Napoleon and the Honeybee by Bees on the Roof


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Next time you have a reason to check out Napoleon Bonaparte’s coat of arms, look closely at the left hand side. You will see a grouping of honeybees — Napoleon’s choice to represent his imperial rule.

The bee apparently sent several different messages to Napoleon’s constituents. It referred back to earlier French kings who chose the bee as a symbol of immortality and resurrection. The bee is also a nod to French industry where it was incorporated into clothing, curtains, carpets and furniture.

Read the entire blog post here: Napoleon and the Honeybee — Bees on the Roof

Featured image of embroidered bee source: The Honey Bee Conservancy


Selecting Honey Bee Stock by deltavalleyapiary


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In my experience, selecting bee stock is the most important decision when starting in Bees. If you choose the wrong type, you can wind up with an aggressive bee or a disease ridden colony. Here is a quick-start guide to help aid you in your search for the perfect strain for you.

Apis Mellifera is the main scientific classification for European Honey Bees. There are several sub-species and hybrid species available.  We will start our journey with the German Bee.

Read more of this at: Lesson 1: Selecting Honey Bee Stock by  deltavalleyapiary  

Getting Started in Beekeeping?


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Accepting What Is

As the local beekeeping association Secretary I received lots of email and often it involved a request from non members wanting to get involved in beekeeping. They believe they’ve done their homework which, mostly, has consisted of surfing Facebook and YouTube. They’ve asked lots of people how to best get started in beekeeping. After polling the answers they start to see two particular suggestions rising to the top: 1) Join your local association and 2) get a mentor. From there they deduce that they can most likely accomplish both by sending an email to the local association asking for a mentor to help them get started.

I have a very nice, polite email I send back moving them in the right direction to accomplish both getting them in contact with experienced beekeepers and a course of action to increase their likelihood of success.

As beekeepers know, it takes numbers to be successful. If you don’t believe me make a split with insufficient nurse bees or capped brood. Timing is essential as well, start a task at the proper time and all goes easily. Success with a swarm in early April is a piece of cake; success with a swarm in August is difficult. And so it is with folks not yet knowledgeable of the mechanics of beekeeping. They want bees and a mentor not knowing the amount of effort it will take nor the proper timing in order to increase the chance of success that first year.

You too will get inquiries from friends and people you come in contact with once they know you are a beekeeper. Be prepared to help them get off to a realistic start if you want them to be successful. And that’s what it’s really about isn’t it? One hundred new beekeepers joining the association is great but not so impressive if half fail their first season because they had unrealistic expectations.

Let’s look at the “getting a mentor” concern. The old school model of getting a mentor went something like this: The mentee sought out a mentor and agreed to spend the first year helping the mentor in the mentor’s bee yard. The mentee would show up at an agreed on day and time and look over the shoulder of the mentor as he went through his hives, talking as he did so. Watch, listen, learn. Move boxes as needed and help the mentor as the tasks necessitated. This would go on for a season and the next Spring the mentor would make a split and give it to the mentee to take care of at the mentor’s yard. The mentee would work his new hive and the mentor would look over his shoulder to make sure he didn’t make any mistakes and was able to correctly comment on what he was seeing and the correct action to take. At the end of that season the mentee took his hive home and became a beekeeper.

Somewhere along the way we have deviated from this model. Now we take new comers into the hobby, put them through a 20 hour course and expect them to survive. It’s like making an early March split – risky. Nowadays the mentee wants the mentor to make visits to the mentee’s yard for instruction. And inasmuch as the clubs and associations have promoted getting the newcomers’ bees perhaps that seems reasonable to take some responsibility for assisting with issues that will naturally come up.

If we are going to move to a new model then perhaps we need to clarify and revise some terms. As it now stands we’re mixing and matching old school and new school. The new beekeeper wants a mentor, bees, and instruction. That’s reasonable. The problem is one of numbers though (remember that early Spring Splits analogy?). Most clubs can’t provide a 1:1 mentor for 100 new beekeepers every year nor should anyone expect mentors to volunteer to run around town visiting mentees weekly. So we must marry the expectations of the new beekeeper and the club acting as mentor. Each side gives and gets a bit.

