These days, a beekeeper can’t walk down the street without being asked about the bees’ mysterious demise, but answering this question has become so complex and controversial, few are willing to try. Just visit the comment section on any article about this topic; you’ll find opinions running rampant and links to studies hurled back and forth…
Read more of this very interesting article here: WHY ARE THE BEES DYING? — Beekeeping Like A Girl
Another article in our week long series of articles written by Charles Martin Simon.
The article below is edited for brevity. Read the full article at Beesource.com here: http://beesource.com/point-of-view/charles-martin-simon/more-beekeeping-backwards-i-owe-a-huge-debt-to-varroa/
My article Principles of Beekeeping Backwards, that appeared in Bee Culture, July 2001, received so much attention I felt like some kind of celebrity, which isn’t good. The article was eventually archived on the internet at BeeSource.com. Fortunately, not everybody who wrote likes me. Some insinuated that I might be crazy. Interesting, since I ended the article with “I am crazy, and proud of it.” Well, hopefully, this article will dispel any doubts and give them more reasons to like me even less. And that’ll be good.
…the other day I did find husk. It was on a swarm-removal call. The bees were located on the ground, tangled up in ivy and boards, in a narrow space behind a garage, and a good four feet in from the opening. There was no way to get a box to them, and because they were so entwined in the vegetation and wood, there was no way to scoop them either. Plus, I couldn’t move anything without the risk of crushing bees and maybe the queen. So, certain it wasn’t going to work but needing to do something, I positioned the beehive on the ground up against the opening, meanwhile trying out in my mind the various excuses I might use for why I couldn’t get the job done.
To think I had responded to the call with such professional elan. “A swarm? On the ground behind the garage? Sure, no problem. We do it all the time.” It sounded like it couldn’t be easier over the phone, but it was going to be embarrassing.
Then something I didn’t expect happened. The bees closest to the box – remember, it was four feet away – perked up with recognition of the hive and started marching toward it, and crawled right in, with the rest of the swarm following. Nasanov maneuver on the landing board, and it wasn’t long before they were all in, well, the usual 99% anyway. I was about to screen it shut and call it good when some of them came running back out with confused looks on their faces. I lit up the smoker and chased them back in, but they wouldn’t stay. As soon as I stopped the smoke, back out they would come. I figured the queen must not be in there.
I squeezed into the space behind the garage as carefully as I could, looked around and spotted a few bees clustered partially obscured by some leaves. I smoked them but they wouldn’t move. I pushed them around with my index finger, and, just as I suspected, there she was: the queen. She hadn’t joined the march to the box because she was dead.
Meanwhile, back at the hive body, there was confusion on the landing board, with more and more bees leaving. I took the tiny carcass and flicked it into the entrance. Then the bees started nasanoving with renewed vigor and running into the hive and staying. Bees flying around the area relating to where the swarm had been, changed course and beelined it in. I screened it up, took it to one of my yards, and mixed it with a queen-right hive. So empty husks can be useful sometimes…
The Great Blessing of Varroa
Yes, I mean it, although it took all these years and so much loss for me to begin to understand. Because of the Varroa, the other day I found the best bee frame in the world. As some of you may know, I’ve been in the bee frame business, invented and sold world-wide the Super Unfoundation Frame, and I take frames very seriously. So saying I found the best frame in the world is, for me, saying something big. This is a frame that is superior both technically and aesthetically. Why? For one thing, because it’s free. I found it in my rotten-equipment pile.
A free bee frame is a terrible thing to waste. But more important than its recycled aspect, it’s free because it has evolved by virtue of the process of deterioration beyond the rules and restrictions of conventional, non-free bee frames, even those of my own design and construction. Yes, with the recognition of this particular frame, I have even surpassed myself.
And, it is precisely to the Varroa that I owe the finding of this frame and the implications thereof. Ten or 12 years ago, when the dreaded parasite came into my yards – finally, after years of hearing it was coming – and started destroying my bees, I was distraught, naturally. Every Spring, I’d start with swarms that would build beautifully only to die off in the Winters. I would find myself working in dead bee yards, cleaning and organizing equipment that should have been abuzz with bee life but was silent. More than disheartening, it was painful. I wondered why I was even going on with it, when some of my most stalwart compadres, even the great Ormand Aebi (World Record holder in the Guiness Book of Records for over 10 years for the most honey produced by a single hive with a single queen in a single season – a record that was only broken with the use of multiple queens, a true single-queen record which is not likely to ever be even seriously challenged), the most stalwart of them all, had quit.
Every year I felt more foolish and became more despondent. And, of course, without the bees to keep it alive over the Winters, the equipment was rotting at a greatly accelerated rate.
