bio control method and approved for use on organic crops. While an approved organic pest control method, it is no longer legal for use in bee hives.

I have a friend that uses BT and sprays the comb coming out of the extractor.

If you do not protect your comb from wax moths don’t despair, I understand the larvae are great as fishing bait.


Sloppy Joe Recipe, or What to do with Crystallized Honey by Fox Trot Farm


I have about 3/4 of a quart of honey that has crystallized on the top. (Sometimes it crystallizes on the bottom, and sometimes on the top.) I’d forgotten just how convenient that is to have until I decided to make homemade sloppy joes today. Of course, I use honey to sweeten the sauce, so I grabbed that crystallized quart and then I decided to take pictures and share a blog post all about it.

Read the complete blog here: Sloppy Joe Recipe, or What to do with Crystallized Honey — Fox Trot Farm

Always Something New in the Beeyard by sassafrasbeefarm


The thing about beekeeping is there’s always something to do and something to learn.

In the Spring the chores and responding to situations can get overwhelming but with our eyes on the approaching end of the nectar flow, we try to maximize the time we have remaining with nature’s help.

Now we enter dearth period. For most this is definitely not as appealing as Spring when nature offered up its bounty of nectar to support our efforts. One thing that beekeeping has taught me well is to stay ahead of the needs of the hive. Knowing what comes next is what makes us beekeepers rather than beehavers. The bees themselves are on schedule and living in the now. We must pave the way to make their now a success.

So, keywords for summer are: pest control, and food management.

Pest Control is all about staying ahead of the problem. Primarily we have varroa, small hive beetles, and wax moths.

Varroa is undoubtedly the most deadly and difficult management problem. Deadly because the mites are vectors for deadly viri which will decimate your colony. Difficult largely because 1) they aren’t very visible and 2) you don’t get much of any warning before collapse occurs. I’ve used the analogy of a flu virus going rampant through a college dormitory when talking to others and that seems to be mostly accurate – one day someone has a cough and fever; the next day everyone in the dorm is bedridden with symptoms. Your method of dealing with varroa is a decision you’ll have to make. At a minimum you might simply want to start with a mite count using the sticky board method, sugar shake, alcohol wash, or ether roll and go from there. I know a number of beekeepers who pull their honey off and then proceed to treat using one of the many treatment options. Timing can be key with many treatments as some treatments have temperature restrictions. For South Carolina that may mean waiting too long takes some of the treatment options off the table.

Small hive beetles are another summer pest that you will want to get ahead of. These little pests will multiple inside your hive and destroy the food stores of the colony. I have seen them run a colony out of a hive (abscond) due to pest pressure. And I’ve seen colonies fail to progress due to beetles taxing the resources of the colony. I’ve also seen a colony recover and thrive once the beetles are under control. But don’t wait for a situation to develop before getting them under control. Now is the time to use one or more methods to keep them in check: place oil traps, barriers, and / or dry microfiber pads before the situation develops. Get ahead of the problem and there will not be a problem.

Wax moths are a management problem. They are opportunists looking for a weakened hive in which to run amuck. The solution is simply to keep your hive strong. Easier said than done you might say. But “strong” doesn’t mean maintaining a six box high hive full of bees. It means managing your hive such that they are strong with the boxes they have. I look at my hives daily and if I see a hive declining in population (maybe no bees at the entrance) I look inside with the idea a box needs to come off. Push your bees into a smaller space such that there are always a few bees standing around the entrance. This is what is meant by keeping a hive “strong enough” to defend itself.

Food management: The other big management goal during summer is food management.

In class we covered the ideal hive configuration size going into winter as approximately the size of 2 ten frame deeps OR a single ten frame deep + a medium. I have a friend that configures for winter with a ten frame deep and a shallow and he does just fine in our South Carolina winters.

Depending on when you acquired your bees this year you may have already satisfied this goal. Some will have more than they need already and they can relax a bit and let the bees consume some of their stores. Others may still need to feed their bees to get to this goal or to encourage more comb building. You’ll have to figure out where you are with your goals and manage accordingly by feeding if needed or pulling some off now for use later in the fall or winter, or otherwise managing the hive so that you begin working through your management techniques, towards the ideal size I mention above.

In closing, the above is my opinion based on what I have been taught by my mentors, read, experienced, failed at, and found success with while managing my bees. Your opinions and results may vary from mine. That’s okay.

To the (bee) Veils! by sassafrasbeefarm


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By now all the new beekeepers have watched a bunch of YouTube videos showing people without any personal protective equipment handling swarms, doing hive inspections, and maybe even wearing bee beards. Even while visiting mentor and bee buddy bee yards they have seen gloveless inspections and shorts being worn by more experienced beekeepers while handling their bees. A walk through the bee yard or a quick trip out to deliver a jar of syrup is usually done without formal wear. These sorts of super-human feats of coolness are typically performed during nectar flows.

Introducing dearth, a seasonal period when the available nectar is less than colony day-to-day needs. Hungry, irritable bees. Foraging bees with nowhere to ply their trade, jobless and loafing in and around the hive. And I don’t know about you but, like the Snickers commercial, I too am just a bit grumpy when I’m hungry.

Act One, Scene One: Older bees with their fully developed venom sacs hanging out at home, irritable and ready to defend their precious stores of honey goodness.

For the beekeeper dearth means you too must make changes in the manner in which you conduct yourself around the bees.

1) Wear your protective equipment. Once the nectar flow ends I begin wearing my veil even if just walking though the bee yard or exchanging a jar feeder. You may have 1,000,000 honey bees out there but it only takes one bee having a bad day. A sting between the eyes can turn your pleasant evening stroll into a evening on the couch with an ice pack coupled with periodic and annoying questions from family members.

2) Work your bees during mid-day when the foragers are out of the hive. Depending on the size of the hive, the number of ill tempered foragers not in your way makes a big difference. A hive filled with mild mannered nurse bees is a pleasure compared to cranky guards and foragers. Also, avoid working on days that keep the bees from flying like rainy or windy days. I have noticed that if we get a mid-day rain shower the foragers will return and, during dearth, many will stay home even if the sun comes back out – learned that the hard way.

3) When going into the hive suit up, use smoke, move slowly, and get out when they tell you – when you hear them increasing their “roar.” Your time inside may be limited so work efficiently. Don’t feel you “must” look at everything regardless of them being annoyed. If you’re showing a friend your bees and yammering away then go briefly into a few hives rather than keep one open too long.

4) Start to look at how your body mechanics affect the bees while working them. Are you frequently moving your hands across the top of the frames as you break apart the frames. Instead, use your right hand to break the entire line of bars along the right side then do the left side (with your left hand preferably). Pull the frames closest to you first so you don’t reach across any more than needed. Don’t stand in front of the hive. If possible, try working from the side of the hive instead of the back and you won’t be reaching across them as much. If you have multiple boxes and you “must” inspect to the bottom take the tower of boxes off first and inspect from the bottom, adding one box back at a time rather that stirring them up in each box as you work downward. And finally, if you have to shake bees off the inner cover, out of a box, or elsewhere, save that until last – no need to stir them up while you still have work remaining.

5) When all else fails walk away. You may even have to walk away, wait a few minutes and return to close them up. And if you do get stung, after you take care of yourself, take a picture. We’d like to welcome you to the club!


Happy Birthday Dr. Elton James Dyce


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elton james dyce

July 15, 1900 — February 23, 1976

Dyce was best known for his process for controlling the crystallization and fermentation of honey leading to the popular creamed honey. His process is used throughout the world in all major honey-producing countries.

Professor Emeritus E. J. Dyce served as assistant professor, associate professor, and professor of apiculture in the University’s Department of Entomology for twenty-three years. He had retired on December 31, 1965. A native of Ontario, Dyce served as demonstrator, lecturer, and professor of apiculture at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, now Guelph University, from 1924 to 1940. He was the first manager of the Finger Lakes Honey Producers Cooperative in Groton, New York, between 1940 and 1942; in that position he worked to develop a wide market for New York State honey.

Dr. Dyce was born and raised in Meaford, Ontario. He obtained his B.S.A. from Ontario Agricultural College in 1923. He earned his M.S. degree at McGill University where he was a Macdonald scholar. He obtained his Ph.D. degree at Cornell under the direction of Professor E.F. Phillips.

The Dyce Process

Dr. E. J. Dyce, then professor of Apiculture at Guelph University and later Professor of Apiculture at Cornell University, developed the first practical process for making a granulated honey in 1928. Dyce later patented the process and in Canada gave the patent rights to the Province of Ontario. In the United States the rights were given to Cornell University. Much of the money earned in the United States was invested and the income is still used to support research on bees and honey at Cornell. The patent has now expired and anyone may manufacture and market the product.

Some Facts About Granulation And Fermentation

When Dyce began his studies there was little known about honey granulation and fermentation. He was aware that all natural honeys contain yeast. When the moisture content of the honey is somewhat above 19 percent, these yeast cells grow, producing carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeasts found in honey are not the same as those used to make alcoholic beverages or bread but belong to the genus zygosaccharomyces. However, carbon dioxide may be produced in such quantity in fermenting honey as to burst the drums or containers in which the honey is packed. The foul odor produced by fermentation makes the honey unmarketable. If it is not damaged too badly it may be used as bee food.

When honey granulates a small amount of the water in honey is taken into the sugar crystals. However, the quantity of water so contained is not proportional to the amount of water in the honey. Thus one may have a jar, drum or container of partially crystallized honey in which the liquid fraction has a moisture content higher than that of the original honey. When this occurs the honey may ferment. Dyce recognized that if he was to control the granulation of honey he must first pasteurize the product. Any seed crystals he added must also be made from honey, which had been pasteurized.

Dyce found that the optimum temperature for honey granulation is 57’ F. There has been much conflict about this question in the literature. Many people were of the opinion that a fluctuating temperature speeded up granulation; Dyce showed this was not true. Most granulated honeys will have a firm texture six to 14 days after the introduction of seed crystals if held at the proper temperature. In commercial practice rooms used for holding honey the process of crystallizing are held within 10’F. of the optimum temperature.

Pasteurization of honey destroys the nuclei on which crystals might grow. Dyce found he could introduce previously granulated honey, that which had been ground and the crystals broken, into honey to be crystallized.

These crystals are called starters. When five percent of a ground, finely granulated honey was introduced into newly pasteurized honey there is a sufficient quantity of seed to produce a high quality, finely crystallized honey. In commercial practice most firms use eight to ten percent starter; under ideal conditions less may be used. An important factor is that the seed crystals must not be warmed too long and thereby caused to melt partially.

Dyce processed honey

Dark, strong flavored honeys have a lighter color and milder flavor when made into a finely granulated honey; this fact has led some packers to use less than desirable honey in making granulated honey. Honeys used to make granulated honey should be of table quality. The optimum moisture content is 17 ½ to 18 percent; in the northern states 18 percent in winter and 17 ½ percent in summer; in the southern states 17 ½ percent is used throughout the year. The moisture content of a crystallized honey has a great effect on its hardness and therefore its spreadability. Honeys which have a higher or lower moisture content will be too hard or too soft and will not spread properly when spread at room temperature. The first step then is the selection and blending of honeys of proper color and moisture contents.

Honeys to be processed by the Dyce process need not be filtered. In fact, filtering removes certain of the natural elements present in honey, especially pollen. The honey should be heated to about 125’F at which temperature it should be carefully strained. Dyce recommended the honey next be rapidly heated to 150’F and then cooled rapidly. This temperature is sufficiently high to kill the yeast present. Prof. G.F. Townsend of Guelph University showed that yeasts in honey were killed if it was held at 160’F for one minute or 140’F for 30 minutes or some equivalent combination of time and temperature between these two extremes. In commercial practice e there is time involved between heating and cooling the honey, which also has an effect on yeasts. If the honey in a bulk tank is heated to 150’F and then cooled, even under optimum conditions, it will have heated enough to kill any yeast cells present.

The Starter Crystals

For a starter one uses granulated honey, which has been previously made by the Dyce process. It is not satisfactory to take previously granulated honey from the grocer’s shelf to be used as seed since the high Temperature at which this honey is held in a store will have started to melt the crystal nuclei present. One method of obtaining a yeast-free, finely granulated honey to use as a starter is to grind with a mortar and pestle a small amount of coarsely crystallized honey that had been heated (pasteurized) previously. The honey must be ground very finely and preferably at a temperature in the vicinity of 57’F as the crystals may melt at higher temperatures. The honey into which the crystal nuclei are introduced must also be cooled before the starter is added. Most of the grinders used for starter for Dyce crystallized honey are homemade or modifications of meat or food grinders on the market.

Air and Crystallized Honey

Honey which is in the process of granulating and which is held at lower than room temperatures is viscous. Often a number of air bubbles are incorporated into it in the process of cooling and/or adding the seed. These small air bubbles may rise to the surface of the product and give it a white frothy appearance. This white froth may be avoided by allowing the honey to settle a few hours before it is packed, or packing and cooling the honey rapidly so the air bubbles are incorporated into the final product. The air has no objectionable effect on the flavor.