We do that by returning to the old school model whereby the mentee gets his/her education by visiting the mentor but no longer at the mentor’s beeyard nor by a single mentor. The new model has the mentee visiting many mentors at events like 1) monthly meetings, 2) local beekeeping educational events, 3) dinner before meetings, 4) online discussion groups 5) State Conferences, 6) connecting through fellowship with bee buddies, community outreach, etc. The list goes on… The mentee that wants to learn this art, like historically, has the resources offered and available, and they go to learn – as before. The club or association organizes monthly meetings, presentations, events, newsletters, club library, allows for face to face fellowship time monthly, and online discussion groups. All things considered, the new beekeeper has more opportunity nowadays to gather knowledge than they used to with the old school model AND they get their bees their first year.

If you’ve suffered through my ruminations this far, I commend your endurance. I gave two similar presentations at the South Carolina Beekeepers Conference. I encourage the new beekeeper to take advantage of what is. There are multiple opportunities available to new beekeepers – enough to succeed. I also push the concept of bee buddies and fellowship for those that need a 1:1 relationship. Occasionally I hear someone moan about not having a mentor as they had hoped. That’s unfortunate because they are cheating themselves out of the good of what is while wasting time wishing for the unlikelihood of what they envisioned. The fact of the matter is they have a room full of mentors at every meeting, at every gathering, at every conference. My mom used to say, “Go do the very best you can with what you’re offered. You do everything You can and You’ll succeed.” Mom was smart at marrying “what is” with success.

Trapping Honey Bee Swarms


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

And multiple videos by outofabluesky:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tucked in, What Now?


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The cold weather is here, You’ve done what you can to tuck them in for the coming season. So, what are you going to do with all your time now?

1) Continue to lift the back of your hives to check for weight. Now is why you learned this method of assessing stores.

2) Perform maintainance on honey supers pulled off hives – painting or otherwise.

3) Assemble new equipment for next year – boxes, frames, stands, etc.

4) Order packages, nucs, or queens.

5) Plan for changes you’re going to impliment next season.

6) Call, visit, or write farmers or landowners where you’d like to place hives for out yards next spring.

7) Attend local and state beekeeper meetings.

8) Scout trees for placement and prepare swarms traps. Construct swarm capture bucket.

9) Build a nuc now to keep in your car or truck for community swarm captures next spring. Register with on-line swarm call lists.

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

Happy Birthday Emily Dickinson


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Happy Birthday Emily Dickinson – Born Dec. 10, 1830

The Bee
By Emily Dickinson

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

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

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

Archaeology – Remnants of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens Sought

Emily Dickinson


Grilled Dijon Honey Fingerling Potatoes by June Cleaver 21st Century Style


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These are a great crispy and flavorful potato recipe that keeps you from slaving over a stove or oven to make.  It may be fall where I live, but the weather is more like summer, so I have been trying to avoid using my oven as much as possible.  These are made on the grill so they would also make for a great side dish to any cookout meal.

Read entire recipe here: Grilled Dijon Fingerling Potatoes — June Cleaver 21st Century Style

Happy Birthday Amos I. Root


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Online Books by A.I. Root:

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

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

The Gentle Beekeeper of Rushcreek Twp., Bremen, Ohio

An interesting article on beekeeping in an earlier era. Especially a Mr. Abraham Graffis II, beekeeper of Rushcreek Twp.

Diary of a Rural Ohio Nomad

If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, this sepia portrait could easily provide enough material to compose a thesis on the craft of beekeeping circa 1880.  Represented within this tangible reminder of the not so distant past, are perhaps three generations of a rural family, standing as if at attention, beneath a canopy of shaded woods, awaiting the flash of an antiquated camera. It’s subjects lack the formal conventions of the Victorian they chose to be depicted in practical attire in lieu of their Sunday best, they appear natural and not stiffly posed before an elaborate backdrop or within a tastefully decorated parlor, but in a natural setting. This historical photo not only has the ability to transport us into a nineteenth century apiary, but it reflects the value that the family placed on beekeeping and their farm. Given the price of a photographer, we can surmise…

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Advice for New-Bees by Newbees


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NewBees: Beginning Beekeeping

ere varroa_mites Varroa: your new nightmare…

I have been keeping bees now for seven years. In spite of taking courses, reading every book I could, keeping my eyes and ears open, and earning my Master Beekeeper designation, I have made every mistake I could.

