Friday, December 24, 2010

Fence Panel Destroyed in Beelandia

One of the fence panels surrounding the parameter of Beelandia was hit by snow and ice falling off the neighbor's roof. The toppled panel did not hit any of the hives. Yet another fix-it project for the early spring!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Article: EPA Allows the Use of Bee-toxic Pesticide

An article from

Wiki bee leaks EPA Document-- Reveals Agency Knowingly Allowed Use of Bee-toxic Pesticide

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Video: Beelandia Blizzard

Blizzard in Beelandia
Uploaded by WesBeek. - Explore more family videos.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: "Moneyball" and Beekeeping

I've spent the last few days reading the book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. I am a New York Mets' fan and, with their hiring of Sandy Alderson as General Manager, I thought it might be interesting to read up on his background and others he has recently hired.  The book describes the history of the Oakland A's from the late 80s until 2004 or so. The A's are a small-market team with a limited budget that, nonetheless, were able to field teams that were quite competitive.  To my surprise, I've discovered a book that has implications beyond baseball, and is applicable to all areas of life, including beekeeping.

I feel many readers might miss the message of this book. This really isn't a book about doing more with less but about being a critical thinker. The management of the Oakland A's were, overall,  "outsiders" to baseball.  They had not internalized generations of "baseball wisdom" about what produced a winning ball club. They were willing to question orthodoxy, and, more importantly, answer these questions in a rational way.  Nothing in baseball "orthodoxy" was sacred to them! This approach led the team to take a different approach to judging talent and building a roster, much to the chagrin and embarrassment of many baseball insiders on their scouting staff.

There is a lesson in this book that applies to other facets of life, even beekeeping. Are we willing to question conventional beekeeping wisdom and ask ourselves why? Where's the evidence? How do we know this? This is a tough thing to do, especially, when facing the laughter and mocking of other beeks with years more experience and a ton more respect in the community.  Much of what I do as a beekeeper is to test ideas out over time. Some ideas are failures and they are jettisoned, others that seem to work are retested and critically examined. I do listen to and respect more experience beekeepers but always with a critical ear. How did they arrive at this idea? Is the advice they give based on what's more economically efficient for the beekeeper or what is best for the bees in the long-term? What are the trade-offs? This critical approach does mean more work  because it's easier just to accept and do whatever conventional wisdom says to do. But I think in the long-term, the critical approach will be more successful and, therefore, satisfying.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Questions For Book X--- Aristotle... Nichomachean Ethics

Warning to Regular Readers-- the following blog entry will be used for a discussion of Book X in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. Students have been invited to discuss these questions. You may join the discussion if you wish!

1. What does Aristotle mean by contemplation?
2. According to Aristotle, what  is the relationship between contemplation and happiness?
3. What does he mean by leisure?
4. In his view, what is the connection between leisure and contemplation?... and so leisure and happiness?
5. Reflect on your answer to question 4... If Aristotle is correct, is contemplation open to everyone? What type of life must you possess in order to contemplate?

Bonus question based on the discussion in last class:

The Shared Inquiry approach used in the Lasallian Honors Program is based on 3 levels of questions: (1) factual, (2) interpretative, and (3) evaluative. (Read the handout I gave out earlier in the semester for more details) Before you deal with higher level questions, you must understand a problem at the lower levels. So, for example, you cannot criticize an idea in a "knee-jerk" fashion"  until you understand the idea factually, and interpretively. 

One way to understand an idea or theory is to intellectually "play" with it  before moving toward critique. Personally, I do thought-experiments. I "pretend" I'm the theorist who created the idea (whether I like his/her ideas or not) and  ask myself how might s/he answer possible criticisms  before I ever dismiss them. (As a wise professor once said to me, "If you can easily dismiss a theory held by reasonably intelligent, honest, and careful thinkers then you either (1) don't understand the theory or (2) have an axe to grind.)

With this in mind, I want you to go back to the hypothesis that  pheromones  are the basis of friendship and social bonds in human communities. First, consider what happens in a beehive when  the queen's pheromones disappear with her death. The bees in the hive grow lethargic, and become louder. Normal work does not always get done, and the hive might might eventually die. As a response, the bees try to raise a new queen in order to replace the old dead queen and her pheromones, unless the beekeeper successfully introduces a new queen first. (A modern beekeeper may buy a queen from a breeder online!)

Now I want you to "pretend" you believe that pheromones play a large part in human interaction as well .

6. How might  online dating be totally compatible with a pheromonal theory of friendship bonds?

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What I Learned In This Year of Beekeeping

Every fall since starting this blog, I take some time on this blog to examine what I've learned during the past year of beekeeping. So keeping with that tradition, here are some of the things I've learned:

  1. The Importance of ventilation and moisture absorption in wintering hives-- Two years ago none of my hives survived the winter. Last year, all my hives survived and one of the key differences in my approach between the two years was how I prepared my hives for winter. (I recognize that the nature of each winter could also accounted for differing survival rates!) Last year, I placed a quilt box on the top of each hive to assure more ventilation and moisture absorption.
  2. How to Use a Cloake Board--  Using sources found on the internet, I taught myself how to raise queens through the Cloake Board method. I found this method to be more suitable to the small size of my operation than other approaches I have learned.
  3. Successfully Grafted Larvae--  Two summers ago I learned to graft at the University of Minnesota. This spring, I was able to successfully apply that technique to my own operation.
  4. Develop a Contingency Plan for How to Use Created Nucs-- In my enthusiasm for raising my own queens, I failed to really think through what I was going to actually do with the nucs I created. I did finally give my extra nucs to a beekeeping friend with some room on his farm but not until one of the nucs swarmed. This failure led to my battle with the city council. (see next point)
  5. Squeaky Wheels in the Neighborhood--  I learned that no matter how many people are supportive and understanding about your beekeeping endeavors in town, it only takes one "squeaky wheel" to set in motion a movement to either ban or regulate beekeeping.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Video: Hives Wrapped

Hives Wrapped for Winter October 23
Uploaded by WesBeek. - Explore more family videos.

The video above documents my beekeeping activities last Saturday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Winterization-- Part II

Yesterday I continued the winterization of Beelandia's hives. It was very difficult to think that cold weather is around the corner with the temperature reaching into the 60s (F) but the pre-winter tasks needed to be done.

I placed hive-wrap material (purchased from B and B Honey Farm) around each hive. The hives were generally cooperative, even though the weather was warm enough for foragers to come and go in significant numbers. As usual, I struggled a bit with the top bar hives. They are just not as easy to wrap as nice Langstroth boxes.

No stings and the task was finished.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Abelisto Speaks at Master Gardener Meeting

I spoke this week at a "Master Gardeners" meeting in Winona on Tuesday. I discussed what gardeners can do for honeybees. We had a very good discussion and, hopefully, I interested some of these gardeners also to raise bees. They are all planning to come to Beelandia in the spring!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Winterization" Part I

Today I took the first step in preparing my hives for winter. For each hive, I took off the feeder, placed in some fondant and a pollen patty, and put a quilt box on top. The two top bar hives have very little stores, so I simply hope the fondant is used.

