miscellaneous musings

Beekeeping will change you for the worse

Many of my web visitors are soon-to-be beekeepers preparing for their first delivery of honey bees. They have read, attended classes, and talked to other beekeepers. Some write to me with a few last-minute questions. But what they envision and what I foresee are completely different.

I was reminded of this beekeeping reality while watching a beginner video on YouTube. While sappy music played in the background, a lilting voice explained that once you become a beekeeper you will embrace nature for the first time! You will become attuned to weather and blooms! You will blossom as a person!

Wow. I imagine a barefoot flower child romping through a verdant meadow, a ring of daisies in her hair and a bouquet of dandelions clutched in her fist. Beekeeping is your entry into a world of peace and love and grass stains. Kumbaya in a box.

Selling an image

Beekeepers who are frantically pushing their books or e-courses spout all this nonsense with a straight face. Ah! The wonders of becoming one with the insects. None of them explain that beekeeping degrades your personal standards. Your table manners erode. Your language goes to hell. Your housekeeping falters. And your tolerance for sticky and gooey takes a turn for the worse. You become unforgivably messy, and your definition of what is “gross” defies social norms.

Family values take on new meaning

Once you get your bees, that pulsating mound of venom becomes the most important member of your family. The side yard where the kids used to play is off limits. The cat can no longer lounge in her favorite sun spot. The dog’s water bowl is full of insects. Blooming weeds are sacrosanct, and your partner can no longer mow in the middle of the day. Life as your family used to know it evaporates because, as everyone knows, you mustn’t bother the bees.

Stickiness reigns

It doesn’t take long before everything in your home is gooey. Before you began your beekeeping adventure, you believed that honey was sticky. But honey, easily neutralized with water, doesn’t hold a candle to propolis, beeswax, and pollen. You have no idea. I gleefully await your first encounter with a glistening wad of propolis on a hot day. Tee hee.

One day last year, while carrying a sack of groceries and finding himself unable to release his hand from the front door, my husband reached his limit. After giving me the look, he drenched a rag in alcohol and said, “This morning I got stuck on the barn door. And if you haven’t noticed, your tailgate is attracting flies.” Oops.

Within a few days, he replaced every door knob on the property with a lever handle. The new rule: When coming inside, I am never to touch the levers. Instead, I must open them with my elbows which, for the most part, are free from bee “stuff.”

Your language will deteriorate

I’ve heard it called “bee language.” Bee language is an apt description because it is universally understood by all beekeepers. It consists of short, staccato words, strung together randomly, using only one punctuation mark! Delivered in loud outbursts or softly under one’s breath, these words are concise evaluations of your present circumstance. In English, they usually run four-letters in length, and often begin with consonants such as f, s, or d.

Your personal appearance will regress

Once upon a time, I was vainly particular about my appearance. A spot on my outfit was humiliating beyond words. Imagine wearing your food on your shirt! But recently, before a quick trip to Home Depot, I examined my clothes in a mirror. Well, the propolis stain across my stomach wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was barely noticeable if I held my arm in front of it. For a brief moment, I considered tying my left arm in a sling.

As a teenager, a zit on my face would have sent me into hiding. But now I examine the red welt on my chin and decide it looks like a mosquito bite. No big deal. After closer inspection, I scrape the stinger from the center. There! Good as new. Nowadays, as long as my eyes aren’t swollen shut, I’m good to go.

Messiness knows no bounds

If you plan to lead a neat and orderly life, you have no business being a beekeeper. Personally, I no longer have the space to be neat.

Today, as I glance around my once pristine kitchen, I see piles of honeycombs, some in frames and some not. There are honeycombs stacked on my dining room table, and piled in, on, and beneath the cupboards. They take up the space next to the refrigerator and the mixer. They completely cover the cutting board and fill the broiler pan. Others are stacked in my office and garage.

My shed, once neat and organized, is filled with bags of beeswax, buckets of old candy board, canisters of propolis, and stacks of end bars, nails, and assorted hive tools. The floor and windowsills are littered with dead bees and frame scrapings. Each time I decide to clean it up, I can’t figure out where to start, so I don’t. This is not the me I grew up with.