Sometimes twice.

And I know more are out there waiting for me to make. Such is beekeeping!

We all have to do things in our own way and in our own time, but for what it is worth, here is what I wish I had known in my first year…

  1. It is easy to keep bees, but difficult to keep them well. For the first year or two, you will open that hive, probably with pounding heart and sweaty palms…and not have a clue what you are seeing. That is normal! Just ask a more experienced beekeeper to come look at your hive(s) with you and…

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Current Beekeeping Activities


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Feeding the bees pollen substitute

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

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


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


Making sugar cakes for the tops of the hives.


Adding extra wax to plastic frames.


Collecting and bagging pine straw for my smoker.



Building boxes, bottom boards, and tops.


Adding some color to the entrance reducers.


Painting entrances to the queen mating nucs


This is Advantech – a new material that resists weathering.


Painting everything. Three coats!


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


Hive Stands


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This time of year beekeepers perform maintenance and build more toys. Here’s a link detailing how to build a nice, portable, sturdy hive stand for under ten dollars: Bee Hive Stand for Cheap!

Varroa Mite Treatments


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I’m out in the bee yard vaporizing oxalic within the hives to kill Varroa mites today. Oxalic Acid is harsh on humans and I think it probably isn’t exactly kind to honey bees either although they seem to live on the acid side of the ph scale. I’m reminded though, as I vaporize the oxalic acid within each hive, of a time my son Danny had a nasty wart on his foot. We had tried everything, night after night, to remove it. Finally Danny agreed to go to a podiatrist . He thought it was going to be cut off and he was good with that. Instead the doctor applied a strong acid for a couple hours. Over the course of the next week or so it was basically blistered and burned in appearance. We felt badly for Danny but he was okay with it. He wanted it off. Anyway, applying oxalic acid to the bees kind of reminds me of the same. I hope they appreciate the mite removal.

Bee Book Season by Ron Miksha


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It’s holiday season. And if you’re normal, you’re thinking about beekeeping books for everyone you know. Even the non-beekeeps. I spent a few minutes today scanning the site to see what was bee hot. Not that the best sellers are always the best books. (My own book fell from the best seller ranks back in 2008, but I think Bad Beekeeping is still an OK gift for your friends.)  But there are some good ideas to get you started.

Read entire article here with booklist for winter reading: Bee Book Season — Bad Beekeeping Blog

Overwintering Nuclei Colonies by Larry Connor


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Some northern beekeepers have success overwintering nuclei-sized colonies. This may be based on a particular stock or genetic trait, and should be tested carefully. More beekeepers are able to overwinter a single, deep hive body by packing the hive out with honey or sugar syrup in the Fall. In addition to food reserves, make sure such colonies are protected from the harsh winds of Winter.

Read the complete article here: Overwintering Nuclei Colonies — BEEKeeping: Your First Three Years

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter H by snapshotsincursive


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What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Simple Sensations: Honeycomb Sweet Bee! Raw honeycomb has the most incredible flavor concentrated with the sweet nectar of wildflowers. The first time I tasted it, with a crisp apple slice and a nibble of sharp cheese, I realized what all the buzz was about. This edible mystery is a conversation-starter at every gathering. And a little goes a long way. Store honeycomb at room temperature in a covered container.

Raw Honeycomb Square

Granny Smith apples

Cheddar Cheese, Extra Sharp*

Seedless Grapes

Smoked Almonds, whole with sea salt

Multi-Grain Crackers

Read more here:  Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter H — snapshotsincursive

Midlands Beekeeping Calendar for the month of December


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


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

1) Clean, paint, repair equipment, assemble new equipment, build more hive stands, make some of those time saver gadgets, and replace any bad equipment.

