writing and blogging

What I don’t know about bees would fill volumes

Running a website makes you a target for verbal abuse. Many people cannot—are actually incapable of—leaving a comment or question that isn’t couched in expletives, four-letter words, and insinuations about your intellect and parentage. It comes with the online territory and you get used to it.

I usually just ignore these outbursts, but recently one comment—now deleted—caught my eye because of the sheer volume of unpleasant verbiage. Reading between the foul-mouthed innuendos, I finally understood his complaint: I hadn’t adequately answered his prior question. He accused me of waffling, beating around the bush, and obfuscating. “Just tell me the [deleted] answer!” he wailed.

Curious, I searched through recent comments and found his original question. “Dozen of dead bees are all over my [deleted] landing board. What does that mean and what should I do?”

That’s it: no details, no location, no management information, no anything.

I tried to answer

At the time, I suggested some random ideas. If it’s spring in your area, look for this, this, and this. If it’s fall in your area, look for this, this, and that. Knowing nothing about him or his bees, I tried to suggest some general places to start.

In his opinion, this constituted waffling, and perhaps it is. He acted like I knew the answer but refused to share, but how the heck am I supposed to know what’s going on in his hive? It’s not for me to speculate, but I wonder if a lack of patient observation had anything to do with it.

No quick answers in beekeeping

Although this particular gentleman had unique communication skills, he’s not the only beekeeper who seems to think someone has a secret black book that contains all the answers. Some seem to think a few of us are guarding the secrets, that we “parcel out” the answers to special friends but hold the rest at bay. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My mind keeps wandering back to this exchange because it illustrates a point I’ve been making for years: the cookbook method of beekeeping doesn’t work. You can’t read through a list of instructions and find the one that applies. A discreet answer to every beekeeping problem does not exist.

Learning takes time

We learn beekeeping through experience, reading, experimentation, and making more than a few major mistakes. It’s cumulative. The more you know, the better you can guess, but you will never know it all.

Bees continue to surprise me. I am confused, stumped, and out-smarted by them constantly, yet more often than not, I am also delighted and amazed.

Isn’t it the complexity and unpredictability of bees that make beekeeping so fascinating? Isn’t it the mystery and the surprising twists and turns that hold us in thrall from year to year? And isn’t it the wonderment of the hive that keeps us coming back for more, against all odds?

Simple answers don’t exist

People demanding simple answers do not understand how complex a bee colony is or in how many ways it reacts to its ever-changing environment. No one-line answers exist, and those who insist on them will never be happy and never stay with beekeeping.

As any long-time keeper will tell you, the more you learn about bees, the less you know because every answer raises a half-dozen new questions. Questions outnumber answers in no time.

I don’t worry about my detractors. This one will soon find an answer he likes somewhere on the Internet, and I wish him good luck with that. He won’t come back here again, and that’s just as well because I refuse to make up an answer to please him, and I won’t post his rants for others to wade through. Good riddance.

The joy is in the journey

In beekeeping, as in many pursuits, it’s all about the journey. The processes of learning, developing skills, and sharing knowledge with others are much more satisfying than arriving at an artificial destination such as jars of honey or number of hives.

I know you know that because it’s the reason you’re still here, still learning, still working, and, yes, still making mistakes. Me too. After all, that’s what makes beekeeping so much fun.

Honey Bee Suite

The joy is in the journey.
The joy is in the journey. Image by hyun-deok kim from Pixabay

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  • Rusty, I am pretty sure the last decade has not made me any more adept at beekeeping. Though moving north 5 hours changed my calendar by a few weeks. That alone was a two or three year learning process. I just keep reading and watching the bees. I am glad I found your blog back when I did. You helped me a lot.

    • Rusty, for what it’s worth I am sorry you have to endure the verbal abuse of others. I spent 37 years in a higher education classroom and know well how it feels to be on the other side of an abusive person who is certain that they are entitled to XYZ on demand. You are a good teacher, responsive, articulate, and credible. HBS is a go-to resource for me as you provide information I can depend on. What you do matters. I feel bad about how you were treated, and I am grateful that you endure in spite of stuff like this. Thank you.

    • So true! I have read books and attended lots of classes in the past 8 years of beekeeping and every year is a new journey. Thanks for your posts!

  • Keep up your fabulous work please! Remembering that “bees” is a four-letter word. Perhaps that’s what he meant. Social media is a strange universe.