A purpose for pocketses

Worse, I have things in my pockets, things no normal woman carries in pockets. A queen cell. A dead bumble bee. A crushed flower to identify. Some kind of thing that was crawling on my top bars. A screw driver. A test tube. A few seeds.

Even when I try to do things right, I often fail. One day, I swept through the garage with my bee suit and said, “Hey Rich, I’m going to wash this. Do you have anything else for the load?” He looked as if I lost my mind. “With that? Are you kidding?” This hurt my feelings. Apparently, he believes his filthy, oily car rags are no match for my bee suit.

About the freezer

The freezer, which used to hold food, has also become a point of contention. My freezer now contains honey, swarm lures, mite meds of various styles, pollen pellets, queen pheromones, and pollen patties. It also contains test tubes full of native bees and wasps, vials (viles) of parasites, and samples of frass. But the real backlash occurred when I began freezing frames of drone larvae. Apparently, when someone is looking for dinner, rafts of frozen, mite-infested drone larvae don’t spark the appetite. Who knew?

Your purchasing habits change

As a beekeeper, you buy strange things. A truckload of sugar is questionable. A case of isopropyl alcohol is odd. A case of EverClear is downright weird. I used to feel compelled to explain my purchases to people who stared. Now I want to say, “If you don’t like it, don’t look!” No wonder Amazon is my friend. I now buy everything in plain brown boxes.

Neighbor troubles

Lastly, you have neighbors. They used to be your friends, but now you hide when you see them. You live in fear they will complain about your bees stinging, chasing their grandchildren, pooping on their laundry, or drinking from their pool. If cornered, you pretend you haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.

But rather than being cornered, you cross the street to avoid passing, change grocery stores, and move your bank account. You put in automatic sprinklers so you don’t have to stand outside with a hose in hand, you walk your dog at night, and you park your car in the garage. You wonder what happened to you, why you’ve become so antisocial, but the answer is simple. You became a beekeeper.

Should you skip it?

Am I trying to convince you to avoid beekeeping? Not a chance. I’m just saying that beekeeping isn’t all sweetness and light. It’s so much more fun than that! And it may be the most remarkable life-changing experience in your entire existence—whether for better or for worse.

Honey Bee Suite

A young girl sitting in a meadow as the sun rises. Beekeeping will change you.

No matter how idealistic you are in the beginning, beekeeping will change you. Pixabay photo.


  • Change the word “beekeepers” in the first line to “first-time parents” and “delivery of honey bees” to “baby.” The two are much the same.

  • Rusty,

    I know just what you’re talking about, I was in the state liquor store a while back and asked the checker where they kept the “Everclear” 190 proof, the lady in the aisle next to me looked at me like I was some kind of alcoholic or something. I was going to explain and then thought…. “why”. Who cares what she thinks, anyway it’s a small town, so I can’t wait till I hear the first rumors.

    As far as messes go, I use to be a organized neat person. I was asked the other day when I was going to clean up the garage. Mind you this is my storage garage no one goes in it but me unless they need something, but that task usually falls on me anyway. I said, “Once the weather warms up and I can sand and reseal last seasons boxes”.

    So…. after reading your post I’ve realized, that’s me too!! What has happened to me. HaHaHaHaHa!! Thanks for the enlightenment, now that I realize what has happened to me I’ll be sure to NOT change a thing.

    Oh, on a sadder note, I lost my two Italian hives after the last cold snap, they were sitting on the food lots of full frames of honey softball size cluster and queen in middle. I guess they just couldn’t handle the temps below 0 F with hurricane winds for that long of a time. On the up side my Carniolan hives are booming even the NUC.

    Lesson learned for my area, don’t buy Italian bees. I will replace them in spring with a new bee strain, well maybe not new but different to this area, they are called Saskatraz. If you know anything about them I would be grateful for feedback. They are suppose to be gentle, produce well and be winter hearty……. we will see. I know they are suppose to have been bred in Canada over the last ten years but I don’t know of anyone in my area with personal experience tending them. Best of luck in the coming season.

    • Jeffrey,

      This season I too am going to experiment with the Saskatraz variety. A friend also ordered several Saskatraz queens to supplement the Carni stock normally built up. Here in northern Ohio we have had a warm fall then 30 degree drops for extended periods. The Italians always seem to struggle but typically the survivor stocks and captured feral colonies take it in stride.