I couldn’t bring myself to replace it. I calculated that if, under the circumstances, I would continue to replace equipment “as needed,” I could literally be destroyed by the very beekeeping that was such a great love in my life. And it kept getting worse. Now I know for sure that had I made the investments necessary to keep up acceptable appearances, I would not have made it to this point.
I, as did most beekeepers, cursed the Varroa. I jumped through all the hoops, conventional and unconventional, and nothing worked. Even when there wasn’t anything to do, I continued working in the yards, cleaning and organizing equipment that was more and more rotted-out and useless.
If you’re a bee person, there is nothing more pathetic than a dead bee yard. The moaning of the wind through vacant bee boxes is one of the most heart-wrenching sounds you’re ever going to hear. Beekeeping had turned into the opposite of everything I was in it for. I had to quit, I wanted to quit, but I didn’t know how. There were spaces and times in my life that were slotted for bee work. There was nothing else I could do. But the only thing that was alive and growing was my junk pile. I burned an incredible amount of equipment over the years and still had a mountain left.
Then, a few hives started surviving the winters. Then a few more. My removal business was growing, and I was getting more and more swarms in the springs. Meanwhile, my lifetime interest in health had turned into another business, and I shifted my focus from honey to pollen, and I started getting great harvests, even though most of the bees were still dying off in the Winters.
But I needed to take another step philosophically. I shifted concept from “my” bees to “the” bees, and “the” bees to “my” bees. It was a natural not an intellectually conceived move, since, after all, most of the bees I was dealing with were feral. I brought the principles of wild bees into my beekeeping.
My frames (SuperUnfoundation) had been a step in the right direction, but as such had been limited in that they had not completed all the steps. If they had, I’d have no doubt gotten “there” a long time ago. But as it went, I am only getting “there” which is “here” “now.” You don’t have to understand; it’s philosophy.
Now the bees that are not my bees are my bees. I have expanded to embrace them all. And since they’re all mine anyway, no loss is too great, no gain too small. It’s finally all working.
And as stated, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Varroa, without which none of this would have been possible.
By “this” I mean perfect beekeeping. Because that’s what it has become, perfect.
And one of the greatest contributions for which the dirty rotten little parasite is directly responsible is in taking out of the game those players who shouldn’t be in it any longer, and discouraging those who might otherwise have become beekeepers from entering in the first place – meaning specifically those who have not grasped how to go with Nature, those who solve problems by attacking them, those who attempt to beat Nature and make maximum profits. But don’t feel bad, it wasn’t that long ago that I too used to think it was about honey, and that honey was money. But let’s face it, if it was about honey, we’d be “honey-makers” not “beekeepers.” But we’re beekeepers, so it’s about keeping bees.
From a human supremacy (a delusion that is destined to prove untenable) standpoint, bees dying, at the agency of Varroa or whatever, is a bad thing, but the insect mind doesn’t work like that, doesn’t share human values. The more bees die, the more they live. I don’t expect you humans to understand that either, because you base all your science and philosophy upon your own desires. And when you die, you’re done. Too bad for you.
And the last attributes of the best bee frame in the world: ease of use, effectiveness, durability. This frame has it all. Actually it is only a partial frame, the bottom bar and part of a side bar having rotted completely away. So it’s not really a frame at all, but what is left is excellent indeed.
The Beauty of Bad Equipment
I went to college to study agriculture and dropped out because the agriculture they were teaching was not the agriculture I wanted to learn, and became part of an organic farm in the mid-Sixties. The land came with a nice yard of 25 perfectly-cosmeticized beehives organized in extremely straight rows and two dilapidated hives off to one side. Anyway, it wasn’t long before thieves came in the night with a big truck and stole all 25 of the “good” hives.
The partners called an emergency meeting, during which it was decided that I should take over the two beehives that were left; none of the others being interested in bees at all. And that’s how I got into it – with those two unstolen hives. With the help of one of the “partners” and somewhat more than a modicum of stinging, I managed to get them moved to my section and set about to learn about them.
Now, 35 years later, I have come full circle, from knowing nothing about apiculture, to knowing a lot, to knowing nothing, from bad equipment to the best equipment back to bad equipment.
The most obvious benefit of bad equipment, then, is that thieves are less likely to steal it. If it looks bad, they won’t want it. And if it falls apart when they go to lift it, so much the better. Note: In this regard, it’s a good idea to not staple the bottom boards to the hive bodies.
Thieves are slaves of illusions; that’s why they’re thieves. They have perverted values. Honey is money, for example. But what is money? And you still hear some old-timers talk about “robbing the bees,” and I suppose that’s correct in their cases because that’s what they’re doing.
