Miracles by Walt Whitman


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Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Walt Whitman, 1856

Miracles” was first published in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (Fowler & Wells, 1856) as “Poem of Perfect Miracles.”

Walter “Walt” Whitman, May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.

Born in Huntington on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and—in addition to publishing his poetry—was a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War. Early in his career, he also produced a temperance novel, Franklin Evans (1842). Whitman’s major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money. The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. After a stroke towards the end of his life, he moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his health further declined. When he died at age 72, his funeral became a public spectacle. ~Wikipedia

Video Music Credit: Comfort Zone by General Fuzz


Happy Birthday Julius Hoffman


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

julius hoffman

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

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

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

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

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

Text (edited) from: Bee Craft

How to send samples of adult bees to the USDA for diagnosis by InsideTheHive.TV


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This is the video number one of a series of videos about the honey bee diagnostic laboratory at USDA Beltsville Maryland. This video series will cover the main diagnostic procedures applied to bees sent to the lab for diagnosis.
In this video, Dr. Humberto Boncristiani and Sam Abban discuss the best procedure to send samples of Adult honey bees to the lab. It is very important to send the sample the right way to improve the quality of the service.

If you want to know more about this service provided by the laboratory check the link below.


via How to send samples of adult bees to the USDA for diagnosis — InsideTheHive.TV

The Fall Four by sassafrasbeefarm


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Here’s a repost from last year. I find it timely especially for those new at keeping bees. ~sassafrasbeefarm

I find myself digging ever deeper into the void of my beekeeping knowledge. It seems the more you think you know, the more you realize you don’t know enough. That said, I’m forced into at least assessing the current state of affairs in the bee yard and make decisions based on my ever increasing level of uncertainty about these things.

It seems that I keep reading here and there that the two biggest killers of honey bees are mites and starvation. More recently I saw a third reason suggested, that being winter moisture in the hive. And then let’s not forget about problems resulting from excessive internal hive space. Let’s call these threats to beekeeping the Fall Four. So, with these things in mind, let’s visit the bee yard and see what’s happening.

It’s now October and crunch time for assessing the Fall Four. Hopefully you survived the summer dearth period. Some of my friends fed their bees through the dearth and others allowed their bees to eat their stores – either method works. But now is the time to take on the Fall Four and look at each item and make it right prior to the coming cooler weather. Remember, honey bees are cold blooded animals and anything less than ideal brood nest temperature, in the low nineties, is likely to be stressing. And although the cool weather will soon start, we’ve still got a long way to go as well as times we can’t enter the hives or use certain interventions. So, this time of year we’re all beekeeping preppers.

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Item #1 is Mites. I’ve lost one colony to mites this year. It crashed with a mighty thud. Within three to four weeks it went from absolutely thriving to a handful of struggling bees. The weather was warmer then so I continued to see bees coming and going. If a mite crash was to happen now, with these cooler days, I’d probably see no bee traffic as it would take all of the sickly remaining bees to heat the brood area, queen, and cluster. Luckily I’m currently seeing traffic by late mornings on all my hives. A friend of mine told me the other day that he considers a colony dying by mites to be similar to the flu running through a dormitory – one day all are fine, but within days everyone is bedridden. It’s not the mite itself that kills but the viri it spreads. Just like the flu, when the right virus coincides with the right opportunity it’s off to the races. So, pardon my rambling, but have you checked for mites lately? That doesn’t mean look at your bees and try to find mites. It means place a sticky board underneath, ether roll, or sugar shake and count mites and treat accordingly. Recently I’ve been reading about the need to treat all hives when mites levels are high in any hive in an apiary. It seems a failing colony getting robbed out is itself a vector for transmission of mites within an apiary. Personally, I’ve decided this year to treat using Oxalic Acid. Given it is an organic acid and apparently works by eroding the mites finer anatomical parts, the mites are not able to build a tolerance or immunity over time. With all colonies looking healthy right now, my plan is to wait until the broodless period around Thanksgiving and treat all of my colonies simultaneously.

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Item #2 is Starvation. I placed my colonies on a maintenance level of feeding when dearth started. I had a plan to reassess stores at the start of October but then the Flood of 2015 came and plans were dashed. By the time I got into my hives several things indicated it was time to step up my feeding program – two weeks of rain, lack of fall foraging, and bees stuck inside eating their stores. My current goal is to get the hives heavy as soon as possible. That’s going to mean switching to a 2:1 sugar syrup to encourage storage while not stimulating brood rearing. I know from my recent inspections (after the flood) that the queens have already decreased egg laying. I don’t know if that’s because nothing was coming in during those long, wet weeks or because the days are getting shorter. Doesn’t matter though, my response is the same – feed ’em up good now. Now is the time to learn to pick up your hives from behind to determine their weight. That way, during the dead of winter you can assess stores without opening them.

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Item #3 is Moisture. I’ve heard and read many times that moisture kills bees before cold temperatures kill bees. I’ve watched the YouTube videos showing beekeepers in the mountains of Virginia, upstate New York, and Vermont with snow piled high around their hives – and their bees survive just fine. I think that is proof enough that bees can survive the temperatures of a South Carolina winter. But moisture, that’s a different matter. Almost every winter I see moisture inside the outer covers on chilly days. If not controlled that condensation starts to mold – not good. The old books talk about installing your hives tilted forward so condensation will run forward and not drip down directly onto the bees and chill them. That’s good but I really want to do more. For one, reducing the syrup to a 2:1 mix this time of year also helps to start reducing the amount of moisture within the hive. A little later in the Fall, I’ll remove all liquid feed and place a feeding shim with dry sugar on top. Some people simply pour dry sugar on top of a piece of paper placed on the top bars or on the inner cover (Mountain Camp Feeding). The sugar acts as a desiccant and absorbs the humidity. The bees feed on any sugar that the condensation liquifies. It’s a two birds with one stone situation. But the best method to solving the moisture problem is adequate ventilation. My inner covers have an upper entrance cut into them. If the colony’s population is robust I just leave the upper entrance open as during summer. If the bees have decreased in numbers I may flip the slot so that it is on the top of the inner cover, or screen it, to prevent intruders while still providing ventilation. I don’t worry so much about the low temperatures unless it’s also really windy for extended periods; I do worry about that wet, damp chill that comes with too much moisture in the hive.

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Item #4 is Internal Hive Space. Now is certainly a good time to assess hive (i.e boxes) volume. Most colonies grow throughout the nectar flow. If you were lucky you had the pleasure of stacking boxes on top of boxes – the uppermost boxes filled and capped with hoarded stores of honey. After the great flood, I was surprised to see that the bees had eaten a good bit of their stores. Other colonies had decided to eat some frames and leave others capped and untouched. Also, some colonies started their reduction in colony size early and are now down to half of the numbers of bees they had during the flow. Either way, they simply do not need the extra space any longer. My mentors have told me that here in the Midlands a hive with a 10 frame deep and a 10 frame medium, well provisioned, is all that is needed to get through winter until about late February. (two deeps or three mediums are also okay and represent about the same volume.) So, I look to consolidate remaining honey frames into as perfect of a second box as possible giving the bees a well stocked pantry above their brood area. Any extra full frames are placed in the freezer for possible use in late winter/early spring during buildup. I take a similar approach with regard to colonies that have reduced their numbers. I give them just enough room to be cozy and remove extra boxes (remember extra boxes are invitations to hive beetles and wax moths and require patrolling by your bees). The idea is to turn hives into efficient and compact units going into late fall and winter.

As already stated, I know more and more that I know less and less about bees. I’m sure that the way I am approaching this can be done a thousand different ways. That’s the intrigue of beekeeping. It’s an art and your methods are equally as valid. What works for you may be superior to what works for me. So take my observations and methods as incentive to explore, experiment, and tweak to your own situation. It’s all an adventure.

Honey Jalapeno Dip by The Honey Cottage


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One of our favorite things about fall is; FOOTBALL!!! There is nothing more thrilling then hanging out and watching the game with friends and family! One of our favorite dips to eat when we are watching the game is Honey Jalapeno dip. This is perfect to serve with crackers, chips, and vegetable trays. We even like spreading on our sub sandwiches. Hope you enjoy it this dip as much as we do!


1 cup of sweet potato

8 ounces of cream cheese

1 1/2Tbsp of Jalapeno

1 1/2Tbsp of green chili

½ Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp of honey

½ -¾ cup crushed pecans

Read the full recipe here: Honey Jalapeno Dip — The Honey Cottage

Book Review – The Sting of the Wild by Justin O. Schmidt by Vishy’s Blog


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‘The Sting of the Wild‘ is about stinging insects. In the first part of the book which runs into five chapters, Schmidt gives us an introduction to stinging insects and talks about how their stinging capability might have evolved from an evolutionary perspective. In the second part of the book, Schmidt focuses on individual insects, talks about their life histories and their lifestyles, their relationships with humans and other animals from the animal kingdom, how they use their sting and how sharp and painful their sting can be. He creates a four-level sting-pain scale and tries to rate each insect’s sting using this scale. Some of the insects which are featured in the second part of the book are sweat bees, ants of different types including fireants, harvester ants and bullet ants, wasps of different types including yellow jackets, tarantula hawks, mud daubers and velvet ants, and of course everyone’s favourite, the honey bee.


