A New Bee Smart Bee Spotters Feature

With the kick-off of the new Bee Spotters classes being offered at Lauritzen Gardens with yours truly as the instructor, and tying it all together with the Bee Spotters section on the Bee Smart beekeeping project forum page here, I now bring to you “I.D. That Bee.”

As an ongoing feature, there will be native bee online “baseball cards” to help future Bee Smart Bee Spotters better identity what species of bee they found.

What’s even better is that in the future, there will come along games and contests to “collect” certain Genus or species of bees in general or at specified locations.

So, come back regularly and come back often to see the new “I.D. That Bee” posts that can help you collect bees and win prizes.

The Book Everyone Who Loves Bees Should Have

I have been working with bees professionally for about 8 years now.  I am involved in education, conservation, training and “infotainment” all having to do with keeping bees healthy and thriving.

I talk to countless numbers of people who tell me they love bees and want to help bees but don’t want to be a beekeeper, what can they do?

You can do any one or all of these three things but if you’re only absolutely only going to do one of them, do the one that helps bees directly first.

The three things?

Buy local honey from local beekeepers.  That honey money is often the only thing that allows them to keep at what they do.  You’re not just getting awesome honey, you are helping beekeepers keep bees alive and healthy.

Become a Patreon patron of my Bee Smart beekeeping project at my Patreon page” p.  You are getting beehind the scenes access to information and activities while helping ensure that we can rescue local bees instead of them being exterminated. You are helping to make sure I can continue to do more and improve on the podcasts, videos and live presentations about bees, beekeeping and bee conservation.

Buy the book, “The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees” by Joseph Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril.  Read it.  Use it.

This book does much more than just show you multiple types of bees and how to identify them.  It shows you how to make your yard an attractive habitat and a safe place for bees.

 If you only do one of these things, BUY THIS BOOK!

Then do the other two things anyway.

Paint Tips For Beekeepers

Beekeepers often tend to be crafty, handy people.  Sometimes it’s due to being frugal, other times because we like to do things ourselves.  One of the things beekeeper’s often find ourselves doing is paint.

We paint hive parts.  We paint hive stands. We paint sheds and honey houses and all kinds of related to beekeeping things.

It’s interesting how often I get asked, especially by those who also know me as a handyman, how to go about painting.  So I offer you some basic tips that might answer some other people’s painting questions.

For example, types of paint and primer.  Nowadays you’ll mostly find paint with primer already mixed in.  It’s nice and can help somewhat reduce how much paint is bought and used.  The big questions have to do with what kind of paint to get.

First of all, use exterior paints.  They are made to withstand the elements and give outside things longer life with better durability.

So, do you use oil based or latex paints?  Here are some basic rules of thumb;

In regard to oil-based paint;

  1. Use on bare wood (especially, but not limited to: Redwood, Cedar, and Pine)
  2. Use on metal, like doors, cover tops,  etc…(But not galvanized metal)
  3. Over previously painted or even stained surfaces
  4. Also on hardboard siding.  (If it was primed at the factory, still a good idea)

Most beekeepers use Pine and sometimes Cedar.  Using an oil based primer/paint is better for wood hive parts, hive stands, etc…

What about Latex?

There are used for an exterior latex paints for beekeepers as well.

  1. Concrete and masonry surfaces.
  2. Aluminum or vinyl siding, etc.. (like on an out-building, etc…)
  3. Stucco or brick surfaces.
  4. Exterior grade Plywood
  5. Galvanized metal
  6. Surfaces that were originally stained then painted on.

Beelieve it or not, The next most common painting related questions are about what to use to paint with.

When it comes to brushes and rollers, it comes out a lot smoother and a better finish if you use natural fibre bristle brushes or roller covers with oil-based paints.

Latex paint is a little more forgiving and you turn out just fine, maybe better in some cases, if you use nylon or polyester bristle brushes with latex paints.

Brush or Roller?

As with general painting, brushes are better for closer, specific, or detailed work.  I recommend brushes for hive parts and hive stands.

For out-buildings, sheds, etc…  rollers cover a lot more area better.

I hope this helps at least somewhat.  I know beekeepers tend to go with the lowest price a lot.  But if you trying to come out with a specific result or quality, maybe these tips can bee useful.

If you’d like to support the Bee Smart beekeeping project to continue providing articles like this, podcast episodes, and videos, please consider signing up at the Bee Smart beekeeping project Patreon page.

