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

Butterflies Don’t Live in Houses!

I have never seen a picture or a video of a butterfly entering or exiting a Butterfly House. I have thoughts like this all the time and hypothesizes about the world.

The newest hypothesis is as follows:

Butterflies (Lepidoptera) do not use Butterfly Boxes.

I think that Butterfly Boxes/Houses are fanciful and attractive garden accessories. For years I have searched for a picture or video of a butterfly entering or exiting a Butterfly House. They showed up years about 20 years ago as the best new accessory in those catalogs for the garden pre-internet shopping. They cost 20 to 110 buck$ and you put them on a post facing east to catch the morning sun so the butterflies can warm up and fly away off to work to feed on nectar and frolic among the flora. Yes, you will see Photoshopped pictures box covers and advert of butterflies of these houses with happy butterflies alighting or flapping around them. Can you find a picture of a Lepidoptera entering or exiting a butterfly house? Heck, I will even take evidence of a moth taking advantage of the validity of a butterfly house.

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Here is the thing with the advent of digital cameras being pointed 24/7 at everything on the planet. Can it be true that no parent or child has thought “I want to catch the beauty of a butterfly using out gardens butterfly house.” Not one?!? Please prove me wrong.

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Why do butterflies not user Butterfly Houses? Because butterflies don’t read the same catalogs we do? They also don’t hang out in schools like fish, they hang in a group called kaleidoscope. Seriously, one should suspect that butterflies are smart enough to know that the only thing living inside a butterfly house is a hungry spider that would love to have a meal come and stay the night.

Will I consider taking as evidence a picture of a spider web filled with a moth or butterfly carcass parts shambalizing the interior of a butterfly box. I will consider it, but I suspect the arachnid pulled them into their parlour for tea and crumpets.

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So what is one to do? If you really want to help the butterflies specifically build a butterfly feeder or butterfly puddles area.

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Other resources–

Michael Palmer of French Hill Apiaries Videos

Michael Palmer of French Hill Apiaries Video Collection

Michael Palmer – Beekeeper

Michael Palmer is one of the great modern voices of beekeeping. He brings an inquisitive, open mind and vast knowledge to the interested beekeeper videos. Mike is an excellent speaker and has good insight into bee behavior. HIs beekeeping style has a lot of Yankee pragmatism in it, and he shows that he holds to the belief that bees need good animal husbandry skills. His business is French Hills Apiaries near the town of St. Albans, VT in the Champlain Valley.

I have been told that he has written a book and pamphlets that I have been unable to find on the Web. He doesn’t have his own website, blog, or frequent any forums; you got to admire someone that ain’t caught up in the technology rat race. However, it is not a total lose his thought and ideas on raising bees, raising queens, overwintering Double Nucs, strategies for honey production, keeping flourishing apiaries in the challenging northeast climate, and methods for sustainable beekeeping are available in video form. These videos are strewn across the internet, though many are on YouTube. This page is a collection of all the videos I could find both long and short. If you know of others, please let me know I would very much appreciate it.



Related Videos–

Varroa Mites Aren’t Vampires, They’re Werewolves!

While I have been learning Beekeeping 101 over the past year I have been taught several things about the Varroa Destructor mite.   Basically, the following have been drummed into my head:

  • Varroa suck the blood! (Hymolymph)
  • Varroa mainly weakens the bees in the brood stage
  • Varroa ride the thorax of the honey bee, see Google – Images

I just attended the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association’s Fall meeting and heard many fascinating lectures.  The most immediately influential one was Dr. Samuel Ramsey’s “Varroa destructor Feed on Hemolymph and Two Other Alternative Facts.”  In Dr. Ramsey’s has studied the Varroa for years while earning his Ph.D.  His presentation has 3 critical revelations for beekeeping and I’m sure you will hear much more about this in the coming years.  

Watch this informative video that covers most of his points, se Varroa Does Not Feed on Hemolymph.  