      Good Luck with your new bees!

  • I can’t wait to show this to my husband, who will nod in agreement. My big blunder was leaving my manual honey extractor in the kitchen for far longer than I should have and, of course, the patio table isn’t supposed to be anything other than a place to conveniently store items of need, is It??

  • You crack me up – because it’s true! I’m only 4 months into beekeeping and I (and my husband by default) relate to most everything you listed! I also find that I spy things in scrap heaps that I instantly think, I think I can use that for the bees, and have asked my husband if he really needs something of his because the bees really need it more. It is all about the bees, after all. Thanks Rusty!

  • Please don’t take this the wrong way, but oh I really do love you!
    Best thing on the internet today.

  • Yes. All of it. Thank you for the belly laugh! Someday I will tell you the story of my teenager making themselves a “veggie burger” out of a winter patty. He has since learned to ask before taking anything from the freezer, and I did promise to label things better.

  • Your best writing yet!
    Love the language deterioration paragraph!
    A heck of a lot of people are laughing while reading! Thank You – You Rock!

  • Rusty,

    Thank you for your entertaining and accurate post about the joys of beekeeping. I too used to be an immaculate individual, not an item out of place. My husband once accused me of forcing him to live in “an operating room type environment.” This is my first year beekeeping and I am saddened to say that I have lost both of my hives. I have wracked my brain, researched, and read multiple books and content to figure out what I could have done to prevent such a travesty. Coastal Maine has been treacherous this winter, with two-week stretches of below zero weather combined with blizzards. My mentor has been unfailingly kind and assures me that the weather had a heavy hand in my bees untimely demise. We have looked through every frame for clues on what could have happened. This is has only deepened my resolve to improve my skills. My point is that this “hobby” has taken over my life.

    My once pristine garage, freezer and mudroom have become full of beekeeping supplies, paraphernalia, and equipment. My husband shakes his head, muttering that I have somehow lost my senses. My 14 year old automatically adds sugar to our grocery cart while my husband worries when I make just a quick trip to the hardware store. It is nothing to find a newly cleaned hive tool among the silverware in our sink. I refuse to give up; I have ordered more bees and will continue to learn. Most people who know me no longer ask about anything other than “the bees” and I am happy about that. The high school where I work as a librarian has expressed interest in having me start a beekeeping club. I, by no means, have nearly enough knowledge, but I do know of some wonderful beekeepers who will help.

    Keep up the wonderful work that you are doing. Your forum is very helpful to me as well as inspirational

    Thank you!

    • Jennifer,

      That is sad, but it will improve. In the meantime, don’t be a stranger. Let us know how it goes with your new bees.

    • Ah, Jennifer, we beekeepers take these losses hard. I have had good and bad years, some losses my own poor choices and others from battling mites. I still keep honey bees…and have also opened my mind and heart to the native bees in my yard. I preserve hard clay patches for the ground bees and build kooky little nest bundles for the mason bees and leafcutters and other bees I can’t identify yet. Persevere.

  • “viles” of parasites. LOL
    Visitors to our home are greeted at the entrance by jars of syrup, pollen sub, candy bricks, various containers of wax, yellow jacket traps, bee suits, smoker, various screens and hive parts. So much for feng shui.

  • Thanks for the summary Rusty – my wife nodded knowingly, no, vigourously, when I read your post aloud. Curiously, she wasn’t laughing nearly has hard as I was. I’ll have to try harder this year.

    Just got IR photos of one of my hiveyards – both hives glowing beautifully despite recent -20C weather in Ontario.

  • Rusty,

    My husband, had an a ha moment when I read this to him. All he could say is, “so now I understand, this is what happened”. We both had a good chuckle. He sends a personal thank you for the enlightenment.

  • Oh my goodness! It’s all true. And the thing no one tells you at the start…you have to keep a lab notebook! Ugh! You start with your best handwriting and by fall the pages are stuck together and have oil stains from beetle trap spills in your tool basket.

  • Yep, keeping bees will show you how strong your marriage is. Fortunately, my sweet Queen Bee likes honey and puts up with my antics!!!

