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Day of the Dead Beekeepers

16 Mar

Photo by Karl Arcuri

Karl from Austin is the coolest damn beekeeper I know.  Not only does he examine his hives in a baby blue sweatband, but he paints his hives day-glo yellow.

And this, his latest inspired move, is beyond rad — a Day of the Dead beekeeper he commissioned from Austin artist, Cindy Raschke.

See the full piece at Karl’s place


5 things I learned from Jürgen Tautz’s “Buzz About Bees”

18 Aug

It’s a book that will change your perspective about honeybees.

Though the American title, “Buzz About Bees” seems flippantly trendy, Jürgen Tautz’s book is loaded with data-backed analysis of bee behavior and insight into the latest genetic research. It’ll make you think differently too about the aggregate behavior of another social species, Homo sapiens.

Buzz About Bees: The Biology of a Super Organism

5 Things I Learned

The hardcover book is lushly illustrated and packed with mind-blowing information to fuel a beekeeper’s endless thirst for understanding. Here are just a few of my favorite revelations.

1. Bees don’t form hexagonal comb.

Wax, like glass, is a liquid. Once the bees build comb, they melt it slightly and that’s how it naturally forms hexagons much like adjoining soap bubbles do.

2. Bees turn off color vision on the way back home.

Bees use color vision selectively, turning it off to conserve energy when it’s superfluous. Who needs color on the way home, for example? Though they view objects in color when flying out to forage, they switch to B&W for the rote journey home.

3. Bees can sting each other without dying.

Apparently, it’s mammalian skin that thwarts the honeybee stinger. Honeybees die after stinging a human because their barbed stinger can’t be extracted easily but honeybees can sting each other as well as other insects without such dire consequences.

4. The honeybee waggle dance is NOT about visuals.

It’s about vibration. When honeybees dance, they’re actually sending vibrational communication through the medium of the comb. In fact, the front face of honeycomb is thickened slightly to enhance the network’s transmission capacity.

5. “Mass-orienting” flights are really practice mating flights.

Those gorgeous afternoon displays are not actually bumbling baby bees learning how to fly. Rather, they are apparently an ongoing drill of  the workers that would accompany a virgin queen on her mating flight. Interestingly, these mass-orientations only occur in hives with a queen.

Check it out for yourself: Buzz About Bees: The Biology of a Superorganism

My glamour girls featured in Local iQ

5 Aug
Photo by Joy Godfrey

Photo by Joy Godfrey

Oh my! Me and the 40,000 vixens that call my backyard home are bashfully giddy about our feature in this week’s Local iQ. If it looks like we (me and the bees) are in love with each other, it’s because we are! Over the past 3 years, beekeeping has become one of the simple joys in my otherwise high-tech life.

“Bees are a reminder of our interdependence on one another,” Foster said in a recent interview. She elaborated that having bees in her life has changed the way she looks at nature. “I notice the rhythms now.”

Read the full article at Local iQ

Thanks to writer Kay Vinson and photographer Joy Godfrey for checking out my girls and learning more about Albuquerque’s amazing community of local beekeepers.

Everything Guide to Urban Honey

13 Jul

Local chef and co-owner of Jennifer James 101 (they use our honey at the restaurant!) dropped off this sumptuous article on urban beekeeping yesterday: The Everything Guide to Urban Honey.

Informative and artistic, it’s a convincing testimony that urban beekeeping is back and here to stay.

From the series:

The Summer Nectar Series

21 Jun

Just before the heat of summer in Albuquerque, lavender and blue borage flow like a speakeasy still.

Get a bee-friendly planting guide for your area

The summer gorge

The summer gorge

Interview with a commercial top bar beekeeper

28 May
Les Crowder, photo by RD Managain

Les Crowder, photo by Jeff Spicer

Bioneers’ RD Managain just interviewed Les Crowder, a veteran commercial beekeeper in New Mexico.

Crowder on varroa resistance:

 I started keeping bees when I was a kid. It was then I read an article in the American Bee Journal was reading about the varroa mite in Europe, written by an Italian who was researching the Italian honeybee in its natural state. He calculated how many feral beehives there were throughout Italy. When the varroa mite arrived, many of the feral hives died.

About eight years after the arrival of the varroa mite, he noticed a general increase in the feral Italian honeybee population in the wild. He concluded that they had developed a natural resistance to the mite. And, of course, nobody applied any miticide to those bees. They’re just wild bees out in nature. So, honeybees left alone will naturally develop mite resistance.

On antibiotics:

Antibiotics interfere with their digestion, just like if we take antibiotics we get diarrhea sometimes because we kill off our natural flora. My wife just recently wrote an article for the American Bee Journal, which they declined to print, indicating that the use of antibiotics can set up conditions for things like Candida and Nocema cerranae [a pathogen tentatively linked to colony collapse disorder] in honey bees. In beekeeping, they advise you to give antibiotics to bees, every beehive, every year as a preventative. It is administered in the winter to prevent them from getting sick in the summer, which doesn’t make any sense.

[Read the full interview with Les Crowder]

Forum for Top Bar Beekeepers

6 Jan

Manna in an otherwise stark desert!

Much of American beekeeping instruction and support is focused on the Langstroth hive. Those of us who maintain top bar hives are frequently left to our own devices. Until now…

Top Bar Beekeeping Forum is an active online space for top bar beeks like myself. Check it out.


19 May

Got me bees. Got me a queen. But I’m a little short on information since much of America focuses on beekeeping with commercial-style Langstroth hives. Thus, I do hereby highly recommend the following website:

With delectable bee porn and homey misspellings, it’s a website rich with information for hungry newbeeks like me. Dive in and enjoy!