But theft-proofing is far from the only benefit of bad equipment. For some strange reason, it seems bees prefer it. They have an affinity for rotten wood. Enough has been written about keeping newly hived swarms from absconding that it is apparently a common problem. There are many tips, such as placing the hive in the shade, not unscreening until almost or after dark, or leaving them in all night and unscreening the following morning.
The beekeepers who have this problem must be the guys with the new foundation and new and freshly-painted hives. I’ve never once had an abscond with old equipment, except when a swarm was queenless. Let me tell you, if after you hive a swarm, you hear the buzz of a queenright colony, there’s no way you could drive that swarm from that box.
Bees like holes in unapproved places.
They like surprises. I once watched several bees taking turns dancing on a nail sticking out of an old hive near the entrance. A bee would grab on to the nail with her forelegs and then spin around it for a while, while a group stood around and watched. Then she would let go and be replaced by another one. This went on for nearly an hour, our time. You might say they were trying to remove it. But why? Because it offended their sense of order? And why right then, after it had been there for years? I don’t think they were trying to remove it. I think they were having fun with it.
With bad equipment, You can’t beat the price, or, I should say, cost. Bad equipment saved me from going under.
Then there’s the issue of aesthetics. As I gleaned through my junk pile year after year, it became harder and harder to just burn it. The dead stuff was the only live stuff left. I’d look at a piece, rotted, crooked, mouse-eaten, wax moth larvae-eaten, and think, there’s a lot of life left in that still. Even beyond that, I’d think the piece had never been so alive. Id better keep it. And I’d throw it onto a second pile, which I was developing for potentially reusable bits and pieces.
Nevertheless, my mind was still clinging to the overbearing image of clean, painted hives and straight clean combs, even though I knew very well from long ago there is no objective standard of beauty. I once went out with a Playboy Bunny, and, believe me, she was not beautiful.
But the power of brainwash persists in overcoming reason and logic. Even though I knew better, I still wanted to see neat hives in neat rows containing only pristine frames and combs.
I know better than to keep bees in neatly ordered rows. In fact, one time I had a stand of bees on a rich piece of property, and one day the property manager descended upon me to tell me that the hives had to be lined up evenly. I looked him right in the eye and told him no. He couldn’t believe it. He said the padrone wanted everything neat and even. I said I don’t work for the padrone, or you. The hives stay crooked. He left in a snit. Later, after he had complained to the padrone, the padrone told me not to listen to him, and I never saw the man again even though I kept bees on that property for several more years. It’s curious what some perceptions rate as important.
Did you know some beekeepers get bent out of shape by the presence of propolis in their hives? Now don’t that beat all get out?
Anyway, my mind kept trying to see the rotten equipment as unsightly, something to be ashamed of, as though using it was putting me beneath the beekeepers with the good stuff, even though those with the good stuff were, for the most part, out of business, and my business was growing by leaps and bounds, between bouts of depression.
Beauty is a dangerous thing, because it’s entirely subjective and the world acts as though it were entirely objective. This big mistake is costly to beekeeping as well as pretty much everything else.
If you are familiar with Friedrich Huntervasser’s “Against Rationalism in Architecture,” then you know where this goes. But on the slim chance you aren’t, I’ll elaborate. When a man-made piece of architecture (in historical context always striving for increased levels of excellence) is new, whether it is a home for human habitation or a beehive, it is sterile. Huntervasser asserts that until a home has sagged and there are cobwebs in the corners and a patina of grime over the walls, it is unhealthy. He points to designs which round the corners of doorways as superior. Had he been a bee man he would have preferred skeps to Langstroth hives.
God does not create sterility. There are no straight lines in Nature. Mankind deludes itself with the concept of straight lines and man creates sterility. It is the end result of the human mind’s purification process, the unconscious compulsion to be ever striving for ever increased excellence. Man must always outdo him- or herself. He or she must always keep raising the bar. He or she sees Nature as a replication of the same process, as in the Theory of Evolution.
It has been said that God created Man in His or Her own image. It has also been said that Man created God in His or Her own image. So I guess it all boils down to personal opinion, who you are and where you’re coming from. In my opinion, Man is the culprit. In our efforts to make it better, we invariably make it worse. And nothing is a better example of that than beekeeping.
I am not trying to make a case for laziness and neglect; I am trying to make a case for inevitability. Except for those among us who happen to be virgins, we all know what it means to “break-in a virgin.” The virgin is emblematic of the highest level of purity, but yet we all pretty much understand the virgin to be improved by the very process of being sullied. Such paradoxes are a way of life with us. But at what point does the break-in turn into the break- down? Maybe when the object has no further possible use except for composting.
