I will give a presentation on the history of hive innovation and humane beekeeping at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 23. The title is “Humane Beekeeping: How Hive Innovation Saved Honeybees,” and it will take place at the History Center in downtown Cedar Rapids. I know most people have never heard of "humane beekeeping," but that's the point. Years ago, particularly in Europe and Britain, beekeepers often used a straw hive that looked like this:
Beekeepers, especially in the British Isles, generally killed their bees in order to harvest safely from such straw hives. That practice persisted for centuries. The presentation will discuss how, and why, bees were massacred for so many years. Then we will review how hive innovation helped to stop that practice from being conventional any longer.
Drop by if you are interested in beekeeping history, and there will absolutely be an opportunity to ask questions!
And of course, Happy Valentine's Day!!!
Last night, I spoke for the Back-to-Basics bee club. They have a thriving group of beekeepers that meet in the Iowa State Agricultural Extension building in Oskaloosa. It's a great facility for them, and it was a pretty full house. My topic for the evening was queen-related hive management. We went over some fundamentals of queen biology, how to successfully requeen laying workers, and some characteristics of the various races of bees that are important to know about when making queen purchases. The group had some great questions throughout.
Afterwards, one of the club's officers brought out a binder that looked like this:
Evidently, someone printed off the entire blog last year, and then placed it in the bee club's library. It was great to see that someone found these posts worth keeping around.
If anyone is looking for a bee club to join in Iowa, here is a link with contact information for several. Depending on where you live, there are often a couple within driving distance. Click here for Iowa bee clubs. Beekeepers are quite good at learning from each other, so it's a great for beekeepers new and old to convene at these clubs if it fits in their schedules. I wish I could make it to the East Central Iowa Beekeepers more often, but I drop in whenever possible.
This seems like an appropriate image for a chilly start to February. I mostly have telescoping lids on my hives in eastern Iowa, but this one has a carton on it with a migratory cover. This hive was alive when I checked it on a warm day couple of weeks ago. It's my pet hive in the yard.
Well, we certainly aren't having a winter quite as balmy as the last one. There have been periodic breaks in the cold, but the more typical winter deep freeze has made a respectable appearance during the last few weeks. In a few days it might get warm enough for the bees to have a cleansing flight. Here's hoping. I'm looking forward to checking the hives for survival and strength when we get a couple of weeks into February.
The 2013 package bee prices have arrived. We are working with Koehnen's as usual. They are close to last year's prices. As always, the packages are only available for pickup at our Lynnville, Iowa location. We do not ship packages to anywhere. We will, however, resume shipping queens later in the spring.
Here is the current pricelist and instructions pertaining to 2013 package bees. All reservations should be made through Lynnville: 641-527-2639. The same information is available on our website. As usual, it's possible to select Italian or Carniolan queens in various package weights.
I have just returned from another winter venture that furthered my research on beekeeping history. This time I visited the Phillips Beekeeping Collection at Mann Library, one of the several fine libraries at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
It's a lovely campus even in January. Here is an iPhone image of the university at dusk, after most of the snow had melted during the two preceding days:
My primary mission on this trip was to consult some of L. L. Langstroth's writings, including the journal that he kept for a number of decades after his invention of the movable-frame hive in 1851. I had read a number of his published works previously, so I had a pretty good idea about what I might find. Still, in terms of research practice, it is important to look at original thoughts and writings in order to more fully comprehend an innovator's identity and achievements. Reading them, however, is a chore. Here is one of the most neatly-written sets of pages in the Langstroth journal:
Many other pages were more like the script that he described as "a scrawl which only [my wife] and I could decipher.” In any case, it was a fruitful visit and the relevant chapter now feels more solidly written and evidenced. Library staff told me that future researchers should be able to view the journal online since it was recently scanned for the benefit of those who cannot make the trip and wish to consult the original. It just needs to be posted. Digitization of archives is exerting an extraordinary influence in modern historical practice--mostly for the better I think. Humanities-oriented projects tend not to have a large amount of funding, so cutting some of the travel expenses is extremely useful for people who need to visit many sites to conduct their work. On the other hand, travel and exploration of archives provide opportunities for valuable discoveries and other surprises in historical research, so there is a significant downside to over-reliance on digital archives.