Read the full article here: Book Review – The Sting of the Wild by Justin O. Schmidt — Vishy’s Blog


How Can We Bee … Helpful? by A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip!


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It’s not rocket science it’s just awareness – simplicity itself – what would you rather Bee Dead or Bee Alive – personally l think l would prefer living bees to dead bees and the bees probably agree with me!

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

How BEE friendly are you? With Spring just literally on our doorstep now, although even l have to concede at times that in the UK alone, it appears that Mother Nature has withdrawn it … our bees are back into their daily routines. The garden l have here, is not a gardeners’ delight, we have wild herbs growing next to wild flowers, and very soon we shall be planting out our seasons’ rotation for vegetable growing. I tend to like to see more ‘weeds’ and don’t see them as such but more as flowers in the wrong place, it sounds kinder that way.

Plant more BEE friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden – With the loss of nesting and foraging habitat due to intensive monocultural agricultural practices and the ever increasing and rising suburbanization driven society pressures demanding more housing – natural landscapes are fast disappearing. You can alter things by planting flowers into your garden. Plant bloom heavy as Bees love forage volume and plant for the seasons that the pollinators are most active – as in early spring to late summer. Plan your flowering crops effectively;

Read the full article with lots of wonderful photos here: How Can We Bee … Helpful? — A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip!

It Always Starts with Assessment by sassafrasbeefarm


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Ever wonder why beekeepers are either reluctant to give advice OR you end up with multiple suggestions in response to the same question?

One reason is because seldom does the beekeeper being asked have a full picture of the issue being discussed. The problem and visual is clear enough in the mind of the person asking the question but usually their assessment isn’t clearly presented to the mentor or bee buddy. So what often happens is the mentor steers clear of guessing to avoid giving bad advice OR they venture a guess based on inadequate data. Since it is inadequate data it isn’t too difficult to wonder why multiple answers are sometimes suggested.

Good assessment data increases the odds of getting accurate suggestions.

So, as above, it always starts with Assessment.

APIE – Assessment, Planning, Implimentation, Evaluation

I worked in a hospital setting much of my work career. When it came to people’s lives I didn’t guess before administering treatments, care, medications, or interventions. I either was assured of my initial assessment or I stopped and re-assessed before proceeding further.

Measure twice; cut once! Well, sort of…

Of course beekeeping doesn’t quite have the same level of accountability and errors are not as devastating as in healthcare. However, the same methods can be applied which, if followed, should result in better outcomes for the bees and beekeeper. Until one Assesses how can they make a suitable Plan? And how do I decide on the proper Implimentation until a Plan is developed? And if I am to learn anything at all in this process I must Evaluate my results. Otherwise I make the same mistakes over and over, year after year, never understanding why.

But, again, it all starts with Assessment.

A Google search will yield many assessment sheets and data collection tools. Use them especially when first starting with bees. At some point it’s likely they will become second nature. And by second nature I mean you’ll do them without the need for prompting with a piece of paper. Let’s look a some things you may want to consider with regard to Assessment:

It’s easy – look, listen, smell! Touch and taste – not so much…

Approaching the hive:
Are they flying? Is the temperature such that they should be flying? Are they guarding the entrance? If not ask yourself, why not? Is the exterior of the hive marked up with bee poop? Are there dead larvae on the landing board? Dead bees? If so, was there a cold snap or is it appropriate cleansing, chilled brood, drone evictions? Are some hives flying and others not? Are there bees circling any hives looking for entrances? Are there bees fighting on the landing board? Are the foraging bees launching themselves into the air on departure? Are bees coming back to the hive heavy or with pollen? Are there yellow jackets, flies, or other pests hanging around the entrance? Do I have an appropriate entrance guard on based on the bees ability to guard? Any signs of dead bees in front of the hive? Any signs of wax cappings under the hive? Any moth or spider webs? Isn’t this easy – you haven’t even suited up yet!

Entering the hive:
What’s your idea on weight when you lift the hive from the rear? Is the number of boxes as expected for the time of year and history of the colony? What is the reaction to a puff of smoke at the entrance? What is the reaction to removing the inner cover? What does the hive smell like? Are there SHB inside the inner cover? Any sign of other pests? Is either the bottom or top box empty of bees? Do the bees run down between the frames when you give them a gentle puff of smoke or fly away? Are they unusually testy? Does what you are seeing, smelling, hearing correspond correctly with the season and temperatures? Does the top bars of the uppermost box have an appropriate amount of bees on them? Is there burr comb on the inner cover?

Frame examination:
Is there a well defined brood area? Where is it located within the hive (upper boxes? bottom boxes? chimney?) Is the capped brood density appropriate or spotty? Any cappings perforated? Appropriate worker brood to drone ratio? Is there a band of pollen over the brood and honey above that? Can you locate the queen either by sight or based on brood area? Is she where you want her? As you work, is the colony tolerating you? Are they giving you a roar to leave? Any signs of pests? If so how bad is the pest level? Any signs of PMS? Is the size of the colony in bee population appropriate for the number of boxes you have? What is your impression of the bee density and the number of frames covered with bees? Can they guard the amount of comb space you have given them to guard? Is there adequate stores? white wax? good brood pattern? Is the open larvae swimming in food? Is the hive functioning as a fine tuned machine?

And always, the follow-up question to the unexpected is, “Why?”

And so it goes with many many more questions that sometimes have different answers based on temperature, weather, seasons, bloom, dearth, and so forth. But it costs you nothing to ask these questions of yourself. Ask away and take note of your answers. And when the answers don’t add up to what you expect, are out of sync with season, or other hives, or just not what you expect look further for more questions to ask. Be the detective. Re-interview the witnesses and suspects. Get to know them well enough to spot the odd response or presentation.

If you think this is going to take years, you may be right. But I do think we get a little better every year. Keep asking questions of yourself and the bees until you see patterns and you know what follows various presentations.


Honey Pickles by The Ephemeral Bee


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I found a recipe for Honey Bread and Butter Pickles in Canning for a New Generation and decided to give it a try.  I’m reluctant to continue to call these pickles bread and butter pickles since they’re missing one of the key components I generally associate with bread and butter pickles – the sweetness factor.  I actually doubled the amount of honey called for in the recipe.  They were still not what I would consider sweet, and I tend to have a fairly low tolerance for sweet.  The recipe still turned out a wonderful pickle, it’s slightly different from a traditional dill, and has the additional bonus of not containing any cane sugar.  I also didn’t bother with canning these pickles, although, this recipe is perfect for canning if you want to put in the extra work.  I simply decided to save some time and store then in the refrigerator for up to a month, and gift a few jars.

via Honey Pickles — The Ephemeral Bee

The Bees do Most of the Work by sassafrasbeefarm


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On presenting honey for judging:

What are we except packers of the bees’ hard work? I don’t select the flowers to visit. Nor do I cure the nectar into honey; nor combat pests or robbers.  I do nothing as a member of their society. Aside from caring for the bees to enable them to do their work as they choose, I am merely the packer of their efforts. And so, I will do it with reverence and effort respectful of the work they gave to me. If that effort results in a ribbon then I’ve done my job to take what they gave and present it to others at its best. Yes, it’s fluff and not reflective of the best beekeeper out there. It’s extra for those that look for yet another activity related to their beekeeping. Hopefully my effort sparks some interest in others to look at the miracle the bees provide.


Musings on Minimalist Beehive Management by Tom Hebert


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Musings 312

How much intervention in the hive is enough? Some beekeepers do lots of management, entering their hives at least weekly, if not more. Others are minimalists with little or no inspections. Every beekeeper has their own unique situation that dictates their management.

In their zealousness, some new beekeepers always want to get into their hives to see what is happening. They are overly enthusiastic with this new endeavor and want to do inspections a couple times a week. And then there are other beekeepers who do minimalist management, letting the bees do what they know how to do with infrequent intervention. And sometimes it becomes very infrequent or even nonexistent.

So, is more management better? Is less acceptable? My guess is many beekeepers will say there’s a point when the beekeeper will overdo their inspections. But this debate could also be about whether the beekeeper does not do enough inspections.

I consider myself a minimalist when it comes to the management of my top bar hives. Often, I put little effort into checking them and managing them. It sometimes reaches the point where a person can consider me more of a bee-haver instead of beekeeper. I don’t even touch some of hives except to harvest them.

For example, one of my apiaries is in the mountains of Honduras on a coffee farm. I don’t get up there very frequently. The last hives in the line get the least attention. Time runs out and the truck is ready to take the workers back down to town. This is a Saturday and they work only until noon. I must go with it (or take a couple hours and walk down the mountain which is not likely after spending all morning in the hives). These are the hives that I only enter to harvest.

But minimal management works for me in my situation. I want honey from them but I don’t do beekeeping as my primary income source. I’m an elementary school teacher and bees have become a secondary income (unfortunately). They give me what they want for effort I put into their management. I accept that and I’m grateful for it.