  • Rusty, on behalf of everyone who has used your website for so many years, and myself, may we collectively offer a “Aww, man, SO SORRY for that!”? You deserve better, and it’s pitiful that so many “adults” don’t know how to communicate effectively without cursing or insults.

    In trying to introduce a different hive to the beekeeping world, I’ve often come up blank for answers because the success of ANY hive body and ANY colony boils down to so many variable factors. And Naomi and yourself know more about beekeeping in one finger than I— well, you know the rest. I’m so fortunate to have Naomi and Larry for my questions and concerns.

    Thank you for all your hard work. Truly.

    Vivien Hight

  • Do what you do Rusty. We love your columns and appreciate the information you provide here and your articles elsewhere.


  • I’m so sorry that you have to deal with such ignorance. Yours is one of the few sites I still enjoy and often bookmark for all its useful information. Thank you for persevering.

  • Great piece Rusty. When I got into the bee hobby I was thinking love and peace but I forgot it’s a human dealing with other humans. I read a lot of Epictetus and that helps me a lot in beekeeping. ?

  • I don’t thank you enough for moderating your commentariat. Thanks for that, and so sorry, let me apologize for humanity.

    (Also, I have come to value you bee experts who start with “It depends”.)
    (Also, also, simple answer, his bees committed harakiri from the shame of belonging to him.)

  • Totally agree with your view of the journey. Thank you for all that you share with us!

  • And here I thought you were just going to vent, which is perfectly acceptable, but nope you went and turned a lemon into lemonade for all of us to remember- especially those of us just starting the adventure.

  • Rusty, you have been a wonderful asset. Some people are just not worth getting upset about their actions.

    They are unappreciative and probably argue and fight with everybody from shopkeepers, waiters, and customer service people.

    I love your site and sometimes I will go back to previous posts from you and other posters on this site to reaffirm a decision I am making. There is no clear answer to every question and every situation.

    Thank you for what you do for us to make beekeeping enjoyable and supporting bees.


  • Frankly sounds like you were pretty generous with your suggestions given the lack of information. He should have gone back and examined the situation and then maybe provided relevant information for a follow-up.

    I for one appreciate your thoughtful approach and willingness to consider new information, also your acknowledgment that it isn’t so cut and dried.

  • I have nothing but admiration for your patience, open-minded modesty, and philosophical truth-seeking. I love what you do.

  • Rusty,

    I feel compelled to give you a Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy” salute. I have only been helping bees for 3 or so years after decades of wanting to make the jump. You and your attitude and wisdom have helped greatly. I try to learn First and foremost about the science and biology of our insect comrades. I couldn’t go on, but your last 2 paragraphs are gold, solid gold IMHO.


  • As I have often been told and fully experienced, if you ask 10 beekeepers the same question you will get at least 12 different answers!

  • Hi Rusty,

    Great blog again. I learn something every time. your newest gem is…”The more you know, the better you can guess”. To all your readers, “The lady is correct on this point. You can think you know everything about bees but the bees will show you otherwise…every time.

    Jon Sumpter
    Waldport, Oregon

  • Welcome to the internet. I too, have been savaged on line for what I thought was a simple opinion, rationally stated and not offensive in any way. Lots and lots of nuts out there. I once posted that the problem with ‘experts’ is that when you line them up, they point in every direction. Think I stand by that. One must evaluate context, location, time, weather, and much more. All opinions should be subject to all that and more and (I think) offered subject to change, depending. That said, in my not so humble opinion (humble is hard) yours is the best bee blog on earth and I thank you very much.

  • Go Rusty!

    You are a total inspiration to 99.9% of those who read your blogs and respect you immensely. We rely on your experience and guidance to help us through the challenges and joys of beekeeping. People like the one you referred to, do not deserve the privilege of your response.

    Take care

  • Rusty,
    I am so sorry to learn that you have some unsavory emails all in the name of beekeeping. Hopefully, they are far less than 10% of the emails you receive. I am hoping that you do not take these as personal affronts but rather the outbursts of some who do not know beekeeping or manners. Very sad to read that someone who is trying to help and share their knowledge has to deal with unthoughtful people.

    Please don’t lose your desire to help others like me who really appreciate your sharing and wisdom. Keep the faith and your head up!!

    Thanks so much for what you do,

  • Hi Rusty,

    I am sorry to hear about what happened but your reaction to it looks great, elegant, and well balanced just as you are.