Granulated honey in glass may pull away from the glass. The honey may assume a white froth-like appearance between the honey and the inside of the glass. Customers usually do not realize what has happened and may think the honey has spoiled or become moldy. (Mold cannot grow on or in honey.) It is for this reason that granulated honey is usually packed in tubs or glass jars with labels that wrap completely around the container.

Stack Heat

The seed crystals are usually added to the cooling honey when the temperature has reached about 75’F. It is very difficult to force honey to flow at lower temperatures. This temperature is higher than desired but if it is not held too long little damage is done. However, when cases of newly packed, crystallized honey are placed on pallets or trucks the cases must be carefully spaced so that air can flow between and around the cases. If this is not done the stack of newly packed jars will retain heat. This heat could have an adverse effect on seed crystals and cause them to be less effective as crystal nuclei.

Shelf Life

Properly made granulated honey has a long shelf life, longer than most liquid honey. Honey packers have observed that they may make and hold granulated honey for long periods of time, much longer than they would have stored packed, liquid honey. Granulated honey made and held under controlled conditions retains its fine texture, color, appearance and taste. There is probably a wider market for honey in this form than is now being exploited.


Crystallized Honey By Roger A. Morse

Cornell University Memorial Statement

Patent Application and Description of Creamed Honey Process

Books by Elton J Dyce:

Dyce, E. J.

Dyce, Elton J.

Honey Chicken Wraps by The Honey Cottage


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Do you find that is hard to keep up with a dinner schedule?

At The Honey Cottage we absolutely LOVE seeing our products in action. We were able to have Michael Cotton Your Personal Chef play in OUR kitchen and show us how he uses honey in some of his recipes!

Get the full recipe here: Honey Chicken Wraps — The Honey Cottage

Scapegoats and Witch Hunts by sassafrasbeefarm


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“The Witch, No. 3” circa 1892 Feb. 29. by Baker, Joseph E., ca. 1837-1914, artist.

I’m calling journalistic foul on the spate of recent articles I have seen placing the honey bees at odds with native bees.

So, who’s today’s scapegoat in the blame game on bee decline. Today’s top scape goat is apis mellifera. Seems like the latest press release being picked up by several publications is a report that honey bees are severely impacting native bee species. The researchers imply that honey bees, in the numbers kept by beekeepers, are so thoroughly diminishing the nectar and food sources that the native bees are having a hard time surviving. They admit that as a society we need and demand foods requiring pollination but add that the honey bee is to blame for the troubles of native bees. One article I read says the solution may be to eliminate feral honey bees. (After all we don’t want to step too hard on the toes of those ensuring we have our almond milk.)

I had to laugh as, for the most part, feral honey bees have already been decimated due to the Varroa mite. If reducing feral honey bees was a solution then it should have been offered as a solution 30 or 40 years ago when we actually had populations of ferals. I’m involved in a local study of feral honey bees and I can tell you that, even in the countryside of the largely undeveloped rural areas we are studying, even finding feral honeybees is a challenge. I believe the truth of the matter is these authors aren’t looking for a solution but rather 1) a step towards a general acceptance that non-native honey bees are to blame and perhaps 2) an angle to obtain research funding using the honey bee as “a problem” to be studied. Or perhaps it’s just a quick fix and human nature to point the finger at  someone or something for every issue nowadays. I say Hogwash.

Do I think we can overpopulate areas with honey bees? Well, yes in some instances honeybees are overwintered and at other times placed in stock yards awaiting pollination contracts. But I can also offer an instance not considered by the native bee enthusiasts. An instance probably a thousand fold more frequently encountered. I have lived on poor, sandy land for the past 16 years. When I moved here the foliage was scant. So scant in fact that even insects and wildlife were equally scant. After introducing honey bees I have visibly seen an increase in both quantity of nectar producing plants as well as an increase in native bees. How? Keeping honey bees has greatly increased the pollination of the local nectar producing plants which in turn has increased their seed production and reproduction. Now, the area foraged on my the bees has become much more attractive and productive to all species of bees. It is not uncommon for me to now see dozens of flowering plant species in the nearby fields that were not present or minimally present even 5 years ago. And nowadays there are many more native bees on flowers during the day when the honey bees are home bearding on the hive or working a brief nectar flow on a flowering tree.

My take on this is that as humans we simply find it of some psychological benefit to  play the blame game in this matter – someone or something must be at fault. And Apis Mellifera, that newcomer, non-native must be at fault. Yes, forage is at a premium these days and yes, all bees need forage. But I’m not buying the implication that the decline of native bees is largely to be blamed on honey bees. Apis mellifera mellifera was introduced to North America in 1622 – that’s 396 years ago. Since 1622, many changes to our environmental landscape have occurred, largely due to man. But now, apparently ignoring history but with an overabundance of historical shortsightedness, some journalists are misreading the scientific studies and placing the blame of a lack of forage on honey bees? There is a lengthy list of reasons we have gotten us to our current state of affairs with regard to habitat and lack of forage. Journalists need to look a little more to the obvious if the intent is to truly find solutions to native bee declines.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne



winnie the pooh

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think.  Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”             -A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


Introducing Queens by Lytchett Bay Apiaries


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Whenever a new queen is introduced to the existing colony there is always a chance your worker bees will not accept her, and the result of this could be the death of your new queen – no matter which method of introduction you use.

The main things you need to be sure of when introducing a new queen, whether it be into a full colony or nucleus, is that you do not have a virgin queen or indeed a mated queen that has simply gone off lay in your colony. You need to ensure you have removed all queen cells or queen cups, shake the bees off the frames if necessary to find the queen cells they hide in the edges of the frames. Also ensure you do not have laying workers in your hive.

Read full article here: Introducing Queens — Lytchett Bay Apiaries

Flexibility in Beekeeping by sassafrasbeefarm


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Our local club President, Danny Cannon, delivered one of the best lectures I’ve ever sat through at a MSBA meeting a few years ago. It was titled Flexibility in Beekeeping, Being Flexible in Beekeeping, or some such similar title.

That lecture keeps ringing through my brain lately and for good reason. One of the components of the lecture was moving backwards as easily as we move forwards in our management. For instance, recently I’ve been playing musical chairs with supers, frames, and bees. Let me explain.

In the Spring it’s all about adding, expanding, and growth around here. Things seem to get bigger. A lot of addition taking place – boxes, hive stands, and new hives. The thinking is, If I can stay ahead of them with “more” they won’t swarm. Add, add, add. Grow, grow, grow. Feed, feed, feed. Pollen, pollen, pollen. Gotta add more boxes! Look and act – usually with more, more, more. Find a swarm and be flexible enough to have an extra stand, bottom board, and box – capture, and add to the apiary. And that’s how most of the management goes in the Spring.

And then comes the post flow Summer, Fall, and Winter management. But can I break that addiction to adding? Can I be flexible enough to read the bees and the situation? The queen will slow her production down as nectar wanes and more so when the days start getting shorter. Can I tap the brakes, slow down, make changes? I’m just too reluctant to pull that super off that I worked so hard to build them up to needing. Or maybe they’ve swarmed and the hive is half empty now, yet I want to leave those boxes on in hopes they will build back up – and they very well might if I’m flexible in my management!

Maybe a queen fails and it becomes noticeable at the hive entrance that activity has slowed. But it’s hot and I’d rather not look inside; say it isn’t so because I’d really rather not track down a new queen. Or I have two hives that are in steep decline, should I combine them with stronger hives? After all, I have a vision of how many hives I need to complete the mental picture I have of my hives sitting on their designated hive stands in my well designed apiary. I want X number of hives not X – 1 hives.

And so, I return to the topic of flexibility. Can I be flexible enough to respond appropriately during these months post nectar flow? Oh, it’s difficult. But if I don’t employ the same discipline of flexibility in removing unpopulated boxes, combining weak hives, or replacing a failing queen what penalty is paid? Unlike the threat of swarms in the spring, the lack of flexibility now is paid for with increased pests, hive failures, and loss of valued comb. Hives no longer able to cover comb with bees allow Small Hive Beetles to go unchecked and run amuck in nectar. Worse still is the bane of Wax Moths that move in on weakened hives and steal your most precious resource – your hard earned comb. Weak and declining hives need to be combined with strong hives and I must look at that empty spot on the hive stand and tell myself that maybe a split may be possible later in the year or at least next Spring.

It’s all flexibility. I’ll read the bees as best I can, make adjustments, go with the flow every time I visit the apiary or open a hive. It’s a roller coaster with ups and downs, round and rounds, bright lights and dark tunnels. When I get off the ride I don’t say I enjoyed the ups but not the downs or the round and rounds. No, really I enjoyed the ride itself. Be flexible.

Happy Birthday Charles Martin Simon




Charles Martin Simon was born on July 8, 1941, at 6 A.M., in Newark, N.J. He graduated from Montclair Academy, a private, pseudo-military high school famous for it’s state-of-the-art dress code and discipline, in 1959, and went on to Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where he majored in Agriculture and English Literature.

He was always a writer, having started his first novel in 1948, at the age of seven, and always a nature boy, therefore the split major. But after two years at Rutgers, he realized the agriculture he was being taught was not the agriculture he wanted to learn, and it was only going to get worse. He’d had enough of castrating sheep, calculating chemical fertilizer specifications, and murdering chickens. His English literature studies weren’t much more promising. The high point came when the editor-in-chief of the College Literary Magazine, who, although never having learned to write himself, went on to become the has-been of an illustrious career as the Clinton Administration’s Poet Laureate, recognized Simon’s writing and asked him to take over the magazine, which offer Simon graciously declined.

Simon dropped out and drifted for a few years and then went to California and became part of the organic farming movement, as a partner in a 21-acre piece. Believing strongly in non-mechanized farming, he worked the farm completely by hand from 1967 until 1977. And that was where his involvement with bees began in earnest in 1967.

The 21 acres cost $5,000 originally, but when the partners were offered $350,000.00, they just couldn’t resist. Simon voted against the sale, arguing that the ten years put into the land was worth more than any amount of money. He was outvoted, the land was not divisible, and he lost the farm.

But he did not lose the bees. He was able to keep them on various pieces of property and continue with bee culture, since it is not dependent on stable locations as are horses, chickens, goats, gardens, and orchards.

In 1990, he invented and began marketing world-wide the SuperUnfoundation bee frame. This was well-received and selling well when the price of wood doubled and then tripled. It suddenly cost more for the raw materials than he could get selling the finished frames, and he was out of business. Never one to accept things “as they are” and being much more interested in the health of the bees than in their produce, he is developing an apiculture system to allow the bees to actualize their true potential vitality and really solve the varroa and many other bee problems.

Simon had no hobbies, having followed Henry David Thoreau’s advice to make one’s vocation and avocation one. He operated a one-man bee and wasp removal service and cared for bees in several locations. He also helped people overcome disease and get healthy and stay healthy.

And he wrote, with twelve books in print. He self-published, executed every part of the book process himself: conceived, wrote, edit, designed, formatted, printed, cut, bound each volume by hand. His books are in stock in a few bookstores and available from all bookstores via the ISBN system, but he sold mostly direct to the public at


Happy Birthday Edward Bevan


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Gentle Bee! bright example to mankind of industry, economy, concord, and obedience! What triumphs, what wonders, dost thou not achieve! It shall be our delightful task to talk of thee, to write of thee; and if we talk not, and write not, pleasantly, then, indeed, the fault is in-ourselves, and not in thee. Sweet is the sound of thy mourning hum, attuned to music, when thou revellest on some gay bank of purple heather, visiting bell after bell in quest of their ambrosial essence, heaven-distilled! Sweet is the air around thee, air impregnated with the breath of flowers! Sweet is the joyous concert of feathered choristers above and about thee! Sweet is the memory of those few happy days when we have drunk freely of scenes like these, and basked in the early sunshine on some fragrant bed of thyme, “ dazzled and drunk with beauty ”-—the beauty of nature. ~The entomological magazine, 1835, Volume 2, Page 270. By Bevan, Edward, M.D.

The Biography of Edward Bevan.

Edward Bevan M.D. (July 8, 1770 – January 31, 1860)

The Honey Bee: its Natural History, Physiology, and Management. By Edward Bevan, M.D. was first published in London, 1827. The critics in 1827 write of Bevans book; “The latter part of the last century and the commencement of the present, have given birth to a considerable number of valuable tracts, elucidating the Natural History and Physiology of the Honey Bee, as well as several regular treatises on its management; but the work before us, by Dr. Bevan, is the first possessing any claim to the character of scientific.”