Read the full article with lots of great pictures here: Musings on Beekeeping


Can a Hobby Beekeeper Make a Profit? by Married with Bees


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Good article and yes, my bees pay their way here too. The author makes an important point in closing that one must have a love for the bee primarily and any financial gain an added bonus. ~sassafrasbeefarm

Recently I met a friend for lunch, and over sandwiches she inquired about our honey bees.  I love talking about our bees, and she is a good friend who indulges me.  After I provided a status update she asked, “Are you making money yet?”  Her direct question caught me off guard.  Most people ask us when we will have honey available, and I think my friend was curious to know if our colonies had reached a point where we could harvest honey for sale.  Doug and I are first year beekeepers, so we are letting the bees have all the honey this year to get them through the winter.  Nevertheless, my friend’s question made me wonder if hobby beekeepers could make a profit from their bees.

Doug and I became beekeepers because we find bees fascinating.  We like learning about bees and talking about bees and taking care of them.  I also wanted to increase the output in my vegetable garden.  Neither one of us eat that much honey, and we never considered keeping bees for the purpose of generating income.  First year beekeepers spend money but don’t make money.  However, subsequent years may bring opportunities to actually earn some revenue.  Therefore, I decided to make a very rough estimate to see if it is possible for a hobby beekeeper to be profitable.  As the saying goes, this is a back of the envelope calculation.

Read the full article here: Can a Hobby Beekeeper Make a Profit? — Married with Bees

Autumn Abscondings and Other Odd Events by sassafrasbeefarm


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small swarm

(above) Small October cluster on bluebird box. Collected after the flood of 2015 – swarm or abscond?

Late summer and autumn swarming does occur but is an exception and probably occurs only in unique situations. Biology says when the parent hive is ripe for reproduction and all conditions are met the goal is to swarm. Queens that fail to reduce laying during dearth, well fed colonies, with the addition of a brief nectar and pollen flow may indeed swarm during this time of year. Inspect overachieving hives and disrupt the colony by adding empty drawn comb, sharing excess  brood with weaker hives, or  taking off excess honey stores. This makes the parent hive less than ready and disrupts their plans. Only after all conditions are met will they swarm and if nature or the beekeeper gives them work to do at home they will typically stay. In general, however, this time of year it’s hard for them to feel that conditions are optimal for swarming.

What we saw last year was an apparent increase in abscondings or colony failures where all of the bees left the hive and did not return. Abscondings are typically related to poor conditions in the hive or environment. i.e. starvation, drought, mites, SHB, yellow jackets, critters. Historically these were termed “hunger swarms” but may occur with or without food being present. I like to think of the conditions that precipitate abscondings as stress related. Think of it this way, if your house was overrun with fleas you might stay a while but eventually you’d gather your family up and say, “I’m not sure where we’re going but we’re not staying here.” Same for food; if you lost your income, no job prospects, and had no cash flow for food eventually you’d say, “I don’t know if I can get a job in Timbuktu but I know there are no jobs here so we’re moving.”

How are swarms and abscondings different?

Swarms are generally reproductive in nature and motivated by the organism’s innate drive to reproduce as a result of positive and plentiful stimuli. This is why they usually occur slightly before and at the start of the main nectar flow when resources are at their highest. This gives the swarm the greatest chance of survival. Late season swarms are probably generated by the occasional but less likely situation where the hive is simply full of stores, lacks room for expansion, yet is being stimulated with brief fall pollen and nectar flows. It’s a bad time for them to swarm and in all probability will not have a positive outcome for the issuing swarm.

Abscondings are different in that most of the bees in the hive will leave. It’s like one day they decide they’ve had enough of the poor conditions (stressors) and decide to leave. Unlike a swarm, it is precipitated by negative stressors. The beekeeper comes to the bee yard and finds the hive almost empty. The bees inside are usually bees that were left behind due to being out foraging at the time of the absconding or they are new hatch outs. If there is little capped brood you can assume they have been stressed for some time – scant brood decreases the attractiveness of the bees to the colony.

After last year’s events most beekeepers remarked that they never saw a cluster hanging in a tree nor any new colonies in swarm traps. One possibility is usurpation. Usurpation is when one colony forces its way into another hive and takes over. Apis mellifera scutellata is rather noted for its tendency to usurp calmer races of honey bees. One author promotes the idea that usurpation is more common than we think. The event goes unnoticed as there is no clustered swarm and the landing is not in a tree limb or swarm trap but another hive in the bee yard where they take over operations. Actually, as a survival mechanism, this is quite clever whereby a colony over run with stressors during a time of poor nectar production can unite with another weaker colony and increase its chances of survival.

What about the queen? That may be the $64,000 question. Colony Collapse Disorder symptoms where the queen and a few bees are all that’s left behind continues to mystify many researchers. I’m not going to say I have the answer that the researchers have yet to answer. It is a mystery. But I will say that it’s no mystery that the queen isn’t the only card in the game when it comes to honey bee behavior. Most beekeepers, after a few years in the hives, understand other powers at play within the colony like lack of brood pheromone, population balance, and the host of chemical pheromone balances that signal wellbeing or decline. Leaving without a queen is typically viewed as colony suicide, but as we have already covered above, usurpation might provide an answer to why one colony might leave a failing queen behind.

Another answer proposed to account for the events experienced last year is that the bees died while foraging or failed to return home. While this may be possible, it does not account for the lack of thousands of nurse bees that should have never left the confines of the hive.

In closing, I’m not offering any single cause to what you hopefully will not see this autumn in your bee yard. Last year, here in the Midlands as well as elsewhere, we witnessed multiple accounts of bees absconding. Almost no one saw a cluster hanging in a tree, captured a swarm, or otherwise accounted for the missing bees. We know many of these events were recounted by the beekeeper as having occurred within the course of a week. Forty thousand bees one weekend; two hundred the next weekend. Stressors last year included exceptionally high heat during dearth period, approximately half of normal rainfall, and of course the ever present Varroa mite.

We did an impromptu survey to see if a particular cause could be identified. However, no single cause was identified. In some instances it appeared to be related to mites, in other instances, poor forage or lack of feeding, the much higher than normal temperatures experienced, and/or a rainfall approximately half of typical for our area. Conversely, our survey data showed that those that offered their bees more supportive measures had fewer or no abscondings. Respondents with no abscondings had higher reporting for feeding during the dearth period, treatment for Varroa, availability of water, and overall higher supportive management of their colonies. This would seem to indicate that while no specific stressor could be implicated, a lowering of the stress level by increased supportive management reduced colony abscondings.

Beekeeping a Rewarding Hobby by Work | Play | Life


I clearly remember the first scary time I stuck my hand into the screened cage holding my first hive of 10,000 honeybees. Like most people, my reflexive response is to give bees and other summer stingers a wide berth. Up until that moment, beekeeping was just a concept. Now, I had my bees and, if I was going to give it a go, I had to reach into the cage (with a gloved hand) to remove the queen. This was my real introduction to beekeeping.

Beekeeping and gardening go naturally together. Squash, cucumbers, apples, melons and strawberries are just a handful of the many crops that rely on bee pollination. And then there’s the honey. A single, healthy hive can yield 50 to 100 pounds of this sweet, golden elixir.

Read the full article here: Beekeeping a Rewarding Hobby — Work | Play | Life

Caramelized Korean Beef with Kimchi Fried Rice by GloryBee


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Buckwheat Honey is our central ingredient for this recipe. While some may question our choice of honey on this recipe, we picked it because Buckwheat Honey is known for its depth of flavor. You can use Buckwheat Honey for all sorts of savory recipes and we think this is a great fit! Enjoy!

Read the full recipe here:  Caramelized Korean Beef with Kimchi Fried Rice — GloryBee

Fall Nectar Flow by sassafrasbeefarm


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The Fall flow is officially on in my corner of Southeastern Lexington County, South Carolina. Weight gain, white wax, and increased activity indicate a nectar flow. I went out to feed some of the lighter hives and noticed some white wax as well as some weight gain on hives since 10 days ago. As the day warmed the bees were definitely flying with intent with some congestion on the landing boards. Even with the lack of rainfall, fall flow is on over here in the barren sand hills of Southeastern Lexington County. If it’s on here in this sandbox it’s likely you may find it’s on elsewhere in the Midlands. Bees flying with intent, launching themselves off the landing board immediately after exiting the hive entrance, increased incoming traffic as well landing and hurrying inside, other bees show excited behavior on the landing board, overall appearance of heightened purposeful activity, some white wax noted inside, the smell of goldenrod and sight of yellow pollen coming in.

It was a happy day indeed to be able to save some of that syrup until another day. I found a renewed interest in the pollen feeder which baffles me a little but may be a result of some increased brood rearing… I don’t know. All these things are a pleasant change from the doldrums of dearth. Pray for some rain to sustain the flow. Order up – winter bees please.

The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend. by Berks County PA Honey Bee Removal


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About this time of year, for the past several years, most of my honeybee colonies would be fending off hundreds of yellow jackets daily. They also would deal with the occasional baldfaced hornet, but to a much lesser extent. This year however (so far), I have witnessed a grand total of 2 yellow jackets, and 2 baldfaced hornets attempting to harass my bees.