No longer threatened by Varroa or any other parasite, no longer threatened by disease, death or humiliation, instead enhanced by these factors, my beekeeping has arrived philosophically and practically. I’m comfortable with the bad equipment, finally. I see it is beautiful.
But I don’t mean to imply that my perfect beekeeping is perfect. My perfection is imperfect. My beekeeping is not without its problems. Why, just the other day, as I was prying the top off a beehive, it just disintegrated in my hands. See? I suffer too.
The article above is edited for brevity. Read the full article at Beesource.com here: http://beesource.com/point-of-view/charles-martin-simon/more-beekeeping-backwards-i-owe-a-huge-debt-to-varroa/
Bee Culture Magazine, November, 2003
Today, in honor of Charles Martin Simon’s birthday week, we present the third in a series of articles written by Charles describing his methods and approach to beekeeping.
The article below is edited for brevity. Read the full article at Beesource.com here: http://beesource.com/point-of-view/charles-martin-simon/bee-removal-ii-deconstruction/
In my last article, in Bee Culture, July 2002, Fundamentals and Finesse of Structural Bee Removal, I covered trapping bees out of their nest without taking anything apart or cutting into anything, my favorite way to go. But sometimes you can’t do it that way. The usual problem is time. The property owner needs them out right now. They’re remodeling, re-roofing, having a party on Saturday, something important, and everything is stopped until the bees are out of the way. When this happens, the building must be taken apart and the bees physically removed.
This type of removal is the more difficult and dangerous. The dangers occur not so much between remover, structure, and bees, although they are there to be sure, but between remover and property owner. When you take a person’s house apart, they just might get picky – later on, after the thrill of having their demons exorcised wears off, and they have to face the realities of reconstruction, or if it’s already been reconstructed and it just doesn’t look right.
I spoke with Roger Stark, an insurance man well-versed in bee-related issues. He told me removers were being sued for 50 and 60 thousand dollars! Now these are fellows who have done nothing wrong. They have performed the job exactly as agreed, but for one reason or another, the property owners have become disgruntled.
Mr. Stark told me they do not write policies for bee removal. He said it’s a job for a contractor and must be covered by contractor’s insurance. His advice concerning structural bee removal when it involves deconstruction was quite simple and to the point: “Don’t do it.”
Good advice, but I am not going to take it. I survive on bee removal. I’ll quit removing when they pry my removal tool out of my cold, dead fingers.
So I consulted with my good friend, a venerable and distinguished lawyer. I asked him whether a “Hold Harmless” clause might not be a good idea in the contract, something like the doctors make you sign before they start cutting you up. He said no, such clauses are unenforceable. If the party wishes to sue, they do it anyway, regardless of what they might have signed.
Then he added: “You’re self-employed. You have no attachable assets. For all intents and purposes, you’re not actionable. Besides, you do a good job, don’t you?”
“Of course,” I replied. “I do the best job I can possibly do. Always.”
“That’s what I figured,” he said. “And you’re doing an important service, helping people solve a serious problem, maybe even a life-threatening problem. They’d have to be crazy to sue you. It would cost them a whole lot to get absolutely nothing.”
So, if you’re an experienced bee person, self-employed with no attachable assets, you might go for it. But the best advice is don’t.
A clearly spelled out agreement in advance on paper, duly signed by both parties, remover and property owner, might provide some ammunition for avoiding trouble later on, albeit not all that powerful. In this country, in order to be legal, all construction must be performed by a licensed contractor.
So, if you already happen to be a licensed contractor with insurance and a beekeeper at the same time, you’re perfect for the job. Otherwise, you might consider getting a contractor’s license, if you’re young and ambitious. I am too old and not ambitious enough. I just want to survive and keep doing what I’m doing, what I know and love, removing bees.
A few years back, I spoke with a yellow jacket man who was facing jail time. The oh so intelligent judge declared the man’s vacuum apparatus to be a pesticide – because it was being used in the extermination of bugs. Yes, I know this is not bee removal, but it does speak to the trouble you can get into just based on a judge’s interpretation. The yellow jacket man was being persecuted by the pesticide people. And the judge, being totally in bed with the pesticide boys, ruled that my man, since he did not have a pesticide license, was to cease and desist immediately. My man refused. Yellow jackets were his life, removing them his livelihood. The judge declared him in contempt, and when I spoke with him, he was waiting to see what his sentence was going to be. He was scared and uptight.
Personally, I don’t think I’d mind being thrown in jail for bee removal. I might even like it. But then, I’m a writer too, and it would make one hell of a story. Imagine: A big, smelly fellow convict asks me what I’m in for. “Taking some boards off a house without a license.”
