writing and blogging

Happy Birthday, Honey Bee Suite!

Honey Bee Suite was born on Christmas Day 2009. I had registered the domain name about six months earlier, just in case I decided to write a blog. The name came to me out of nowhere. I wanted to write mainly about honey bees, but also about closely related subjects such as beekeeping, wild bees, other pollinators, agriculture, and the environment. The name seemed to fit.

The downside was I knew the word “suite” is difficult for some people. Years ago I heard an educated friend say he delivered some drawings to a certain address, “Suit 6.” So I knew that might be a problem. Sure enough, I get endless requests for information about “bee suits.” Still, it’s worked out better than I expected.

Inspiration from a book

I remember that Christmas day clearly. Earlier in the year I had read the book, Julie & Julia, which later was made into a movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. The book is the story of a woman who wrote a blog in which she told the story of cooking her way through the entire Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I sent the book to my daughter, Anneke. After she read it, we talked about starting blogs, just for fun. She has a passion for natural, plant-based food, and she wanted to write about that. When I said I wanted to write about beekeeping, she said. “Why do you want to do that? Write ten posts and you’re done!” Ah yes, famous words. I rib her about it now and then.

Determined but clueless

So we sat at the dining room table that day, with side-by-side laptops and my credit card (wouldn’t you know) trying to figure out how to set up blogs. Neither of us had a clue. I had never read a blog, but based on a little research, I knew I wanted to hire a host rather than use a free service. Anneke had a friend with a blog, so she knew what one looked like. Between the two of us, that’s all we had.

You hear a lot of negatives about BlueHost these days, but five years ago it was highly rated by Time magazine, so I decided to go with them. I’ve never regretted that decision. After paying the fee and beginning the set up, we had some problems due to our own ineptitude. We e-mailed BlueHost with questions and started to close things down for the day—after all, it was Christmas.

Much to our astonishment, within 15 minutes we got a phone call from BlueHost*. They worked with us for an hour until we were up and running. They even called back later to check on us! I tend to be a loyal person, so BlueHost had me from the start. But, truth be known, every time I’ve had a problem or question, I’ve been treated the same way. So BlueHost, thank you.

Thanks to so many

Originally, this was to be a Thanksgiving post, but I decided to combine it with the five-year birthday post because I try not to go off-topic too often (really, I try). But not a day goes by that someone doesn’t thank me for the website, so I felt it was my turn to say thanks in return. So here goes:

Besides BlueHost, my list of resources is endless. To put this site together, I use HP computers, Comcast (for high-speed internet), Wordpress.org, ThemeForest* (my theme writer, Kuba Sto, lives in Poland), CloudFlare (a content delivery network), Norton (internet security), Sucuri* (website security), CodeCanyon (to aid in page layout), and Carbonite (pc backup). For photographs, I use Canon cameras, Tamron lenses, Photoshop Elements, and Topaz Labs.

I’ve had much help from the experts. For example, John Ascher (of The American Museum of Natural History and BugGuide.net) is indispensable when it comes to bee identification—before I tell you what it is, he tells me what it is. Doug Walsh of Washington State University at Prosser showed me through the labs, introduced me to bee researchers, and gave me a tour of the alkali bee beds and leafcutter domiciles in eastern Washington. Carolyn Breece of Oregon State University has walked me through the bee lab and the research farm in Corvallis. And John Hafernik of San Francisco State University has helped me with many questions about zombees (Apocephalus borealis).

Help in all forms

But the bulk of the help I get comes from readers. Many have assisted with financial donations, and I can never thank them enough. Others have contributed in countless ways. Readers have provided everything from ideas and photographs to an array of bee-related objects. I have received honey, supers, roofs, feeders, seeds, hive tools, books, DVDs, printed and electronic publications, free admissions, meals, lodging, cookies, queens, trees, and invitations to see strange bees in strange places.

Most of all, I’d like to publicly thank my husband, Rich. He puts up with scads of bee nonsense from me. He helps me lift things, build things, move things, and re-think things. He’s the first to yell “spelling error!” (usually after I post) and the first to find leaps in logic, especially concerning things mechanical. He puts up with my moods when everything is awry, the web is down, the hackers attack, or my site is unreachable. He listens to me whine while I read a comment as long as a novel, or ignores me completely when I’m having a hissy fit over some old-boy, know-it-all bee-tender.

A blog with a life

Never in my wildest imagination did I think Honey Bee Suite would evolve a life of its own, and at some point, take over mine. I deliberately avoid adding up the amount of time and money that goes into it—I just would rather not know—and since it’s not a business, I don’t need to.

