writing and blogging

A Thanksgiving thought: share what you know online

Honey-bee-suite turns seven honey bee on dahlia

I’m an anxious person. I stress over everything, especially this website. So when Rich came home with yesterday’s mail, I imagined bills, registration notices, reminders, and special offers for things I don’t recognize. But among the mundane notices sealed in window envelopes was a card-sized piece. The hand-written address immediately piqued my curiosity.

I recognized the name in the return address. It was one of my readers, a beekeeper in a far-off state who has been following my site for its entire existence. Inside, I found a thank-you note and a check, all of which elicited an adrenalin surge of emotion. Who knew people could be so kind?

Oops, on my part

Being the anxiety-ridden creature that I am, I immediately remembered the recent post in which I complained about insults and coarse language left in the comments section. This charming note reminded me that the vast majority of my readers are unbelievable in the opposite way. All but a few are gracious, generous, friendly, lively, and funny.

The note made me think about blogging and the good things that go with it. My Thanksgiving thought to all of you is this: If you believe in something, consider sharing your thoughts online, no matter how intimidating that may feel. If you have ideas about woodworking or crocheting or fixing transmissions, you should let the world know how you do it.

A belief in science

When I decided to share my love of bees and science on the net, I didn’t expect anyone to actually read my posts. I imagined they would just sit there until the blog disappeared into page 800,000 of a Google search for beekeeping.

For those of you who don’t know, I based the idea for my blog on two observations. First, I believed that too much beekeeping was driven by word-of-mouth half-truths and hand-and-me-down experience that no longer applied in our modern world. I found very little science-based beekeeping information, and I thought this was leading to poor results.

My second thought was that most people know a lot more science than they realize. We learn many basic principles just by living. If you’ve ever changed a lightbulb while standing on a ladder in the living room, you know hot air rises. If you’ve ever seen a ring of water form below a cold can of beer, you know atmospheric moisture condenses on cold surfaces. We can apply these countless little tidbits to beekeeping with excellent results.

Linking bees to science

All I had to do, I thought, was point out the science and describe how it might apply to beekeeping. I simply needed to remind people about the things they already knew.

Much to my amazement, the response was overwhelming and incredibly positive. People often say it’s because my explanations are crystal clear, but I think not. I think the clarity comes from illustrating a point by comparing it to something obvious. In other words, I’m not saying anything new, I’m simply presenting it in a different light.

It works sometimes

To be clear, this philosophy doesn’t work for everyone. Many people say they don’t believe in science or are suspicious of research. That’s fine. With all the bloggers out there, I know those people will find a website that fits their style and beliefs. In fact, that’s one of the first things I learned from writing online: you can only help people who have open minds. To maintain your sanity, you need to forget about the rest.

I began blogging with no expectations, but I’ve become a better beekeeper, scientist, writer, and photographer because of it. I’ve learned much from other beekeepers and garnered so many virtual friends that I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Furthermore, maintaining a website that’s designed for users and not for profit has led to countless opportunities I never saw coming.

Good things from far away

Although the internet can be scary and discouraging, it can also be magical and enlightening. It’s taken me a while to sort through it, and I’ve learned you can never let down your guard, not even for a moment. But I’ve also learned when to trust and when to believe, and good things have resulted.

For example, I was only into my second year of blogging when I got an email from a woman who said she was deputy editor of Bee Craft magazine in the UK. She asked if I would be interested in writing a monthly column for the magazine based on my blog posts. I deleted the message, thinking it was a hoax. The next week I got a similar email, so I wrote back and explained I know a ruse when I see one.

Wrong. After a rocky and highly embarrassing start, I ended up writing a column for several years called “Letter from America.” Eventually, the magazine dropped the column. But I still publish an occasional piece at Bee Craft, and I have an entertaining relationship with the new editors, who I adore.

Thanksgiving thoughts

So don’t be timid. If you have a passion, an expertise, or just a shaky idea you want to share with others, try it. Start a blog or website that is truly yours and write what you think. Don’t worry about SEO, keywords, monetization, or views per day. The sharing is what counts.

