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.



Smells Tell

Honey bees communicate in a variety of ways.  One way I find particularly useful is the use of pheromones to communicate with other bees, especially as a way to communicate to groups of bees if not the entire colony.

Comprised of a mixture of various biological chemicals excreted by different glands in bees, pheromonal communication is an extremely important method of communication on a large scale.

Look over the image below we found on the world wide web to learn more about some of the curious chemicals bees use to get a message across to each other with.

Good Stuff From The Hive

Apiarists are like farmers in that we take colonies of honey bees and knowing what they can produce in excess of their own needs under the right conditions, we try to arrange things to get the bees to do exactly that.  Make a lot of good stuff, more than they need, so that we can harvest it and make use of it.

What kinds of things can we get from honey bee hive’s and what are they good for?  This simple yet informative image found on the www below can show you the awesomeness that is brought to us by honey bees.

What’s In Your Honey

The World Wide Web is chock full of cool information about all things bees.  Sometimes it’s a trick to find it.  Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we like to bring you the awesome things that don’t need to be redone.

For example, the image below gives you some basic information on the chemical makeup of honey.  How cool is that?

Nosema ceranae: Kiss of Death or Much Ado about Nothing? @ Scientific Beekeeping

Here at the Bee Smart beekeeping project, it is one of our goals to help facilitate a successful beekeeping experience.  Being that here in the U.S. are coming into our Spring season, if not already then very soon, it’s time to start looking at the things which can cause bee colonies to die at this point after having made it so far through the Winter.

Note that there are two most widely known types of Nosema, Nosema apis which has been here for a very long time, and Nosema ceranae which is the newer kid on the block of the two but every bit the troublemaker.

The linked article below by Randy Oliver at makes a terrific presentation of the situation which rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, we’d rather just point you in the direction of the wheel.

Randy mentions a chemical treatment in the article for situations calling for treatments in IPM plans that include such types of treatments.  However, Organic/treatment-free beekeepers want to pay very close attention to the things that can be done to help prevent Nosema from taking hold in the colony.

If you’d like to find out where the Beehooligans stand on dealing with Nosema after reading this article, head on over to our Forums on this website and sign up then browse through the sections and see where the discussion is.

This is more than a mere academic debate, as beekeepers worldwide are forced to make expensive management decisions, including very expensive antibiotic treatment and the sterilization of contaminated combs.

Source: Nosema ceranae: Kiss of Death or Much Ado about Nothing? @ Scientific Beekeeping

Beehind The Hive: age and activity

Yes, yours truly is bringing a “Tell All” column here on Bee Smart called “Beehind The Hive”.  The little truths and tidbits my sisters and mama don’t really want you people to know.  Actually, they don’t really care who knows beecause they’re gonna do whatever they want anyway.  But, it’s more exciting to introduce it like this.

Today I’m spilling the dirt about how bees do certain things because it’s related to how old they are.  It’s true.  As bees reach certain ages, usually measured in days, they become able to do more things in the hive.  For example, producing beeswax.  Worker bees all of them females, aren’t able to produce beeswax the same day they climb out of the cell.  It takes awhile for the bees physiology to get to the point that they can biologically do that and there is a need in the colony for it to be done.


Bees accumulate abilities to do more and more things as we get older.  Physically and by learning. and much of what actually end up doing is based on a need for it in the colony.  If there’s not a need for it, the bee will go do something else.  So in the case of making beeswax, If the bee is the right age to be able to make it AND There is enough nectar or honey to be consumed to stimulate the production of the wax AND there is a need for wax to be made by that particular bee, then the bee will make and work wax.

If any of those conditions aren’t there then the bee, although able and capable of making wax, won’t.  She will go about doing something else she is capable of doing and senses an active need for it to bee done in the hive.  She might patrol the comb for pests.  She might transfer nectar and pollen from foragers coming in to storage cells.  There are many things she could do though it is maybe more common to see bees doing one certain thing at a particular age, that doesn’t mean that’s all they are limited to doing.

Not only that, but bees can change the activities they are involved in within a matter of minutes.  As they see the hives needs change or that there is a new priority that needs attention, they will stop what they were doing and go do the new thing.

What’s really interesting is that honey bees can even change their physiology to meet certain demands even though their age might have left a particular window of ability beehind.

Let’s go back to making wax.  “Usually”, honey bees become able to produce wax at about age_ until about age _.  After that, their body phases out of that ability and the bees focus on new abilities and tasks.

BUT, When honey bees leave in a swarm to go build a new colony in a new hive somewhere else, most, if not all, of those bees that are leaving are bees that are way past the wax making age.  Still, they gorge on honey t prepare for the trip, they all fly out and wait for the scouts to pick out a new place to move into.  Then they move in and if the new place doesn’t already have beeswax in it (because bees will often move into abandoned nests left behind by other honey bee colonies) they will start making fresh wax and building combs.

Crazy right?  How do they do that if they are supposedly “too old” to make wax?  They do it by literally changing their physiology.  Kind of like turning on a time machine inside their body and getting younger inside till they reach the point that their body can make wax.  Once they finish that then they get to the business of building a new nest.

So you see, it’s true that bees develop and perform abilities in stages at certain ages.  It’s just honey bees aren’t limited to only doing those few things they are at a certain age for.  The colony’s needs, their own physiology and the environment around them will often have bees performing a wide variety of tasks at any given time.