Source: Resource – MAAREC Fact Sheets
This week we are talking to Joe Lewis from Maryland in the big Ol’ US of A. This is Episode Ninety Nine of our beekeeping podcast.
Welcome To the kiwimana buzz…
Hi, it’s Gary and Margaret here, We are beekeepers from the hills of the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland, New Zealand. Our podcast is about beekeeping, Gardening and bit of politics about environmental issues. We also have been known to go off on tangents about other issues.
This interview was recorded in October 2016.
Joe is a Beekeeper and writer from Bel Air, Maryland which is between Baltimore and Philadelphia in North America. He has a passion for the Honey Bees and took up the hobby after retiring from the US Army. He was self diagnosed with the “Not enough bees disease” over eleven years ago and spends his days trying to locate a cure.
Sustainable Beekeeping thru Nucleus Colonies “Beekeeping 357”
Click one the video below to see a video lecture by Joe Lewis
Here is what you will discover
- How to cure “The Not enough Bees Disease”
- The secret to keeping lots of bees and working a full time job
- Why Five is the right number in Beekeeping
- What the Beekeeping 357 principle all about
- How Joe started writing for the American Beekeepers Journal
Resources mentioned in the show
- Joe Business is Harford Honey, the web site is HERE
- Book Following the Bloom by Douglas Whynott can be found HERE
- The Book Beekeeping in coastal California by Jeremy Rose can be purchased HERE
- Susquehanna Beekeepers Association has a website HERE
- Joe Lewis Queen rearing Calendar Wheel, download PDF HERE
- The fifty two most important people in your BeeClub, have a read HERE
- Our interview with Randy Oliver from Scientific Beekeeping can be found HERE
- Randy Oliver’s Article Queens for Pennies, read it HERE
- North West New Jersey YouTube Channel can be found HERE
- Landi Simone Nucleus Colonies Presentation can be found HERE
- Our interview with the Great Frank Lindsay can be listened to HERE
- J Smith – Better Queens Download from Michael Bush Website HERE
Accepting What Is
As the local beekeeping association Secretary I received lots of email and often it involved a request from non members wanting to get into beekeeping. They’d done their homework which, mostly, has consisted of surfing Facebook and Youtube. They’d also asked lots of people how to best get started in beekeeping. After polling the answers they’d start to see two particular suggestions rising to the top: 1) Join your local association and 2) get a mentor. From there they deduced that they can most likely accomplish both by sending an email to the local association asking for a mentor to help them get started.
I had a very nice, polite email I send back moving them in the right direction to accomplish both getting them in contact with experienced beekeepers and a course of action to increase their likelihood of success.
As beekeepers here know, it takes numbers to be successful. If you don’t believe me make a split with insufficient nurse bees or capped brood. Timing is essential as well, start a task at the proper time and all goes easily. Success with a swarm in early April is a piece of cake; success with a swarm in August is difficult. And so it is with folks not yet knowledgeable of the mechanics of beekeeping. They want bees and a mentor not knowing the amount of effort it will take nor the proper timing in order to increase the chance of success that first year.
You too will get inquiries from friends and people you come in contact with once they know you are a beekeeper. Be prepared to help them get off to a realistic start if you want them to be successful. And that’s what it’s really about isn’t it? One hundred new beekeepers joining the association is great but not so impressive if half fail their first season because they had unrealistic expectations.
Let’s look at the “getting a mentor” concern. The old school model of getting a mentor went something like this: The mentee sought out a mentor and agreed to spend the first year helping the mentor in the mentor’s bee yard. The mentee would show up at an agreed on day and time and look over the shoulder of the mentor as he went through his hives, talking as he did so. Watch, listen, learn. Move boxes as needed and help the mentor as the tasks necessitated. This would go on for a season and the next Spring the mentor would make a split and give it to the mentee to take care of at the mentor’s yard. The mentee would work his new hive and the mentor would look over his shoulder to make sure he didn’t make any mistakes and was able to correctly comment on what he was seeing and the correct action to take. At the end of that season the mentee took his hive home and became a beekeeper.
Somewhere along the way we have deviated from this model. Now we take new comers into the hobby, put them through a 20 hour course and expect them to survive. It’s like making an early March split – risky. Nowadays the mentee wants the mentor to make visits to the mentee’s yard for instruction. And inasmuch as the clubs and associations have promoted getting the newcomers’ bees perhaps that seems reasonable to take some responsibility for assisting with issues that will naturally come up.
If we are going to move to a new model then perhaps we need to clarify and revise some terms. As it now stands we’re mixing and matching old school and new school. The new beekeeper wants a mentor, bees, and instruction. That’s reasonable. The problem is one of numbers though (remember that early Spring Splits analogy?). Most clubs can’t provide a 1:1 mentor for 100 new beekeepers every year nor should anyone expect mentors to volunteer to run around town visiting mentees weekly. So we must marry the expectations of the new beekeeper and the club acting as mentor. Each side gives and gets a bit and both walk away with more.
We do that by returning to the old school model whereby the mentee gets his/her education by visiting the mentor, but no longer at the mentor’s beeyard nor by a single mentor. The new model has the mentee visiting many mentors at events like 1) monthly meetings, 2) local educational events, 3) dinner before meetings, 4) online discussion groups 5) State Conferences, 6) connecting through fellowship with bee buddies, community outreach, etc. The list goes on… The mentee that wants to learn this art, like historically, has the resources offered and available and they go to learn – as before. The club or association organizes monthly meetings, presentations, events, newsletters, club library, allows for face to face fellowship time monthly, and online discussion groups. All things considered, the new beekeeper has more opportunity nowadays to gather knowledge than they used to with the old school model AND they get their bees their first year.
If you’ve suffered through my ruminations this far, I commend your endurance. I gave two similar presentations at this year’s state conference. I encourage the new beekeeper to take advantage of what is. There are multiple opportunities available to new beekeepers – more than enough to succeed. I also push the concept of bee buddies and fellowship for those that need a 1:1 relationship. Occasionally I hear someone complain about not having a 1:1 mentor for more personal, individual instruction as they had hoped. That’s unfortunate because they are cheating themselves out of the good of what is while wasting time wishing for the unlikelihood of what they envisioned. The fact of the matter is they have a room full of mentors at every meeting, at every gathering, at every conference. My mom used to say, “Go do the very best you can with what you’re offered. You do everything You can and You’ll succeed.” Mom was smart at marrying “what is” with success.
Don’t listen to me. That’s my advice, right there. I don’t advise new beekeepers. There’s no point in my adding to the confusion and overwhelm of someone just beginning beekeeping. I teach beekeeping classes, do presentations and offer hands-on apprenticeship opportunities for people interested in apiculture. Could be beginners, could be long timers. Who knows.…
An excellent assessment of the beekeeping learning curve with some good advice.
In 2016 I developed an urge to add bees to our thriving urban farm here in Emerald Hills. The gardens were producing year round, our chickens were productive, and I was exploring a lot of interesting technology for monitoring and irrigation. I needed a new project, honey bees.
I bought a hive from a guy on Craigslist who discovered one of his children was allergic to bee stings and decided to sell off his hives. Easy, everything was already functioning. I put the hive in my garden in what I would later learn is a bad location (afternoon sun only and positioned in a manner that wind would blow into the opening) and didn’t really know what I was looking at when I inspected the hive.
Lesson learned: I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
(continued at link below)
Read the entire article here: My two year beekeeping journey — Altamont Farms
Below is a nice enticement to appreciating the art in The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlink and illustrated by E.J. Detmold. The text can be read online here: The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlink. And more on the illustrator at: Edward Julius Detmold
The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck
(Translated by Alfred Sutro)
Illustrated by E J Detmold
George Allen & Co Ltd
Illustrated edition 1911
The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck is a wonderfully eccentric book written in a variety of genres. It is informed by the author’s years of experience studying the complex behaviour of bees. Yet this intricate factual account is suffused with epic drama and wildly poetic philosophical digressions.
Maeterlinck, in telling the story of the bee, explores the subjects of life, death, truth, nature, humanity, and everything in between.
The story of the bee becomes almost a mystic parable to describe all human experience. It has the added charm of being one of the most beautifully illustrated books in our collection. Edward Detmold’s paintings perfectly reflect the sentiment and beauty of the writing.
Below I have gathered together some of Detmold’s illustrations and selected a few memorable passages from the chapter entitled, ‘ The Nuptial Flight’ which presents the tragic sex life of the heroic male bee. I hope you enjoy them.
‘Most creatures have a vague belief that a very precarious hazard, a kind of transparent membrane, divides death from love and that the profound idea of Nature demands that the giver of life should die at the point of giving. Here this idea, whose memory lingers still over the kisses of man, is realised in its primal simplicity. No sooner has the union been accomplished than the male’s abdomen opens, the organ detaches itself, dragging with it the mass of the entrail, the wings relax, and, as though struck by lightning , the emptied body turns on itself and sinks into the abyss.’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 87 –page 166)
‘Nor does the new bride , indeed, show more concern than her people, (for the poor male Bee ) there being no room for many emotions in her narrow, barbarous, practical brain. She has but one thought, which is to rid herself of as quickly as possible of the embarrassing souveniers her consort has left her,…She seats herself on the threshold, and carefully strips off the useless organs…’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 89 –page 173)
‘Prodigious nuptials these, the most fairy-like that can be conceived, azure and tragic , raised high above life by the impetus of desire; imperishable and terrible, unique and bewildering, solitary and infinite. An admirable ecstasy, wherein death, supervening in all that our sphere has of most limpid and loveliest, in virginal, limitless space, stamps the instant of happiness on the sublime transparence of the great sky;…’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 90 –page 174)
It’s still early and we have lots of time to make preparations to obtain reading matter for the long winter haul. A time when beekeepers spend time wondering what the bees are doing and how they are faring inside their hives. But for those so inclined to prepare ahead of time and capture the best prices, now is the time to search Amazon and Ebay and your favorite used book sellers for good deals. I recently got both of these non US titles for a fraction of their going rate. Just waiting for the cold weather to set in now.