  • Hi Rusty,
    I put some supers in the basement and I have a bilco door leading out of the basement. One afternoon my kids took their bikes out of the basement. I noticed that later that evening they left the doors open. A few weeks later my house looked like the house in, “silence of the lambs “. Moths everywhere…lol

  • Thank you Rusty. ; )

    A couple of years ago I was asked to give a presentation with approximately this title — “The Spiritual Practice of (Studying) Pollinators,” and to write a topical poem as well. This was my poetry response.


    Pollinators ignore my spiritual practice.
    Without them, my life could be well ordered —
    Tidy, solvent, quiet.  
    Vials of insects, trays of nests, dry plant stems, 
    Rubber bands, colored tape, labels, markers.

    The frass of enthusiasms coats my study
    Photographs, monographs, posters, books.
    Tucked, tumbled, tossed:
    Cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, canvas bags, file folders, 
    Note books, thumb drives, hard drives, book shelves.  

    Can one foresee the directions an insect will lead you?

  • LOL — I’ve only been a beekeeper for less than 1 year and everything you wrote is absolutely true Rusty. The one thing you forgot is that the winter weather suddenly makes you a nervous wreck. Not because you have to actually go out or drive in it, but you wonder if your bees are going to survive days below 0. Unfortunately, my lovely hive did not.

    Last week while it was in the 60’s for one day, I decided to go pop in a fresh honey frame for my gang. I found the entire bottom screen 1 inch deep in dead frozen bees and my little queen smack in the middle of a baseball sized cluster in the middle of two very full frames of honey and pollen, also frozen with her court. 🙁

    Two weeks at below zero temps just did them in even with 2 inches of foam insulation and 6 inches of quilt box filled with burlap and pine chips.

    Well I guess that means I now add in another beekeeper obsession…coming up with the best way to wrap and wind break a hive for extended days of sub-zero weather next winter….

    Great post! Keep them coming!

  • Geez, I’m already that way and I don’t even have any bees yet! Now I’ll have an excuse to avoid people! I’ve lived in this house for 20 years and I can’t tell you my neighbors name! Haven’t a clue what they even look like! I think I’m going to love raising bees! Might even set a hive at the front door to keep the sale people away! Lol!

  • Rusty, I thought it was my advancing years that was causing me to go nutty, so I was thrilled to read your post and identify so clearly with the symptoms of a dedicated beekeeping. Thank you for such a great laugh and sharing your sense of mirth.

  • Hammer meets nail!!

    My shop is full of stuff. Boards to make bee equipment. Nails, screws, wire, frame sections, saw dust, tools and dirt. It is almost a danger to walk through. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have tripped.

    You can never have too many boards. I pick them up beside the road, finished construction sites, pieces thrown away by Lowes from wood shipments. My wife calls it junk. We moved from our nice home in town to a farm with a shop, coop, 2 large barns (1 with a lean-to) on 66 acres. She was embarrassed by my bee stuff and hives everywhere. One neighbor moved to the other side of town. The other lives in a mansion and planted 2 rows of magnolia trees along the boundary between us.

    Now I have bee stuff in both barns, under the lean-to, and a lot of supers under an open sides cow feeder with a tin roof. (Sure keeps the wax moths at bay.) 5 gallon buckets all over the place. I used the for honey and somehow they get used for something other than bees. Half a ton of sugar in 4 pound bags.

    I don’t have a honey house so I do the best I can in one of my barns with a gas generator and a faucet by one of the doors. But when it comes to final straining and bottling the honey, in the kitchen I come.

    Lord forbid that the bucket on the counter top gets in the way of her coffee pot. Doesn’t really bother me because I hate coffee. You know, honey is like tar. You can’t get around it without it getting on yourself, doorknobs and the floor. I swear, I didn’t put the honey in all of those places but my wife doesn’t believe me.

    Oh, I forgot, my truck!!! It is always filled with stuff. Bee stuff, cutout stuff, drive up window stuff, bee tools and a lot of dirt in the floorboard. I mean I live in that truck. I spend a lot of time in that truck. If I clean out the dirt, it’s only going to jump back in the next time I open the door. It’s been years since I washed my truck. Don’t have the time, besides, there is propolis on the paint which won’t come off and plenty of bee poop.

