Scores on the doors

Conveniently, this final post of the year will be published on the final day of the year. This is an appropriate time to look back over the what’s happened here on The Apiarist … a sort of behind the scenes view of the posts that were popular, the posts that were unloved and the creative writing process that converts a title and a topic on a Tuesday to a perfectly honed essay garbled jumble of words on a Friday.

Precisely because the final post of the year appears on the last day of the year, any stats I mention below will exclude this post. Should 15,000 people read this post late on New Year’s Eve 1 then this page would also make it into the ‘Top of the Posts’ lists.

Hives in the snow

And, in between some of the numbers and comments below there’s likely to be a smattering of beekeeping advice or unanswered questions, just to keep you on your toes.

So … without further ado.

Read all about it

Page views, visitor numbers, those registered for email notifications etc. are all higher this year than last, by ~30%.

Going up … page views and visitor numbers graph since time began

New posts appear on Friday afternoon around 3 pm 2 and tend to get the most views on Friday evening and over the weekend, tailing off through the remainder of the week.

Some posts are then rarely read again. Others go from strength to strength, attracting readers in successive months and years. This longevity depends upon a combination of subject matter and ‘fit’ with current search engine algorithms.

Regular as clockwork

Inevitably, the popular posts are often those on ‘how to’ subjects. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering this is a beekeeping site, the top posts of the year were all on either swarm control or Varroa management.

Top of the posts

These were the most read posts of the year. Tellingly, only the one in bold first appeared this year:

  1. Queen cells … don’t panic! – a title designed to attract the beginner who, having discovered their first queen cells, is now busy panicking.
  2. The nucleus method – my favoured method of swarm control. Almost idiot proof, this explains why it’s my favoured method of swarm control.
  3. Demaree swarm control – a little bit of history and another swarm control method. What’s not to like?
  4. When to treat – a post that first appeared almost 5 years ago. Most of the relevant information is now included in other posts, or summarised in the more recent – and therefore recommended – Rational Varroa control.
  5. Vertical splits and making increase – another ageing post that, by combining swarm control, making increase, requeening and running out of equipment, has something for everyone. I think this could do with updating and deconvoluting.
  6. Swarm control and elusive queens – a useful method for those who struggle to find queens. More important still is that, for beginners, if they understand WHY it works then they’re well on their way to becoming a beekeeper.
  7. Honey pricing – higher, higher! There’s loads of cheap ‘honey’ flooding the market. You are not competing with it. You have a premium product. Do NOT sell your honey cheaply.
  8. Swarm prevention – something that should have been read before items 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 in this list … but possibly wasn’t considering it was read fewer times 🙁 3
  9. Pagden’s artificial swarm – the most popular method used by beekeeping associations to completely confuse beginners (see the nucleus method above for an alternative).
  10. Oxalic acid (Api Bioxal) preparation – which is currently the most read post, proving conclusively to me that many more beekeepers need to read Rational Varroa control because many colonies will now be rearing brood (see the photo below).

Together, these 10 posts counted for about 20% of the total traffic this year. The remainder were smeared over the other 448 posts that have appeared since early 2013. 

Biscuit-coloured crumbs on the Varroa tray = brood rearing. 23rd December 2021, Ardnamurchan, Scotland

If you’ve got some spare time, show some love for Seasonal changes which only received a single visitor this year. The late September 2016 post contains a nice picture of an orchid and a bottle of honey beer.

Search and ye shall find

The majority of visitors arrive either in response to the weekly emails announcing new posts 4 or from search engine searches. The latter are nominally a valuable resource, so are not disclosed to those of us who actually write the stuff in the first place (unless we pay Google).

However, the 0.5% of searches that come from other search engines turn up a few interesting terms (my selection from hundreds, and in no particular order):

  • cbpv winter – not usually associated together as this is a virus (chronic bee paralysis virus) that usually damages very strong, crowded hives in the middle of the season.
  • diy Kenyan beehive – not something I’ve ever discussed 5 or know anything about 6.
  • how much income from beekeeping – just a bit less than not enough, but fractionally more than SFA.
  • pointers to successful queen introduction (2006) bickerstaffes honey – a really rather specific search. I wonder whether this site was any help?
  • bee hive in old norse – see ‘diy Kenyan beehives’ above, the same sentiments apply.
  • Как сделать станок для натягивания проволоки на рамки для ульев чертежи – that’s easy … you need one of these.
  • maldives beekeeper – I have one photo on the site from the Maldives which I suspect resulted in this ‘hit’. I hope the reader wasn’t disappointed 7.
  • does a virus make bees angry – actually not such a daft question. There’s a Japanese strain of Deformed wing virus called Kakugo which is supposed to cause aggression. Kakugo means readiness or preparedness.

