Boozing Bees

I had the privilege of attending Honey Love’s natural beekeeping conference this weekend and I hope to share some insights from the talks and conversations I had with other beekeepers, but I’m pressed for time this morning so let me just drop one tidbit that comes via Michael Bush. Bush mentioned that Cornell digitized the American Bee Journal from the years 1861 through 1900 as well as a lot of other old publications. Here’s an amusing an excerpt from advice column in the May 1900 issue of American Bee Journal:

Mr. Dadant:–Did you ever here of any one feeding whiskey to bees in honey, and is it true that it renders them bolder and causes them to try to rob other hives? About a week ago, a man who has three colonies of bees, told me that some strange bees were completely robbing one of his colonies. Today very probably the same bees were robbing one of mine, and I only have three. I stopt up the entrances, and that helped some, for my bees are quite strong.

I was told that when bees were fed whiskey in honey it makes them bold to rob other people’s bee. What is your opinion? ILLINOIS.

In the first place, one thing which we must establish before all others, is that the bees do not discriminate between the colonies which belong to their owner and other people’s bees. It looks as if it might be superfluous to mention this, but I have often heard the remark that Mr. So-and-So’s bees were robbing Mr. Somebody’s hives, just as if a man could “set” his bees onto another man’s apiary as bad boys “set” one dog onto another, or as some of our so-called civilized Christians organize a prize-fight. . .

I have never heard of strong drink being used in feeding bees, except in one instance. I remember reading in L’Apiculteur years ago, of an old time beekeeper having fed his bees with bread dipt in honey which had been mixt with a proportion of wine, to cure them of diarrhea early in the spring . . .

The beekeeper whose colonies are robbed by other bees, whiskey or no whiskey, can lay the blame on himself, and himself alone. A colony of bees in healthy condition and properly managed should fear nothing from robber bees, except by some accident beyond the control of the apiarist, such as the breaking down of combs by heat, or the upturning of the hive by wind or mischievous animals or human beings.

In this same issue, there’s an article about an attempt to reconcile the need to spray fruit trees with pesticide and the impact of those chemicals on bees. Another talk at the conference by Dr. May Berenbaum of Cornell, that I was only able to hear part of, looked at the history of the use of pesticides. Honeybees are a complex organism and their interaction with pesticides can often work in counter-intuitive ways, as Berenbaum showed in a study that proved that even fungicides, thought to be safe, can impact bee colonies. In over a hundred years of tinkering with chemicals and bees we’re still making stupid mistakes. In addition to that whiskey there’s a lot of other things we shouldn’t be dosing bees with.

Natural Beekeeping Conference this Saturday and Sunday


This weekend, January 18th and 19th I’ll be a part of Honey Love’s Natural Beekeeping Conference at USC. In honor of the memory of Susan Rudnicki, I’m going to discuss bee removal scams, corruption in bee academia and pesticide astroturfing campaigns among other incendiary topics that Susan tirelessly pursued for the sake of the bees she loved so much. I’m humbled to be a part of a roster that includes all of the knowledgeable voices in the natural beekeeping world:

• Michael Bush • Les Crowder • Dr. May Berenbaum • Sam Comfort • Michael Thiele • Laura Bee Ferguson • Rob Keller • Sarah Red-Laird •  Solomon Parker • Jacqueline Freeman • Noah Wilson Rich • Matt Reed • Amanda Shaw • Paul Cronshaw  • Ariella Daly • Anna Marie Despiris • Fonta Molyneaux • Erik Knutzen • Max Wong • Rob and Chelsea McFarland

If you’re interested in bees this conference is not to be missed. For more information head over to Honey Love.

134 Eric of Garden Fork on Mental Decluttering, Washing Machine Repair and More!

On the 134th episode of the podcast we talk to DIYer, YouTuber and podcaster Eric Rochow of Garden Fork TV on some eclectic DIY notions and projects including why he’s quitting beekeeping, mental decluttering, washing machine repair, print making and more.ing,

Watch Garden Fork on Youtube and subscribe to the Garden Fork Podcast. You can also find Garden Fork on Patreon.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected] You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

No Tweets Just Cats

I’m in the midst of an experimental one month digital detox as suggested by Cal Newport in his book Digital Minimalism. During this period I’m giving up the Twitters which usually forms the basis of a set of links I post on Saturday. Twitter has devolved into a way of monetizing people yelling at each other and I’m not missing it. I may look at it again, or I may figure out another way to do the link feature. At this point, I don’t know. But I’m happy to report my attention span, last fully appreciated in the pre-web 1990s, is slowly returning. I can now read long chapters of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow without the urge to look for cat memes on my phone.

Speaking of cat memes, in lieu of a set of tweets please enjoy this shot of the sort of power catnapping that happens around our household every afternoon. Now turn away from your screen and go pet a real cat.