So why the picture of my topbar hive full of European hornets? It was back in May that I noticed a single, huge mother hornet enter my empty topbar hive. I looked through the viewing window to see an adorable little paper cone about the size of a silver dollar hanging from a bar. I was preparing to go in and smoosh it, along with mamma when I thought to spend a minute researching these things. I decided to leave it be, and if it got out of hand, then I’d kill it. It never really did get out of hand in my opinion, and it has been as interesting to observe as any other social insect colony.

Read the full article and follow some links to videos here: The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend. — Berks County PA Honey Bee Removal 19601

For Good of the Colony, Sick Honey Bee Brood Sounds the Alarm By Kaira Wagoner, Ph.D.


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Pollinator health is a top priority these days, and everyone seems to be asking, “What can be done to save the bees?” Since most of the current challenges to pollinator health can be attributed to humans, there are several things we can do, from restoring pollinator habitat by planting pollinator-friendly natives to curbing our use of harmful pesticides.

This work is both ecologically and economically important, as honey bees are the most agriculturally important pollinator worldwide, contributing over $15 billion to annual crop yields in the United States alone. But honey bees have flourished on Earth for over 100 million years, so perhaps it is also worth asking, “What can honey bees do to help themselves?”

As social insects, closely related honey bees live in crowded colonies with frequent physical contact, a recipe for the rapid spread of parasites and pathogens. As a result, honey bees have evolved some fascinating social immune mechanisms, which help mitigate the spread of disease between sisters in a bustling colony. One such immune mechanism is “hygienic behavior,” the ability of adult bees to detect and remove unhealthy brood from the colony. By sacrificing a few unhealthy young, the overall health of the colony, and thus the probability of colony survival, is improved.

Read the fill article here: For Good of the Colony, Sick Honey Bee Brood Sounds the Alarm — Entomology Today

Environmentalist Scare Stories – Never Mind! by peoples trust toronto


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“Baby boomers” will remember Gilder Radner’s Saturday Night Live character from the ‘70s – Emily Litella, who would launch into hilarious rants against perceived problems, only to discover that she had completely misconstrued what she was fuming about.

“What’s all this fuss about endangered feces?” she asked in one. “How can you possibly run out of such a thing?” Then, after Jane Curtain interrupted to tell her “It’s endangered species,” she meekly responded with what became the iconic denouement of the era: “Ohhhh. Never mind.”

The Sierra Club and “invertebrate-protecting” Xerces Society recently had their own Emily Litella moment, over an issue they both have been hyperventilating about for years: endangered bees. For over half a decade, both organizations have been raising alarms about the imminent extinction of honeybees and, more recently, wild bees – allegedly due to the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

These are advanced-technology crop protection compounds, originally developed and registered as “reduced-risk” pesticides. Applied mostly as seed treatments, neonicotinoids get taken up into the tissue of crop plants, where they control pests that feed on and destroy the crops, while minimizing insecticide exposure to animals, humans and beneficial species like bees.

But not according to the Sierra Club! It campaigned incessantly for years on the claim that neonicotinoids would drive honeybees into extinction. For instance, in March 2015 the Sierra Club of Canada launched a nationwide “Protect the Pollinators Tour,” as part of its #SaveTheBees project.

“Ironically, the justification for this chemical madness is the same desire to produce enough food to feed everyone,” it said. “The chemical industry wants us to believe we have no choice; it’s their way or the highway. But the science tells us otherwise – that farmers don’t need these chemicals at all! The science also tells us we’re not just killing bees and pollinators, but other insects too. And we’re also killing birds and aquatic life. The scientists tell us we could be creating a Second Silent Spring. It’s madness.

Read the entire article here:  Environmentalist Scare Stories – Never Mind! — peoples trust toronto

The Mystery of the Missing Spiracle (Pair) by Staci Siler


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The Mystery of the Missing Spiracle (Pair)
by Staci Siler

It read like the gravest of murder mysteries.  There was a spiracle missing on the side of my honey bee.  The book I read said it was supposed to be there but it was conspicuously absent.  What was wrong??  Was I looking at a serious mutation in my bee?  Was it contagious?  What was going on!!!!!  Where was that spiracle?

It would be nice if the answer were easy…  Or rather, I should say the answer is easy…. but complicated.

Read one book and there are nine spiracles on each side of a honey bee.  Read another and there are ten.  Read a third book and there are two spiracles on the thorax and a fourth will claim three…  So who is right??? Who is wrong???  What is going on and where is that spiracle???!!!???

To get to the answer to the question of two or three spiracles on the thorax, we have to learn a little about honey bee biology.  A spiracle is, basically, a hole in the side of the honey bee through which the bee breathes.  When the bee is a young larvae, there are ten spiracles along the side of it’s body — two on the thoracic region and eight on the abdomen.   As the honey bee grows, a ‘waist’ develops which separates the thorax from the abdomen but it starts right below the first segment of the abdomen.  As such, anatomical pictures of the adult honey bee look like this:

On this picture, you can see that the Roman numerals, which number the segments of the abdomen, start at I on the thorax, where the third spiracle is at.  As such, it would be technically correct to say there are two spiracles on the thorax but….  it would also be accurate to claim three spiracles to the ‘thoracic area’ or claim three by acknowledging the way the first abdominal segment is positioned on the thorax.That did very little to solve the initial question though as we are still left with a missing spiracle.  So… if the larvae started out with ten spiracles, where did it go?

Here is a picture of the young larvae, with all ten spiracles marked as dots along the centerline of the larvae.

Note that the tenth spiracle is located on the Roman Numeral, VIII, the eighth segment of the larval abdomen.  But if we look back at the adult honey bee we saw above, there is no eighth segment… is there???Actually, there is.  When the honey bee goes through metamorphosis, the eighth segment which contains the tenth spiracle ends up tucking up inside the seventh segment.  It is not visible but it still exists.  That said, is the tenth spiracle, though functional as a larvae, still functional or even connected to the breathing sacs in the adult honey bee.  See below image:

Note: only spiracles one through nine are listed.

The latest addition of the Hive and the Honey Bee lists the tenth spiracle as located in the spiracular plate associated with the base of the sting and, given it states there is a way for the spiracle to stop the escape of air, it lends credibility to the thought that the tenth spiracle, though often forgotten, is functional.  There is no notation for it in the above picture but other texts list it as having the second largest opening of the ten spiracles which would imply it is anything but vestigial.

So… we have found the missing spiracle.  You won’t see it if you put a magnifying glass on the bee’s abdomen but the tenth spiracle does exist, it is just not readily visible unless you are willing to get up close to the honey bee’s sting — an area beekeepers generally try to avoid.

Which is the more accurate answer?  Two or three, nine or ten??

I guess, as long as you take into account every reason for the differences (nine visible, ten functional — three on the thorax if acknowledging the transfer of the abdominal segment, two on the actual thorax) you could say any one of those variations and be correct… Technically…..

Ref: R.E. Snodgrass, Honey Bee Anatomy
Staci Siler is a Master Beekeeper living in South Carolina. She teaches all levels of beekeeping classes and frequently speaks at beekeeping associations across the state. She is the current Secretary of Mid-State Beekeepers located in the Midlands of South Carolina.

Ginger Honey Pear Butter by Fillmore Container


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Ginger Honey Pear Butter

September is National Honey Month and it seemed fitting for us to celebrate. Not only because we have a pretty sweet line of honey jars, but also because we’ve been enjoying honey sweetened preserves and all the benefits of swapping honey for sugar in our jams, fruit butters and other preserves.

If you haven’t tried using honey in place of sugar in your preserves, this post about honey sweetened preserves offers some guidance on how to do that safely. We’ve also learned a lot about the addition of honey, and tried many trusted recipes from the books Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, and Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin.


Pear ImageThis recipe is adapted from Marisa McClellan’s recipe for Gingery Fig Butter in her book Naturally Sweet Food in Jars.

Yield: 5 (half-pint/250 ml) jars

3 pounds/1.4 kg pears, chopped

1 cup/340 g honey

1/4 cup/60 ml bottled lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

Prepare jars, lids and a boiling water bath canner and 5 half-pint/250 ml jars.

Note: You don’t need to peel these pears. The natural pectin in the skins helps thickening. And adds flavor and nutrition. When you puree the pears (with the skins), you’ll find the skins just disappear into the butter.

Combine the pears, honey, lemon juice, and ginger in a low, wide, non-reactive pot. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the contents of the pot begin to bubble and roll, reduce the heat to medium-low. Using an immersion blender, puree the warm pears until smooth. Cook, stirring regularly until the pear puree is thick. You know it’s done because it begins to thickly coat the sides of the pan and offers more resistance when you stir. During cooking, the pear butter may have clumped up a bit. If this is the case, use your immersion blender to puree is smooth again.

Remove the pot from the heat and funnel the finished butter into the prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch/12 mm of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.



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


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John S. Harbison


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

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

1857 – Invented the section honey box.

1859 – Invented the Harbison, or California hive.