In the next week or two I will wrap and insulate each hive.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Article: Honeybees' collapse caused by combination of virus and fungus study reports

Many of you are already aware of this news but I thought I'd provide a link to the Christian Science Monitor's article on this important development anyway. Thank you Chad for providing this link. is Online

Monta and I have finally put the finishing touches on a new website named This new website will serve as a companion to this blog.

The contains summaries of the bee projects I am working on, articles and reviews I've written, thoughts on issues and topics of concern to beekeepers, as well as videos and photos from the Beelandia apiary and bee activities in and around Winona Minnesota. Artist, Monta May, designed the site.

I hope you all read and enjoy the site. Please visit it often.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Article: Marla Spivak-- MacArthur Fellow

Congratulations to University of Minnesota entomologist, Marla Spivak on being chosen as a 2010 MacArthur Foundation fellow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Moving Some Stores Around

I opened up both top bar hives yesterday in order to check honey stores and move bars around. Metpropolis, my problem hive this year, has absolutely no capped honey to speak of.  Plan Bee has a little more but still not enough to make it through winter. I left some fondant in both hives and hope that the bees are able to store some nectar in the next few weeks.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

WAHBA At Blue Sky Fair

In our first official public appearance, the Winona Area Hobby Beekeepers Association has a table at Winona State's Blue Sky Fair this morning. Dr. Bruno Borsari, a biologist at WSU, and I manned the table from 8 to the 12:30. We had a variety of  informational materials to give the public, as well as posters on honey bees and other pollinators. We even brought some bee equipment and comb from Metpropolis, a top bar hive located in Beelandia. We signed up a number of interested potential beekeepers and had a great time talking about our passion: bees!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another Article on WAHBA

The Winona Area Hobby Beekeepers Association is again in the news with an article by Kate Carlson for .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Henneman Bee Photos

Jamie Henneman, a talented student of mine, visited Beelandia yesterday to take a series of photos of its bee inhabitants. I was so impressed with the quality of these photographs that, with Jamie's permission, I thought I'd share two with you all.

On the negative side of all this, Jamie was stung on the neck during the photo shoot. That didn't stop her from taking more photos, or inflaming another bee enough to sting me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Strengthening Hives

First, I need to apologize to any readers wondering where the author of this blog went to. Yes, I haven't written anything about the activities of Beelandia in a few weeks. With the beginning of the semester approaching and the Winona bee ordinance debate in full swing, the blog was set aside. I assure you though, Beelandia is alive and well.

Today, I spent late morning strengthening the two hives I created this summer from the nucs I started. I took frames of honey, pollen, and larvae from the two "relief" nucs which I will let die this winter and added them to both Atta Bee! and the new hive I have yet to name. As might be expected, the bees were not really cooperative and so I sustained 2 stings.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Place Change for WAHBA meeting

The next meeting of WAHBA will take place in 329 Pasteur Hall on the Winona State Campus rather than in the room previously announced.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Winona Area Hobby Beekeepers Association

A group of us have founded a beekeeping association in Winona. We will meet this Thursday (September 2nd) at 7 pm in 237 Pasteur Hall on the Winona State Campus. This meeting will focus on creating our own bee ordinance proposal for presentation to the City Council.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yesterday's Inspections

Inspected both of my top bar hives yesterday. Our weather continues to be very hot, interspersed with heavy rains. The Beelandia Apiary is a real jungle right now.

I inspected Metpropolis first. While it is a booming hive population-wise, I am a bit concerned about it's real lack of store honey. Just one bar is filled with honey and I have not taken any honey from this hive this season. On the other hand, this hive is quite gentle. They don't seem to mind me inspecting a few combs.

Plan Bee seems to be doing much better than Metpropolis. It has plenty of capped honey and should store even more as the late flowering plants start blooming here. I am not very worried about this hive.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Letter to the City Council

I just sent this to city council members.

In general, I agree with the basics of the ordinance but think a few areas need to be changed or rethought. The council should recognize that this ordinance is based originally on a Florida ordinance which was addressing a different set of issues than Winona faces. (I recognize that Minneapolis uses much of this ordinance as well)
Florida is different in at least three ways:
1. Florida is dealing with the invasion of  highly defensive Africanized bees.  Africanized bees cannot survive winter in Minnesota so they are not a threat to us. The farthest north they are found is Oklahoma.
2. Florida has a large commercial beekeeping industry. While Minnesota has many large beekeeping firms as well, they are located in the western part of our state.
3. Florida has state bee inspectors who inspect all hives in the state for bee diseases every year. A few requirements in this ordinance were created to make the bee inspectors work easier. Minnesota no longer inspect hives.
A few of the requirements of our ordinance were created with these factors in mind. For example, in the Standard of Practices section (c, 8), the ordinance requires that beekeepers not leave "bait" hives around in order to catch swarms. This was added in Florida in order to protect people from feral Africanized bee swarms that might take up residence in the equipment. The beekeeping industry was also worried about beekeepers catching feral European bees that carried American Foul brood disease (research seems to indicate now that feral bees are no more likely to carry bee diseases than managed hives). I would argue that we might want to encourage just the opposite. If one of the concerns for this ordinance is limiting swarms traveling through our neighborhoods and scaring citizens, we might want to encourage beekeepers to leave such bait boxes around. Bee swarms prefer to take up residence in places once used by other honey bees as homes.
I would also recommend more stringent guidelines concerning the water source each beekeeper is required to provide. The source of water must be some type of "balanced pond-like" source or else we will have other problems. A beekeeper can't just leave a bucket of water out in her bee yard. It will drown most of the bees and be an open invitation for the breeding of another insect (mosquitos). In my apiary I have what is essentially a small fish pond in the yard. It contains floating plants that the bees can land on (no drowning) and a small solar-powered water pump - both of which keep the water from stagnating - and fish that eat the mosquito larvae that appear in the pond.
Will there be a grandfathering in of current beekeepers who have more hives than the ordinance allows or a reconsideration of the minimum number of hives allowed (if the apiaries met all other requirements of the ordinance)? Most lots in Winona are small and the ordinance as it stands would not allow more than two hives. Due to our severe winters it is very common to lose multiple hives each year - once I lost all of my hives when we had a prolonged bitterly cold snap in February. A beekeeper with multiple hives could split any surviving hives to replace the ones that do not survive our Minnesota winters. This splitting has an added benefit of reducing swarming.
I would again ask the council to consider what exactly they are trying to accomplish with this ordinance and whether what is being required will actually accomplish it.  There are a number of beekeepers and other scientific resources in Winona that are here to help "tweak" this ordinance. Please feel free to call on us! I would be willing to come to your council meeting on Monday to discuss beekeeping and answer any questions you might have.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Abelisto Interviewed

I was interviewed by the Winona Daily News this morning concerning the local bee ordinance that is being considered by the city council. When the article comes out, I will provide a link.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Last Monday's Work in Beelandia

Last Monday I inspected two hives in preparation of my week-long visit to Las
Vegas. The weather was in the 80s and drizzly, overcast, not exactly desirable weather for inspecting the hives.

