Century-old beekeeping equipment

Historically, in 1919 rationing as a consequence of the Great War (WWII) was still in effect, there was money to be made with honey which was not rationed. Spanish Flu was on its second pass through the world population with a greater than 90% mortality rate. With mortality rate comes to an easing of resources and labor shortages. Farmers saw an opportunity for easy money, and beekeeping according to the Encyclopedia Britannica in the United States was easy.

Bad Beekeeping Blog

This picture is from exactly 100 years ago. It was late winter, 1919. An agriculture agent came to this Kentucky Appalachian farm to teach modern beekeeping. He was teaching ‘modern beekeeping’ that we can recognize.  Not much has changed in the basic bee yard.

The wooden ‘crates’ around the hives are for winter protection – those aren’t used much anymore. But the frame held  by the student is exactly the same shape and size as the frame used by most beekeepers today. We might have trucks and forklifts and ventilated white suits, but the heart of our beekeeping – frames and boxes – are the same.

I sometimes wonder why we are using century-old equipment, but the answers are fairly clear: it works and we’re stuck. If you buy a hive, it will probably be the same size and shape as great-granddad’s. And if you ever need to sell your…

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Bees Stay Even Cooler

On a hot summer night, there is a special treat you can do in the moonlight. Take a walk by your beehives and hear them cooling the hive, smell the evaporating nectar, and feel the power of the bees ventilating their home.
A new study out from Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Science studied the framework of environmental influences and bees signals that help the colony cool the hive. Detecting the ventilation strategy was half the fun.

Read the article here, see How bees stay cool on hot summer days

Photo by Massimiliano Latella on Unsplash


European honey bees (Apis mellifera) live in large congested nest cavities with a single opening that limits passive ventilation. When the local air temperature exceeds a threshold, the nests are actively ventilated by bees fanning their wings at the nest entrance. Here, we show that colonies with relatively large nest entrances use an emergent ventilation strategy where fanning bees self-organize to form groups, separating regions of continuous inflow and outflow. The observed spatio-temporal patterns correlate the air velocity and air temperature along the entrances to the distribution of fanning bees. A mathematical model that couples these variables to known fanning behavior of individuals recapitulates their collective dynamics. Additionally, the model makes predictions about the temporal stability of the fanning group as a function of the temperature difference between the environment and the nest. Consistent with these predictions, we observe that the fanning groups drift, cling to the entrance boundaries, break-up and reform as the ambient temperature varies over a period of days. Overall, our study shows how honeybees use flow-mediated communication to self-organize into a steady state in fluctuating environments.

The Royal Society: Collective ventilation in honeybee nests

Link to The Royal Society article: Collective ventilation in honeybee nests

or https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2018.0561