2) If you use a telescoping cover, lift the cover and note for wetness or mold indicating excess moisture within the hive. As needed, ventilate hives with a 1/8th inch crack at the front of the inner cover to prevent condensation and mold. Also, tilting the entire hive forward slightly with a shim placed under the hive, in the back, will allow condensation to run forward and down the front of the inside of the hive preventing it from dripping on the bees’ cluster.

3) December is an excellent month for selling honey.

4) Continue to assess stores, feed using a candy board or fondant as necessary. Continue to lift the back of your hives to check for weight. Now is why you learned this method of assessing stores.

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

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

7) Plan now for changes you’re going to impliment next season.

8) Call, visit, or write farmers or landowners where you’d like to place hives for out yards next spring.

9) Renew you membership in your local Beekeepers Association. Attend local meetings. Register for state Spring beekeeper’s conference.

10) Scout trees for placement and prepare swarms traps. Construct a swarm capture bucket.

11) Build a nucleus hive now to keep in your car or truck for community swarm captures next spring. Register with on-line swarm call lists.

12) Order or ask Santa for a copy of that beekeeping book you’ve been wanting to read. Read some every day. Until then, here’s a free .pdf copy of Advanced Bee Culture by William Z. Hutchinson.

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


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

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

Kick ’em when they’re down by The Apiarist


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Below is an excellent article by David the Apiarist on understanding the varroa mite population cycle as relates to management of Varroa mites. Understanding the pest is key to maximizing the impact of the treatement. I’ve chosen to crosspost it on this date to benefit my readers in the Midlands of South Carolina as we enter the period of time when the presence of brood is at it’s yearly low. References to the Eagles and Don Henley are entertaining as well.

Why bother treating colonies in midwinter to reduce Varroa infestation? After all, you probably treated them with Apiguard or Apivar (or possibly even Apistan) in late summer or early autumn.

Is there any need to treat again in midwinter?

Yes. To cut a long story short, there are basically two reasons why a midwinter mite treatment almost always makes sense:

  1. Mites will be present. In addition, they’ll be present at a level higher than the minimum level achievable, particularly if you last treated your colonies in late summer, rather than early autumn.
  2. The majority of mites will be phoretic, rather than hiding away in sealed brood. They’re therefore easy to target.

I’ll deal with these in reverse order …

Read the full article at: Kick ’em when they’re down — The Apiarist

Today we celebrate



IMAG0207The other day I received an automated congratulations from WordPress.  It was the anniversary of this blog.  A little over a year ago this blog was created with the goal of capturing one complete year of beekeeping – trying to follow the seasons with corresponding articles, pictures, and posts – some original and many shared. My thanks to all of the contributors who allowed me to re-blog their articles along the way.

Where are we going from here? I’ll add more original blog posts and refine some of the current posts to be more informative to visitors. I’d like to add more very short snapshots of my daily interactions and beekeeping preparations. I’ll add more links within the posts for visitors to link to more information. I also hope to add more introductory comments to posts contributed by others. Posts from the past twelve months will be recycled into the current year to continue to provide an ongoing calendar-like diary of the beekeeping year with the improvements mentioned above.

Also in the plans I will be replacing Beekeeping Vocabulary on Sunday’s with Book of the Week. Our Saturday morning recipe post(s) will continue as it has become a favorite of many people and receives a good number of hits each week. Beekeeping Birthdays will also continue as I add more famous beekeepers. Those that wrote non-copyrighted books, pamphlets, and other written works will list links as I am able to find.

I hope you have enjoyed the ride this past year. I have, and in the process learned a great deal from you as well. Thanks!

No Straight Lines in Beekeeping



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No Straight Lines in Beekeeping

My first year I had one hive. The following spring, in March, it swarmed twice, two weeks apart, and left me with nothing for all my hard work getting them through the previous summer, fall, and winter.

But, having been hooked with the fascination of that first hive, I had already purchased 6 packages and had spent that first winter building boxes, frames, bottoms, and tops. I had lost that first hive earlier in the month but I now had 6 fresh starts. That spring, in the first weeks, I spent a couple tanks of gas driving around collecting swarms, some failed and some succeeded. By the end of summer I had 13 hives. In autumn I lost a couple to their being weak but I learned a few things and combined a few more to strengthen them and went into winter with 7 hives.