As the beekeeping instructor and trainer at a few places around the Omaha metro area, I am always looking for new information, different methodologies, most current best practices and techniques. It’s my job. The way I see it, by even putting myself out there as an instructor means that there will be people who […]
Read full article at: On teaching beekeeping — BBE-Tech
Last month, upon returning from the Eastern Apicultural conference in Newark, Delaware, a friend of mine asked me what was the single most meaningful thing I learned. I sat there and a hundred things ran through my mind. I finally said, “Every day offered me new information and different ways to look at what I’m doing in the bee yard.” Now that I’ve had a couple weeks to process some of the material (I took about 75 pages of notes), I have two things that I’ll share here that I think are important for this time of year and going forward.
The first is the ever present focus on mites. Almost every lecture I attended, no matter what the title, mentioned the need to deal effectively with Varroa mites. It seemed like some of the speakers were somewhat apologetic regarding the historically cautious use of some methods used to kill mites. One speaker said the commercial beekeepers got it right by treating at select intervals between pollination contracts and honey flows to deliver 2 or 3 treatments a year to control Varroa levels. Hobbyists, instead, were told to monitor mites and treat accordingly. Add to that the sometimes cumbersome mite assessment methods and too many people simply did not treat at all leading to lost colonies and mite bombs for their other hives and their neighbor’s hives.
Another comment I heard more than once concerned mite assessment. Whereas in the past we assessed to determine the need to treat, now the focus is on assessment to determine if our treatments are effective. It’s now official, “You have mites.” The only thing in question is how many. Given that thresholds for treatment have been reduced over the past years, plus with unexpected mite bombs, it’s now prudent to periodically treat your bees for mites. The reason for doing mite counts now is to determine pre-treatment and post-treatment mite levels. And, you might ask, which is now considered the most important? The later, post-treatment mite level because if the treatment was not effective in lowering your mite level to an acceptable level then another treatment is in order. Without this post-treatment mite level you’re simply left scratching your head if your colony dies over winter. And if you’re pressed for time, as we sometimes are, and don’t have time for a pre-treatment mite count, treatment, and post-treatment count? Well, it’s not ideal and you won’t gather as much information, but the pre-treatment mite count is the first to omit if you must.
So, what did I hear mentioned regarding treatments? I was somewhat surprised at the number of speakers that said they were treating with Apivar (Amitraz), a hard chemical. Why were they using a hard chemical? The outstanding efficacy of 97 – 99% knockdown of mites along with no residual in wax seemed to be its primary selling points. It is a 42 day treatment and honey for human consumption should be removed. Additionally, speakers talked of rotating their use of treatments and not using the same treatment repeatedly. Oxalic acid is still a favorite and perhaps the cheapest if applied by drizzle during the broodless period. Randy Oliver and the University of Georgia are running trials on oxalic acid shop towels and if the results are favorable it is hoped EPA approval will follow. Other treatments are also considered and used based on the time of year, if honey supers are on or off, and dependent on temperature. Commercial operators also factor in the hive movements between crops, before or after spring splits, and other factors. It seems mite treatments are now a given and the only thing to consider is the time you can get one (or more) done between seasons, honey, broodlessness, the fall spike in mite populations, and pollination contracts. It’s a dance but a serious dance for those who make their living from bees and need to keep them alive and healthy.
The other thing I learned (remember I said I’d mention just two) is honey bee nutrition and its importance. When we think of feeding the bees we often think in terms of syrup and various concentrations of syrup. But pollen is where it’s at nutritionally. Poor quality pollen makes weak bees. Nutritious pollen from diverse sources makes lots of bees, healthy bees, and strong bees able to handle the many stressors bees face nowadays. Many years ago I sat in a nutrition class in college and my professor said in no uncertain terms that protein was the currency standard for nutrition. It seems that applies as well to bees. Bees’ immune systems are compromised with poor nutrition. At the same time we see now, more than ever, they are faced with having to detox from man made and environmental chemicals. Only good nutrition provides them with the tools needed to keep themselves healthy, make strong future generations, and combat environmental stressors. Of course, for the beekeeper, finding land with optimum forage is difficult but we must also do what we can to not overtax areas with too many hives while we seek out better environments for our bees or improve their current settings. While nutritional supplements were mentioned the jury is still out on some of these supplements. It seems good pollen is always a good choice. One solution is pollen harvesting during times of plentiful pollen. In response to the beekeeper trapping some pollen the bees will “assign” more pollen collectors to make up for the beekeeper’s trapping. The beekeeper can store the collected pollen for later use during those times when pollen is either of poor quality or during pollen dearth. I’ll be placing pollen traps on some of my hives this coming year. It should be interesting and if I have extra it will be yet another product of the hive for me to sell at market.
I really could go on for hours here. At EAS there are multiple workshops, lectures, and educational offerings going on simultaneously over the course of 5 full days and evenings. Often I would arrive at 7:00AM for breakfast and not return to my dorm room until 8:00 or 9:00PM at night. It’s exhausting and exciting. I do recommend you attend one and here’s my surprise for those that have endured my article: EAS will be in South Carolina in 2019! The location in South Carolina is still to be decided. If you really want to experience a honey bee learning experience like never before make plans to be there. You won’t regret it.
Walt Wright was born and raised in Burtonsville, MD, then a barefoot country boy area, and now suburbia of a sprawling Washington, DC. He enlisted in the Air Force to get electronics training, and served as a radar repairman. After service time he joined General Electric in maintaining overseas sites of the Security Service (spell that SPY).
Still with GE, in 1960 he relocated to Huntsville, Ala./Redstone Arsenal to make his contribution on the nation’s quest to put a man on the moon. Development of the propulsive stages of the Saturn V moon rocket was accomplished by NASA on Redstone Arsenal. His responsibility on that program was electronic compatibility of subsystems within stages and compatibility between propulsive stages and the electronics of the instrument ring. No interaction (interference/noise) was permitted between systems on the man-rated launch vehicle.
For the Shuttle program, an added responsibility was systems engineer for on-board Range Safety components. The Air Force has autonomous authority to destroy any launch from the Cape area that poses a threat to populated areas of eastern Florida. Astronauts on board is no exception. If the launch strays from the predicted trajectory, the Air Force can destroy the vehicle by radio command. On-board equipment to implement destruct includes the command receiving and processing electronics and pyrotechnics to disperse propellants.
Walt is aware that the above work history provides very weak credentials to be considered as a honey bee “expert.” He took up beekeeping in his late fifties to supplement retirement income. Confident in his trouble shooting skills, he accepted the challenge “very early” to get to the bottom of the swarming problem. He credits observation skills, sharpened by years of electronics trouble-shooting, for solving the riddle. He was surprised that it was as easy as it was. When his hypothesis was in place in three years, he thought at first it must be in error. Surely, thousands of beekeepers, looking into millions of hives, could not possibly have missed the obvious. His conclusion: beekeepers see, but do not observe, or ask themselves why the bees do what they do.
Honey bees are motivated by survival of the colony. Survival of the existing colony is priority one. In the spring, priority two is the generation of the reproductive swarm. Not even that much is described in the popular literature. Walt concentrated his investigation of swarming in terms of colony activities that support those survival objectives. His findings are a radical departure from literature conventional wisdom. As an example, he claims that all the elements of “congestion”, such as bee crowding and nectar in the brood nest, are deliberate steps to implementing the reproductive swarm process, and not the other way around. The literature has congestion as the “cause” and that’s backwards.
Getting his observations published has been slow moving. Editors of the magazines have an obligation to their subscribers to weed out the chaff from crackpots. Natural skepticism creates mostly rejections of submitted articles. For the year 06 he resorted to writing articles on general beekeeping techniques to build a base of credibility.
He looks forward to presenting his observations through Beesource. It should not be necessary via this medium to appease editors or their advisors. As a start in telling it like it is, he announces point blank: The mystery of reproductive swarming has been solved.
Walter William Wright
August 24, 1932 – February 6, 2016
Beekeeping is not for everyone. It takes a certain mixture of patience, fascination and a bit of courage. But with some research and the right gear, it is possible to begin the journey as a beekeeper and have the satisfaction of working with the amazing creature…the honey bee. Do Your Homework The first place to start is […]
Read more here: The Reluctant Beekeeper — Farm, Garden and Beyond
Perhaps you’ve seen the 2015 video from photographer Anand Varma (and shared again last week via National Geographic), a time-lapse of bee larvae hatching and growing in their cells: Watch: larvae grow into bees in this mesmerizing time-lapse https://t.co/JvRbXDMl2e — National Geographic (@NatGeo) July 19, 2017 What you can’t see in that video—in fact, what […]
Read more about this fascinating topic here: The Microscopic Spines That Many Bee Species Use to Hatch — Entomology Today
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: Imago
In biology, the imago is the last stage an insect attains during its metamorphosis, its process of growth and development; it also is called the imaginal stage, the stage in which the insect attains maturity. It follows the final ecdysis of the immature instars.
In a member of the Ametabola or Hemimetabola, in which metamorphosis is “incomplete”, the final ecdysis follows the last immature or nymphal stage. In members of the Holometabola, in which there is a pupal stage, the final ecdysis follows emergence from the pupa, after which the metamorphosis is complete, although there is a prolonged period of maturation in some species.
As always, All beekeeping is local. Here’s my offering for the beekeeping calendar for the South Carolina Midlands for the month of August: Plan on checks twice this month but do not work unless necessary to prevent triggering robbing.