And, of crsuoe, there wree hrdudens of saehrces wtih snlpileg errors. Mabye smoe brepkeeees olny serach for initofrmaon atfer benig stnug rltedepaey on tiehr fenirgs? 8

Some of the spelling errors were so gross that the resulting word was barely recognisable.

There were also about 8 different spellings for ‘apiarist’ … not bad for an 8 letter word 😉

Prolixity

Fifty two posts have appeared in 2021, each averaging 2,675 words. This is an increase of about 8% over the 2020 figures 9. In total, excluding the ~1200 comments, that’s about 139,000 words.

Tolstoy’s War and Peace … more words, more characters, less bees

For comparison, this is a bit under 25% the length of War and Peace.

Phew!

Talking the talk

As well as writing too much (it has been said that) I talk too much. During 2021 I’ve given 25 talks to beekeeping associations stretching from Cornwall to Inverness 10. Audiences have ranged from about 15 to 350 and I’m very grateful to all the BKA’s who hosted me and coordinated the Q&A sessions.

Particular thanks to the associations that managed to send me the Zoom link for my presentation before the talk was supposed to start 😉 .

Although the talks were all ‘virtual’ it was good to see some old friends and to make new contacts.

Spam, spam, spam

Of the ~1200 comments I mentioned above, many are from me. I try to respond to every comment, irrespective of whether they are corrections (for which many thanks), additional insights (thanks again) or further questions 11.

Running a website, even a relatively low traffic one such as this, means you receive a lot of spam. ‘A lot’ means usually between 200 and 800 comments or emails a day. To avoid the comments section getting tainted with adverts for fake sunglasses or dodgy prescription drugs 12 I manually ‘approve’ every comment that appears.

Spam

This isn’t as onerous as it sounds. I run spam filters that trap the vast majority of the unwanted spam.

This filtering is not 100% accurate … if you previously posted a comment and it never appeared then it may have fallen foul of these filters. Next time avoid mentioning that you were wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses when you inspected the colony 😉

It’s a rather sad indictment of the internet that I sometimes receive the same amount of spam in one day as I receive in valid comments in one year 🙁

You’ve got mail

The comments and questions – whether to posts or talks – are often very interesting. After all, I may have delivered the same talk three times in the last month, but the questions will always be different. I’ve touched on this previously in Questions & Answers.

Some questions are direct, relevant and on-topic. These are usually easy to understand and answer, though they may not be easy to answer correctly.

But there two other types of question:

  • Rambling, incoherent and vague … almost always lacking some essential information, like location. These often start with a detailed description of the last three colony inspections and end with something about Nosema or polycarbonate crownboards. There may not even be a question mark …
  • Direct – verging on blunt – and totally off-topic. It’s not unusual to prepare 2,500 carefully crafted 13 words on rational Varroa control to then receive the question ”What is the recipe for thick syrup?”.

In addition to comments/questions to posts and talks I receive a lot of email. If you emailed me this year and I failed to answer promptly then it’s probably because there were 50 other unanswered emails I’d yet to wade through.

With the volume becoming unmanageable I’ve started ignoring the very terse emails requesting a quick response (because the sender is ‘busy’ and wants the answer before they leave for the apiary/office/school run/anger management class) like “What is the recipe for thick syrup”.

The few who send adverts for their quack solutions to Varroa (often vaguely disguised as informed questions) or abuse – you’d be surprised, I was – are both ignored and blocked.

Life is too short …

New topics and old chestnuts

Beekeeping is a fantastically diverse activity 14. From the single hive owner to huge commercial operations, from the hive-monitoring techno-geeks to the leave-alone organic types, from honey to venom … there really is something for everyone.

It’s therefore no surprise that there is never a shortage of topics to cover. This is particularly true when you also include some of the wonderful 15 science of honey bees.