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

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

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

John S. Harbison September 29, 1826

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Robobees Solve the Pollination Crisis? by The Xerces Society


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Earlier this year, Walmart filed a patent application for drones that are designed to pollinate crops by carrying pollen from one plant to another, detecting flower locations with sensors and cameras. More recently, there has been a surge in news articles analyzing the concept of “robobees,” which is also being researched in labs around the world, from Harvard to Russia’s Tomsk Polytechnic University. Although several organizations are exploring this concept as a way to address the alarming decline in honey-bee populations, it seems highly unlikely that robotic pollinators could actually provide a solution.

First, in crop plants alone there are myriad varieties of flower shapes, sizes, and arrangements. For a sense of this diversity, just think of squash flowers, sunflowers, apple blossoms, and tomato flowers. Bees have coevolved with plants to collect and transport pollen efficiently. How many different types of drones would one farmer need? We are a very long way from having technology that will accomplish the task that bees already perform.

And the problem is more complex than just crops. At least 85 percent of all terrestrial plant species either require or strongly benefit from some form of animal pollination, and the idea of robotic pollinators ignores the many wild plants in meadows, prairies, hedgerows, and forests. Focusing solely on crop pollination and failing to take the pollination of native plants into account may well lead to a deterioration in the plant communities that make up the very fabric of our environment.

Read the full article here: Can Robobees Solve the Pollination Crisis? — The Xerces Society

Queen Bee Chemistry by Sciences In the Mural Of Life


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It is so easy to jump to conclusions when observing and studying honeybees. To the uninitiated, the female workers seem to be the key to the hive. After all, they do so much. They start off early in their lives cleaning the nest. A few days later they are feeding larvae, then secreting wax to build the honeycomb. At about the age of 20 days, they act as guards to the entrance of the nest, and when their glands degenerate, they’re off collecting pollen and nectar for the rest of their lives. After a successful trip, they perform elaborate symbolic dances, revealing both the angular and scalar components of their displacement from flowers to hive. In contrast, the males and the queen bee don’t do any of the above.

But the female workers, as industrious as they may be, do not reproduce and do not exert the strongest influence in the hive. The failure of a single and other type of individual is consistently listed as a cause of honeybee colony mortality.  That individual is the queen bee. She is born in a cell built larger than the others to accommodate her bigger size. But what makes her develop into a queen? After observing that the queen bee larva and adult queen is only fed a so-called royal jelly, a white mixture of protein and sugar secreted from the heads of worker bees, it was long assumed that the mixture held the secret. But a few years ago it was revealed that the key was not necessarily contained in the royal jelly but in what the queen bee was not fed: pollen and nectar. The latter food- source for other larvae contains flavonoids, some of which include inhibitors. Investigators reared larvae in the lab on a royal jelly diet adulterated with para coumaric acid, and by the time they developed into adults, ovary development had been stunted.

Read the full article here: Queen Bee Chemistry — Sciences In the Mural Of Life

Politics of the Hive – The Bee Blog by Rita Komendant


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This is a Drone. He has very large eyes that I surmise cover a 270° radius  (just a guess, I’ll look it up) so he can see the Queen for the mating flight. All those drones taking up space in the hive and eating up all the goodies, the bee bread and honey stores. Bee bread is a combo of honey and pollen. Can you taste the polleny-breadiness? I have now read the colony allows them to hang out to ‘keep the brood warm’ but the entomologists don’t all agree on this.  They are larger than everyone else, kind of ‘chunky’.

‘First Lessons in Beekeeping’ published in 1918 by  Charles Dadant arrived recently from Amazon’s trove of ‘lost books’. This book is considered one of the ‘bibles’ of beekeeping.  We got it right back then and bees were and still are and always will be it seems, the most studied creature on the planet. The book begins immediately with the reproduction equipment (and that stinger) of this fascinating society of insects. Dadant could draw!(next time I’ll show you the etching-like diagrams)

Read the full article here: Politics of the Hive — The Bee Blog by Rita Komendant

Grandpa’s Bees by TheHem4Life


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The old-timers call them bee gums.  Bees commonly took up residence in an old gum tree.  These natural hollows could be used for keeping bee colonies.  L.L. Langstroth patented a new man-made structure for bees in 1852 with a careful mind to maintaining “bee space”.  This design, with minor modifications, remains the standard for modern beekeeping in the United States.  Some new designs are being developed.  But Grandpa had his white painted langstroths behind the house and above the garden for his bees.  He still called them bee gums.

I grew up in Colorado, so childhood visits to my grandparents were rare.  But I still remember sitting on the porch watching a massive swarm settling into the nearby tree while Grandpa fretted over how to get them back into a bee gum.  Hard to get honey from escapees.

Fresh honey truly is magical.  Nothing like what comes in the stores.  Even honey from a chemical free beekeeper is not the same – it has sat around a bit.  Grandpa would suit up and grab his smoker and return with frames and frames of the stuff.  My sister and I would chew up the comb extracting the honey directly onto our tongues.  Granny and Grandpa used their great big aluminum pans to drip out honey while cutting the comb.  Chunks of comb would go into waiting mason jars, the remaining honey poured over, and the jars sealed.  The honey went to family, friends, the bank house, and the farmer’s market.  There always seemed to be plenty though Grandpa kept four colonies at the most.

Read the full article here: grandpa’s bees — TheHem4Life

Bee Keeping & Legitimately Fun Facts About Bees! by LEO


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Ever since kindergarten, I have been beekeeping with my mother, but we aren’t the first in our family. Our beekeeping tradition goes back four generations to my great-grandmother Charlotte Ames, but I am the first male beekeeper in my family. My sister, on the other hand, does not want to involve herself with bugs in any way. She will go days without using her bathroom if there is a ladybug somewhere inside.

I  have loved bugs all my life. When I was three or four years old, I would find stinkbugs, because my old house had an abundance of them, and stuff them in my matchbox cars and drive them around town. Though I couldn’t get my hands on bees to put them in cars, I still loved them anyway.

Read full article here: Bee Keeping & Legitimately Fun Facts About Bees! — LEO


Beek Reads: Nobody Wants to be the Queen by Q Gardens


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“What role would you want in the hive?” we asked, the eight of us sitting in the circle of benches surrounded by Q Gardens’ newly green herbs and late spring blooms. The answers differed, but on one thing, we agreed: No one wants to be the queen.

The life of a drone sounds idyllic, if short-lived. Lay about the hive. Eat. Wait for a sunny day to fly out to the drone congregation area—how exactly the drones know the congregation’s location is a mystery—and find a young virgin queen to explosively impregnate. And die, gracelessly but with purpose.

The worker bee’s life isn’t so bad either. She has a number of roles, from nurse to scout, so it’s never boring, and workers have the highest “autonomy,” collectively making the hive’s “decisions.” A worker’s life is always busy, always productive.

Read the full article here: Beek Reads: Nobody Wants to be the Queen — Q Gardens

Pork Tacos with Honey Mango Relish by From Prosecco to Peaches


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I had been in the mood for tacos for a few days but could not decide what kind I wanted to make. Ground beef? Steak? Chicken? A trip to the butcher decided for me. We popped into the butcher and waiting for me was this pork shoulder (aka boston butt). Once I laid my eyes on it my taco destiny was decided.

Fruit salsas/relish don’t usually appeal to me. I like my savory dishes savory and my sweet dishes sweet, rarely do I enjoy combining the two (except for the classic salt+chocolate]. However, I had a few honey mangos hanging out on the counter, and figured I would give this whole fruit salsa thing a go. Speaking of honey mangos, where have you been all of my life? I have never seen them before this year and suddenly they are in every supermarket. I’m glad for it, they are way easier to prepare than the mangos I am used to eating.

Anyway, the next time you find yourself wanting some tacos, or need to feed a crowd, definitely give these a try. If you are a savory fruit skeptic, give the relish a go, it definitely made me a convert.

Get the recipe here: Pork Tacos with Honey Mango Relish — From Prosecco to Peaches

The Background Hum – Drones by Why Do Bees


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They’re freeloaders yet vital to the colony’s success. Most of the time they’re laid back bordering on lazy, yet they give it all to their mission when pheromones beckon, dying in the process. They’re allowed to play in the hive all season then bullied out in the fall. It’s all about colony survival. In a healthy hive, drones are the background hum, the harmony behind the melody, a small but important part of the symphony.

Read the full article at: The Background Hum — Why Do Bees

Garden Plan For Pollinators by Keeping Backyard Bees


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Many pollinator species have suffered serious declines in recent years. Unfortunately, most of our landscapes offer little in the way of appropriate habitat, forage, and housing. Even the most beautiful gardens are not always healthy ecosystems. Design choices, plant selections, and maintenance practices can make a huge difference in creating your own healthy ecosystem, filled with life. As a garden designer, I use this landscape plan for many gardens to attract the greatest varieties of pollinators.

Read full article with lots of pictures and plans here: Garden Plan For Pollinators — Keeping Backyard Bees


The Zen of Beekeeping by Wildflower Meadows


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beekeeper holding a honeycomb full of bees

For a beginning beekeeper, opening a hive for the first few times can be somewhat overwhelming – and downright scary!  There are all those bees in there.  They have stingers.  What if they get angry???  Then there is all of the unfamiliar gear: a veil or suit, big gloves, and a new hive tool.  It can all be a bit overwhelming and cause a beginning beekeeper to feel quite anxious.