Monitor and control pests – Varroa, Small Hive Beetles, Yellow Jackets, Tracheal Mites.
It is now critical that the beekeeper assess Varroa levels and treat this month as needed. (If you have not treated yet you, most likely, will need to treat.) Varroa mites are now out-breeding your bees. Fewer drone cells means they will start entering more worker cells. It is equally as critical that you determine the effectiveness of your treatments by measuring Varroa levels post treatment. Do not assume that a treatment was effective. Establishing a healthy population of bees now will be reflected in your fall bees and ultimately in your winter bees. Allowing your bees to maintain a high mite load now will result in poor preparation of fall bees and sickly winter bees later. Of course, depending on your current mite level your bees may not get to winter if this is left unaddressed. If you are seeing deformed wing virus you most likely have a serious case of mites and a high virus load and need to take action now.
Dearth continues in earnest this month. Even if you left the bees plenty of honey consider feeding a thin syrup to provide hydration. Syrup is quick and ready for the bees to utilize as needed helping them keep the brood fed, cool the hive, and keeping the hive at 50% – 60% humidity. Monitor stores, remembering they are not bringing much in and will consume what is currently stored as we continue through dearth.
August will be your last opportunity to obtain local Midlands queens. Early contact with your local supplier is suggested.
August 1st – August 31
1) Treatment options for Varroa control are now limited due to the extreme Midlands heat in August. Options include oxalic acid vaporization or ApiVar and other hard chemicals. If using oxalic acid, a series is suggested.
2) Implement pest control measures to contain Small Hive Beetles and Yellow Jackets.
3) Assess for signs of tracheal mites and treat if symptomatic. Managing grease patties in the heat can be a mess and is easier when the weather cools. Commercial products are also available for use when the weather cools.
4) Re-queen as necessary.
5) Unite weak colonies.
6) Remove colonies from mountains and extract Sourwood honey.
7) Cotton bloom has already started but you still have time to place colonies on upcoming soybeans.
8) If you have not been feeding, harvest summer honey on any remaining colonies. As it is getting late in the season, leave at least one super of honey for bees.
9) Monitor pollen supply coming in to hive. We occasionally see a late summer pollen dearth that lasts a couple weeks depending on weather. The bees can survive this drop in pollen availability but ideally, you may want to supplement (see below).
10) Starting the last week of August begin to increase your syrup feeding using a 1:1 mix and provide enough to stimulate brood production. Monitor stores as well. The goal is to start raising the nurses that will raise the nurses that will ultimately raise your winter bees. It is important that you begin to raise well fed and healthy bees free of mite loads, and viri now. Do not let sick or compromised bees do the job of raising your winter bees.
11) It’s also time to start monitoring stores to ensure you will reach the goal of one full super for winter.
12) Register your entries at the South Carolina State Fair (free until September 1st).
13) Start preparing your State Fair entries – wax and honey.
14) 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 SC State Fair booth.
Since most people are radically pro-bee, it shocks me when I come across stories about people burning swarms to destroy them. Such arrogance. Such ignorance. Or maybe, pathetic panic is at work. There are always better options than firing your pollinators. I’m not talking about the accidental fires started by beekeepers’ smokers. Those happen – […]
Read more at: Please Don’t Burn the Bees — Bad Beekeeping Blog
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: Guard bee
Guard bees will stand at the front of the hive entrance, defending it from any invaders such as wasps. The number of guards varies from season to season and from species to species. Entrance size and daily traffic also play an integral role in the number of guard bees present.
Source: Wikipedia – Guard Bee
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
Entering your honey and beeswax in competition can be fun and profitable. The payouts for first through fourth place awards aren’t going to make you wealthy but that ribbon should make you proud of your accomplishment. Your honey will be judged by Certified Honey Judges, trained in the art and science of honey judging. Your entry speaks highly of your efforts to be recognized as producing a South Carolina beekeeping product that represents the very best South Carolina beekeepers have to offer.
Let me begin by saying I’m no expert. I decided to enter last year’s State Fair for the simple reason that I enjoy almost all aspects of beekeeping. Entering the fair competition was, for me, a way to explore another aspect of something I find rewarding. I had no idea I’d win anything; I just wanted to participate. After doing my research I found that the rules vary a bit from show to show but there are common threads that run throughout – cleanliness, consistency, presentation, and beauty. Your entry should reflect your pride in your product while following the presentation guidelines of the particular show.
This article will attempt to explain how to enter your honey and beeswax for judging at the South Carolina State Fair. It is not all inclusive and the reader is encouraged to visit the State Fair website for particulars related to entry dates, categories, drop off and pickup dates, and other particulars. At the end of the article I’ll list important links to the State Fair and the entry department. Registration may be made either online or via postal mail. And the cool thing is it’s free to enter as long as you do so during the regular registration dates. This year Regular Registration begins July 1st and closes September 1st. You can enter after these dates (until September 16th) but there is a rather costly entry fee to pay for each entry during late registration.
The South Carolina State Fair accepts entries in the following categories related to beekeeping:
1 pound jar extracted honey (light)
1 pound jar extracted honey (dark)
2 pound jar extracted honey (light)
2 pound jar extracted honey (dark)
Pint jar extracted honey (light)
Pint jar extracted honey (dark)
Quart jar extracted honey (light)
Quart jar extracted honey (dark)
1 pound jar extracted honey with comb (light)
1 pound jar extracted honey with comb (dark)
2 pound jar extracted honey with comb (light)
2 pound jar extracted honey with comb (dark)
Pint jar extracted honey with comb (light)
Pint jars extracted honey with comb (dark)
Quart jar extracted honey with comb (light)
Quart jar extracted honey with comb (dark)
1 pound cut comb honey (light)
1 pound cut comb honey (dark)
1 pound beeswax
Best Beekeeper Exhibit
That’s a lot of categories to enter. Wow! And most have 1st place through 4th place awards! Let’s get started talking about how you’re going to take home a ribbon this year!
Before we begin, let’s talk about your timeline. Decide now what categories you wish to enter. Calculate how much honey you’re going to be entering in this year’s State Fair. Do the math. You may find that you’ll need quite a bit of honey. After you determine the categories and the amount of honey you will be entering set aside an additional 25 – 50%. This will provide you with a margin of safety in case of a spill, you need to re-strain, and provides for loss due to pouring from one jar to another. Don’t worry about setting aside too much as it will still be saleable afterwards should you have more than needed. You just don’t want to run short as you prepare your entries – you want consistency in your show batch and that will be easier if you have a bit more rather than a bit less than you plan on entering.
Once you decide what categories you will be entering, register online or by mail. It’s free if you register before September 1st so why wait? Registering will also help you get mentally into setting your timeline of tasks for preparing your entries.
Tip: Fiona Apple sang a song titled, “Slow Like Honey” but you shouldn’t be slow getting started in preparing your entries. Honey moves slowly. Bubbles and foam rise slowly. The steps needed to produce your final entry will take time and your best entry will be one that’s not rushed. It’s one of those hurry up and wait situations. So get started now, be patient, then during the preparation period tweak your entry and progress towards your final finished product.
First let’s talk about those entries involving Extracted Honey in 1 pound, 2 pound, pint, and quart jars:
Extracted honey will be judged on:
Density – water content above 18.6% will be disqualified.
Absence of crystals.
Cleanliness of honey – Without lint, without dirt, without wax particles, without foam.
Flavor – ONLY for honey flavor adversely affected by processing.
Container appearance and cleanliness.
Accuracy of filling.
While all honey entered must be in glass jars, the 1 and 2 pound jars must be in Queenline type glass jars. These can be purchased at most bee supply companies. If you can visit a local bee supplier that carries them you should do so as this will enable you to select the clearest jar without flaws, bubbles, scratches, and other imperfections. At this point you may be thinking, “What does the jar have to do with honey judging?” and you’d be right to think this but remember your presentation is extremely important if you’re going to win against the best beekeepers in South Carolina. We already know you’ve got the best tasting honey in South Carolina, just like I have, but what sets dozens of excellent honey entries apart is going to be the fine points and that starts with presentation. Just like a fine dinner at a nice restaurant versus a trip to your favorite fast food joint, the experience counts. So, start with a jar as perfect as you can find.
Tip: Take that jar and wash it inside and out. Place it in the dishwasher and turn on the extra shine setting. Clean it and polish it until it shines inside and out.
Density – moisture content above 18.6% will be disqualified.
Your honey will be checked for density. Hopefully you remember from your beginning beekeeping class that honey should contain no more than 18.6% moisture. The USDA standard for Grade A and Grade B honey states honey should contain a solids minimum of 81.4% (or 18.6 moisture). All honey submitted for judging will be checked and a moisture content above 18.6 will be disqualified.
Tip: Check your honey before submission to ensure a moisture content of 18.6% or less by using a refractometer. I recently saw one on Amazon for $24.00 but I’m sure someone in the club will check your moisture for you if you don’t have one. A good rule of thumb is capped honey will be 18.6% or less in moisture so take no chances on the honey you’re going to enter by only using capped honey and you should be safe. Rationale: Honey with lower moisture content resists fermentation. The best grades of honey will not ferment due to the lack of moisture.
Absence of crystals:
Absence of crystals in the entry will also be checked. All honey will crystalize given enough time. The ratio of sugars contained in the honey determines how fast the honey will crystalize. Depending on the floral source some honeys may crystalize in a matter of months. Other honeys may last a year or even longer. Other factors contributing to the crystallization process include the presence of particles in the honey such as pollens as well as storage temperatures. The judges will check for crystallization by shining a light through the honey to detect minor crystals. Using last year’s winning entry would probably not result in a repeat performance as the honey will probably have detectible crystals. Rationale: Although we know that honey can always be re-liquified, the lack of crystals assures the market customer that the honey has been properly stored and is fresh.