Web of Science publications on “honey bees” since 1997

I’ve covered some beekeeping topics exhaustively and get little satisfaction from re-writing the same thing differently 16. However, these are the topics that often attract the most readers – presumably many of whom are new beekeepers.

I’m not too fussed about the reader numbers, but if I’m going to go to the trouble of writing something I do want it to be read 17.

I’m currently wondering about how to achieve a balance between what might be considered the ‘basics’ and some of the more advanced – and to me (after a lot of beekeeping) much more interesting – topics.

And I’m always happy to consider new topics if you think I’ve missed something 18.

The writing process

I usually accumulate ideas on long car journeys, while walking in the hills, out on the loch or during interminable meetings. They might start as little more than a title and a reference, or a sentence of text.

Seeking inspiration for new articles for The Apiarist

I rarely have anything actually written by the weekend before the post appears, though I will usually have decided on the topic.

This post is being written on a Tuesday, but late – often very late – on a Thursday is more typical.

Two to four hours is usually sufficient for most posts, though additional time is needed if there are custom figures or graphs.

It’s very useful to then leave the draft for a few hours after ‘finishing’ it.

I usually abandon the keyboard by 2 am on Friday and look again first thing the following morning. Typos are caught, my awful punctuation is largely fixed and some of the more garbled sentences are rewritten in English 19.

And then I press ‘Submit’.

Flat white, cappuccino, ristretto, latte macchiato and affogato

And all of those activities – the thinking, the writing and the proof-reading – are fuelled by a delicious and fulfilling combination of strong coffee and pizza.

I’d therefore like to again thank the supporters who have ‘Bought Me a Coffee’ during 2021. In particular I’d like to acknowledge the repeat supporters. In addition to facilitating my nocturnal writing marathons, this support has also enabled moving the site to a more powerful (and properly backed up and appreciably more expensive) server.

Thank you

The future

I’m looking forward to the year ahead for many reasons. I expect 20 to have a lot more time for my bees and beekeeping. In the meantime, I’ll probably write about some of my immediate plans in the next week or two.

Winter-flowering gorse, December 2021

The size and complexity of this website – hundreds of posts and thousands of images – is starting to make it both difficult and time-consuming to maintain. It’s a dynamic site, the pages being generated on the fly when your web browser requests them. There’s a significant performance cost to retaining these dynamic features, and the underlying software is bloated and a target for hackers.

I’m therefore considering alternatives that make my life a little easier and your browsing experience a little faster. One way to achieve this is to use what is termed a static site. Anyone who has looked up details of my online talks (which has ~16 images and ~2500 words, so broadly comparable to a Friday post) will have used one of these. This technology is becoming increasingly common for blogs. I still need to resolve how to retain the comments/discussion features.

I’m also keen to explore some more expansive topics.

Even ~2500 (or more) words is insufficient to do some subjects justice; the impact of honey bees/beekeeping on solitary bees and other pollinators, neonicotinoids, fake honey, the prospects for Varroa-resistant bees, more advanced methods of queen rearing etc.

Real honey … not the product of unspecified EU and non-EU countries

How do I tackle these?

Should I write less and not explore the subject fully?

Write in instalments?

Or just not bother?

What do you think?

And while you ponder that and some of the other points raised above I’m going to enjoy the last few hours of 2021 and close by wishing all readers of, and contributors to, this site the Very Best for 2022.

May your supers be heavy, your queens fecund, your bees well-tempered and your swarms … from someone else 😉

Happy New Year


Notes

The phrase [the] Scores on the doors originated from the panel show The Generation Game hosted by Larry Grayson between 1978 and 1982. However, it was subsequently appropriated to indicate the public display of food hygiene ratings.

If you arrived here from @Twitter then you might be wondering what omphaloskepsis is. It means navel-gazing as an aid to meditation. Readers with a classical education will recognise its derivation from the Ancient Greek for navel and contemplation. Scrabble players will be disappointed it doesn’t contain more high scoring consonants.