This nervousness almost certainly makes matters worse.  While it is hard to say for certain whether bees can intrinsically sense this unease, they most certainly do sense unsteady and jerky movements.  Bees do not like these kinds of rapid or rushed actions.  They especially do not like any kind of rough treatment.  For an experienced beekeeper, swatting at bees, darting about, dropping things, and banging things are all completely out of the question.

Beekeepers need to be relaxed and calm around their bees.  If you are nervous as a beginner, you need do your best to pretend that you are calm.  (“Fake it until you make it!”).  Bees are sensitive creatures.  If you move carefully and calmly, treating them with peace and respect, they will return the favor.  One of the joys of keeping bees is the opportunity to get in touch with and to give respect to the magnificent sense of peace and purpose that is in the heart of every beehive.

Read full article at: The Zen of Beekeeping — Wildflower Meadows

Bees and Water by Braman’s Wanderings


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We often see pictures of bees collecting nectar from flowers and blossoms, but they also need to collect water. The bees use water to cool their hives, help feed their young and also to keep honey at the right hydration level.

Read full article with more photos at:  Bees and Water — Braman’s Wanderings

A Relaxing Stroll in the Bee Yard by sassafrasbeefarm



Thor’s Fight with the Giants by Mårten Eskil Winge, 1872

Hehehe, Just came in from doing a walk through the bee yard. One hive is off to itself having been established under a tree where a swarm had been captured this past spring. The hive grew to such size that moving it became problematic so it was just left on its own. The problem is the bottom board on this hive is a makeshift piece of thin lauan plywood screwed to spacers and a 10 frame deep. I had built it to use for “on the road” swarm captures but it had been utilized in a pinch and had remained.

I have known I needed to move the whole thing over to a regular bottom board and 10 frame  – some day. Yeah, it never happened. But today, with the rain and some of crappy weather behind us, I decide I’m ready to do something about it. hehehe.

Now the human mind is a curious thing and I know better than to dismantle this still large hive of four boxes on a rainy day to change out the bottom board. So the mind’s acceptable substitution, or less absurd solution, is to replace the idea of changing the bottom board with the more reasonable task of just sliding a reducer into place. The fact that it is raining outside doesn’t seem to impact this well thought out, reasonable compromise, to the problem.

Effort 1: reducer too long; about 5 bees decide they don’t want the reducer and run me off.

Effort 2: Now equipped with a bee suit and a hive tool I return and attempt to place reducer on front of hive; reducer becomes stuck sideways and won’t slide into place even using hive tool as wedge; about 20 bees decide they would rather not have a reducer and run me away.

Effort 3: I return with suit, gloves, hive tool, and hammer; I am greeted by 30 or more bees upon approach; I place reducer and start tapping it into place with hammer; within seconds about 50 – 75 bees come out and demand I leave; I set a new world’s speed record successfully installing the reducer; then, assuming this is a biathlon, I set another world land speed record running back to the house. There I discover I have transported at least a dozen hard core bees attached to my jeans, suit, and veil; I spend the next 10 minutes removing bees and resolve to just leave that hive to its own defenses – it seems they really didn’t need a reducer after all.

I wonder where I dropped that hammer.


Dr Warwick Kerr, the “Man Who Created Killer Bees”, has died by Bad Beekeeping Blog


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It is with regret that we report that the humanitarian, geneticist, and scientist, Professor Warwick Kerr, passed away this morning, September 15, 2018. He was six days past his 96th birthday.  Dr Kerr, a Brazilian bee scientist, had one of the most maligned lives of any research scientist. He will be remembered by some as the man who gave us ‘Killer Bees’ – the African-European bee known for its (sometimes) aggressive behaviour. The Africanized Honey Bee, a hybrid which Dr Kerr was largely responsible for creating, helped turn his impoverished homeland of Brazil from a backwater of agriculture and honey production into one of the most prolific honey and agriculture countries in the world.

Read full article at: Dr Warwick Kerr, the “Man Who Created Killer Bees”, has died — Bad Beekeeping Blog


Dulcis Coccora Recipe by Savor the Southwest


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A bit of history to sweeten an excellent historical recipe. Have a visit and read the full recipe. – sassafrasbeefarm

Monica King here to kick off National Honey Month since I’m a beekeeper. This awareness month was initiated by the National Honey Board in 1989 to promote American beekeepers and honey.

One pharoah, Cleopatra, used honey in her beauty regime. One of Cleopatra’s secrets, and her most famous, was her ritual bathing in milk and honey. Both of these ingredients naturally soften the skin, exfoliate, and leave a fresh, sweet scent. You can do this yourself by adding two cups milk and half cup honey to your bath water.

Personally, it is Cleopatra’s sweet tooth that I can relate to. Cleopatra’s favorite treat was a sweet honey ball called “Dulcis Coccora” also known as “Tiger Nut Sweets.” A recipe was reported to have been found on a broken piece of Egyptian pottery dating from 1600 BCE.

“Dulcis Coccora”
1 pound pitted dates
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon fresh ground cardamon
4 tablespoons chopped walnuts
honey – to coat
ground almonds and/or pomegranate seeds

Read full recipe here: Bees: Tears of the Sun God Re — Savor the Southwest:


Bees adjust to seasons with nutrients in flowers and ‘dirty water’ by Save The Bees Concert


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More and more it’s pointing to nutrition to help us save our bees.
~ sassafrasbeefarm

Researchers have discovered that honey bees alter their diet of nutrients according to the season. A spike in calcium consumption in the fall, and high intake of potassium, help prepare the bees for colder months when they likely need those minerals to generate warmth. A careful inventory of the bees’ nutrient intake revealed shifting sources and how limitations in nutrient availability from these sources can have implications for the health of both managed and wild colonies.

Read full article here: Bees adjust to seasons with nutrients in flowers and ‘dirty water’ — Save The Bees Concert


Why Smoking Soothes the Stressed-Out Bee Hive by Meredith Swett Walker


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Smoke has long been the beekeeper’s secret weapon to avoid getting stung. Ancient Egyptian art dating back over 2,500 years ago depicts beekeepers blowing smoke into hives. But despite the age of this practice and human’s enduring fascination with honey bees, we still haven’t figured out exactly why smoke soothes bees.

Meredith Swett Walker

In research published in August in the Journal of Insect Science, Stephanie Gage, Ph.D., with colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Carl Hayden Bee Research Center and at BetaTec Hop Products, presents a scientific evaluation of smoke on the honey bee’s defensive behavior. The researchers focused on the “sting extension response” and evaluated the effects of two different types of smoke: burlap, which is commonly used by beekeepers, and spent hop pellets—a recycled material made from hop flowers after they have been used to make beer.

Because a honey bee (Apis mellifera) hive contains valuable treasure—sweet honey and protein packed larvae—bees must mount a coordinated defense to protect the hive from the many predators that would love to plunder it. A small number of worker bees serve as “guard bees” that patrol the entrance to the hive and watch for intruders. If a threat is detected, the guard will raise her abdomen and extend her stinger into the air. This behavior is called the sting extension response, and it releases an alarm pheromone, or a chemical signal, to the rest of the colony, mobilizing other workers to prepare to attack an intruder. If the intruder provokes the bees further, stinging commences.

Read the full article here on Entomology Today Why Smoking Soothes the Stressed-Out Bee Hive — Entomology Today

Happy Birthday William Longgood



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

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

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




High Altitude Honey Bee by 67steffen



The honey bee in this shot, taken yesterday, is about 14 feet off the ground in the middle of ivy growing on a pergola.  Its wings are beating at 11,000 times per minute along with around 500 other bees in this ivy. The buzzing is very loud. I’m standing on a step stool with a 50mm SLR–bees are whizzing by me. This is nuts. But I take the photo regardless.  

Folllow more daily photos from the lens of: 67steffen

Gray Squirrels and Pollen Feeders




(Above) Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in pollen feeder. This is a picture of last year’s pollen feeder hanging outside my wood shop. Only it might as well have been called a squirrel feeder. They have to eat too and pollen substitute is high in protein!

(Below) And here are a few pictures of this year’s effort. No squirrels this year after placing the feeders on PVC pipe and greasing the pipe. A little plastic protrudes over the opening to protect the pollen from any rain.