I inspected the two remaining nucs and my two newest hives (Atta Bee! and a still unnamed hive) created from nucs this spring. My primary task was strengthening the hives by adding brood comb taken from the nucs. By doing this, the nucs, themselves, were kept from getting too crowded. All went well, though the hives were not as strong as I was hoping they'd be at this point in the year. The bees haven't built all that much comb since the last inspection last week.

Upon my return, I will begin the 2 month long preparation of all the hives for winter. Stay tuned for more on this.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Video: Chris and Wes Install Nucs into Hives

Video: Bearding In Metpropolis

Langstroth Inspections

Two days ago I inspected the three older Langstroth hives. Both Worker Bees and Bee Glad... are where they should be at this point in the year. The bees have stored much honey, there is much pollen, and the bees look healthy. It is Lib-BEE-taria that continues to concern me. The population is smaller than the other two and honey storage seems down. The queen does have a good brood pattern though and laying seems to have picked up. Perhaps the queen had been superceded and there was simply a gap in laying.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Top Bar Inspections, July 25th

The weather today was  muggy, 80 degree F, and  sunny. As usual this summer, we had rain the last two days.
 I was finally able to inspect the two  top bar hives.

Metpropolis is doing OK but is playing "catch-up" after its slow spring. The queen is active and laying. Her brood pattern is good. I would have liked the hive to have collected a bit more nectar but it should collect enough for the winter by the time October comes around. I do not expect to harvest any honey from this hive. I will monitor Metpropolis a bit since I found signs of chalk brood under the entrances.

Plan Bee... is even further behind Metpropolis though again is fine in most respects. I wonder if this is simply the effect of the rainy weather we've had through spring and summer, or whether this hive swarmed without me knowing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Belated Report

I inspected all the "older" langstroth hives on Tuesday between another "bout" of rainy weather. Everything seems to be fine with both Bee Glad... and Worker Bees... which are both jam packed with bees, brood and honey. My chief concern is with Lib-BEE-taria which is still rather sluggish. The queen seems to be laying fine but the bee population is relatively small and the bees are not comb building nor honey producing.

I dusted each hive with powdered sugar after each inspection.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Today's Inspections

It was not an ideal day to make any inspections. The temperature was pleasant enough (mid 80s) but the sky was rather overcast.

Today I checked out the two nucs that had swarmed recently, as well as the two new hives created from other nucs.

The two swarmed nucs were doing fine. In both I saw the new queen scurrying about the hive. In one, the queen has not yet layed any eggs, but in the other she is plenty active.

The expansion of the two new hives has seemed to slow a bit. In  Atta Bee, the bees have not worked much into the upper third box, though all seems rather healthy in the rest of the hive. The newer, unnamed hive shows an active queen but only three frames of work done in the upper (second) box.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Importance of Being Patient

I inspected the two top bar hives today. The weather was perfect: mid eighties temps, slight breeze, sunshine. We had another torrential downpour of rain last night, leaving one large sunflower toppled.

I am so glad I did not requeen Metpropolis early this spring. The large beautiful queen seems quite prolific. She has been laying a nice solid brood pattern, and her offspring are very, very gentle. I would be happier if they had some more capped honey in the hive but they still have collected much nectar.

Plan Bee... has much less bees than Metpropolis, and the bees are nowhere as gentle. (I was stung 3 times on the left wrist while examining the hive. ) I did not see the queen although the egg-laying evidence indicates she is doing quite well. I added two bars to this hive.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Forgot To Blog Last Week

Time ran past me last week and neglected to blog about the goings-on in Beelandia. Here are the highlights:

  • Reversed the three boxes on Bee Glad... 
  • One of the remaining nucs sent out a swarm that landed in the same red maple as the last swarm. This time, however, we were unable to catch this one.
  • Added a third box to the hive that is yet unnamed.
Hopefully, I will be a bit more responsible in blogging through this week's inspections.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Today's Inspections After 4 Days of Rain

This spring/summer has been exceptionally rainy, and the last 4 days have not broken this pattern. I was finally able to look into the top bar hives, and Atta Bee! today. The weather wasn't perfect but I can't ever be assured of that, it seems, this summer

Metpropolis is looking so great, especially compared to how it looked at the beginning of the season. The brood pattern is excellent with brood of all stages of development. The bees are storing plenty of nectar and pollen. They have begun to build a few queen cells, so I added two empty bars on either side of the brood nest. I did see Metpropolis' queen.

Plan Bee..., the other top bar, also looks fine...pretty much the same as Metpropolis though the bees seem a little more defensive. I did not see the queen during this inspection though I saw evidence of her good health.

Atta Bee! has started building into the second box. Plenty of open brood right now. The bees are bringing in an exceptional amount of pollen.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Moving Day

Last Friday was our first excursion into "migratory beekeeping" as Monta and I delivered three of our nucs to the Kendall farm. The operation was makeshift. We placed the three closed up nucs in the back of our Vibe, covered them net-like fabric (you know, the type used in making wedding veils) and took the 20 mile trip off to Houston County and the Honey Run farm.

Chris and I introduced each nuc into a regular 10 frame hive box without any real incident. The bees' new homes will be right in the middle of a new orchard, surrounded by a diversity of plant life.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Yesterday and Today's Inspections

Yesterday was dedicated to inspecting all the nucs, the swarm we caught the day before, the new hive set up last week from one of my other nucs, and Bee Glad... .

The four nucs I looked into were teeming with bees. They were getting to the point of overcrowding, and, thus, possible swarming. I removed a frame of capped brood from each 5 frame nuc (without attached adult bees) and set them aside, suspecting that the newest hive might just need some strengthening. By Friday all these nucs should be in hives on the Kendall farm if all goes as planned.

The swarm Monta, Joyce, Paul and I caught the day before was placed, branch and all, in an empty cardboard nuc that night. I retrieved the branch and channel locks yesterday, put in 4 more frames and opened up the entrance. I am surprised how fast the bees build comb sometimes, as the swarm was already building comb on the cardboard inner cover. This swarm also goes to the Kendall farm.

The inspection of the newest, nameless hive (hint! hint! readers) indicated, as I suspected, a rather weak hive. So I placed the capped brood from the nucs into it.

Bee Glad... is probably my strongest hive. It contains a large population of adult bees, plenty of brood in all stages, and good deal of pollen and nectar. It must be reversed fairly soon.

Today, I inspected Lib-BEE-taria, and Worker Bees.... I will have to admit that I was wrong about Lib-BEE-taria. The hive is not queenless but does contain a laying queen as is evident from eggs and young larvae in a number of drawn frames. Perhaps this hive superseded their previous queen and the new queen needed sometime to mate and lay eggs.

Worker Bees of the World Unite
is strong. They are storing nectar into the honey super, using all three boxes for a nursery, and are, gentle to beat! This hive will need to be reversed soon as well.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Slideshow: Monta and Wes Capture Their First Swarm

Click on the photo for a slide show of Monta and Wes' first bee swarm capture (with help from Joyce and Paul).

The swarm issued from one of the nucs that has not yet been picked up.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Another Nuc to Hive

This morning I transferred one of my strong nucs to bigger accommodations (a 10 frame hive) in Beelandia. The transfer went without incident. This is the last hive I can fit into Beelandia. The other nucs will probably either go to my friends, Chris and Jenny, or be used to requeen any of the other hives. Now I'll need another name for a hive, of course. As usual, I am open to suggestions.

