Much to celebrate: Honey Bee Suite is 10 and counting
Whoa. I can’t believe an entire decade has passed since I first began this website on Christmas Day 2009. Oddly, it started on a whim. Blogs were something I became curious about after reading the book Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. The story convinced me it would be fun to write about my beekeeping ideas that I knew were different from the mainstream.
I never expected the site to amount to much, especially since I knew nothing about the Internet and I figured no one cared about my thoughts. But that whim—together with a flair for writing, photography, and science—served me well. After stirring the pot, I ended up with Honey Bee Suite, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Lots of random posts
For the first few years, I wrote lots of posts—nearly one per day. But it wasn’t until my forth year that I began to understand what my site was about.
At its heart, Honey Bee Suite is not about beekeeping. Instead, it’s about bees and the elementary sciences that are applied to beekeeping—a very different thing. It occurred to me that many beekeepers did not rely on science or logic to keep bees but were keen on sorcery. Instead of applying reason to what they were seeing, they were looking to other beekeepers, many of whom gave short answers to complex, multi-layered problems.
The result was a tangle of myth and misinformation that persists today. Even beekeepers with scads of scientific training often prefer formulaic answers—recipes for keeping bees. Sadly, opening a hive to see what’s happening inside seems to be a foreign concept.
I believe that insufficient understanding of bee biology and behavior is the major obstacle to good beekeeping. Imagine the difficulty of managing your own health if you knew nothing about human biology. Similarly, it’s nearly impossible to manage bees if you have no idea how they work. Without the basics, you are reliant on others who seldom know the basics.
A question of biology
Let me give you an example, this one from outside the hive. A southeastern beekeeper wrote to say she had placed ten frames of honey in her freezer in order to control wax moths. But now, six months later, she needed the freezer space for other things. She wanted to know alternatives to leaving the frames in the freezer.
Although this question is typical, it has nothing to do with beekeeping. It’s a question about biology and the physical sciences. If she would only take a minute to think it through, she could answer this question herself.
Water is an unusual substance because it expands when it freezes—a fact that is common knowledge. When water inside the thin-walled cells of most animals and plants freezes, the cells burst open and the contents leak out. Ruptured cells are what kills the wax moth adults, eggs, and larvae.
So, after the frames freeze, you can remove them because once the moths are dead, they’re dead. Look at a previously frozen head of lettuce and it becomes obvious its best days are over and there’s no way to revive it. Right? So once the frames have frozen solid, the beekeeper can simply store them in a place where they won’t become re-infested, no special knowledge required.
Many similar questions
Regardless of the question, most can be answered by considering things you already know. My message, is simple: Turn on your thinking cap, observe the world around you, pay attention to the bee, and you will become a better beekeeper. That’s a promise.
The other thing I like to stress—and the more important one—is that honey bees are not the only game in town. Caring for bees means looking beyond colony health. The best beekeepers are stewards of our natural resources, and included among those resources are the other pollinators and the habitats they depend on.
Honey bees were never endangered
When conservation biologists first began to sound the alarm that pollinators and other insects were declining throughout the world, the warning was quickly misinterpreted as “honey bees are in peril.” This happened seamlessly because, at the same time, Colony Collapse Disorder was making front page news. In this sad confluence of events, honey bees got all the press while the truly endangered species got none.
Retailers, researchers, non-profits, indeed everyone you can think of, jumped on the bandwagon asking for money to “save the bees” which usually meant “save the honey bee”—the one species that didn’t need saving. We now have a name for this phenomenon: “beewashing.” Similar to greenwashing, beewashing is “seeking financial gain by claiming to act in the interest of bees,” regardless of whether your actions, product, or service actually do.
My personal belief is that our system of agriculture requires the use of honey bees. We need them, just as we need cows and chickens and pigs. However, to maintain the diversity of animals and plants—even at the local level—we must protect and conserve not only pollinators but other insects as well.
Because all species are vital to a healthy planet, keepers of honey bees must act responsibly to control the spread of honey bee diseases to other creatures, and must do their part to provide resources—including habitat, food, and water—to other species. Simply put, we cannot care for honey bees to the detriment of other living things.
Statement of purpose
So that’s the bottom line: Honey Bee Suite is about keeping bees intelligently using science and logic, and keeping bees responsibly by being mindful of your bees’ impact on other species and their environments.
Now, the nitty gritty
All that said, change is in the wind here at Honey Bee Suite, so I wanted to give you a head’s up. Even though my site is behind multiple firewalls and is backed-up several times per day, I’ve been told by my webhost that it has become “unstable.” I’ve had recent “fatal errors” (terrible term) that have corrected themselves, but the next one might not. In addition, some features don’t always work, and some pages don’t always load.
The problem seems to be my WordPress theme, which is old, but which is now forced to operate on the latest WordPress platform and “modern” PHP. In addition, the site is large, with nearly 2000 posts and pages, and 35,000 comments. In short, a site overhaul is no longer an option. I intend to work on this during my two lightest traffic months, January and February, so expect some down time. I will try to keep it brief.
However, if I run into problems—and software is surely not my area of expertise—I may have to hire outside help. In any case, if you see “odd” things, feel free to report them to me. Believe it or not, when something goes wrong, I usually learn about it from a thoughtful reader.
The donors make it happen
If you haven’t donated to Honey Bee Suite, please consider it. I’ve read that most donor-supported sites are financed by less than 2% of the readers. I haven’t calculated that number here, but it seems about right. Although some donations are surprisingly large, others are scheduled at 50-cents per month. Believe me, all of it helps and I’m grateful for every penny. Those who give are the ones who keep the site available for everyone else by helping to pay for services and maintenance.
If you cannot donate or do not wish to, I get it. We’ve all been there. I intend to keep Honey Bee Suite free for everyone with no fees, hidden content, or obnoxious pop-up advertisements. Whatever you decide, thank you for thinking about it. I continue to welcome your every visit.
A winter solstice wish
Throughout this coming week I will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of Honey Bee Suite, Christmas 2019, the winter solstice, and the birth of 2020. Whatever you celebrate, I wish you much happiness and good fortune in the year to come. Thank you for reading.
Peace on Earth,