Footnotes

  1. After all, what else is there to do?
  2. They are automagically posted … I don’t sit around with my finger hovering over the SUBMIT button.
  3. Or, of course, what I suggest doesn’t work at all …
  4. Thank you to those who have already registered. New registrations can be made using the subscribe button about half way down the sidebar. The only emails you will receive after verifying your email address are new post announcements.
  5. Hmmm … an unmet need?
  6. Hmmm … perhaps not.
  7. The visitor count from the Maldives was ranked 110 of the 202 originating countries so perhaps they visited several times.
  8. This scrambled text generated with the Can your read this? Generator. The ability to read this type of jumbled text is because of the way we read words, with the first and last letters being the most important for recognition. For further details of this interesting psycholinguistic observation see this post by Matt Davis … note the self-referential typo in the web address.
  9. Which was already too much.
  10. I only talk January to March and September to December, so this works out at about one talk a week.
  11. See below
  12. And a whole lot of far less savoury things that have no place on a family website.
  13. You should see the stuff I discard before posting.
  14. So much more than honey is the sub-title of this site.
  15. And, at times, not so wonderful.
  16. How many different ways are there to say treat with oxalic acid when the colony is broodless? If you’ve yet to treat then get a move on … your colonies will be rearing brood very soon if they’re not doing so already. See the photo further up the page.
  17. A lot … despite not being too fussed about reader numbers.
  18. Just don’t expect me to cover it the week after you suggest it.
  19. Or what approximates for English …
  20. Which is a lot more definite than hope.

43 thoughts on “Scores on the doors

  1. Steph

    Hi David
    I really enjoy your blog. I find most articles of interest to me. Sometimes if I don’t have time to read them on a Friday I save the page on my phone or iPad until I can give it the time it needs (depending on how complex the issue is) or I can sit down with a cup of tea.
    I like that the subjects are often linked with the beekeeping year; they are relevant and are often associated with things I’m mulling over.
    I would appreciate a mixture of article length including more in-depth articles on complex issues . I might not manage to get through them in one go though, so covering sujects in installments would work well for me.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Steph

      Many thanks for that considered reply. A good proportion of my posts are ‘linked’ to the progression of the season. There are two problems with doing this:

      • At least a third of the readership is from overseas and their season is out-of-sync with ours, sometimes by 6 months. Closer to home, I reckon the season here is Scotland is a good 4-6 weeks shorter than it is in southern England. Consequently, I often can’t open colonies until late April … when I lived in the Midlands I’d often be queen rearing in early/mid April. This means any ‘advice’ (and I use that word in the loosest possible way 😉 ) might be late in the Spring, and early in the autumn.
      • For many topics some preparation is needed. If this involves ordering or building stuff then I need to take that into account when preparing the posts. I dabbled with Morris boards for queen rearing last season. I’ll be doing more this year. They are available commercially, but are cheap and relatively easy to make, with sufficient time to get the required parts. Do I write about them in mid-May, meaning it’s likely too late for many in southern England, or in early spring (or, better still, late autumn) when readers might have time to build one?

      I’m not expecting an answer … that’s just me thinking out loud 🙂

      I’ll give the complex issues some thought and probably try something later this season.

      Happy New Year
      David

      Reply
  2. Penelope Marchant Wink

    Thank you for every considered and crafted post. As beginner bee keepers we have laughed quite a bit, read and reread many times everything on swarm control and varroa treatment. Yes we followed all advice including trickling. You have made our year less stressful, more fun and we even got some honey!
    Have a good new year and may 2022 be warm, sunny and happy.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Happy New Year Penelope 🙂

      Well, if you got your bees to the autumn AND got some honey you’ve passed the first couple of landmark events in your beekeeping. Get them through the winter (and if you’ve treated them correctly then things should be OK) and you can count yourself a fully-fledged beekeeper.

      I live on the remote west coast of Scotland … it’s almost always warm and sunny, and – even when it’s not – I’m still happy 🙂

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  3. Michael Walker

    I read the above wearing my RayBans, carefully co-ordinated matching pyjamas from M&S and drinking a fine quintuple Bombay Sapphire gin with a Fever Tree Tonic water.
    I really worry about varroa treatment every year.. have I done it at the correct time with the correct mix. Is it too strong? Or will I kill the bees? Poor bees: fancy getting an Oxalic Acid shower for Christmas.

    What is the recipe for weak syrup?

    On a serious note, I have enjoyed reading your articles through the year: as always a source of knowledge lightened by a bit of humour…

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Michael

      Delighted you enjoy the posts. Not sure the RayBans and jimjams is a good look … but, hey, I spend half the year in a propolis stained, badly torn, poorly fitting beesuit, so what do I know?