Breakfast fruit bowl with honey by Sunsets Sunrise


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Hi everyone! I thought I would post food for today. Back on the grind of eating healthier. Breakfast is known as the most important meal. This is breakfast. Strawberries, blueberries, mango, kiwi over yogurt and oats on the bottom drizzled with raw honey. My way of eating healthier. Although at times I go off course. […]

Read full blog post here: Breakfast fruit bowl. — Sunsets Sunrise

Happy Birthday Lloyd Raymond Watson


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

North Hornell, Steuben County, New York, USA

Alfred, Allegany County, New York, USA

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

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

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

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

Eastern Apicultural Society 2018 – How Fortunate I Am by sassafrasbeefarm


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IMAG1739Recently I have taken some time off from blogging. In fact about three weeks now. Except for the occasional scheduled posts of famous beekeepers, I have taken a bit of time for a diversion – an experience that I want to share with you here.

eas photo

EAS 2017, Delaware

Last year I attended the Eastern Apicultural Society’s conference in Newark, Delaware. To say the least, I was taken by the scope and quality of the conference. At every turn I was impressed with the event. The lectures were outstanding, the speakers personable and approachable, and the venue perfect in many ways. I was literally up at 6:30am every morning, having breakfast with many of today’s notable beekeepers by 7:00am, and attending lectures and events until 8:30pm. But although I was trying my best to eke out every morsel of beekeeping goodness, I found it impossible to do it all. There was the microscopy track which was running concurrent with multiple lecture sessions, the honey show marched on in the background, the bee yard events, and the local excursions passing me by. I vowed to return this year to accomplish more.

hampton convention center

EAS 2018 Hampton VA

This year, in Hampton, Virginia, I would take a bigger bite and try my hand with one of the other tracks taking place at the conference. But before I spill the beans, let me tell you a bit of my history. You see, I’m a beginner at this avocation called beekeeping. A mere seven years although my wife and children will attest I have been diligent in my studies. During those seven years I have purposefully tried to explore as many niches in beekeeping as possible. Some things, like honey bee removals from structures, were one and done events. I’ve entered honey shows  and won blue ribbons and while somewhat rewarding I found it wasn’t my calling. I’ve kept some outyards on farms and gardens for the sole purpose of learning how to anticipate needs and scheduled visits. A couple of magazine articles were satisfying and added some financial assistance as I grew my apiary and purchased queen rearing equipment. Two years as the local association’s Secretary probably grew my knowledge base the most as I took part in responding to swarm calls, emails from beginning beekeepers, cold calling problem bee colonies, teaching classes, and surrounding myself with more knowledgeable beekeepers.

Along the path described above I checked off the boxes towards becoming a master beekeeper. And I found myself well on my way by the time I was at EAS 2017. But last year, at EAS, I saw what I wanted more than the microscopy classes or a honey show. I wanted the challenge of the EAS master beekeeping exam. Four tests – written, verbal, lab, and field. You get a pin and a certificate if you pass all four. The carrot on the stick for me was simply attempting and completing the challenge. I wanted to somehow put together my seven years of exploring and turn it into confirmation that I was well-rounded in the knowledge and skills of beekeeping. Not perfect, as my knowledge is far from complete; just a well rounded generalist.

So, this year I would give up many of the lectures and events to subject myself to mental exhaustion. Preparation started three years prior but in earnest after last year’s EAS conference. As this year’s testing approached I upped my study time and pressed my long since unpracticed study skills. Isn’t there some sort of saying about the difficulties in teaching old dogs? Well, I’m an old dog and things don’t stick as readily as they used to. Put another way, my mental hard drive has been filled for some time now with the events of life.


Just before walking into the written exam.

The EAS Master Beekeeping testing started with a meet and greet on Monday afternoon. There were about twenty-seven beekeepers there, some younger and some older, who would be taking some or all of the tests. Some were returning from a previous unsuccessful attempt. There you learn that there is no shame in re-attempting the test – in fact it’s the norm. The remainder of the room was filled with current EAS Master Beekeepers both sitting and lining the walls. The  beekeepers testing were invited to tell their stories about what brought them there. The master beekeepers shared their stories as well and encouraged us to try our best, and to not be discouraged no matter the outcome. At some point the message comes through that this testing is not solely about spilling forth what we have learned but is also about the ability to persevere, to stand and deliver to our best ability, and to be open to learning during the testing. The meet and greet works to dispel the idea that one has to pass to be successful. What one should also be doing is learning from what is before them. Oh, I still wanted to pass the exams, but now I also had the goal to let this opportunity mentor me which took some of the pressure off.

The next two days and nights were filled with last-minute, self-imposed test preparation and rehearsing my one known oral test question (one verbal exam test question of four is known to the testee). At some point during this crunch time in the testing process it begins to become apparent that I am learning more about beekeeping and about myself.

L.R.WatsonThe written test was difficult. But too often I simply looked at the obvious yet still called it wrong. True/false, multiple choice, short answer all reasonable if only my brain would tell me whether it was White, Wilson, Watson, or Woodley. The essay questions were a delight. Time to sit down, apply structured writing, and explain what I know without rushing an answer. I walked out giving myself even odds.

The oral exam was my weakest exam performance. I had spent too much time preparing for the known question and none preparing for the unknown questions. Well, how exactly does one prepare for the unknown? Yeah, there are ways. Any response can be structured just as any good essay can be outlined. Or frame your reply as a story-teller or perhaps present your monologue along a timeline. Start rehearsing at the farmer’s market and state fair booth. I knew this and have spoken with hundreds at markets and fairs so why did I stumble and miss the mark? The testers were kind but I know I fell short.


Dr. Caron overlooking the lab exam

Day two, on to the lab/practical testing. I had prepared for this by looking at pictures. I can read but thought a last-minute night of looking at pictures would be more beneficial and less stressful. Being a catalog nerd, I had the beekeeping merchandise down cold already – no need to study there. (Still I got stumped on one item that was used in candle making.) Onward… I had reviewed the diseases, especially the photos in the MAAREC book, Honey Bees and Their Maladies which proved beneficial. The microscopes proved to be easy enough except for my over thinking the specimens. Simma’ down now and relax. Afterwards, I gave myself less than stellar but better than even odds.

The last exam is the field test. Veils required; gloves shunned. No worries right? Let me say that although I am a beekeeper I do not enjoy being stung. But the thinking is a master beekeeper works his bees in a manner that minimizes stings. Hello? Does anyone here realize that it’s August? Dearth most likely? At home, 400 miles to the south, we are well into nectar dearth and the bees are cranky. Yeah, I do go gloveless sometimes, but usually I tend to rush things and know this about myself so I use white nitrile gloves – or leather if the bees are especially defensive. None for today though. So I wait for my time to go forth into the hive with an EAS Master Beekeeper. Then I see Landi Simone walk into to the bee yard and she and Paul are assigned to me.

Now, I really like Landi’s presentations. I’ve listened to her lecture titled, ‘Reading the Frames’ multiple times. I heard her lecture at EAS 2017 as well. In my mind she wrote the book on reading the frames. But now it’s time for her to role play the part of a newbee beekeeper and I’m to play the role of the experienced beekeeper. I’m going to read the frames to Landi Simone. Like they say at Disney, “On Stage!”


We stand at the hive and I do my external assessment. Paul stands in front of the hive. Yeah, he’s testing to see what I’ll say. I tell him to move out of the path of the bees. He wants to know why. I mutter something about UPS planes on landing approach to an airport runway. Landi offers a comment to my comment which depending in whether she is in character or out of character could be good or not so good. We proceed with the exam and I open the hive after applying just the right amount of smoke. Casually I say, “In South Carolina we always inspect the underside of the inner cover to assess the presence of small hive beetles and to smash them.” I glance down and instead of SHB the queen is running across the inner cover. Really? Now, this has happened to me only twice before in seven years but there she is in all her glory. I manage to get her to run down between the frames while silently praising Priestess Melissae. I mutter again, this time something about extra credit for finding the queen on the inner cover.

DSC_0153We proceed in dismantling the hive and all the while Paul is simulating the chattering of an excited first timer in the hives. I am trying to be patient but he’s eating up valuable hive time and I’m thinking his every question needs a complete answer or I’ll lose credit. At some point I’m explaining varroa mites and a different voice from somewhere booms out, “Tell me what a varroa mite IS?” Am I hallucinating or is someone calling out from the building’s roof? I turn to my right and yet another master beekeeper in an orange suit has appeared out of nowhere. I’m now completely derailed from my monolog and before I can shift gears and gather my thoughts he says, “What classification?” I tell him it’s not an insect so I would venture it’s an arthropod but from there I don’t know the taxonomy. He answers his own question, “It’s a parasite!” I take up his lead and start in with Apis cerana adapting to varroa which has not happened with Apis mellifera. Everyone seems somewhat pleased and the orange suit disappears.


Down, down, down we go into the bottom hive body, well past my typical time in a hive, and I still don’t have a definitive diagnosis for this troubled hive. Then a brief interruption from Paul who, continuing the role of the new beekeeper, is now complaining of a bee sting to his arm, I scrape out the stinger with my hive tool (he really does have a sting) and minimize the event although he wants more. Another question and I mutter something about too many questions – the bees are getting restless and have issued their warning and Landi is quick to ask, “Why are they making that noise?” I tell her, “They are telling us, it’s time to leave,” as I start to close up.  After closing, I finally repeat some of what I have been saying all along: spotty capped brood pattern, too few capped cells for the amount of open brood, queen has filled open cells with brood (appear well fed and healthy) as the spotty capped brood emerges which presents as mixed larval ages on the frame. Oh yeah, and backfilling. All of which is accurate but I’m only talking symptoms and have not given a diagnosis nor a prescription. Finally, I offer up a closing statement: “Possible mites causing the spotty brood due to hygienic behavior but I can not rule out inbred queen. Check the mite count immediately and treat if indicated. Re-inspect in two weeks to see if the copious open brood pattern turns into a good capped brood pattern in which case the colony has re-queened already. If not then re-queen. And cut back on the feeding before they swarm.” As we walk away I have no idea if I have satisfied their questions or correctly read the hive. I didn’t do myself any favors getting cranky towards the end. Crap shoot on this one.

