Nice Varroa not Resistant Bees

Varroa destructor mite on a bee pupaI was given this article last weekend (August 11 & 12, 2012) at a honeybee workshop hosted by Jacqueline Freeman and Michael Thiele.  It fundamentally challenges the perspective of raising and breeding resistant or hygienic bees.

“Honey bees of the Arnot Forest: a population of feral colonies persisting with Varroa destructor in the northeastern United States”; Thomas D. Seeley 2007


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This Swarm of Honey Bees Hives Itself

Some swarms don’t lend themselves to being shaken into a box.  Here is one that I collected with a more gentle sequence, by letting them decide to move in for themselves.

This swarm was too close to the ground to shake into a box


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Swarm Capture Photo Sequence

Here is a fun sequence of photos from a swarm I collected in Bellevue, WA on Friday afternoon, May 11th.

Joel and I inspect a large swarm that has collected in this rhododendron

This was probably around 4 lbs of bees–a nice large swarm for May. I arrived about 45 minutes after Dave called. The swarm was close to the ground, but had a lot of twigs going through it.

Because there was so little space in the bush, I decided to shake them into my cardboard box and quickly transfer them.



A lot of bees went into the air because of the twigs supporting the cluster

The air was boiling with bees. The cloud erupted into a swarm about 30 yards wide. But there was about a dozen that came out immediately and started “fanning”. The march of the airborne bees into the box is always facinating!

This fist sized cluster returned the next day

I usually like to follow a “leave no bee behind” policy, but today was a bit rushed, and I had to leave some scouts in the air. I drove away with a box full of bees about 45 minutes after I arrived. It was a very satisfying collection.

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Notes from the 2012 Organic Beekeepers Conference in Oracle AZ

Nathan at the YMCA Triangle-Y Ranch in Oracle, AZ

I had the great pleasure of attending the 2012 Organic Beekeepers Conference this spring from March 2nd-4th.  I also stayed over to visit a couple of Dee Lusby’s bee yards on Monday, March 5th.

There was a group of about 70 of us there.  Most of the attendees were at the 4-5 year point as beekeepers–just like me.  Then there were the presenters who each had become an expert in their fields and had a wealth of positive experiences to share about the pathways to becoming sustainable and treatment free. Continue reading

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Beekeeping Survival Guide from Anarchy Apiaries

This little document is so full of good info that I wish I had come up with this one, but it’s not mine.  Sam Comfort ( fully supports me sharing it.


I met Sam at the 2012 Organic Beekeeper’s Conference in Oracle, AZ, and was very impressed by his success with simple solutions.  What you see from me in 2012 will be heavily influenced by his KISS approach.


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I don’t feed sugar to bees

From my discussion w/Dee Lusby on the Organicbeekeepers group:

Workers are bringing in Cedar & Hazelnut pollen

Re: [Organicbeekeepers] Re: ADVISED TO GIVE BEES SUGAR

NIce report Nathan,
What new beekeepers fail to see is that bees to go foundationless need
blooming plants all around for it takes food to make beeswax and in dearth years
and drought years you can shoot self if foot along with your bees by
constant crush and strain methods for getting honey and then letting them
own foundationless, for if in dearth this is extremely hard to do…..and
here drawn comb saved by cutting caps off and extracting means a lot for on
many average years to poor years even, getting enoungh honey/pollen in cells
of combs for bees to have enough to eat to survive and they cannot do that if
not enough to build wax…….and yet if working with drawnout combs and
langs this is often just breakeven thru the hard times with rich helping the
poor with a couple frames exchanged…………….but many cannot see the
light for doing this until thru the problem a few times watching close……. Continue reading

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Why Top Bar Hives?

Here is my reply to a friend who is starting her first year as a beekeeper:

A happy top bar hive. The comb is upside down and covered with bees.

I’m glad to hear you are looking at beekeeping-the more of us there are, the better!

I started with foundationless with all western honey supers (6-1/4″ boxes)….  See And then went to top bar hives last spring.  See Continue reading

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January 26th, and the bees are flying

January 26; Workers are bringing in Cedar & Hazelnut pollen

Spring was threatening to arrive Wednesday.  It was a balmy 62 degrees F, with clear, sunny skies.  The hives in my backyard were busy and full of life. Continue reading

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Bald Faced Hornets

Here is a short video (30 seconds) of a hornet’s nest that Christy sent me from Seattle, WA.  The video was shot on September 1st, this is the time of year when the nests are as large as they get.

Bald Faced Hornets are black & white, and larger than other wasps

Video of Bald Faced Hornet’s Nest

I have only seen hornets nesting in spacious places–outside, below eaves, or in open attics.  In my experience, they do not live inside walls.

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Is it a Honey Bee or a Wasp?

Yellow Jackets eat sweet fruit, other insects, & pieces of meat off your dinner plate


Thank you for the pictures–they are always helpful.

You have a colony of western yellow jackets (Vespula Pensylvanica) living in your roof.   They are a similar to the eastern yellow jackets (Vespula Maculifrons), which usually live in underground nests.  I’ve attached photos of a honey bee, a yellow jacket, and a paper wasp for you.

These bees live on an annual cycle–the yellow jacket queen is the only one which hibernates over the winter. She emerges in the spring and raises a clutch of worker bees all by herself. These in turn help enlarge the nest and raise more bees as the year progresses. By this time of year the hive has grown quite large–several thousand bees usually, and it is easier to spot now for all the activity going on. They have most likely stopped raising worker bees and are producing queens which will soon leave the nest, mate, and then find a suitable place to hibernate through the winter.   The original hive queen & workers will die as winter approaches–these are bugs after all.  2 weeks ago, I removed a paper wasp (Polistes Dominula) nest which had hundreds of emerging & newly hatched queens ready to start the cycle over again next year.

A Honey Bee has a fuzzy body & will carry bags of pollen on its back legs

The good news: If you do nothing, then the bees will go away by themselves in the next couple months. These are beneficial insects because they eat the caterpillars & flies that cause problems in your garden vegetables.

The bad news: Yellow jackets, wasps & hornets are much more aggressive than honey bees, and will come out in force if you happen to disturb their nest. Unlike honey bees, they can sting repeatedly. (They especially don’t like it if you blow a breath of air into their front door) Because they are meat-eating insects, they will come and visit your dinner plate when you are having an outside barbecue.

Paper Wasps are a little larger than yellow jackets

My recommendation: In your case, if you can live with them for another month or two, I would let them be. Before next spring, take a tube of caulk around and seal up any non-screened cracks to your roof that are near where people walk.


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