Multiply by a thousand? by 67steffen


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Nice picture from my beekeeping friend and photographer 67steffen:

Our backyard ivy remains abuzz with honeybees. I’d say multiply this shot by a thousand to get a sense of how many bees are at work. Their hive is only a few feet away, so this may explain the high activity.

via Multiply by a thousand? — 67steffen


Beekeeping Vocabulary – “T” is for…


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Above: For your entertainment, Van Morrison singing Tupelo Honey

Today’s beekeeping vocabulary word is, “Tupelo.”

Tupelo Honey is the gold standard by which all other honey varieties are measured. For two weeks every spring, White (Ogeche) Tupelo Trees in the Southeastern swamps bloom with fine sunburst-shaped flowers that glisten with nectar.

From Wikipedia:

Tupelo /ˈtpɪl/, genus Nyssa /ˈnɪsə/,[3] is a small genus of deciduous trees with alternate, simple leaves.[1][4] It is sometimes included in the subfamily Nyssoideae of the dogwood family, Cornaceae, but is placed by other authorities in the family Nyssaceae.[5] In the APG IV system, it is placed in Nyssaceae.[6]

Most Nyssa species are highly tolerant of wet soils and flooding, and some need such environments as habitat.[7] Some of the species are native to eastern North America from southeastern Canada through the Eastern United States to Mexico and Central America.[1] Other species are found in eastern and southeastern Asia from China south through Indochina to Java and southwest to the Himalayas.[2][4]


Tupelos of the species Nyssa ogeche are valued as honey plants in the southeastern United States, particularly in the Gulf Coast region.[17] They produce a very light, mild-tasting honey. In Florida, beekeepers keep beehives along the river swamps on platforms or floats during tupelo bloom to produce certified tupelo honey, which commands a high price on the market because of its flavor.[17] Monofloral honey made from the nectar of Nyssa ogeche has such a high ratio of fructose to glucose that it does not crystallize.[18]

The Apalachicola River in the Florida Panhandle is the center for tupelo honey. The honey is produced wherever tupelo trees (three species) bloom in southeastern USA, but the purest and most expensive version (which is certified by pollen analysis) is produced in this valley. In a good harvest year, the tupelo honey crop produced by a group of specialized Florida beekeepers has a value approaching $1,000,000.[19]

Source and to read more: Wikipedia

Tupelo Honey is also the fifth studio album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It was released in October 1971 by Warner Bros. Records. Morrison had written all of the songs on the album in Woodstock, New York, before his move to Marin County, California, except for “You’re My Woman”, which he wrote during the recording sessions. Recording began at the beginning of the second quarter of 1971 at the Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco. Morrison moved to the Columbia Studios in May 1971 to complete the album.

Pumpkin Biscuits with Honey Butter by Arl’s World


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Love the color of these biscuits and how easy they are to make.  Not only are they a hit for breakfast …but they are also perfect by themselves.  The pumpkin in the biscuits and the honey butter are a great combination to stand alone for a mid morning snack or with afternoon tea.

via Pumpkin Biscuits with Honey Butter — Arl’s World

The Fall Four


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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 inappropriate 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 late 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 has started, 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.

Sex between species: what happens when invasive honey bees meet the locals? by Ros Gloag


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Some social insects have proved to be adept invaders. Assisted by the international trade of the modern world, these species have spread far beyond the ocean and mountain barriers that once determined their distributions. In some cases, these range expansions have brought previously isolated sister species back into contact. What happens when such species try to mate?

We were interested in this question of interspecific mating in the case of two honey bees: the Western honey bee Apis mellifera and the Eastern honey (or hive) bee, Apis cerana. These species diverged from a common ancestor at least 6 million years ago, with A. mellifera native to Europe and Africa and A. cerana native to Asia and India. Western honey bees have of course since been transported, in association with agriculture, to every human-inhabited continent on earth. Eastern honey bees meanwhile, have been quietly expanding their range too in recent decades, invading both Papua New Guinea and Australia. Thus what were allopatric (or separate) ranges for millions of years have suddenly become partially sympatric.

Read entire article at:  Sex between species: what happens when invasive honey bees meet the locals? — insectessociaux

Bees and Bee Boles at the Lost Gardens of Heligan by Adventuresinbeeland’s Blog


I just can’t resist sharing this wonderful post by Adventures in Beeland. Facinating stuff!