    I totally agree with the fact that in beekeeping one single answer for a specific question does not exist. This is for different reasons. You explained this concept, again, with clearness and rationality and I love that.

    My 82 years old mentor says that the correct answer is:” it depends”. Of course: there are too many weather variables between geographic locations and so apiaries, but even in the same apiary, each family is completely different from another. That’s why we love beekeeping: a constant problem-solving game that keeps our mind and soul nourished and curious, amazed by these incredible creatures and their world.

    We will never stop learning from them and about them. That’s why it is important to share our experiences, to build up knowledge while keeping alive the diversity.

    Thank you for creating this fantastic place where we can share experiences and not laws and rules applied to something we can’t totally fully understand (thank God!).

  • Hello Rusty,
    I have been following your blog for several years and have found your knowledge and insights into beekeeping, and bees of all kinds to be incredibly vast. You have never come across as claiming to be the ultimate authority on the subject, so it blows me away that anyone would have the gall to send such vulgar emails to you. I hope this is a very rare occurrence.
    Please keep up the fascinating articles.
    Bruce Janz
    Alberta, Canada

  • Rusty,
    How you write all of your answers to questions gives great info but also makes me think. I have now kept bees for 6 years and I wouldn’t still be here without your honesty, humor, and sharing of info. If I get frustrated I go to your site and read. Thank You. Karen

  • Hi,

    For someone who has been around bees for nearly 50 years, I find the writing, raising of awareness, teaching, and the willingness to engage absolutely superb. It is a tragedy of our world that people can abuse others so readily with a complete lack of community spirit. Nobody is perfect and dealing with the natural world, particularly with a species so impacted by the actions (greed) of a ‘civilization’ is incredibly difficult.

    The writing here is always informative and more importantly, it makes people think and potentially work in different ways. What an incredible gift to give to others.

    Having been through some incredibly hard times recently, I admire your courage and the will/determination to write this column.

    Keep going. You are a real stalwart to the majority and I for one am, and always have been, full of admiration.

    Take care,

  • Hi

    Nature is wonderfully diverse and evolving. Some of us have become more social than others. I am sorry you have to put up with such abuse. Dont stop your work. It gives great pleasure.


  • Well, Rusty, it’s the ‘way of the world’ now. No respect, consideration, understanding, compassion, etc. the list goes on. Donut holes for brains. People don’t want to study about the bees or experiment with what works or not. They want others to do the thinking and work for them and they don’t do anything to improve their knowledge of the bees. Been there a million times. That is what is wrong with ‘fads’. Take it with a grain of salt like you always do and know that you help a lot of us get through our tribulations with the bees and you are appreciated by so many. The idiots will fall by the wayside while the ones who truly want solid dependable knowledge will be here asking you a thousand more questions. Hope all is well on your end of the country. The internet is not such a good place. A good idea gone entirely rotten.

  • Well said, Rusty. It’s the same in every field. The moment someone says that they know it all you can bet they have a closed mind. In the UK we have qualifications in beekeeping that make you an “Expert” or “Master” beekeeper. This doesn’t make you Omniscient in the Apis world. There is so much dogma in beekeeping. I freely admit to giving the “right” answer in exam papers that I knew were dubious to say the least and that science couldn’t support.

    Incidentally, I regret that you are verbally abused online. Just go on keeping the moral high ground.

    • Jackie,

      I’ve been in that bind, too, where you know the answer they are looking for is the wrong answer, but if you put what you know is the right answer, they will just mark it wrong on go no their way, happy to be ignorant.

  • Hi Rusty, It seems strangely incongruous that people with such a short fuse and so little grace should choose to be beekeepers! So sorry that you have to put up with that. But please rest assured that the rest of us love and value your posts. I refer to your website often to top up my interest and especially in times of dithering about my bees. There is never a straight answer to any of the wild conundrums bees produce to bemuse us lowly humans! Your information is always rounded and enlightening and I really appreciate the way you always help us in the most constructive spirit.

    There is no place for rudeness in bee studies.

    Onwards and upwards!

    With love, Jen

  • Hi Rusty,

    Good for you and thank you for keeping on keeping on with this blog in spite of the detractors! I learn so much from your posts.

    I have a question. I’m not far from you, I live on Vashon Island and I keep around 30 hives with the intent to provide a little local raw honey to our island community. I’ve been keeping bees for 10(ish) years now and I thought I was getting the hang of it but this year was miserable for me for honey production and I really don’t know why. It seems other local beekeepers had a similar experience. I’m wondering, how did your bees do this year, and do you have any thoughts about why many of us in the PNW didn’t get much honey this year?