Bevan, Edward, M.D. (1770-1860), physician and an eminent apiarian, was born, in London on 8 July 1770. Being left fatherless in early infancy, he was received into the house of his maternal grandfather, Mr. Powle, of Hereford, and at the age of eight was placed at the grammar school, Woottonunder- Edge, where he remained for four years. He was afterwards removed to the college school at Hereford, and it having been determined that he should adopt medicine as a profession, he was apprenticed to a surgeon in that town. He then proceeded to London, was entered as a student at St. Bartholomew’ s Hospital, and during three sessions of attendance on the lectures of his instructors Abernethy, Latham, and Austin, he acquired the honourable appellation of ‘the indefatigable.’ His degree of M.D. was obtained from the university of St. Andrew’s in 1818. He commenced practice at Mort-lake as assistant to Dr. John Clarke. After five years so spent he settled on his own account first at Stoke-upon-Trent, and then at Congleton. There he married the second daughter of Mr. Cartwright, an apothecary, one of the last of the ‘ bishops ‘ of a sect called the primitive Christian church. After twelve years’ residence in Cheshire, his health not bearing the fatigue of a country business, Bevan again returned to Mortlake, and practised there for two years, but with a like result. He thereupon retired to a small estate at Bridstow, near Ross, in Herefordshire, where he devoted himself to the development of an apiary which he found already established on his newly acquired property. Previous to this he had, in 1822, assisted his friend Mr. Samuel Parkes in the preparation of the third and revised edition of the latter’s ‘ Rudiments of Chemistry.’ The first edition of his book on bees was issued in 1827, with the title, `The Honey- Bee : its Natural History, Physiology, and Management.’ This treatise at once established the author’s reputation as a scientific apiarian, and was read wherever the bee is regarded as an object of interest. The second edition, published in 1838, is dedicated to her Majesty. In it the author has included much new and valuable matter. A third edition, by W. A. Munn, appeared in 1870. Bevan also wrote a paper on the ‘ Honey-Bee Communities ‘ in the first volume of the ‘ Magazine of Zoology and Botany,’ and published a few copies of ‘ Hints on the History and Management of the Honey-Bee,’ which had formed the substance of two lectures read before the Hereford Literary Institution in the winter of 1850-51. He had from 1849 fixed his residence at Hereford, where he died on 31 Jan. 1860, when within a few months of completing his ninetieth year As a public man Bevan was shy and retiring, but was much beloved in the circle of his private acquaintances. It is recorded as a proof of the esteem in which he was held, that on the occasion of a great flood in the Wye, in February 1802, washing away all the doctor’s beehives, a public subscription was raised, and a new apiary presented to him, of which, as a very pleasing substitute for what he had playfully called his ‘ Virgilian Temple,’ the venerable apiarian was justly proud. Bevan was one of the founders of the Entomological Society in 1833.



Portrait from: The Zoologist: A Monthly Journal of Natural History, 1839, Page 142

Dictionary of National Biography
by George Smith – 1885
Page 444



Berry Honey Milkshake by BEEKeeping: Your First Three Years


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You can use non-fat milk, ice cream or yogurt if you wish

  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • 2-1/2 cups strawberries
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 small mint sprigs (optional)

In blender combine all ingredients except mint. Blend about 30 seconds until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately in tall chilled glasses. Garnish with mint sprigs if desired. Makes four servings.

via Cooking with Honey — BEEKeeping: Your First Three Years

On my Varroa Soapbox, Understanding Varroa Risk by sassafrasbeefarm


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It’s no mystery that Varroa mites are the single most problem facing honey bees and leading to large percentages of colony deaths a year.

Understanding Varroa Risk. We either understand the enemy or he defeats us. The good news is, once understood I can understand the mite’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Conquering the mites means I can enjoy my bees much like generations of beekeepers before me enjoyed their bees. In addition, my bees perform better, make more honey, make more bees, and I don’t have the number of odd, random incidents occur in the apiary. All this results when we perform one management task – Varroa assessment, management, and control.

View the video below by Meghan Milbrath at Michigan State University for an excellent review of understanding the Varroa risks and assessing Varroa in your colonies.

Happy Birthday Robert Evans Snodgrass


Source: Wikipedia

Robert Evans Snodgrass (R.E. Snodgrass) (July 5, 1875 – September 4, 1962) was an American entomologist and artist who made important contributions to the fields of arthropod morphology, anatomy, evolution, and metamorphosis.[1]

He was the author of 76 scientific articles and six books,[2][3] including Insects, Their Ways and Means of Living (1930) and the book considered to be his crowning achievement,[4] the Principles of Insect Morphology (1935). (ed note: Also The Anatomy of the Honey Bee)

R.E. Snodgrass was born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 5, 1875, to James Cathcart Snodgrass and Annie Elizabeth Evans Snodgrass, where he lived until he was eight years old.[1] He was the oldest of three children. His admitted first ambition in life was to be a railway engineer or a Pullman conductor, though frequent visits to the St. Louis Zoo aroused his early interests in zoology.[1] His first recollections of entomology were recorded by E.B. Thurman:[1]

The first entomological observation which Dr. Snodgrass recalls is seeing that the legs of grasshoppers, cut off by his father’s lawnmower, could still kick while lying on the pavement. This apparently mysterious fact made a strong impression on him, and he decided that sometime he would look into the matter.

In 1883, he and the his family moved to Wetmore, Kansas, where his father worked in a local bank, and young Snodgrass began work as a self-taught taxidermist.[1] He had a particular interest in birds, even expressing a desire to become an ornithologist, though his family only allowed limited shooting of birds for his mounted collections. At age 15, the family again moved, this time to Ontario, California, where they settled on a 20-acre (81,000 m2) ranch and grew oranges, prunes, and grapes.[1] It was here that Snodgrass entered a Methodist preparatory school at the high school level, then known as Chaffey College.[1] He studied Latin, Greek, French, German, physics, chemistry, and drawing, but notably no biology because the curriculum forbade involving the teaching of evolution.[1] Snodgrass bypassed this problem by reading Darwin, Huxley, and Spencer in his free time.[1] His openly professed belief in evolution caused him problems in his relationships at home, and eventually resulted in being expelled from church activities in his community.[1]


In 1895, at the age of 20, Snodgrass entered Stanford University and majored in zoology, taking classes such as general zoology, embryology, entomology with Dr. Vernon Lyman Kellogg, ichthyology with then Stanford president Dr. David Starr Jordan, and comparative vertebrate anatomy. His first opportunity to conduct research came from Dr. Kellogg, who set him to work on the biting lice (Mallophaga). The excitement of research, and the prospect for publishing original work led to his giving up the desire to become an ornithologist,[1] and the publication of his first two science articles (works 1, 2). During this time, Snodgrass also participated in his first two field expeditions, the first to the Pribilof Islands led by Dr. Jordan, and the second to the Galapagos Islands, led by Edmund Heller.[1] Snodgrass eventually published seven papers with Heller regarding organisms collected during the Galapagos expedition[1] (works 3, 5, 6, 7, 12, 16, 19). Snodgrass graduated from Stanford University with his A.B. degree in Zoology in 1901.

He was awarded the 1961 Leidy Award from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Illustrations from Anatomy of the Honey Bee by R.E. Snodgrass

[5Photo Source:

Source: Wikipedia




Happy Birthday Frank Benton


1511652_695255597195606_238998393290147706_nThe Biography of Frank Benton
(July 5, 1852 – February 28, 1919)

Frank Benton – born July 5, 1852, in Coldwater, Mich. His education was obtained in the public school of that city and in the Michigan Agricultural College. He taught for a few years in rural schools and in the University of East Tennessee. but soon abandoned this work for beekeeping.

For many years Frank Benton was prominently identified with the beekeeping industry of America. He spent 12 years abroad, living in Cypress, Beirut, Syria, Germany, and Austria, investigating the different races of bees in those foreign countries, and exported thousands of queens from numerous subspecies shipping them to all parts of the world. He was the inventor of the Benton cage for shipping queen bees. The cage is used almost exclusively in the modern queen shipping industry, allowing for convenient transport of bees over long distances.



Benton Bee Cage


In 1890, he took a position in the United States Department Agriculture, as the first Apiculture Specialist. During his administration of the Department of Apiculture at Washington he occupied very much of his time in the investigation of the various kinds of bees, and traveled much abroad in this work. He was especially interested in the big bee of India, the Apis dorsata, and tried to acclimate them in this country. His administration of the department was a stormy one, but today no one questions the right purpose of his great enthusiasm, and his devotion to the cause and advancement of beekeeping.

His contributions to the beekeeping industry in America are many, if relatively unknown. Besides being the inventor of the Benton queen shipping cage, he exported thousands of queens from numerous subspecies, adding to the genetic diversity of A. Mellifera in the New World. Ironically, many of the bees he imported were not popular with beekeepers, who stopped managing them in favor of gentler races. In 1899, while with the Department of Agriculture, Benton wrote The Honey Bee: A manual For Apicultural Instruction, a 118 page guide for new beekeepers.

He wrote many articles on bees for different publications and was the inventor of the mailing cage known as the “Benton cage.” He was a linguist, speaking fluently several languages. Searching for the big bees of India for Apis Dorsata, be contracted jungle fever. which was the beginning of years of ill-health for him and caused his retirement from active labor, but not from continued interest in apiculture. He sought some betterment of his condition in the warm climate of Florida. Death occurred at Fort Myers, February 28. Benton remains one of the lesser known figures in beekeeping, largely because he lived during a time when critical labor-saving and profit-making making devices, such as the moveable frame hive and the centrifugal honey extractor, were invented, and the Italian honey bee rose to prominence in American beekeeping; by comparison, his contributions seem modest Upon his death in February 1919, the American Bee Journal published an obituary and a short travelogue about Benton (Anonymous 1919); but, apart from a mention of his importations in Pellett’s History of American Beekeeping, little else was written of his work.

Benton’s Travels

American Bee Journal – 1919 – Volume 59 – Page 307

Early in 1880, Frank Benton. went abroad, where eleven eventful years were spent in travel and study, and in investigating the honeybees of Europe, Asia and Africa. Apiaries were established on the Island of Cyprus and in the Holy Lands at Beirut. Syria. In the winter of 1880-81 Ceylon, India. Farther India and Java were visited and extensive collections and studies were made of the native bees of those regions. It was on this expedition that the “jungle fever” was contracted, which ultimately claimed its own. but only after many years of active service had intervened. The winter of 1882-3 found Dr. Benton a student at the University of Athens, and the years 1884-86 were spent at the University of Munich, where he all but completed his work for the doctorate. He was granted the Master of Science degree by the Michigan Agricultural College in 1885 in view of his studies abroad; and some years later the degree of Se. D. was conferred upon him by the Oriental University of America for similar studies. During the years spent in Munich several trips were made to Cyprus and Syria, and on one occasion Tunis and the African coast were visited and the bees of these regions studied. Italy was visited by the way as was also the little province of Carniola, in southern Austria, with the result that the four years from 1886-90 were spent in the fastnesses of the Carnic Alps in investigating, breeding and giving to the world the docile bees native to these mountains.

In 1890 Dr. Benton was commissioned by Dr. C. V. Riley, the United States Entomologist at Washington, to proceed to the Orient for the purpose of carrying on further investigations of the giant bees of India, and to study and import the Blastophaga wasp from Smyrna in the interest of establishing the Smyrna fig industry in California. Unfortunately, this commission passed Dr. Benton on the high seas, as he had already sailed from Hamburg for New York in December of 1890, after an absence from his native land of eleven years.

On ‘his arrival in America Dr. Benton was offered a chair in modern languages at Cornell University, and at the same time came an offer from the United States Government to go into scientific work at Washington. It was not an easy matter to decide, especially for one so rarely gifted in both fields of endeavor. But at the parting of the ways Dr. Benton, at the age of 39 years elected to go into scientific work, thereafter ‘becoming only indirectly identified with academic life as an occasional lecturer. He proceeded to Washington in July, 1891, ‘the proposed trip of exploration abroad being held in abeyance for the time being. and fourteen years intervened before this second journey was finally undertaken.

It was not until June, 1905, that Dr. Benton finally undertook his second tour of apicultural and botanical exploration which became a world embracing expedition, and everywhere he was welcomed and given the highest attention and every consideration by both scientific workers and members of apicultural societies and of the apicultural press. One leading periodical in summarizing his work closed with the statement, “Happy America that can speed such a man on such a journey!”—an index of his appreciative reception abroad. The overland route through the Balkans to Constantinople was followed and from thence the Caucasus was visited, where, in spite of the Russian revolution of that year, much data of value was collected, and representatives of the Caucasian races of bees imported. During the height of the revolution the Bishop of Armenia extended to Dr. Benton the hospitality of his monastery at Erivan, where Dr. Benton took refuge for several weeks until able to proceed to Baku on the Caspian Sea, from which point the long journey inland through Asia was started. Turkestan and Bokhara were visited, from where was imported the Turkestan melon, now becoming extensively grown in this country as a table delicacy. Turning southward, Dr. Benton organized a caravan, traveling a thousand miles through Persia, reaching Teheran early in January, 1906, and India the fore part of March. During the next seven months every part of India was visited, from Quetta in the northwest to the jungles of Assam, front the plains of Jubbulpore to the Himalayas of Simla and Darjeeling. and extensive studies made of the native honeybees which were captured and kept under observation in experimental hives. The guest of His Highness, the Maharaja of Kashmir, Dr. Benton had placed at his disposal a herd of elephants and retainers which greatly facilitated the work of exploration that he was engaged in. Finally, in September, the Philippines were reached and several months were spent in a long tour of this thousand-mile archipelago. At Zamboango, in Mindanao, Dr. Benton was very ill with fever contracted in the jungles of Assam, but despite these difficulties, he was able to rally and continue his work of investigation. The homeward journey was made by way of the Chinese coast. and some time was spent in Japan, Dr. Benton reaching America early in 1907, after an absence of nearly two years, with his long-planned journey an accomplished fact.