Cleanliness of honey – Without lint, without dirt, without wax particles, without foam.
Of course no one wants to see a bee body part floating around in their honey. But neither should you worry much about your honey not being ultra filtered either. Pollen is a natural component of honey and is expected. While the presence of naturally occurring pollen is expected, neither should your entry be hazy or cloudy with pollen.
Items such as lint, pieces of wax, and bubbles should be absent.
Tip: Don’t use cheesecloth to strain your fair entry. Start your straining with your standard stainless steel sieve using the finest mesh. Then allow it to sit for a few weeks so that any wax and particles rise to the top of the jar where they can be skimmed off. If you’re not pleased with the clarity an additional straining can be made using a lady’s stocking. Be cautious though as the fine mesh of the stocking can introduce very fine bubbles which will take some time to rise to the surface of the honey for removal. When straining honey let gravity do the work as forcing it through the mesh by wringing will increase fine air bubbles.
This process is going to take some time. Honey is thick and wax particles and bubbles move slowly. Ideally you should set aside your honey now to give it time to start clarifying. After giving it a few weeks you’ll want to open the jar and skim off the particles and foam. You may find you want to then do another straining through a lady’s stocking before pouring it into your specially prepared jar for your entry. Then you’ll wait again for bubbles to rise. Eventually you’ll be satisfied.
Tip: When you make your final pour into your presentation jar over fill the jar to within a quarter inch of the top. This will allow you to skim off any foam or pollen a day or two before you take your honey to the Fair. It will also allow you to remove that extra honey such that your fill line is perfect (more on this later).
Tip: Placing the jar on a window sill will gently warm the honey allowing bubbles and foam to rise a little faster and will reward you with seeing the honey get clearer each day.
Flavor – ONLY as adversely affected by processing.
You don’t get extra points for having the best tasting honey in South Carolina. Actually, some honey judging competitions do have a “black jar” contest where the honey is judged on taste alone. No doubt everyone’s honey is going to taste the best to them and it’s purely subjective so “black jar” contests are separate from standard honey judging.
What you need to know as far as taste goes is that you can lose points for “off tastes.” That is, if your honey has an overly smoky flavor from over smoking the hive when you pulled your honey. Or perhaps poor handling of your bee repellant when you harvested has caused an off taste. Another possibility is allowing your honey to sit too long before processing causing some uncapped honey to ferment which may have affected the flavor. Yet another reason honey can have an off taste is overheating in the extraction process. And if your honey has a taste of spearmint, tea tree oil, wintergreen, or lemongrass oil it’s going to be obvious your entry was adulterated with feed syrup. In conclusion, you won’t get extra points for five-star tasting honey but you can lose points for errors that may have affected the flavor of your final product.
Container appearance and cleanliness:
As already mentioned, the visual presentation of your product is important and reflective of the effort you have made to show off your entry. Don’t let even a speck of dirt escape your detection inside or outside of your jar.
But don’t stop with just polishing the jar, absolutely no fingerprints should be on the exterior or interior of the jar. Your lid should also be spotless without dents, scratches, labels, or signs of rust. Although any lid is allowed, a nice one piece lid allows the judge to easily remove the lid to evaluate the lid and the honey. I prefer white lids although I believe gold tone is also available.
Tip: Take an extra lid with you on the day you take your entry in for drop off. There should not be any honey on the interior of the lid. The steward receiving your entry understands this and will patiently wait while you change jar lids before submitting your entry. (Another method is to use plastic wrap between the lid and the jar and remove the plastic wrap prior to submission).
Judges will not disqualify a jar because of an air bubble (in the glass), but try to get the best jar without ripples, nicks, scratches, residue (stickers, honey, adhesive, finger prints etc.)
Also, if reusing a jar, make sure there are no lingering odors. On opening the jar it should smell like honey.
Tip: When entering pints and quarts show off your honey rather than the jar. A simple, plain, thin walled (mayonnaise type) pint or quart glass jar allows your honey to be the star of the show.
Important: Do not affix any label to the jar or lid. Your entry will be appropriately marked with an identification slip when received by the show steward on entry day.
Accuracy of filling:
It’s important that you give the customer their money’s worth. To that end, a standard has been set that will be judged in honey contests. A rough estimate is that your honey fill line should be above the bottom of the lid such that no air is observed when the jar is looked at from the side. Stated another way, no light should be seen between top of the honey and lid. Aim for a point at the bottom of the spiral that the lid screws onto.
Photo Credits: (left) Courtesy Southcentral Alaska Beekeepers Asso. (below) Courtesy Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Assn.
(Note that the jar on the right is not ready for judging as there are particles on the inside of the jar around the top. This should have been “cleaned up” prior to submitting it for judging.)
Tip: When doing your final adjustments use the bottom of a spoon to touch the top of the honey removing any floating particles. Also, use your spoon to clean the area around the inside and outside of the glass where the lid will be. The judges will note any debris inside or outside of the lid area.
End of section on Extracted Honey Entries
Let’s take a break before finishing up with the other entry categories. I’ll not give as much information on the following items for a couple reasons. First, the basics already covered are the same: cleanliness and adherence to the standard. The other reason is I have not competed in the cut comb or chunk honey categories. I have done some research though and will gladly share what I know. Additionally, I’ll be running this article by a couple people that have more experience than I for their approval before I distribute the article. And finally, I encourage you to do some research yourself. You’ll find that there is some variation between honey judging rules and guidelines although the basics are usually consistent. Most of what you will find below is from the South Carolina State Fair guidelines.
Onward we go:
All Classes with Chunk Comb (light and dark – all entry weights)
Chunk Honey is cut comb placed inside of jars before filling the jar.
Neatness and uniformity of cut – Upgrade for parallel and 4-sided cuts; downgrade for ragged edges.
Absence of watery cappings, uncapped cells and pollen
Cleanliness of product – Down-grade for travel stains on comb, foreign matter, wax, foam or crystallization.
Uniformity of appearance in capping structure, color, and accuracy of fill.
One (1) piece of comb in jar.
Comb cut the right way up – it’s a fault to put it in sideways or inverted
(I’ve heard some people melt a bit of wax in the bottom of the jar to hold the chunk of comb down in the jar.)
Cut Comb Honey (light and dark)
Cut comb honey is comb cut from the frame. Foundation should be thin and without wire.
Entry is one pound cut comb.
Neatness and uniformity of cut, absence of liquid honey.
Absence of watery cappings, uncapped cells, and pollen.
Cleanliness of product, absence of travel stains, absence of crushed wax.
Uniformity of appearance.
Single piece, pure beeswax, minimum (at least) 1 pound (16 oz.) but not to exceed 17 oz. There is no standard for molds as long as the wax block meets the above weight guidelines.
The optimum color for pure beeswax is light canary to straw yellow. Wax should be clean, uniform in appearance, and have a pleasant aroma. Cracks, ripples, finger prints, or debris or shrinkage deduct from points. I’ve seen polished wax and unpolished. Last year’s winning entry was unpolished.
Preparation of beeswax for entry is challenging. It will most likely require multiple meltings and strainings for it to become completely free of debris. This can be accomplished using a double boiler or crock pot(s). Never place wax directly on a heat source as it will readily ignite and exposure to high heat can adversely affect the finished product.
I use a couple old crock pots I have acquired at thrift stores. In one crock pot I melt the wax and, using a ladle, I pour it through a coffee filter sitting on top of a metal kitchen strainer. As the melted wax filters through it drops into the second crock pot which is set on its lowest setting. Sometimes a couple filterings like this gets the wax clean but a lot depends on what condition the wax was in to start.
When pouring into the mold melt your wax using the least amount of heat possible. You want to avoid wide swings in temperature as the wax will shrink as it hardens and a wide temperature variation increases this effect. Also, try to let the wax harden slowly to minimize cracking and shrinkage. I pour my wax in my barn, which can easily reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit so it takes a while to fully harden. I usually keep an eye on it and as it cools and shrinks I add just a bit more melted wax to fill any shrinkage on what will eventually be the bottom of the wax block. Also, make sure your mold is level so that your finished product sits nicely on the show table.
Be patient, it may take several attempts to get a satisfactory block that weighs at least 16 ounces but less than 17 ounces.
Elsewhere on the web is this excellent, very detailed description on how to prepare wax for showing. Wax for Show By F. PADMORE
Best Beekeeper Exhibit
I would direct the reader to speak with Cathy Kittle (Fair Booth Coordinator) at Mid-State Beekeepers Association for information on this entry. It involves a physical exhibit related to beekeeping. A beekeeping theme is presented each year. You will need to check with the Fair Booth Coordinator (Cathy) for this year’s theme. Also, there is a space limitation of 3 exhibits. The Booth Coordinator must have you registered in order to exhibit your entry.
In closing, hopefully I have answered some questions related to entering and preparing your honey and wax for judging at the South Carolina State Fair. As I mentioned earlier, I’m far from an expert on this topic but felt the need to get some information out there for those that might want to participate in yet another honey bee related activity. Below are some links that you may find helpful as you further investigate various methods and try to reach for that perfect entry for this year. Happy beekeeping and I’ll see you at the State Fair!