So you want to be a beekeeper but…

As a beekeeping class instructor and trainer of beekeeping skills at the teaching apiaries I manage, one conversation I have a LOT is, “I want to be a beekeeper but…”  and then one of a list of reasons or excuses preventing them from doing so.

I say both reasons and excuses because there are some valid reasons why some is finding it difficult or improbable to keep bees on their own.  However, there are some things that come up that really are just excuses that can be overcome more easily if the effort is expended.

My answer to those folks that want to be beekeepers but… is don’t “just” be a beekeeper, be a Beehooligan instead.

Advantages if being a Beehooligan are:

  • You don’t need to have your own place to keep bees, you can play with the bees in the teaching apiaries.
  • You can have experienced mentors right there with you whenever you are unsure or have questions.
  • You get to build experience in multiple methods of beekeeping and to participate in a variety of bee related activities.
  • You can be an active advocate of bees, beekeeping and bee conservation to non-beekeepers by participating in public access presentations and events.
  • You can be a member of a small group of deranged maniacs who thoroughly enjoy playing with flying, stinging insects and they get you as much as you get them.
  • Even if you want to start beekeeping in the middle of the year and no bees are available to buy, you still can trade your time for building active experience and camaraderie so you are better prepared for the next season to start.
  • I work to build in extra perks to make your time invested worthwhile besides the beekeeping experience and education.  Things like Beehooligan only events and special deals and “leftovers”.
  • You get to be part of the podcast episodes, videos and presentations where our ever growing fans are waiting to see and hear from the Beehooligans.

When you’re a Beehooligan, your setting yourself up for success and fun in a shared apicultural experience with a bunch of other folks who can’t think straight without bees in their life (or sometimes at all, but mad luv for all Beehooligans just because we have to bee a little nuts).

I have set up and continue to set up more teaching apiaries that double as bee rescue relocation destinations.  This means as I go rescue and relocate live honey bee and bumblebee colonies with my Beehooligans, I have more places for Beehooligans to get to play with bees by helping me with the apiaries.

So, if you are around the Omaha metro area and want the biggest, bestest beekeeping experience around, then contact Tony Sandoval at one of the teaching apiary days or by calling or texting 402-370-8018.

Honey Bee Bashing Needs To Stop Yesterday

There seems to be a slight trend building in response to the problems facing bees that is actually working against the overall goal of improving conditions and health of bees everywhere.

The news that honey bees were facing a mysterious mortal crisis really hit it’s stride back in the early 2,000’s.  Colony Collapse Disorder was a thing on the mainstream media and the world began to pay attention to the situation facing honey bees.

With all of the attention focused sharply and intently on honey bees, enthusiasts of more than just Apis mellifera began to get perturbed that other types of bees were feeling the heat of environmental calamities but not getting their own 15 minutes of fame.  So these focused fans began to work harder to bring the details of environmental crisis to native bees to light.

It started well enough, the #beetoo movement.  We saw that bumblebees like the Rusty Patch bumblebee was placed onto the Endangered Species list soon followed by another bumblebee species in Hawaii. Grim tidings to bee sure.

Yet, it doesn’t seem enough to some people to get some attention.  To these more radical few, it’s not good enough until you have ALL of the attention.  So began the ramp up in rhetoric to make honey bees not only less-victims, but perhaps even villains.

They make the point that honey bees aren’t native to North America and that as occupational immigrants, they aren’t deserving of prioritizing related to research and protection.

They say that honey bees aren’t as effective pollinators as most native bee species.  Which is true.  What is also true is that honey bees are efficient, partly due to their ability to focus on a flower crop and not be very likely to stop focusing on say, alfalfa, to just hop over to some thistle or other flower type.  Honey bees stay focused on a flower type until they have worked all of those flowers in the area before focusing on a different nectar source.  This makes them more desirable to farmers working to maximize an entire crop.

These hyper-fans also tell us that many native bees make more efficient use of bee population numbers to accomplish more.  For example, fewer Mason bees can pollinate more area than a much larger population of honey bees.

This is also true.  However, by and large, honey bees are THE champs at being able to be managed by people in large numbers and transported to a variety of crops over a larger part if the growing season.  Many native bees are simply not manageable or as available over the same period.

“Only” seven species of honey bees are around to produce honey out of the more than 24,000 plus species of bees in the world.  Native bees outnumber honey bees.  Yet again, true.  Honey though, is a highly sought commodity.  It brings millions, if not billions of dollars into the market beyond pollination services.