And speaking of new names, last post, I asked for naming suggestions for the hive I started last week. Only David from the LA Garden blog entered but I really liked his suggestion: "Atta Bee!" So "Atta Bee!" it is!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Today's weather was finally summer-like: muggy, bright sun, and bees were out flying. All the hives had activity at the entrance. A few are just chock-full of bees.

I inspected the langstroth hives today. Bee Glad... has eggs layed in all three boxes. The queen is on the move. The brood pattern was fairly solid, and the bees themselves were very gentle. I pulled a capped drone brood frame, and replaced it with one that had been in the freezer for two weeks. (It was thawed!)

I cannot say that Lib-BEE-taria was not all that gentle. They were flightly, defensive, and running all over the comb. They still act queenless, and there was very little activity in the top box. I put some young open brood from one of the crowded nucs into this hive and will hope for the best.

Worker Bees... is doing fine. The queen is also laying in all three boxes, and they were as gentle as Bee Glad.... I also extracted some capped drone brood and replaced it with a formerly frozen frame. There were a few open queen cells in the hive but nothing was laid in them. I dusted this hive with powdered sugar as well.

I finished off inspecting the hive I created last week from one of the nucs I started in April. This hive is thriving. The bees were working on all 10 frames, and there was some crowding already. I decided to add a second box to the hive.

Aside: Any suggestions on what to name this new hive? Or am I getting large enough that I need to brand them with numbers?

I have run out of deep hive boxes so I will need to make a trip to B and B Honey Farm sometime this week.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

After the Rains

The last week's weather has been rainy, and overcast much of the time, neither conducive for bee flight nor bee inspection. Finally, though, yesterday was a pleasant enough day to go out and inspect the hives. It was mostly sunny, very little wind, and in the mid 70s.

During the last inspection, I suspected that Lib-BEE-taria was queenless. I placed a frame of brood in the hive hoping, if it was, that the bees would raise up a new queen. My hunch about this hive seems to have wrong. The bees are probably not queenless. They did not produce queen cells on this frame.

Both Worker Bees... and Bee Glad... hives seems fine. The bees are producing brood, there are signs of eggs, and the laying patterns are very good.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Different Approach

I took a different approach to Lib-BEE-taria's queenlessness than I stated I would this morning. I took a frame of young open brood from one of the nucs and placed it in Lib-BEE-taria. If Lib-BEE-taria is truly queenless they will raise their own queen from the larvae provided. If they aren't queenless, I have not wasted a queen.

Queenless Lib-BEE-taria?

I inspected the three langstroth hives yesterday afternoon. While overall the temperature (upper 70s) and sun were pleasant, it was rather windy during the whole process.

First, I examined the 24 hour mite drop of each hive. Both Lib-BEE-taria and Worker Bees had less than 7 each, so I assumed they were doing fine. Bee Glad... had over 30 mites counted. This will demand further watching.

Both Worker Bees... and Bee Glad... are both doing good, good brood pattern, plenty of eggs, and very calm on the comb. (I did not see the queen however.) I cannot say the same for Lib-BEE-taria however. It had many signs of queenlessness. There were no eggs to be seen, just sparsely capped comb. The bees frantically headbutted me all throughout the inspection. Later that evening, as I examined the front entrance of the hive, I discovered a dead queen dumped to the ground.

This afternoon, I will be taking a queen from one of my nucs, caging her, and adding her to Lib-BEE-taria using the instructions for requeening found in the latest addition The ABCs and XYZs of Bee Culture.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Link: The Bee Photographer

A friend, Julie Jergenson, sent me this link to Eric Tourneret website, The BEE PHOTOGRAPHER. Very beautiful, an awe inspiring photos!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Finally Connected

I have been unable to connect to Blogger for the last 24 hours or so due to technical difficulties on their end, so I've been late with my last two reports.

Yesterday, I examined Plan Bee.... The bees are active and gentle with only one queen cup to be seen. However, I am a bit concerned about the brood pattern I saw. It was a bit too spotty for my liking. (I did not see the queen.) The bees in this hive are bringing in plenty of nectar and pollen. I had to close my inspection of this hive early as a freak shower developed toward the end of the inspection. This hive will be watched a bit.

Today, I examined Metpropolis, the other top bar hive. Readers know I have had concerns about this hive all season. I think the hive has shown a bit of an improvement. The brood pattern on some newly drawn comb looks rather good and the population of the hive seems a bit larger. I was concerned about what seemed to be a lack of food, so I added a comb of capped honey to the edge of the broodnest.

I also examined the 6 older nucs today. I am very pleased with how 4 out of the 6 nucs are doing. Four nucs seem to have productive queens with very good laying patterns. While showing signs of laying queens previously, the two other nucs don't seem to be doing well at all.

I have not looked into the two newer nucs I set up just two weeks ago.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Today's Inspections

I spent the late morning/early afternoon inspecting all the langstroth hives. The temperature stayed pleasant, and sunny with temperatures in the 70s.

All three hives seem to be doing well. While I did not see the queen in any of the three hives I did see evidence of egg laying in each. Each hive has a fairly good brood pattern as well. I did find I few queen capped queen cells in the middle of some frames in Lib-BEE-taria which might mean supersecedure is occurring.

The bees were unusually gentle today.

I did take a frame of capped honey from Worker Bees to open up some space above the brood nest.

I dusted each hive with powdered sugar.

Next week I will probably reverse one or more of these hives.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nucs Ready

The "nuc" hives I set up last month from queen cells grafted from larvae in  Worker Bees are ready. The queens are laying, there is capped brood, and the pattern is pretty good considering. I have four or so hives ready now. I will be using the queen from another nuc to requeen one of the top bars, Metpropolis.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Article: Complains that Bees Sting His Gold Fish

 I subscribe to the Historical Bee Articles email list on yahoo. I just was sent this article. Should I be worried about Lala and Naranja?

Lebanon Daily News and The Lebanon Daily Times
November 23, 1926, Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Complains that Bees Sting His Gold Fish

Pasadena, Today— W. H. Chase
promised the police he would get
rid of his bees which, Sam Rice
reported, have been stinging his gold
fish to death when the fishes came
to the surface of his pond. Chase,
who lives next door to Rice said he
was keeping the hive of bees for a

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Notes on Beelandia Today

Just a few bits of news from the Beelandia Apiary:

  • Yesterday I took a 24 hour mite count of the three langstroth hives. All seems reasonable. Worker Bee had the lowest count with just two mites. Lib-BEE-taria had 16 and Bee Glad... had 12. The latter two hives will be watched more closely.
  • Two of the five grafts done 5 days ago "took". Thursday I will place the queen cells in a mating nuc.
  • I checked the mating nucs and 5 of 7 have laying queens. Next week I will check to see each queen's laying pattern.
  • I inspected Plan Bee..., one of the top bar hives, today. I have this feeling that this hive is in preparation for swarming. The bees are feeling up the brood nest with nectar and the queen seems to have slowed down in her laying. Only one queen cell in evidence, however. I  took the bottom board off this hive and uncorked another entrance.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Article:"Sting Operation..."