American Bee Journal, 1919 – Volume 59 – Page 197

Frank Benton and His 1881 Search for Apis Dorsata, by James P. Strange

Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1919 – Volume 47 – Page 244

American Entomologist, 2001 – Volume 47 – Page 116

Queen Rearing – 1962 – Page 11 -By Harry Hyde Laidlaw, John Edward Eckert

Image: The American Bee-keeper – February 1906 – Page 35


Happy Birthday Roger A. Morse


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Roger Alfred Morse was born July 5, 1927.

Roger A. Morse, who turned a childhood interest in beekeeping into an encyclopedic knowledge that made him one of the best-known apiculturists in the world, died May 12, 2000 at his home in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 72.

Dr. Morse, an entomology professor at Cornell University for more than 40 years, was a quiet man of fluid motion — traits that served him well in a field that often put him in intimate proximity with thousands of bees.

That is not to say that he did not get his share of stings. Four days before his death, he visited his laboratory and returned home with what proved to be a final trophy. ”He died with a little bee sting on his eye,” said his daughter Susan.

A prolific author, Dr. Morse straddled the worlds of professional beekeepers and amateur ones, whose numbers in the United States are put around 200,000. Although much of his renown came from such popular books as ”The Complete Guide to Beekeeping” (E. P. Dutton), which for many beekeepers is almost as much a necessity as the hives themselves, Dr. Morse’s knowledge was widely sought by commercial beekeepers around the world.

These beekeepers not only produce honey but play a vital role in pollinating vast swaths of cultivated land: in the United States alone, about $10 billion worth of crops each year are pollinated entirely or partly by bees.

Dr. Morse traveled the world, often for the United States Department of Agriculture, teaching local beekeepers from Africa to South America how to improve their craft.

”There wasn’t any subject that you could bring up in the area of bees and beekeeping that he couldn’t discuss with you,” said Philip A. Mason, a corporate lawyer in Boston who worked as Dr. Morse’s last graduate student while he was on a sabbatical from the business world.

Roger Alfred Morse was born July 5, 1927, in Saugerties, N.Y. His father, Grant, a superintendent of schools, kept bees as a hobby and instilled the interest in his son. Roger Morse began tending his own hives when he was about 10, his family said.

After serving in the Army in Europe from 1944 to 1947, he enrolled at Cornell, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and, in 1955, his doctorate. He joined the faculty about two years later, and from 1986 was chairman of the entomology department. Over the years, he also taught in Helsinki, Brazil and the Philippines.


When he was not thinking about how to improve the general practice of beekeeping, he was looking at the intricate network of bee societies. Scientists have long been fascinated by the complexity of the hives and their elaborate division of labor, in which roles are assigned ranging from queen to, in essence, undertaker.

”If you want to understand sociology in this world, there is nothing like the honeybees,” Dr. Morse said in a 1991 interview.


He spent much time studying the incursion of the Africanized bee, a cross-breed known popularly, if fancifully, as the killer bee, which escaped from a laboratory in Brazil in the 1950’s. The bees’ reputation for aggressiveness made for many scare stories as they made their way north, eventually arriving in this country in the early 1990’s.

Dr. Morse, though, was more sanguine than many. He suggested once that after the bees began mating with local species, they might end up strengthening the domestic bee population. ”I’m not saying these bees are kittens, but they can be worked with,” he said in an interview in Popular Science magazine.

He was more worried about two forms of mite — tracheal and varroa — that in recent years have been ravaging wild bee populations, forcing commercial beekeepers to monitor their hives vigilantly. Dr. Morse estimated that in the mid-1990’s, as many as 45 billion bees from 750,000 hives had been killed by the mites.


In addition to his daughter Susan, of Ithaca, Dr. Morse is survived by his wife, the former Mary Louise Smith, whom he married in 1951; another daughter, Mary Ann, of New York; a son, Joseph, an entomologist at the University of California at Riverside; a sister, Jean Kallop of Voorheesville, N.Y.; and a brother, Stanley, of Millbrook, N.Y.


At Cornell, in addition to his other teaching duties, Dr. Morse taught the introductory beekeeping course and, as recently as last fall, a laboratory course on practical beekeeping. In the early 1960’s, an article described how he had figured out a way to lure swarms of bees to follow him wherever he walked. The trick was to carry filter paper saturated with the ground-up queen bee mandible glands.


Dr. Morse also maintained his own hives at home, and he did so using the same sort of utilitarian approach he urged on his readers.

In ”A Year in the Beeyard” (Charles Scribner’s Sons), he wrote: ”My apiaries are not picturesque; my combs are not uniformly free of drone comb; and not all of my equipment is well painted.


”Still, I manage to harvest a reasonable amount of honey every year. More importantly, in the occasional year when conditions are perfect, I can make sure that my hives are filled with honey. At these times beekeeping is the most fun.”

He often gave the honey away to acquaintances, which endeared him to them. But not so much, perhaps, as when he was a graduate student at Cornell and writing his thesis on mead, the wine made from honey. His fellow students often benefited from the fruits of his research.

”I was very popular at school,” Mr. Mason recalled Dr. Morse saying.


A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly by sassafrasbeefarm


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A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.

Proverbial bee-keepers’ saying, mid 17th century; meaning that the later in the year it is, the less time there will be for bees to collect nectar and pollen from flowers in bloom in preparation for winter..


Over Wintering Nucs- A Better Way by Michael Palmer


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I used to buy bees, lots and lots of bees; singles from South Carolina, nuclei from Florida and frames of brood from New York. I used to buy queens, lots and lots of queens; queens from Georgia, queens from Texas and queens from California. Every year it was the same. Pick up the pieces of my apiary in the Spring, send a big check to southern queen breeders, split up my best colonies, and hope I made enough of a honey crop to pay the bills. Some years I did, some years I did not.

Read full article here: Over Wintering Nucs- A Better Way — BEEKeeping: Your First Three Years

Happy Birthday Francois Huber


Francis Huber Hive

Prior to the middle of the 1800’s, most bee hives in North America and Europe were simple shelters for the bees. Skeps, log gums and box hives were common types of hives in this period.

Bees attached their wax combs to the hive’s roof and walls, just like they do in wild hives. Today we refer to these types of hives as fixed-comb hives.

Skeps were made from grass straw, and often had sticks inside to provide support for the honey combs. Beekeepers inspected skep hives from the bottom.

Box hives were simple shelters to house a swarm of bees.

Francois Huber

François Huber (July 2, 1750 – December 22, 1831) was a Swiss naturalist, born at Geneva, of a family which had already made its mark in the literary and scientific world: his great-aunt, Marie Huber, was known as a voluminous writer on religious and theological subjects, and as the translator and epitomizer of The Spectator (Amsterdam, 3 vols., 1753); and his father Jean Huber (1721–1786), who had served for many years as a soldier, was a prominent member of the coterie at Ferney, distinguishing himself by his Observations sur le vol des oiseaux (Geneva, 1784).

François Huber was only fifteen years old when he began to suffer from a disease which gradually resulted in total blindness; but, with the aid of his wife, Marie Aimée Lullin, and of his servant, François Burnens, he was able to carry out investigations that laid the foundations of a scientific knowledge of the life history of the honey bee. His Nouvelles Observations sur les Abeilles was published at Geneva in 1792 (Eng. trans., 1806). A second volume of work published along with the first came out in 1814 which covered many more subjects including the construction of comb and experiments on the respiration of bees. Huber’s New Observations Upon Bees The Complete Volumes I & II has been replublished in English by Michael Bush – Visit Amazon to Purchase

Francis Huber Hive Open

Movable comb hives allow beekeepers to start new colonies easily by dividing a hive. They also allow beekeepers to inspect the health of colonies, find the queen, and even cut honey comb without destroying the brood nest. Bees in movable comb colonies were disturbed less than bees in fixed-comb hives, so beekeepers received fewer stings!

Many movable comb hive inventions used “frames” for the bees to build their combs inside.

Huber’s leaf hive. The Leaf Hive, invented in Switzerland in 1789 by Francis Huber, was a fully movable frame hive. The combs in this hive were examined like pages in a book. A.I. Root and E.R. Root credit Huber with inventing the first movable frame hive.

Huber’s contribution was also acknowledged by Lorenzo Langstroth, inventor of the hive style that is most commonly used today:

“The use of the Huber hive had satisfied me, that with proper precautions the combs might be removed without enraging the bees, and that these insects were capable of being tamed to a surprising degree. Without knowledge of these facts, I should have regarded a hive permitting the removal of the combs, as quite too dangerous for practical use.”
– L.L. Langstroth in Langstroth on the Honey-Bee, 1860.

The leaf or book hive consists of twelve vertical frames or boxes, parallel to each other, and joined together. The cross spars, nine or ten. The thickness of these spars an inch (2.5 cm), and their breadth fifteen lines (1 line=1/12th in. 15 lines=1 1/4 in.=32mm). It is necessary that this last measure should be accurate; a piece of comb which guides the bees in their work; d. a movable slider supporting the lower part; b b. pegs to keep the comb properly in the frame or box; four are in the opposite side; e e. pegs in the sides under the movable slider to support it.

A book hive, consisting of twelve frames. Between 6 and 7 are two cases with lids, that divide the hive into two equal parts, and should only be used to separate the bees for forming an artificial swarm; a, two frames which shut up the two sides of the hive, have sliders.

The entrance appears at the bottom of each frame. All should be close but 1 and 12. However it is necessary that they should open at pleasure.

Source: June 17, 2016 by

Midlands Beekeeping Calendar for July


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

July tends to be very hot, often dry, and represents a huge challenge for both the beekeeper and the  bees. Stressors for the bees are the recent harvest, nectar dearth, heat, and pests.  Robbing becomes a concern as nectar becomes scarce. You will notice the bees bearding on the front of the hive in an effort to reduce the heat inside the hive. Populations typically remain large and they can consume a great deal of food. You may see a reduction in brood rearing due to  the reduction in forage and increase in stressors.

The main stressors for the beekeeper are heat and finding time and enthusiasm to manage their hives during suitable temperatures and busy summer schedules. The exciting colony growth period of spring gives way to a less appealing time of feeding, dearth, and pest management. Moving beekeeping chores to early morning hours helps with temperatures. And never forget to hydrate before, during, and after working your bees.

This month the bees’ interest in syrup is impressive. Many hives will consume a quart or more a day if provided. Be careful with sugar syrup and during inspections as spills and unattended honey can incite a robbing frenzy in the bee yard. Hive inspections should be brief and frames should not be scattered around which may provoke robbing. Established hives left with plenty of stored honey may not need feeding although feeding of a thin syrup will increase needed water in the hive and promote a continuation of brood rearing. New beekeepers, with newly established hives, are typically advised to continue to feed to promote comb building and to provide the colony with food and hydration to maintain brood rearing to keep a balance of all ages in the colony population. Use a feeding delivery method which does not provoke robbers.

This month honey bee pest management becomes a beekeeping chore not to be ignored. Your colonies will need your assistance with Small Hive Beetle (SHB), and Varroa mite control.Plan on brief checks twice this month but do not work unless necessary to prevent the triggering of robbing.

Remove any Varroa treatment products scheduled for removal if used. If not treated for Varroa in June then assess Varroa levels and treat this month as needed. Time to keep a close eye on Varroa levels before they become too high for treatment to be effective. Remember the mite is simply the vector for the true villains – viri.

Dearth in earnest this month. Even if you left the bees plenty of honey consider feeding a minimum amount of syrup to provide hydration. Syrup is quick and ready for the bees to utilize as needed helping them keep the brood fed, cool the hive, and keeping the hive at 50% – 60% humidity.

July lst – July 30th

1) Remove dry supers for storage if left on hives or returned to hives for cleanup. To protect drawn comb supers should be stacked tightly with paradichlorobenzene crystals on a paper plate or piece of newspaper between each 5 supers. (Remember fumes from the moth crystals move down as they evaporate.) DO NOT USE COMMERCIAL MOTH BALLS! They are a different formula and not approved for use on beekeeping equipment!

2) Treat for Varroa mites if needed. Write down dates if using strips that will need removing later. Southeastern U.S. Varroa mite Treatment Decisions

3) Inspect colonies for queen status and order queens for August replacement, if necessary. August is usually the last month local Midlands queens are available. If needed you should make contact with your local queen supplier now to ensure receiving queens.

4) Assessing bee population, remove any supers not needed and store. Maintaining a strong hive means adjusting the internal volume to match the colony population. A strong colony will handle many pests themselves.