South Carolina State Fair Entries: https://www.scstatefair.org/sc-state-fair
South Carolina State Fair General Rules and Information: http://scfairgrounds.com/oes/entry_exhibitor/queryPremiumGuide.php?deptID=4
South Carolina State Fair Guidelines for Honey Entries: http://scfairgrounds.com/oes/entry_exhibitor/queryPremiumGuide.php?deptID=4#48
Honey Judging and Standards by Malcolm T Sanford: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/media/entnemdeptifasufledu/honeybee/pdfs/AA24800-Honey-Judging-and-Standards.pdf
Judging Honey by Dewey Caron: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/mb/sites/default/files/docs/breecec/Judging%20Honey%20by%20Dewey%20Caron%202015.pdf
USDA Extracted Honey Grades and Standards: https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/extracted-honey-grades-and-standards
USDA Extracted Honey Inspection Instructions: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Extracted_Honey_Inspection_Instructions%5B1%5D.pdf
Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Honey Contest General Rules: http://www.metroatlantabeekeepers.org/honeyContest.php
Eastern Apiculture Society – Honey Show Prep: http://www.easternapiculture.org/resources/honey-show-prep.html
Southcentral Alaska Beekeepers Association: http://sababeekeepers.com/DemoBooth.html
Showing Honey at Fairs by E.C. Martin: http://beesource.com/resources/usda/showing-honey-at-fairs/
North Bucks Beekeepers Honey Show Preparation: https://www.nbbka.org/honey/honeyShow/preparation.aspx
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
Norman Carreck, the International Bee Research Association’s science director, tells PEN about some of the challenges facing bee colonies – from pesticides to land use change Scientists are pretty much in consensus that the major driver for bee declines is changes in land use, meaning that wild bees have fewer places to nest and less…
Photo: The ABC of Bee Culture: a cyclopaedia of every thing pertaining to the care of the honey-bee; bees, honey, hives, implements, honey-plants, etc., facts gleaned from the experience of thousands of bee keepers all over our land, and afterward verified by practical work in our own apiary.
The Status of the Honey Bee in the Law:
The law divides the entire animal kingdom into two classes: (Blackstone Commentaries, Book II, p. 390)
First, those which are domesticated (ferae domitia) and, second, those which are wild (ferae naturae). The rights and liabilities of persons with reference to the animal kingdom then are likewise divisible. Bees belong with the latter class and, in considering the law with reference to these cases, rules pertaining or applicable to the former class would not have any significance. Wild animals are also divisible into two classes:
Those which are free to roam at will, and those which have been subjected to man’s dominion. Rights and liabilities depend upon the class into which the animal falls at the particular time. If it be in a State of Nature, free to roam at will, it is the property of no one, not even of the one on whose land it may be at the particular time, and may become the property of the first taker, even though he be a trespasser and liable for the trespass.
One who enters another’s premises without the invitation or permission of the owner is a trespasser, but this gives the owner of the premises no title to the wild things thereon, it merely gives him the right to protect others from coming thereon and taking them. If, however, some person against his will enters the premises and takes a wild animal or a swarm of wild bees, such a person becomes the owner of what he takes, but he has to answer to the owner of the premises for the trespass. If, however, the animals have been brought within the dominion of the owner of the premises as deer in a park, rabbits in a warren, or bees in a hive, such an entry and taking would be a crime as the law recognizes the property of him who has dominion over them and the taker would gain no title by the taking, for the owner might regain them by legal proceedings. (Blackstone Commentaries, Book II, p. 392)
So we may understand that the animal kingdom to which the bees belong is subject to a certain qualified proprietary interest. That is, they belong to no one, not even the owner of the soil on which their nest may be unless they have been subjected to his dominion, and when so reduced to possession, they are his property. This principle, however, is subject to an important modification: they remain the property of the possessor only so long as his dominion continues, and if such animals regain their freedom, as bees by swarming out and occupying some natural hive, as a hollow in a tree, the property right is lost and they again revert to their natural state and become the property of the first taker.
These same notions also control the matter of liability for injuries done by the bees, and such liability depends on proprietorship. So it would seem that if the bees have escaped from their owner, or have swarmed out of his hive, unless he can be shown negligent in having permitted this, there can be no liability for injuries done by them.
By Constance Lin Varroa mites, pathogens, or climate change? What exactly causes the honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)? Honey bees (Apis mellifera) offer us critical pollination services. In the United Kingdom, for instance, data from the British Beekeepers Association estimates that approximately one-third of the nation’s food supply is dependent on pollination, and more […]
Source: The Boom in Beekeeping
It’s the middle of the night, you’ve driven miles outside of town. You’re a nomad, traveling around the country, staying out of the public eye. Out of sight, out of mind. This is how Dan Wyns (a faculty research assistant and ex-commercial beekeeper) describes the reality of beekeeping: a merging of agriculture and science. “Part farmer, part carpenter, part biologist, part machine operator.” He explains. This image sparks the imagination, but this is not what many people think of when they think beekeeper. This idea is not what has caused an undeniable spike in hobbyist beekeepers in recent years.
Within the last decade, media has latched onto bees, creating a story about the extinction of bees. One fascination is Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, which was spotted around 2006, and quickly made the news. These sudden reports put bees in the spotlight, and this spotlight inspired average people; there’s nothing like a sob story to get people to take interest in an issue, and this interest soon became a trend. Bill Catherall is just one example of someone who was captivated by the news, which was one of the motivations for him to begin beekeeping in 2012. Catherall is now the president of the Portland Urban Beekeepers, an organization that aims to support both honeybees and native bees in the Portland, Oregon area. Catherall is only one of many that can confirm the sudden spike in beekeepers, “Portland beekeeping is exploding, our club almost doubles in size every year. A lot more people are in it to save the bee.” This is where many beekeepers begin: by joining local clubs, and caring for a single hive, of up to 80,000 bees .
There are three types of beekeeper: the hobbyist beekeeper, the semi-commercial beekeeper and the commercial beekeeper. Beekeepers are sorted by size and agenda, not skill level. In fact, there is a wide range of skill levels across all types of beekeeping. Commercial beekeepers keep bees as a job, this is how they make their living. According to Wyns, commercial beekeepers are also the smallest group there are only 2,000 commercial beekeepers, but, they keep thousands of hives and are responsible for about one-third of food production. The hobbyist beekeeper, or the small-scale beekeeper, keep bees as pets in their backyard. They have a small number of hives for personal enjoyment, and nothing else. This is the most common group, and the group that was inspired by the media to take up beekeeping. Semi-commercial or sideliners, fall into the middle and keep several hundred hives. At this level beekeeping is more than just a hobby, often semi-commercial beekeepers do make some money off of their bees, but they do not depend on it.
So, news teams caught wind of the struggles that were being faced primarily by commercial beekeeping , the public read these stories and became worried. This prompted individuals to begin keeping bees, and the pendulum swung upwards. But the media may have deceived us all. Dr. Michael Burgett, professor emeritus and published entomologist disagrees with the media’s claims, pointing out that “The death of large numbers of bees in an area didn’t start in 2006, there have been lots of instances in the past where large numbers of bees have died.” Dr. Burgett also pointed out that Aristotle wrote about the subject of bee die-outs and diseases 2,000 years ago, bringing to light that this is neither a new, nor surprising phenomenon, in his opinion. Bees have always bee important enough to pay attention to, and now is no different.
Overtime beekeeping has become an essential part of human life, even if you do not keep bees yourself, the pollination industry is a $15 billion industry (in 2000) in America alone  it is responsible for 35% of the food that we consume daily . According to Burgett, it’s not a beekeeping industry, its industries: the pollination industry, and the hobbyist industry. Because of the importance, and size of the pollination industry, this is where the news is focusing, but the media does not understand how this industry works. Pollination is done on a contract basis. Farmers hire hives from commercial beekeepers all around the country. Each hive cost about $50, and stays in the crop from 3 weeks to 2 months, depending on the need of the crop. Every year the bees begin their journey in the almonds in California. In late January, about 2 million beehives are shipped from all over America to California for almond pollination. All commercial hives are fed syrup and protein pellets to give them the energy that they need to begin pollination after the winter. After the almonds, bees are driven around the country on palettes to pollinate tree fruits, then blueberries, then vegetable crops, and so on until September, when there is nothing else to pollinate. At this point, the bees are fed more syrup and protein pellets, the hives are inspected, and treated if needed. This is to prepare to the bees for winter, the hives will sit until they are needed for pollination again, and the bees will stay inside the hive to keep warm, and eat reserves.
Because of the reality of commercial pollinators trucking their bees around the country, feeding them syrup, and keeping them from sickness with the use of chemicals, it is easy to see how one could blame the pollination industry for the sudden decline in bees. But this is not the case. While commercial beekeepers are losing more hives by sheer numbers, hobbyist beekeepers lose more hives by percentage. Burgett emphasized how the success of a beekeeper depends on their experience. “Commercial beekeepers cannot afford to lose hives, so they have a higher learning curve.” He says, “I have no worry whatsoever about the extinction of honeybees. I have no worry whatsoever about the extinction of commercial beekeeping. Simply because the need is so great.”
There is a misconception that you can stick a beehive in your backyard, and have honey “on tap.” This is what Catherall first thought when he had the initial idea to begin beekeeping. Then he began doing research, during this time he was fascinated by bee biology, saying, “The honeybee biology is really exciting and interesting, because they are such a weird insect, they behave in ways that we don’t find normal, or natural.” Honey bees are eusocial, meaning that they have a complex social structure. Only a handful of animals share this type of complex hierarchy in their daily lives.
The honey bee hive is run entirely by female bees, which are sorted into subcategories: the queen, and the workers. Each worker has their own role, some collect pollen, some care for the brood (the larval stage in the bee life cycle), some make honey, and so on. Every worker in the hive is controlled by the queen, who emits pheromones which allows the hive to work as a single unit. Her pheromones control the workers mood, and makes the workers unable to reproduce. The queen has one other job: to lay eggs. Without a queen, the hive will slowly die off because the workers have a lifecycle of 2 to 8 weeks, while a queen can live for years. Every bee in the colony is a daughter of the queen bee, and every bee is related to her. Genetic diversity in the hive, and in bees is entirely related to queen bees.