“Why’d you wanna go and do that for?” he’d want to know.
“So I could remove a colony of bees from inside the wall,” I’d reply.
“You mean bees? Like what sting you?” he’d ask, starting to become impressed, maybe just a little bit incredulous.
“Exactly,” I’d say. His face would darken then in puzzlement.
“What’d you wanna do that for?”
“I like bees,” I’d say.
“But they sting you,” he’d say.
“I like getting stung,” I’d say. At which point, the fear would take him over, and he’d decide to go look for someone a little less crazy, a little less tough. Beekeepers are among the toughest people in the world. Bee removers are even tougher than that.
Or maybe you know a contractor you can work with. Or maybe the property owner already has a relationship with a contractor, and you can work together. Have the contractor open the space (You can lend him or her a bee suit and stay with the operation so things don’t get out of hand.), then you remove the bees, then the contractor restores the property.
I do prefer to be involved in the rebuilding process, for the simple reason that contractors, not being bee people generally, are liable to make mistakes resulting in reinhabitation by the bees in the future. In fact, it is mostly due to the mistakes of contractors in the first place that we have bee-ins, a common one being the use of quarter inch mesh instead of eighth inch in vent holes. It’s almost as if the contractors were trying to give us jobs.
I remember one I did in a Victorian house, a summer beach rental owned by a major hotel. The contractor who put it back together failed to seal it up properly, and the bees were back the following year. That time, I confess, I executed the forbidden reconstruction myself, in flagrant violation of all contractor contract and permit clauses, but the bees haven’t been back since. It’s been 10 years at least, so the Statute of Limitations has expired, and I am in the clear as far as that one goes. I am conscientious about my work, and I take many risks for the benefit of my clients.
Session 1. Deconstruction. The minimum necessary to get at the bees. Performed by a licensed contractor of course. It’s never as easy as it looks. Nails don’t come out clean. Boards don’t come off in one piece. Sometimes the nest is not where you thought it was. Or it meanders around joists, and you run into trouble. Or it’s in the wall right where you expected it to be, but it extends off to between the floors or into the ceiling or attic. There are infinite configuration possibilities, and each presents a unique set of problems to overcome.
Session 2. Removal of bees and combs. There’s a few ways to go with this:
A. Cut out brood combs and tie them into frames with soft cotton string. Place frames in a hive and add the bees from the cavity. This is messy and often painful (You have to take off your gloves to tie the strings which are sticky and uncooperative, and you know what that means.), and likely to be unsuccessful. It’s best if you can leave the new hive at the site, as close to the cavity as possible, for a few days until the bees get reoriented. Otherwise, take it to the new location, bring the bees to it and add them. Depending on such factors as season, it might be better to add the brood combs to an already going hive that could use some more brood and the bees to a hive that could use more bees, rather than trying to keep the removed colony intact.
B. Use a vacuum to separate the bees from the combs. Every remover should have a bee-specific vacuum apparatus. I use a 5-gallon Shop Vac, running the suction tube into a sleeve fixed to a five-gallon plastic pail perforated with air holes which I tape to provide suction, leaving some holes open to fine tune it. Too little suction and the bees don’t get sucked properly, too much and they get damaged and die. Afterwards, I remove all the tape to provide plenty of air. The tube that goes to the Shop Vac is attached to the pail via a screened sleeve so the bees are not drawn into the machine but rather left nicely in the pail. Combine bees with an existing hive. Separate combs suitable for human consumption. Feed those not suitable back to the bees. Give good brood combs to an existing hive.
Session 3. After allowing a day or so for the left over bees to cluster, remove them (the vacuum again) and add to hive. Scrape cavity clean.
If many bees are flying during Session 3, a fourth session will be required. I usually allow at least a full day between sessions. Of course, to round up left-over bees, it’s best if you go very early in the morning, at dawn.
The job is done when there are no bees left, and the cavity is as clean as possible.
The article above is edited for brevity. Read the full article at Beesource.com here: http://beesource.com/point-of-view/charles-martin-simon/bee-removal-ii-deconstruction/
Bee Culture Magazine, November, 2002
Continuing Charles Martin Simon week, today we present another article written by Charles on bee removals.
Bee Culture, July 2002
To trap bees from a tree or building you need cones, ladders, duct tape, bait hives…a little bit of luck, and plenty of patience.