5) Consider feeding established colonies with a plan to maintenance feed until August then start stimulation. With full on dearth now present, all feeding should be done cautiously to prevent robbing. Internal feeders are preferred. Boardman feeders discouraged. Open feeding should be done at a distance greater than 50 – 75 yards from your hives. Feed additives with essential oils are discouraged for two reasons: a) they don’t need encouragement to feed as they are already hungry b) syrup laced with the scent of oils will mark their hives as targets for other hungry colonies and pests. Also, do not let syrup ferment which will attract SHB. If your bees stop taking syrup then investigate the reason with an inspection. Should you decide to go full tilt with feeding be mindful of the potential of stimulating late season swarms.

6) Monitor pollen stores in the hive. Some locations may produce adequate pollen while other locations will not. In some Midlands areas a pollen dearth has been noted during late summer. Bees must have pollen just as they must have nectar or syrup in order to create brood food and to maintain a healthy immune system. Monitor pollen stores by observing the presence of pollen on brood frames and the frames on the edges of the brood nest. If your colony needs supplemental pollen consider feeding dry pollen or substitute in open pollen feeders. Do not use pollen patties as they create SHB problems here in the  Midlands. More here: Pros and Cons of Feeding Dry Pollen Substitute

7) Monitor entrances and use entrance reducers to discourage robbing. Remove multiple entrances such as Imirie shims if used. Keep a balance of internal hive space and bee population such that entrances have guard bees.

8) Strong hives handle wax moths, beetles, and robbing pressure better. Keep hives strong by equalizing space with population.

9) Consider combining hives that are failing, are losing population too fast, have poor queens, or are otherwise not performing up to expectations. Combine with strong hive, swarm, or late flow split that is progressing nicely. Do not combine two weak colonies. Never combine a sick, diseased, or colony collapsing from Varroa hive with a healthy colony.

10) Keep multiple water sources for bees filled. This month you will start to see them gathering water in earnest. Use a Boardman feeder to place water on the hive.

11) There is still time to consider moving to late summer bloom like cotton, sourwood, or soybeans.

12) Begin measures to control Small Hive Beetles as they will begin ramping up their populations now. Do not feed pollen patties.

13) A small upper entrance may be beneficial with venting excess heat – depending on your colony strength staple a screen to prevent unwanted visitors yet allow ventilation. Or use popsicle sticks between the inner and telescoping covers to allow heat to escape.

14) For safety, work bees early before it gets hot. Hydrate before, during, and after. Quit early before you are tired. Take frequent breaks if needed. Bees can be testy during dearth – wear your veil even for minor tasks. Carry your cell phone. Work outyards with a buddy. Heat Safety

15) Start preparing your State Fair entries – wax and honey.

16) Attend the South Carolina State Association meeting.

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.

Honey – Balsamic Reduction Sauce by snapshotsincursive


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What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Balsamic Reduction Sauce-It’s Sweet! This is the elegant dark sauce you find drizzled over salads, cheese, meats, vegetables, and even fruity desserts in restaurants. At home, it can be made in minutes. You’ll feel like a master chef when you swirl it over your favorite dishes. I do.



Read the full recipe here: Balsamic Reduction Sauce — snapshotsincursive

The Quiet Box by sassafrasbeefarm


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billy davis

Billy Davis’ Quiet Box for bees.


At the Mid State Beekeepers “Bees in the Backyard” event, while inspecting a hive, I had a question about where the best place is to place a removed frame with a queen on it. Would I lean it against the side of the hive? At the time I was not in my bee yard so I just said that the queen would stay on a frame of larvae. In fact I’ve never seen one leave a frame of larvae unless I placed it back into the hive and she went to another frame. But, when in my own bee yard I use a quiet box for such occasions. In fact, I use my quiet box any time I am doing any in depth inspection into the brood nest area. My first frame comes out and, with bees attached, it goes into the quiet box. Should I find the queen on a frame then the she and the frame she is on also go into the quiet box. If I start to find queen cells – quiet box again. One of the biggest advantage I find is that I know where my queen is and fragile cells if I find any. Once the queen is in the quiet box I can pretty much move through the hive at will and concentrate on reading frames. Here’s an excellent video on using a quiet box and how one is constructed.

Happy Birthday August von Berlepsch



Born June 28, 1815

Baron August von Berlepsch a dedicated apiarist dedicated himself to study and built upon the works of other prominent beekeepers of his time. Probably most importantly Johann Dzierzon’s discovery of the exact space which we now refer to as bee space. “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.’ 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.” (Wikipedia)

Thus Berlepsch edged out Langstroth by 5 months on the invention of a removable frame hive utilizing bee space to the benefit of the beekeeper.

The following text is an extract – introduction from his work published  (3rd edition 1873). The technical part would go beyond the scope of a homepage. The book may be borrowed from well-assorted public libraries.  

The Honey Bee and its Breeding in Movable Honeycombs in Regions without Late Summer Yield.

My Life as an Apiarist  

  1. The beginning of my passion for bees dates back to the early days of childhood, and the only thing I still remember is that when I was a very little boy, I liked nothing better than running away from my nurse to the bees of our neighbour Gottlob Richter. When the lovely maiden came to take me back, I was standing right amidst the buzzing bees, crying mockingly: “try and get me, try and get me!” On 28 June 1822 , my 7th birthday, my father bought me first beehive from the most renowned beekeeper of my native region, the peasant Jacob Schulze, who was living in the neighbouring town of Langensalza . From then on, that man gave me training, and when I was 10 and my education was committed to the learned parson Wenck in the nearby village of Heroldshausen, I already owned 4 hives. 2 accompanied me to Heroldshausen, 2 were left at my father’s manor Seebach (Note: expropriated by the Russians in 1945, and once more expropriated by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1997) so that I would not miss the bees on Sundays, which I used to spend at home. At Easter 1828, I was transferred to the flourishing Gotha grammar school with the famous Latinist and Horaz interpreter Döring.  
  2. My grandfather who was still alive at that time, Baron Gottlob von Berlepsch, was a grammar school and university fellow student of Döring and insisted on presenting me to his former pal. It happened that Döring was as enthusiastic beekeeper as a philologist, and when grandfather told him that “bees meant everything to his little grandson and that he was very skilled in handling them,” the amiable 72 year old man insisted on my bees being moved to Gotha and on being accommodated in his beehouses also. So 6 hives immigrated to Gotha and I became Döring’s “bee catcher”, as the kind man used to call me even at school because I climbed up the highest trees to collect the swarms for him. I spent many wonderful hour with good old Mr. Döring in his apiary, and it was in place where he explained to me the complete 4th book of Virgil’s Georgica sermone latino, although better under linguistic than under apiarian aspects.  
  3. As a student of philology and law at the universities of Halle, Bonn and Leipzig, I always had several beehives standing in front of my windows, and in Greifswald, the professor of botany, Hornschuh, put me in charge of his small beehouse which he maintained in the botanic garden. And it was here where I saw a queen bee on her return flight, bearing the copulation mark; certainly, neither I nor Hornschuh to whom I talked about my discovery, knew what it was. We both believed that the queen had been injured through an adversary event, and were worrying about the hive, which naturally continued to enjoy excellent health.  
  4. From 1836 to 1838 I worked as a post-graduate judicial service trainee at the regional and local court of Mühlhausen in Thuringia while I owned a small beehouse in said place and a larger one at my father’s estate nearby.Soon I became absolutely fed up with juridical practice because of its dull formalism; I quitted and went to the ‘German Athens’, the splendid city of Munich. Living at Theresienstrasse, I let the bees fly out from the bedroom windows. But when despite all my attentiveness, a hive was swarming in June 1840 and the swarm moved to Ludwigstrasse landing on a         hackney cab, the police ordered me under penalty of punishment to remove my hives at once.
    (Note: After leaving judicial service, he studied catholic theology in Munich, took the simple vow and published then the esteemed work Anthropologiae Christianae Dogmata in 1842, in which he is dealing about Maria not being incriminated with the original sin. Furthermore he was a recognized and valued Pomologe and owned a very efficient and versatile large fruitplants-nursery in Seebach.)  
  5. My father died on 5 September 1841 , and already at the end of October, 100 straw hives were standing at Seebach manor. I had already read every book about bees which I could get hold of and learnt a great many things in particular from Spitzner, Baron von Ehrenfels and Klopffleisch-Kürschner,         but I yet owe most of my knowledge to the above-mentioned Jakob Schulze, a very intelligent man who definitely knew a lot more than I learnt from the books which I had read already. From then until his death on 12 December 1854 , I had very close and frequent contacts with this man. In the 13 years between 1841 and 1854, nearly no week passed without “Bienenschulze” coming to Seebach or the “Bee Baron” (which I am generally nicknamed in my native region) going to Langensalza.
    Being 26 years old (1841) and owner of 100 hives, I practised beekeeping on a large scale, anything devisable was undertaken and tried out without sparing cost and effort. Journeys, also far away and to all four points of the compass, were undertaken for the benefit of apiculture.  
  6. So the year 1845 began when Dzierzon made his first appearance in public and the bee journal (i.e. (Nördlinger) Eichstädter Bienen-Zeitung, which is the first substantial beekeepers’ journal in the world edited from 1845 to 1899) was founded by Barth and Schmid.   This simultaneously occurring double event meant a turning point in beekeeping. Old times had ended, a new time had begun. Dzierzon and Schmid (Barth had always only been lending his name as editor) are the two men to whom we owe the tremendous progress which the knowledge about bees and their keeping has experienced during the past 23 years.     Dzierzon invented the hive with movable honeycombs and supported by an extremely rare talent for observation and combination, was in a position to unveil the sexual relationships and other circumstances of the life and behaviour of bees, which had been covered by darkness during thousands of years. Schmid opened a free platform in his journal where intellect and scholarship could romp about.  
  7. In 1845, when Dzierzon appeared and the bee journal was published for the first time, I probably was the one who had made the most experiments among all living beekeepers, but I had neither come to know the hive with movable honeycombs and I am lacking Dzierzon’s immense astuteness and amazing talent for observation. Motivated by this new incentive, I doubled the efforts which I spent on observations and tests, mainly to verify Dzierzon’s theorems in all directions. But regrettably enough, I was so unfortunate as to own such miserable hives with movable honeycombs that my work was often delayed, hindered or totally frustrated, but yet so fortunate to recruit a 15 year old boy, Wilhelm Günther, the youngest son of my gardener, in 1848 as my assistant who was in no way inferior to Huber’s famous assistant Burnens in terms of inquisitiveness, perseverance, talent for observation, and astuteness. He has been by my side with great loyalty in all matters, and I feel obliged to express my thanks to him in public, as I did in the 1st edition, now also in the 2nd edition.         Without him, a good many things in that work would certainly not be as they are.  
  8. Finally, after seven years of silent studiousness, I came before the public in the bee journal in the issues of the years 1853 and 1854 with my Apiarian Letters which should become so famous and in which I, now standing on firm ground, presented Dzierzon’s fundamental theses in systematic sequence and in astute and clear form, furnishing experimental evidence on all points. As if on military command, a triumph was achieved for Dzierzon’s new theory. Many agreed openly, others at least kept quiet, whereas Dzierzon himself had in vain been struggling for recognition of his theory since 1845 in numerous articles in the bee journal and in special publications.  
  9. The first to swear the oath of allegiance with Dzierzon was Kleine. In the 1854 bee journal, page 4, he wrote: “Von Berlepsch has published a series of apiarian letters in the bee journal which must be welcomed as an event of greatest importance by all those of its readers who take a higher interest also in the scientific aspect of beekeeping. A new system which poured an unexpected light over the secret obscurity of apian life was established and struggled for recognition. Although it may have found such recognition in many places, this yet happened in the quiet. No one supported it openly and frankly. So many prejudices had to be overcome, the choruses of apiarian scientists rose up against it so uncompromisingly, and the deeper insight into natural science among beekeepers was such a pia vis (lit. pious force) that it needed the firm confidence of conviction, the skilled tactics and the resolute courage of Dzierzon to fight his case in a seven years’ struggle, however, with successful result. Nevertheless, the truth of what he claimed was still only based on his own testimony credence to which was not given from all sides, and his scientifically founded principles were granted only the significance of hypotheses. At that moment, von Berlepsch, with his unsuspicious testimony, sided with the single-handed fighter. As a second Oedipus, he resolutely went into action against fatal Sphinx, solved its most intricate riddles with admirable astuteness, taking from us the ultimate doubt which we might have had against the new teachings.”
    But Kleine was not only the first after me to acknowledge the new teachings, he also was particularly helpful by examining it as physiologist from the viewpoint of exact natural sciences and contributing excellent further evidence. He was the one who first raised apiculture above the level of mere empirics. For at that time, Dzierzon knew little about physiology, I myself nothing, and the same absolute physiological darkness was prevailing among all other beekeepers.  
  10.         Already before my presentation in the bee journal, the famous Carl Theodor Ernst von Siebold, Professor         for zoology and comparative anatomy in Breslau (Wroclaw), at that time stationed in Munich, had contacted Dzierzon in 1851, “partly” as he wrote to me later, “to get instructed himself about the life of bees by the greatest authority on bees nowadays, partly to come to the beekeeper’s assistance with his microscope and exact science.” Also, von Siebold had condescended to take the chair of vice-president at the 3rd migratory meeting of German Beekeepers in Brieg in 1855. This encouraged me to send quite a lengthy letter to von Siebold in which I proved the only still hypothetic point in Dzierzon’s theory, the reproduction of the male bee through parthenogenesis, by empirical arguments, while loudly calling for the help of von Siebold and all natural scientists. My voice should no longer be crying in the wilderness. For already in May 1855, the no less famous Professor Leuckart from Gießen came with his big microscope to visit me in Seebach and so did Siebold in August the same year. And the latter was successful in supplying the scientific-microscopic evidence proving the correctness of Dzierzon’s hypothesis in my garden salon and thus shaking the foundations of the whole theory of procreation. More details are contained in Chapter VIII of the book.  
  11. In the years 1852 and 1853, I had considerably perfected the movable hive with movable honeycombs by the appropriate construction of the bee pavilions and by inventing the frames, thus having prepared a beehouse of more than 100 beehives with movable honeycombs of the type that may probably have been seen in larger size, but definitely not better populated and with better internal structures. In this context, I will only quote what von Siebold has written in the Parthenogenesis, p. 110: “I was really astonished at the bee material which was presented to me in Seebach; the mass of bee colonies as well as the utterly suitable equipment which was most appropriate for observations of any kind, surpassed all my expectations. I found 104 Dzierzon hives intended for hibernating and packed with honey and bees, distributed in different forms over a spacious orchard in 8 places, from which the pavilion with its 28 colonies, which had often been discussed in the bee journal, was a particular surprise to me.” Crowds of beekeepers from all over Europe, even Russia, France, Sweden and Denmark, went on a pilgrimage to Seebach. Several persons stayed for months in order to learn apiculture thoroughly, among them e.g. the present bee master of Rhineland-Westphalia Teckaus.  
  12. Theory and practice were developed in the bee journal with more and more thoroughness, and a continually growing number of excellent men bought the journal, let me only mention Dönhoff, Vogel and Count Stosch in that period.  
  13. Despite all my involvement with bees and science, especially with national economy and the other social doctrines that are governing the world of today, I got so sick of living in a small village deprived of any scientific communication, that I left my large bee establishment to Günther and moved to Gotha in 1858. In cooperation with my old friend Kalb, I built up a new beehouse which almost reached up to the one in Seebach, continued my research work untiringly and became aware that eventually the time had come to collect all the material published in the bee journal and otherwise existing in bits and pieces, and combine it to a comprehensive didactic book.