In 1621 the European honey bee was brought to the colonies in Virginia by settlers to aid with food production. In Europe the honey bee was already an important part of the economy . This was the beginning of the genetic diversity bottleneck. Because the European honey bee is not native, and the only means of getting honey bees to the New World was by boat, not many hives were brought over. By 1856 bees were in every part of the United States . Soon after, the importation of honey bees into America was banned. The millions of beehives that are in America today are products of the hives initially brought over from Europe.
When a queen bee is created she must go and breed with male bees or drones in order to birth workers. The queen leaves the hive once in her life, and mates with many drones as she can store the sperm for later use . After, she returns to the hive and begins to lay eggs. Unfortunately, most queen bees are only at their prime for the first year or two, then they begin to lay less eggs; for this reason, many commercial beekeepers will “re-queen” the hive yearly. To do this, they buy a new, already mated queen from a supplier, and squish the old queen. This may sound harsh, but a hive cannot have two queens, because the bees are loyal to their queen, they will kill any new queen that enters. Next, the new queen is added to the hive in a cage, and the bees get used to her scent, and will accept her. They will only accept her if the old queen is gone, the new queen is then released into the hive to live her life for the next year.
Commercial beekeepers rarely breed queens, this is often done by an outside company. There are several problems with queen breeding that is leading to a problem in genetic diversity. Firstly, in the wild, a queen bee will lay 2 to 3 eggs that will become queens, but a breeder will create up to 5,000 queens from one mother bee. Catherall puts the largest problem best, “The genetics that are found in the breeders are very tight, there are about four or five different mothers, and that’s all. But in the wild, feral populations, there is a lot more diversity, in fact the genetics in the wild populations are different than the ones in the commercial population; showing that they are not interbreeding.” Because all of the genetics in bees are so close, commercial beekeepers could easily run into problems. Should a disease come to your hive, your bees genetics are so similar, that one thing could easily wipe out your business.Genetic diversity is the key to the survival of the species, and more genetics lead to stronger, healthier hives now and in the future . Genetically diverse colonies are stronger foragers, thus creating more food storage for the winter, and the ability to grow their populations, and swarm faster and more easily . Genetic diversity also leads to a boost in fitness, and thus higher survival rates for over-wintering. The more people keep bees, the more opportunity there is for genetic diversity, luckily, bees can be kept in almost every space imaginable.
In 2014, about 1,500 people kept bees in the city of London. Camilla Goddard was one of the first, she began beekeeping in the city around 2005. The beginning was rocky, as she struggled to find place where her bees would not be disturbed. But when beekeeping became fashionable, the city of London was just one city that embraced the trend, and began keeping bees within it’s walls . Wyns says, “It is definitely possible, in a lot of ways urban bees potentially can do a lot better than bees in agriculture. Because of the diversity, everybody has their flowers and vegetables, even in real true urban areas, inevitably there are flowers and trees in city parks, and people have their verandas with a couple plants on it.” Because bees can fly several miles away from the hive, they will find the flowers. Not only are there many of diverse forage opportunities, but there are also less pesticides used in urban areas due to the close proximity to humans, and the lack of a monoculture.
“It’s in that vein of self-sustainability, grow your own food. It all fits together.” Says Wyns, who believes that monocultures, and big agricultural farming is a big cause of the current struggles that honey bees are facing. The pollination of urban areas is the opposite of monoculture.
Beekeepers agree that the current public interest in bees is a good thing. The more people who keep bees, the greater the opportunity that bees will outlive these problems . Hobbyists become very attached and protective of their bees, which is one way that this will help the bee population . Even if you’re not a beekeeper yourself, education and awareness is the key. People who begin beekeeping pay attention to the bees by planting more bee friendly flowers, and avoiding pesticides in their own gardens. There is no argument that European honey bees are facing more challenges than ever, but with the spotlight on bees, “the future looks rosy to tell the truth” says Burgett. There is more research, more interest, and more information about bees than ever before.
Wyns paints a picture of the future, saying, “It’s pretty cool to be standing on the rooftop of some giant building in the middle of a metropolitan area looking at the skyline playing with bees. I think that there’s potential there.”
1. ”Honey monsters; Urban beekeeping.” The Economist 12 Apr. 2014: 27(US). Academic OneFile. Web. 21 May 2016.
2. Chadwick, Kristi. “McFarland, Rob & Chelsea McFarland. Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives: The Easy and Treatment-Free Way To Attract and Keep Healthy Bees.” Library Journal 1 Jan. 2016: 123. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 May 2016.
3. Genersch, Elke. “Honey Bee Pathology: Current Threats to Honey Bees and Beekeeping.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 87 (2010): 87-97. Web.
4. Mattila, Heather R., and Thomas D. Seeley. “Genetic Diversity in Honey Bee Colonies Enhances Productivity and Fitness.” Science 317.3836 (2007): 362-64.
5. Sammataro, Diana, and Jay Yoder. Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions. Boca Raton, FL: CRC, 2012. Print.
6. Shimanuki, H. “Beekeeping.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 436. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 May 2016.
7. Wilson-Rich, Noah, Kelly Allin, Andrea Quigley, and Norman L. Carreck. The Bee: A Natural History. Lewes: Ivy, 2014. Print.
Catherall, Bill. Interview. 14 May. 2016.
Burgett, Dr. Michael. Phone Interview. 18 May. 2016.
Wyns, Dan. Interview. 20 May. 2016.
Source: The Boom in Beekeeping
Source: Be Thankful for Pollinators!
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:26)
Imagine the mathematics of a nectarivorous hummingbirds’ metabolism, as it busily accumulates food energy form flower nectar, as it visits one flower after another. The flowers are benefiting the high-energy hummingbird – yet the hummingbird itself, by pollinating one flower from another, is also benefiting the flowers, helping them to successfully reproduce. There is a balance in all of this.
“The rate at which such a flower supplies its nectar has to be carefully controlled [i.e., fine-tuned by God]. If the plant is miserly and produces very little [nectar], a bird [such as a hummingbird] will not find it worthwhile calling. If it is too generous, then the bird might be so satisfied after its visit that it will not hurry to seek more nectar elsewhere and so fail to deliver the pollen swiftly. Many [flowering] plants have arrived [i.e., have been made by God to arrive] at such a perfect compromise [i.e., mutualistic equilibrium] between these two extremes that the hummingbirds pollinating them are compelled to keep continuously active, rushing from one flower to another, getting just enough each time to fuel their high-energy flying equipment with just sufficient calories left over to make the trip [metabolically] profitable. At night, when they cannot see to fly and the flowers have closed, the birds have no alternative but to shut down all their systems [“torpor”], lower their body temperature and, in effect, hibernate until dawn.” [Quoting David Attenborough, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF PLANTS (Princeton University Press1995), page 119.]
In a recent article of the CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, wildlife biologist Kathy Reshetiloff stresses the importance of animals that pollinate plants: “Pollinators are nearly as important as sunlight, soil and water to the reproductive success of more than 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants. They are crucial to the production of most fruits, nuts and berries that people and wildlife depend on. More than 150 food crops in the United States depend on pollinators, including blueberries, apples, oranges, squash, tomatoes and almonds. Worldwide, there are more than 100,000 different animal species that pollinate plants. Insects [like bees] are the most common pollinators, but as many as 1,500 species of vertebrates [like bats] also help pollinate plants.”(1)
And truly, the role of pollinators is critically valuable for flowering plants to successfully produce the next generation.
Yet not all pollinators serve the same flowering plants, so pollination is another one of the countless examples of God’s variety. “Different types and colors of flowers attract specific pollinators. Hummingbirds are attracted to scarlet, orange, red or white tubular-shaped flowers with no distinct odors. Bats are attracted to dull white, green or purple flowers that emit strong, musty odors at night. Bees are attracted to bright white, yellow or blue flowers[,] and flowers with contrasting ultraviolet patterns that have fresh, mild or pleasant odors. Flies are attracted to green, white or cream flowers with little odor[,] or dark brown or purple flowers that have putrid odors. Butterflies are attracted to bright red and purple flowers with a faint but fresh odor. … Beetles are attracted to white or green flowers with odors ranging from none to strongly fruity or foul.” [Quoting biologist Kathy Reshetiloff.(1)] In other words, the “courier service” of pollination may be provided by bugs, bats, birds, or other beasts.(1),(2)
But what is “pollination” and how does it facilitate reproduction of flowering plants? “Pollination occurs when pollen grains [male gamete-bearing particles] from a flower’s male parts (anther) are moved to the female part (stigma) of the same species. Once on the stigma the pollen grain grows [i.e., extends] a tube that runs down the style of the [plant’s] ovary, where fertilization [i.e., joining of male and female gametes] occurs, producing [fertilized] seeds. Most plants depend on pollinators to move the pollen from one flower to the next, while others [i.e., other types of plants] rely on wind or water to move pollen.” [Quoting biologist Kathy Reshetiloff.(1),(3)]
All of this is wonderful information, but the obvious question remains – how does that fascinating process – that occurs daily around the world – fit the journal article’s title, “If You Like Plants, Bee Grateful for Pollinators This Month”? The information surely proves that we should appreciate the genius of the pollination process, as well as the variety of details that accompany it in its multitudinous applications, — but word “thankful” presumes that someone is due our gratitude, i.e., that we should express our appreciation for pollination to that someone who deserves to be thanked for arranging pollination to work, worldwide, as it does.
Yet Kathy Reshetiloff’s CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL article never mentions who should receive our thanksgiving, for the many magnificent and beneficial services that these pollinators provide. But are we really expected to “thank” the pollinators themselves – the hummingbirds, bats, bees, and beetles? (Doing that would be like ancient polytheism, although the pagan animism mythology of today’s anti-creationists usually goes by the Darwinist mantra “natural selection”.)