      You can easily make weak syrup by diluting strong syrup 😉

      Happy New Year
      David

      Reply
  4. Andrew Cook

    Thanks David and Happy New Year to you too. Rest assured that I, for one, always read your posts and what should take around ten minutes usually takes half an hour at least. The reason is all the rabbit holes you send me down with your external links. Today I’ve looked at Ray Ban sunglasses, Food hygiene rating categories and a jublmed wrods stie. Keep ’em coming and I don’t care what you write about because the posts always have that nice balance of erudition and humour which makes them very readable. Cheers.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Andrew

      Not sure I know how to write in a different style anyway (which might explain why I sometimes struggle to have my scientific papers accepted 😉 ) so I’ll stick to this one. Part of the reason I enjoy writing are the rabbit holes I disappear down myself. The three you mention I knew quite a bit about in advance, but some things are completely new to me and it’s always good to discover (even tenuous) links with beekeeping.

      Happy New Year
      David

      Reply
  5. Guy Seinet

    I look forward to my Friday evening or Saturday morning stroll through your blog. It’s always interesting at some level and gives me food for thought within my keeping of bees.
    Thank you and wishing you a productive, healthy and painless 2022 from the centre of France where the bees have been wasting winter stores for several days as we have spring temperatures, but nothing for them to work!

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Guy

      Our temperatures are also unseasonably warm. I would much prefer 4-6 weeks of frosts rather than 13°C … it makes Varroa management a lot easier.

      With Best Wishes for the 2022 season and a Happy New Year
      David

      Reply
  6. Mike Schmidt

    Do you think a sidebar or header titled “Start here” or “Popular posts on Popular Topics,” or “For New Beekeepers” would help with some of the repeat questions added to whoever topic is at hand?

    I have found it useful when I stumble upon a blog that I like to see these kinds of headers.

    Thank you for the hard work.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Mike

      I’m likely to re-jig the website over the next year or two and will try and make navigation easier. I’ve steered clear of a “For beginners” section as almost any topic could be included and I have avoided (so far) writing a guide to starting beekeeping. There is a ‘most popular posts’ in the right hand sidebar – this is dynamic and reflects current interests of all visitors. There’s also a keyword cloud (‘tag’ cloud) but it’s getting less useful as the number of posts increases. Finally, the menu bar has things like Principles, Equipment, Problems, all of which list pages by date and keyword.

      Any solution needs to be at least semi-automatic. It’s simply too time consuming to both write and manually update lists of potentially useful pages.

      Watch out for some incremental changes … and hopefully improvements 😉

      Happy New Year
      David

      Reply
  7. Ihor

    Always interesting and thought provoking.
    My thanks for lifting the lid on what you do and letting us see how to make sausages.
    Life is too short, ditto.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Happy New Year Ihor …
      ‘Make the sausages’ … that’s an idiom you (or, at least, I) don’t often hear 🙂
      One of my favourite authors is the fishing writer John Gierach .. he has a quote in one of his books Life is short and responsibility overrated which I think is a pretty good motto to live by.
      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  8. Patricia Haslehurst

    Happy bee keeping
    love the emails….keeps me sane when all about are causing chaos.
    Rock on next year.

    Reply
  9. Pat Holden

    An instant answer to question 4….please keep bothering :o)
    Not only are your articles extremely informative and, on the whole, easy to understand, but your visible amendments and numbered annotations are delightfully entertaining.
    I particularly like the way you give links to past posts – that is very useful and I often follow them. Thank you.
    I hope you have a healthy and satisfying 2022.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Many thanks Pat … I’m pleased someone reads the links to past posts 🙂 The breadth of the subject means I can’t hope to cover everything in most single posts, so I have to link to other stuff. It’s noticeable – going by increases in page accesses to these links – that only a relatively small proportion of visitors read them. Likewise the search function and ‘summary’ pages – Practice, Problems etc. are not often used.

      2022 so far has brought us howling southerly winds and 13 °C temperatures. Any bee brave enough to go on a cleansing flight is going to end up in Ullapool.

      Happy New Year
      David

      Reply
  10. marina steel

    I echo many of the above comments.
    On Friday nights I eagerly wait for the email to drop into my inbox but also I often the read linked articles as I am a relatively new beek and still on that massive steep learning curve (not sure it ever gets less steep!)
    Next year will be my 3rd season and your no nonsense advise has been invaluable so far.
    This winters job is to make the honey warming cabinet!

