Honey Production Class Canceled

Unfortunately, The Honey production and Sales class for next Monday 10/23/2017, at Metro Community College has been canceled.

UPDATE AS OF 4:00 p.m. Friday, 10/19/2017

The Honey Production and Sales class is going to happen on Monday 10/23/2017 from 5:30 pm till 8:30 pm as originally planned.

You may register at the MCC website page for this class (Honey Production and Sales Class) until Monday 10/23 midday ahead of time.  Walk in at class time are unable to be accommodated at this location.


The next and last class in the MCC series for the Fall 2017 quarter, Organic Beekeeping, is open for registration.  You can register online or get more specific information about registration at this MCC website page.

Please register for the Organic Beekeeping class by end of day Thursday, 10/26/2017 to avoid that class being canceled.

This week’s theme is beekeeping equipment

You might have seen the Bee Smart puzzle yesterday was about beekeeping equipment.  Every week I pick a new topic not just for the puzzle, but for the website as well.  In my post for this week, I’ll continue on that topic to chat about  something to do with beekeeping equipment.

First of all, beekeeping equipment is a pretty comprehensive subject.  It contains everything from hive parts and safety head to beekeeping tools and the pest management things we implement in the hives.  Not to mention the materials we use to make and implement in those tools and items.

That last, the materials, is what I want to mention today.  From the fuel we use in our smokers to the liquid we put in beetle traps, there is such a variety that it can take days, even weeks to cover just those.

Some are toxic, others are not.  The features are myriad.  All are chosen by the individual beekeeper for their perceived or real results.  Like smoker fuel.  Some of the most informative, fun and still divisive at times is what materials we burn in a beekeeping smoker.

Pine needles, cow chips, burlap, dried grass, cigar smoke, mesquite.  There are possibly dozens more items and combinations of them that beekeepers use.  Perhaps there are just as many reasons.

My personal favorite is to make a little bundle of mostly dry pine needles wrapped in burlap.  My own reasoning is that I have always found pine needles to have the most calming effect on bees here in my neck of the woods (Omaha, NE).  I wrap them in burlap to help keep the smoker smoldering, especially in case I make my most common error and stuff too many pine needles in and choke off the burning before it can “take”.  My burlap wrapped pine needle bundles give me the best of both worlds.

I have beekeeper amigos in the American South/South-West who swear by cow chips or misquote, or both.  I know some fellas, and a couple women, who grew up with mentors who showed them how to just fire up an aromatic cigar and blow the cigar smoke effectively into the hive.

Smoker smoke should be a cool smoke, that is, not too hot at a distance of about 6 – 12 inches away from the smoker.  Smoke that is too hot agitates instead of pacifies bees.  Ideally, in my own experience anyway, smoke should be dense and thick.  Thin, wispy, smoke in my opinion is not usually as effective.  The more dense the smoke, the less that is required to be used.  When it comes to using smoke, less is more when craftfully applied.

The materials we burn in a smoker most assuredly should not have a toxic, paralyzing or “drugged” effect on the bees.  If you have bees dying, freezing in place, or acting abnormally, check that smoker fuel quick!

Beekeepers use our smokers to pacify bees (somewhat) and to “herd” them out of the way while inspecting or moving hive parts around.  We also use them to cover the alarm pheromones released when bees sting us or our gear to minimize the attention from a potentially growing number of bees tracking us.  Why have bees sting and die unnecessarily.  It only needlessly leads to greater consternation, more dead bees and higher levels colony distress.

Well folks, it’s time for me to wrap this up.  Feel free to post questions and comments in the comments area here or in the Bee Smart forums.  Yeah, I know it’s slow in there, but hey, start up a topic and that will help pick things up.

Bee real

Bee Smart Crosswords #2- Miner Bees

If you’d like to print out the crossword  please download it with THIS LINK.

Here is the word list to help you out:


Bee Accountable

As hobbyists and professionals in beekeeping, we have a great many options available to us in the decisions we need to make relating to the environment in which we keep our bees and the goals and objectives we have established for determining our success in beekeeping.

There are a great many things we can blame failure on when it comes to bees…  Lack of forage, weather, pests and predators, disease and injury.  The list can seem endless at times as we struggle in our efforts to keep bees healthy and alive, let alone thriving.

It is perhaps our biggest blind spot and our greatest failure when we are inattentive and lazy in our beekeeping.  There are many things that happen that can be pinned on ignorance.  We just didn’t know or realize.  This is always going to happen in beekeeping.  There is still so much we don’t know about bees despite the growing amount of research that has been done and continues to be done.

However, there are things we do know.  Things we choose to ignore for who knows what reason or excuse.  Choosing to be ignorant when we know the information is available but requires effort is one example.  Allowing ourselves to be distracted from our tasks and duties in beekeeping when we know they should be done is another.

Failure to anticipate potential problems because we didn’t plan properly ahead of time or at all.  This might be the one that gets us the most.  There are problems that arise in beekeeping that are preventable.  Lack of available food and water, inadequate hive ventilation, an excessive amount of space for too small a population.  Many times, perhaps most of the time we see these thing, they are preventable.  Had we been diligent and informed and making an active effort in our beekeeping duties they likey can have been prevented.

Accountability to our bees is important.  We owe it to ourselves and those colonies to put forth our best effort in trying to prevent all that we can prevent.  There are enough things beyond our control that we have to simply be responsive to in order to avoid disaster in beekeeping.  Poor planning, laziness, and unnecessary ignorance shouldn’t add to that already too large pile of trouble.

Bee honest with ourselves.  Bee accountable to our bees.

Bee Smart.

The Bee Smart Online Crossword Puzzle #1: Basic Anatomy


If online puzzles aren’t your thing, you can download a PDF version by clicking on this link.  The PDF even includes a wordlist for a little extra help.

Crossword Hobbyist – Basic Bee Biology

The answer sheet is also available as a download for our patrons over at our Bee Smart Patreon site.

Meet a Miner Bee-Andrena astragali

There are more than 4,500 species of bees in the world commonly referred to as “Miner” bees.  This one in particular, the Andrena astragali, is a specialist that likes to forage on a plant called the “Death Cama” AKA Toxicoscordion.

Toxicoscordion venenosum (Death Camas) - Flickr - brewbooks
By brewbooks from near Seattle, USA (Toxicoscordion venenosum (Death Camas)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Death Cama is known for being poisonous as it contains a type of neurotoxin that is harmful to just about everything in every part of it, even the nectar.  Everything except Andrena astragali that is.