    • Annie,

      Same as you, I had a bad honey year. I thought it would be great because, early on, the weather was warm and dry during big-leaf maple bloom and, later, blackberry season was extended. After all that, I ended up harvesting one half of one super of comb honey and I left everything else for the bees.

      My bees seem to be doing fine, but I began feeding them syrup early because of the lack of stores. I don’t really know why it happened, but I assume it had something to do with how the plants reacted to the warm and dry weather. It seemed like there wasn’t a lot of soil moisture in spring, and that could mean there wasn’t much nectar delivered by the plants. That’s just a guess, though.

  • Thanks for sharing these unfortunate comments and your ‘right-on’ thoughts, regarding the sheer joy of learning and being around bees. Tasting their hard earned honey is really a bonus for us humans, for the hours we invest. Recently I had the joy of showing and teaching my grandchildren the wonders of this fascinating hobby. It’s my goal that they’ll carry the smoker and appreciation, long after I’m gone. Thank you Rusty for all you do and for all you share with us!

  • You shouldn’t have even one disrespectful comment, much less any that are abusive or expletive-filled. It boggles my mind.

  • Rusty – it is why we have a “delete” button on our computers. This is a strange era in time. Politics have become “religion” to many people. The media is filled with “fake news”. We are bombarded by propaganda from every corner if not politics than to get us to buy something we don’t need. My landing boards have been filled with dead bees as well. Why? There is no way you would know unless I sent you a spreadsheet showing mite treatments beginning in August and a relentless high daily drop in mites that is hard to imagine despite the best efforts of miticides. You would look at those numbers and likely express an opinion based on the data not a wishful guess. Try to spot those posts quickly so are better able to press that “Delete” button. Don’t give them the time of day. You work too hard. I’ve learned to do it with emails. We need you fresh and bright and thankful you are here to help the many people you do.

    • Thanks, Vince. I just wanted to say I’m getting better with the delete key. I’m becoming much more skilled at remembering what it’s for. Such a great invention!

  • Whoa, Everyone! Thank you for all the kind comments. I was worried about publishing this, thinking folks would see it as sulking. But as some of you mentioned, it’s hard to understand vicious human anger, especially when we’re dealing with bees, who are so peaceful and directed.

    No worries, I’m not going anywhere. I just don’t understand pointless aggression, but all your comments reminded me that those types are but a tiny minority.

  • Thanks for sticking with all of us, Rusty. I tried for so long, but couldn’t do it. People wore me out after five years.

  • Hi Rusty
    I had just composed a comment, but then seeing all of this in the last 24 hours, I thought: “they said it better than I would have.”
    Bee Well!

  • I read a few of the other comments and agree wholeheartedly with them.
    I love your work and look forward to them.

    Hopefully one day, that person will wise up and realise that you have to give all the facts in order to get a useful solution.

  • The most consistent answer to any question I’ve ever asked the experienced beekeeper is, “it depends.” LOL. The longer I play with my bees the more I get this. It truly depends! If this fellow gets that worked up over the lack of answers be thankful his hobby isn’t pyrotechnic devices!

    • Jeff,

      It’s funny that you mention that, because my very first blog post, back in January 2010) was titled “Well, it depends…” At the time, I was thinking about the different motivations for beekeeping, but of course, the philosophy works for all aspects of beekeeping, especially environmental and climate differences.

  • Rusty,

    You write brilliantly and this posting is also brilliant. To any beekeeper who has any experience at all everything you write is reasoned to the point that you tell us if you are not sure or there might be another way with reasoned thoughts. Our bees amaze us and make us feel small. There is no need at all for rudeness only a need to be humble and respect nature and realize that we as beekeepers are always learning however long we carry out this wonderful activity.

    Rusty, please stick with it and be brave there are many like me who love what you do, and above all the way you explain things in clear simple English.

    Unfortunately, the world in all sorts of other “activities” has become one of aggression, insults, bad language, and fighting. We all need to keep our own standards up and not descend into this abusive mindset.

    Good luck and be strong for all of your followers.

    One of your most devoted followers,

    Michael Judd

  • It’s interesting you say you had a bad honey year as around here we had the best honey season since 1988. At least that is what the old timers are saying. There is so much honey we still don’t have it all off the hives yet as weather has turned bad. Hard to find places to store it. Amazing how different west to east for the bees. It’s almost winter here and we are still working bees. Quite a weird year for all, including the bees. I still haven’t removed the comb honey from spring ! Would you say we are ‘behind’.