Today we visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan and saw the old ‘bee boles’. These are recesses in a wall big enough to hold straw skeps. The wall would have provided shelter and typically would have been south or east facing. At Heligan most of the boles have removable wooden doors in place. I would be interested to know how the wooden doors would have been used. I’m guessing they may have been in place over winter to provide extra protection from the wind and rain and then removed come spring?

Read the entire article at:  Bees and Bee Boles at the Lost Gardens of Heligan — Adventuresinbeeland’s Blog

The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life by BEEKeeperTom’s Blog


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Having delivered many talks to non/new beekeepers on honeybees and their importance, the Egyptian tomb honey question is asked more often than not.

Now Georgia (in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, not the US.) appears to trump Egypt by more than 2000 years!

Georgians have long laid claim to being the first winemakers in the world, but could they also be pioneer beekeepers? After a thorough examination of some five-millennia-plus-old jars unearthed in Georgia, archeologists have declared that the artifacts contain the world’s oldest honey.

The honey stains found in the ceramic vessels, found 170 kilometers west of Tbilisi, are believed to be made by bees that buzzed around in Georgia 5,500 years ago — some 2,000 years older than the honey found in Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb, which had been considered the oldest before, Rustavi2 proudly pointed out.

As in ancient Egypt, in ancient Georgia, honey was apparently packed for people’s journeys into the afterlife. And more than one type, too — along for the trip were linden, berry, and a meadow-flower variety.

Read the entire article at: The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life — BEEKeeperTom’s Blog

The Bees do Most of the Work


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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.

Beekeeping Vocabulary – “S” is for…


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Photo by Robert Engelhardt, CC BY-SA 3.0

Today’s beekeeping vocabulary word is, “Smoker.”

From Wikipedia:

A bee smoker (usually called simply a smoker) is a device used in beekeeping to calm honey bees. It is designed to generate smoke from the smouldering of various fuels, hence the name.

The fact that smoke calms bees has been known since ancient times; however, the scientific explanation was unknown until the 20th century and is still not fully understood. Smoke masks alarm pheromones[1] which include various chemicals, e.g., isopentyl acetate[2] that are released by guard bees or bees that are injured during a beekeeper’s inspection. The smoke creates an opportunity for the beekeeper to open the beehive and work while the colony’s defensive response is interrupted. In addition, smoke initiates a feeding response in anticipation of possible hive abandonment due to fire.[3][4][5] When a bee consumes honey the bee’s abdomen distends, making it difficult to make the necessary flexes to sting.[citation needed] (The latter has always been the primary explanation of the smoker’s effect, since this behavior of bees is easily observable.)

Smoke is of limited use with a swarm, partly because swarms have no honey stores to feed on. It is usually not needed, either, since swarms tend to be less defensive as they have no home to defend, and a fresh swarm will have fed well at the hive it left behind.

Source and to read more: Wikipedia

Cinnamon, Honey and Hot Chocolate Recipe by Honey Hunter


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Every struggled to fall asleep at night? Yep, us too. Here is a soothing cinnamon honey and hot chocolate recipe to relax your body and mind before getting under the covers. 1 tsp cocoa powder ½ tsp cinnamon powder A cup of milk (soy, almond or oat alternatives work just as well) 1 tbsp raw…

Read full recipe here: Cinnamon, Honey and Hot Chocolate Recipe — Honey Hunter

Former Coal Miners In Southern West Virginia Spent Their Summer Learning How To Keep Bees Thanks To UD’s Debbie Delaney by Bee Culture Magazine


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Ed. Note: What’s amazing, at least to me, isn’t so much the shift from coal mining to beekeeping. Rather it’s the reversal of the destruction that had resulted from mining. The return of bees to these areas actually changes the land. The bees support the flora which, in turn, supports various species of animals and other pollinators. A transformation begins to take place with the assistance of the honey bees.

Former coal miners or citizens whose lives have been shaped by the coal mining industry in southern West Virginia spent their summer learning how to establish and operate bee colonies thanks to help from the University of Delaware’s Debbie Delaney.

Delaney, associate professor of entomology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, spent her summer in Summers County working as a consultant through Appalachian Headwaters which is a non-profit organization that formed the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective. Delaney said that the goal was to help get the socioeconomic growth program up and running for displaced miners in 14 counties in southern West Virginia.