No matter how obscure your ideas seem, someone is looking for precisely that information. Each of us has expertise, insight, and experience we can gift to the world, and blogging is an efficient way to do it. When you share your passion with others, you help them, but you also help yourself. And if you don’t expect too much too soon, good things will fly back at you at crazy times from unexpected places.

Let us know

If you already have a blog or website, let us know in the comments section. Maybe you’re already writing what someone needs to know—maybe you’re writing what I need to know.

I wish each of you a healthy and safe Thanksgiving holiday. And once again, thank you for reading Honey Bee Suite.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

An assortment of squashes and a reminder to share what you know.
No squash without bees. Happy Thanksgiving.

46 Comments

  • Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Rusty.

    Please believe that most of us eagerly skim our crowded email boxes for your posts – they pull our minds out of “stuff” and draw us into the world of bees for which we care deeply.

    We appreciate your sincere and patient work on our behalf!!!

  • Keep on writing Rusty! We have a great group on Facebook called Northeast Beekeeping. We have good participation from a number of Master and Commercial Beekeepers. Science tends to rule with papers and articles regularly being shared. MB programs include U. Montana, EAS & Cornell.

  • Wishing you and Rich a happy and safe Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for your blog. I was lucky enough to discover it early on in my beekeeping endeavor and would not now feel as though I might just become a successful beekeeper after six years. My second year I thought I had it figured out. My third year was filled with failure and I considered myself a failed beekeeper. But being a double Capricorn I persevered and now going into my sixth year feel I might actually be getting the hang of it. But that third year keeps reminding me not to become overconfident.

  • No doubt about it, you are my go-to when I have questions about beekeeping. In fact, my hives have ekes, moisture quilts, a supply of candy, and cozies on them because of what I learned here. There are robbing screens on them as well. I would have never known about any of this stuff had it not been for your expertise. People don’t always say so, but they pay attention.

    I am considering one of those whatchamacallit thermal guns to check the bees during the winter, another thing I learned here. My list could go on and on. That this blog is science-based is the best. It’s like this for me. I can find beauty in nature no matter what, it’s all a matter of taking the time to look. But, when you begin to understand how it works and interacts with the surrounding environment, that’s when it becomes magic.

    This planet is simply amazing and unbelievably complex. No one will ever know everything about how it goes around, but understanding even a little bit leads one to believe that all of it is stitched together by the same underlying logic and that order goes out to the stars and beyond. I often find myself wondering how I was so lucky to get here, and I am grateful that I got a chance. I am also grateful for people like you who take the time to share what they know, answer, for the 10M time, a beginner’s question, help people work out the problems they are experiencing, and open up their minds to new ways of thinking and seeing. That you can say, “I helped someone today,” is a powerful statement. Never doubt that you do. Have a good holiday, Rusty. The universe smiles on people like you.

    • Thanks so much, Sharon. I agree with you about this amazing planet, and it never stops getting more and more fascinating.

  • Rusty, I’ve been a STEM teacher for 22 years, before it was even called STEM. Science is not a belief. It’s the logical application of whether something exists or doesn’t. So when someone asks me if I believe in science, I ask them, “Do you believe in math?” 🙂 I’m gonna make some eggnog this week with eggs from my own chickens and honey from my own bees.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and this wonderful site.

  • Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Rusty.🦃 You have been my online mentor in my journey to being a beekeeper and I appreciate all the education you’ve offered on Honeybeesuite. Stay well!

  • I can only thank you for your work. I see your articles in Countryside magazine and it pains me that in today’s magazine world, I am quite sure they cannot pay you very much. By the way, Countryside is the most honest (in my opinion) inheritor of “Organic Farming and Gardens” from the 60s. I am most pleased that you know much and accept that you don’t know it all. No one does, and I know the least of all. I love my bugs. Well CRAP, I just told you I am pushing 80. Please don’t let anyone hold you back. You are a light in the darkness.

    • Renaldo,

      You’re right, magazines today don’t pay very much. Nevertheless, I love working with them. The editors I know at ABJ, Bee Craft, 2 Million Blossoms, Countryside, etc are all knowledgeable, gracious, and fun to work with. I’m glad to hear you read Countryside. So cool!