As I’m walking back to my car to put everything away I realize I’m exhausted. But I have a good feeling that it’s done – all done. I survived the exams. Not that I thought there would be torture if I didn’t do well. I was simply happy to have put myself out there and given it a try.

I had to return home the next day to fulfill a family obligation. I wouldn’t be at EAS to see those in my testing class who passed receive their pins and certificates at the Friday night awards ceremony. I wish I could have. A connection is established between the test takers even though most of us had only just met two days prior – stories between us about how our families thought we were a bit off our rockers for constantly reading about bees – actually a lot about that. Also possible divorces if the books didn’t get put away, wanting to prove to the spouse we could pass, and worry that we’d have the books out for another year.

I explored my strengths and weaknesses on the drive home. I would be happy with passing two of the four exams. That would leave only two for next year. I felt like I did poorly on the orals although they were giving me praise on the way out the door. Nice guys but I knew better. By the time I passed through the middle of North Carolina I had developed a better presentation. Next year I’d make every oral presentation a story. “Let me tell you the story of almond pollination and the beekeepers that ‘got er’ done.” Yeah, that’s the model I’ll use next year.

And what was I thinking on the field exam? I jumped out of character several times. And worse of all I implied they were asking too many questions. Definitely not a good mentor tactic. I’d get dinged on that one. In fact, I thought, that’s probably an automatic fail. Next year I’ll start with coaching my mentees on how we have limited time and if they have non inspection related questions, or wanted to ask about their grandmother’s allergic reaction, we need to do that before or after the hive inspection. And next year, afterwards I’ll hold a debriefing and tell them they need to do their homework before our next session. No more sandbagging on the homework and asking questions already covered in their beginning beekeeper class. I’d suggest they review their book before we start our next hive inspection. By the time I arrived in the Midlands of South Carolina I had my game plan in order for next year.

But most importantly by the time I arrived home I realized what I had gained from the experience. I learned what a better beekeeper would have done and said, both in the oral and field exams. The tests were a time for me to both deliver my knowledge and to take some knowledge away. “Trust in the system,” I remembered one master beekeeper saying during the meet and greet session. He was right. I was satisfied with what the system taught me and recognizing my blunders. I could fix those next year.

Friday morning my phone rings and it’s my friend and mentor Dave. He’s still at EAS and the test results packets have been given out. He wants to know if I want him to pick up mine. I tell him, “sure” and after a brief verbal consent to a lady at the front desk, he opens up the packet and begins to read the results to me. When he comes to the last one his voice lights up, “Larry, you’re a master beekeeper!” Now I know Dave and he’s not a prankster, but we all make mistakes so I ask him to be sure. He re-reads the scores and says it again.

                        Dave and me at EAS 2018, Hampton, VA

In retrospect, I ask myself if I indeed passed. I’m sure I did not perform at my best. As with many things, some days things just flow, and on other days Murphy’s Law is in full effect. But I came through it displaying the ability to persevere, to stand and deliver to the best of my ability, and to be open to learning during the testing. That’s what they wanted even if I didn’t hit the high notes. So, in the end, I’m not really sure how they knew I learned as well as ‘spilled forth,’ but I have to trust the system.

How fortunate I am. My results came as I was driving my son to school – his first year in a dorm room. How fortunate I was to have him see how study results in a positive outcome. And how fortunate I am to have a wife that supported my effort despite months of my preoccupation with bee books scattered about the house from the dining room to the nightstand. And how fortunate I am to have been tested by Dr. Delaney and Dr. Caron. Some years from now when I’m old and gray someone might ask me about the testing and I’ll be able to say I took the test under these distinguished entomologists. And how fortunate I am to have been able to read the frames to Landi Simone even if I didn’t do it as efficiently or accurately as she. And how fortunate I am to have (with)stood and delivered on the oral exams to three great guys, Larry, Jim, and Bill, cheering me on through a tough half hour. I am indeed a fortunate beekeeper.





Beekeepers get ready for Spring in the Fall




Get ready for Spring!

Lots of articles speak to the beekeeping year beginning in August or early Fall. Yikes, that’s now!

If you harvested in June then you probably fed your bees through the dearth. If you waited until now to harvest you probably got less honey but you saved the costs associated with feeding. Either way, now is the time to build the best bees you possibly can for the winter.

I know it’s still hot but get back in there on the next reasonably nice day and assess them. You don’t really have to take every frame out and make them upset but get an idea of what they have. Look for capped and uncapped brood, pollen, and honey stores. And start picking up the back of that hive and compare it to what you see inside so you learn what’s heavy and what’s not.

We’re on the cusp of the Fall flow and soon your hive will start to stink from goldenrod pollen. That smell should bring a smile to your face as they are making preparations for winter and raising fat winter bees. Some of you may have more honey than you need, others will see some empty comb. Read your hive and, like an artist, choose your tools to create the ideal hive for overwintering.

Most beekeepers assess and treat for Varroa after they pull honey whether that was a couple months ago or now. You want to do everything possible to increase the health of your bees now so they, in turn, raise strong winter bees over the next two generations. Sickly bees build sickly bees; strong bees build Arnold Schwartenegger bees. You want Arnold on your side when the temperatures are 20 degrees in January and the pantry is waning.

Beekeepers that started this year will reach the pinnacle of their beekeeping in March 2019. Then they will have bees-a-plenty and the race to stay ahead of the bees becomes an exciting and enjoyable problem. Using this year’s drawn comb they will explode. The bees will be saying, “Scotty, give me all you’ve got.” and you’ll be saying, “Captain, I don’t think she can take much more! She’s gonna swarm!” (pardon the paraphrase).

But, back to the topic at hand – building better winter bees. Time now to step up your game one more time before we enter the long dull days of winter. Although most days in the Midlands of South Carolina allow for the bees to fly they won’t be flying much because there won’t be anything out there. And you’ll be stuck inside wishing for Spring to come and waiting for that first Red Maple bloom, or with your ear to the side of the hive listening for their hum as they convert honey into heat.

So, assess them now and and get them flying towards a hive full of strong winter bees and a hive filled with lots of stores for the long winter ahead. Go for it! Build better bees!

Picture: Early Spring bees. Notice no leaves on the trees yet.

Poor Man’s Yellow Jacket Trap


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yellow jacket trap

I’ve made several traps in the past with varying degrees of success. Here’s one specifically designed that allows the yellow jackets to enter but not the honey bees. I think it is a 5/32 size hole. Last year I tinkered with the mix formula. Instead of totally sweet which would attract the honey bees I stumbled onto a mix of apple sauce, vinegar, and a spoonful of sugar (just enough to get a fermentation going). The yellow jackets like the CO2 and I think and the vinegar is not attractive to the honey bees. I used a 2 liter bottle and filled it about half way full in a short time. If you get your bait mix down it will not attract the bees at all and you can then open up the entrances for the yellow jackets.

Honeycomb Cheese Wheel by snapshotsincursive


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What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Honeycomb Cheese Wheel! Remember when you were a kid and for fun you puckered up with those candy red wax lips? Me and my girlfriends would put them on, batt our eyes, sashay our hips, and laugh hysterically. Most often we’d find ourselves chewing on the sugary insides before spitting them out into tiny red blobs on our way home from school. I’m sure that made quite an impression on the neighborhood boys. Well today’s honeycomb is a distant cousin, twice-removed, to those artificial candy lips. Even better, raw honeycomb is completely safe to eat and naturally sweet. A little goes a long way simply because it is seeping with honey. Dress it up with a wheel of Camembert or Brie cheese, seasoned with a clove of garlic and a couple of sprigs from the herb garden. Spread it across baguette slices for an open-air treat.

Get the full recipe here: Honeycomb Cheese Wheel — snapshotsincursive

Honey bee nutrition by Fat Daddy’s Apiary


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As with all creatures, good nutrition is very important to a colony of bees. Many beekeepers only look at the amount of liquid stores a colony has, but pollen is equally important, yet often ignored. A lack of liquid stores can lead to starvation in both summer and winter, but a shortage of pollen can have a serious effect for some time, as poorly nourished larvae can result in poorly performing or unhealthy adults.

As a beekeeper, it is important to “read” a colony, because it is telling you something all the time. On each inspection, get into the habit of looking into a few cells where there are freshly hatched larvae, around 4-5 days from egg laying. If there is plenty of food coming in, the larvae will be in a big puddle of brood food, but if there is little food coming in, the bottoms of the cells will be almost dry. I wish this sort of observation was taught more by teachers.

Read full blog article here: Honey bee nutrition — Fat Daddy’s Apiary

Happy Birthday Albert J. Cook




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

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

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

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

External links


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

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

Happy Birthday Maurice Maeterlinck


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Tucker Collection – New York Public Library Archives

From Wikipedia:

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


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

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