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Marina

      I’m still learning … however, I’m not sure the curve is really steep. I always imagine a ‘steep learning curve’ means the need to acquire lots of knowledge (on the vertical axis) in a short period of time (the horizontal axis). With me, I acquire a (very) small amount of knowledge over a (disappointingly) long time … which is quite the opposite, a shallow learning curve 🙂

      Honey warming cabinet

      A honey warming cabinet is a great thing to build. Mine has had a huge amount of use over the years and I rely on it for every batch of honey I prepare. If you have the space it’s well worth building it slightly oversized – ideally to accommodate a stack of supers on top. Warmed supers extract faster and better. I also use mine when letting jarred honey settle before labelling and delivery. The bigger the honey warming cabinet it, the more it can handle. The photo was from 2014 when I used to sell pound jars … now I only sell in 340 g and 227 g jars I can squeeze more in, but still sometimes run out of space.

      Enjoy the building … it will be a very worthwhile project 🙂

      Happy New Year
      David

      Reply
  11. Fred

    Hi David,

    I am a huge fan of your blog and point so many fellow beeks in its direction. Its an enormous amount of ‘graft’ of the very highest quality and Friday’s email always signals the weekend approaching for me and what I should be doing/not doing with the bees!

    Cannot believe Dr Bodgit isn’t Top Ten , it is still my all time favourite, I always love the more personal entries (sorting out a neighbouring beek’s pyscho raging angry needing requeen colony was a highlight as was discovering you frame build to Joy Division LPs…Kraftwerk does it for me )…I’ve dutifully shown Seasonal Changes some love by reading on NYE as well as New Years Day so its loved in 2022 as well.

    Thank you so much for all the energy, enthusiasm and brilliance you bring to your writing.

    I always ask about the surely now inevitable next step of a book which I just know would become essential reading but you always deflect from an answer.

    Days getting shorter , still a ways to go but first snowdrops are out across the water in Ireland , the chaos all lies not so very far ahead, can’t wait.

    Happy New Year and thanks so much.

    kind regards

    Fred

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Fred

      Happy New Year 🙂

      Thank you … there’s always a balance to be reached with the more personal posts, between trivial anecdote and factual content. Too much of the former tends to dilute the latter. Some readers are here for a (hopefully) entertaining read, others want to know the recipe for thin syrup (and nothing else). I’ll continue to mix it up a bit I guess.

      Ah yes, the book. We’ll see. I’ll need more time to write (which might happen next winter), a firm but sympathetic editor who can deal with my shambolic concepts of punctuation and deadlines, and a brave publisher. What could possibly go wrong?

      I’m not sure what’s happening in Ireland with daylength, but they’re getting longer here. The ever-useful timeanddate.com tells me that the sun rises at 08:59 today, and sets at 15:56, making today – at 6 hours and 57 minutes – almost 10 minutes longer than the winter solstice.

      Unfortunately we were visited by a herd of voracious deer recently who ate just about everything that might have been thinking about flowering this early in the year. At least they don’t eat gorse, which I’m encouraging near my apiary, so the bees will have something to forage on when they get going.

      But that’s still a long way off … lots of time yet for making plans for Nigel for the season ahead.

      Cheers
      David

      Reply
  12. Keith

    Thanks David. I’d like to say that I personally do really enjoy your site for primarily 2 reasons, it’s practical and it offers advice and guidance based both on your scientific experience and beekeeping experiences. I think that’s invaluable!
    Keep it up mate and best wishes to you and yours in this New Year
    Keith

    Reply
  13. Archie McLellan

    Hello David

    Congratulations on your Ardnamurchan heather honey. It looks fantastic.

    I agree that one post would not do justice to the complex topics you list, but I would absolutely love to hear, eventually, your thoughts on the first four of these: the impact of honey bees/beekeeping on solitary bees and other pollinators, neonicotinoids, fake honey, and the prospects for Varroa-resistant bees. The current literature is littered with opposing views on these, perhaps by writers with an agenda. It would be fine, and completely understandable, if these were each divided into multiple posts over several Fridays.

