Thursday, December 21, 2023

Pax Vobiscum


December 21 marks the winter solstice, the date with the year’s shortest daylight and longest night. The solstice falls among winter days in which religious and cultural holidays are celebrated around the world. The winter solstice is also recognized as the start of the honey bee colony’s year. It is on the solstice that queen bees start laying eggs after an egg laying interruption in the fall. Today, when temperatures rose above 50 degrees allowing bees to make foraging flights, I observed foragers bringing pollen into the hives. The arrival of pollen is usually associated with egg laying occurring in the hive. When brood is present, the colonies must warm their hives to 95 degrees by consuming their honey stores to generate heat. Though there are few plants in bloom during the late fall and winter, I have observed bees foraging on fall asters on the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Some honey bees and native pollinators have been foraging the citrus-scented blossoms of mullein, shown in today’s photo.


As we end the beekeeper’s year, it is a good time to reflect on the friends we have encountered. I am especially appreciative of the Bemis family, who operate Bemis Honey Bee Farm and Supplies in Little Rock. The Bemis’s business includes the production of honey as well as bee hive equipment and bees. The honey bee farm also provides beekeeping training, which I participate in, as well as hosting two annual public events, Bee Day in the spring and the Arkansas Honey Festival in the fall. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the Bemises who established the Rita Peace Underhill Memorial Beekeeping Scholarship in honor of my late wife, Rita. The scholarship provides hives, bees, equipment, and training for a starting beekeeper. Others beekeepers contributed hives and colonies of bees. It is with great appreciation that I recognize our beekeeper community. In the spirit of the season, I offer to all that peace be with you.


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Bee Day


Following two days of rain, the sun broke out on a crisp and cool April morning. My first presentation was scheduled to be conducted in the bee yard. As a videographer was connecting my microphone and focusing the cameras on the line of bee hives stretching into the distance, one hundred beekeepers gathered. Thus began Bee Day at Bemis Honey Bee Farm in Little Rock, Arkansas, a day when people came to receive hundreds of packaged colonies and nucleus colonies of honey bees. They also came for speaking presentations and bee yard demonstrations held throughout the day. I was honored to share speaking sessions with Dr. Dewey M. Caron, the person who literally wrote the book on the topic, Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping. Since Bee Day coincided with Earth Day, Dr. Caron led off with a discussion of the importance of trees and their condition in a world being altered by global warming. He spoke on the biology of honey bee colony reproduction through swarming, and he explained how to read the activity inside bee hives. Alternating with Dr. Caron, I made presentations on the beekeeping year, illustrating how we manage bees that can produce queens in five months but cannot produce them in seven months. I made a presentation on potential pests of bee hives, which include people, pets, livestock, raccoons, possums, skunks, bears, wasps, hornets, ants, and parasitic mites. Dr. Caron concluded our classroom presentations by covering measures to control colony-killing varroa mites. We both emphasized the use of the resources available in the Tools for Varroa Management guide, much of which was written by Dr. Caron. The guide is available through the Honey Bee Health Coalition,


Throughout the day, beekeepers attended demonstrations conducted in the bee yard. A state apiary inspector demonstrated hive inspections, and Jody Carter discussed queen rearing and making colony divisions. Jeremy Bemis demonstrated how to install packaged bees and nucleus colonies in bee hives. Today’s photo: Dr. Dewey M. Caron.