Top of the Posts

The last post of the year is one that almost no-one will read because they’re too busy unwrapping presents, overeating and enjoying seeing friends and family.

Or perhaps not ๐Ÿ™

A socially distanced Christmas is an oxymoron, but is also unfortunately what many responsible people will be ‘enjoying’ this year.

I’m writing this as the government imposes ever-tighter restrictions in England, and the Scottish government imposes further preventative measures. Our long-suffering NHS is beginning to struggle …

Entirely predictable, completely necessary, but nevertheless disheartening.

At times like these it’s reassuring to have something else to focus on, a reminder of good times passed, and the promise of better times in the future.

The winter solstice

Long before Christmas became an orgy of overindulgence, before snowmen, robins, reindeer and religion, there were pagan festivals associated with the increase in day length.

The Romans celebrated dies solis invicti nati (โ€œday of the birth of the unconquered sunโ€) just after the winter solstice, on the 25th of December 1. The winter solstice itself – the date with the shortest amount of daylight – varies a bit from year to year. This year, in my location, it was on the 21st of December when the day was just six hours and 47 minutes long 2.

Before the Romans, there’s evidence that the winter solstice was significant to much older civilizations. Maeshowe, a 5000 year old Neolithic chambered cairn on Orkney, has an entrance corridor directly aligned with the setting sun of the winter solstice.

With the benefit of atomic clocks and a proper understanding of the solar system we now know that the winter solstice can fall anytime between the 20th and 23rd of December. The back wall of Maeshowe is illuminated by the setting sun for a few days either side of the winter solstice.ย Do not let this detract from the wonder of Maeshowe or the, similar but even older, Newgrange in Ireland.

And, for beekeepers, the winter solstice is also of significance as many choose to treat their colonies with oxalic acid in the holiday period after the winter solstice, and before they return to work in early January 3.

An opportunity for tasseographers?

But as I’ve discussed before … that may be too late. My bees in Fife, broodless in late October, are now rearing brood again. There’s ample evidence 4 for that on the Varroa trays left on the floor underneath the hive stands.

Scores on the doors

So, having already reviewed the 2020 beekeeping yearย last week, what was notable on The Apiarist this year?

The combined effect of furloughing 5, isolated living and copious amounts of caffeine (on which, more later) – coupled with my natural tendency to prattle on a bit – meant that the average length of posts increased by 40% to ~2500 words.ย 

Eight years of The Apiarist … and a 12,000-fold increase in visits

This extra effort didn’t go unnoticed, with a greater than 50% increase in both visitors and page reads.

Regular readers should realise I’m mixing correlation and causation here.

The increases in both readers and reading might really be because everyone is locked down and bored witless ๐Ÿ˜‰


On average, most visitors only read a couple of pages and, of those, only 0.3% leave a comment. However, I’m very grateful to those that do. It allows me to clarify points that were garbled and to elaborate on topics dealt with in too little detail.

Or to answer a completely unrelated question ๐Ÿ˜‰

As an aside, the server cunningly filters out spam comments from real ones. I periodically check it’s not being overzealous but cannot 6 look at all of them.

If you submitted a comment and it was missed it was either because it was:

  • too short
  • abusive 7 or full of irrational ranting 8ย 
  • advertising fake RayBans 9

The posts from 2020 that generated the most discussion were:

I almost always respond to comments, often simply by redirecting the reader to a previous post (or promising to cover the topic in more detail sometime in the future). Consequently, old posts still get read quite frequently.

Speaking of which … what were the most popular posts of 2020 and the most read posts of the year?

The most frequently read posts of 2020

I’m going to ignore the Google-promoted mid-June post I mentioned last week. That post, A June Gap, was notable for being read thousands of times on the day it appeared (and on the couple of days afterwards). Since then it’s been accessed just a few hundred times and has effectively disappeared without trace from current reading stats.

It’s what a statistician would call an ‘outlier’.