Bethany, a former student of mine and now facebook friend, sent me this story of a swarm in Rhode Island.

Link: Principles of Backward Beekeeping

When I need to return to my initial reasons for becoming a beekeeper, I reread this article written by Charles Martin Simon from Bee Culture (July 2001). The ideas espoused in it have influenced my whole concern with the rationalization of apiculture.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grafting Again

Yesterday afternoon I did some more grafting of larvae taken from Worker Bees..., the hive I started last July from a queen cell raised in one of Gary Reuter's hives. The cells were placed in a queenless box of Bee Glad...

Monday, May 17, 2010

All About Beeswax and Encaustic Painting

Here is a link to a blog post  about the processing of  beeswax for encaustic painting. For more information about encaustic painting, please check out the links below.

The Art of Encaustic Painting: Contemporary Expression in the Ancient Medium of Pigmented WaxEncaustic Workshop: Artistic Techniques for Working with WaxEmbracing Encaustic: Learning to Paint with BeeswaxEncaustic Art: The Complete Guide to Creating Fine Art with Wax

Sunday, May 16, 2010

And Now For the Top Bars

I inspected my two top bar hives this afternoon.

I am still concerned about Metpropolis and am tempted to simply requeen it. The queen is alive and laying but the brood pattern is really spotty, possibly indicating an inbred queen. I will give it a week or two more.

Plan Bee... is booming with bees, larvae and eggs. I was unable to spot the queen but I did find one supersedure cell. I am not that concerned about this hive. It looks healthy and active. I might split it in the near future.

Two Hives Inspected

I was finally able to inspect Lib-Bee-taria and Worker Bees... yesterday. The temperature was in the upper 60s (F) with a partially sunny sky. Both hives were very active, having been essentially cooped up inside for the last 5 days with cold, cloudy weather, and occasional showers.

Both hives were doing fine. I found the queen in both. Eggs laying seems very good as I found evidence of brood in all stages of development. I also noticed that the bees' temperament was much calmer and "gentler". I moved some frames around in each to get the bees to draw on empty frames and dusted both with powdered sugar. I also exchanged drone brood frames. I put a queen excluder and honey super on Worker Bees...

While I was in the yard, I placed the Cloake Board's queen excluder back on Bee Glad... between the 2nd and 3rd boxes. I will again do some queen rearing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's Been a Long Time

The last week of weather has been terrible. Winona has been  cold and rainy, not very good weather for inspecting bees. Finally today I was able to inspect some hives, more specifically, the 7 nucs set up a week and a half ago.

I am a bit concerned about these nucs. The cold and rainy spell came at the time when each of the queens should've gone on their mating flights. I saw no evidence of queens in any of the nucs. I will be setting up for another round of grafting tomorrow and hope for better mating weather.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Inspections of /Three Hives

Early this afternoon I did a brief inspection of each of the langstroth hives.

I first opened Bee Glad..., the hive I used as a cell starter and finisher using a Cloake Board. Last week, I Composeused many of its frames to start nucs from the queen cells produced in this hive. This splitting left the colony with one box full of bees and brood. On top of this,  I placed a box filled with mostly undrawn plastic frames and a few frames filled with honey and pollen. I was surprised when I inspected this second box today. Within a week, the bees have pretty much drawn the 8 empty frames I placed in the box last week. This is a very strong colony. Now I need to buy some more frames for adding a possible third box next week.

Lib-BEE-taria was a little less productive this week, at least in my eyes. It is healthy, just smaller, probably the result of its carniolan ancestry. I had put a honey super on last week and the bees have not drawn anything out in that box. I sprayed some sugar water on the frames and will see if that helps the bees work in it.

Worker Bees... are starting to build in the third box I placed on last week. This is, by far, the gentlest of the langstroth hives and the one I grafted larvae from. I placed a top entrance on the third box today. All goes well in that one as well.

NOTE: I failed to mention my activities from yesterday. I picked up two 3 lb. packages from B & B and helped a friend and colleague (John) install these bees in his backyard. He lives about a mile from my apiary so this will provide a little more genetic diversity in the area. The second package I sold to friends Chris and Jenny. They installed theirs at their farm in Rushford.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Checking Out Metpropolis

As readers of this blog will remember, Metpropolis, a top bar hive with Italian hygienic bees, has been the weakest of my 5 hives. In previous inspections, I found no brood and a small cluster huddled around a healthy looking queen. I was worried. Today, I checked the hive out and found a still small cluster of bees and a goodly sized queen, but, thankfully, capped brood as well.

I moved some comb around, placing some bars of capped honey closer to the cluster, and pulled out a few bars of empty comb to recycle some wax. I added two empty, undrawn bars between the capped honey and the meager brood nest. All this  allowed me to move each follower board closer together, creating a smaller hive space that making it easier for this small colony to maintain temperature in the cluster. (We've had a number of 40 degree nights!)

Metpropolis has surprised me! I didn't expect it to survive and it has.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 1st Inspection

In the late morning and early afternoon, I spent time inspecting 3 hives: Lib-BEE-taria, Worker Bees of the World Unite, and Plan Bee... .While the temperature was comfortable, it was very windy which made inspections difficult at times. This was especially so when examining the top bars of Plan Bee... that had new comb. I did get through the inspection without a sting. All three colonies were gentle, considering the windy conditions.

Lib-BEE-taria had bees working in all three brood boxes with plenty of brood, pollen and honey in each. The honeybees in this hive have stopped taking syrup from the feeder so I took that off when closing the colony up.

Worker Bees... was also doing well; so well I added a third box to the hive. I am continuing to feed sugar syrup to this one since they still consume it. Both Worker Bees... and Lib-BEE-taria were dusted with powdered sugar as routine maintenance for varroa mites.

Plan Bee..., one of the top bar hives, is simply thriving. I will probably have to split this one very soon. I did cut out some drone brood and found it full of varroa mites which concerns me. Yes, the bees are healthy but this quick glance at the mites sent up red flags. I am considering treating it with Apiguard.

Later in the afternoon, Beelandia had a few visitors. Molly and Mark brought their gold fish, Lala, over so that she could spend the summer in our pond, Lake No-Bee-Gone. I received two stings at this time, though Molly and Mark escaped without a scratch. Later in the afternoon, a young child named Toby came over with his adult entourage (grandparents and dad) for a tour as well. Toby donned a small bee suit and spent sometime asking some very good questions about the inhabitants of Beelandia. Toby's visit caused not a sting.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Step Five: Setting Up Mating Nucs

On Wednesday, ten days after grafting queen cells, I created 7 mating nucs: five in cardboard 'nuc' boxes, and 2 in a "queen castle". Following the instructions found in Lawrence Connor's book, Increase Essentials, I placed one frame of capped brood (with adhering bees), one frame of honey/pollen, and two empty drawn frames in each 'nuc'. I carefully  pressed one ripe queen cell into each frame of capped brood and shook in some "extra bees" as well. I closed up each hive and will check them again in two weeks. Hopefully, each nucleus hive will have a mated queen  by then.