Where Varroa are found on bees from “Varroa Does Not Feed on Hemolymph” by Dr. Ramsey

Dr. Ramsey’s work was totally convincing, he has done excellent work. I will be testing my bees minimally monthly and will plan on treating 3 or 4 times a year.  There were other lectures by Dr. Jamie Ellis from the University of Florida, that were also quite convincing.  So that I don’t need to treat so often I will have to get more hygienic genetics into my colonies.  For now, I plan to be more aggressive in treating and alternate between two effective treatments to help avoid breading resistance in the Varroa mite. 

Happy Beekeeping,


P.S.  Dr. Samual Ramsey’s is planning on studying Tropilaelaps Mites, and going to return to Thailand for a year.  This research he has proposed had often gotten the response in the USA is “Tropilaelaps mites aren’t here yet.”  (YET being the optimal word)  Since effective treatment takes about 10 years to develop Dr. Ramsey’s want to get a jump on this new threat.  His other talk was “Tropilaelaps Mites: A Fate Worse Than Varroa.” the showed a nightmare creature that is spreading in Asia and towards Europe like wildfire.  The funding for a year of research is not complete, so he has a Go Fund Me page “Fight The Mite” campaign, I urge you to donate to this effort and support this young brilliant scientist; I have donated and as several other people I know are.

Varroa mite on an emergent honey bee (src: wikimedia.org)

What’s the Price of Cheap Honey?

This is an excellent introduction to the fraud that is being perpetrated on the American consumer. The documentaries she mentions are all excellent. It is sad that dedicated local and national beekeepers are having their market crushed by shoddy and unscrupulous imports.

Germany is the highest consumers of honey per capita in the world and culturally they are serious about honey. This is why they are at the forefront of testing for adulterations and shenanigans of honey. Why can’t we protect our food supply, especially where honey is concerned? Beekeepers are just to nice, perhaps we should learn from our bees who are now in winter mode and bee-nasty!

Married with Bees

People love to ask questions when they find out that we started keeping bees.  One of the most common questions is, “When will you start selling honey?”  That question is usually followed by the comment, “Local honey is really expensive.  You can make a lot of money.”  In our part of the Midwest, local honey sells for anywhere between $8 and $12 for a 1 pound bottle, and those prices are typically set by hobby beekeepers who sell mostly at places like farmers markets.  If you read my previous blog post, you will know that hobby beekeepers aren’t getting rich on their honey.  The question that people should be asking is, “Why is the grocery store honey so cheap?”  The answer to that question will probably shock you.  

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R.I.P. Sue Hubbell


Sue Hubbel

1935 – 13 October 2018

Author & Beekeeper



Sue Hubbel,  wrote the two books that inspired me to get into beekeeping.   “A Country Year” re-lit my childhood interested in bees, and the “A Book of Bees” gave me bee-fever.  Her book  “A Country Year” is up there with “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle and “We Took to the Woods” by Louise Dickinson Rich for exploring a new beginning in an alien culture and marks her journey from heartbreak back to a self-sufficient person.

I re-read both books on my summer vacation in the Wilds of Maine, which was the perfect place to explore some of the questions she asks about nature and people.  I walked the roads and edge of the lake looking for the various flora an fauna that s native to where I was.  It was perfect and reminded me of where the growth of my wanting to keep bees came from.

Hubbel’s choices in running a business with true husbandry inspire me. Her choices to simplify and standardize her equipment, and thinking about the what she has time for and having to prep for her busy harvest times showed real grit. I so admire her always showing measured care of her bees, but not coddling a laying-worker hive (i.e., no time for dither, shake out, combine hive resources, and bye!).

I mourn the loss of Sue Hubbell’s voice and wish there were more books ob beekeeping.  I wonder who she read, her reading list would be fascinating to me.  She passed away in Bar Harbour, Maine, I wished I’d know that she was there.  I would have loved to have met her.  I will have to settle for listening to her voice through her books.  Her wry humor will be missed.



Honey is made…

This is the sterilized version of how honey is made… I was always told not to tell people bugs make honey, better that they just think bear love honey.  Making honey is work for both the busy-bees and the beekeeper.