Obviously, we should be thankful for pollinators – especially if we like to eat on a regular basis! But the One Who is rightly due our gratitude should be rightly identified. Accordingly, there is “something wrong” with the “picture” portrayed in the above-quoted CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL article, because something most important is missing – in fact, it is the Someone Who is not mentioned, but Who should be: God, the author and sustainer of all pollination arrangements.
It is God Who feeds the birds (Matthew 6:26) — sometimes using the pollination process to do so, — and it is that same God Who feeds us, both physically and spiritually (Acts 14:17; Matthew 4:4).
- Kathy Reshetiloff, “If You Like Plants, Bee Grateful for Pollinators This Month”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 26(4):40 (June 2016).
- “Most insects have a highly developed sense of smell, so they can be attracted by perfume. Many also have excellent vision. Their eyes, however, are very different from ours, being made up of a mosaic of several hundred tiny elements. Each of these receives a narrow beam of light and registers no more of it than its intensity, but all together they produce a complete if somewhat granular picture. And there is a further difference – in the perception of colour. At the red end of the spectrum, the insect eye is not as sensitive as ours. Most insects are unable to distinguish between red and black as we can. At the other end [of the spectrum], the blue end, they are very much more sensitive than we are and can detect ultra-violet colours that are totally invisible to us.” [Quoting David Attenborough, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF PLANTS (Princeton University Press, 1995), page 98.] Besides bugs, other pollinators include mammals, especially bats, — yet pollination is performed even by pygmy possums, lemurs, rock mice, and shrews [Attenborough, pages 121-124], and birds, such as hummingbirds, sunbirds, and honey-eaters [Attenborough, pages 114-121], and even reptiles, such as gecko lizards [Attenborough, pages 112-113].
- “Wind is a very efficient transporter. It can take the tiny dray grains as high as 19,000 feet and carry them for three thousand miles or so away from their [plant] parents.” [Quoting David Attenborough, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF PLANTS (Princeton University Press, 1995), page 98.]
Source: Be Thankful for Pollinators!
I remember my first bee order. I was excited and watched and read everything I could about installing bees into my hive. The one thing that I never even thought about was if the bees I would pick up were healthy. It wasn’t until I was on my way to pick them up that I started to wonder about what a healthy package should look like. I wasn’t really sure if I would be able to tell.
As I walked into the room with hundreds of boxes stacked on top of each other, the only thing I could think of, was that I wanted one with lots of bees and one with the screen secure and not leaking bees.
Here are the two packages that I chose:
Each package consisted of a screened wooden box, 1 can of sugar syrup, 1 queen cage with a mated queen, 3# of bees and a wooden lid. The amount of honey bees is dependent on what is ordered, typically it’s 2 or 3 pounds of bees.
There’s a few things you should look for, when you get your package, before you pay. Once you pay, they are yours, even if they die within the week. It is assumed that once they leave the beekeepers property it is in your hands to keep them alive and healthy:
- Bees should be in a cluster, as seen in the picture above.
- A few dead bees on the bottom is ok – you don’t want the package if there is a thick layer of dead bees on the bottom.
- There should be more workers (female bees) than drones (male bees) – drones are just a drain on resources. Drones do no work within the hive and they feed on stored honey or get the nurse bees to feed them.
- The screen on the box should be secure on all sides – bees flying around in your car is not always appreciated by your passengers.
- Bees should not appear swollen – swollen bees can be an indication that you have sick bees.
Once you have picked up your bees you should immediately install your bees into their new hive. If you can’t:
- Store them in a cool place
- If weather is hot you can use a fan to lightly blow air through and around the cage – a sign of them being too hot is that they will no longer be in a cluster.
- If too hot, you can mist with water or a weak sugar solution on the screen to help cool them off.
I hope this helps you to choose the right package.
~May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.
Language is fascinating, particularly the way in which it changes over time to incorporate new words, or old words used differently. In science this has important implications for understanding: semantics matter. With this in mind I’ve been curious about the alternative ways in which authors write the informal names of species. Scientific names (Genus species) should be fairly stable in their spelling and presentation (though not always, especially in the older literature); but “common” names of species vary widely geographically and temporally.
Here’s an example using Google’s Ngram Viewer which is a useful tool for tracking changes in word use over time. Different authors currently use the terms “honey bee” and “honeybee”, sometimes in the same publication. But as the image above shows. historical analysis suggests that “honey bee” is the more traditional term, and that “honeybee” only came into common usage from the start of the 20th century, and by the late 1920s had taken over “honey bee”.
Likewise “bumblebee” and “bumble bee”; despite “bumble bee” having a much earlier usage, “bumblebee” has dominated since the late 19th century:
It’s interesting to speculate about what might have caused these shifts in use, and it’s possible that in these examples it was the publication of especially influential books that used one term over another and influenced subsequent writers. Could make a good project for a student studying how use of language varies in different time periods.
For my own part I tend to prefer “honey bee” and “bumblebee”, but I can’t precisely articulate why; perhaps it’s because in Europe we talk about “the honey bee” as a single species (Apis mellifera) but not “the bumblebee” because there is usually more than one co-occurring Bombus species in a particular area. Do others have a particular preference?
“If beekeeping was easy I guess it wouldn’t be interesting.” Fleming Mattox
Reading the old timers’ beekeeping books from the 1800’s and early 1900’s I am struck with their struggles with wax moths and “disappearing disease.” It almost sounds like they are writing about today’s beekeeping struggles. We could say, “but we have mites” but then they also had the struggles of transporting their bees via horse and wagon so maybe beekeeping has always involved a bit of effort.
Books and articles written in the late 20th century talk about the additional problems encountered when tracheal mites arrived and later Varroa mites. These two pests caused many beekeepers to hang up their veil. But there have always been those that persevere through difficult times. And, ironically, some are drawn to the challenge.
I generally dislike articles written from the perspective of singling out a particular bad guy on the topic of current honey bee health problems. Instead I like those articles that state a problem and offer solutions that I can take to my own bee yard and implement. I know that commercial beekeepers take over two million hives to almonds every year which receive compensation depending on their grading. In Georgia, the package bee industry makes so many excess bees every year that it absolutely boggles the mind. My local association alone usually orders from four to five million honey bees each year – and we are only a single club. So, it can be done! I want to be like that guy with the extra bees and I’d like to see all beekeepers succeed with their bees.
Randy Oliver has said in “The Rules for Successful Beekeeping,” honey bees need four things: food, a dry cavity, help managing pests, and protection from toxins. That’s the proactive way of stating their needs and tells us what we can do to help them survive. (If your mind thinks differently he stated the same thing in a different article, “The Four Horsemen of Bee Apocalypse,” but from the negative point of view, what kills bees: famine, chill, pestilence, and poisons.) Randy runs about a thousand hives and sets up multiple experiment yards for his scientific studies. He knows bees.
It seems that thoroughly understanding the above four things that honey bees need might be the answer to keeping bees alive and healthy. The problem is each of these four items is accompanied by a lengthy list assessments, methods, timings, and manipulations. Instead of four things to remember I now have many. Not to mention I have to choose wisely among the many options to accomplish these four goals.
Soon after getting involved in beekeeping I got the thought that there might be some secrets involved to being a successful beekeeper. You know, like some sort of insider tricks which weren’t being generally offered in books and articles. I decided to start listening very closely when in conversation with successful beekeepers in the hope they’d let something slip. I checked my own thoughts and beliefs at the door and listened to them talk, hopeful of gaining a tip or trick here and there. Soon it started to pay off. Yes, there were tricks and tips that I hadn’t read about. For the most part these secrets weren’t really secrets though. They were methods and observations that really worked to satisfy, “The Rules for Successful Beekeeping.” Some were old school and some were new school. And the jewels came out when least expected, sometimes during a lecture, in casual conversation, before or after a meeting, during a get together over dinner, or in a bee yard while tending the bees. There was no telling when one of these jewels would just pop out and a light bulb would light up in my head. As for the speaker, I doubt they were even aware that the casual bit of beekeeping wisdom or artistry they had imparted was exactly what I needed to hear at that particular moment.
In closing I’m going to share with you how you too can get the inside scoop on improving your beekeeping. Beekeeping is both art and science. You can read a lot of the science but successful beginning beekeepers learn the methods of successful seasoned beekeepers. And I’ll add that this goes tenfold over for beginning beekeepers. Go to the knowledge base of your club. They are talking bees before, during, and after every monthly meeting and if you’re not there you are missing information on the art of beekeeping you need now or will need later.
I’m still a long ways from being the beekeeper I want to be. I’ve got more things to learn – some from the bees and some from others. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life Is a Journey, not a destination.” Pardon the poor paraphrase but for beekeepers, “Beekeeping is a journey, not a destination.” Enjoy the ride!
A few years ago I attended a presentation given by Florida Agricultural “Hall of Fame,” 3rd generation beekeeper, and now retired Chief Apiary Inspector Lawrence Cutts at the 2013 South Carolina Beekeepers Conference.
The audience groaned as he described all the negative parts of beekeeping: the viruses, mites, increased costs, various diseases. After each lengthy, gruesome description of a malady he raised his voice and proclaimed,
“Never before, in all my years, have I been so excited to be a beekeeper.”
Finally, after much more deliberation, he gave up the punchline: “Why be excited? Because never before in all my life has beekeeping enjoyed the attention it is getting today in the media and public eye.”
