The Bee Smart Beekeeping Seasonal Calendar

Honey bee colonies have seasons.  They are the same seasons we observe in general, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.  The bees observe the timing and changing of the seasons a bit differently though than we do.

We talk about certain beekeeping tasks and chores that should done seasonally.  The first Spring inspection, the last Fall inspection.  Treatments for various environmental issues and potential pest problems, etc…

When is Spring for Bees though?  When does it actually beeginning?  Is it a date on the calendar?  In my experience,  I would like to suggest that it starts when the bees sense it and act upon it.  More of observing certain environmental conditions and the innate responses that are triggered in the colony in response to those conditions.

For me, Spring doesn’t really start until colonies get serious about drone production.  During the Winter and what I call “pre-Spring” there are good weather conditions to get inspections done to check on brood production, feed stores and colony buildup.  Spring isn’t actually kicked in though until we see the colony make a serious effort at drone production.

When the first batch of drones are capped I can fairly reasonably say that Spring is here and in about 2 weeks swarms might get started and virgin queens will be able to begin mating.

Swarms don’t usually leave until virgin queens are about to emerge.  Virgin queens can’t get mated until there is an abundance of drones.  “Abundant” being a relative term depending on an area’s population density of colonies.

So, first drones, then virgin queens, then swarms.  Spring has sprung indeed.  Our hive inspections,  manipulations and activities fall in somewhere among these beehaviors.

That’s the beeginning of the year for me.  To go to the opposite end, Fall, what do the bees tell me about that?

Once again, the colony tells me when Fall arrives with drones.  The colony stops or dramatically reduces drone brood production and actively starts culling the drone population.  Fall has slipped up on us.

No more drones means no more queen rearing (unless something goes awry).  The active beekeeping year has come to it’s eventual winding down.  Once again, those timely inspections, manipulations and control measures will be fit in among the bees drawing down the colony population and makeup.

Somewhere in between Bee Spring and bee Fall is bee Summer.  How do the bees indicate that Summer has begun?  Good question.  The most obvious indicators of Summer in a bee hive are the colony teaching it’s population peak and switching the focus from primarily brood buildup to foraging and honey production\stores.

So with bees as with with everything else, “to all things there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…”

When planning those beekeeping activities, Maybee consider is it time for it based on a date or by the bees?  Could bee that the bees will have something to tell us about that.



Grant Gillard Scheduled For the Hive Talkin Podcast

I just got off the phone with beekeeping author Grant Gillard.   Through sheer good will and being a good sport, he took my out  of the blue sky phone call and agreed to be on the “Hive Talkin” podcast.


Of course, for all 4 of you that have actually listened to the Hive Talkin podcast, you know that it is a laid back and sometimes zany chat between a guest (or guests as in the case of Gary and Margaret from Kiwimana to be released this coming Sunday) and myself.

It’s good that beekeepers are so often nice and good people.  If it weren’t for that, I’d never get past the odd looks and seemingly inevitable question of, “Did you fall out of the tree one too many times boy?” by those I talk to.

So, look forward to a cool chat with Grant Gillard, the beekeeping author and swarm catcher from Missouri on Sunday, May 7th.

Visit his Amazon book page to see the books he has written you might have already read or might want to read before his episode.

Who You Gonna Call?

I live in Omaha, NE. I make most of my own equipment.  When I do but beekeeping equipment I always, ALWAYS, make my first call to Jim Raders at Dadant Bee Supply in Sioux City, IA.

If he doesn’t have it or know what I need, he makes the effort to find out. That’s what it’s all about, helping beekeepers to Bee Successful.

However, in the off hand situation that Jim just doesn’t have what I’m looking for, I have decided to make Mann Lake the designated backup.

Why is this? Partly because I really, really liked the customer service experience I had on the phone with them and partly because they ship via my preferred shipper, SpeeDed Delivery.

BTW, Dadant Bee Supply in Sioux City, IA also will ship via Speedee Delivery. In both places, you have to specifically ask for that shipping service via a call in order. Which is my preferred method of ordering anyway.

The “Libeetarian” Beekeeping Approach

(This article represents an opinion of the author and does not necessarily advocate or reject this or any other opinion of approach to beekeeping by the Bee Smart beekeeping Project.)

Now right off the bat, you may bee thinking this is a political discussion as I used a playful version of the word “Libertarian”.  No, it is not.  It’s a principled approach to beekeeping that reflects the general aspects of libertarian philosophy.  In that we use education, rationale, reason and objectivity to determine our beekeeping goals, objectives and methods of management.

We do this in a way that promotes the liberty or ability of each beekeeper to go about their beekeeping as they have determined is in their and their bees best interests with as little to no interference by any government, social or other group that seeks to mandate or forcefully influence any individual’s beekeeping.

Beekeepers are an interesting representation of American society in general. At one extreme are the authoritarians who think that it’s in the best interests of everyone if there were specific rules and regulations to make all beekeepers do some of the same things, especially in relation to treatment or more specifically, use of toxic pesticides.