  • Just picked this up and am sorry to learn of the abuse. I’m new to beekeeping although there have been one or two hives on my UK allotment for about 6 years. The owner was told that with health issues and being over 80 it was too much, and to my surprise he asked if I wanted everything. I was his apprentice for about 9 months, then from March 2020 Covid kept him at home. So I was mentor-less! Discovering your wonderful site has enabled me to have a small harvest. I had to combine my two colonies last month as one was queenless, but I’m hoping that I can learn enough so that there will be at least two decent hives next autumn.

    Life can throw up some rubbish, but I have learned to love my bees. I admit I talk with them and they give so much in return. The council who run the allotments have dished out some nastiness in the last few months, but those bees are a tonic. Please keep up the great work as many of want to do the best for both bees who seem so forgiving when we disrupt their homes, and for wild ones.

  • Hi, Rusty,

    You should have directed him to me: I only started beekeeping in July this year, so I still know nearly everything. Here in the UK, we’re heading into my first beekeeping winter, so I expect I’ll know a lot less in six month’s time, and be heading towards total ignorance a year from now. But I am continually amazed by people who ask questions with no attempt at giving context. Well done you for being polite and patient!

  • ? to all the wonderful responses, I’d add that entitlement shining through is the first sign someone is going to go awry. You don’t owe anyone an answer about anything. You kindly give us your best guess based on your experience which is all any beekeeper can do. I appreciate your blog and wisdom and hope the negatives don’t get you down.

  • It’s interesting that people want a one-size-fits-all explanation when it comes to beekeeping. Whenever I read information in a magazine or on a website, I always want to know what area of the country or the world the information is coming from. Beekeeping can vary from place to place. So many variables exist. Contact beekeepers in your area to see if they are experiencing similar die-offs or differences in honey production. Ask about which mite treatments they find are most effective and what months of the year they are using them. And let’s all strive to keep the discourse civil.

  • For Rusty

    There are people out there, alas
    Who quite simply love being crass
    You deserve a prize
    For answering these guys
    Who can’t tell a hive from their *@#!

    {Rusty – this is just for you – no need to post! So sorry you are a target for anything but praise!}

  • Thanks, Rusty, always sound advice and timely. We really live in a different time but traveling around I’ve noticed some areas of the country are still polite and speak well. Again thank you. Montana is awesome.

  • I have 6 beehives with 6 distinct personalities. I have had people who come to our winery and see the beehives and say that’s what they’re going to do next. When I say that I’ve found it be fascinating and discouraging and love every minute but it’s not easy, I hear, “This guy down the road has bees and says there’s nothing to it.” The following year I hear stories about “getting bad queens.” We all try hard. We don’t give up. It’s people like you who get us going in hard times. Thanks

    • Mary,

      So true. I would never tell someone “there’s nothing to it.” First of all, it’s not true, and second, it will make the new beekeeper feel stupid when his first hive dies. The more I think about it, it’s really a cruel thing to say, and the result can be devastating to both the bees and the keeper. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Well, keep up the good work Rusty! I’ve checked the site numerous times and find it very useful. If something happens with my bees I just move on. I would never bother or even think of trying to diagnose things over the internet. Bees are crazy, as Rusty and others have noted. Just stand there watching your bees come in and out of their hives and on one hive the bees use all entrances, another only the bottom, another… I’ve never had anyone able to offer any explanation at all for this. This year I put a Flow Hive on, but I guess the bees hated it as they propolised it a bit and hung out but no honey. I pull it and put an eke on for winter feeding and they have filled it, and this is in October, go figure. I will try again next year to see what happens. And what are these bees doing hanging around in the super doing nothing or just sitting on a frame? I have taken to calling these bees lazy bees just hiding from the boss(‘s) And why are my bees filling up from right to left (from behind)? I would say it has something due to heat/sun but half my hives are in the opposite orientation and they do the same thing.

  • Rusty,

    Thank you for your gracious work. It benefits many more than will comment. It’s a shame, yet a reality, that a large portion of the nation has been “dumbed down” with a serious lack of education, feeling, intellect and courtesy. Debbie from Ohio & many others recognize this – Trish from Stratton – unfortunately these types rarely improve their English skills or intellect with age.

    Rusty, your labor of love is recognized and appreciated by many, let the negative comments be water on a duck’s back!