The point being, beekeepers are enjoying the attention and support as never before. Beekeeping organizations on all levels are being gifted with a wonderful resource of an ever increasing number of enthusiastic beginners eager to take on the tasks of learning both the science and the art of beekeeping. It is, indeed, an exciting time to be a beekeeper. Clubs and associations have won the lottery with the influx of excited newcomers and the many talents they bring to our organizations.
Can we as local and state organizations meet the needs of these beginning beekeepers and move them towards success in their new interest? Talking with some of our older association members, I’ve learned that at one time interest in local beekeeping was much less than seen today. Meetings were small enough they could be held in any small group room, and sometimes a beginner came. In those days a mentor usually coupled with a beginner and taught them the basics. I looked into this mentoring model of teaching and discovered that it wasn’t uncommon for a new beekeeper to visit the mentor’s bee yard for a season before getting their own bees. And once the mentee received their bees, either through a spring split or swarm the next year, they may have left them at the mentor’s bee yard to work in the presence of the mentor with appropriate guidance.
Times change and nowadays we find ourselves needing ever more mentors to serve our new members. Ironically, as pointed out by Lawrence Cutts, the new beekeeper today has been drawn to a hobby that has increased in difficulty due to an increase in pests, chemicals, lack of forage areas, and increased costs.
Simply stated the job of mentoring is getting bigger and bigger, beekeeping is ever more complex, and new beekeepers are joining and needing our support more than ever before. While periodically refreshing and increasing our mentor lists is a good and worthwhile goal, the need for mentors is outpacing the supply.
To complicate matters, not only has there been in increase in beginning beekeepers, most new beekeepers wish to start their own hives at their homes. I do find the occasional member that started by visiting a mentor’s bee yard for their first year but that now seems to be the exception to the rule.
This mentee/mentor dilemma needs a better solution and there is one available.
In part two of this series I’ll offer my thoughts on what mentors can do to assist our new beekeepers and newest members. In part three, I’ll discuss what your club is doing to help you succeed. But since spring, package sales, and classes are upon us I decided to first focus my attention on the new beekeeper and their role in getting themselves through that first year in the learning process involved in beekeeping.
Surfing the web, and various discussion boards, the prospective beekeeper looking for advice is repeatedly told, 1) join a club and 2) get a mentor. That’s pretty good advice but it falls short. Joining a club is great but sending in your $10 won’t get you any closer to becoming a better beekeeper. And just finding a mentor won’t either unless he’s a good friend or neighbor that’s willing to swap lessons for apple pies. First of all, most experienced beekeepers have bees to take care of also, limited free time like most, and finding one that is close enough and willing to teach a new beekeeper may be a challenge – finding one that has the heart and willingness to make home visits is GOLD.
I’m going to suggest a new angle towards getting the new, prospective beekeeper everything they need to find success in this challenging mix of science and art we call beekeeping.
- The new beekeeper should find a local club or association and start attending meetings. Your goal is to see if the club is a fit for you. Are meetings educational? If you don’t feel it’s a good fit then look elsewhere for a club that fits you.
- Start your search for a good beginning beekeeper class. Half-day or single day classes are good for determining if beekeeping is something you’d like to learn. Better introductory beekeeping classes span multiple evenings or weekends and offer Certified testing. If your local club doesn’t offer one, look for a class at the next closest club. Attend their meetings too. The drive may be worthwhile.
- Sign up and take the next beginning beekeeper class offered. Read the handouts; read the book. Don’t be satisfied to be spoon fed the information and don’t limit yourself to only the information in the class. Consider this class your foot in the door, your introduction, the beginning of your adventure.
- Visit your local library and check out books on beekeeping. You will find some entertaining, some are scientific, and some are histories. Read all that you find helpful.
- Decide right now that coming to monthly meetings is an important part of your continuing beekeeping education. Miss one at your own risk. Many club meeting topics follow the bee’s annual cycle through the seasons. Important things to do and observe are discussed at meetings. The meeting you miss may be the one that offers the information you needed to hear that month.
- Volunteer for club activities. If your club offers community outreach at festivals and events talk to your club’s event coordinator. Volunteer to work with someone else “talking bees” with the public. If you took the beginning beekeeper class you know 100% more than the general population. Listen to the experienced volunteer you are paired with and learn from them. Talk with them during breaks. If you enjoy speaking to children there is real need to visit with elementary classes. Senior centers also appreciate visits and often contact clubs to schedule brief talks.
- Watch your bees. Even if you aren’t going inside the hive. Get a chair and sit and watch them coming and going. Soak it in. At first you’ll not have anything to compare their coming and going with. As the seasons progress, nectar flows begin and end, temperatures change, their behavior will change as well. Soon you will notice subtle changes in their behavior on the landing board. With time you’ll know when something’s wrong and needs further inspection – just by watching them.
- If your club has social events like pre meeting dinners, occasional social events, or days in the bee yard, attend them. Beekeepers tend to want to talk about bees – exhaustively. Only other beekeepers want to talk about it as much as you will. You will learn a lot talking with others at these events.
- Find a bee buddy. A bee buddy may be another first year beekeeper in your neighborhood or a second year beekeeper that lives close by. Your bee buddy is the one you call when your hive swarms and you need to borrow a box. A bee buddy is someone to visit and look at their hives; they come over and look at yours too. Bee buddies show you how to do new things with your bees. Find a bee buddy at meetings, events, or during meeting fellowship time.
- Enter your hives as often as is prudent. During some seasons the bees are docile and tolerant of your intrusions. In the spring visit them often – even every week. When you enter the hive go in with an idea of what you wish to accomplish in mind. What do you want to observe? The first few times you will be so filled with excitement you’ll forget to look for those things you set as your goal. That’s okay, look on your next visit. There are other seasons when the bees are best left alone such as when they are arranging and securing their winter home or during colder months. Take every opportunity to observe them.
- Join your club’s online discussion group if it has one. You’ll find quick answers to questions you have. Often a photo and description to the group will result in helpful responses or allay your anxiety about something you’ve never seen before. If you do have an emergency often a club member can swing by after work and take a look. Both girls and guys participate in forums and sometimes you find that you’re neighbors!
- Read your club’s newsletter. Local happenings are listed. Important dates too. Sale ads and articles of interest as well as your clubs minutes and scheduled speakers and topics keep you informed. Often the club will have an article directly related to seasonal beekeeping letting you know what to observe and do in your hives that month.
- Attend local educational offerings. Some clubs bring in out-of-town speakers for special topics of interest. Other times clubs or local beekeepers offer day classes on specific topics of interest: Queen rearing, Moving hives, Making Splits, Africanized bees, oh my!
- Attend state conferences. Even if you can’t stay for two and a half days at least go for a single day. The information you hear will be from the scholars in bee research around the country. They have a knack for breaking it down for us simple beekeepers though so it all works out. Have lunch with fellow beekeepers. If you overnight, find out where your club or neighboring club will be having dinner and socialize. Carpool with your bee buddy. Hang out in the hotel lobby and talk bees until late.
- Placed last because you may never need it if you’re working all of the above. Visit your club’s mentor list and find a mentor close to you. Preferably one that also attends meetings. Sit with them, or watch and listen to them teach at the front of the room. If you don’t understand something ask after the meeting. Offer to help your mentor do hard work like pulling supers, rotating boxes, or extracting honey. Tell them you’ll gladly help with their next swarm retrieval. Ask them tough questions that show your enthusiasm and that you’re making every effort to learn. If they know you’re dedicated to learning, attending, and making an effort it makes all the difference in the world.
In the end it’s all about learning about bees, their biology, behavior, and management. Along with that come the seasons, foliage, the bees’ cousins, and foes. Today’s prospective beekeeper has more resources that ever before: face to face education, fellowship, books, YouTube videos, discussion groups, community outreach, conferences, and more. Take advantage of every offering available and you will succeed. Now, get to a meeting!
When it comes to the current bee crisis, artist Matthew Willey sees the writing on the wall – and has chosen to paint over it. “I want to put bees in the front of everyone’s mind” the North Carolina-based artist says. He has committed to personally paint 50,000 honeybees – the number necessary for a healthy hive – on the walls of communities across America.
“As an artist I figured I could take these small, misunderstood creatures and paint them really big so people will notice them,” says Willey.
His initiative, called The Good of the Hive, uses art to highlight amazing honey bee behaviors and their connection with humans, all while raising awareness about the current honey bee struggle.”We need them, it’s not a maybe.” Willey says.
The artist was inspired by a honey bee that had flown into his NY apartment last fall. “It was moving really slowly, like it was sick,” says Willey. When the honey bee died a few hours later, he turned to google for answers.
Bees live in highly organized colonies, each with an important task. When feel they cannot perform said tasks, due to age or health, they exit the hive and do not return. “I think this behavior is amazing” Willey says, “When they feel sick, they’ll remove themselves for the good of the hive.”
This explains the phenomena of colony collapse, the mass disappearance of bees from their hives. Where typically a handful of bees would regularly leave a hive in this fashion, now thousands are, and the entire colony is left defunct. With no signs of slowing down, it’s raising red flags for the beekeeping industry and the global economy it supports.
Willey paints with the same dedication the honey bee brings to it’s hive. He understands the power an individual holds. His murals generate buzz, which ultimately lead to conversation and education about an issue that affects everyone. “We’re all connected” he says.
Willey has been shown overwhelming support for his efforts from coast to coast. His nationwide-hive “flies” along on the walls of an apartment building in Washington, elementary school in North Carolina, and on the brick facade of the Burt’s Bees headquarters. His most recent bees are painted on the blank canvas of a truck cargo trailer – you might even see it on the road. “Bees are in every community,” Willey says, “so that is where I am going to paint them.”
Stay up to date with Matthew Willey and The Good of the Hive community on Facebook and Instagram. Followers can expect to see day to day progress on his current projects, and be the first to know where he’ll swarm off to next.