If you disagree with them and resist their brand of authoritarianism, you are an evil, wicked mean spirited person who just wants all the bees to die. Because if it just saves one little bee…

To the other extreme are the other types of authoritarians who want rules and regulations in place to prevent those “mean and cruel corporate loving miticide pushers” from keeping bees as akin to slaves and farm stock. Bees should be free and management kept to a bare minimum, if not at all in their view.

If you disagree with them and resist their brand of authoritarianism, you are an evil, wicked mean spirited person who just wants all the bees to die. Because if it just saves one little bee…

Then you have the, what I like to call, “Libeetarians”. the anti-authoritarians.  We might use a variety of treatments, we may use few or none. We prefer to let each situation be determined based on actual need and capability to be handled to the best benefit of both the bees and the beekeeper.

In the past I have used terms like “organic” to describe myself as a beekeeper. I find though that even though using the more scientific definition as a basis for that, it still doesn’t adequately describe my approach.

I look at things one colony at a time.  I look at each colony as a unique creature in and of itself.  Each colony has it’s own “personality” if you will.  It’s own distinct characteristics.  I interact with each colony as an individual based on what it indicates its needs are and how my objectives as a beekeeper fit with that.

I beelieve in using the methods and controls that will allow the bees to successfully live and thrive of their own volition. If the bees exhibit genetic traits that allow them to tolerate minimal active presence of certain pests and tolerate other environmental conditions, etc.. then they should be able to mange the nest without my direct intervention.

Then my job is not to tell the bees how to live but instead to facilitate a successful and beneficial hive and apiary environment.

In other words, The bees take care of the inside and I take care of the outside.

Beecause I do live removals from structures, the bees I take out of walls and ceilings, roofs and anywhere else may be in highly distressed conditions. they are getting their butts handed to them by a higher-than-manageable pest or disease presence.  Perhaps area predators have been attacking them regularly, etc… These are distressed bees who need someone to get the monkey off their back then help them recuperate to the point of self sufficiency if they are capable of such.

If the bees respond to a variety of management controls and treatments that I will use in extreme cases of distress, then I continually reduce the treatment and “assisted living” management until they either indicate to me they no longer need my assistance for that or they indicate that they are subject to Natural Selection and all I am doing is prolonging the inevitable.

I am educated, skilled, experienced and ever improving in my knowledge of all things bees. I most certainly do not need nor desire other people to dictate to me what and how to manage my bee hives.

Henceforth, I do beelieve that I will indeed use the term “libeetarian” to describe my general approach to beekeeping. I let the bees do what they do best, I work to facilitate their success and meet my goals and objectives along the way without causing them unnecessary distress. I apply treatments and specific management controls based on evidence and only as needed.

So there you have it, the “libeetarian” approach to beekeeping.   That’s just how I roll.

Do You Get It

The Bee Smart beekeeping project exists because I love helping people bee as successful as they can.  I know others who share that passion, goal and conviction.  To help others “get it”, whatever “it” is that they need or want to know or do.

There is the crux of the matter, “getting” it.  Depending on the person, the thing to be learned, and the nature of the information people”get” things in different ways.

Some things people can “get” by reading about it.  Other things are better “gotten” by hearing about it.  Still others you have to see it to “get” it.  Lastly, there are some things that people “get” best by watching it which includes hearing and seeing, sometimes even reading thrown in too.

Different people learn best in different ways.  So when it came time to think of how do I want to present useful information to people, I asked the people I trust most, those people being the Beehooligans.  I asked, “Do we want to write articles, share pictures, make podcasts or make videos?”  The answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

We don’t want folks to just know about something that will or can be useful in helping them be more successful.  We want folks to really “get it”.  So the Bee Smart beekeeping project was born.  An ambitious effort to bring useful information to people wanting to be more successful beekeepers and supporters of bees and beekeeping in a variety of ways.

Bee Smart is articles, pictures, podcasts, and videos all in one place.  We want you to know useful information.  We want you to have fun learning it so as to help learn it better.  We want you to learn it in the format which will be most practical for you.  We want you to really, truly, actually “get it”.  Whatever it is.

When someone “gets it” it’s more than just knowing about it or remembering it.  It’s understanding it so as to know why you want to do it, when to do it or not do it.  How to do it or more than one way to do it depending on the circumstances.

When you get it, you own it.  When you own it, you get better at it.  That right there is what we’re shooting for.

Get it?  Got it?


Bee Smart Beegins A New Podcast Series, “Hive Talkin”

With the “Beehooligans” weekly podcast featuring JPtheBeeman, Schawee, Yappy Antnee G and Big Bear gaining in listeners and interest, the Bee Smart beekeeping project is proud to announce a new podcast series titled, “Hive Talkin” to begin recording in April.

The series will focus on casual interviews or discussions with beekeepers from a variety of backgrounds.  You never know who will be on from one episode to the next until we tell you because the idea is to celebrate and share the common community that beekeeping creates across the social spectrum.

Thank you for being a part of the Beehooligans family and I hope you will enjoy “Hive Talkin” just as much as we go forward.