beekeepers writing and blogging

A Merry Thanksgiving To You from Honey Bee Suite

When we were undergraduate students in Corvallis, Oregon, my husband and I used to invite random people over for Thanksgiving dinner. Whoever didn’t have a place to go for the holiday was welcome to share the meal and join the small talk. As nearly penniless students far from our families, it was one of the things we could share.

Now we spend Thanksgiving Day quietly, cooking and reading, with a little postprandial hiking if it’s not raining too hard. I love Thanksgiving because, in spite of Black Friday, it’s one of the least commercial American holidays. I can pretty much ignore Black Friday since it starts at the end of summer. Or is it the end of spring?

It’s all about the bees

Every year since I began Honey Bee Suite, I’ve sent a message to the bees on Thanksgiving Day. I like to thank them for providing us with the stunning array of foods we eat, the flowers, trees, seeds, fibers, and all the plants that flourish because of them. And when I say bees, I mean all of the bees, from the tiniest Perdita to the great carpenters and everything in between. To them, I am eternally grateful.

Although the bees are the subject of this website, it is you, the readers, who have given me the reason to keep going and to persist in spite of an endless string of obstacles. So after I thank the bees, I extend my thanks to you, my readers and my friends.

The Internet can be a scary place

If I had known how difficult and time consuming it would be to maintain a website like this, I would have never started. The Internet is scary in many ways, and a self-hosted website is nothing but a target for spammers, denial of service attacks, malware, worms and viruses, and just plain nastiness. And the bigger you get, the more the bad guys take notice.

Fortunately, this past year was more peaceful on the technical side than most. Of course, I spent more money on security, back-ups, monitoring, firewalls, and filtering than ever before. Still, I think it was worth it. Less of my adrenaline reserve was wasted on wondering where the next attack was coming from or how it would look. Notice I said less. I don’t think that knot in my stomach will ever go away completely.

My readers make the website

As much as I admire the bees, it’s my readers who make the website. It’s a funny contradiction because the site began as a true web log, a place for me to record beekeeping ideas and techniques, along with things that worked and things that didn’t. I never envisioned strangers “reading over my shoulder,” so to speak. Posts like “Cemetery Honey” and “A Personal Note to Cranky Old Beekeepers” were never designed to be read by the public, so when folks began to read and comment, I was amazed. Now, ten million hits later, I’m absolutely stunned.

Although I was once the editor of a small newspaper, I’ve learned more about publishing from my website. I learned that readership is self-selecting. The readers who come here are like-minded and seem to appreciate a little science, a dollop of experience, and a hint of humor. The dogmatic types—those who say “There’s only one way to keep bees and it’s my way”—don’t come here often and don’t stay long. Hallelujah.

In my first years, I felt the naysayers were trying to hijack the site, spamming me with beekeeping gibberish. But it’s not so common anymore. I held my ground and my beekeeping philosophy remains the same. I offer suggestions and alternatives, not rules. My ideas are backed by science precisely 89% of the time, and by gut feeling the other 11%. Am I always right? Never. Am I sometimes crazy? Always.

An ongoing dilemma

The biggest problem I have now is a product of success. Simply put, I’m having trouble keeping up with all the email and comments. Back when I received a few questions a week, I could handle them and still find time to post. But now I have mornings when I awaken to 70 or 80 new emails and comments. I still haven’t quite figured out what to do.

The problem is made worse by the evolution of beekeeping. Some of the things I wrote eight years ago need to be updated in light of new studies and recent evidence. Then again, my own beekeeping practice has changed over the years and I try to keep the old posts current. But it’s hard to do that and answer questions and generate new material. I never foresaw this problem, and I only hope my readers understand when I’m sometimes slow to respond.

The generosity of beekeepers

Of all the blogging surprises, nothing has astounded me more than the generosity of my readers. If I tried to “count the ways,” I know I would miss many. Among the many communications I just mentioned are bits of advice, encouragement, and constructive criticism. Ideas for posts come in waves, intentionally or not, and from questions, problems, and beekeeping predicaments.