  • Dear Rusty, I too am very grateful for the serendipity of finding your blog a few years ago. As well as the interesting articles you post when you share your thoughts, all the very knowledgeable help you offer and the interactions with other readers that are posted in comments are often enormously enlightening and consoling, as in…. “Oops I’m not the only one then.”

    Thank you and thank you as well to Rich for all his balancing thoughts. Of course to your daughter who was your first helper too, Lindy

  • No blog for me, thanks. Nope nope nope. I don’t mind writing, but I’m averse to sharing.

    Also, I’m fasting now, on the day before Thanksgiving, the better to remember to be thankful for our plenitude of food. I can’t say I remember to be thankful for your posts, but I’m always HAPPY when they pop into my inbox.

  • Once again, a very inspiring blog, Rusty. I am just a hobbyist beekeeper with nothing to sell but I do run a small website that documents some of my experiments and projects. My latest one was an automatic yellow jacket gat to use servo motors and a commercially available robbing screen to automatically close down the hive and re-open it at around 9 am. I posted all the code and parts for anyone to try it. I didn’t get a chance to mount it this year, but I will definitely put it on my hive next season. You can see some of the things I am playing with here: https://sites.google.com/view/summit-apiary/research

    It’s all for fun….so take these experiments with a grain of salt.

    Dr. Joe

  • Rusty! This is an excellent post for today. I learned of your blog because of the Oregon Master Beekeeping program, and I am sure you know they say that your site is a trusted scientific source of information.

    This year, I got lonely and started talking to my iPad. At least that’s what I say when I tell people I started a YouTube channel called Farmstead Smith. I share my farm/homestead type life and of course, beekeeping. It is sooooooo intimidating to share the things that I learn. I often think, who am I to be telling people this?? Lol. But I know I have a decent education and you know, it can just be plain scary!! Especially with the treatment-free types. In any case. I feel your post so much.

    I started my channel because I started doing video logs of my inspections, instead of written, because I cannot remember everything and Heike told me I was taking too long to write things down while in the process. Hahahah. So, video started. I was like, well, I may as well share these for other people too. So here we are. I started it in August and it’s so much fun learning something new, like how-to video, and edit, and use YouTube.

    https://www.youtube.com/c/FarmsteadSmith

    Always look forward to your posts. Thanks for sharing.
    Adrienne

  • You bring the talents of written and visual communication in addition to conscientiousness. The first two are primary in authoring a successful website in terms of traffic. The third is necessary for accuracy and sufficient detail to add usefulness for writing on a non-fiction subject. The third is also the primary source of your anxiety, of course. Highly conscientious people consistently do a great quality job, but must constantly guard against perfectionism (e.g. my wife). Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for all you do for us, whether bee-havers (per George Imirie) or beekeepers.

  • A huge and sincere thank you. As another commenter said I’m always excited to get an email about a new post. Your site is in the top 2 places I go to see if you’ve written about what I want information on

  • Happy Thanksgiving to you Rusty!

    Your writing is wonderfully concise and I am often struck by how it resonates with me.

    Many of this post’s sentiments are worthy of mention but the one I really enjoyed was “The sharing is what counts. No matter how obscure your ideas seem, someone is looking for precisely that information.”

    Thank you again for helping us all, AND FOR HAVING THE BEST KNOWLEDGE BASE for beekeeping in, perhaps, the world.

    Regards from Oregon

  • Thank you, Rusty, for all you do. I read your posts avidly and have learned a lot from you. Have a great and safe holiday. Onalaska, WA

  • Hello Rusty,

    I always enjoy reading your emails and invariably find them both informative and thought-provoking. Please keep them coming. They are much appreciated!

    I’m in North Wales, UK.
    Best Wishes, Mary

  • Thank you and bless you for everything you do. Going on my fifth year with you and you never disappoint. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  • Interesting as always – and I trust your opinions, thoughts, and insights more than “other philosophies” – cheers and happy Thanksgiving!

  • Thanks for sticking with and providing some great information about bees to all of us! We appreciate what you do!

