Mason Bees Are Your Friend!

Filmed from our backyard in Ohio, here's a brief video showing how we hang mason bee nesting blocks right on our back porch. Some quick facts and notes:

  • Mason bees don't sting ― an easy way to quickly identify is to note their rounded (not pointed) rear-end with no stinger
  • They emerge early each Spring and last just a few weeks, busily creating cocoons for next year's bees
  • You'll notice different sizes as they fly around their blocks and come in and out of their holes (hint: male and female)
  • You can use untreated blocks with drilled holes OR buy cardboard tubes that are inserted into larger holes which allows you to actually remove and clean the cocoons and prep them for the following spring
  • Drilled holes should be 5/16" although they'll use a bit smaller or larger holes or crevices
  • They are great early pollinators if you have fruit trees, etc
  • Easy, free, kid/people-friendly & fun!

How To Track Your Beekeeping Records With A Sharpie At The Hive

Update February 23, 2018 ― I've now settled on using a different method. I still use duct tape and a sharpie, but I've found a better, longer-lasting method of pinning a length of tape folder over (so no sticky left) with a push pin on each hive. This works better and is much longer-lasting in terms of tape not having to adhere to anything etc. Easily transferrable to another box, push pins stick in wood very well, and stands up to weather better. Cheap, easy, at the hive, no records to keep and carry around, and I can see at-a-glance without opening hive. Just bring a sharpie with you on trips to the apiary... I like the fine-point Milwaukie pens from Home Depot Works #perfect.

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The past couple years, I've found Michael Palmer's advice about record keeping very handy. As you learn and grow more successful as a beekeeper, you may find yourself going well past three or four hives and you'll start forgetting important details such as:

  • Queenright?
  • Laying well?
  • How much did it weigh last?
  • Where did the queen come from?
  • What day did it swarm? 
  • When did I create this split?
  • Need to feed?
  • Mite test results?

You could carry a notepad around with you, but you'll see how complicated that can be very quickly. And, there'll come that day you leave it at home or the dog eats it. 

I trust this helps you as it has me. :)

11 Beekeeping Books I've Found Most Helpful

Transitioning from a curious beekeeper to a successful one is no easy task. After 13 years of beekeeping, let me warn you now: there are no shortcuts. The lengthy annual cycles involved with keeping bees requires a long-term approach to learning many lessons and books need to become your friend. That's the nice thing about downtime and winter months: books.

From my perspective, show me a reading beekeeper, and I'll show you a successful beekeeper. Along with finding a mentor and a local beekeeping club, you'll want to ensure you are reading as many books as you can.

I usually suggest starting with the "the old dead guys" like Langstroth, Miller, Adams and more. These are the folks that pioneered so much of what we take for granted today. Much, if not most, of what you'll learn from the "ancients" will guide you well in the present.

Now let me introduce you to just some of the treasured books that you'll want to start adding to your library. These books represent a wide spectrum of practice and philosophy with much disagreement among them. I find that this is both useful and even necessary for those truly interested in developing well-rounded ideas, giving you the raw material with which to test and make your own decisions. I recommend:

  • 1. "Fifty Years Among the Bees" ― by C.C. Miller

    Miller was quite the genius naturalist and one of the early giants in beekeeping. Who wouldn't want to listen to the advice from someone who spent fifty years raising bees? With his big old beard and grandfatherly way of speaking, you'll feel like you're spending time with a family member.
     
  • 2. "Scientific Queen Rearing" ― by G.M Doolittle

    Doolittle's work and study on queen rearing is a must. You have to be patient with his writing as he takes the entire book to get to the point, but the lessons learned along the way are valuable. I have an original copy from the late 1800's on my shelf.
     
  • 3. "The Hive and the Honeybee" ― by Rev. Langstroth

    Langstroth's book should be required reading. This is the man who, after much experimentation, put together the existing hive and frame spacing that most beekeepers use today. The Reverend's work is worth your time.
     
  • 4. "The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture" (41st edition) ― by Root, et all

    Make sure to get the latest 2007 update edition. This encyclopedia of information goes back more than a hundred years, initially put together by A.I. Root and the gang. There is much to learn here on just about any beekeeping topic you can thing of. Very handy.
     
  • 5. "Increase Essentials" ― by Lawrence John Connor

    Want to understand and learn how to increase your colonies in an effective manner? Than you'll want this book. It's short but very sweet (pun intended).
     
  • 6. "Better Beekeeping" ― by Kim Flottum

    Flottum has done a great job with assessing the current state of beekeeping and offering different ideas and solutions along the way for you to think about. A well-crafted and illustrated manual for beekeepers.
     
  • 7. "OTS Queen Rearing" ― by Mel Disselkoen

    This book by Mel has changed the way I do beekeeping. After purchasing the book from Mel at the Tri-County workshop four years ago I read and re-read the book several times before the lights came on.  I now no longer buy bees. I no longer am dependent on queen producers. I raise my own quality queens very easily without grafting and split colonies as much as my budget for hive boxes allows. 
     
  • 8. "The Practical Beekeeper" (3 volumes) ― by Michael Bush

    From the natural beekeeping end of things, Michael is probably the best representative. You may or may not agree with how he does things but his success is hard to argue with. I find there's much to learn from him and his three companion books (which is basically a print out of his website).
     
  • 9. "The Beekeeper's Handbook" ― by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile

    This was recommended by the Eastern Apiculture Society as part of their master class. I've found it very thorough and helpful.
     
  • 10. "Honey Bee Biology" ― by Dewey M. Caron

    Ditto. This reads and feels like a textbook. Worth every penny.
     
  • 11. "First Lessons in Beekeeping" ― by Keith S. Delaplane

    This was my first beekeeping book back in 2004. I think it was useful and a quality starter book for someone curious about getting into bees. 
     
  • (BONUS: If Michael Palmer ever gets around to writing a book, buy it.)

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    Photo credit: Echoes from the Vault