How Do You Do it? Hive assembly poll – fasteners

What type of fasteners do you use when building hive boxes?

Visit the Bee Smart Forum after the poll and give us the details about how you build your boxes.

The “point” of professional bee removal

There is a purpose and a point to being differentiated as a “professional” live bee removal specialist.  That being that it introduces the person as someone who is doing this as a means to make a living and that they will complete the task to the needs and requirements of the customer.

Most hobbyist and amateur live bee removal people are in it for themselves to obtain more bee colonies.  That’s fine as long as everyone involved understands that.  The amateur/hobbyist fills a need in the marketplace for low cost or even no cost to the customer removals.  They generally take the “low hanging fruit” or the less challenging stuff.  That’s a good thing.

Being a professional though requires bringing more to the table.  Proper tools and equipment, liability insurance, sometimes having certain required or desirable certifications or registrations, etc…  these are all overhead that need to be covered.  The cost of doing business if you will.

The paying customer needs someone who can de-escalate a potentially unsafe situation with bees.  They need someone to, at a minimum, remove the nest whenever possible and prepare the voidspace to prevent re-habitation by future swarms.  Also, there is a need to prepare the newly emptied space to be closed up again and repaired properly.  This is important whether doing the repair yourself or if someone else will follow up afterwards.

The professional live removal specialist has to accept that not every colony will be able to be saved and finish the job as best as possible regardless.  It’s not just about getting bees to take home.  That’s not guaranteed.  Getting the job done right should be the first focus for the professional.

Live removal professionals often end up taking the more challenging jobs because they have the experience, time, equipment and resources necessary to do so.

You have to bee honest with customers about what you can do.  If you bite off more than you can chew, your setting yourself, the customer and likely the bees, up for failure.

Live bee removal as a professional service specialty is still a burgeoning area.  More and more pest control companies are reluctant to kill bees and in some jurisdictions, is even illegal or highly discouraged.

In many situations, insurance companies or localities require that work be done on buildings and other structures by an insured, professional service provider.  In many of those situations the bees do often end up being killed because there are no professional live removal specialists around.

There’s no need for animosity or negativity between hobbyists\amateurs and professionals in this area.  As awareness grows and urban sprawl continues to take harborage away from nesting bees, there is plenty to be done for the industrious and self initiating bee person.

Bee Smart Retool

Hello folks, as some have observed, between some glitches with the podcasts and a slowdown in posting here on the website, we’ve seen a slowdown in making content available.

Direction has been one part of it while tech troubles have been the other.  If there’s one thing I dislike the most is re-inventing the wheel.    I want to help beekeepers be successful by knowing how and what to “do” in various and different situations.

So I would like to hear from you.  What would you like to see a “walk-through” done on?  We will be putting together beekeeping project “walk-throughs” as posts, videos and discussed on the podcasts.  Is there something you would like to see a step-by-step done on?  

We will be putting out spec sheets, check-lists, fan’s and more strategic and tactical content for beekeepers here.  Essentially, the point is to help people know what to do, how to do it, why to do it when and even if it should be done under certain conditions.

Not only that, we want to use the member forum here on the website to ask and answer questions about things you are working on.  Not just how-to but talk about your creative and inventive beekeeping related projects.

I’m thinking “Chilton’s” for beekeeping.  Hopefully, you find it useful as we try to get you content that helps you do what you want and need to do.

Plastic Foundation, It Has It’s Place

Plastic foundation used in frames of bee hives has been an on and off hot topic for decades.  As usual, it is often presented as a false dichotomy of should use or should not.  The reality as most of us know lies in each situation in the objectives of the beekeeper and the needs of the colony.

We should know pro’s and con’s of plastic foundation and when it’s inclusion is an asset and when it’s not really contributing anything of use or actively working against objectives and/or needs.

Some colonies have been known to actively resist drawing out comb from plastic foundation.  Other times, bees seem to go right to it, working with it ideally.

Plastic foundation offers good purpose to beekeepers in that it doesn’t blow out like less supported combs can during extraction.  It also can encourage bees to draw combs neatly inside the frame structure and reduce or inhibit cross comb development.

Plastic foundation can resist or avoid “slumping” in high temperatures in a hive which essentially is a partial collapse of comb.  In that case, bees can be killed, including the queen.  “Slumping” can also lead to forage resources spilling onto the bottom board and drawing pests such as ants, wasps, SHB and more.  Plastic foundation, properly drawn out, can avoid those situations.

Plastic foundation can also work as great guides to help bees keep new combs straight.  Add to that the rapidity of drawing out cells in high need scenarios such as installing a package, swarm or trapout that needs to get established ASAP.  Having plastic foundation installed can get the queen laying eggs sooner and forage stored more rapidly.

I’ve listed some “pro’s” of plastic foundation and situations which benefit from the inclusion of it.  So what are some “con’s” of plastic foundation and not practical or ideal use situations?