Honey Bee Suite isn’t about me; it’s about our collective experiences—yours and mine. All I do is research, collate, organize, and (forgive me) re-write. My daughter would be amazed to know my notebook of post ideas has grown into three, and most of those ideas have come from you.

So on the eve of Christmas, at this turn of the winter solstice, at the close of another calendar year, I thank each and every one of you (even the grammar police) for your support, and I wish each of you health, happiness, prosperity, and super-hot hives. Those notebooks await, so after a quiet holiday and too much chocolate, the quest for better beekeeping will resume.



Christmas tree bee.

Christmas tree bee. © Rusty Burlew.

*This post contains affiliate links.


  • Congrats on 5 years and here’s to many many more. I do enjoy your posts very much. Always informative and very well written.

  • There are many of us that are thankful that you made the decision that you did that Christmas Day 2009! You have made my beekeeping more fun and kept me well educated to help the girls thrive. Happy Holidays to all!

  • Happy Birthday, Honey Bee Suite! What a wonderful forum you have provided. I’m so happy to have stumbled onto your site many years ago. I certainly appreciate your knowledge, wisdom and sense of humor. You should know I often ‘name drop’ you as a friend of mine just to make people more impressed with me. 😀 Keep up the great work, Rusty!


  • A very happy birthday to the blog Rusty. I really value the information that you share and equally the tone with which you share it. On a near daily basis Honey Bee Suite equals or surpasses the pleasures of a good book or a favorite Sunday paper.

    So many of us really appreciate your craft and your shared love for our bees.

  • Great site! I’ve learned a lot from you.

    By the way, since my bees are Italians, I guess they should wear Italian suits, since they are quite nice (but expensive!). :^D

  • Super hot hives! That’s something we can all get behind. Merry Christmas and thanks for all the suits. And the fantastic posts too.

  • Dear Rusty-

    Julia Child would adore you. I do. You make everything so approachable, doable, thinkable. Whenever I’m a-jitter with my bees, I turn to your blog posts and fuel up with knowledge and forward ho!
    Happy milestone year 5. Please keep those notebooks full and write on.

    In Bee harmony and with great admiration and gratitude, Jane

  • Oh Rusty, I loved this post. I had a small blog several years ago when I owned a pet sitting company. It was much simpler than yours, and I know how much work it took. But still I never knew how much behind the scenes work was involved in Honey Bee Suite. Your blog never fails to entertain and inform, and your photographs are so beautiful. You don’t know how many times I recite the whole post to my patient husband over dinner! Happy Birthday and thank you for all the work.

  • Rusty: I am a new beekeeper and your blogs have certainly informed and educated me several times as I get a deeper understanding and am enjoying my hive more every day. Keep up your blog. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • I just wanted to add my thanks. I love your posts and all the information you’ve packed here. You’ve improved my abilities and my bees thank you for it. Here’s to another fabulous 5 [or more!] years of you and your blog. Thanks very much, from southern Indiana.

  • Thanks for everything you do for us beekeepers and beekeeper wannabees (pun intended) Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas.

  • Thank you for taking that first courageous step on Christmas Day 2009. Honey Bee Suite and L. L. Langstroth share the same December birthday, perhaps for a profound, unintended reason. Thank you Rich for acknowledging Rusty’s passion for honey bees and accepting her need to follow her bliss. Honey Bee Suite is deserving of the gift of gratitude beyond what words will ever express. I am submitting a Happy Birthday donation toward the continuance of this awesome blog!

    • Naomi,

      I didn’t know about Langstroth’s birthday. So interesting!

      Thank you for the kind words and generous donation. Also, I wanted to mention that Rich was so pleased that someone acknowledged his contribution to the site. He does a lot behind the scenes and, not being a beekeeper, he comes up with a lot of questions (and objections) that turn into good post ideas. Best, he’s highly supportive of my mission here at Honey Bee Suite, so a special thanks for your comments!

  • Thanks Rusty for keeping this excellent blog alive and kicking.

    A good 2015, are my wishes, from here in Portugal.

    Eduardo Gomes

    • Eduardo,

      You must be the person from Portugal who answered the “best bee plant” survey. All that information is coming soon . . . I even have a helper now!

  • Thank you for all you do Rusty & a big happy birthday to Honey Bee Suite (not suit)! While I’m not a beekeeper these days, I am still in love with the bees & honey. You are a great source & an inspiration which helps me stay connected with the beekeeping world.

  • “‘Why do you want to do that? Write ten posts and you’re done!’ Ah yes, famous words.”

    It is difficult for the mind to imagine the depths of what it does not know!

  • Rusty, thank you for all your hard work! your site is my favorite! As a fairly new ( 3nd year) beekeeper , i need all the help i can get …lol

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