    I can remember when I washed my car every weekend as a teenager and almost as an adult as I got older. I always had on nice clothes. Now I just don’t care. My wife is always embarrassed to be seen with me. Why should I take the time to change clothes for an hour or so for a doctor’s appointment and have to put my work clothes back on when I get back. That takes time. I like my old and worn clothes. They feel good on my skin. Hey I don’t even have to look for a towel when my pants and t-shirt on so nearby.

    I love them so much that I sew up any holes with fiber fishing line. Once the hole is gone, it doesn’t come back. I don’t mind that the pants are a little “scrunched” up here and there where the hole is now missing.

    Yep, I bee loving slob. But many women say that I “clean up well”.

    • Ken,

      “One neighbor moved to the other side of town. The other lives in a mansion and planted 2 rows of magnolia trees along the boundary between us.”

      You are funny.

      • Rusty,

        I have always tried to be organized and neat. While I admit to having a problem with having “papers” all over the place, I do try to keeps stuff where they should. I do have ADD and I do take meds for it. The meds help but not as well as in the past. Being a beekeeper is not for the faint of heart. You are always learning, and for me, forgetting (ADD). I also remove bees from structures. From apartment buildings, barns, homes, several historic buildings, and even from a “Belks” department store.

        It takes is toll after a while. You make shortcuts that cost time and money you don’t have to lose. All above is true. The accumulation of stuff as a beek is overwhelming. I keep trying to organize things. I start and in less than an hour many times I just give up. I don’t know where to start or what to do. It’s frustrating.

        Then you add 44 hens, 2 hair sheep (need to purchase more), and trying to maintain a farm. I make up my own blend of minerals and grains using a grain mill. This I put out for the deer to make them healthier. In the spring this aides the does and fawns. Later it helps the bucks grow bigger and stronger antlers.

        This place was a disaster when we purchased it in 2012. It hadn’t been taken care of in years. Machinery brakes down all of the time. For the last 2 years I have had to use my zero turn mower to cut pastures. I purchased it in June of 2014 and I have already put over 700 hours on it. Installed cross fencing, and over 1/2 mile of water lines and hydrants. Broken lines anyone. Both of my wells are now out of commission because of frozen pipes. My farm raises 2 things, weeds and rocks. My major crop is rows of stone though I do grow a lot of scattered rocks. Trees are constantly falling. My neighbors don’t check their land and dead trees fall over the fences with me to cut them up and try to repair the fences.

        Another beek told me that I was trying to make my farm look like a house lot in town. He is probably correct to some extent. I love flowers and trees. I have planted countless crape myrtles (most I grew from seed or rooted and a source of late summer pollen), tulip poplars (good nectar source), redbuds (good source of early nectar and pollen, winter honeysuckle (good nectar early source of nectar and pollen, should start blooming in the coming weeks) and other trees. I even planted an area of “wild flowers” 2 years ago. It is expanding through natural seeding. It is so wonderful to walk or drive past the area and look at all of the beautiful different flowers and different bright colors. If you would like, perhaps I could send you some pictures in the future or some I have now.

        I am 65 and have no help. Work is all done by picks, shovels, hoes, and chainsaws.

        Maybe I am doing pretty good considering………

    • Ken – I laughed hard while reading your comment. I was sure Rusty used her framed literary license when she reported my antics. Unfortunately, discussion with her yesterday confirmed that the entirety of her post is the undeniable truth. My goal in 2018 is to refrain from complaining about all that becomes sticky around here, about annoying stings from colonies without queens, and the many other minor crosses to bear.

      I have some tips on removing honey bee excrement from your vehicles, but I guess you are not interested!

  • Stuck in bed with flu..this made me smile, propolis alway reminds me of the Cat in the Hat book the kids read about the pink stuff they could’nt get rid of!
    Anyway, if you haven’t seen them you may enjoy these from over the the water…Tom Seeley does the second part.https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=txGzuVJhJ_Y
    Enjoy your blog, Thanks

  • I have tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks. It’s after 1 AM and I can’t stop myself from laughing out loud, really loud. You have outdone yourself.

    I have just downsized to a no maintenance co-op with a one stall garage space and am painfully aware of how much paraphernalia there is because I have to figure out where to put it. Right now my husband and I are both driving around with a bunch of it in our cars till I figure out how to keep bees without a garage for storage.