Other than that, these were the most read posts that were written in 2020:

  • Swarm prevention (17/4/20) – an overview of why colonies swarm and how beekeepers can delay (and sometimes even prevent) swarming, before implementing swarm control. Also notable as it received far fewer comments than the majority of posts written this season.
  • Queen cells … quantity and quality (22/5/20) – how many queen cells should you leave during swarm control? I also discussed the ‘features’ of a good queen cell.
  • Oxalic acid (Api Bioxal) preparation (13/11/20) – an update of a post from several years ago about the preparation of Api Bioxal solution for trickle treating colonies in the winter. This post also discussed the differences in the historic oxalic acid concentration used in the UK, and those in the published instructions with Api Bioxal.
  • Principles of swarm control (24/4/20) – an overview of how swarm control works, or should work if you do things correctly. As the title indicates, this post discusses the principles of the process and how it applies in several common methods of swarm control.
  • The nucleus option (1/5/20) – how to make up nucleus colonies.

So, with the exception of the rehash of some recipes, an emphasis on the principles and mechanics of swarm control. This is something that many beekeepers struggle with, but can be reliably achieved by understanding what triggers the process coupled with an appreciation of the makeup of a colony and the development cycle of queens and workers.

The most frequently read posts of all time

In which ‘all time’ actually means since late 2013 when the first posts appeared online.

  • Queen cells … don’t panic (15/6/18) – what to do when you discover queen cells during a regular inspection. This was little read when it first appeared, but became very popular this summer. I presume the 100’s still reading it every week this October/November are in Australia and New Zealand 11.

Queen cells … don’t panic

  • When to treat? (5/2/16) – in terms of presentation this post is showing its age. I’ll probably update it next year. However, the content remains as valid now as when it was written, emphasising the importance of protecting the winter bee population to successfully overwinter a colony. I think this is the most important lesson that new beekeepers need to learn.
  • Honey pricing (4/10/19) – what they don’t tell you during your “Begin beekeeping” course, and often won’t tell you afterwards. Do not undervalue your honey. Every super or bucket produced is worth hundreds of pounds 12.
  • The nucleus method (22/3/19) – my favoured swarm control method. Totally foolproof if conducted properly. It was the only method I used this year and was 100% successful.
  • Vertical splits and making increase (19/7/15) – how to do an artificial swarm using less equipment and less space. Another post that is, presentationally at least, showing its age and likely to be updated next year (if I remember ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

So, with the exception of the post on honey pricing, more articles on swarming and mite control.

You’d almost think that these topics were a particular problem for beekeepers ๐Ÿ˜‰

Honey and coffee

I’m particularly pleased to see that the honey pricing post is popular. This is an important topic and beekeepers, like the general public, too often assume that supermarket prices are representative, or what they are competing with.

We should be aiming to produce a top quality product. It is made from the nectars available in ~8 square miles of land surrounding your hives. Aside from the fact it’s absolutely delicious, it’s also unique – a snapshot of a time and a place 13 – and should be priced accordingly.ย 

Don’t compare it with ยฃ1 a pound supermarket rubbish, containing a “Product of EU and non-EU countries”. That could mean anywhere or anything (and increasingly actually means adulterated with rice or corn syrup).

A much better comparison would be with the price premium of a top quality wine or malt whisky.

I’ll be returning to honey pricing and provenance again in 2021.

Of over 40,000 ‘clicks’ on ~2,000 links embedded in the posts, 1% were to Buy me a coffee. I set this up in June after the old server fell over due to overwork, and I was forced to upgrade.

Flat white …

I am particularly grateful to the ~100 supporters who have ‘bought me a coffee’ to fuel late night writing marathons. It is you are largely responsible for the 40% increase in the length of posts this year 14.

Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

Readers, readers everywhere …

Perhaps unsurprisingly, because of a shared language, the top 6 countries (of 193 in total) in the visitors list were the UK (53%), USA (24%), Ireland (4%), Canada (3%), Australia (3%) and New Zealand (1%). These figures make sense, but aren’t particularly trustworthy as you can be wherever you want with a properly configured VPN.ย 

Finding your way to here

New posts are automagically promoted on my (otherwise totally neglected) Facebook page and via Twitter. Of the two, Facebook generates about four times more traffic than Twitter.

