writing and blogging

Honey Bee Suite turns seven!

It’s become a tradition for me to celebrate the “birthday” of Honey Bee Suite simply because I’m amazed it’s lasted so long. So on Christmas Day of this year, I will be toasting seven years of this strange undertaking. Who would have thunk it?

My original thought was that I could use a blog to record things I did with my bees, a sort of diary to help me remember. And honestly, I still use it that way. This year I consulted my own instructions for doing a Taranov split, for making candy boards, and for building screened inner covers among other things. I just print a copy, run out to the hives, and do whatever the directions say. Over the years, as I’ve tweaked my methods, I’ve also updated the old posts so the instructions are up to date.

I never envisioned this blog would be read by someone else, but with 2.3 million page views so far this year, I get the feeling someone is always looking over my shoulder. It proves that you never know how things will turn out.

Refining my beekeeping philosophy

Over this past year I’ve tried to solidify and clarify where I stand within the spectrum of beekeepers. In fact, I achieved my fifteen minutes of fame earlier this year when my comment about “voodoo beekeeping” was reprinted in Bee Culture. What a shocker!

But no one site is right for everyone, and it has become important to me to be transparent about what I believe about bees and their environment. Bearing that in mind, I don’t try to hang onto every reader. If someone isn’t comfortable with the philosophy here, he or she should move on and find like minds elsewhere. Everyone is happier that way.

Beekeeping is incredibly complex and extremely dependent on local conditions. I try to keep the discussions based on science and known best practices and leave personalities and politics out of the picture. What, if anything, beekeepers do with those answers is up to them, but I can sleep at night knowing I’ve given the best answer I know how.

A different choice for beekeepers

The result of this strategy has completely blown me away. I received many letters this year expressing appreciation for other readers. Comments like “You have a great group here” or “I learn so much from the comments” or “What a nice community you’ve established” are common.

The thing is, I couldn’t agree more. It seems that the people who use this site want to learn, to share, or to understand. Very few visitors to Honey Bee Suite are know-it-alls hell bent on putting others down. Those people don’t belong here and they know it.

Your input makes this site work

Users of this site continue to be incredibly supportive as well, and that support motivates me to provide the type of site you want. I’ve made many changes this past year and I have more on the drawing board. Some ideas work well, some not so much. But please don’t hesitate to make suggestions, tell me what isn’t working, or let me know what I’ve missed. I try to implement your ideas whenever I can, and it’s your input that made this site blossom. In short, you are awesome.

I’m going to cut this short before I get all wordy and emotional. Instead, I’m going to apologize for those quirky things that still aren’t working and extend a heartfelt thanks to you for sticking with me through the years.

I wish you, your loved ones, and your bees the best of the season,

Honey Bee Suite

Honey-bee-suite turns seven. Honey bee on dahlia.

Honey bee on dahlia. Photo © Rusty Burlew. Dahlia courtesy of Ellen Gehling.


  • Thank you, Rusty, for all you do to help and encourage this, at times, very difficult endeavour. When I began beekeeping I thought I was just going to enjoy some free time and help a little bit to maintain some balance in the natural world. Since then, of course, I have seen all the various aspects of beekeeping, some enchanting, some difficult. But you have been a very solid support of information and learning. So thank you again, and Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May your bees, and all bees, flourish in 2017.

  • Rusty, your information has been so helpful to me, and I agree; I learn from others who comment here, and I’m glad that it’s a place devoid of people who get their panties in a bunch. Merry Christmas!

  • I really look forward to reading your blog! I’ve learned a lot from you as a fairly newbie bee person. Thank you for all of your info and insight! May the peace and joy of the season by yours… and pray my bees survive the winter in CO!!

  • For me it’s not only the scientific approach to all things beekeeping, but also the quality of your writing! I’ve already made my annual donation in a token of my appreciation and support, and encourage fellow users/readers to do the same …

  • Rusty,
    Thanks so much for keeping the site so openly inviting to all. I never know exactly what’s going to pop up, but it’s always interesting and informative, an adventure in sharing about beekeeping.

  • Hello Rusty

    I’m a new beekeeper this year, in SW Ontario. I had seen your comments on other forums and looked you up and then bookmarked you and then signed up. Now I look forward to your postings, was dismayed when you mentioned shutting down and then glad to see you appear again. I’ve met many new friends through my beekeeping adventures and view your arrival in my inbox as an invitation to visit awhile. I appreciate your information, format, style and positive outlook as well as the followers you attract. It’s been an exhausting first year – so great to know you’ve been there before me. I plan on reading your past postings now that the bees are wrapped for the winter.

    Merry Christmas.

    Keep up the great work –

  • Rusty,
    Congrats You blog has helped me as a young bee keeper to learn so much. I find myself turning to your blog when I don’t inderstand what the heck the bees are doing. I’m glad you have been there. Hope you have a great Christmas, Jerry

  • I enjoy reading your website almost every night, and look forward to seeing any and all posts. Merry Christmas to you and family. Keep up the great work

  • Thank you Rusty for all you do. As always a voice of reason…….and the best of the season to you as well……

  • Congratulations Rusty, and Merry Christmas. As a thankful reader I hope you have another 7 great years of doing what is hopefully a fun endeavor for you. Your teaching is great, funny at times and always enlightening. Keep up the great mentoring so many of us apiarist need and we look forward to your timely articles as often as you can send them out.

  • Merry Christmas Rusty. Thanks for the opportunity to read your blog, I’m a first year beekeeper and have found it interesting and informative. I’m always happy to see “honeybeesuite” in my list of emails because I know you have a great story for me to read and learn more about bees.