  • I have yet to experience that but have been warned and just know it’s all true…can see it in my minds eye.

    A heartfelt story from Jeffrey sorry to hear of that loss and so descriptive can almost see their final minutes of life slipping away.

  • Rusty, you have managed to wake me up from my winter laziness and mentally prepare me for another wonderful year of goo and glory. I am so looking forward to being with the gang again! Thank you!

  • Please pardon me, but honestly I think this piece is overly melodramatic and grossly exaggerated. The effect of beekeeping really depends on each and every person’s personality and importantly how they discipline and hold themselves. If they are really organize neat and clean, with or without bees they will be organize neat and clean.

    • Elpie, living in the Pacific Northwest on the west side of the Cascades presents a serious problem for us: short days with lots of rain, and the brightest part of the day often requiring turning electric lights on. We enjoy a little humor with our wood fires, serious black coffee, modest amounts of liquor, and good company.

      By the way, I love it here. Our short season of beautiful summer weather makes it all worthwhile.

  • Ouch. Maybe the bride (of 40 years) is correct. I will be more careful this year.
    Thanks and keep up the good work.

  • I can not stop laughing. You just nailed my life to a T! Well minus the spouse, so much easier when you are not held accountable for the mess and havoc you have created. Thank you for another great post.

  • I have to keep my hives across the street from my house because my wife is petrified of every insect known to fly and cant tell a fly from a honey bee. She’s often pointed out that one of my bees was trying to attack her in my back yard and never once was it a bee always a fly or a yellowjacket. I’ve found that most people that are not bee keepers associate honey bees with wasps and when I see what their talking about am quick to tell them differently. I also get lots of complaints about my bee supplies being in the way in the house, garage you name it even growing massive areas of wildflowers, planting certain trees…wow I guess this article is more on point than one would ever imagine.

  • HA HA!! This was the best. At this moment in our basement, because we do not have a garage, I am working on sanding & painting supers. The basement looks like a set up for a haunted house with sheets draped all around in hopes of keeping the dust off of all of my husband’s tools and other such stuff. I am waiting for his patience to expire. So far so good…

    • Li,

      I’m glad you said that. Before I published the post, my husband said the title was too negative…but I went with it anyway.

  • Rusty,

    Clearly this wonderful post “resonated”! I’ll add, I’ve developed a schizoid bent – tears running down my cheeks while telling my sympathetic husband “who cares? – they’re just bugs!” (he knows I love bugs), and immediately formulating a plan for using the honey and comb for the new and hopefully more cold and mite resistant “bugs” I’m definitely going to try again with in the spring.

    The first time I watched my neighbor extracting her honey, years ago, I was absolutely horrified by the incredible sticky stickiness of it all, and knew beekeeping just wasn’t for me. When she and her bees moved, and that spring there wasn’t a single bee on our apple blossoms, I gritted my teeth and got into it. Now, I can’t imagine life without them and those adhesive door handles! Thank you for making it even more fun!

  • Rusty,

    Your post and the replies have made my week, month, year!

    I was feeling depressed about the state of the house, garage, and yard. The weeds I once pulled are now protected plants. I have two freezers full of bee stuff. My “garden” is now prairie, meadow, and brush pile habitat. All that and the material I have stashed all over for the smokers; things like pine cones, pine needles, dried grass, old, untreated burlap, string and more.

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! – From Eastern Panhandle West Virginia

    • Alana,
      I bet your “garden” is now prime wildlife habitat as well. The bird noise alone must be deafening (in a good way). Great going!

  • Great post. The garage really gets full! How do you clean a queen excluder? I was thinking of using a hair dryer or heat gun.

  • I have a bee keeper friend that doesn’t understand the back of my SUV is portable bee storage and doesn’t need to be cleaned out & vacuumed (stories I tell myself.)

    Brilliant blog posting, so glad you and Honey Bee Suite exist.