The article below is edited for brevity. Read the full article at Beesource.com here: http://beesource.com/point-of-view/charles-martin-simon/fundamentals-finesse-of-structural-bee-removal/
by Charles Martin Simon
The seminal article on structural bee removal is found in ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, published by the A. I. Root Company. It instructs the beekeeper to prepare a small colony of bees with a queen cell for the bait hive. It instructs that the platform to hold the bait hive is attached to the ladder, although the illustration included depicts it attached to a building. It tells us, “On arriving on the spot he lights his smoker, blows smoke into the flight hole to drive back the bees, then he places a bee escape over the opening of the tree or building in such a way that the bees can come out but not go back in. Last of all he places his hive with the bees which he has brought, with its entrance as near as possible to the bee escape,” on the platform attached to the ladder. Then, “…his work is now complete, and he leaves the bees to work out their own salvation.”
The article goes on to say that the field bees, having exited the cavity and being unable to reenter, will one by one find their way into the hive on the temporary platform, and, at the end of six weeks, the queen is likely to come out and join the new colony.
The operator then returns, removes the cone, and kills off what is left of the old colony in the cavity, which will be very few bees along with the queen. I wonder what the queen is doing in the cavity if she has come out in the last paragraph and joined the new colony in the bait hive, but let it go for now.
At this point, the operator leaves again, this time leaving the escape off the original entrance. Why? Because the bees from the new colony, including the bees which exited the cavity, are supposed to now rob out whatever stores might be left in the cavity. The article leaves it to the imagination how exactly the leftover bees in the cavity are to be killed. One assumes it would be some sort of insecticide. Is it wise then to let the saved bees rob out combs that have just been contaminated with toxic chemicals? I don’t think so. But let’s forget about that for the moment.
After a suitable period of robbing, the article goes on to tell us, the operator seals the entrance to the cavity and takes the bait hive home.
Such as they are, these are the fundamentals. Now to the finesse:
I have been a removal specialist for more than thirty years, and I almost never use smoke during a removal. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did, which was probably the first time I did a removal after reading the article. I do suit up, however, and discourage onlookers, although, to be sure, I rarely excite the bees, but you can’t be too careful. I used to get a little embarrassed suiting up fully to manage bees when all the cool beekeepers were doing it without even a veil or gloves. But I’m approaching unknown bees all the time, and in an area where Africanized bees might be encountered, so as the sage once said, “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
These days, there aren’t that many places where you can leave a ladder set up and unattended for six to eight weeks, unless it’s chained to something, but even then, you can’t afford to have it tied up for that long. Ladders are expensive. Often in the middle of one job, you are called to another, more pressing job. Even if you have several ladders and a secure place to set up, that’s exactly when you’re going to need that particular ladder. And another thing: There are children everywhere. If the ladder is set up leading to a beehive, some kid is going to climb it for sure, and poke a stick in the hole to see what happens. It’s inevitable. So it’s not a good idea to attach the platform to the ladder. Sure, if you’re hiving a swarm maybe (but even then, I’ve found it much more expedient to hang the box with a rope than to attach it with a platform), but not for an extended removal. I advise attaching the platform to the host structure, be it a building or a tree, leaving the ladder free. And having said that, I want to say that I do leave the ladder set up sometimes, if it feels right, but never with anything attached to it except a chain and lock – so I can get it down immediately if necessary.
The Root article describes the wire mesh cone of the bee escape, but does not go into details. The details are important; the cone is a critical appliance in the operation. If the hole at the small end is too small, obviously, the bees won’t be able to pass through. But if it is too big, the bees will end up going right back into it, and the operation will fail. If you set it up with too big a hole and then leave the bees “to work out their own salvation,” they will do so very nicely, and remain in the location they chose for themselves, ignoring completely the destiny you have chosen for them. You will come back in six weeks to a colony in the cavity, right where it was, and no bees in your box, except maybe a few of the ones you brought with you. The hole has to be just right, not too small and not too big. But it must be big enough to allow drones to pass through too, or maybe not. But if your drones can’t get out, expect many of them to die in the narrow of the cone and block the flow.
Speaking of blocking the flow, even when your hole is exactly right, bees will often either die in the neck of the escape or leave a carcass wedged there from an attempt to drag it out. When the escape become blocked, the operation is stopped. So you can’t just leave it for six weeks and realistically expect it to be the way you want it at the end. You can’t even leave it for a few days. When the escape gets blocked, and it will, the bees become desperate for egress and might find ways they might not have found otherwise. If the entrance gets blocked on a removal from the wall of a house, for example, and you don’t correct it right away, you might find the people inside severely distressed by an incursion of honeybees into their living quarters. If pushed, bees will travel far through the walls to find ways out, spaces around light fixtures being prime. You have to check it nearly every day.
