July 29, 2021

Troubling Questions (032)

Troubling Questions  (032)

Kim and Jim ask some interesting questions this week, maybe some you’ve asked yourself, or perhaps you asked a close friend. For instance, should a colony being used for honey production spend time and energy raising drones? Or should a beekeeper be...

Kim and Jim ask some interesting questions this week, maybe some you’ve asked yourself, or perhaps you asked a close friend.

For instance, should a colony being used for honey production spend time and energy raising drones? Or should a beekeeper be getting rid of drones? There are some who believe so.

And where do you go to get good information when you have a honey bee question? The web?  And if so, which websites do you seek out? What about books and magazines? And for what subjects? Is there a single source?

And was there some advice a respected and trusted source gave you long ago that you used for years, but finally figured out it was bad advice? There’s probably several things you still do that you shouldn’t, right?

And the first question? What’s the one thing in your beekeeping life that you are most proud of? And why?

Join Kim and Jim, and try and answer their questions this week. Let them know if you can…..


We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com


Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Copyright © 2021 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura

Episode 32 – Troubling Questions


Kim Flottum: Hey, Jim, believe it or not, I was at a meeting recently, finally, and I was talking to some folks I haven't seen for a while, I haven't talked to for a while. One of the guys asked me this question, and I had to take a step back. He says, "What's the one thing that you've done that you're most proud of?"

Jim Tew: That sets you back for a minute, doesn't it? Don't you just hate it when someone asks good questions and catch you off guard? I don't know how I would answer that, Kim, but I'll give it a shot here in a bit.

Kim: I had to pause too. I wasn't sure how to answer that. What I'm going to do is I'm going to ask you that question. Maybe I can figure out something from your answer.

Jim: I'll be happy to try it. You might want to stand by because I'm not that great of a guy.

Kim: Hello, I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim: I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: We want to welcome you today to Honey Bee Obscura. Today, we're going to talk about some questions that you may have to think about twice.

Jim: Don't you just hate twice questions? Don't you just hate it when someone comes up with that question you weren't expecting, you're not prepared for it, and you look like you weren't prepared for that, were are you?

Kim: [chuckles] I got you on this one.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura, brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today Podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura, hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honeybees in today's world in an engaging and informative discussion meant for all beekeepers, long-timers, and those just starting their journey with bees. Sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honeybees.

Kim: What's the thing that you've done in your life that you're most proud of?

Jim: Just so the listeners are listening, you did spring this on me, and yes, it did confuse me because after I had just a few minutes to think about it, Kim, I realized that any achievement that I thought that I've had seems to have been for the moment. Early on, one of the achievements that I really felt special about, that I really felt good about was the grand old master of beekeeping at Ohio State, Dr. Walter Rothenbuhler, took time out of his life to set up his lab and teach me to artificially or instrumentally inseminate queens.

It was a very special time for me. I really felt like I had come into my own at that moment. At the time, I was just going to be this queen breeding expert forever. Now, in reality, I haven't done any AI work for probably 10 or 15 years. At that moment though Kim, that was one of my prideful achievements was having Dr. Rothenbuhler teach me personally his technique for instrumental insemination of queens.

Kim: I can see that. No, I can't. I can't imagine being there doing that. That's pretty neat. You're right. I've had a couple of minutes to think about it, and it's been a while since I was asked this question. It's a way different achievement, I think, not that terribly long ago, a few years ago, I started thinking in July of the year before that, next year, I'm going to try and do everything the way it should be done, the way the books tell you, the way the experienced beekeepers tell you.

I had some packages, and I had some overwintered colonies, and I treated the packages the way you're supposed to treat them, and I got my supers on early, and I got my treatments on at the right time, both the year before and early in the spring. I made sure there was enough room. I was out there probably a little bit too often, but I was out there every time I should be, and sometimes, maybe when I was being a little anxious, but I did everything by the book, if you will. It was a lot of work, but you know what, I made 120 pounds of honey on every one of those colonies, the packages and the overwintered. That was, to me, I've never done it since, I've never even come close.

Jim: Nicely done.

Kim: Yes, it was. I'm going to go back to that guy and I'm going to tell him my story, but I'm also going to mention yours because it's a proud moment in your life that you earned. It was a proud moment in my life that I earned, but they were very different kinds of moments.

Jim: They were both high watermarks. Then, that high watermark moves on and becomes a high watermark, and there's other watermarks, but it was for the moment. I had a good time. I had a good time with that.

Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Honey Bee Obscura podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalogs to their supportive beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of, "Beekeepers serving beekeepers." See for yourself at betterbee.com.

Jim: The thing that comes to mind is, "Where would I go to find information?" Where do you go to find information that you're looking for on a particular subject because I do this all the time? What I've had to figure out is someone's asked a question, someone needs an answer. I need an answer. Where do you go, Kim, to find such an answer in the whole wide world now of information?

Kim: I'll start with you. [laughs]

Jim: You start with me? I'd tell you to call somebody else right away.

Kim: There's people and there's resources. If I look at this from a research perspective, there's got to be a book or books out there that probably could answer almost any question I can come up with, and right off the top, there's the new ABC that Bee Culture, published, and there's Dewey, Caron and Larry Connor's Bee Biology book that's probably what answers are in ABC. I think I got those two, and they're sitting right here in the desk. I can reach out and touch both of them. They are always that close because I got a question, that's where I go.

Jim: I agree with that. Both of those are great books. Absolutely.

Kim: Who do you go to?