  • Here in Portugal I and others follow your blog with pleasure and attention. I hope the next 7 years will continue. In my humble opinion you are making an excellent bargain for the beekeeping of many countries in the world. I am very grateful to you! Eduardo Gomes

  • SO absolutely impressed with your communication with committed bee keepers, this is my 2nd yr and first following your very well written comments.

    Located in Eastern Canada, We lost our 3 hives last year due to inexperience on winterizing them properly and so this year we are trying a few new approaches after reading many comments in your blog and others

    1.moved bees to better location for maximum sun and minimum wind.

    2. Insulated the North side only with 1″ polystyrene then covered complete hive in black tar paper and an inch of polystyrene in the top cover and provided a couple additional upper vents on the east and west the same size as the traditional south and the lower opening matches or slightly larger than the total of the top vents.

    Thanks so much and all the best in 2017


  • Merry Christmas, Rusty!

    I discovered your site in 2012, as a brand-new beekeeper Googling heaven-knows-what, and it’s been an inspiration and comfort to me and many of my colleagues. The best part, amid humor and sound advice, is your love and fascination for these wonderful little creatures. Wishing you and them a fabulous 2017.

    Please keep up your good work, and may all your efforts be blessed with the same satisfaction.

    Shady Grove Farm
    Corinth, KY

    “The miracle is not walking on water. The miracle is walking on the green Earth”
    – Thich Nhat Hanh

  • Rusty,

    Congratulations on seven years. I’m a new (old) beekeeper from Pennsylvania. Your blog has become my main source when I need sensible answers to my beekeeping questions.

    Thanks for all your work and I Hope you Have a Great Christmas.

  • Well done. You even are good reading for us imposters. Only last week I read for the first time your post about the bull in the bee yard, had trouble reading a passage to my spouse I was laughing so hard.

    Merry Christmas from from one of your alternative beeks. Keep up the good works/words. Glen B

  • Kudos on the anniversary and thank you for your hard work and thoughtful commentary. Please keep up the good work, and have a healthy and prosperous 2017.

  • Merry Christmas & congratulations on seven years of sticking to it. Love pointing new bee keepers your way to the thoughtfully indexed articles.
    I truly enjoyed reading your blogged thoughts this year and other Bee keepers comments.

  • Wishing you a peaceful and pleasant new year. Thank you for your thoughtful blog that reflects your love for bees and their world.

  • I have come on board recently and am impressed with your articles, especially your recent one about thermal imaging. Even though I have kept bees for 42 years, on and off, in the Fall of 2015 I had six hives and came out in Spring 2016 with zero. This year I have been concentrating on mites (Oxalic acid, drone traps, sugar shakes, etc.) which didn’t even exist when I started in 1978! It’s a never-ending battle, but a good one. Keep up the good work and Happy New Year.

    Jack Wheatley, Marion, MA

    • Jack,

      You are so right. Beekeeping was simple in the “good old days” before the 1980s. It has changed a lot since then and continues to change. Every day seems to bring a new problem or a potential way to solve a problem. Thanks for reading!

  • Congrats on 7 years and Merry Christmas. I always look forward to your wise advice. I especially agree that “beekeeping is extremely dependent on local conditions.” So this will be my plea for people to put their locations in comments – really important for winter suggestions.

    By the way, loved Honeybee Democracy.

  • And the best of the season to you, Rusty. There is much that I admire about your work and Honey Bee Suite, and this year what I have most appreciated is that you have fostered an increase in my appreciation and fondness for all invertebrates, especially the terrestrial.

    And thank you for the dahlia credit too. I’m glad they have been an asset for your bee watching and photography.

    • Ellen,

      It turns out that dahlias are great subjects. Not only do they attract lots of pollinators, but they make beautiful backdrops.

  • Rusty,

    Congratulations on the 7 years. I think I have been a devoted fan for 5 or so of those years. I love your writing style. I find it very easy to follow as well as entertaining. Your knowledge of all bees, honey bees included, is inspiring to me. I love your photography as well. I read each of your posts, usually on the day it is posted. I will be very disappointed should you ever stop. Thanks for all the time and effort you give to this site. I love it! Happy Holidays and may Spring 2017 be everything you want it to be.


  • Happy Holidays to you and your family Rusty and happy blog anniversary. Thank you for sharing your experiences and information on bees which I have found extremely helpful. Also, reader comments have helped too. Best wishes for 2017 🙂

  • Happy New Year Rusty. I’m a three year beekeeper and I’m brand new. I say that because the more I learn the less I know. You are my “go to” for all things “Bee”. Thank you for all your hard work.

  • Oh, no! This is terrible!

    This means I’ve read seven years of archives and I only have a year and a quarter to go.
    I’m catching up with you. You must write faster!

    (hits self on head)

    What I mean is, write just as much as you want; it never hurts to leave the audience wanting more.

    (Also, a technical question, I’ve subscribed to get all your new posts, but is there a way to subscribe to all new comments as well. I try to remember to click the button for follow-up comments when I send a comment, but I wouldn’t mind reading new comments on posts I haven’t commented on. Your commentariat includes a lot of interesting people.)

    • Roberta,

      “Write faster.” I wish I could!

      As for subscribing to comments, as far as I know, there is no way to subscribe to all of them. But if you go the the home page (https://www.honeybeesuite.com) in the right-hand column, you can scroll down to “Recent Comments.” It has the latest comments listed as I approve them. The top is the most recent so it’s a little awkward because my answer comes before the question. But a lot of people tell me they go there first, which is why I leave it there.

      It can get weird because I tend to answer questions in groups when I find the time, so sometimes they get backed up. Two weeks ago I was behind by 100 and I find it really stressful. Anyway, maybe someone else knows a way to subscribe to comments?

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