By the next spring I had lost 4 of those 7 colonies because I failed to adequately ventilate and reduce moisture during the winter. In fact, I had promoted moisture by wrapping the hives “for their protection.” The learning curve can be brutal in beekeeping. By this time I had spent some time over winter reading about splits so I split those 3 remaining hives (remember I’d had 13 the previous year) and had about 8 hives at the start of the flow, Again on the swarm trail, I added another half dozen colonies and did some more fall splits. I actually made honey and sold a bit and closed the season with 18 hives.

That winter took less of a bite out of my bee yard and as I recall I lost about 5 hives and came out with 13 in the spring. Hey, maybe I’d learned something! Up to 21 that season and made honey again. Always spending the money on more boxes, frames, wax, lumber. Learning the dangers associated with mites, moisture, weak colonies, hive beetles. Learning the seasons from my mentors and when to do this or that. Like a dedicated AA member, never missing a meeting because Frank, Danny, Wes, Staci, Dave, Todd, Patrick, William, a visiting speaker, or someone would be there to tell me what I needed to be seeing in the hive and what I needed to be doing over the coming month. I am an information addict and those folks repeatedly told me what I sometimes resisted.

By the next winter I had a couple notebooks worth of meetings’ notes. Also, I had attended the beginning beekeeper class not once but twice – only a bee nerd would do such a thing. I actually sat down and wrote January, February, March… on blank pages and copied three years of monthly meeting notes on each month’s respected page. Not surprising, year to year the information was very similar but I had some gaps in my notes and combining the notebooks helped me learn a few things. By then I had also attended a few conferences; I added to my notebook and beekeeping calendar.

The winter I signed up to be the local club Secretary I lost less than 10%. I learned a great deal from visiting the bee yards of many of our members. I continued attending conferences, meetings, hearing it over and over; sometimes it took multiple times before I relented and relinquished some of my bad ideas. In the spring I decided to save gas money and stop chasing swarms. It had become easier to make splits. I still caught one or two to get it out of my system but my problem became one of more colonies than I had boxes. And still my own bees swarmed. By this time I had kind of stabilized at 20 hives and fluxed up or down a few at any given time.

The next year, again less than 10% failure rate over the winter. I think primarily because I had become convinced the previous year that treating for Varroa actually produces positive results, as does feeding them when needed, and strengthing colonies with combines in the early fall. I had bought only queens for two years, no packages or nucs, and increases were made when the bees cooperate in the spring. I was starting to think like a bee.

Last year I lost 20% which I fully blame on my failure to combine weaker hives in the Fall as is standard. I failed to make the few combines I should have because I’m a hard head so I lost a few. Several of these were nucleus hives which, had they been combined, would have overwintered. Another lesson I had to learn twice.

And here we are again going into winter. But I grew to 50 this year and then decided to generously combine weaker hives after the nectar flow. I also chose to not make splits immediately after the nectar flow which is standard practice if one wishes to grow their apiary (also called making increase). I hope to come out with a good survival rate in the spring of 2018. For Spring 2018 I’m posed to start the queen rearing adventure and be closer to a true sustainable bee yard.

But to get to the point here. It’s all flux; ups and downs.

Sustainable is possible but straight lines aren’t. I wrote an article some time back for our local club’s newsletter speaking to flexibility in beekeeping. It was based on a lecture one of our senior beekeepers gave at a meeting a couple years earlier. That lecture changed the way I view beekeeping by helping me see the big picture a little clearer. Roll with the punches, think like a bee, work with them, follow their lead, always learn, be ready for change, capitalize on times of increase, brush yourself off and accept times of decrease, follow the bees’ nature and ride that wave whenever you can. And, oh yeah, enjoy the ride.

Here are the Blues Brothers demonstrating these principles. Roll with the punches, work with them – not against, follow their lead, accept change…

Called Hive Inspection



Hive Assessment

Assessment: Called to look at a hive that had experienced a sudden (less than one week) drop in population and an increase in dead bees accompanied by “sawdust” like material.