Beekeepers send me links to interesting news items, events, and research. They send me photographs, stories, plans, and epiphanies. They send seeds, bulbs, tubers, cuttings, honey, tools, and equipment. I’ve received hive parts, bee suits, books, and of course honey. Lots of honey. Then there are those who have invited me into their homes, fed me, and ferried me around.

Also helpful are the emails I dread. “Your site is down.” “Your link doesn’t work.” “You seriously need a dictionary.” Although I dread these messages, I depend on them. I would rather you call me an idiot than let me be one.

And last but certainly not least is the generosity of my husband, Rich, who puts up with all the bee nonsense yet still has the good grace to build, lift, move, and repair whenever I ask him to. Here is a person who is not particularly fond of insects, especially the type that sting, yet supports my beekeeping habit without question. How can I be so blessed?

Promises to keep

When I started Honey Bee Suite, I promised myself that I would keep this site secure for both me and you. I never want a reader to worry about malware or viruses. I’ve vowed to keep the content polite, civil, and as accurate as possible. I vowed to have no garish display ads or pop-ups that push the text out of view or prevent you from leaving the site. In fact, anything that bothers me as a reader is permanently banned.

So when Thanksgiving rolls around each year, the people most on my mind are the donors who have kept me up and running for another year. You know who you are. I guarantee that without your generous support, this site could not exist. The money allows me to pay for the infrastructure—hosting, coding, monitoring, firewalls, antispam, optimization, and email delivery—all the stuff I have no patience for, the stuff that would prevent me from writing about bees.

And as I’ve explained before, it’s not only the money but the vote of confidence that a donation provides. Your votes keep me slogging through the bad times, the blank screens, and the indelicate emails. To you generous folks, I send a special heartfelt thanks and a sincere wish that your Thanksgiving is filled with joy and happiness.

My best wishes to all,

Honey Bee Suite

Merry Thanksgiving! Honey bee building a pumpkin. Pixabay photo.

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  • That’s the most awesome picture of a bee I’ve ever seen. Is it yours?

    Have you looked into Patreon? I never remember to donate until you remind us at Thanksgiving, but if you had a Patreon account I’d set you up as a donee for a monthly amount.

    • Ivan,

      That photo is a Pixabay public domain photo, but I thought it was perfect for the day.

      I’ve never heard of Patreon, but I’ve been very happy with the service at PayPal.

      • Here’s a link to Patreon:

        That said, I discovered that PayPal offers an automatically recurring donation too, so I followed through and set you up as a $10 month donee, the same as I would have done at Patreon. However, if you add Patreon I’ll switch your donation to that instead. Happy Thanksgiving.

        • Ivan,

          Thank you! I promise I will look into Patreon and let you know. Your donation is much appreciated; you have no idea! Thanks again.

  • Happy Thanksgiving to you!!!! I am immensely grateful for having found your blog. I find the articles fun to read and very educational. I’m only a second year beekeeper. My first year ended in heartbreak when both of my hives were robbed out and killed. I chose not to give up but could only restart with a single hive this year. I’ve taken extra care to make sure this hive thrives and it has thus far provided me with 37 pounds of honey in its first year!!!! My hope is that I can bring them safely through the winter. I live in San Diego, California so our winters are mild, but we are in a dearth where I’m at, so I’m checking every couple of weeks or so to make sure their honey stores are still providing and if not, I’ve prepared some bee candy/fondant to give to them in an emergency. I’ve also made my own robbing screens which I had learned about by reading your site! So in the event of another robbing situation, I have another line of defense for my precious bee friends. My hope come spring is that I can follow the directions of one of your previous posts about doing a walk-away split and double my colonies, but one step at a time.

    Today I give thanks to you for all of the wonderful information that you provide. Thank you!