I don’t use either for two-way communication. I’m old skool and prefer email 15, so don’t bother trying to reach me using either.

Don’t try using Pinterest either (does this even have a messaging function? I told you I was old skool ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), which also generates quite a bit of traffic.

Subscribers receive an email whenever a new post appears, and if you submit a comment you can opt in to receive an email update when I (or someone else) adds further comments to a post. I restrict comments to the two years after a post appears. Therefore, if you sign up for comment emails they’ll stop when commenting on a particular post is closed.

Like page reads and site visitors, subscriber numbers have also increased significantly (~50%) this year … Welcome!

Remaining traffic arrives at this site from search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo. Increasingly these encrypt the search terms so I only see about 10% of them and they don’t seem to be as amusing as they used to be.

Finding your way from here

When you visit a website the server records where you came from, both geographically and in terms of the last webpage visited.

When you follow a link in one of the posts the server also records which link you followed to leave the page 16.

Other than links elsewhere on this site, the most popular destination was the equipment suppliers E.H. Thorne’s.

The regular links I make there are an example of pragmatism, not promotion.

There are many other good quality equipment suppliers. However, there aren’t any others 10 minutes down the road from me ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  A combination of convenience and my dislike of P&P charges means the relatively few things I purchase these days come from Thorne’s.

2021, a fresh start

Of the links to Thorne’s, the most often followed was to this honey creamer … if you want one, mine is for sale ๐Ÿ˜‰

One careful ownerย etc.

I’m in the process of planning for the season ahead. This includes reviewing things that areย  “surplus to requirements” and having a bit of a clear out.

There are going to be some very major changes to my beekeeping in 2021 (and 2022) which will involve an emphasis on making bees, rather than making honey.

But that’s for a future post.ย 

Social distancing, online beekeeping talks and hand washing are going to remain the norm for 2021. Less than 1% of the UK population have received their first dose of the vaccine in the first fortnight after the vaccines became available. At that rate (and it will speed up) it will be 11 years until the population is all vaccinated 17.ย 

Enjoy your holiday/break from furlough/family-free time/oxalic acid dribbling (delete as appropriate).

I hope you’ll visit again in the New Year …

Happy Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚



  1. And Saturnalia of course, a week long festival starting on the 17th of December.
  2. Technically the winter solstice is the time when the North pole has its maximum tilt away from the sun (10:03 am on 21/12/20), but it’s usually used to indicate the shortest day. In 2023 the winter solstice is at 03:28 am on the 22nd of December.
  3. The beekeeper … not the bees.
  4. Tasseography is reading residues, typically tea leaves, but seemed appropriate here as well.
  5. I wasn’t, but many of my research team were.
  6. With up to 500 spam comments a day.
  7. You’d be surprised. I was.
  8. DIsagree lucidly … or not at all.
  9. Do some market research … I live in Scotland. What use do I have for RayBans? Actually, any advertising is sufficient for a comment to be edited or (usually) omitted. I also don’t accept gifts/items for review. Everything that’s discussed here has been paid for by me.
  10. I’ll include it here in the list of top comments despite omitting it in later lists … at least those who commented (probably) read to the bottom of the page.
  11. Or are UK-based and simply dreaming of the spring …
  12. Depending upon the size of the bucket of course.
  13. It’s different this year from last year, and will be different again next year.
  14. And the continued functioning of the hardware.
  15. Via the bottom right hand corner of the page.
  16. I’m not snooping on you … most web servers do this.
  17. And even at 1 million per week, an unprecedented rate for the UK, it will take over 3 years.

42 thoughts on “Top of the Posts

  1. Kathy Warren

    Thank you so much David for your continually interesting posts. You have the ability to make even ditchwater fascinating! And I donโ€™t mean to imply you cover boring topics ๐Ÿ˜ณ. Whatever youโ€™re covering, I really enjoy reading, even some of the scientific subjects which are so over my head!
    Keep up the great work, enjoy your break (are you taking one?) and Iโ€™m looking forward to your posts in 2021.
    Best wishes
    Kathy in Derbyshire.