Of course, this process was not without disaster. In the middle of making up one nuc hive, I tipped over the box and stirred up alot of trouble. I don't dress in a full bee suit and paid the price of that decision with 15 stings, mostly to my stomach and wrists. Yes, it hurt for a bit, but I really had no swelling, or any other ill effects from the experience.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Delayed Inspection

This last weekend was cold and rainy, so I was unable to inspect any of the hives. Monday afternoon was better, although it was still partially cloudy and fairly cool (mid 60s).

First, I opened up Lib-BEE-taria for inspection. All things looked good. There was plenty of capped honey, pollen and  brood in all levels of development. I even found the queen in the top box. I did a full reversal of the hive, along with cleaning up the bottom board. I put a queen excluder on and one honey super above this.

Second, I opened up Metpropolis, one of  the top bar hives. I had been concerned about this hive after the last inspection and am now a little less worried. Yes, the population of the workers in this hive is less than the other 4, but this time I found evidence of the queen laying in a nice solid pattern. I moved some capped honey closer to the cluster. This hive should do fine but it still bares watching.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Step Four: Capped Queen Cells

It is the fifth day since I grafted larvae into plastic queen cups. This afternoon, I went out to check to see if the grafts  took and the cells were capped. As you can see in the second photo below, all but one graft was accepted by the bees.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mushrooms on the Haybale

We plan to use old haybales as planters this year, and, as if the bales wanted to assure us of their productivity, we already noted the growth of mushrooms on one of the bales sitting near the pond in Beelandia.

First Full Inspection of "Plan Bee"

I did my first full inspection of Plan Bee... this afternoon. This top bar hive was the one invaded by mice and so I felt it needed an early, complete look-see. In all, the hive is quite healthy with plenty of larvae in all stages of growth throughout the 15 or so bars. There were places where the mice had done damage, but nothing the bees can't fix. I did see the queen as well in all her regal splendor. I added two bars between the broodnest and the honey storage area to allow the bees more space to build. This was the hive that swarmed last July so I am hoping to monitor crowding a bit better.

Step Three: Grafting Larvae

Today I grafted larvae from a frame found in the Worker Bees... hive. The queen in this hive came from a queen cell I brought back from my queen rearing course last summer at the University of Minnesota. After grafting, I placed the frame in the top box of Bee Glad... which I made queenless yesterday by inserting the slide into the Cloak Board. Hopefully, the queenless young workers will start raising a few queens.

Step Two: Sliding

Yesterday was step two in my great Cloake Board experiment. I removed the frames of open brood from the top box and inserted the slide between the top box and the middle box. I also opened the bottom entrance. The top box is now queenless and filled with young nurse bees; already for the grafts I will make from larvae in the Worker Bees... hive.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Step One In Cloake Board Manipulation

Yesterday, I began setting up Bee Glad... for use in queen rearing. I am following the methods outlined by Susan Cobey in an article available on the internet. I did the following things:

1. Confined the queen to the boxes below the queen excluder on the Cloake board.

2. In the box above the excluder, I placed:

a. a couple of frames of open brood.
b. frames of nectar/pollen near where the grafts will be placed.
c. a frame of open foundation.
d. I also inserted the queen cell frame (with plastic cups included) so that the bees would clean these up before I graft.

3. Pivoted the bottom entrance 180 degrees and closed it off. The top entrance above the queen excluder on the Cloake board is now the only entrance open and it faces the direction (south) the original entrance did.

I will let the hive sit and let the bees settle a bit.

This whole process cost me three stings to the head. Somehow, A number of bees got into my veil while doing this and I suffered the consequences.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Drones Are Flying!

Drones have begun to fly out of Beelandia during the day. I will take this as an indication that my queen rearing project can begin. On Friday, I will turn the bottom entrance of Bee Glad... around 180 degrees, move the queen to the two bottom boxes, place a Cloake Board between the second and top boxes, and move frames of open brood into the top box. This weekend, the process of grafting from the Worker Bees hive will begin in earnest.

I plan simply to walk-away splits to the top bar hives when and if queen cells appear in either hive.

For more information on queen rearing, check out the following books:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hive Victorious

In a routine examination of Plan Bee..., a top bar hive, I discovered the Bee Bait the mouse at the bottom of the hive dead. Plan Bee... has disposed of its invading enemy and Beelandia is safe again!

Partial Reverses and Concerns

Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time in Beelandia doing some necessary bee chores. I did partial reverses on both Lib-BEE-taria and Bee Glad... and all went well there.

I opened up Metpropolis, the top bar hive, and left a bit concerned. I knew it was a weaker hive but I hadn't suspected just how weak it is. I found the queen, but only a small cluster of workers with her. Also, the queen seems to be doing little or no egg-laying. I found a few capped drone cells, very few capped worker cells, and no open brood. The workers had built one or two queen cells. I think this hive is doomed, but I will watch.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Photos of Worker Bees of The World Unite

Bee Glad... for the Hive is Packed With Workers

Thursday was a beautiful, almost summer-like day in Winona with temperatures in the high 70s F. I couldn't pass up this day without looking into the hive that seems jam-packed with bees: Bee Glad...

I knew this hive was thriving but I wasn't aware of just how well it was doing. It already has three box filled with bees though most of the egg-laying is going on in the top two. The top box was heavy with honey as well. (Where the bees got this I don't know!) I did do a partial reverse, placed another pollen patty on top of the brood nest and closed it up. I have definitely decided that this colony will serve as my cell builder and finisher when I begin queen rearing with my Cloake Board in a few weeks.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Bee Bait" the Mouse

This morning's task in the Beelandia apiary was to clean out the egg carton winter insulation I had placed on both sides of the follower boards in the top bar hive, Plan Bee... . As you may remember, this hive had an unwanted guest this winter, a mouse which daughter Eme has affectionately named Bee Bait. You can imagine the mess I found on one side of the colony: chewed up egg cartons and newspaper, mouse feces, etc. And, of course, as I dug further into the debris, I eventually found Bee Bait, fully alive in all his/her furry brown splendor.

Immediately, Bee Bait tried to hide in the remaining paper mess but I persisted up until the mouse decided to take off underneath the follower board and into the colony. I tried to follow but the bees would have none of it. Bee Bait's visit whipped them into a frenzy (i.e. one sting, so I backed off and simply continued to clean up the egg carton mess as best I could, making sure there was no place for the mouse to nest. When the bees calm down, I shall return.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Worker Bees of the World Unite

Just a short note on today's activities in Beelandia:

1. The weather was remarkable today, especially considering it is still March. The high was about 73 degrees F, mostly sunny, though the wind was strong.

2. I moved Nuc to Be Named Later... to its permanent location, entrance facing south and around a foot and a half west of where it was located. Officially, this nuc is now a "regular" hive and will forever be called Worker Bees of the World Unite.

Monday, March 29, 2010

On Reading Beck's Risk Society

I have been reading Ulrich Beck's book, Risk Society -Towards a New Modernity and, again, am confronted with the inadequacy of my past political commitments. In a world of  economic globalization and its consequent effects on the environment, how can I take serious any local solutions to our ecological problems? A sustainable, ecologically-sound community may still be polluted by the waste of its neighbors. Unsound local communities may still live upstream. The waste of industrial production does not honor political borders.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bees In More Trouble Than Ever...

