Welcome To BeeHacker.Com

This site explores the confluence of beekeeping and technology. It is targeted at the amateur and professional:

  • beekeeper or bee lover
  • scientist, engineer, inventor, DIYer

The primary goal is to develop new, Open Source technologies that can benefit the honey bee and everyone else that benefits from the honey bee. Continue reading Welcome To BeeHacker.Com

How Zika Complicated My Beekeeping

My article on Zika and Bee Kills in Bee Culture

Every time a news story covers the Zika, West Nile or some other mosquito-borne virus in the US, phones start ringing at pest and mosquito control companies. In the mind of most homeowners, calling a mosquito control company is the most rational response. A panel truck shows up – at any hour of the 9-5 work day – and workers starts fogging the yard with pyrethrins. If the company is lucky, they will sign a recurring contract that guarantees multiple visits.

Pyrethrins are relatively safe to vertebrates but deadly to invertebrates such as honey bees, native pollinators, aquatic life, and dragonflies (that eat both mosquito larvae and mosquitoes). A cloud of pyrethrins can drift into an apiary or – if sprayed on flowers – toxic nectar and pollen can be carried back to the hive.

That is exactly what happened to me in 2016. It was devastating. I am sure the loss causes some to quit beekeeping altogether. Imaging finding your beloved cat or dog or concubine healthy one day and dead the next from poisoning. I would not wish this on anybody.  But I have heard stories from others. It is not always the mosquito control companies – sometimes it is the county roads department.

So I did what any other red-blooded American beekeeper would do. I waged a one person war on mindless, senseless, uninformed, scorched earth fogging of all insects.

The first thing I did was to assembled a care package to my neighbors. Zika and the mosquitoes the virus are real. No backing away from that fact. But there are better ways to deal with mosquitoes. So I assembled a care package (in a nifty bag) with the following items and gave one to each of my neighbors:

Next, I offered to create an informative bee kill

Continue reading How Zika Complicated My Beekeeping

If I could choose anyone in the world to speak at my bee club…

…it would be Professor Mandyam Srinivasan. Granted, I may be a little unique there but I have enjoyed many of his papers on honey bee neurophysiology. He is Professor of Visual Neuroscience at the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia. His research focuses on the principles of visual processing, perception and cognition in bees and . . . → Read More: If I could choose anyone in the world to speak at my bee club…

High speed cameras study imprecise bee flight

Drones Make Love Not War

I have two hobbies: beekeeping and building/flying multirotors or drones.  There is rarely any overlap between the two but recently I have noticed a spate of YouTube videos with titles such as (click on the links!):

Continue reading Drones Make Love Not War

The Hardest Part of Beekeeping…Made Simple

from beesmokerfuel.com

3 forms of cotton bee smoker fuel. Click image for an enlarged image.

Ask a dozen beekeepers what the hardest part of beekeeping is and you will get 13 different answers. But at least a third or more of those answers will be related to lighting a smoker and keeping it lit.  Pine needles are the smoker fuel of choice in the southeastern US and they have been my preferred smoker fuel because they are effective, plentiful, and cheap (free). But pine needles are not perfect: Continue reading The Hardest Part of Beekeeping…Made Simple

Improved Metal Hive Scale

It has been very rewarding to see reader’s improvements on my original hive scale design. I recently got an email from Matthew Waddington – I’ll reproduce here since it is pretty self-explanatory.

Hi-

Yet another version of the scale!

I saw your version years ago, and was inspired by it, and came up with . . . → Read More: Improved Metal Hive Scale

Give the Gift that Gives a Buzz

Every year, my wife and I struggle to come up with a bee-related Christmas gift that we can make for family and friends.  Last year was a building year for my apiary so I did not harvest much honey. However I did have enough honey to make almost 44 bottles of Rock & Rye.

Rock & Rye was a staple of bars before the prohibition. During the prohibition, it became a staple of medicine cabinets. When I was ten years old and sick with a cold, my mother would give me a juice glass of straight up Old Mr. Boston Rock & Rye. I would drink it down, jump in bed, and sleep like a log. The rock candy (sucrose) in Rock & Rye would soothe my throat and the vitamin C from the lemon half (bobbing in the bottle) did not hurt either. The taste and recipe is similar to the favorite cocktail of Don Draper of Mad Men: the Old Fashioned.

Continue reading Give the Gift that Gives a Buzz

Foldscope & The Dream of Easy Pollen Identification

Leeuwenhoek_Microscope

Leeuwenhoek_Microscope

It would be wonderful to identify pollen in honey and from pollen gathered by bees.  You can do that with a 400x-1000x microscope for a couple of hundred dollars and some training in staining techniques. So when I heard about Foldscope – an origami microscope that fits in your pocket and costs less than 2 bucks – I was excited about the prospect of beekeepers identifying pollen in the field.

Foldscope originated out of the department of bioengineering at Stanford University. The Prakash Lab designed a low cost paper microscope that more closely resembles the original Leeuwenhoek microscope than the familiar tubular compound microscopes today.

One goal of foldscope is to provide a microscope to healthcare workers in poor countries to diagnose disease. The Prakash Lab received grants from several foundations to hand out thousands of foldscopes.  I was one among thousands of beta testers from 130 different countries to request a foldscope (the beta phase is now closed) and it arrived in an envelope several weeks later. Continue reading Foldscope & The Dream of Easy Pollen Identification

Honey Bees Have Arrived

Harrods is a retailer in London that caters to international royalty and is owned by the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar. You can buy a 12.5 Kg gold bar ‘off the shelf’.  They are so exclusive that their new owner burned his royal warrants and banned the Duke of Edinburgh from the store. So . . . → Read More: Honey Bees Have Arrived

Beekeeping in Ukraine

A conversation between beekeepers

One of the benefits of writing the BeeHacker blog is that I also get to meet interesting people from around the world. I recently started a dialog with Oleg Sadovskij, a Ukrainian beekeeper, a honey exporter, and manager of TORENT-TRADE Ltd. In Ukraine. I was curious about Ukraine because it is in the top five list of page visits by country to my blog (after US, Great Britain, France, & China). oleg

Americans have heard a lot about Ukraine in the news this year yet few realize the long history and loyal compassion Ukrainians have for honey and the honey bee. There are about 400 thousand beekeepers in Ukraine or 1 beekeeper for every 107 Ukrainians. In the US, that ratio is 1 in 1500! Ukraine is the largest producer of honey among European countries and Russia. On average, a Ukrainian consumes 2.6 lbs of honey annually – double what is consumed in the United States. In 1815 the Ukrainian Peter Prokopovich invented the movable-frame beehive though the American Langstroth discovered bee space which made his 1852 patent for movable frames much more practical. If you are a beekeeper or if you just like honey, then you will find Ukraine a very bee friendly place. Continue reading Beekeeping in Ukraine