    1. David Post author

      Hello Kathy

      Some of the scientific topics are a bit over my head as well ๐Ÿ˜‰ Other than the stuff on our own work of course …

      Very ‘busy’ relaxing now. Planning all sorts of exciting things for the season ahead while Storm Bella howls around outside. There’s almost no beekeeping to be done, so it’s a good opportunity to just sit and watch the fire.

      Have a great 2021.

  2. Alan grace

    You mention the varroa floor can give an indication whether the colony is brood rearing. What am I looking for here? (have a late season possibly queenless colony and I would love to satisfy my curiosity) p.s one of the best beekeeping sites around. This is my first comment(im a newbie, started beekeeping 2020, 2 colonies going into winter)

    1. David Post author

      Hello Alan

      I’ve discussed this recently. You’re looking for biscuit coloured cappings on the tray, indicative of brood being uncapped.

      Remember the problems about inferring from a negative result. You cannot determine if the colony is queenless like this … at least, not without multiple visits over a long period.

      Good luck with the rest of the winter and the season ahead.

  3. George K.

    Love the newsletter. Just happened onto it from being โ€œtrackedโ€ by Google via my beekeeping searches. So, guess in some areas of Google โ€œcreepingโ€ on my whereabouts on-line this was a good find for me. I also love the post on Vertical splits and making increase and the utility of the split board. I have a cabinet making, honey customer that I will be bartering with as he makes me several of these split boards for an equal swap of my Delta Gold Honey. Merry Christmas to you & your family and be assured I will be reading The Apiarist from cover to back, and again. This is a GREAT resource for all beekeepers. Thanks! George C.

    1. David Post author

      Hello George

      Welcome. Split boards are easy to make, so don’t go exchanging too much honey for each board ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m in the middle of making some new boards for queen rearing this season. These are a bit more complicated so would justify a couple of jars at least.

      Happy (belated) Christmas and Best Wishes for the season ahead

  4. Edward

    Slow day here, glad you mentioned Newgrange first time i missed it in approx 20 years if you hang around after the invited guests leave you can go in well worth the trip.
    Secondly after jan 1st that EU honey night not be available so the decision to leave will be a fascinating social experiment to observe from a distance. Enjoy the posts and look forward to more in 2021 stay safe and may your bees multiply Amms, buckfast, Italians or whatever your having yourself ๐Ÿ˜

    1. Neil Munro

      Agree Newgrange is worth visiting. I guess restrictions are due to people like me ๐Ÿ™‚
      I went there in the 1960s where access was made available by asking the farmers wife for the key to the gate! my sister tried the carved stone crib out as a bed and I needed to go for a pee in the corner…so I guess some scientist is scratching there head over my DNA inside an Irish barrow…. (well, I was only 5 at the time).

      Happy Christmas David (and Edward) you have now been elevated to a slot on our family planner ..

      1. David Post author

        Hello Neil

        Possibly more information than we really needed ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Also has me wondering why your DNA sample is known to the ‘authorities’. No need for a response.

        Happy New Year ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. John

    Congratulation on 52/52.

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate and enjoy and learn from the posts. They’ve helped me evolve from beginner to intermediate (??).

    Pity about Brexit.


    1. David Post author

      Hello John

      I’m not sure I’ve even reached ‘intermediate’ yet ๐Ÿ˜‰ There always seems to be more to know … or at least more that I don’t know.

      Brexit will work out and in due course most people will not remember what they’re missing. This will of course mean some can claim ‘see how much better things are’. It’ll be interesting to see the details on the ‘oven ready’ deal … and the uproar when roaming charges are reintroduced ๐Ÿ™

      Onward and upward!