Jim: Kim, I go a slightly different route. I've got those books, and I go to those firsts, they're easy. You pick them up, you flip through, you go through, just traditional. More often than not, I spend most of my time now on the web, as do you. The web knows everything, the web has all the answers, the questions of what you need. Once you've got the question, and then you have to look at it and say, "I've got 10,000 hits here, I need to fine-tune this to the ones that I really want to see."

I don't mean to be discriminatory, but in this sea of confusion, when you're quick, and it's something that's just direct, I'll probably look for a .edu ending on the URL address. Did somebody at a university sanction this somewhere, or .gov? Does it have an agency listing? If it's just .com, and it's my web page, or you don't know, then you have to be more discerning when you go into it and open that up. Isn't it odd, Kim, how so many of those URLs, those web pages won't tell you where they are? Are you in Medina, Ohio, or are you in Birmingham, Alabama? I need to know basically what the climate is, the weather, see if it has an effect on the answer, but that's always mysterious where most of these web pages are located.

Kim: I'll give you a quick answer, a quick reference for that. About four years ago, I bought a tupelo tree from a guy who sells tupelo trees down south. He says, "That's never going to grow where you are." I've put it in a protected spot, and it's growing. Now, my next question is, when does a bloom? I went to the web for that answer. It told me when it blooms in Georgia, not Ohio. [chuckles] I don't know when it's going to bloom.

Jim: Kim, I can see this being an innovative addition to the web-dom. When you tell them when tupelo blooms in Ohio, since you have the only tree here, the whole tupelo forest is in your backyard right here in Ohio. Ain't it amazing though how the web knows everything like that? It can help out if you can sort and pick out the proper information that you need.

Kim: Sometimes you can't, there's too much. That brings up another thought here. I'm betting that somewhere along the line, somebody taught you something. You learned something, you read it in a book, maybe you read it on their web, whatever, and you did it for a long time, and then you began to realize that this is not the best advice. Did it ever happen to you?

Jim: It has, in life and in beekeeping. [chuckles] I have figured that out, but I'm sure you're talking about beekeeping. Let me think for a second. What, in beekeeping, was advice that I no longer follow well? You know what comes to mind, Kim? I had a grand old master of beekeeping, an etymology professor at Auburn. Anybody who is listening who is as old as I am, you'll know who he is. I'm not sure why, but I probably shouldn't call his name. We don't have him anymore. He was adamant.

He didn't like drones. He does not like drones. Drones do not serve any known function other than copulating with unmated queens. You don't need a million drones for that. You need a few. Anytime you see these drones, tear down that drone comb, scrape out that burr comb, clean that stuff up, keep this colony efficient and productive, and destroy those drones. I did that for years. As time passed, I don't know why, Kim, it just seemed like a lot of death and destruction. These bees are really hardheaded about putting these drones back in here.

As the decades passed, I really totally gave up on that. I've come full circle now into thinking, "No, I really don't mind that colony having 4 to 600 drones, thousand drones inside there." Yes, I know they produce Varroa mites and all the concerns, and issues of that, and you should kill the drone because of the Varroa, but it just seems like drones have always been put upon, doesn't it? You got to kill them because of Varroa, you got to kill them because they're a wastrel, you got to kill them because they don't need them. They're seasonal. They're going to die when they mate. Boy, I do not want to be a drone bee when I grow up. That's for sure.

Kim: I'm glad to hear that you've changed because those colonies were trying to tell you something. We want drones. I don't know if we need them, but we want drones. Believe it or not, I used to work with the same guy who would get rid of drones because they serve no function and they cost time and money and energy for the colony. Its only purpose in life was to produce pounds and pounds and pounds of honey. That's the only thing that was there for, and it took me a while to get away from that view of a colony and begin to look at it as a productive livestock. Let me put it that way. They were telling me that, yes, we need drones and all of the other things that they do, no matter what you do to them, they're going to do them anyway. Kind of the same thing, I agree. I think your guy and my guy would have gotten along pretty well. [laughs]

Jim: Well, I don't know what else to do. I've stopped harassing drones, but have you changed anything? Is there advice that you've always followed that you've given up on now?

Kim: Well, not drones, and since Varroa came and we charged at it full speed ahead with every chemical, with every compound, with every management trick that we could think of, and for a while, my thinking on Varroa was the more poison I can put in this hive, the better off my bees are going to be, and then one day, I woke up and I said, "Listen to that statement. That's not right." Putting poison in a beehive is--

Jim: Good one, Kim. Good one.

Kim: I don't put poison in my beehives anymore. I do other things. I don't get rid of drones, and I don't put poison into my beehives. I can tell you one other thing, I'm never going to produce 120 pounds of honey in any of those colonies out there either.

Jim: Why did you ever want to? When you said 120 pounds per colony, I thought, "Well, that's an entirely different set of work expectations you've got to deal with." You were younger. I was younger. When you're younger, everything is different and bright, and energy is jumping to be wasted easily.

Kim: [laughs] Yes. I'd like to say older and wiser.

Jim: I'll go along with that. You're older and wiser in the same way that your achievements all those years ago, my achievements all those years ago were impressive and met our needs at the time. I enjoy talking about it, just reminiscing here. I'd like to ask you if we can meet again about a week now and do this all over again, Kim.

Kim: Yes. Let's do that. It's good to hear someone who has also gone through the same life changes that you've come to realize that were good to me. I'll see you in a week.

Jim: You're old, Kim. I'll see you in a week. Bye-bye.

[00:15:21] [END OF AUDIO]