August Baron von Berlepsch married on 8 Januar 1867 the renowned widowed author Karoline (Lina) Künstle, nèe Welebil, and died 17.9.1877 in Munich.


Died: September 17, 1877



Beekeeping Humor – Self Incrimination, You have a Right to a Lawyer by Stephen Bishop


Apparently, I had been speeding down a South Carolina highway without wearing my seatbelt (uncharacteristic, I swear) and couldn’t provide a logical answer to a state trooper’s question, “So where you heading?” My conundrum was I didn’t know where I was heading. I was searching the countryside for a logging crew, any logging crew to photograph. I had just written an article, in fact my first ever as a freelancer, for Grit magazine on forest management, and the editor wanted photos to accompany it. The state trooper doubted my story and asked me to exit the car and follow his finger with my eyeballs without moving my head. Then he proceeded to tell me to recite the alphabet backwards from M.

You try.

It’s difficult, even sober. I was sober but petrified because my story sounded ridiculous. After walking a line, toe to toe, which isn’t so easy either under the gaze of a lawman, the trooper asked if he could search my backpack in the passenger’s seat. I consented thankfully. If not, I might have been escorted to the slammer. In that backpack was a copy of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and about a year’s worth of Writer’s Digest. After that, the trooper handed me a seatbelt violation and let me go on my aimless way.

Today I use that same backpack to tote beekeeping stuff. It contains, among other things, a crowbar-looking thing with a little hook on the end that looks like a perfect tool for burglary. I have a grafting tool that looks like a lock pic and an unlabeled ziplock bag of a white powdery substance. In my truck bed is a long metal wand that I can hook to my truck battery to volatilize my white powdery substance. I reek of smoke. If stopped by a state trooper today, I would soon be sitting behind bars until the lab results came back showing oxalic acid.

Read full article here: Self Incrimination — BEEKeeping: Your First Three Years


Physical Barriers, Aging, and Beekeeping by Morris Ostrofsky



They say death and taxes are unavoidable. There is a third item that can be added to this list; physical changes whether due to aging or disability.

This article is written for any beekeeper who is encountering physical barriers that affect their ability to continue keeping bees. These barriers can come in the form of mobility issues, arthritis, diminishing strength, back problems, eyesight or other unexpected challenges.

Beekeepers are resourceful and find creative solutions to continue keeping bees. Aging or other obstacles can be addressed on multiple fronts: lifestyle, equipment and management changes. Some of the solutions can be put into practice now and some will take planning and time to implement. The objective of this article is to provide practical information to help beekeepers adapt to changing physical conditions thus allowing them to continue doing what they love.

Read full article here: Barriers — BEEKeeping: Your First Three Years

Biology Dictates Behavior by sassafrasbeefarm


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queen-bee-682941_960_720Watching reruns of the television series Elementary last night, Sherlock mentions twice the phrase, “Biology dictates behavior.”

In the beehive the genetics of the queen and the multiple drones she mated with is manifested in the behaviors of the workers. While honey bees progress through different work tasks according to their age, other behaviors are less defined and not seen as routine. That is to say, all bees begin as house bees and start by cleaning cells. They progress through various jobs as they age becoming nurse bees, feeding larvae, cleaning the hive of trash and dead bees, tending to the queen, wax excretion, moving nectar, and fanning the nectar or cooling the hive. However, most of these jobs are not compulsory nor do all bees perform all of these tasks as they age. There simply isn’t a need for all bees to progress through the task of feeding the queen nor is there a need for thousands of undertaker bees. The bees tend to have some degree of flexibility in shifting behaviors to meet the needs of the colony. But there is no macro view of the colony so how do they know what tasks need performing to be able to change behaviors. (Imagine an warehouse where all the workers seemingly just know what to do every day when they report to work.)

The same can be said of those bees that have graduated from house bee status and become foraging bees. Some specialize in pollen, other propolis, water, and still others nectar. The bees shift amongst these tasks depending on the needs of the colony but, again, their is no central command issuing “orders of the day” to direct these tasks. Yet, remarkably, the jobs get done.

So what determines bee behavior? We know that there is a biofeedback loop based on pheromones produced by the bees and that the queen has a major role in signaling, through pheromones, the colony needs and wellbeing. That’s one method of directing the day-to-day activities but it doesn’t fully account for the flexibility observed in an organization comprised of tens of thousands of bees operating on a day to day basis and responding to changes that take place in the environment and within the hive.

Let’s consider defensive behavior within a colony. Beekeepers may miss or overlook a lot of bee behavior but they seldom fail to observe a colony that is more defensive than others. Often referred to as “hot,” these colonies stand out to the beekeeper and rightly so as it’s not fun working a colony of bees intend on displaying defensive or aggressive behavior. Once again though, we typically find that even in colonies that display higher than normal defensive behavior we don’t usually see thousands of bees dedicating themselves to delivering their sting, and their life, to the cause. Most often there is one or several ready to act on the behalf of defending the colony. Additionally a measured response is noted with the bees ratcheting up the response as alarm pheromone is spread and triggering more and more bees to act. It’s biology in action.

But it begins with a genetic predisposition to act, either sooner or later, to a stimulus. Some bees tend to jump on the bandwagon early in delivering their venom payload to the unsuspecting beekeeper, seemingly before a genuine need exists to become defensive. If this behavior is excessive beekeepers blame the queen. Of course it may, in fact, be the genetics passed on from one or more of the multiple drones she mated with on her nuptial flight. But regardless, she gets the blame and is sought out for execution for this undesirable trait. The beekeeper replaces her with a queen of better disposition and through normal attrition of her progeny, and the more gentle temperament of the new queen’s offspring, the colony takes on a different personality.

And where in the above is anything other than the title of this article, “Biology dictates behavior.” There are no feelings involved. There is no sorrow for the old queen within the hive. There is nothing but the now of queen-rightness, the sensed reality of queen-lessness, and then the resumption of being queen-right. It’s stimulus response. Should a beekeeper kill the old queen without a replacement the bees simply initiate the replacement process. No rituals exist, no beliefs cloud the process, no judgement, and no processing of the loss. The bees carry on and make plans for the colony’s survival without missing a beat. The hive may fail but they will, through their genetics and biology go forward pushed by urges provided by pheromones (or lack thereof) and their genetic predispositions. Biology dictates behavior.

The beekeeper may wish to mourn the loss of a valued queen but that mourning is for the beekeeper alone. And the new beekeeper does mourn – at least the ones I have met. I too found it difficult to kill the queen early in my beekeeping. The mourning, whether for a queen or a colony, takes it’s emotional toll on some. I’ve met those that said they got out of beekeeping after losing a couple hives because, “It was too hard losing the bees.”

New beekeepers resist what is while the bees do not. Truly to understand the bees we need to learn from them. To force our understanding of them into our mental framework removes the beekeeper from a true understanding. Understanding them through our rose colored glasses discredits the bees and moves us further from what they offer us.

Happy Birthday Johannes Mehring




Johannes Mehring (* 24. Juni 1816 in Kleinniedesheim; † 24. November 1878 in Frankenthal)

Johannes Mehring first made comb foundation in 1857.

Straight combs were assured when Johannes Mehring, a carpenter from Germany designed wax foundation with octagonal indentations (5 per inch) for use in Langstroth’s frames.


Below Source: Chest of Books

When Langstroth invented the loose-hanging frame and the top-opening hive, he paved the way for a substantial industry in the production of honey, but two other important inventions were necessary before rapid progress was possible. Until the invention of the extractor and comb foundation, beekeeping was far from easy.

Prior to the invention of foundation, the beekeeper found great difficulty in obtaining straight combs and in controlling the building of drone cells. In his personal recollections which appeared in Gleanings in 1893, Langstroth mentioned the difficulty of inducing the bees to confine each comb to a separate frame. He recounted the experience of Della Rocca a hundred years previous in supporting small pieces of worker comb on the bars which he used with his hives. Huber made some improvement of this arrangement, but fell short of “Golding’s simple plan of dipping the upper part of his guides in melted wax. “

Because of the difficulties mentioned above, Langstroth spent much time in the development of a comb guide which would insure straight combs. The result was a triangular guide at top of frames to take the place of the guide combs. This sharp edge below the top bar provided an attractive place for the bees to start the combs and proved of some help. Langstroth applied for a patent, feeling that it was essential to the success of his hives. Much delay ensued and similar applications from others finally resulted in the refusal of the commissioner to issue a patent to anyone.

Charles Dadant later told the story in the bee magazines of the effort which he made to secure worker comb during the early years of his experience, before foundation came into use. He sent his son about the country in early spring to buy the combs from all colonies which had died during the winter. Every piece was carefully saved and many small bits pieced together to the best advantage.

Johannes Mehring first made comb foundation in 1857.

Later when Langstroth discovered that the triangular guide had been anticipated by John Hunter in 1793, and long before that by Della Rocca, he expressed great satisfaction because no patent had been issued to him. He had incurred many vexations, loss of time, and much expense, but he regarded these as trifling in comparison to the pain which comes to an honest inventor “when apparent success gives way to bitter mortification of finding the patent absolutely worthless. ” Hunter had written that, by the use of a salient angle, bees could be induced to build their combs in any direction desired and Della Rocca had described the triangular device for the same purpose.

Later a patent was issued to another claimant and Langstroth was sued for infringement. By this time, having the necessary information at hand, it was easy to defend the suit, but not without some annoyance and expense.

To get a hive filled with good, straight combs required close attention on the part of the beekeeper. It was a common practice to place an empty frame between two well-built combs. In this way, the bees would find it quite natural to build the new one in the desired manner.

Root developed his first foundation mill in 1876, and announced it as a complete success.

Root developed his first foundation mill in 1876, and announced it as “a complete success. “

The invention of foundation must be credited to a German, Johannes Mehring, who first succeeded in producing a crude product in 1857. He invented a press to impress wax wafers with the indentations common to the bottoms of the cells. There were no projections for ceil walls, and the bees consequently were less inclined to build only worker comb. Much drone comb was built on such foundation but it did provide a means of securing straight combs. A Swiss apiarist.

Peter Jacob, improved the Mehring press, and some of his foundation was imported to America in 1865.

Samuel Wagner appears to have made some attempts to manufacture foundation, adding shallow sidewalls and, in 1861, secured a patent on the manufacture of artificial honey comb foundation by whatever process made. He was not successful and later dropped the matter. In the meantime his patent probably kept others from experimenting and probably delayed the perfection of the process.

