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ABJ: Where’s the diction, grammar, science?

I read the bee journals rabidly. Since my bee knowledge only scratches the surface, I’m mad eager to learn as much as I can. All normal life ceases while I annotate every page and chew over every word. So why did I just make a paper airplane out of my American Bee Journal renewal notice?

It all started Wednesday afternoon. As soon as the journal arrived, I scanned the table of contents and quickly settled on an article entitled, “Managing Varroa Part 1.” I turned to the page and hunkered down to read.

My first warning of trouble occurred in the second paragraph with the use of the word “irregardless.” Well, that’s not actually a word. In fact, Garner’s Modern American Usage calls it “semiliterate.” The construction the author was looking for is “regardless,” but he probably got confused with “irrespective.” Doesn’t ABJ have a dictionary?

Later in the article the author uses the word “Phorectic” with a capital P. Why? Phoretic is not a proper noun. Phoretic is not the name of a deity. It’s just a plain old adjective describing an organism that hitches a ride on another. My guess is the writer didn’t know what it meant, didn’t bother to look it up, and decided to capitalize it “just in case.” Doesn’t ABJ have an editor?

But the clincher—the paper airplane maker—occurred in the sixth paragraph. I quote:

In addition to being ineffective for Varroa control, screened bottom boards are also detrimental to spring colony management. For those operating in areas with a well defined (sic) winter season, followed by a cold erratic spring weather pattern, screened bottoms have the potential to cause considerable harm. I base the majority of my case on the following human analogy. Imagine for a moment that it’s mid March (sic) and you’re in Northeastern Ohio. Nighttime temperatures usually average between 25 and 35 degrees. Daytime averages range between 40 and 50 degrees. Under those conditions, would you as a homeowner open all the doors and windows in your house and leave your thermostat at its normal setting until the weather warmed to the point where the furnace was no longer required? Seriously, how many of you would opt for this course of action? Then, why would you ask your bees to do the same thing?

This paragraph implies that, unlike hives with screened bottoms, human abodes are buttoned up tight so that warm air is not allowed to leave and cold air is locked out. It implies we are doing a disservice to bees to allow them some fresh air. And the basis all these implications is how the author thinks houses work.

If the author lived in a cave, I could understand where he’s coming from. But my hunch is that he lives in some kind of more-or-less contemporary North American housing. If so, he probably has a furnace or a wood stove to keep him warm—either of which vents to the outside. He probably has some exhaust fans that are ducted to the outside as well—maybe a fan in the laundry room, the bathrooms, or over the kitchen range—all of which remove warm, moist air from the home.

You cannot vent air to the outside without replacing it with new air—trust me on this. If you could expel air without letting in new air you would create a vacuum and your house would implode sometime after you died of asphyxiation.

He also implies that he keeps his windows closed all winter. Maybe so. But what about the doors? I’m guessing he has at least one door and more likely two—a front door and maybe a back door, a side door, a garage door, or a porch door. Furthermore, I’ll bet he uses them. And every time he uses one, air is exchanged between the inside and the outside.

Air exchange in human dwellings and work spaces is an important health consideration. For example, air inside commercial buildings is now routinely exchanged with outside air at the rate of 15 cubic feet per minute per person in order to provide a healthful environment for humans and to prevent “sick building syndrome”—a term referring to health problems linked to indoor air pollution. That’s one huge gust of air. For more information on sick building syndrome see this EPA site.

Standards are also written to keep homes and residences well-ventilated and free from environmental contaminants. It is recommended that homes that don’t have enough natural leakage be fitted with mechanical devices to actively remove residential pollutants including moisture. For more information on indoor air quality in homes and residences, see this EPA site.

I certainly don’t mind an author expressing a viewpoint different from my own, but it bugs me when the science is left out of the argument. The author clearly states that he is basing his case on analogy–a fine thing as long as you have your facts straight. The fact here is that human homes are anything but air tight.

In the end, I will reverse his final question and ask: “If we don’t live and work in polluted, moisture-laden, poorly-ventilated spaces then why would we ask it of our bees?”




It’s strangely comforting to know that someone else is bugged by this sort of thing. I have been reading about bees and beekeeping all winter, and it is disheartening to find so much that is poorly conceived or badly written.

Your blog is the perfect antidote!

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