Greg Hunt on breeding hygienic mite-biting honeybees

Video of Dr. Greg Hunt of Purdue University, Dept. of Entomology speaking to the Southeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association. He talks a little about pesticides, but what really caught my interest is that he's been selectively breeding for bees that will chew the ankles of varroa mites.

His experiences seem to suggest that finding mites with chewed off legs on the bottom board may correspond to hygienic behaviour in honeybees. After selecting for this behaviour, very few of his colonies require mite treatments.


The kiwimana Buzz Beekeeping Podcast

A Beekeeping Podcast from New Zealand. They've been rather prolific in putting out a large number of episodes on a wide variety of topics in a short time period.

Of their current episodes, the interview with Rany Oliver has caught my attention. It was interesting to hear him talk about how he is able to do so much research and make the information free for the public as well as his thoughts on varroa managment and treatment-free beekeeping:

They also reviewed my own top ten list of considerations for aspiring urban beekeepers in this episode starting at the 14:30 mark:



Thomas Seeley on honeybee communication - The Bee Hive as a Honey Factory

A presentation by Thomas Seeley where he outlines a few different communication signals used by the bees to effectively and efficiently distribute the number of bees taking on different tasks in honey making.

Here is a quick overview:

Shake signal - Tells bees in the hive that they need more foragers.

Waggle dance - Informs bee about where to find nectar

Tremble dance - Communicates a need for more bees in the hive to work at collecting and storing the nectar brought in by the foragers.

The beep signal - If bees that are Tremble dancing encounter waggle dancers they may give them the beep signal as a way of letting them know they should stop.


The truth about thousands of years old unspoiled ancient Egyptian honey

This is an oft repeated story printed by seemingly credible publications and told by innumerable beekeepers and honey lovers around the world. It's a shocking statement that lends honey an almost magical mystique, but is there any truth behind it? Well in her blog post K Cummings Pipes took about as thorough a look into the matter as can be found on the internet.

For the full story check out her blog. If you just want me to make a long story short and spoil all the fun then keep reading.

In 1923 National geographic published photos at the tomb of Tutankhamen. One of the photos was just a bunch of kids munching on sugar cane. The description of this photo referenced 3,300 year old honey found in the tomb of Yuaa and Thuaa. Pipes found two books that referenced this honey finding incident at Yuaa and Thuaa's tomb. I'm sorry to say that though they did initially identify something as honey, it turned out to be a substance called natron.

Is may not be true but does that make honey any less magical? I don't think so. A bouquet of concentrated flower juice, that lasts, if not thousands of years, longer than most food products, is still pretty amazing all on its own as far as I'm concerned.

I did try searching a little more on my own. I found some mentions of a Georgian honey. Each report stated how it's older than the Egyptian honey. In one case there was claim about the specific types of honey found. Some mentioned multiple 'jars' being found, while others say 'traces' of honey were found. No mention of edibility anywhere. So maybe there is still hope of an ancient preserved honey?


The Monk and the Honeybee

A documentary on Brother Adam's the world famous breeder of the Buckfast bee. Filmed for the BBC in 1987 when Brother Adams was 89.

The film goes into some of the history of developing the buckfast strain of bee, gives a taste of life in their apiary, and documents the search for the Monticola in Africa which was to be added into the genetic mix of the buckfast.


Nectar Production for the Hungarian Honey Industry

This overview of honey producing flowers is geared towards apiculture in Hungary, but it provides details on some plants beekeepers in North America will be familiar with too.

It provides data on sugar concentration in the nectar from different plants and trees, as well as information in regards to optimal weather conditions and time of day for nectar production.

A few of the highlights for me:

Lindens (refered to as lime in the pdf) do most of their nectar production over night, and thus the bees visit it primarily in the early morning.

Black locust, produces best with highs above 25°C on humid days free of wind and rain, but raspberry can do well on cooler wet days.


Do I need a queen excluder?

The simple answer to the question is no you don't need a queen excluder. In fact, I prefer not to use them most of the time. Why I feel that way is best explained by this video where you can see very clearly that some worker bees are struggling to pass through an excluder.

They may not all be as restrictive as the model in this video, but I believe it illustrates why you will find many references to beekeepers calling it a 'honey excluder'.

But won't I end up with brood in my honey?

Probably not. The queen wants to lay a tight compact brood nest and the bees prefer to store honey above the brood. Even if a prolific queen extends the brood nest into a honey super, the worker bees will likely be eager to fill this space with nectar again once the brood hatches.

It is possible, in some situations, that the bees will create a narrow tower of a brood nest up the middle of many boxes. Circumstances where this is more likely to occur include:

  • During a heavy honey flow, if the brood boxes become honey bound, and the queen is desperate for more laying space
  • When extra boxes are provided early, the bees may choose to expand upwards rather than fully filling out the width of each box

Dearth's can also complicate things. If the bees are eating more honey then they are bringing in, they will start moving the brood nest upwards as they eat through their stores.

Even though I find some of these situations described above inconvenient at times, I also believe the bees behave this way for a reason, and suspect there can be value in allowing them the freedom to make the choices they feel are optimal in a given situation.

There are some uses for them

Some instances where a queen excluder can come in handy include making splits, raising queens, and locating a particularly elusive queen.

I've seen beekeepers use queen excluders without any problems

I've worked bee yards for years where excluders where used by default. The bees still stored honey in the supers and it did guarantee that the queen stayed below. We found it useful to put the excluders on early to give the bees a chance to get used to them before the supers were really needed. We also always provided an unobstructed path to the honey supers via an upper entrance.


Where the Wild Bees Are: Documenting a Loss of Native Bee Species between the 1800s and 2010s | Scientific American

Moritz Stefaner put together a very interesting infographic for Scientific American which succinctly illustrates a variety of wild bee statistics for Carlinville, Ill. At a glance you can see many types of bees have disappeared and that foraging behaviour has drastically changed in the last 120 years.




Birch Pollen Honey for Birch Pollen Allergy – A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study

There's lots of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of honey on allergies. I could also add my own positive story to that list, but the science looking into the matter still seems rather limited. So far a few studies have said it doesn't help, so it was nice to see some evidence that matches up with my own personal experience.

Of course It still might depend on what you are allergic to, and how likely the pollen of that plant will be found in the honey you eat. This study checked specifically for allergic reactions to birch, and found some very positive results.

The common arguments against honey helping with allergies is that people have allergy problems with wind-borne pollen, and bees tend to collect more of the heavier, sticky non-wind-borne pollen. It's is, however, important to remember that furry bees carry an electrostatic charge, which makes them pollen magnets, so they may very well be collecting some of that wind-borne pollen just by flying through the air.