Some colonies just resist drawing out plastic foundation.  Some ways to make it more appealing to bees that I know of are to heavily wax by rubbing it or applying melted beeswax onto it.  Spraying a sugar syrup on it has been effective in some cases to induce drawing out comb, but not always.

Sometimes bees will make a tremendous mess of things by drawing out wax perpendicular to the face of the frame resulting in cross-combing and difficulty in pulling frames during inspections.

There are those who say that it just isn’t “natural” for plastic foundation to be in hives.  One could argue that being in hives with removable frames isn’t natural either.  Also, bees will draw out comb from a number of parallel surfaces from other combs regardless of what is made from.  After doing countless cutouts, I have seen comb drawn on glass, wood, plastic, and metal.  Bees don’t care, as long as they have someplace to build comb.

Most plastic foundation is embossed with entirely one cell size.  There are various cell size foundation sheets that can be ordered now.  “Small cell” which is the size bees “naturally” produce under otherwise un-influenced situations, regular or common cell size which runs slightly larger and drone cell size is available as well.

Many natural beekeepers argue that bees will draw out multiple sized cells on each comb to meet various colony needs.  This is correct.  With some planning and manipulation, using at least two sizes of cells on plastic foundation can be workable.

Keep in mind, I am not necessarily arguing for or against the inclusion and use of plastic foundation in beekeeping.  I simply want to help make the decision about it’s inclusion as informed as possible.

Do I use plastic foundation as a self described “organic” beekeeper?  In some situations, yes.  Mostly to get cut outs and swarms started as soon as possible.  Occasionally to get combs started straight.  If they have good comb I can transfer of already have straight comb drawn out, then I won’t bother with foundation.  I see it as a facilitation, not a replacement or default setting.

As long as the effort is made to keep the plastic cleaned every so often to have clean wax drawn on it, it is a good tool.  Personally, I wouldn’t rely on it for every frame in every hive.  Then again, my beekeeping goals and objectives are somewhat different than the conventional beekeeper.

I hate the word treatment in beekeeping

People are getting all in a kerfuffle again about “treatment” or “no-treatment” beekeeping.

By “treatment” the general reference is to applying some type of chemical control inside a bee hive.  However, that word is also used synonamously with “manipulation” or introducing changes in a variety of ways to a bee hive.

First off, do I beelieve in implementing chemical controls into a bee hive?  The short answer is that yes, I do see a possible case scenario for introducing a chemical control into a bee hive.

The long answer is that I see a spectrum of a myriad of possibilities that don’t easily fit into a dichotomy.  It’s more like following an “if-then” flow chart the way I approach it.

In regard to use of toxic chemical pesticides being used as a control tactic….  It’s not likely for me.  I see those as a last ditch, worst case scenario that “might” be usable on a case by case approach.

I am just as likely to terminate a colony in such a situation as try to implement a toxic chemical control.  It depends on a variety of things that affect that particular hive and the apiary and environment that it’s in.

I have total and utter disregard for those who insist on making “treatment” or “no-treatment” a simple and absolute false dichotomy.

I prefer, as I think most do, to have colonies that do not need to have certain types of control tactics introduced such as toxic chemical pesticides.  I implement IPM in my overall beekeeping and apiary planning from the beginning.

I try to have the best understanding of natural bee biology and behavior so as to let the colonies tell me when they need help and then only give the help they need, nothing more, nothing less.

Playing political games of unnecessary absolutes is a waste of thinking people’s time, efforts and resources.

That’s just how this apiarist sees it.

IPM is every beeks friend

There are articles floating around out there quoting hobbyists and prominent bee researchers alike proclaiming a dire necessity to “treat” bee hive’s for mite infestations.  These articles condemn the “anti-pesticides” crowd as spoilers of beekeeping for everyone else and some going so far as to setting up a bully pulpit to show “anti-pesticides” beekeepers in a criminal light.

Being someone who has long-established myself as an “organic” beekeeper, I can certainly appreciate the mistrust of the unnecessary use of toxic chemicals where bees are involved.  However, as a former licensed pesticide applicator, I am very familiar with the situations and conditions in which critical circumstances call for drastic actions.

At the same time, again coming from my education, training, and experience as a licensed pesticide applicator, I am very familiar with the concept of Integrated Pest Management or IPM.  I am here to tell you that with IPM, dealing with mites or any of the myriad of maladies that face our bees does not have to be an all or none scenario.

IPM, in a nutshell, calls for a “big picture” approach to pest control.  A more holistic approach in which we aren’t using  “one or the other” extremist tactics but instead a combination of multiple tactics to prevent and act as an early intervention to avoid pest presence and populations from becoming so bad as to require the use of toxic pesticides if at all possible.

One of the problems that lead the discussion is that by using the strong, toxic pesticides as a prophylactic is that historically, it has always lead to stronger, more resistant pests that are harder to deal with.