  • Tom and Ken,

    I would be interested in anything you learn this upcoming year about your adventures with the Saskatraz breed. I feel they will do well throughout the summer. I am interested in how they cope with mites and other nasties. From what I read they seam to be fairly hygienic. Next winter will be the real test for them up here. The last two year in a row I lost all my Italian hives during long cold snaps of below zero temps here in NEPA, although I have other beekeeper in the area that didn’t do badly, but they mostly live in the valley areas. I thought it was something I did last year but this year I went to extremes to help them and they died on the food. The Carniolans received the same treatments and even the NUC is doing well. Alas I do live at the top of a mountain with northern exposure. I’m sure if I was able to put up a windmill I could have free electricity for life. Well, there is still a lot of winter left to go so I’d better stop before I jinx myself. Best of luck this coming season.

  • Funny how our spouses react to a hobby and a insect we think is harmless…afraid and confuse them with other insects attacking them but to us something we protect and look after, helpful, important in every way and most people have no clue how important they are to every single person on the planet …stingers in all they are what most take for granted and the small percentage of people that actually work with bees with try their best to understand and help them flourish. Our time our efforts , money you name it to help a specie of insect which we are without question concerned for .

  • Oh my gosh – I just love your writing! I belly laughed. It’s 3 in the morning, I’m lying in the dark, in bed, husband beside me, the glow of my phone my only light. And I’m cracking up! My dog even comes to make sure I’m okay (she’s an empath). Sadly, though, I am now fully attuned to my hisband’s sleep apnea. ??‍♀️ Thank you for your perfect picture of the beekeeping journey. I love it!

  • This all sounds very familiar. Thanks for giving me a good laugh, Rusty. My husband drew the line when he was unable to see let alone remove his recumbent bicycle from the shed.

  • Hi Rusty, I cant find an answer to my question and hope you can help. How is a worker bee egg able to develop into a drone if she was never mated? My laying hens are not mated and their eggs don’t hatch into roosters!

    • Sal,

      Bees aren’t chickens. All bees (and all hymenoptera) are haplodiploid creatures. With some very specific exceptions, individuals with two sets of chromosomes become female and those with one set of chromosomes (unfertilized eggs) become males.

    • When the queen lays an egg it either has or has not been fertilized: if it has been fertilized then it will be a worker; if it has not, it will be a drone. Eggs are fertilized (or not), just before they are laid, or, more correctly, ‘deposited’. Interestingly, the size of the cell made by the workers determines where the queen will lay (deposit) the egg: big cell=drone; smaller cell= worker. The queen can tell the size of the cell as she moves across it, so she knows which egg to deposit. Pretty remarkable. So once a worker bee, always a worker bee, and once a drone, always a drone. Neither one can become the other.

      • “If it has been fertilized then it will be a worker; if it has not, it will be a drone.” Usually this is true. But if the egg is fertilized but is homozygous at the sex locus, it will be a fertilized (diploid) drone. When this happens, it is usually the result of inbreeding.

        • Loved your article. Not only was it funny but very informative. Was lucky enough to purchase a hive that is already established. I bring them home Saturday and can’t wait. I am looking forward to all the stickiness. This is my first experience with bees.

  • I think the fertilized (diploid) drone will be an anomaly and very likely recognized and killed. To prevent inbreeding in a colony the queen flies to a drone mating site away from her own colony so mating is with drones not related to her.

    • It is true that diploid drones within a hive don’t live beyond the larval stage. But the resulting shot brood is a useful diagnostic tool for inbreeding. A drone doesn’t have to mate with a sister to get inbreeding. Any isolated population, such as those on islands in even in areas where geographic features prevent outcrossing, can have significant inbreeding. In small populations you lose alleles, so inbreeding becomes evident. You can see a lot of shot brood in areas where selective breeding has been engineered over several generations. It’s really not uncommon at all.

      • Good morning, Rusty. I left last night in haste to make a pot of tea before Midsomer’s Murders came on, so didn’t add a comforting thought: isolated populations, or, indeed, any population where there is significant inbreeding, is doomed to fail. So a lot of shot brood is an indication to the beekeeper to destroy the colony, and start over.

  • I cleaned out the chest freezer today. It needed organizing. I think the scattering of frozen bees in the bottom and the frames neatly stacked on the side (near the frozen turkey quarters) add character to the whole thing.

  • My husband is the bee-r in our house. I was fascinated in the beginning, taking photos, videotaping…..until the day my glasses were sliding and I pushed them into place with instant disgratification. Instant botox from hairline to my upper teeth. We stay a great distance from one another now, at least from their home turf. I will provide them with all the birdbaths, pools, butterfly water dishes, and more flowers than you can imagine, but no more close interaction near the hives. If they wish to visit while I am working in the yard and flowers, they are more than welcome.