Location: Swansea, SC Weather: Mid 60’s overcast. Light wind.

Hive is a 10 frame Langstroth, three hive bodies tall (two deeps, one medium).

By history, this is a new hive installed this season from a package (H&R). Hive has been doing well until a couple days ago. Owner inspected hive last week and reports “full boxes of bees”. Became concerned this weekend with increase in dead bees on ground in front of hive and “sawdust” like material in front.

On arrival I noticed an open feeder located a couple feet to the side of the hive. Noticing more bees coming and going at the feeder than the front entrance of the hive I watched and saw bees coming to the feeder and on departing going elsewhere . Owner reports neighbor has multiple bee hives.

The hive had little activity at the entrance reducer which was set on about a two bee width setting. No fighting.

Owner showed me “sawdust” like material. Appeared to be animal scat largely composed of bee parts.

Hive opened and no bees noted on opening. Top medium all frames filled with capped honey.

Middle box deep had a cluster of bees approximately 200. No queen observed. Three emergency queen cells observed but these were away from cluster but on same frames. Appeared queenless. Approximately 20 capped brood cells. No open brood noted.

Bottom deep partially filled with open nectar. Apparently cured as passed the “shake” test.

Screened bottom board had about 20-30 dead bees.

Sticky board was under the SBB. Had been in place for unknown period of time. Had notable number of mites, a few SHB, minimal wax particles.

While I generally discourage viewing individual bees as an assessment of Varroa load, I did observe the bees on the top of the small cluster. Approximately 25 bees were on the top bars of the middle box gathered together at top of cluster. I counted 4 or 5 mites on the top surface of the bees’ thoraxes and abdomens.

Removal of pupae from capped brood. No mites observed. Pupae had been dead several days and starting to dehydrate and decompose.


Analysis of Assessment:

Upon seeing bees other than the bees from the owner’s hive I initially suspected an abscond due to robbing pressure. However I ruled this out after seeing 1) no fighting or increased activity at the front entrance of the hive; 2) No torn cappings or wax on SBB; 3) hive stores intact.

The scat like droppings containing bee parts led me to suspect harassment from a raccoon or other small animal. However, it is my understanding that raccoons will scratch on the hive box or entrance at night to get bees to come out so they may eat them. However, I saw no scratches on the box or landing board. Additionally, I understand that raising the hive off the ground is a method of discouraging raccoons because it causes them to expose their undersides which the bees sting. This hive was raised further discounting the raccoon harassment leading to an abscond. The scat remains a mystery however, it is possible the scat was from another animal, perhaps a snake regularly eating dead or dying bees off the ground in front of the hive. I have lizards at my home yard that eat the dying bees on the ground and are a benefit to yard hygiene.

Owner reports increased yellow jacket activity. Not noted on inspection. We have had a couple recent freezes so that may account for lack of activity today. It is, however, noted as another pest pressure on this hive.

Varroa on bees. Counting 5 per 20 bees is a 25% Varroa load and well beyond economic threshold for treatment. It is generally considered that a functioning hive cannot withstand a mite population greater than 3000 total and is considered doomed. I suspect this hive had a mite load sufficient to cause death / absconding.


Reconfigure hive

Remove capped honey

Safely store comb for next season

Provide educational tips


Box with small cluster placed on hive stand. Owner advised that they are hopelessly queenless and doomed. However, as the owner had no other hive to work with and she did not wish to shake them out on the ground. Owner advised to recover and save comb after the bees die.

The hive bodies containing capped honey were removed for processing.

Combs with extracted honey will be placed outside for neighbor’s bees to clean up for 24 hours prior to being stored. Owner instructed in proper comb storage options.

Restart hive(s) in spring with packages placed on drawn comb.


Do not open feed in close proximity to hive. Feeding close introduces your hive to the neighbor’s hive and during times of dearth weaker hives are identified. I do not think this was an issue in this instance however it can lead to a “stressor” on the hive to defend its stores. Additionally, open feeding promotes viral disease transmission via contact with other, possibly infected, colonies.