In 1876 Gleanings published directions by F. Cheshire for making a plaster of Paris mould on which foundation could be made. In the same issue, the editor comments at length on this and on the foundation made in this country by a man named Long and by F. Weiss, a German.

A. I. Root, with his characteristic enthusiasm, took up the improvement of the manufacture of foundation, which in its crude form had demonstrated its value to the beekeeper. He employed a man named A. Washburn to develop metal rollers with the proper impressions. Although Washburn actually did the work, he was working under Root’s direction, at Root’s expense, and it was Root who took the risk of failure. In the March, 1876, issue of Gleanings, the announcement is made under date of February 26, “we are happy to state that the metal rollers are a complete success. ” The impressions were cut out by hand with metal punches.

This idea of the metal rollers solved at once the problem of making foundation. Apparently, other workers had thought only of making it on a flat surface in some kind of press. In a letter from Wagner, published in Gleanings in 1876, he indicates that he was using a hexagonal type from which he made stereotype or electrotype plates on which the foundation was impressed.

Wagner found his cast foundation very fragile and experimented with paper as a base with the idea that, with a wax covering, it would serve the purpose more successfully. Never has the idea that a paper center foundation would be ideal been permitted to die. Even yet, at frequent intervals, the thing is revived by someone who thinks he has made a new discovery. Wagner reported in the American Bee Journal, in 1867, that light and beautiful foundation could be made of gutta percha but that it soon became so friable that the material could not be used.

Read more:

Big Papi’s Honey Grilled Shrimp with Bacon and Salsa Spinach Salad by Bones At The Table


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Honey Grilled Shrimp by Bones at the Table

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons Italian-style salad dressing
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails attached
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

In a large bowl, mix together garlic powder, black pepper, 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce, wine, and salad dressing; add shrimp, and toss to coat. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat grill for high heat. Thread shrimp onto skewers, piercing once near the tail and once near the head. Discard marinade.

In a small bowl, stir together honey, melted butter, and remaining 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce. Set aside for basting.

Lightly oil grill grate. Grill shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until opaque. Baste occasionally with the honey-butter sauce while grilling.

Crumble Cooked Bacon over a bed of Spinach add greed Shrimp.

Read the full recipe and lots more delicious recipes at: Big Papi’s Honey Grilled Shrimp with Bacon and Salsa Spinach Salad — Bones At The Table


Pros and Cons of Feeding Dry Pollen Sub by Bee Informed Partnership


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Most beekeepers have come to realize that due to lack of natural forage in our urban and agricultural landscapes, feeding pollen substitute has become necessary to keep bees healthy in most parts of the country. Last summer was an especially challenging season in the West due to extremely hot and dry conditions. Despite a wet spring in California and Oregon last year, the spigot was shut off abruptly early in the summer and what little forage was available quickly shriveled. Beekeepers who had not been providing supplemental feed saw their colonies dwindle as the summer went on. Although it’s still early, this year is looking like it could be similar.

Read the entire article here: Pros and Cons of Feeding Dry Pollen Sub — Bee Informed Partnership


Your beekeeping year is about to change by Honey Bee Suite



Here we are at the Summer Solstice. Here’s some good advice from Rusty…

Your beekeeping year is about to change:

The beekeeping year can be divided into two halves. One half is characterized by expansion, and the other by contraction. Tomorrow we begin the next phase. Whether you live in the northern hemisphere or the southern, the solstices mark the boundaries, the points at which things begin to change.

The most important concept in beekeeping:

If I were to write a book on beekeeping, this is where it would begin. Relatively unimportant issues like how to feed, where to put a hive, or how to inspect would be relegated to the appendix. The how-to part of beekeeping is unimportant compared to the why of it. Once you understand how bee colonies respond to their environment—what they do and why—the how-to stuff becomes easy. You can figure it out without instructions because you understand the purpose.

The honey bee lifestyle is much easier to understand when you look at bees as a part of the natural world, not the man-made one. Honey bees respond to cues provided by nature, and once you understand their place in the ecosystem, their life cycle begins to make sense.

Read full article here: Your beekeeping year is about to change — Honey Bee Suite


Summer Solstice by Wildflower Meadows


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For beekeepers and the bees, the summer solstice marks the end of the period of increase and the beginning of the journey to the winter equinox. The next six months will be a period of reduction and preparation for winter.

As the sun reaches its most northerly position relative to the earth, the bees also reach their maximum strength.  The summer solstice, which occurs on June 21st, brings the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.  It also marks a delineation between the two broad seasons in the year of a beehive:  the season of expansion and the season of contraction.

Read the full article here: Summer Solstice — Wildflower Meadows


William Woodley – An Introduction by Beehive Yourself


Those that know me know that I have an interest in beekeeping history and those who have contributed so much to our knowledge. Beehive Yourself has created an interesting video titled: William Woodley – An Introduction. I encourage a visit to his blog to view the short, but well done and interesting video. ~sassafrasbeefarm

Click here to visit Beehive Yourself and view the video: William Woodley – An Introduction

What have you done for me lately? by sassafrasbeefarm


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Water in Boardman feeders.

Based on my own experience, and in talking with others, honey removal places an additional stress on the colonies. And, if you think about it, it does so in several ways. Of course we just took away much of their stores. Often we have taken apart their entire structure and rearranged the order they had created. The scent of torn honey combs may have caused some robbers to investigate which necessitated defense of the colony. Simple removal of a hive body changes the thermodynamics and ventilation characteristics. And on top of it all we have done all this at the beginning of one of the most stressful times of the year – dearth and pest season.

I’ve lost colonies within a month of harvesting in prior years. It may have been because of mites or robbing and simply coincided with harvest but regardless, the stress of harvesting played into their inability to maintain the healthy state they were in prior to my disruption.

So, back to my original question, What have you done for me lately? Or more appropriately, What have you done for your bees lately?

Are you providing ventilation to allow them to cool the hive? Screen bottom boards? Small upper entrances to allow air flow? Popsicle sticks under the outer cover? We know they are working hard to cool the hive as evidenced by water gathering. Are you making it easy for them to gather water?


Syrup on top where it can be protected and not start robbing.

Are you giving them some syrup to replace some of the stores you took? You might say that you left adequate stores on the hive but would access to a little feeding of light syrup not be welcomed rather than having them gather water and reconstitute honey left on the hive? Remember honey harvest occurs at a peek in colony population and brood rearing and they are consuming lots of carbohydrate while unfortunately nectar flow has just dropped off so they must now take on the additional job of diluting honey and using it to feed the larvae along with all the other tasks.

Are you monitoring for hive beetles? I’ve already found a few in smaller nucs. Stronger hives seem to still have them well managed in my apiary. Soon it will be yet another job for them to guard and corral the SHBs.

Have you made adjustments in the size of your hive? You may need to add a hive body or remove one depending on the colony population.

Assess for mites. I checked my mites in early June to be ready for action after harvest. I’ve already completed my second OAV treatment and can see an increase in the enthusiasm of the bees already as the mite load begins to drop. This management of the mites means the bees can do more for themselves by lowering their stress levels so that they can perform the many other jobs they have to do.

It’s hot outside and it can be difficult to motivate yourself to get out and work your bees like you did in the spring. Regardless, your bees need you more than ever right now. Hopefully they are strong and will be able to handle the many challenges awaiting them through dearth, pest season, and ultimately winter. As beekeepers we know that last minute preparations rarely yield the results we want, so we must find a way to work with them now rather than later. Try getting out early in the morning while it’s still cool. I recommend you do as the bees do this time of year – get out and get your work done early and stay home and dance after it gets hot. I’ve found the bees gentle in the early hours recently. Most foragers are out early to gather the nectar produced overnight and many of the house bees are cordial enough. Limit your inspections to ensuring they have what they need and are well. Lower their stress levels with some feed, water, and mite control, and they will do much of the rest.

Pictures above show thin syrup on top (protected) and water in Boardman feeders.


National Pollinator Week by Bad Beekeeping Blog



Here’s a reminder from our friend Ron Miksha over at Bad Beekeeping Blog to celebrate NAtional Pollinator Week. Thanks Ron!

National Pollinator Week has arrived: June 18-24! Today, I’m re-running part of a blog I posted last week.  It had some ideas on what you might do to celebrate Pollinator Week.

Pollinator Partnership tells us, “National Pollinator Week is a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them.” Eleven years ago, when colony collapse was at its peak and the end of civilization was near, the US Senate approved “National Pollinator Week” unanimously. Unanimously! Has the US Senate ever approved anything else by undissented decree? That’s a hundred out of a hundred. Congratulations to them for collaborating, for once, on something important. They wanted every American to recognize the pollination services provided by birds and bees and beetles and bats.

Read the full blog post at: National Pollinator Week — Bad Beekeeping Blog

After the Nectar Flow – Providing Water by sassafrasbeefarm


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It’s that time of year when emails start coming in from people asking if someone can come out and gather the swarm that comes to their swimming pool every day. Yeah, it’s not a swarm but arguing over definitions doesn’t get us anywhere closer to solving the problem.

Beekeepers, keep your current water sources for bees filled. You’ll notice the bees need more water than during the spring since they no longer have the moisture provided by nectar. They also need to gather more water now for hive cooling and to dilute honey for consumption.

Use multiple water sources around your apiary. You’ll find they have preferences. My bees usually like concrete bird baths best for some reason.

Another trick I’ve learned is to dilute any syrup fed at open feeding stations. The excess water provides more humidity in the hive and reduces their need for water gathering.

Yet another idea is to keep your potted plants well watered. My wife has an herb garden area with lots of potted plants. This time of year I take it on myself to keep the plants watered, usually to the point of the pans underneath having water in them. The bees seem to like the dirty water that comes out of the bottom of the plant pot.

And don’t forget those Boardman feeders. While not recommended for feeding during dearth, are great as water feeders.

Also, it’s very important to keep your water sources filled to keep the bees coming to your “approved” source. Bees exhibit the same fidelity to water sources that they do with nectar sources. Once established they tend to stay with a known water source. It’s much better to have them hardwired to your water source than to hardwire to your neighbor’s pool. Your neighbors have a legitimate complaint if they can’t use their pool and their kids are getting stung because of your bees.

Post your ideas below.

More information here:…/…/07/water-sources-for-bees/

The Beekeeper’s Lament: Must-read book on bee life, and death by Maggie Koerth-Baker



What’s killing the bees? After reading The Beekeeper’s Lament

—Hannah Nordhaus’ lyrical, haunting book about the complicated lives and deaths of America’s honeybees—my question has shifted more towards, “Good lord, what doesn’t kill bees?”

Domesticated bees turn out to be some amazingly fragile creatures. In fact, Nordhaus writes, bees were delicate even before the modern age of industrial farming. It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that humans were able to reliably domesticate bees. Even then, beekeeping was anything but a stable business to be in. But in the last decade, the job has gotten harder, and the bee deaths have piled up faster. Bees are killed by moths and mites, bacteria and viruses, heat and cold. They’re killed by the pesticides used on the plants they pollinate, and by the other pesticides used to protect them from murderous insects. And they’re killed by the almond crop, which draws millions of bees from all over the nation to one small region of California, where they join in an orgy of pollination and another of disease sharing.

Read the complete book review here: The Beekeeper’s Lament: Must-read book on bee life, and death — Boing Boing

Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry with Ginger/Garlic/Honey Sauce by Creator, Creature and Collards


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Growing up, my dad regularly made stir-fry using bags of frozen stir-fry vegetables, whatever meat seemed like a good idea, and little else. As a result, I never really liked stir-fry. After moving out on my own, I attempted my own stir-fries, with fresh vegetables and complicated concoctions of soy sauce and citrus juice and sesame seeds and whatever else seemed like a good idea. I still did not like stir-fry.

It turns out I actually never really knew what I was doing.

Recently, I have returned to stir-fry thanks to The Supper of the Lamb, by Robert Farrar Capon (which I reviewed here). Capon explains that the joy of the stir-fry is in simplicity and speed. A hot skillet or wok, just a few vegetables, a little meat and a little sauce is all that’s needed.

It turns out I actually do like stir-fry, as long as I don’t mess it up.

Read the full recipe here: Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry with Ginger/Garlic/Honey Sauce — Creator, Creature and Collards

Bees Conversing…And More! by 67steffen



Light humor from the hive. by 67steffen

Here’s a list of possible conversations that these two bees are having at the entrance to their hive…and only one is correct:

  1. “Who’s the guy with the camera?”
  2.  “It’s a jungle out there.”
  3. “Quitting time.”
  4. “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”

Read full article at:  Bees Conversing…And More! — 67steffen

Gardeners can ‘bee friendly’ with little effort by Day by Day


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Robert Frost’s “A Prayer in Spring” reads in part: “And make us happy in the happy bees / The swarm dilating round the perfect trees / And make us happy in the darting bird / That suddenly above the bees is heard.”

We know honeybees produce the sticky, sweet nectar that we spread on toast or pour into recipes. More than 4,000 species of bees are native to North America.

Some consider bees pests. Some unwittingly kill the good bugs and bees while using broad methods to kill true pests. It’s important to know the difference and how and why to prevent extinction of the tiny things that matter.