“We got about 500 nucleus colonies or nucs, which are small colonies of bees, and a queen and all summer we’ve been erecting bear fences and creating bee yards so we can grow the colonies over the season and get them through the winter,” said Delaney.

Beginning next year, local partners will come on board and get hives which will be a way for them to generate income.

Delaney said that how much income will vary depending on what kind of forage is available during that time of year—and that since the initial installation began after foraging season, they have had to feed the bees a lot to get them up to weight to make it through winter.

Read the full article here: CATCH THE BUZZ – Former Coal Miners In Southern West Virginia Spent Their Summer Learning How To Keep Bees Thanks To UD’s Debbie Delaney — Bee Culture

Cross-kingdom regulation of honeybee caste development by dietary plant miRNAs by Save The Bees Concert


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Honeybee larvae develop into workers but not queens, in part, because their diet of beebread/pollen is enriched in plant miRNAs. While miRNAs are generally negative regulators of gene expression in eukaryotes, they also negatively regulate larval development when honeybee larvae consume beebread/pollen and take up plant miRNAs. Xi Chen and Chen-Yu Zhang’s group in Nanjing University, report this finding on August 31, 2017 in PLOS Genetics.

How caste has formed in honeybees is an enduring puzzle. Although queens and workers are genetically identical, queens are reproductive and have a larger body size, develop faster and live longer than workers. Prevailing view is that differential larval feeding determines caste differentiation: royal jelly stimulates the differentiation of larvae into queen, whereas beebread and pollen consumed by the rest of the larvae lead to the worker bee fate. However, it is still not fully understood how alterations in diet modify so thoroughly the developmental trajectory of honeybees.

In previous studies, Chen-Yu Zhang’s group has reported a striking finding that plant miRNAs are ingested from plant diets and pass through the gastrointestinal tract, enter into the blood, accumulate in tissues and regulate endogenous gene expression in animals. Their findings suggest that ingested exogenous miRNAs can regulate endogenous gene expression and reshape animal phenotypes. Interestingly, since the components of beebread/pollen are mainly plant materials and royal jelly is a glandular secretion of nurse bees, the diets for worker- and queen-destined larvae are differentially derived from plant- and animal-sources. Therefore, Xi Chen, Chen-Yu Zhang and colleagues decide to investigate if miRNAs from different larval diets may have distinct impacts on honeybee development.

Here, they report that plant miRNAs are more enriched in beebread/pollen than in royal jelly. While plant miRNAs of beebread/pollen are fed to larvae, they cause developmental delay and reductions in body and ovary size in honeybees; in contrast, miRNAs in the royal jelly are not sufficient to reach a functional level, therefore queen-destined larvae evade this regulation. Mechanistic studies reveal that amTOR, a stimulatory gene in caste differentiation, is the direct target of miR162a. Interestingly, ingested plant miRNAs have a similar inhibitory effect on fruit fly development, even though fruit fly is not a social insect. In summary, this study uncovers a new mechanism that plant miRNAs in larval diet of worker bees delay caste differentiation and keep ovaries inactive, thereby inducing sterile worker bees.

The findings of this study are important for the following reasons:

Read full article at:  Cross-kingdom regulation of honeybee caste development by dietary plant miRNAs — Save The Bees Concert

Where do bees sleep? by BEEKeeperTom’s Blog


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A beehive is a busy place; many bees are working together to produce honey. Working so hard makes bees tired, and they need to rest. Lovely honeybee on a flower, pollen baskets loaded to the gunnels

Same as humans, bees get rest by sleeping. But, even though that seems logical, up until 1983 scientists didn’t know that bees sleep. The scientist who discovered that bees sleep is Walter Kaiser. He noticed that bees sleep by bringing their head to the floor and their antennae stop moving, some bees even fall sideways. The beehive seems like a hectic place, so it makes you wonder, where do bees sleep? But, before getting into that, we should explain why is sleep so important for bees. What happens if bees don’t sleep?

Read full article at:  Where do bees sleep? — BEEKeeperTom’s Blog

Double or Nothing? by Bad Beekeeping Blog


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A gentleman at our bee meeting posed a challenging question a couple of weeks ago: “What should I do with a weak hive? I think it might be queenless.” Well, it depends, of course.