Treat for Varroa earlier in the year. Given that we now know there are multiple hives located in close proximity to the owner’s bee yard, I recommend treatments at the close of the nectar flow, and again in early fall. An assessment of Varroa counts in the spring as well would be advised.

Perform the final “deep” inspection a bit earlier in the fall. Do final total inspection in early fall to ensure the queen is where you want her (lower boxes) and to assess stores prior to any fall feeding. After early fall inspection let them get their house in order. Remember, while we are trying to help the bees, we are not perceived by them as helping. To them, we are another pest in their hive.

Anger of Bees


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

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

A Beekeeper’s Book Review of More Than Honey: The Survival of Bees and the Future of Our World by casula mellita


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Markus Imhoof outlines many of the problems facing beekeepers today in his book More Than Honey: The Survival of Bees and the Future of Our World, which Imhoof had originally produced as a documentary. His slant is strongly pro-bees and anti-pesticides and, in conjunction, anti-commercial agriculture. In particular, I found his interviews with a large almond farmer and with a migratory beekeeper fascinating both for their own awareness about the problems that their businesses engendered while still maintaining their capitalistic outlook.

Imhoof includes information that is of an introductory nature to a backyard beekeeper, e.g., the breakdown of the various responsibilities by which bees in the hive, before discussing in detail some of the research that is being conducted in laboratories on how bees behave. This chapter was filled with engaging experiments and tidbits. For example, I learned that a particular bee, dubbed Red-23, had observed another’s waggle dance for a food source but had decided to return to its own previous food source, which the researchers had removed. Rather than return to the hive or search for another nearby food source as had been expected, Red-23 flew off to the location described by the other bee in its waggle dance, which Red-23 had observed at the hive. Not only did the bee preserve the memory of the directions in the waggle dance, but Red-23 had sufficient locational memory to fly from its location to the described location without returning to the hive first. Wow!

Read full article here: A Beekeeper’s Book Review of More Than Honey: The Survival of Bees and the Future of Our World — casula mellita

Werewolves Not Vampires by The Prospect of Bees


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Oh, had we but seen this video a few days earlier, in time for Halloween! A three-minute thesis competition is a contest for PhD students in which they condense their thesis into a three minute presentation comprehensible to an intelligent audience lacking any background in the research area. Doctoral candidate Samuel Ramsey was the winner […]

Read the complete article at: Werewolves Not Vampires — The Prospect of Bees

Honey and ginger remedy by Honey Hunter


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If you are feeling under the weather then look no further than honey and ginger. This combo is an autumnal flu fighter and life enhancer. Other ingredients that I take in abundance this time of the year are garlic and turmeric. However, my love of honey remains enduring. Honey is a favourite, winter, spring, summer or…

Read full article here: Honey and ginger remedy — Honey Hunter

Baked Honey Bacon Benedict, a Buzzworthy Delight during National Honey Month by From Behind the Pen


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September is National Honey Month and a perfect time to celebrate HONEY! What a fabulous time to promote honey as a natural and beneficial sweetener, bee culture, as well as the beekeeping industry.

Read full article and recipe here: Baked Honey Bacon Benedict, a Buzzworthy Delight during National Honey Month — From Behind the Pen

Comb Management Part 2: Comb size by Bee Informed Partnership


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Artificial foundation was developed shortly after the invention of the removable frames. The first foundation frame was invented by Johannes Mehring in Germany (Graham, 1992). But as more people began producing artificial foundation for Langstroth hives, beekeepers began experimenting with different sized cells.  Fast forward to today; we see both small cell and standard comb, but why is that? Well, that is the topic of part 2 of this 4-part blog series.

  1. History of comb management-
  2. Cell size: why so much variation between producers?
  3. Management strategies of foundation
  4. Benefits of replacing old comb

In part 1, I wrote about the history of comb management. In part 2, I decided to write about cell size. Cell size is a highly heated and debated topic that I, as a former commercial beekeeper, did not know of until recently. As a commercial beekeeper, we would buy foundation in bulk, which had a “standard” cell size (5.2mm to 5.4mm). I had zero concept of small versus standard cell size, and I became curious about why beekeepers would use small cell instead of standard cell. So I did what any eager millennial would do- I googled it. I found Michael Bush’s (  and Randy Oliver’s post ( about small cell size (and I went down a few other rabbit holes), and I instantly became fascinated about small cell size. I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.