  6. Yvonne Wagner

    Since you invited comments I will do so, and perhaps you can point me in the right direction.
    Every year I treat for mites, using oxalis vapor. Every year my hives get deformed wing virus and I find โ€œcrawlersโ€ in the grass. This year they showed up Oct 19. I had vaporized 8/7
    8/17 9/5 9/23 9/29 10/6 And 10/14. How are the frickin things getting a foothold!? I used Formic pro to pull the hives from the brink in October, and I might have saved 8/16, but time will tell. I know oa vapor does not get under the brood cells, but itโ€™s wicked hot in Maryland in August and part of September. What could you suggest for me, if you care to? Thank you. Love your wit and posts; you should write a book.

    1. David Post author

      Hello Yvonne

      That’s a lot of oxalic acid. The gap in the treatment schedule – between mid August and early September – will have allowed a few to ‘escape’.

      However, it seems to me there’s one of two possibilities. Either the OA isn’t working (or is not working well enough) or you are getting a big influx of mites from neighbouring collapsing colonies. You’ll know whether the latter is possible from the area you live.

      Just seeing dead mites isn’t enough to determine the OA is working. Let’s assume you had 1000 phoretic mites. If you treat and see a drop of 200 mites then it appears as though treatment is working. In fact, 80% survived. With that level of survival and brood rearing continuing you’re bound to get reinfestation.

      Perhaps try forcing a brood break mid-season then treat when there are only phoretic mites present, having done a pre-treatment mite count. That will determine whether the OA treatment is working efficiently and will prevent reinfestation.

      Do you have access to an amitraz-containing miticide?

      Good luck

    2. vince poulin

      David knows this past fall my experience has closely mimicked those of Yvonneโ€™s with the exception I began with Formic Acid โ€“ not Pro, but liquid FA. For me FA sadly failed leading. I lost 6 out of 7 hives and 3 queens. I well understand the issue of capped brood with OA. It is why I tused FA for the first time. It turned out unfortunate. Despite being able to kill mites inside capped cells I recorded 17 and 29% survivals in two recorded counts. This revealed a significant number of mites were re-entering the hive despite the treatments. By uncapping I learned up to 14 mites could be present in a single worker cell. I counted 35 in one drone cell. This helps explain how mite numbers can grow exponentially. With a single hive remaining and a 42% queen loss I decided to discontinue using FA. I went back to OA in a last ditch effort to rehabilitate the hive. It worked but it took 10- OA treatments. Nine may well have been enough but I was dogmatic โ€“ I was not stopping treatments until mites vanished. I had resolved hive 7 was lost. Evidence of impending collapse was ever present โ€“ DWV, black pupae, liquid larvae, etc. Hundreds of dead bees collecting inside on the varro screen. Mite counts stopped first week of December at 3,121 mites. A huge number, I though well beyond โ€œthreshold-collapseโ€. But there is a God. Last week and today โ€“ inside a Feeder Frame where I supply bees with hard-sugar bees have worked their way up and now clustering in the feeder at the top of the hive below their moisture quilt. Last week a softball sized cluster โ€“ today the hive exploded when I opened a portal to the feeder. Inside a nice, large cluster of bees as good as I have to date. I now think the hive is going to make it and must attribute it to OA.

      1. David Post author

        Hello Vince

        3000+ mites is both impressive and ugly! If it’s any consolation, we’ve looked at some large mid-season research colonies and got 4000+ phoretic mites from them after treating. These were colonies we’d stripped all the brood from. There were so many mites – dropped in a 2-7 day window – that you could trace a pattern through the mite corpses on the tray. The colonies survived. This was mid-season … I’d have not expected them to survive if it was late season.

        Anyway … it sounds like one of yours may be going OK but it’s still too soon to “count your chickens”. We’ve got a lot of the winter still to go yet.