    • Valerie,

      It sounds like you are doing all the right things. I find my bees overwinter better when I check on them now and then, just making sure everything is in order. You never know what you might find.

  • Rusty,

    Thanks you for helping to draw us all a little closer together as beekeepers and providing a safe platform for a rational discussion about our common interest.

    In a way HoneyBeeSuit feels like those past thanksgivings you mentioned in Corvallis, where you and your husband invited people into your house to share nourishment and friendship.

    I am enjoying being invited into your beekeeping world.

    Thank You,

    James Hagerman

  • Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!! I love reading your blog. Sometimes I laugh days later thinking about the stories you have told. It gives me encouragement and hope that I might be able to do this beekeeping thing. Last year was my first year of beekeeping and I lost my hive over the winter. I got another one this year. So far so good. I also recently acquired my dad’s hive, I had to move them to my house about 65 miles from their location. They had not been taken care of in a couple of years, since his health has been failing, so I hope they make it through the winter. They are a weak hive and I am in the high desert and we have a different climate here than they were used to in the San Fernando valley (So. California) I look forward to reading your blog. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!!

  • Thanks Rusty for all your hard work on the site. We all very much appreciate it. I love the honeybee stuff but also really appreciate all the random posts about other bees and insects!

    • Thanks, Ian. The posts about other bees and insects are some of my favorites. I always learn something.

  • Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for the best “Bee Blog” on the internet. Glad to see you are now contributing your knowledge and style to ABJ.

    By the way, your use of the crosswise frames in the supers for comb honey is going to get a try by me this coming spring.

    • Thank you, Bill. The success of crisscross frames was a puzzle to me at first, until I actually watched how the bees were progressing. I’d like to build a standard-size shallow super with frames that go across, but building the frames would be the problem for me. Still thinking.

      I’m excited to be writing for ABJ. I will have my own column beginning with the January issue.

  • Thank you Rusty for all your great advice and taking the time to make us better beekeepers.

    Also, thank you to all who put their LOCATION in the comments. It really helps us all.

    Donation sent. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • I am most grateful for your perseverance Rusty as I’m sure there are times HoneyBeeSuite may feel like a burden. I have learned more from you than all of the other excellent beekeeping sites on the great web. Thank you. And also please thank your husband Rich for me for offering you such great support with your endeavors. Have a most joyous Thanksgiving. Michael Skeels

  • Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, as well, Rusty. Your comment about your husband reminded me of my own husband — same story, he is not particularly in love with my bees, but travels to the bee yard every time and helps me out; plus, he’s the one who moves the bees to their winter location, on our balcony, and puts up with any bees that end up indoors …

    • Anna,

      Very cool. One difference, though. Bees in the house are my responsibility, especially the ones in the skylights.

  • Rusty,

    Crosswise frames.
    I plan on just cutting the standard top & bottom bars into 2 pieces the length needed to go crosswise in the box and use one of the clips illustrated. Although you might be able to just use a wooden shim on the bottom of the top & bottom bars glued and nailed under. The sidebars do not need any changes. All you need on your shallow box is the rabbet on the long sides.

    Thanksgiving great times with the grandkids second shift coming in tonight-will we survive? ?

    • Bill,

      Hmm. I will have to think about this. Good idea.

      Good luck with the second shift. Now that sounds stressful.

  • That’s great you will be writing for the ABJ! They can use a great writer. Everyone is grateful to you as well for this website and the work you do keeping it up. Don’t know where a lot of us would be without it. Good luck to you Rusty. Look forward to your ABJ article in January.

  • Thank You Rusty,

    I also wish the same to you and your family. I will be busy putting winter patties in the hives this weekend. It is unusually warm in Minnesota now and my bees are in the upper brood box and are out and about the hive. Not a good thing as they are consuming stores at a much faster rate and might not survive winter.

    • Richard,

      My bees are doing the same. On Thanksgiving day, it looked like an April morning in front of my hives.