  • Beekeeping: a lesson in patience. Obviously, a lesson this man/child has not learned yet.

    Good job Rusty and thanks for the bee lessons and info you offer.

    NW Georgia

  • It is shameful that anyone would treat you with such disrespect and I apologize on behalf of those who cannot honour your wisdom, experience and insightfulness that so many of us have come to depend on. I am a first-year beekeeper and have learned so much from you. I always appreciate your advice and the information you provide (Your sugar pattie recipe was a fabulous addition to my candy box). As a new beekeeper, even I know that if you ask 20 different beekeepers a question, you will get 20 different answers. There are no right or wrong answers as I am quickly learning and in hoping that my hive just survives me (and all of my mistakes) to next year, please know that you are a great source of knowledge and inspiration to those of us who appreciate your candour and wisdom. You are a great Queen Bee in essence and I greatly appreciate all that you do for our community.

    PS. I agree that you f*#^ing Rock ?

  • Rusty, as a new beekeeper I have relied on your website for the support we have needed in understanding why our bees are not doing what they are supposed to. As with most endeavors, classes are a great way to start, and books (when you have the time) fill in some of the gaps, but experience is what helps you understand. We have had to experience two years of losses. We continue to change to help our bees survive and hopefully, this will be the year. I find your blog informative and common sense. Keep doing it and keep deleting the abusive ones.

    As a college professor, we were evaluated every semester. It amazed me some of the expletives soon to be professionals would use. And I wondered what I did to earn them. Well, a wise mentor told me- take all the 1’s and the same number of 5’s and throw them away. Then look at the rest. Those are the ones that had some thought behind them. While I did not throw them away, I did look at them, but it helped me put it into perspective.
    I agree with all your supporters and particularly Granny’s comment that they committed suicide.

    Wish I knew how to do emojis, cause I would send you a whole bunch of smiles.

    Thank you for what you do. We newbees need you.

    • Martha,

      I’ve read that we remember negative events more than positive ones because it helps us survive. We become attuned to the things that are dangerous, not the things that are harmless. But even without lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) lurking behind every rock, it’s hard to set aside the bad stuff and it can soon overwhelm us. Thanks for the insight.

  • Bees are great! So is ‘HoneyBeeSuite’! Bees have relatively few neurons, so I think they can only use relatively few rules/algorithms. The complexity/subtlety of behaviour they create from these unknown rules is astounding. They are also a great lesson of what can be achieved by cooperation – the hive achieves more than the sum of what the individuals can achieve. That is something that made me interested in corporations in human society. I can understand the attraction of the idea that there is a rule book we can study, but, as you say, the more we study the bees themselves, the more we realise how we underestimate just how complex and subtle they can be. ‘Relatively few rules/algorithms’ is still a lot!

  • I lost my first hive last fall due to my ignorance of varroa. I realized then there was more to beekeeping than furnishing a hive and collecting honey. Began reading books, watching videos, subscribing to ABJ and was able this spring to take a beginner bee course of 4 classes which finished when our state locked down. I have no mentor and because of your web site and generous gift of insight into bee behavior and therapies I don’t feel so helpless at times. I absolutely love my bees and feel so bad when I see them dead due to my mistakes or natural ebb and flow of their lives. Please accept my and others appreciation of your site and turn a deaf ear to those who don’t know what they don’t know.

  • Admire your knowledge of our ever challenging honey bees. You are my favorite mentor to go to for any questions about these wonderful creatures.

    Kindness is the best way to navigate during these times of who can be the loudest, meanest, rudest, and just plain ignorant. Love your demeanor of dignity and decency. Thank you for all you do to help us.

    Lynn A.

  • Greetings,

    We appreciate your blog and so much info on bees. Yes. it is a lifetime learning experience.

    With much appreciation for your dedication to bees.

    Be well,

  • There are all types of people in beekeeping and unfortunately, some are not necessarily nice people. This abuser is no “gentleman”. I have quit using the word and simply write “man” to describe the male human species. A gentleman doesn’t ream people out with expletives.

    I am so sorry that such people exist in the world or on the internet. You are my favorite bee blogger and ABJ contributor and I steer many new beekeepers to your website because of your knowledge and patience to answer questions. Please don’t stop!