Now, if the progress of the job is going well, the bees using the bait hive and showing no sign of going back into the cone hole, I will sometimes enlarge it by snipping off the last half inch or so, to allow them to exit easier and reduce the incidence of blockage.
I mentioned before that if your hole is too big, the bees will go right back into it. That is less likely to happen a week or so into the process, after they have started working the bait hive. So enlarging the hole can sometimes be a good move, but not always. So be careful and watchful.
But it’s trickier than that. Sometimes, even when your hole is exactly right, a clever bee will figure out how to reenter anyway. And once one knows the way, her sisters will be right behind. That can be frustrating, but fortunately there is a simple solution. You place a larger cone over the original cone, with the upper end of the base unattached, so the bees reentering keep finding themselves back on the outside – and innocent bees, exiting for the first time, have to exit twice, which they are more than happy to do. The reentering bees will go round and round many times before they give up and join the bait hive. Some will never give up but hang on the cone until they expire.
I have never experienced a second cone defeated, but knowing bees and the strength of their motivation, I do expect it to happen someday. But I have a plan for that. I will use a third cone, and, if that doesn’t work, remove the cone(s) and install a standard Porter bee escape fixed to the entrance of the cavity for a few weeks, monitoring it carefully for malfunction and plugging. Then, when the offending bees have either accepted the bait hive or perished, I will replace the standard bee escape with the original wire mesh cone for the duration of the job.
The graphics in the Root article depict the cone extending horizontally from the entrance of the cavity. This is logical since most entrance holes are positioned in vertical surfaces and the cone would naturally form a 90-degree angle from the face, but it’s not the best arrangement. Bees will get out better and the cone neck will have less tendency to clog if you position the cone pointing upward. This will often not be convenient, but a little carpentry in advance can make the job go much more smoothly. Sometimes, of course, the entrance will be facing downward, and you will not be able to engineer it to face upward. You have to go with what you get, although I have more than once built a tunnel to the edge of an overhang, in order to have the bees exit in an upward direction.
The article above is edited for brevity. Read the full article at Beesource.com here: http://beesource.com/point-of-view/charles-martin-simon/fundamentals-finesse-of-structural-bee-removal/
Bee Culture Magazine, July, 2002
This week we will honor a Charles Martin Simon’s birthday with a series of articles written by him or about his beekeeping style. Today, on his birthday, we will start with his biography.
Charles Martin Simon was born on July 8, 1941, at 6 A.M., in Newark, N.J., the first major U.S. city to go bankrupt due to racial strife. He graduated from Montclair Academy, a private, pseudo-military high school famous for it’s state-of-the-art dress code and discipline, in 1959, and went on to Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where he majored in Agriculture and English Literature.
He was always a writer, having started his first novel in 1948, at the age of seven, and always a nature boy, therefore the split major. But after two years at Rutgers, he realized the agriculture he was being taught was not the agriculture he wanted to learn, and it was only going to get worse. He’d had enough of castrating sheep, calculating chemical fertilizer specifications, and murdering chickens. His English lit studies weren’t much more promising. The high point came when the editor-in-chief of the College Literary Magazine, who, although never having learned to write himself, went on to become the has-been of an illustrious career as the Clinton Administration’s Poet Laureate, recognized Simon’s writing and asked him to take over the magazine, which offer Simon graciously declined.
Simon dropped out and drifted for a few years and then went to California and became part of the organic farming movement, as a partner in a 21-acre piece. Believing strongly in non-mechanized farming, he worked the farm completely by hand from 1967 until 1977. And that was where his involvement with bees began in earnest in 1967.
The 21 acres cost $5,000 originally, but when the partners were offered $350,000.00, they just couldn’t resist. Simon voted against the sale, arguing that the ten years put into the land was worth more than any amount of money. He was outvoted, the land was not divisible, and he lost the farm.
But he did not lose the bees. He was able to keep them on various pieces of property and continue with bee culture, since it is not dependent on stable locations as are horses, chickens, goats, gardens, and orchards.
In 1990, he invented and began marketing world-wide the SuperUnfoundation bee frame. This was well-received and selling well when the price of wood doubled and then tripled. It suddenly cost more for the raw materials than he could get selling the finished frames, and he was out of business. Never one to accept things “as they are” and being much more interested in the health of the bees than in their produce, he is developing an apiculture system to allow the bees to actualize their true potential vitality and really solve the varroa and many other bee problems.
Simon had no hobbies, having followed Henry David Thoreau’s advice to make one’s vocation and avocation one. He operated a one-man bee and wasp removal service and cared for bees in several locations. He also helped people overcome disease and get healthy and stay healthy.