    I sometimes wonder if you had any idea of what the Dr Bodgit posts would grow into! I look forward to your posts in all their length and links, with the latter sometimes taking every bit as much time as the former. You’ve led me to lots of new websites; last week, unsurprisingly, I recommended timeanddate.com in our BKA newsletter, and I’m grateful for your mention in this post of John Gierach who is new to me.

    With every best wish for the coming year, and the gift of more time for your beekeeping later in the year.
    Archie

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Archie

      Happy New Year 🙂

      I, of course, have no agenda 😉

      Varroa resistance/tolerance is probably the easiest of those topics to tackle, and probably the one I’m both most interested in and qualified (and I use that term in the broadest possible sense) to tackle. However, with the move to the mite-free west coast I hope to soon forget Varroa, to sell of my vaporiser and the remainder of the 25 kg sack of oxalic acid I purchased. I’d better start writing before I’m out of touch completely.

      Fake honey is also particularly interesting and, in my view, inevitably intertwined with the likely consequences of working with mite-tolerant colonies. I’ll leave you to think about that and hope to get round to it before the season proper is upon us.

      I think it’s fair to say I had no idea Dr. Bodgit was going to morph into something that has simultaneously fuelled my caffeine addiction, given me insomnia, generated more speaking engagements than I can cope with and introduced me to like-minded individuals who share a passion for bees all around the world. It’s been great 🙂

      I hope you and the bees emerge from the cold(ish), dark winter revitalised and enjoy a great season together.

      Cheers
      David

      PS. ‘More time’ … oh, how we laughed 🙂

      Reply
  14. Pat Barker

    We started reading your blog (abroad) before we had bees, and when we did eventually get a nuc and a mentor (of ~8 years’ experience) we told him about you. He has become a huge fan and regularly asks me if I’ve read your latest blog on a Friday evening. I usually catch up later in the week after some disaster or other. I’m cheered, and inspired. Thank you. And hopefully 2022 will bring better outcomes. Happy new year!

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Pat

      Congratulations on getting both bees and a mentor. The latter is almost as important as the former in my view. Everyone makes mistakes (I speak from painful, embarrassing and repeated experience 🙁 ) and the key thing is that you learn from them. Thank you for encouraging your mentor to read The Apiarist … spread the word, the more the merrier 🙂

      Happy New Year
      David

      Reply
  15. Helen Bond

    I’ve been using your posts as a resource for years. They are fantastic and I recommend them to all our association newbies.
    I’m particularly interested in the posts on various diseases…. CBPV, nosema etc.
    Looking forward to the new web set up, and feeling slightly envious of your current varroa free location. That’ll be interesting.
    I’ll keep the coffee coming……. Not so sure about the pizza!

    Best wishes for 2022.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Helen

      The new web setup will be some time in the future. It turns out it’s not so simple 🙁 … writing from scratch is straightforward, it’s the pesky transfer of well over half a million words and ~5000 comments spread across ~460 posts that causes the ‘issues’.

      We currently work on CBPV in collaborative studies with Giles Budge’s team in Newcastle. The funding has several months to run yet and it’s therefore too soon to either write the scientific papers (though I summarised our first one previously) or the layperson/beekeepers translation of the scientific gobbledegook.

      About the only limitation I make to the topics I cover is that I have some personal experience (at least of the practical beekeeping stuff). That’s why I’m unlikely to write about instrumental insemination of queens or using a Taranov board for swarm control (though the latter is rather appealing). My experience with diseases other than the unhealthy pairing of DWV and Varroa is rather limited. An EFB scare last season, one hive with Nosema about five years ago and some irksome chalkbrood (a persistent problem with dark bees in my experience). That rather limits me … but I’ll give it a think.

      Almost always, for the majority of pests and diseases, the answer is proper mite control and strong colonies 😉

      Happy New Year,
      David

      PS Thank you for the coffee 🙂

      Reply
  16. Oliver

    Hi David,

    My dad and I have kept bees for years and after loosing both our colonies to CBPV last year (or is that the year before last now) I came across your blog. I’ve read every post since, I’ve learned so much, it’s a refreshingly scientific and insightful, I am definitely a better bee keeper now because of you, for that thank you.

