how to miscellaneous musings

Seven types of beekeeping advice to avoid

Hive by Lori Leaumont.

Having trouble sorting through all the conflicting beekeeping information? Can’t tell fact from fiction? If so, you are not alone. Here is a list of criteria I use myself:

  1. Be wary of advice containing the words “always” or “never.” Very few things in life are so simple, especially beekeeping.
  2. Be wary of advice with an unknown origin. What works in the rainforest might not work in the desert. What works in Oklahoma might not work in Alberta. Remember, all beekeeping is local.
  3. Be wary of advice that includes the phrase, “Bees survived just fine without us for millions of years.” The statement is true as far as it goes, but bees are no longer “without us.” They now have us and all our trappings, including pollution, pesticides, agriculture, habitat loss, climate change, freeways, urban sprawl, monocultures, and congress. It is not the same world they evolved in.
  4. Be suspicious of advice that isn’t backed with a reason. There should be an explanation for why something works—or at least a theory of why it works. You can then evaluate the advice based on the reasoning behind it. “Just because” is not a reason . . . which leads me to the next point.
  5. Ignore advice when the reason is “My grandfather did it that way for 57 years and never lost a hive.” That is not a reason, that is a story. The world is changing. Your grandfather wrote with pen and ink for 57 years too, but that doesn’t mean it is the best choice for you.
  6. Be wary of curmudgeons, or let’s call them beemudgeons. These are people who give advice that contradicts whatever you are currently doing. They are know-it-alls who know nothing and get attention by saying the opposite. If you change, they change. They breed faster than mites and hang out in places where they can inflict the most damage (like bee clubs).
  7. Be wary of advice that contradicts your instincts. Maybe it doesn’t feel right, maybe it makes you uncomfortable. If so, don’t jump in without more research. We all come into beekeeping with life experiences that influence what we know and what we believe. Trust yourself. If the advice doesn’t sit well, look for another solution. And remember, all beekeeping is personal.



  • And a piece of advice that stands me in good stead: ‘You should always know why you are opening your hive’. It is easy to get into the habit of doing so. Opening a hive can cause problems as well as avoid some. It can interfere with the bees work setting them back I believe up to 36 hours. Regular observation outside the hive provides extra clues – and I love my polycarbonate quilts which can allow a quick peak to check whether fondant has been used up or just to get a quick snapshot across the top of the brood or super to assess number of bees and volume of activity.

    Carry on the good work. Your comments are always thought provoking.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Today I have found the queen from a colony dead outside the hive. She is intact and appears in good condition. Do you think, she has just died, and they have removed her, or, could it be she was superseded late last year and they have waited to see how the new queen is performing?

    I haven’t looked inside the hive, as it was late in the day and the temperature dropping here in the north of England.

    Many thanks for your response.

    • Hey Cathy,

      I don’t think honey bees do A/B product testing on their queens, although it’s not a bad idea. My guess it that the queen you found died recently. Next time you get a chance, look for a queen, queen cells, or eggs and try to figure out what is going on. The bees may try to raise a queen, but of course you will need drones flying if she is to mate. If not, you may have to buy a queen.

  • Hi, I’ve just begun beekeeping in April. I started my first colony from a nuc and the other was a full 8 frame hive my husband gave me as a gift. The now 10 frame hive is doing really well but the eight frame hive has had issues seems since day one. I’m finding a large number of dead or dying bees in front of my hive on a daily basis.(like 30 or more, seems like a lot to me) Upon further observation, many of them have their tongue stuck out. According to the research I’ve done, this is apparently a result of pesticide poisoning. My questions​ are: 1: Is this the only thing that would cause them to die with their tongue out? 2: If so would relocating the hive make them change where their foraging? 3: Would feeding them be helpful, maybe stop them from going into the area where the pesticide Is? My husband and I are looking at both options as far as food(relocating or feeding) but I just wondered if any of these things would make a difference. Especially,if there’s anything besides poisoning that would make them die in the manner they are. I’ve found answers to many questions I’ve already had on this site and REALLY hope you can give me some more or point me in the right direction. Thank you so much for your time and help.

    • Ronda,

      Tongues hanging out usually means pesticide poisoning, but I’ve seen bees die of heat that also had tongues hanging out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other things cause it as well. So, I would say it’s a good sign of poisoning, but not ironclad.

      The direction of bee foraging has to do with what’s in bloom that the bees like. As things go in and out of bloom, the direction of foraging will change with it. But the things that are sprayed will change as well.

      Thirty bees dead in front of a hive is actually nothing. A healthy hive during peak season will lose approximately 1000 members per day. You don’t see them because most die in the field of old age or exhaustion, are eaten my birds, hit by cars, washed away by rain, caught by pesticides, or whatever.

      If forage is available that they like, they will not be interested in feed. Plus, fresh pollen is vital to brood rearing, so they are going to go out for pollen at every opportunity.

      I wouldn’t worry about the dead bees, especially at that rate. A few thousand in a pile in front of the hive, and I would get concerned. For now, don’t micro-manage, but allow them to do was they wish.

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