        Happy New Year

        1. vince poulin

          I hear you David – still foxes around the hen house. I know that number 5,000+. One of my 6 collapsed hives gave a total count of 5,508 – from the treatments. Countless more in dead-out brood frames. I really enjoyed the queen cell frequency graph you showed while summarizing your posts. That graph virtually mimics what I saw in my hives over 2019 and 2020! Literally. 2019 was for me a no queen cells (swarm impulse) season – you had a few. Then 2020 – your frequency’s reflect an near identical “trend” here. My hives all went ballistic with bees in spring – then came density issues and all the scenarios for managing swarms. Those mostly failed with one after another of my very productive 2019 hives swarming (in 2020) despite all sorts of space being given. I gave a friend a nice 2020 NUC to help support his loss of 2 hives in late August. It was a very productive NUC that looked like a perfect hive for making it through winter. Soon after he found queen cells in that NUC. This was first week of September. Unfortunately – he decided to split the hive for some number of days but in those days we got hit with our lowest September temperatures and he lost both of the splits. My suggestion was to simply crush the cells – thinking far to late for a split of any sort. But – your graph also helps – I think to explain why 2020 is going to be found a serious mite year in many places. All those queen came from highly productive hives with excellent populations of bees. Hence, huge populations of mites all waiting to infest each and every winter bee larva/pupa.

          1. David Post author

            Hi Vince

            The graph (and I realise in retrospect I didn’t label the figure particularly well) is of page reads of a post about queen cells. They might reflect the actual queen cell frequency/timing, but I suspect have more to do with a post being properly indexed and referenced on the internet. Once a post has been widely read and – more important – widely cited, it develops a life of its own, and becomes a lot more popular as the topic becomes relevant each subsequent year. I would expect Queen cells … don’t panic! to be even more popular (or at least accessed) next year.

            Late season nucs getting overcrowded is a tricky one. I think I’d have done what you suggested … knocked back the cell and hoped for the best. It’s too late to move them to a bigger box as they’d be rattling around with space to spare. Another possibility is stealing a frame of brood and using it to boost another hive, giving the nuc a bit more space for brood rearing. Getting the timing right is difficult – too early and they outgrow the nuc, too late and they’re too small going into the winter. And it’s not the same year on year as the weather influences how fast they develop.

            Still, if it was easy, there’d be nothing for beekeepers to complain about discuss ๐Ÿ˜‰


  7. Alison Hine

    Since you invited comments I would like to say how much I enjoy reading the posts and how useful they are. In fact, I often read them twice because I get to the end and have to go back to see what the footnotes referred to – so double the benefit ๐Ÿคฃ
    Many thanks!

    Best wishes for a much better 2021,


    1. David Post author

      Hi Alison

      Delighted that things are read twice ๐Ÿ˜‰ The footnotes work in two ways – if you hover the mouse over the superscripted link in the text a popup window appears (or should … on a desktop machine at least) with the text. Alternatively, if you click on the link you’re taken to the footnote which is followed by a little arrow. Click on that arrow and you’re taken back to the point in the text it’s linked from.

      You probably knew all this already … but just in case ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. Yvonne Wagner

    Thank you David for your response. Thanks to the internet I am able to order Amitraz, but was avoiding it as a harsher chemical. But maybe I have no choice. I can try the brood break first, though sometimes (many times) itโ€™s hard for me to find my unmarked queens. But thereโ€™s a solution to that as well (find and mark them!)
    Best to you in this upcoming year. Yvonne

    1. David Post author

      Hi Yvonne

      I’m not sure I’d class amitraz as a “harsher chemical” than multiple OA vaporisations (other than for the mites ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). It’s well-tolerated by bees and the queen will continue laying. It’s important to use it for at least two complete brood cycles and to remove strips and dispose of them after use. In the UK the recommended treatments last 6-10 week.


  9. Michael Walker

    Happy Christmas David.

    Like you I am planning for 2021.
    With 6 to 8 main hives (all jumbo langs) and 5-6 nucs (Jumbo langs +1 National) and 4 overwintering mini nucs, I am very much a hobby beekeeper.
    Last year I decided to keep my honey production static (c 300-400lbs a year ) and concentrate on Queen rearing and nuc raising for resale..

    This year I am continuing that trend. Honey raising is hard work as I grow older and raising bees is much easier on my body and more ยฃs for less work.

    I have to make some mire nucs after a quick stocktake – I was educated in Aberdeen so am mean ๐Ÿ™‚ and DIY – using as much cheap wood/insulation as possible.