And he wrote, with twelve books in print. He self-published, executed every part of the book process himself: conceived, wrote, edit, designed, formatted, printed, cut, bound each volume by hand. His books are in stock in a few bookstores and available from all bookstores via the ISBN system, but he sold mostly direct to the public at CharlesMartinSimon.com.
Above: Ann Harman
This year, 2017, marks the 100th birthday of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association. The first meeting was held in Winston-Salem. The site was probably chosen as being a large city (for that time) and located centrally in a long state. It also was an important railroad stop. North Carolina stretches 560 miles…
Read more here: North Carolina State Beekeepers Association — Bee Culture
Roger Alfred Morse was born July 5, 1927.
Roger A. Morse, who turned a childhood interest in beekeeping into an encyclopedic knowledge that made him one of the best-known apiculturists in the world, died May 12, 2000 at his home in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 72.
Dr. Morse, an entomology professor at Cornell University for more than 40 years, was a quiet man of fluid motion — traits that served him well in a field that often put him in intimate proximity with thousands of bees.
That is not to say that he did not get his share of stings. Four days before his death, he visited his laboratory and returned home with what proved to be a final trophy. ”He died with a little bee sting on his eye,” said his daughter Susan.
A prolific author, Dr. Morse straddled the worlds of professional beekeepers and amateur ones, whose numbers in the United States are put around 200,000. Although much of his renown came from such popular books as ”The Complete Guide to Beekeeping” (E. P. Dutton), which for many beekeepers is almost as much a necessity as the hives themselves, Dr. Morse’s knowledge was widely sought by commercial beekeepers around the world.
These beekeepers not only produce honey but play a vital role in pollinating vast swaths of cultivated land: in the United States alone, about $10 billion worth of crops each year are pollinated entirely or partly by bees.
”There wasn’t any subject that you could bring up in the area of bees and beekeeping that he couldn’t discuss with you,” said Philip A. Mason, a corporate lawyer in Boston who worked as Dr. Morse’s last graduate student while he was on a sabbatical from the business world.
Roger Alfred Morse was born July 5, 1927, in Saugerties, N.Y. His father, Grant, a superintendent of schools, kept bees as a hobby and instilled the interest in his son. Roger Morse began tending his own hives when he was about 10, his family said.
When he was not thinking about how to improve the general practice of beekeeping, he was looking at the intricate network of bee societies. Scientists have long been fascinated by the complexity of the hives and their elaborate division of labor, in which roles are assigned ranging from queen to, in essence, undertaker.
He spent much time studying the incursion of the Africanized bee, a cross-breed known popularly, if fancifully, as the killer bee, which escaped from a laboratory in Brazil in the 1950’s. The bees’ reputation for aggressiveness made for many scare stories as they made their way north, eventually arriving in this country in the early 1990’s.
Dr. Morse, though, was more sanguine than many. He suggested once that after the bees began mating with local species, they might end up strengthening the domestic bee population. ”I’m not saying these bees are kittens, but they can be worked with,” he said in an interview in Popular Science magazine.
Dr. Morse also maintained his own hives at home, and he did so using the same sort of utilitarian approach he urged on his readers.
”Still, I manage to harvest a reasonable amount of honey every year. More importantly, in the occasional year when conditions are perfect, I can make sure that my hives are filled with honey. At these times beekeeping is the most fun.”
He often gave the honey away to acquaintances, which endeared him to them. But not so much, perhaps, as when he was a graduate student at Cornell and writing his thesis on mead, the wine made from honey. His fellow students often benefited from the fruits of his research.
”I was very popular at school,” Mr. Mason recalled Dr. Morse saying.
A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.
Proverbial bee-keepers’ saying, mid 17th century; meaning that the later in the year it is, the less time there will be for bees to collect pollen from flowers in blossom.
Having had great success with recipe Saturdays, I’ve decided to add Vocabulary Sundays. Short and sweet vocabulary building for beekeepers and those interested in learning more before taking the leap.
Today’s word is: Drone (bee)
A drone is a male bee that is the product of an unfertilized egg. Unlike the female worker bee, drones do not have stingers and do not gather nectar and pollen. A drone’s primary role is to mate with a fertile queen.
A drone is characterized by eyes that are twice the size of those of worker bees and queens, and a body size greater than that of worker bees, though usually smaller than the queen bee. His abdomen is stouter than the abdomen of workers or queen. Although heavy bodied, the drone must be able to fly fast enough to accompany the queen in flight.
Mating occurs in flight, which accounts for the need of the drones for better vision, which is provided by their large eyes. Should a drone succeed in mating, he soon dies because the penis and associated abdominal tissues are ripped from the drone’s body after sexual intercourse.
More on drone bees here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_(bee)