  • This is my 1st year of beekeeping and, honestly, I found it disappointing that seasoned beekeepers are not very friendly or willing to freely give information. So I’ve done a lot of research and I’m definitely going by trial and error. But the point is I love this blog. I have learned a lot from reading your posts. I used your 1 tbsp of water to a pound of sugar for a sugar board and found I got sugar rocks instead lol 🤷‍♀️. But I think it is because I also added bee pro to it and pollen substitute. I put it all back in a big pot and mixed with just a palm full (yeah I’m sorry lol a palm full) of water, not quite sure how much more but it worked. Point is thank you 😊

  • Thanks for all you do. Enjoy reading your posts on our ever fascinating & at times, challenging honey bees. When questions about “the girls” pop into my head, I think of you & try to find the answers at your site.

    Please keep educating us and thanks for being such a natural & genuine person.

    Northeast Pennsylvania

  • I agree with everyone else!!! I love receiving your email that links your blog. You know mostly only the nasty people are quick to write a comment. I wanted to write and tell you…the heck with them! I, for one, am new to beekeeping. My husband keeps buying me new nucs. I think I’ve had every imaginable problem! And usually too late in the fall to save them from our harsh winters. Reading your blog and tips…I had my first hive survive the winter! We are just doing this for fun, learning, a little honey, and bees help everyone! So, please keep your tips coming! No one is too smart to not gain something from your tips! Besides…You are fun to read!! Thank you so much!!! Happy Holidays!!

  • Rusty, everything I’d say has already been written above: great writing, excellent info, my go-to web page as I explore the magical world of beekeeping. Thank you, you are a gift to us all.

    Today, I’m especially fascinated by the thermal-imaging photos you’ve posted. Now I know what I want for Christmas. It looks like an FLIR is popular choice. I planned to search your site to see if you’d written a blog about it yet, but then I read this Thanksgiving post and wanted to send ya some love from Colorado.

    Thanks for keeping us so well informed in fun, easy to grok blogs.

  • I`m not an expert or even good at very many, ok ok, I`m not good at anything! it seems like everything I touch fails. If I don’t keep trying how will I know if anything succeeds, that is all I can do is keep trying. One of these days something will work out and succeed!

    • Russ,

      I’m sure you are good at many things. We tend to discount what we know and obsess over the things we don’t. It’s only natural.

  • Happy Belated Thanksgiving! I love your information and your writing. I don’t call your writing “page-turning”; it is more word turning; you have a true gift of clarity, economy and elegance in writing. And you have information I crave and the generosity to share it. I love reading your articles in 2 Million Blossoms (and am forever honored and blessed to have work in there near yours)! You are a kind and inspiring example. Of course, I am surprised that you are an anxious person–your writing is so effortless. It is kind of you to share that. I send you gratitude! And all blessings to you and yours! today and always! Joan

    I have also included my website as half of every sale is donated to Bee Girl, Xerces Society and Tucson Bee Collaborative.

    https://beestillcardsprints.com/

  • Hey Rusty,

    So you know, you’ve got another reader as far away as Patagonia in Argentina. We’re in the throes of spring and I’ve just started out with a couple of new hives and am already planning on having several more next season. Thanks for the wealth of information you’ve provided on this website. Like all new beekeepers, I’m a little dizzy with all of the conflicting advice but also keeping in mind that my own personal experiences will ultimately guide me along this fantastic new journey.

    Saludos!

  • Thank you, Rusty! I don’t keep bees, but I worry about their decline. My passion has become trees, and in doing research for a book on them–via a Google search–I came across your blog posting “How bees transfer pollen between flowers.” Your description of pollen grains is the very best I’ve come across.

    Then interested in your writing, I then came across this, your Thanksgiving posting, about writing and blogging. My experience as a writer and writing workshop facilitator is that anxiety is a pretty common trait of writers. A writer’s anxiety often serves her well in terms of getting things right. This may be why I admire your writing (and am not surprised to hear you are an anxious person). Thank you for having taken on the online blogging challenge to share what you know and that you, apparently, keep rising to the occasion.

    Happy New Year!

    • Thank you, Maureen. That is really sweet. I’m always happy to hear that a non-beekeeper found something useful here.

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