On the other hand, I am also an advocate for using the “common sense” view that when the Bee feces hits the fan, we should be prepared to at least consider the responsible use of pesticides that might make a reasonable difference.  I’m not saying it should be mandatory to use those “last resort” treatments but they shouldn’t be discarded from the discussion just because they make us uncomfortable either.

Extremist positions never help in the long run.  We all lose when discussion becomes polarized and minds are closed.  I think it’s irresponsible for any beekeeper or apiarist worthy of the name to be so close minded.

So at every opportunity, I will present, teach and advocate IPM as a crucial aspect of any and every beekeeping plan.  It gives us the widest range of options and educated/informed decision-making available to us to have the most success and viable impact in helping honey bee colonies alive and thriving.

 

Physics for beekeepers: mold in a beehive

We like to see good articles like this.  Worth your time.

It is early spring and your beehive seems too quiet. You pop the lid only to find mold everywhere. It cloaks dead bees in furry coats, pillows above the bars, and drifts down between the frames. It covers the surface of combs and binds the masses of dead bees together in a smelly mat. There is no doubt in your mind: mold killed your bees. But did it? In truth, mold in a beehive is a result of colony death, not the cause of it. Mold spores are everywhere in the environment, waiting for the perfect conditions to germinate into

Source: Physics for beekeepers: mold in a beehive

Phenology, a study about recurring natural events

Yes, Phenology is really science.  Don’t confuse it with “Phrenology” in which people try to “read” a person by feeling the bumps on their head.  “Phenology” studies naturally recurring events like the timing of insects emerging and plants blooming, etc… at certain times of the season every year or repeating schedule.

This is something useful for beekeepers to know because our bees are dramatically affected by the blooming of flowers and the time of emergence of certain pests and predators.  It’s well worth learning more about.

As a matter of fact, a really nice article on Phenology appeared in Bee Culture magazine a couple of years ago (Bee Culture, April 2015) written by Denise Ellsworth at Ohio State University, dept of entomology.

The Bee Culture article was mostly talking about an online calendar created at Ohio State University that Ohio beekeepers and others can use for planning their planting and knowing more about what’s growing and blooming at a given time of year.

The article also discussed something called “Growing Degree Days”  which can help people figure out important planting and bloom times in their locality.

If you include IPM as part of your beekeeping planning, this may bee useful to you.

Watch a video about Phenology from Ohio State University below.

Check out the Ohio State University Bee Lab webpage to see more cool bee info.

Visit the Bee Culture magazine website to see all the way cool beekeeper awesomeness that Kim Flottum puts there to fill our heads.

HuffPo Calls Honey Vomit, Wrong As Usual

Loathe as I am to ever willingly refer reasonable people to a source that is so low that they don’t pay the contributing writers for their work except in “exposure”  (while they rake in millions from advertising) when it comes to spreading misinformation about bees, I am compelled to correct it.

A European honey bee (Apis mellifera) extracts nectar from an Aster flower using its proboscis.

In this recent article, the author tries to make an educated seeming run at referring to honey legitimately as “bee vomit”.   Their argument is founded on the generality of definition of the word “vomit”.    If you use a “real” dictionary she says, then vomit is merely ejecting contents of the stomach through the mouth.  If you use any other definition, you must be relying on Wikipedia and are subject to scorn and ridicule.

However, even though she goes to lengths to describe that bees have two stomachs and that honey transported by bees is carried in the non digestive “crop” or proventriculus of the honey bee, but still counts as “vomit” to her.

The “crop” (proventriculus) is the first organic in the abdomen (colored green) before going to the “midgut” (ventriculus)

While she focuses on the definition of vomit as her ace-in-the-hole, she completely overlooks, or perhaps ignores, that in her own description she has already shown that she is incorrect.

Vomit is material ejected from “the” stomach.  In a mammal having one stomach in which digestion occurs.  In an insect such as the honey bee and having two stomachs (as fellow Beehooligan Dean Stiglitz points out, the proventriculus or “crop” is actually a gland and not a true stomach, further making the point that it is not vomit), the proventriculus NOT engaging in digestion, it would be more accurate to refer to it as a process of regurgitation.

A nationally viewed media source (not being worthy of the more credible term “news” since news sources actually pay their sources)  to toss around words blithely is disappointing.  Words have not just meaning my friends, but specific meaning.  In casual discussions, words are often loosely bandied about.  In a technical discussion, such as one actually involving science, medical, and other fields where specificity is necessary, words meanings take on greater importance.

So, technically speaking (as it seemed the article author was hoping people would see her point), honey is regurgitated nectar from “a” stomach called the “crop” not used for digestive functions by an insect.

It is not vomit from “the” stomach of a creature having only one in which to conduct primarily digestive functions.

Maybe if HuffPo would actually pay their sources, they could be taken more credibly on important topics like bees.