In 1857, Johannes Mehring produced the first comb foundation (Graham, 1992). His goal was to provide bees with a template, which would encourage bees to build worker comb in the frames. From that day forward, artificial foundation became a part of beekeeping. However, beekeepers began to experiment with different cell sizes. In 1927, Baudoux hypothesized that larger cell sizes would produce larger bees, and based upon anecdotal evidence from his own colonies, he claimed larger bees produced higher yields of honey. Without scientific evidence, manufacturers in Belgium and France began to produce foundation with larger cells. These manufacturers asserted that bees raised in larger cells produced more honey and this concept took off (Grout, 1935). Those fallacies faded into history as cell size become standardized at 5.2mm-5.4mm.

Read full article with more detailed pictures here: Comb Management Part 2: Comb size — Bee Informed Partnership

Comb Management: Part 1 by Bee Informed Partnership


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Comb management is an important aspect of beekeeping, but comb management has not always been a management strategy of beekeepers. Rather, comb management is a fairly new concept. Beekeepers started managing comb with the invention of the Langstroth hive in the 1850’s. Today, comb management is a common practice for beekeepers, and an aspect of beekeeping beekeepers must be cognizant of. Because of the importance of comb management, I am writing 4-part blog-series on the subject. The blog-series is split into 4 parts:

  1. History of comb management
  2. Management strategies of foundation
  3. Cell size: why so much variation between producers?
  4. Benefits of replacing old comb


Read full article with more detailed pictures here:  Comb Management: Part 1 — Bee Informed Partnership

Part Two will be posted tomorrow.

Thanksgiving and Thoreau


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from Letters to Various Persons, Ticknor and Fields, 1865, p. 145:

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.”

Thoreau on Bees:

Thoreau was surprised at the distance to which the village bees go for flowers.

“The rambler in the most remote woods and pastures little thinks that the bees which are humming so industriously on the rare wild flowers he is plucking for his herbarium, in some out-of-the-way nook, are, like himself, ramblers from the village, perhaps from his own yard, come to get their honey for his hives…I felt the richer for this experience. It taught me that even the insects in my path are not loafers, but have their special errands. Not merely and vaguely in this world, but in this hour, each is about its business.” – The Writings of Henry David Thoreau


Once a Year Opportunity to Save on Varroa Treatment


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Once a year an opportunity comes along for the beekeeper to treat all of his or her hives for Varroa for less than ten dollars and about five minutes per hive. That’s ten bucks to treat all of your hives. But this opportunity only comes once a year and is only available for a short period of time. In South Carolina, that time is now, or soon, during the broodless period.

I’m reading more and more about abscondings. It’s interesting that most posts relating these abscondings place the blame on wax moths, yellow jackets, or robbing. I suggest these invaders are the second or even third string teams coming in after the true villain has struck a weakening or fatal blow. Did the bees abscond? Yes, most likely from the reports I read they did indeed. From reports, one week the bees are there, the next week gone. But I ask you, if your home was overridden with ticks, with the infestation getting worse each day, how long would you stay in your home?

Why now? Varroa levels increase in the fall and having no drone brood and minimal open worker brood means mite density in the brood area increases.

Last year I watched a group of nine untreated hives go into winter and come out as three. Ten dollars total and maybe 45 minutes might very well have saved them if they had been managed differently.

For more information on how to perform an oxalic acid dribble, Rusty lays it all out here on HoneyBeeSuite:

And here’s a “how to” YouTube video:

I’ll close this post with some words from Randy Oliver of Scientific Beekeeping:

“Three strategies I’ve found that always fail when battling varroa are:

1. Denial—“I haven’t seen any mites, so my mite levels must be low.”

2. Wishful thinking—“I haven’t seen very many mites, so I’m hoping and praying that my bees will be OK.”

3. Blind faith—“I used the latest snake oil mite cure, and it’s gotta work!”

Every time I’ve been “blindsided” by the mite, I was in actuality simply being blind.”