Birds & Blooms magazine calls all bees unsung heroes that work hard to keep our food web functioning: “One in every three bites of food we eat is courtesy of pollination, and 85 percent of flowering plants and trees rely on pollinators for survival.”

Read full article here: Gardeners can ‘bee friendly’ with little effort — Day by Day

Trees for Bees: Pollinator Habitats in Urban Forests by IPM in the South


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The webinar will provide Extension Agents with information and resources to promote pollinator habitats in urban and suburban forests.

Pollinator nest boxes. Credit: Elizabeth Benton

Pollinator habitats are important to all landscapes, including urban and suburban forests. Pollinators need numerous resources in addition to nectar and pollen, such as nesting sites, water, and shelter. The webinar will cover pollinator habitat needs and ways to promote pollinators in urban and suburban forests. Available resource materials and instructions for a hands-on learning activity will be included.


This webinar is part of the series, Understanding Urban and Community Forests: An Extension Webinar Series.

To find out more: Trees for Bees: Pollinator Habitats in Urban Forests — IPM in the South

Bee Report — Splitting Hives and Raising Queens (Part II) by Low Technology Institute


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This is the second and final part of a short discussion of splitting hives using ideas found in Mel Disselkoen’s On-The-Spot (OTS) queen rearing method and the Coweta Beekeeping Method. In this post, I’ll go over how to finish the split by making hives for honey production or population increase. Check out the first post, where I describe how to split an existing hive and encourage the growth of new queens.

Some queen cells won’t be full sized. A good queen cell should look like a hanging peanut. Sometimes the “emergency” queen cells are noticeably smaller. These should be cut out, leaving only the largest queen cells. This is a chance to see the queens in their larvae stage.

Read Part Two of this article on Splitting Bee Hives here: Bee Report — Splitting Hives and Raising Queens (Part II) — Low Technology Institute

Happy Birthday Eva Crane


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eva2Happy Birthday Eva Crane! -June 12, 1912
The “Grand Dame of Honey Bee Researchers.”

Eva Crane was an authority on the history of beekeeping and honey-hunting who traveled the world in pursuit of bees. She was known throughout the world as the “Grand Dame of Honey Bee Researchers.”

Biography of Eva Crane (June 12, 1912 – September 6, 2007)

Ethel Eva Widdowson, beekeeper, physicist and writer: born London 12 June 1912; Lecturer in Physics, Sheffield University 1941-43; Director, Bee Research Association (later the International Bee Research association) 1949-84; OBE 1986; married 1942 James Crane (died 1978); died Slough, Berkshire 6 September 2007.

The name of Eva Crane is synonymous the world over with bees and beekeeping. She was at once author, editor, archivist, research scientist and historian, and possibly the most traveled person in pursuit of bees that has ever lived. She was a noted authority on the history of beekeeping and honey-hunting, including archaeology and rock art in her studies. She founded one of the leading institutions of the beekeeping world, the International Bee Research Association (IBRA), and ran it herself until her 72nd year. And yet her academic background was not in apiculture or biology, but in nuclear physics.

She possessed “an intellect that took no prisoners”, said Richard Jones, her successor as director of the IBRA. Always precise, her maxim was “observe, check the facts, and always get your research right”. Yet she was a modest person with a piercing curiosity. She insisted that she wasn’t at all interesting; that it was the places she went to, and the people she met, that were. For that reason, though a clear, intelligent and most prolific writer, she never wrote a memoir. The nearest she came was a book of travel writings, eva3

Crane has been compared with Dame Freya Stark in her willingness to travel to remote places, often alone and at an advanced age. Her aim was to share her beekeeping knowledge with farmers, voluntary bodies and governments, but, typically, she claimed to have learned far more than she taught.

Between 1949 and 2000 she visited at least 60 countries by means as varied as dog-sled, dugout canoe and light aircraft. In a remote corner of Pakistan, she discovered that beekeeping was still practiced using the horizontal hives she had seen only in excavations of Ancient Greece. Another place that intrigued her was the Zagros mountains on the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, where rich local traditions and an unusual variety of hives suggest that it was here that the age-old association of man and bees first began.

She was born Eva Widdowson in 1912, the younger daughter of Thomas and Rose Widdowson. Her elder sister was Elsie Widdowson, who became a world-famous nutritionist. Eva was educated at Sydenham Secondary School in Kent, and won a scholarship to read mathematics at King’s College London. A brilliant student, and one of only two women then reading mathematics at London University, she completed her degree in two years. An MSc in quantum mechanics soon followed, and she received her PhD in nuclear physics in 1938.

An academic career at the cutting edge of quantum science seemed to beckon. Eva Widdowson took up the post of Lecturer in Physics at Sheffield University in 1941. The next year she married James Crane, a stockbroker then serving in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.

Among their wedding presents was a working beehive. The idea had been for the couple to use the honey to eke out their wartime sugar ration, but Eva quickly became fascinated with bees and their ways. It led to a radically different and unexpected turning in her life, from the arcane study of particles and energy to the lively, buzzing world of the hive.

She took out a subscription to Bee World and became an active member of the local beekeepers’ association. Later she became secretary of the research committee of the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA). However, convinced of the vast potential of beekeeping in the tropics, her outlook was international. In 1949 she founded the Bee Research Association, dedicated to “working to increase awareness of the vital role of bees in the environment”. The charity was renamed the International Bee Research Association (IBRA) in 1976.

The rest of Eva Crane’s life was devoted to building the IBRA into a world centre of expertise on beekeeping. Based in her front room at Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire until 1966, the association eventually found an office in the village and since 1985 has been based in Cardiff.


Her work as an editor and archivist was prodigious. From its outset in 1962 until 1982 Crane edited the association’s Journal of Apicultural Research. She also edited Bee World from 1949 until her retirement in 1984 (the two journals were united in 2006). Another major activity was compiling and publishing regular research abstracts, Apicultural Abstracts, which she also edited from 1950 to 1984. It is now one of the world’s major databases on bee science.

She assiduously collected and filed scientific papers, which eventually resulted in an archive of 60,000 works on apiculture. It includes a unique collection of 130 bee journals from around the world, including perhaps the only complete runs of some of them. The archive is now so large (and in need of professional management) that it is housed at the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth.

In support of the IBRA and its work, Crane also established the Eva Crane Trust. Its aim is to advance the science of apiology, and in particular the publication of books on the subject, and the promotion of apicultural libraries and museums of historical beekeeping artifacts throughout the world.

Eva Crane was a prolific writer, with over 180 papers, articles and books to her name. Her broad-ranging and extremely learned books were mostly written in her seventies and eighties after her retirement in 1984 from the day-to-day running of the Association. A Book of Honey (1980) and The Archaeology of Beekeeping (1983) reflected her strong interests in nutrition and the ancient past of beekeeping. Her writing culminated in two mighty, encyclopaedic tomes, Bees and Beekeeping: science, practice and world resources (1990; at 614 pages) and The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (1999; 682 pages). These distilled a lifetime’s knowledge and experience and are regarded as seminal textbooks throughout the beekeeping world.

The Independent, Sept 14, 2007 (British newspaper)
Eva Crane (obituary)



Read some of Eva Crane’s written works here at The Eva Crane Trust.

Bee Report — Splitting Hives and Raising Queens (Part I) by Low Technology Institute


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Many beekeepers depend on purchasing packages (screened boxes full of bees with a queen) or nucleus hives (mini-hives to be inserted into a full-size one), which cost between $150 and 250 each, depending on the local variables. Some beekeepers end up purchasing bees each year to replace dead-outs (bee colonies that died during the winter). In addition to often getting a mix of random bees with no known genetics or winter survival success, its cost has caused some beekeepers to give up the hobby. One solution to this problem is to split your own surviving hives, creating new queens and colonies from your existing resources. Beekeepers have developed many methods to do this, but I follow a modified version of Mel Disselkoen’s On-The-Spot (OTS) queen rearing method and the Coweta Beekeeping Method. In this post, I’ll describe how to split an existing hive and encourage the growth of new queens. In the next post, I’ll go over how to finish the split by making hives for honey production or population increase.

Read part One of this Two Part Series here: Bee Report — Splitting Hives and Raising Queens (Part I) — Low Technology Institute

Happy Birthday C. C. Miller – free E-Book


Born June 10, 1831
“America’s Best Known Beekeeper” (Quote: C. P. Dadant 1916)

The Biography of Charles. C. Miller (1831 – 1920)

One among the very few who make bee-keeping their sole business is Dr. C. C. Miller. of Marengo. Ill. He was born June 10, 1831. at Ligonier. Pa. With a spirit of independence. and a good deal of self-denial sometimes bordering upon hardship. young Miller worked his way through school. graduating at Union College. Schenectady. N. Y.. at the age of 22. Unlike many boys who go through college self-supported. running into debt at the end of their course, our young friend graduated with a surplus of some seventy odd dollars. over and above his current expenses at school; but. as we shall presently see. it. was at the expense of an otherwise strong constitution. He did not know then, as he does now. the importance of observing the laws of health. Inst cad of taking rest he immediately took a course in medicine. graduating from the University of Michigan at the age of 25. After settling down to practice, poor health. he says, coupled with a nervous anxiety as to his fitness for the position. drove him from the field in a year. He then clerked, traveled , and taught. He had a natural talent for music, which by hard study he so developed that he is now one of the finest musicians in the country. If you will refer to the preface to Root’s Curriculum for the Piano (a work. by the way. which is possessed or known in almost every household where music is appreciated), you will see that this same Dr. Miller rendered “much and important aid ” to the author in his work. In this he wrote much of the lingering; and before the Curriculum was given to the printers for the last time. Mr. Root submitted the revised proofs to the doctor for final correction.

His musical compositions are simple and delightful. and you would be surprised to learn that one or two of the songs which are somewhat known were composed by Dr. Miller. Speaking of two songs composed by friend M . especially to be sung at a beekeepers convention. Dr. Geo. F. Root. than whom no one now living is better able to Judge. said. “They are characteristic and good.” Dr. Miller also spent about a year as music agent, helping to get up the first Cincinnati Musical Festival in 1873, under Theodore Thomas. Dr. M. is a fine singer. and delights all who hear him. Upon hearing and knowing of his almost exceptional talents for music. we are unavoidably led to wonder why he should now devote his attention solely to bee-keeping; and this wonder is increased when we learn that he has had salaries offered by music-publishing houses which would dazzle the eyes of most of us. But he says he prefers God‘s pure air. good health. and a good appetite. accompanied with a smaller income among the bees. to a larger salary indoors with attendant poor health.

As has been the case with a good many others. the doctor’s first acquaintance with bees was through his wife, who. in 1861, secured a runaway swarm in a sugar-barrel. A natural hobbyist, he at once became interested in bees. As he studied and worked with them he gradually grew into a bee-keeper, against the advice and wishes of his friends. In 1878 he made beekeeping his sole business. He now keeps from 200 to 400 colonies. in four out-apiaries. All the colonies are run for comb honey, and his annual products run up into the tons. He is intensely practical. and an enthusiast on all that pertains to his chosen pursuit.

As a writer he is conversational. terse. and right to the point. Not infrequently his style betrays here and there glimmerings of fun, which he seems, in consequence of his Jolly good nature, unable to suppress. His “Year Among the Bees”, his large correspondence for the bee-journals, and his biographical sketches preceding this, as also his writings elsewhere in this work. are all characteristic of his style.

Of him as a man, a personal friend, and a Christian brother, affords me great pleasure to speak. Physically he is rather under the medium height, thickset, and of an exceptionally pleasant face. To know him intimately, and to feel his intense friendship, is to know a near kinsman indeed. There are few more devoted Christians than Dr. C. C. Miller. He has always been active in Christian Work, especially in all lines of Sunday-school work. E. R. Root

The ABC of Bee Culture: 1905
By Amos Ives Root



Free Online – Celebrate C.C. Miller’s birthday today by reading some of his book, Fifty Years Among the Bees ~sassafrasbeefarm

Honey Potato Salad by The Honey Cottage


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We are so excited for BBQ season; it is such a great time to get together with friends and family! One of my favorite dishes at any summer party, picnic, or BBQ is potato salad. I can never get enough and there are so many ways to make it different. From using different potatoes to using a vinegar for the dressing; potato salad can come in so many flavors! I really love adding O’Hara’s sweetwater draw honey dill mustard, but definitely try their other AMAZING honey mustards too!

Read full recipe here: Honey Potato Salad — The Honey Cottage

Breeding a better bee: Three social immunity traits, one massive experiment by Alison McAfee | Honey Bee Hub


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Living in a honey bee hive is like living in a house with 40,000  siblings. It’s a pathogen’s dream. Left unchecked, contagious diseases can bring a colony to its knees, but honey bees – as well as other social insects – have evolved a way to fight back. Over millions of years, they have developed a collection of behaviors called ‘social immunity traits’ that help combat disease and parasite outbreaks.

Read the full article here: Breeding a better bee: Three social immunity traits, one massive experiment — Alison McAfee | Honey Bee Hub