My point is this…We do not need to throw honey bees under the bus in order to see awareness for native bees increase and improve.  As a matter of fact, honey bees help bring more awareness to the overall conditions and situation of all bees.

I love all bees.  I teach about honey bees and provide beekeeping hands-on training.  I also teach classes about native bee identification, and conservation.  I am providing not just classes but a creative, interactive way to get more people actively looking for native bees bees and improving habitat and environmental conditions for them.

Being divisive about bees and throwing the spotlight species under the bus only serves to lessen overall bee conservation efforts, not improve them.  We can increase positive awareness for honey bees and native bees alike at the same time and appreciate what each species brings to the table.

That’s what the Bee Smart beekeeping project is working toward.

Building Bee Approved Bait Hives

According to certain notable bee researchers and authors, there IS a way to build bait hives that are more likely to be a preferred destination for wayward honey bee swarms.

In a co-authored Cornell Extension publication (#187), “Bait Hives for Honey Bees” back in 1989, ROger Morse, Tom Seeley and Richard Nowogrodzki gave us some valuable tips to capturing those wayward swarms in ait hives to put them into our own apiaries.

The twelve recommendations to build a better bee bait hive are:

  1. Height: about 15 feet (5 meters) above the ground.

  2. Shade and Visibility: well-shaded, but ighly visible.  Bees avoid or abandon bait hives in direct sun.

  3. Distance from parent nest: not important.

  4. Total entrance area: about 1.5 to 2 sq inches (10 to 15 cm²); a circular opening about 1 ¼ inch (3.2 cm) in diameter is suggested.

  5. Entrance shape: Not important

  6. Entrance position: near the floor of the hive.

  7. Entrance direction: facing south preferred, but other directions are acceptable.

  8. Cavity volume: about 1.4 cubic feet (40 liters) This is about the volume of one standard ten-frame Langstroth hive body.

  9. Cavity shape: not important.

  10. Dryness and airtightness: dry and snug, especially at the top.

  11. Type of wood: Various types acceptable; many types of trees have been occupied. Bees may avoid new lumber.

  12. Odor: the odor of beeswax is attractive. However, putting in pieces of comb is not advisable, as comb aso attracts wax moths and can harbordisease organisms.  If a hive body is used as a bait hve, agood solution is to insert a few wired fames, each containing a strip of foundation. Commercially available chemical lures that smell like lemon grass and apparently miic the scouts’ communication scents work well and can be used in bait hives of any shape.

Beekeeping is Therapeutic, Keep Calm and Keep Bees

One of the biggest reasons I am so enthusiastic about collaborating with Scatter Joy Acres and Joy Bartling is because of the opportunity to have a place that spotlights bees and beekeeping on multiple fronts.  It not only provides space but an open-minded and willing support for bee conservation, skills training, providing a “safe space” for people to encounter bees in a positive way, and to facilitate the incredibly therapeutic experience that beekeeping offers.

Beekeeping can be a very relaxing and calming experience.  It requires the beekeeper to proceed in a purposefully calm and deliberate manner.  There sensory experiences that beekeepers enjoy have been often described as soothing, relaxing, and contributing to an almost Zen-like state of mind.  Like I said earlier, it can be downright therapeutic.

Joy and the volunteers at Scatter Joy Acres bring rescued animals to the ranch and then introduce people seeking calming and self-fulfilling therapeutic experiences to those animals.  This does two things at once.  It provides the rescued animals with and abundance of care and positive interaction from people and it gives people an opportunity to build confidence, a sense of purpose and calm to build up the inner strength to live more full and positive lives.

Bringing rescued bee colonies to SJA helps to keep bees that might have otherwise been exterminated or died of unnecessary environmental stress factors alive and in a low stress environment.  It also allows the Bee Smart beekeeping project to introduce people to the fascinating and often stress relieving experience of beekeeping.

I welcome anyone who is seeking out unconventional and interesting ways to help to alleviate stress issues such as people recovering from ptsd, over-busy lives, incarceration, low self esteem and other such stressful backgrounds.

With the new teaching apiary at Scatter Joy Acres being a home for rescued bees, maybe it could bee a good fit for you to.

Contact Tony Sandoval here at the Bee Smart beekeeping project to find out more about how bee rescue and beekeeping might bee just the the therapeutic experience that you are looking for.

You can support the Bee Smart beekeeping project and it’s efforts in bee conservation, beekeeper skills training, and building informative and entertaining public awareness about bees at the Bee Smart beekeeping project Patreon page.