    This post piqued my interest in particular as I happen to be both a bee-keeper and a web developer. I would like to offer to help with any kind of development, migration, hosting etc etc. I’m not looking for anything in return, I would like to help keep such an amazing resource afloat. If you’re interested please send me an email.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Oliver

      Sorry to hear about the CBPV. Colonies usually survive, albeit it in a severely weakened state so they often need a lot of mollycodddling. Not a particularly scientific term I’m afraid, but they can be so depleted they succumb to wasps or robbing, and struggle with collecting enough stores for winter. We’re slowly making progress on our CBPV studies and hope to have something to report late this year.

      Delighted you enjoy the posts. Thank you for the offer … I’ll reply by email in the next day or so.

      Happy New Year
      David

      Reply
  17. Kim

    David, I am very slow to read your weekly blog. They are in Gmail just waiting to be read. Sorry.
    I would like to hear about the impact of honey bees on other pollinators. I think installments would be a fine option.
    Happy New Year? Definitely not for me…Christmas morning I slipped on ice and fractured my right patella (as opposed to my left which I fractured 2 years ago). Surgery was yesterday and the pain has gotten the best of me today BUT I am able to catch up on your blogs…yes, off topic. Just needed to whine.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Kim

      Ouch! That sounds painful. I hope you make a speedy recovery. I doubt any of my posts provide effective pain relief, but perhaps puzzling over my punctuation will at least distract you for a while.

      Patella is also the generic name for the limpet (in full P. vulgata). Years ago, actually decades 🙁 , I did zoology and remember learning about how they have a ‘home’ location on their rock. Although they forage when the tide is in they always return to same spot. They are so faithful to the home location that the shell and the rock are shaped to be a perfect fit. I’ve no idea why that particular ‘factoid’ has stuck with me, but it always comes to mind when I discuss kneecaps, their anatomical namesake.

      Hoppy New Year (sorry, couldn’t resist that),
      David

      Reply
  18. Dorothie Jones

    Thank you David for your continuously informative blog and for the talk which you gave to our club this year. The effort you put in to make everything clear and understandable is obvious.
    You never lecture or ‘talk down’ and there is always humour which makes me chuckle and makes me feel that you are ‘one of us’ not some remote expert handing down wisdom from above!
    As I have a scientific background, I enjoy your more ‘sciencey’ posts but still find myself re-reading posts about Varroa and swarm control methods. (My preferred method is also the nucleus one)
    I never hesitate to direct new beekeepers and others to your page for sound information and advice.
    This includes a beginners beekeepers fb page which I moderate. All sorts of non-information appears on there!
    I gather you had a good beekeeping year in Scotland. Sadly not the case down where I am in the Home Counties. Following on from a rubbish season we now have this mild winter with brood production and winter store consumption going ahead apace!! Hey ho!
    I wish you all the best for your beekeeping in 2022 and look forward to your upcoming posts.
    Always something new to learn
    Dorothie

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hello Dorothie

      Happy New Year :). Yes, we had a great season in ’21. All a bit surprising considering it didn’t feel like anything much started until May. I still managed to get a record harvest from the OSR and only lost (temporarily) one swarm. Once it had warmed up queen rearing went well, with good mating success. It was less good here on the west coast, largely because of my lack of familiarity with the nectar flows and the bees here.

      I’m not a FB user. New posts here are advertised there (and on Twitter). I’ve got about 3-4 times the number of followers on Twitter as FB, though more people visit the site here having been referred from FB. I think all this means is that I’m not very good at the social media ‘thing’, and certainly don’t understand how to use it properly.

      Thank you for directing other readers here. The more the merrier. Also delighted you enjoyed the talk. I start again next week, with talks every week – and some w/e’s – until the end of March, when I’ll put away my slide decks and pick up my hive tool again.

      Lots planned for the season ahead, some of which might make it into the post this Friday … more science again soon though 🙂

      Have a great season
      David

      Reply
  19. Helen Howarth

    Many thanks for your blog, here’s hoping you can maintain the energy and enthusiasm to continue, and so sorry to read that you could be the recipient of abuse………… BTW sugar syrup is I believe made from sugar and water ……. mix well and use as required ……..

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Helen

      No shortage of energy (well not much) and enthusiasm … just time 😉 Abuse is few and far between … usually individuals who are opposed to using honey bees in research or the rabid “anti-vaxxers” who actively promote ‘leave and let die’ beekeeping, rather than Varroa management.

      I’ve got a thick skin … 🙂

      Thanks for the recipe. I’ll try some this season 😉

      Cheers
      David

      Reply

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