    Best wishes for 2021

    1. David Post author

      Hello Michael

      Happy Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚ There’s certainly more money in bees than honey, though you’re dependent upon getting the timing right for your queen rearing. There’s also a lot less heavy lifting which is certainly to be welcomed. If you’re selling nucs I think the easiest route is to buy them in bulk and sell them with the bees, integrated into the price. That way you don’t have the hassle of building them … and the buyer will always have use of another nuc.

      Here’s an overwintered poly nuc bursting with bees … something to look forward to for the season ahead ๐Ÿ™‚

      Happy New Year

      PS Nothing wrong with being mean careful ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Neil Munro

    Hi David,
    When you mentioned scotch it made me think you have something about marketing honey. However, in marketing it we need to communicate the extra value we provide, rather than just saying ‘local honey’, I mean, so what?. There is a need to explain what this means, why, and perhaps out national bodies should be thinking about an identifiable standard for honey. Has it been heated, come from hives which had sugar feed in it for instance, I can think of another dozen questions which could show the differentiation of boutique honey supplies.
    Im starting to think about how this is done and immediately my mind drifts to the realms of QR codes…

    1. David Post author

      Hello again Neil

      My jars already carry a QR code with a link to a description of the honey I produce (based upon a unique batch code), the locale and the season. At the moment the information is rather generic. However, the back-end database can carry all sorts of information – even pictures – or things like pollen types present in the honey, production methods etc.

      The rate-limiting step is me writing the code to input and output the data. I’ve been using this system for a year or so. I’m going to write more about it in 2021. It’s worth noting that the information content in a QR code is limited, hence my choice to link it to a web page. If you create a code big enough to carry the text of your comment (~650 chars) it’s either too small to scan, or it obscures too much of the jar ๐Ÿ™ My QR codes are printed on 25 mm labels.

      Is this an example of great minds thinking alike?

  11. Neil Munro

    Yes, it is, but you are obviously way ahead of me ๐Ÿ™‚
    I rekon there may even be a business providing a platform for non-tec Apiarists to buy for their marketing…

    1. David Post author

      Maybe … though I’m not certain customers want to do the leg-work themselves … I think they prefer to trust the shop to source high quality products that they can purchase. Clearly this doesn’t apply to every customer, but many more want to chat about the origin of the honey when sold at the door than scan a barcode on a jar.

      More research clearly needed ๐Ÿ˜‰


  12. Kim K

    David, just writing to let you know I enjoy your blog. Yes, sometimes I might skim. I am in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our weather is quite different from yours but I learn things from your blog. This beekeeping thing is HARD. I took an online course from the University of Montana in Nov-Dec. I am trying to be a better beekeeper. Thanks

    1. David Post author

      Hello Kim

      Pleased you enjoy reading (or just skimming) the blog. I doubt we ever get weather like yours! However, the basic principles of keeping bees remains broadly the same – mite management, swarm prevention and control etc. Once those things are mastered it gets a LOT easier ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m also trying to be a better beekeeper, so I’m in good company.

      Happy New Year

  13. Colin Thomson

    Hello David,
    Thank you, have enjoyed reading your informative and entertaining articles.
    Using fondant blocks this year has been a success. Also followed your guidance on trickling the OA treatment.
    Looking forward to using the nucleus method of swarm control this coming season. Started last season with one overwintered colony and had 7 swarms – donโ€™t want to repeat that experience.
    Thanks again,
    Colin (along the road)

    1. David Post author

      Hello Colin

      Keep an eye on the levels of stores as we move into the New Year. Depending upon the bees they can rapidly use up their reserves. If that happens you need to top up the fondant (I’ll be posting something about this in January). Because I was away I didn’t set out any bait hives last season … otherwise some of the swarms would have ended up with me ๐Ÿ™

      Hope the season starts well for you in 2021. There’s lots of OSR in range so if the weather is good it could be a bumper spring crop ๐Ÿ™‚


      1. Dorothie Jones

        Thank you David for all your informative and helpful articles. Delivered as always with a touch of humour which lightens the mood if one is a bit stressed out (moi, surely not?)
        I always recommend your site to other beeks looking for sound advice.
        I hope you were able to enjoy a reasonable Christmas, despite the circumstances, and wish you all the best for 2021.
        Fingers crossed for better things to come for everyone.