I’m continuing with the series of questions which I overheard at a bee meeting not long ago. Today, it’s about weak/queenless hives. As in all bee questions, we are given just a bit of information. It’s not the beekeepers’ fault – they might not know what clues to look for and what information to bring to the club when they present their questions. (Actually, if they knew what information is needed to answer the question, they’d probably already know what to do.)

Read full article at: Double or Nothing? — Bad Beekeeping Blog

Tips for a hassle-free honey extraction by The Beehive Jive


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It’s the time of year that we all love . . . Whether honey is a motivation for your beekeeping or not, it’s always exciting to see those shining jars full of beautiful honey from YOUR bees. Talk about job satisfaction! And yet a new beekeeper said to me the other day that they are…

Read more here: Tips for a hassle-free honey extraction — The Beehive Jive

Beekeeping Vocabulary – “R” is for…


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Larva floating in royal jelly By Waugsberg (Own work)


Today’s beekeeping vocabulary word is, “Royal Jelly.”

From Wikipedia:

Royal jelly is a honey bee secretion that is used in the nutrition of larvae, as well as adult queens.[1] It is secreted from the glands in the hypopharynx of nurse bees, and fed to all larvae in the colony, regardless of sex or caste.[2]

When worker bees decide to make a new queen, because the old one is either weakening or dead, they choose several small larvae and feed them with copious amounts of royal jelly in specially constructed queen cells. This type of feeding triggers the development of queen morphology, including the fully developed ovaries needed to lay eggs.[3]

Royal jelly has long been sold as both a dietary supplement and alternative medicine. Both the European Food Safety Authority and United States Food and Drug Administration have concluded that the current evidence does not support the claim of health benefits, and have actively discouraged the sale and consumption of the jelly. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has taken legal action against companies that have used unfounded claims of health benefits to market royal jelly products. There have also been documented cases of allergic reactions, namely hives, asthma, and anaphylaxis, due to consumption of royal jelly.

Source and to read more: Wikipedia

Clean Satay Chicken w/ Courgette and Carrot Noodles by thebeechick


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Everyone loves a cheeky Chinese every now and then right? But how often do we make our own Chinese food at home? This is my adaptation of Satay Chicken – using all nourishing ingredients for your body and tasting ‘Friday-night-feasting’ mega good! This is a great meal full of healthy natural fats and protein – and is simple and quick…

Read full recipe here: Clean Satay Chicken w/ Courgette and Carrot Noodles — thebeechick

It Always Starts with Assessment


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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.

Fall Nectar Flow


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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.

Autumn Abscondings and Other Odd Events


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small swarm

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

Last fall we had a large number of interesting events occur here in the South Carolina Midlands as well as regionally. Since Varroa and CCD, autumn colony crashes and declines have greatly increased, however the events of last year appeared to involve colonies suddenly disappearing. Many people were left asking if they swarmed, absconded, flew off to die, or failed to return to the hive.

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.

AU BEES publishes paper on bee forage quality & pesticide contamination by Insect Pollination & Apiculture


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@AuburnAg‘s Bee Lab and biologists from @acadiauniversity recently published a paper in the journal Ecology & Evolution about the quality of food encountered by bees in agro-ecosystems.

Unsurprisingly, diet quality and pesticide exposure heavily depends on crop type!

Check out the full Open Access article here!

via AU BEES publishes paper on bee forage quality & pesticide contamination — Insect Pollination & Apiculture

Changing of the Guard, Bee-Style by Longreads


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The death of a monarch is never simple. There’s a vacuum of power that needs to be filled, an anxiety of influence that requires the successor to establish their power quickly, and a challenging period in which the memory of the deceased is negotiated and shaped (in some cases — hello, French Revolution! — this phase can last centuries). In a lovely essay at Nautilus, John Knight explores the war of succession that followed the death of the original queen in his Brooklyn-rooftop beehive. It’s a conflict not just between a wannabe-queen and her reluctant subjects, but also between human and insect, each following their own complex protocols for survival.

Read the full story here: Changing of the Guard, Bee-Style — Longreads

Midlands Beekeeping Calendar for October


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

Plan on checks twice this month but otherwise do not work unless necessary to prevent the triggering of robbing behavior. Try to not be too disruptive in order to allow them to get their house (brood box) in order for winter.