  • Rusty, I’m sorry you have to listen to such abuse. It’s a strange, and sad, country we’re living in right now. I’m so glad my partner discovered your site. We have been beekeepers for about 3 years. We did learn early on there are many different answers to most questions we ask, and most are right. We enjoy you very much and have learned a lot. And I find you to be so funny!! Keep up the good work. As someone earlier said, 99.9% of us love reading your stuff.

    Stay safe,
    Suzanne Snohomish WA

  • Hang in there Rusty! Your site is my go-to place for information that is science-based, experiential and thoughtful. I have had bees in my life for 50 years and am constantly amazed by how little I know. There are just SO SO many variables. I am in Northern BC. This honey season we had rain, rain, more rain and only 4 days of sun with very cool temperatures. The queens would not move outward, only up so we had swarm after swarm. Not much forage and a small workforce equaled no stores and the most astonishing robbing beehaviour that I have ever witnessed. Fed gallons of syrup before they calmed down. Spending time in the hives has taught me reverence, patience and perseverance and multiple behaviors that can bee applied to living with humans. If that abusive person’s bees do survive perhaps he may come to learn some valuable lessons. Keep on buzzing!

  • I occasionally visit the Flow Forum and am taken aback with hostility at times.

    Recently a very helpful and generous poster that answers daily questions, remarked about the worthiness of Flow Hives. He was rudely asked to leave the forum by a member that his only speciality is self indulgence. As I came to the helpful member’s defence I was accused of trolling.

    Sometimes people are just nasty. Best to ignore.

  • One of the problems with beekeeping is that everyone wants a definite answer. Beekeeping is just not like some things that have definite answers. There are very few things definite in the whole scheme of things beekeeping. It’s dangerous to generalize. Thanks for an insightful piece.

  • Hi Rusty, I am a new beekeeper on Bainbridge Island, not far from you, and a huge fan of your website. I have a question and an observation.

    You asked in a posting some time back what was blooming in our September gardens. I had a huge crop of sunflowers that the bees adored until they finished blooming about the first of October. I just bought six Dark Knight Bluebeard (Caryopteris x Clandonensis) that the bees were all over until they finished blooming just last week. I am looking forward to next year when they will be much bigger. And then of course open center dahlias, nasturtiums and late bean, tomatillo, and squash blossoms. Also, the lemon verbena kept blooming through most of the month and was popular, as did the oregano. I am going to tailor my garden ever more toward August and September bloomers as there are plenty of maple trees and blackberry bushes outside my fence.

    Now for my question: I am feeding my bees heavy syrup now to top up their honey stores. I plan on putting on a moisture quilt once they stop taking the syrup. Is this how you do it? Now that our fall rains have arrived for real, I wonder how much longer they will be taking syrup. Your experience?

    Keep up the good work, please. You are an inspiration for this aspiring beekeeper! And I really appreciate the local perspective as our Puget Sound climate is so different than much of the country.

    Missi Goss
    Bainbridge Island, WA

    • Missi,

      Honey bees will drink syrup until doing so drops their body temperature to a point where they have trouble moving. This happens when the syrup (not the air) reaches about 50 degrees F. That means if the feed is inside the hive and above the cluster where it is warm, they can keep drinking longer than if the syrup is outside where it is colder.

  • Rusty: Add my.voice to the crowd’s. Sorry you have to put up with occasional abuse from alienated people like him, but as you said, it goes with the territory. Your website is invaluable, and greatly appreciated by me and, I’m sure, the vast majority of the horde of dedicated bee keepers who follow it faithfully, Much thanks. Alan.

  • Rusty ❤️ your blog and I continue to be inspired by your writing and knowledge.

    Nothing annoys an ignorant and abusive blogger more than having his or her comments deleted before they are read. Keep your finger on the delete button and maintain the positive informative posts.

    I wonder, sometimes, about the political affiliations of abusive bloggers who use foul language when blogging with total strangers!!

  • Keep up the good work Rusty.. Although this is my first comment, I’ve been reading lots of posts and learning a lot in the process. Although in Sri Lanka we look after Asian honey bees (Apis cerana, Apis florea) the techniques you share go hand in hand and most of them work. Thank you very much.

  • Rusty,

    As I read through your article and a few of the comments you’ve received in support of your hard work, I’m reminded that it’s not the one or two unproductive and overly critical commenters on the internet we should listen to, it’s the overwhelming positive feedback you’re so worthy of. I commend you on not stooping to the level we so often see on the internet—back and forth bickering which leads to even more deep-rooted positions.

