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.

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

Scientific Beekeeping Is Metric

Science Measures The Same Around The World

One of the interesting things about beeing a scientific beekeeper is using the metric system.  Even though the U.S. still largely uses the Imperial measurement system (cue Darth Vader music) science has pretty much settled on using the Metric system.

When we read the articles by Clarence Collison and Randy Oliver, Tom Seeley and countless other researchers in the magazines, books and websites out  there, they will use metric measurements in their research and discussion.  We being largely still being not used to it, there are times American beekeepers might get a bit beefuddled.

Yet and still we want to promote scientific beekeeping and advocating for beekeepers to be involved in more scientific pursuits or at least more educated on the scientific research.  Research that is rapidly being released almost daily it seems at times.  So then it beehooves us to help people wrap our minds around metric measurements.

Personally, I get a kick from the idea of a bunch of beekeeper citizen scientists, or as I like to call them, “Mad Beekists”.

It doesn’t have to be a total memorization issue either.  There are compromises to be had.  For example, in many measuring products available to us now, they come with both imperial and metric units of measurement on the same item.  Measuring cups, shot-glasses used for measuring, spoon sets, tools like wrenches and bits come in metric sizes.  There are tape measures that are very reasonably priced that have both systems printed on them as well.

A Synopsis On Units

Weight/Mass is measured in grams

Length/Distance is measured in meters

Volume/Space/Liquid is measured in liters

Temperature is measured in degrees of Celcius

Breaking down The Numbers

In Metric system, everything is done in tens.

10 millimeters (1 thousandth of a meter) equal 1 centimeter

10 centimeters (1 hundredth of a meter) equal 1 decimeter

10 decimeters (1 tenth of a meter) equal 1 meter.

10 meters equal 1 decameter

10 decameters (100 meters) equals 1 hectometer

10 hectometers (1000 meters) equals 1 kilometer.

This can be applied pretty much across the board to other areas of measurement such as liters and grams.


Temperature is a bit different.  It is measured using Celsius instead of Fahrenheit.

To start with, in Fahrenheit measurements fresh water freezes at 32°F.  That same fresh water freezes at 0°C in Celsius measurement. (I specify “fresh” water because researchers have noted that depending on the type of water and aspects of it’s makeup, it can freeze at different temperatures.)

Converting from one to the other is also a bit tricky. To convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit you could use the following method…

 Multiply by 9, divide that result by 5, then add 32. For example; 

To convert 10 degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit

  • 10×9=90
  • 90/5=18
  • 18+32=50

Thus 10 degrees Celsius = 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Going the other way, converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius is actually using the reverse order.  so

Subtract 32, then multiply by 5 and then divide that result by 9

To convert 90 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius

  • 90-32=58
  • 58×5=290
  • 290/9=32.2

So 90 Degrees Fahrenheit is 32.2 degrees Celsius.

Sum It Up

So, at home, it really doesn’t matter what system of measurement we use for ourselves.  When it comes to scientific documentation and experimentation though, it really, really helps for everyone to bee on the same page.

By all of us “Citizen Scientists” (I still prefer “Mad Beekists”) sticking to the same system of measurement, it makes it that much easier to have peer reviewed work available and reproducible experimentation to help others either support our findings or come up with different results using the same numbers.  It happens.


Bee Smart About Your Beekeeping Experiments

Here at the Bee Smart beekeeping project we advocate for having fun while beekeeping.  We advocate just as hard, if not harder, for “beeing smart” about beekeeping as well.  Beekeeping history is rife with stories of curious and pragmatic people working to learn more and find ways to improve on the understandings and practices involved in beekeeping.

Many a beekeeper is a tinkerer and “armchair” researcher as they go about figuring out how to tackle the latest challenge in their apiary.  What we are promoting here at Bee Smart is to get more people to take it to the next step and up their “mad beek scientist” game by participating in a more  technical process that provides documentation and a clear path of study and review for everyone and anyone to follow.

Many of us are already “scientists” in how we go about our researching of bees and beekeeping.  Science is a process, a method, not a status.  With the right mental approach and some training in how to prepare an experiment and properly document it, you can produce qualified and valid material much as anyone else can.  You can do it.  We beelieve in you.

So does Randy Oliver.  Randy believes it so much that as a biologist and entomologist AND a professional apiarist that he walks you through the process at his website  As a matter of fact, he goes so far as to provide us with a guide for setting up experiments.

Odds are, you may already be doing the work.  Why not add the structure and documentation of the scientific method to make it complete?  Going forward in the future, we want to hear from you, our “Mad Beekists” to see what we can do to help facilitate the scientific method for our citizen scientists.

Robot Bees vs Real Bees – Why Tiny Drones Can’t Compete With the Real Thing

I find it interesting to see scientists comment on other science reports.  It’s part of the whole process.  It also provides insight into studies and topics from people who may have extensive experience in a particular related area from a different point of view.

Conflicting or in agreement,  science and technology ultimately benefit from peer review.   Like the author, I can see specific use cases.  In general though, nothing can beat our bees.

Researchers in Japan have been using miniature drones covered with sticky hairs to act like robotic bees to counter the decline of natural pollinators.

Source: Robot Bees vs Real Bees – Why Tiny Drones Can’t Compete With the Real Thing

Taming Aggressive Bees

We know that stinging is a defensive behavior for honey bees.  Some species and breeds of honey bees go about that defensive reaction across a spectrum of aggressiveness.  While some are relatively docile or low key to get “fired up”, others are on a seeming hair trigger to explosive response.

What are the determining factors to how aggressively a given type of honey bee or breed of bee will respond?  Are they genetic, chemical, or behavioral?  Some some combination of some of all of the above.

Someone is looking into the subject and may bee trying to breed a different type of bee based on that.

By Jonathan Wilkins – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

(Inside Science) — James Nieh, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, has been studying bees for decades. He’s often a go-to expert on bees.“I often get people who ask me, ‘what about those killer bees, those Africanized bees?’ And it turns out that these guys are beneficial in the environment for a variety of reasons, beneficial in the sense that they do better than the European honeybee,” said Nieh.

Source: Taming Aggressive Bees