If you have not yet treated for Varroa it’s important that this is done before your winter bees are exposed to the smorgasbord of viruses that Varroa transmits when it feeds. Also, it’s not sufficient to just treat. You also need to have some idea that the treatment was effective in reducing the numbers of Varroa in the colony.

Expect the break in the weather to occur during mid-October. Local legend has it that the State Fair brings autumn to the Midlands. Looking forward, our average date for first frost is the last week in October and the first freeze the first week of November. That said, the bees still have plenty of flying days ahead before winter.

Notice goldenrod and asters along the roadways. Kudzu will also provide forage if available in your area.


1) Remove fall flow honey if appropriate. In my few years of beekeeping I have never had enough of a fall nectar flow to take honey. However, I have had colonies that were so large at the end of the spring flow that I was unable to reduce their cavity size to winter configuration until October. When this happens I am usually pleasantly surprised to be able to take some surplus frames from the bees, still leaving them enough for winter. Remember if you treated for Varroa using a product that affects the honey you will not be able to eat this honey but the bees will be happy to get it back in late winter / early spring.

2) Process supers and store for winter. After any extracting your options for cleaning the sticky frames are to either place the supers back on the hive or place them out in the yard for clean-up. I am lucky that I don’t have neighbors close and can separate the sticky supers from the bee yard by 100 yards or more. If you don’t have these options don’t leave sticky supers out where they can create a nuisance for your neighbors and cause a feeding frenzy spreading to your weaker hives. Instead consider simply placing them back on the hive and your bees will do the work of cleaning the supers and placing the leftover honey in the boxes below. Remove the cleaned supers in a few days returning your hives to winter configuration.

3) Protect your drawn comb. After it gets cold wax moths will no longer pose a threat. Until we get cold weather (end of November) you will need to protect any drawn comb you have removed from the hive. Methods vary from placing the frames in the freezer, placing outside open to light and air, or using Paramoth (paradichlorbenzene). Use of BT (bacillus thuringiensis aizawai) is no longer legal as the manufacturer did not apply for renewal for use with bees. The product is still available but is no longer labeled for use with bees. Clemson article on wax moth IPM.

4) Reduce entrances if not yet done. The appropriate amount of reduction is what your bees can guard. I like to see 20-30 bees on my landing board guarding the entrance. If you have this or more, and your entrance is well defended, then you may not have to reduce the entrance from its current setting. A three to four inch entrance is typical for this time of year. Addition of an upper entrance such as a notched inner cover is advisable prior to entering colder weather to allow for ventilation and allow moisture to escape.

5) Feed bees as necessary. As you recall, we started stimulating brood production in late August with a full 1:1 sugar syrup mix. Your bees, by now, should have some weight on them and you should be seeing an increase in orientation flights. When you see foragers bringing in goldenrod and other fall pollens they are raising your winter bees. Your colonies should have some open nectar for brood rearing available from the heavy feeding you have already provided. If they have plenty of open nectar but are still not heavy with stores it’s time to increase to 2:1 syrup to put some weight on the colony.

6) Any colonies that are lagging behind in weight should be fed aggressively at this time. Assuming you have reduced them down to overwintering configuration as discussed last month, now is the time to make sure they are increasing their stores in preparation for winter. Use 2:1 sugar syrup via your normal feeding method. Whenever they run out of syrup, refill. If using a jar feeder enlarge the feeder holes just a bit to allow them good access to the thicker syrup. The 2:1 syrup, fed rapidly, creates a situation where the bees cannot consume it as fast as they empty the feeder thereby creating a situation where they must store the thick syrup. If, however, you have colonies with more frames of stores than needed, consider sharing the bounty with less fortunate colonies.

7) Continue to tip colonies forward from the rear to assess their weight. Notice the number of frames of honey stores inside so that you can compare what you are feeling with what is actually inside. You will need this assessment skill during the cold of winter on days when you shouldn’t open the hives.

8) Pollen: Usually we get a nice pollen flow in the Midlands during the month of October. New beekeepers will notice, perhaps for the first time, the yellow and orange blooms along the roadways. That “smelly sock” odor you may notice in your hives this time of year is attributed to goldenrod. Kudzu blooms in late summer and  will continue into early autumn producing a beautiful purple pollen. The bees will use autumn pollen to both raise winter bees and to stockpile for use during next year’s spring buildup.