        1. David Post author

          Hello Dorothie

          No need to get too stressed about the bees … they’re remarkably resilient as long as you provide them with the basics (food and shelter) and then manage them in ways that takes account of their lives and organisation e.g. don’t expect queen development unless they have suitably aged larvae or don’t be surprised if they develop laying workers if you leave them with no open brood.

          It’s a relaxing time of year for beekeepers, but the free time is good for planning for the season ahead.

          Keep spreading the word ๐Ÿ™‚
          Happy New Year

  14. Sue MacFadyen

    Hello David,

    I am adding my voice to all those who are appreciative of your weekly posts. I find them an invaluable source of detailed and reliable information, brought to life through your very practical and extensive experience. The posts you highlight as most used have certainly been my main guides for swarm and mite control! I can never read too much about beekeeping on your site!
    Many thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge. I am already looking forward to the posts you are flagging up for 2021!

    1. David Post author

      Hello Sue

      Many thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ Tens of thousands have read the posts I highlighted this year. As I said, a couple need a bit of a refresh, but there’s a near-limitless list of other topics that can be covered as well.

      With Best Wishes for the season ahead

  15. Malcolm McDonald

    Hi David

    Thank you for your blogs. I have only discovered them fairly recently and I enjoy them greatly. They get me thinking!

    My current train of thought is stimulated by your reference to swarm control and, following that through to earlier postings, your advocacy of the nucleus method. I have seen this mentioned by other experts but have not tried it myself. The reason for not trying it is that I find my worker bees go on strike if they do not have a laying queen. If I take the queen out and make up a small nuc with her, it will leave a hive bursting with bees, probably during a flow, doing nothing for 3 weeks. Whereas, although it has imperfections particularly with regard to the mixture of bees, by making an artificial swarm, the bulk of the workforce will continue to forage.
    Are my bees different or do you have ways of making queenless bees work!

    I do like the simplicity of your nuc method, other than the need to find the queen. I have spent so much time looking for queens in overflowing colonies that I have developed my methods so that I rarely need to actually find her. However that would not stop me giving your method a go if I could be convinced that the honey crop would not be affected.

    Best wishes for 2021

    1. David Post author

      Hello Malcolm

      Pleased you’ve both found the site and enjoy the writing.

      My experience is often quite the opposite … colonies rendered queenless during a strong flow often generate a bumper crop. Not always of course. It’s something I’ve noticed several times over the last few years. It’s so noticeable that I probably ignore those that go on a sulk at the same time ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I wouldn’t want to try and convince you that it doesn’t affect the honey crop. As far as I’m concerned the benefits of the method generally outweigh any reduction in honey and/or this is compensated by the colonies that generate more.

      Happy New Year

  16. Eduardo Gomes

    Hi David! Thank you very much for your time to write about beekeeping. I hope you have a healthy new year and I hope to continue reading your publications that I appreciate so much! The best for you. Eduardo

  17. Frank Kilkelly

    Hi David,
    it’s nice to read over your old posts, they have a long shelf life. Just read this: “My bees in Fife, broodless in late October, are now rearing brood again. Thereโ€™s ample evidence for that on the Varroa trays left on the floor underneath the hive stands.” I saw the pic, but what’s on the board that tells you they are rearing brood?

    1. David Post author

      Hello Frank

      You need to look for scraps of wax the colour of digestive biscuits … those are brood cappings. They are in lines under the gaps in the brood frames, directly underneath the cluster. They’re biscuit-coloured because brood cappings have pollen in them to make them air permeable, so that the developing pupae can breathe. Cappings from stores are almost always much paler than brood cappings. You can get both in the same ‘strip’ on the Varroa tray sometimes. I assume this is where the bees are rearing brood underneath stores which they’re also uncapping.


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