    Propolis is evil! The glue to end all glues! One day I was on my cell and sat on the garage floor in the sun. I must have been there awhile for when the call ended, I found my shorts wanted to stick to the garage floor. One day one of our dogs was having an issue with her mouth, I was afraid it was a bad tooth. PROPOLIS! A MOUTHFUL of propolis! My poor girl! I found no humor in the event.

    Our garage, once a two car is barely a one car. And then the day I came home to an odor. I told my husband I thought something had died in the garage. When I got a “huh, not sure what it would be”, I was suspicious. Next trip to the garage the odor was stronger….not only dead, but was sick before it died. One more trip to the garage and I was ready to hurl. The sheepish husband admitted he had been using a product on his hives. I do not remember the name, but when I looked it up was described as smelling like a mix of something dead and vomit. Boy! Did they get that right!

    I recently asked the spouse who watches every penny like it was on the FBI most wanted list if he had calculated the amount of money he has wrapped up in bees. “No”. I think he owes me a trip to Europe for the money he has in bees!

    Thanks for the morning laugh!

    • Joan,

      I’m with your husband on the money. I would never add up what I spend on bees because, honestly, I don’t want to know! My honey probably costs $100 per pound.

      • I keep a running total of how much I’ve spent on bees and how many pounds of honey I’ve gotten and it hasn’t ever been much over $60 a pound, and I spend on woodware that you probably make yourself. So your $100 per pound may be unduly pessimistic.

        Although, come to think of it, I got zero honey in 2017 so I didn’t do the recalculation. But I didn’t notice me spending any less on bees. Hmmm. I’ll just slink away in a deep depression now.

  • Rusty, I have been a beekeeper for three years now and I find your site informative and refreshing. Good to know that others have the same problems. I also farm and I see now that what beekeepers worry about are also the very things I worry about with my livestock. Doesn’t matter if you are talking about bees or cows or hogs or whatever, you worry about the weather being too cold or dry or wet, whether they have enough feed and shelter, whether they are reproducing, and whether they are healthy. I also like the comment about what you have invested, that’s like farming too.

  • Fun topic, I hope I can change the subject just a little. Earlier in the bee calendar-year, I read a post on swarm prevention that uses an extra queen excluder at the bottom of the first brood box to prevent the main swarm from forming because the queen can’t go with them. Would it be possible to see a picture of the exact placement and how I would set up my hives with top entrances to facilitate this?

    It is always so much fun to read what is going on here at HoneyBeeSuite. Your topics are great and I have learned almost everything I know about beekeeping from your blogs and website.

    Thank you in advance,
    Linda in Mid-Michigan, waiting for spring!

    • Linda,

      Some beekeepers do this by putting the queen excluder directly below the bottom brood box. It’s kind of a short-term answer to a long-term problem, though. If the queen can’t get out, the hive will eventually swarm without her, or it will swarm with a young virgin that can go through the excluder. You would absolutely need an upper entrance so the drones could get out, since they can’t go through an excluder either.

      • But it is a great way to keep a swarm in your hive that you picked up elsewhere. Usually after 3 days the new home is claimed and they have started making it theirs with new comb, etc.

  • One of your best articles I’ve read so far. I have to share it on FB so perhaps some of my non-beek friends can see the light side of our obsession. Thanks for all you do, Rusty.

  • I clicked through when your site banner offered this post today, and said, “Oh, yes, I remember that one.” But I didn’t stop reading. Three months after the first reading I was laughing aloud again. I particularly enjoyed, “Nowadays, as long as my eyes aren’t swollen shut, I’m good to go.”

    Also, my hives both died overwinter and I just installed new bees three days ago. When my sister came to visit yesterday, I made her look at my sticky emptied Bee-Bus packages while I pointed out the places I thought were insufficiently bee-proof. Then I made her come out to the beeyard to see if the hive entrances looked ‘right’. Then I lifted my hive tool in one hand and said, in my best Sweeney Todd Demon Barber Of Fleet Street voice, “At last my arm is complete again!”

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