9) Remove any queen excluders on hives. A queen excluder during the winter will prevent the queen from moving up with the winter cluster as the bees consume honey and move upward staying warm.

10) I’ve never had problems with mice in my bee yard but if you have a local mouse population consider placing a mouse guard on this month. An inexpensive method is to reduce the current opening top to bottom to 3/8 inch.

11) Attend your local monthly meeting. Volunteer to educate the public on the importance of honey bees by signing up to work a shift at the upcoming South Carolina State Fair booth.

12) Attend the South Carolina State Fair. Visit the South Carolina Beekeepers Association’s booth.

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

12 Game Day Recipes With Honey by Sue Bee Honey


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Create the ultimate spread for the Big Game using these delicious recipes for chicken wings, barbecue meatballs, party mixes and more that are sure to satisfy the hunger of your favorite team of armchair quarterbacks!

1.  Honey Glazed Chicken Wings
Get started with our delicious Honey Glazed Chicken Wings that have the perfect amount of kick!

2.  Apple Honey Glazed Chicken Wings
Here’s another tasty chicken wing recipe to try from Robin Spires. They were another entry in the Sue Bee Honey Sweet Eats Recipe Contest!

3.  Honey Mini-Meatballs
These Sue Bee Mini Meatballs are easy to prepare and your guests will love them!

4.  Petty Party Meatballs
Or you can give our other meatball recipe a try – this one happens to be a favorite of Richard Petty!

5.  Honey Ham Balls
If you want to add a tasty twist to the classic meatball, try making them with ham and following our Honey Ham Balls recipe!

6.  Super Bowl of Chili
Of course, it wouldn’t be game day without a bowl of chili. Our Sue Bee Super Bowl of Chili is the perfect way to warm up!

7.  Sassy Sweet & Spicy Chili
Or if you prefer your chili to have a little kick while still being sweet, give this recipe a shot!

8.  Honey Pretzel Bites
Our pretzel bites recipe takes the taste and flavor you’ve come to know and turns them into a bite-sized snack that’s perfect for any occasion.

9.  Honey Mustard Beer Brats
If weather permits, fire up the grill and make our delicious beer brats! You can also substitute the brat for a regular hot dog if you prefer.

10.  Honey Snack Mix
Fill a bowl and let party-goers load up on our snack mix throughout the day!

11.  Hot Honey Stingy Snack Crackers
Fill another bowl with this Sweet Eats Recipe Contest entry from Sheila Suhan!

12.  Finger Licking Good Cranberry Hot Wings
If you prefer your wings to have a little more heat but still maintain their sweetness, try Noreen Danek’s entry in the Sue Bee Honey Sweet Eats Recipe Contest!

Via: Sue Bee Honey

Honeyed Mango Salsa with Salmon on Food Porn Friday by From Behind the Pen


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Check out this delicious, helthy dish Sweet Spicy Salmon with Honeyed Mango Salsa, courtesy of the National Honey Board.

Source: Honeyed Mango Salsa with Salmon on Food Porn Friday — From Behind the Pen

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:

Beeswax Fair Entry


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So, I show my 15 year old son my State Fair wax entry which has taken me probably 8 pours to get at least good enough to hopefully not be disqualified. He looks at it and makes for the grab with his grubby, greasy, paws to inspect it. Having lived with him for 15 years, I head him off and swoop the wax away, right from under his grasp. Kids don’t realize we’ve been watching their antics from the beginning and possess parental clairvoyance.

Dr. Elina L. Niño: Helping Our Fuzzy Little Friends by Snippets of Science


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It was an achingly hot Friday when Dr. Elina L. Niño welcomed me into her small but air-conditioned office at the E.L. Niño Bee Lab, housed at the Harry H. Laidlaw, Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, before excusing herself to step out for a moment. “I need to get more coffee,” she said, holding up […]

Read more here: Dr. Elina L. Niño: Helping Our Fuzzy Little Friends — Snippets of Science

The History of Bees – a book review in 200 words by ouroborosfreelance



The History of Bees by Maja Lunde The History of Bees follows three distinct characters in three wildly disparate timelines: The whiny but lovable William, England (1852). A scientist with a large family and a seeds shop – he has been bedridden for an undetermined amount of time. George, a taciturn and stoic beekeeper, […]

Read the full review at:  The History of Bees – a book review in 200 words — ouroborosfreelance