Another disturbing article on honeybee decline found in the Gainesville Sun. As the article states:

MERCED, Calif. — The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives laden with pesticides.
 I wonder if death rates are the same for non-commercial beekeepers?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Like Night and Day

My 5 hives have come out of winter healthy which leads me to the next obvious question: Why did I lose my two hives last year, and, this year, have my 5 hives all survive?

First, I know it isn't due to how much food they stored. This year, I worried going into winter because the hives had little honey in storage. Bee Workers of the World Unite! had very little indeed! Last year in comparison, the two hives were packed with honey going into November and it was all still there when I examined the dead-outs in February.

Survival could be due to two factors beyond either the bees' or my control. First, last January had two weeks of continuous subzero temperatures. The bees probably couldn't move up to the capped honey within inches of the cluster. Second, I still suspect that my bees had a significant virus infection created by an immense varroa mite infestation.

But I did do other things to prepare the bees for winter that I didn't do last year:

1. I moved the hives slightly, so that they would receive plenty of winter sun.

2. Monta and I made quilt boxes for both the top bar hives and langstroths. These boxes absorbed a significant amount of moisture that rose up from the cluster.

3. While I kept the screen bottom boards on the langstroths, I did duct tape the openings, keeping the cold air out.

4. Besides wrapping the hives with black wintering materials, I also placed hay bales around the hive to cut down on strong winds.

5. I tilted boards in front of the bottom entrances. The bees could leave through the bottom entrances but didn't get full exposure to the chilly winds.

While these are the things I did, I can't be assured that these interventions were actually the key to the bees' survival. Honey bee survival/death is the result of a number of apicultural and environmental factors. It probably cannot be reduced in any particular silver bullets.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beelandia-- 3/13 - 3/14 2010

I was busy all weekend working in Beelandia. Saturday, a cloudy, rainy day of upper 40F degree temperatures, was spent carrying out the hay bales I had placed around each hive last fall. Except for a slip on some ice, everything went well. I was also able to sow some poppy, and bird's foot trefoil seeds as well. I was a muddy, tired mess after this activity but I accomplished much.

Sunday was a beautiful day with full sun, and temperatures in the lower 60s. I took the box quilts off each hive and, on the langstroths, replaced them with feeders filled with 1:1 sugar syrup. The top bar hives still had plenty of honey and so to those I added simply a pollen paddy. As I suspected, Plan Bee... has or had mice, though it doesn't seem to have hurt that hive any.

As the above video of Bee Glad... shows, the bees were very active this afternoon. All hives were doing orientation and cleansing flights, and many workers were bringing in some off-white substance in their pollen baskets.

I think we have a winner in the Name That Nuc Contest. David Hinck, SMU student, suggested I name the hive: Worker Bees of the World Unite. Thank you David!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sign of Spring? My First Bee Sting

I took a slippery walk into Beelandia on this foggy, rainy upper 40F degree day. The snow has mostly melted in the yard but there were still patches of ice and slush which made walking quite difficult. This is the time of the year I get a bit "antsy" for warmer weather, and blossoming flowers, asking myself, "Will my bees starve before proper foraging conditions exist?"

On the basis of quick glances into the entrances of each hive, I am happy to report that all the hives seem to be doing well. And, as usual, the carniolans in Lib-BEE-taria are as fiesty as ever, giving me my first sting of the season. Spring can't be far away!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Knocking Together Some Woodenware

Early this afternoon I spent some time putting together equipment for the increases and splits I plan for the spring. Nuc To Be Named Later's bottom box and board are presently the queen castle nuc I started the colony in last July. Some time in late March or early April, I plan to take the top box of Nuc and move it on top of a new bottom board, take out the frames in the queen castle and place them in a new box, and place this box on top of the old top box. I will store the queen castle for future increases and queen mating. Nuc will be the colony I plan to raise queens from if all goes as planned.

By the way, since this colony will no longer be a nuc but a full-fledged hive I will have to rename it. Any suggestions from readers for a new name? I'm thinking of calling it The Mothership!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Videos From Beelandia (3/6/10)

I took some videos this afternoon in the the Beelandia apiary of the 5 hives. All were active on this bright, 40 degree day. The first hive is Lib-BEE-taria .

The next is Bee Glad....

The third is Metpropolis:

Fourth, Nuc To Be Named Later:

And last, Plan Bee From Outer Space.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Checking for Food Stores

The thermometer outside Beelandia registered 41 degrees F today, just warm enough for me to take a quick peek under the quilt boxes of one or two of the hives. I checked each of the langstroths in the apiary and found that each still had a good portion of the fondant I put into each hive a month and a half ago left. I placed a small patty of fondant in each anyway and closed them up quickly. The bees all looked fine!

Videos of Saturday's Winter Flights

I got my cellphone working right and was finally to upload two short videos I filmed yesterday in Beelandia. The first shows some initial activity at the top entrance of Lib-BEE-taria,the langstroth hive inhabited by carniolan bees. The second is activity in front of Metpropolis, the top bar hive containing a colony of italian bees. The board most of the bees have landed on in this video is leaning against the hive in order to keep the entrance from receiving direct exposure to cold winds.

Please pardon the poor quality of this video as it was filmed from my phone. Next time I will out there with our proper video equipment.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday Winter Flights

I went out to Beelandia this bright, sunny morning to discover all the hives are alive and in flight. The most active was Lib-BEE-taria with its carniolan inhabitants, but all hives seemed healthy.

I did take a video of Lib-BEE-taria but have not been able to upload it to youtube yet. I will try again later today.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Article: Procedural issues lead to ban of Bayer pesticide

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

A federal judge banned the sale of a Bayer CropScience pesticide that environmental groups and commercial beekeepers say is potentially toxic to the nation's threatened honeybee population.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Article: "Bee Mortality Has Never Been So High..."

A disturbing article by a prominent Italian beekeeper.

Ecological Implications Concerning Property

The following essay was written by a student of mine, Benjamin Scott. I thought it interesting.  If you have any comments or criticisms about this essay, post them here and I will forward them to Ben for his response.

The ecological implications concerning John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, specifically. Chapter Five on Property, manifest in three of Locke’s explications, principally: Preservation, Property and Labour, Use and Value.

The line of reasoning Locke asserts concerning preservation is essentially the following: Man must ethically preserve himself, but to preserve himself he must labour - therefore, man must labour. Locke first expounds on the duty of preservation, stating, “Every one […] is bound to preserve himself […] [and] as much as he can, preserve the rest of mankind” (Locke 9). This duty is bound to the individual by the law of nature, which wills that “the peace and preservation of all mankind, the execution of the law of nature is, in that state, put into every man’s hands” (9). The individual is bound to this the intrinsic duty, the act of preserving oneself and one’s community, that he may keep in harmony with the law of nature.

