Why the Buzz?

November 2018 – Buzzword Honey Blog is 6 years old

The first Buzzword Honey blog comment was posted in November 2012. Some  6 years and more than 125 posts.

There has been a lot of change in what I focus on and how I approach keeping my bee yards going. What has not changed is my respect for honey bees and the complex environment they can adapt to. Honey bees continue to both amaze and challenge me.

The second year of managing my training yard has been an exceptionally rewarding and  challenging experience.  I have made many new beekeeping friends, learned better technique for hive management and resolved  issues with narrow-minded bee club politics. Year three will be even more challenging in that nuc production and limited queen production will be added to the basic training yard plan.

The training yard’s hives continue to do well. The hive count is currently seven, three 8-frame hives and four 5-frame hives. With some luck, the spring count will be no worst than average area losses.

April 2018 – Training yard will be my focus

The first 2018 Clermont visit was well attended with a mix of new beekeepers and previous year beekeepers. The day was perfect with clear skies highlighting the natural beauty of Clermont Farm.

As of yesterday, there are five 8 frame hives, one 3 section queen castle and a swarm catch box at the Clermont site. Each hive demonstrated a level of activity that would be expected from the start up of a package hive to hives that were over wintered. The 2nd year of the Clermont training yard will be an instructive mix of first year beekeeping techniques and more advanced beekeeping activities.

February 2018 – Training yard

This year the Clermont training yard’s focus will be on second year beekeeping. So far, some strange and exciting things have occurred in 2018. For one, a car was sent into space on a private rocket with the boosters returning to land back on the launch pad. That is truly amazing!

On a more local level, I hope to launch into a process that is much smaller in scope but apparently just as difficult. A bit of background – my local club has for years discussed supporting nuc production as a way to lower the number of packages that are purchased for club members. It is a great idea but has never been well implemented.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Every year we have this same conversation and every year the club sells 200 – 250 packages. Granted, weaning club members off packages might be as difficult as sending a car into space. Someone just did the car so I’m insane enough to think that nuc production training can work.

To make spring nucs one must have spring bees. This appears to be the missing link. There are lots of reasons given for losing all of one’s hives – too cold, pesticides, defective queens, bad luck, the next door neighbor, yellow jackets: I’ve heard them all!

One observation I’ve made is that the same small group of beekeepers has bees alive in the spring. Not that they don’t lose hives, we all do– just as rockets sometimes blow up. Bad stuff happens.

So when I hear that someone is not going to treat for mites because they don’t like “chemicals” I wonder how they treat their pets. When the pet gets sick, people go to the vet. If they don’t correct the issue there is a chance their pet will die. Why should bees be treated differently? The beekeeper is the bee’s vet.

This is where it gets fun. There are several proven methods to keep hives healthy using best management practices associated with integrated pest management. It just takes some time and a lot knowledge. I intend to teach IPM and best management practices that work for me. I don’t think there is insanity in change. We need the bees as badly as the bees need us.

When I checked today, all four of the training yard hives had bees flying. The space car had a dummy at the wheel and the phrase “Don’t Panic” on the dash screen.

Clermont Bee X – Don’t Panic!

February 2017 – First hive inspection of 2017

Could it be that I’m getting bee fever early? I did my first brood check on Presidents Day. Mid February for most conversations would normally discuss the cold and snow. Not this day, almost 70° F and no wind! What a gift. There was far more brood that expected so now I get to worry about chilled brood and early swarms.

March 2016 – Beekeeping just for the fun of it.

When I’m asked “so what do you do” typically meaning “what is your job,” I like to start a discussion that leads to bee talk. Depending on how mischievous I’m feeling (beekeepers are a strange lot) I answer with “I keep bees” or “I grow stinging insects in wooden boxes”. Both answers are correct at some level and I don’t have to really answer their question. This is usually good for a long discussion with questions around what beekeeping is about.

What is beekeeping about? In truth, I don’t have a good answer. In today’s world it takes problem solving skills, solid observational skills, a good understanding of the natural flow of the seasons. The ability to plan, learn and adapt is helpful. A beekeeper also needs to  understand honey bee biology, have a healthy place for hives, and a lot more.

It also helps to be crazy enough to willingly stick you hands into a box full of stinging insects.

Late January 2015 – Spring comes early to the beekeeper’s brain.

The question “So how are your bees?”  is often asked by my beekeeping friends. The hope is “they are doing well”  but the truth is “I’m not sure, OK the last time I checked.” This is a tough time for both the bees and the beekeeper. Will I have large losses? Can I make splits and sell nucs? Is the necessary equipment ready for Spring? The only thing I’m sure of is that Spring will come and flowers will bloom.

2015 will bring in some new opportunities and challenges. I am working on a plan with a small group of beekeepers that want to improve their nuc production skills. So far there has been a lot of interest. I plan it to be a hands on, in the beeyard learning experience where we visit and help each other. Kind of like bees in the hive.

Fall of 2014 – the season comes to a close.

This season has again been good for the bees. My hive count has increased, Nucs are ready to overwinter, feeders have been keeping me busy. The weather for the last few weeks has been typical for this time of year but not the best for bee flights. As always, I have started to worry that the hives won’t have enough stores, are not strong and healthy enough, will lose their queen, get eaten by a bear — my worry list is long.

I get some comfort in knowing that I did the best I could and that the bees are very good at what they do best which is to get to spring. I tried several different things this year, some I will keep doing. I bought more queens than in past years and had limited success with them. I am convinced that the best queens are the ones that my bees make.

 2013 has been a most productive beekeeping year.

I expanded the number of hives and had good success with both the new hives and the hives from previous years. Although there is a strong demand for nucs and I created some, I didn’t sell any. There are many reasons for this decision and I have not made a nuc sales decision for 2014.  Most of the nucs I produced in 2013 used queen cells for their queens which pushed the availability date too far out for most new beekeepers. I did not order any queens and was happy with my decision given that both packages and queens that other beekeepers purchased turned out to be less than satisfactory.  I was given a Russian queen mid summer and have her in a strong nuc that will hopefully over-winter. The plan for 2014 is to expand to about 20 hives and 6 nucs which I feel will be the maximum that I can care for.

Hobby Beekeeping continues to be of interest to many people most of which are pressed for time. I have a few ideas where I can help in that area and I plan to start a very small project helping those who want to keep bees but don’t have a lot of extra time to devote to some of the work.


Notes from 2012 when this site started:

Buzzword Honey is a hobby that has turned into something much more than I expected.

Beekeeping has given me the chance to work with an outrageously complex and important insect and to some very small extent, help continue the art of beekeeping.

This site’s inspiration is from a comment made by a new beekeeper who had just finished the class that is available through Beekeepers of the Northern Shenandoah Valley. The comment was “It would be great if there was a place that new beekeepers could find out what more experienced  beekeepers were doing”.

For me the best part of beekeeping is sharing my beekeeping experience with others by talking about beekeeping, teaching where I can and producing 100% pure wildflower honey. Simply being next to an active bee hive watching the activity is something special.

Let’s go Beekeeping!