    I will take with me your advice to provide at least some basic information to provide some context for discussion. Patience—like we have all no doubt learned—is the key when it comes to beekeeping!

    I’m on my own journey as an amateur beek with a family history in beekeeping that stretches back to the mid to late 19th century, and although some family techniques and knowledge have been passed down, I am constantly learning and taking on new information about how to care for our buzzing friends. Let us hope that the person in question will read this post and rethink their approach, or arrive at a more sagacious attitude to their own beekeeping in future!

    I echo the sentiments of your other readers and encourage you to persist because we greatly outnumber the negative.

    Keep up the great work!

  • RUSTY, you handled this way better than I would have. After spending 46 years of hearing why I`m not able to do things, I just quit asking! THEN I STUMBLED INTO THE WORLD OF KEEPING BEES! I found that all the negative talk I get is that most people are afraid you`ll succeed and leave them behind! It took me 46 years of asking QUESTIONs to find this all out! I am now into my second year of taking care of the “wild” bees that I used to raid for honey! Now it is just feeding and trying to catch some bees to keep close so I don’t have to destroy “wild” hives to have HONEY. THANK FOR YOURs and everyone’s HELP!!

  • Like so many others that have already commented: I cherish your hard-working efforts to try to answer so many questions. After floating thru many you tube videos and bee websites, I have found the information you provide to be superior to all others. THANK YOU

  • We are at the end of October here in North Carolina. Is it too late to do the 6 week powdered sugar mite control?

    Even though we have mild winters, it is too chilly to open hives to dust sugar. I’m a beginner and we have 1 hive left out of 2. Wax moths took the other. Thanks.

    • Judith,

      First, if something needs to be done to save a colony, it is never too cold to open it. Think about it: If you open in the cold, some bees may die. If you don’t open it when care is needed, they all will die.

      Next, I’ve never heard of a six-week powdered sugar mite control. Powdered sugar is not very effective, so if it’s your only mite control, it needs to be done every week, or nearly so.

      Wax moths only take over weak colonies, not strong ones, so the colony likely had other issues before the moths moved in.

      I can only guess from here, but it sounds like mites weakened the first colony, then moths moved in. I’m also guessing you need to control the mites in number two, even if you need to open it.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I am one of your fans from across the pond in Ireland.
    This person needs to learn two lessons:
    1) Manners maketh Man.
    2) The stronger the language, the weaker the argument.

    Unfortunately, good manners are in short supply and strong language is used as a screen for inadequate thought.
    Non illegitimo carborundum.

    • John,

      Thank you. I especially like, “The stronger the language, the weaker the argument.” I never heard that before, but it’s so true.

  • Rusty I am new to beekeeping and I find your blog (your whole website) to be not just informative but also exceptionally well written. It’s a stand-out in this area.

    The rude and abusive man you wrote about….these interactions are unfortunately all too common. Keyboard warriors. Of course, what he wrote was actually not about you at all, but a reflection of his own state of mind, how he feels about himself and about his life. Happy and fulfilled people simply do not do what he did.

    Thank you for calling out this behaviour yet without biting back. Perhaps the man concerned will read your blog post about him, the many comments following it, and maybe he will end up in a better place after some reflection. You’ve helped give him that chance at least.


  • Such a shame that this happened. Frankly, I give the person no excuse whatsoever.
    You write thoroughly about honey bees… and almost affectionately. I appreciate your vast knowledge. Thank you.

  • Rusty-I LOVE your blog! I may roam the internet but I always come back to Honey Bee Suite to see what you say on a topic and almost always take your advice! I also sometimes learn a bit from comments made by people with intelligence enough to put together sentences without foul language! (Like a great no-boil sugar cake recipe that works!) I’ve been keeping bees for 5 years and every year learn something new! Thank you for all you do!

  • Rusty,

    I love your website. This is my 4th year beekeeping and it’s taken me about this long to realize that every solution often does open the door for new issues that I hadn’t anticipated. There truly is no one answer. Reading all these comments helps keep me from feeling discouraged about my beekeeping. I mentored this year for the 1st time and I found that teaching newbees helps me learn, too. Keep up the good work.

  • I was looking for ways to overwinter my hive (first-year beekeeper here). I was getting overwhelmed with all the possible ways!

    Bit by bit I was narrowing down my options. And then I decided to see how it’s gone in Ukraine and Russia ?‍♀️

    And it’s started all over again! Now I’m narrowing down not only from how it’s done locally but from how it’s done in similar climates in other parts of the world!!!