The individual actualizes the responsibility of preservation by the procurement of property, for “the earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being” (18). The way in which the individual acquires property is through labour, which “gave a right of property” (27). The action of labour, Locke purports, is intrinsic to the human condition (22). It follows that obtaining property is a necessary action, for to do otherwise would be contrary to the aforementioned law of preservation. Therefore, the gathering of property is, within reason, an essential principle of human nature. It is at this point in Locke’s exposition that certain ecological implications become quite clear.

The first of these implications deals with the way in which the property itself is treated. Locke affirms that “the intrinsic value of things […] depends only on their usefulness to the life of man” (23). The use of an object is then treated only as an economic resource - this is shown by his idea of waste, which is, “land that is left wholly to nature, that hath no improvement of pasturage, tillage, or planting” (26). Furthermore, Nature and earth, on their own, “Furnished only the almost worthless materials, as in themselves” (27), and that without labour, land would “scarcely be worth anything” (26). When one ceases to view land as nothing other than that which should be improved upon, then any land that has been left untouched would then seem quite insignificant. This outlook is extremely narrow insofar as it does not encapsulate cultural, spiritual, and ecological value the land holds.

It is from this interpretation of property that Locke stumbles into the fallacy of the unlimited resource. His mistake in reasoning is evident in his rule of propriety, which states, “every man should have as much as he could make use of,” and that this rule “would hold still in the world, without straitening any body” (23). It is obvious that Locke did not consider population inflation in his conception of property rights. This fallacy is furthered in the discussion of individual relations concerning property:

The measure of property nature has well set by the extent of men’s labour and the conveniences of life: no man’s labour could subdue, or appropriate all; nor could his enjoyment consume more than a small part; so that it was impossible for any man, this way, to intrench upon the right of another, or acquire to himself a property, to the prejudice of his neighbour, who would still have room for as good, and as large a possession (after thither had taken out his) as before it was appropriated. (22)

The propagation of this fallacy in the dealings of property justified the rapid destruction of a majority of earth’s essential elements by the simple act of unfettered agricultural, and later, industrial development. Such infantile reasoning is undoubtedly due to the historical context in which Locke lived - the industrial revolution had yet to take place, and population inflation had not yet occurred at the rapid pace as paramount in the 19th and 20th centuries. Locke may have believed that “nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy” (21), but by defining nature as a resource and asserting the individual’s right to expand property, he seems to have unintentionally created an ethical paradox.

Works Cited

Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Ed. C. B. Macpherson. Indianapolis, Indiana:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Grumpy Winter Bees-- A Visit to Beelandia

With the temperature about 21 degrees F and a bright, late morning sun, I went out to the bee yard to give each hive a glance.

All three of the langstroth hives showed activity at the top entrances and, as usual, Lib-BEE-taria, with its population of Carniolan bees, was a bit grumpy at my inspection. Even in this temperature, I had one guard bee take a flight at my face, more as a bluff than an actual attempt to sting. While I do like seeing the bees alive in these hives, I do worry about them being at the top entrance. This could mean they have run out of food stores, and, while I did place fondant over the inner cover and under the quilt boxes last month, I don't know when it will be warm enough to place more fondant there. Around each langstroth, there is evidence that the bees have made cleansing flights. I hope none have nosema, a dysentary-like disease.

I saw no evidence of active bees at either of the top bar hives' entrances' but that could simply be because the winter cluster is not near the entrance that's opened. Each hive does show evidence of recent bee flights, however, so that is good.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Beekeeping Pure and Simple" Available Online

One of the biggest influences on my approach to beekeeping is Phil Chandler, author of the book The Barefoot Beekeeper. Chandler's approach is holistic, recognizing that honeybee sustainability is not simply a question of what I do as a beekeeper, but what we all do as global citizens socially and environmentally. Chandler has recently published a short pamphlet called, Beekeeping, Pure and Simple where his holistic approach is laid out in a very accessible manner. I recommend you all download yourselves a copy.

Bees, Blogging, and Citizen Science

A few months ago, my friend and colleague, Dr. Joe Tadie, remarked that my beekeeping and blogging was a fine example of citizen science:

Citizen science is a term used for projects or ongoing program of scientific work in which individual volunteers or networks of volunteers, many of whom may have no specific scientific training, perform or manage research-related tasks such as observation, measurement or computation...

The longest-running citizen science project currently active is probably the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count, which started in 1900. Other well-known examples of citizen science programs include World Water Monitoring Day[1], NASA's Stardust@home and Clickworkers, a variety of projects run by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology[2], such as Ebird, NestWatch, Project FeederWatch, and Celebrate Urban Birds and the Galaxy Zoo project. Another example of an effective citizen science project in the United States is the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), run by the Colorado Climate Center at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Data from this citizen science project is used for weather forecasting and monitoring, severe weather alerts, and climate studies.

I don't know if what I do here qualifies yet as citizen science. I do collect and publish the observations I make of my hives, the biophysical area in which my bees forage and the social world of apiculture, but somethings are missing in my approach. While I do make my observations public, they are lone observations, in one area, at one time in a highly unsystematic and unfocused way. It seems to me that the citizen scientist is involved in a collaborative network of other citizen scientists who making precise observations. There should be a central locus in this network which collates, analyzes, and compares the observations made in particular places, and reports conclusions to the larger scientific world. As of yet, this is not happening.

Perhaps we beekeeper/bloggers in the world might begin developing this network, creating a research design, finding some way to bring all the observations together, and reporting the findings to the greater community.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Odds and Ends

Just a short post on a few things done today:

1. I ordered some bird's foot trefoil seeds today from Last summer, as a I biked up to Saint Mary's, I noticed honeybees foraging all over the yellow flowers of this legume in a large field. I've decided to plant some in our yard. Not only will the bees have another plant to forage, but this plant, as a legume, adds nitrogen to the soil.

2. I recently bought a frame cleaning tool from B and B Honey Farm and am really impressed with how much easier it has made my life this winter. I can be very cheap and not buy labor saving tools, but this tool has made my life so much simpler.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Building ATop Bar Hive- Video

Are you thinking you might want to manage bees? Are you a "do-it-yourself" type of person? Would you like to see your bees build comb without the use of foundation? Would you like to build a hive from recyclable materials? Are you afraid of the heavy lifting that accompanies the more traditional, Langstroth box hive? Then, you might consider building your own top bar hive, an alternative approach to housing your bees.

Top Bar hives have a long history, dating back to the ancient Greeks. Today, they are used in development projects in Africa where these hives are made from almost any materials at hand. They are gaining popularity in the developed world, perceived as a more sustainable method of apiculture.

Monta has built two hives for us and they are much more pleasurable to work than our Langstroths. The honeybees build out horizontally instead of vertically, meaning there are no heavy, honey filled boxes to move around during late summer. The bees, themselves, seem less defensive since opening up a top bar hive is less intrusive to the bee colony. The bees are allowed to build cells to their own specification, rather than working from a "pattern" provided by the wax or plastic foundation placed in a langstroth frame. Recognize, there are some disadvantages as well. The bees do produce less honey in a top bar, and it cannot be extracted using a honey extractor.

Below is a video that will discuss building these type of hives. For learning how to manage bees in these hives, visit Phil Candler's website and purchase his instruction manual The Barefoot Beekeeper. Enjoy!