Letters to the Editor


Letters to the Editor - July 2014


July Cover Picture

This is the first in a series of 6 paintings depicting beekeeping​ work in the apiary. This will also be made into a limited edition 40x24 inch signed poster. A poster will be sent to every state agriculture department helping to highlight the importance of beekeepers and their diminishing numbers.

Mirald Cake, the artist, is the son of a beekeeper. He came to this country at age 13 in 2000 with his family from Albania.  His father, a beekeeper in Albania, wanted a better life for his children and was granted a visa to immigrate to the US. As you know, beekeeping is a family business. Mirald spent many days as a young boy assisting his father in the fields. His art is influenced by that environment.

Not speaking English, his father, Behar Cake, supported the family by taking maintenance & cleaning jobs around Clearwater Florida. His mother, Luisa, a nurse in Albania, worked here as a hotel maid. The children learned English within a year and became straight A students. They all became US citizens.

My wife, then the executive housekeeper at the Adams Mark Hotel in Clearwater, became friends of the family during Luisa’s time there as a hotel maid. My wife helped her to learn English and took an interest in Mirald’s drawing abilities and gave him a painting kit as a Christmas present. Six years later my wife drove Mirald to the prestigious Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota for an interview. Four years ago he graduated. His father’s secondary income as a beekeeper helped Mirald through college.

Mirald sees his father as his hero and beekeeping is his father’s passion. This series of six paintings will depict the beekeeper in that mode. I have added some links about Mirald and his art.

Please consider his art for a cover of your Journal. And a story about his family’s beekeeping journeys in life in the same issue.

Links about Mirald Cake:



A google on his name will bring up more results

Charles Barocas
Seminole, FL

Supering Hives

I would like to respond to the recent “Letters to the Editor/Bee Forage Network Developed, May, 2014.” First, I would like to acknowledge that using various websites for beekeeping endeavors are extremely valuable, and there are hundreds if not thousands of good ones out there. Furthermore, I would encourage new and old beekeepers alike to take advantage of them. However, now I must get to my point. This article seemed to suggest that all new beekeepers need to do is just run to their computer, type in the website, and determine which day to start putting on supers for their bees to fill up. This computer-dependent mentality is detrimental to learning about honeybees and their habits. We need to use computers and websites as tools to help us, but rely on working with the bees after opening up the colony for observations in order to make decisions as to what the colony needs.
At the risk of getting too elementary for many of the ABJ readers, I think somebody needs to point out that we need to get back to the basics. During my first year of working with bees, I learned that the way to determine when to super a colony was to open up the colony and remove one of the brood frames. You could look at it to see if the workers were putting in nectar into the cells right after the new workers emerged and before the queen had a chance to lay more eggs in the cells. This process is called “plugging out the brood nest with honey.” Then, turn this frame 90 degrees from its original position and lightly move the frame up and down without shaking the frame too hard. If drops of nectar fell out onto the tops of the other frames, then the honey flow (actually nectar flow in which the nectar is changed to honey by the bees) was on. If you wanted further proof, you could taste one of these drops. If it was sweet (which is practically always the case), then it is nectar. Thick honey will never fall out of the frames during this check. At this point, you can add  honey supers. There are other ways to check for a honey flow: past years – even though there are differences in different years, bee flight, and white wax either seen as burr comb on the top bars or as the comb surface as it is capped. However, as anyone can surmise, most of these activities actually involve opening the hive and inspecting the bees, not sitting behind a computer. Furthermore, if your hive swarmed, then this would have a great effect on how much honey your hive could collect and how many supers a beekeeper would need to add.
I think that all beekeepers, especially new ones, need to understand that the way to learn about bees is through experience in front of an open hive. Sure I have heard, and it does have merit, that opening a hive does disturb the bees. But to be successful, you need to learn firsthand. Open the hive and make each time a learning experience.  As my teacher and major professor, Dr. Alfred Dietz, told me on many occasions. “Don’t worry about it; if you do something wrong the bees will let you know.”

Mickey Anderson
Dallas, GA

“Treatment-Free Beekeeping”
by Les Crowder

I, too, have been a beekeeper for 40 years, a state bee inspector, etc. etc. I have watched beekeeping and agriculture go through many changes. One of these is IPM, integrated pest management. IPM has adopted many of the practices of organic farming, inasmuch as many pests can be controlled with mechanical and biological means. When these methods are successful, one need not resort to chemicals.
However, IPM is a continuum, which responds directly to pest levels. If the method used is not working, one goes to the next level. For example, if you have mice in your house, IPM would start with mechanical and biological methods like mouse traps and cats. If that doesn’t work, you might go to rat bait. If that failed, you may have to tent the house. What you would not do is give up and live with a rodent infestation, or abandon the house.
Many of the treatment-free advocates are idealists. Idealism too exists on a continuum. At it simplest, it is the belief in a better world. But often it slides toward ideology. Fervent ideologies tend to attract people who want simple answers to hard problems. Just as IPM aims to be flexible and responsive to real world situations, one also can have an integrated attitude toward knowledge which is flexible, responsive and avoids ideology. Because ideology slides toward fanaticism.

Peter Loring Borst
Beers Settlement, NY

Playing with the Winter Sun — Solarizing Hives to Reduce Winter Losses

The following information may be of interest to beekeepers living in zone 6 or colder, where the rate of winter kill is high.
We know honeybee colonies can take the cold weather as long as they have a good population, plenty of food inside the hive, are free of serious disease and have a dry cavity. However, we see colonies entering winter in apparently good condition, dwindling or even dying in late winter. The long confined life during winter may favor the development of health problems and the queen may fail or die of age or illness, when supersedure cannot take place. But a dead colony, with food inside the hive, in late winter, may also be the consequence of insufficient natural warming breaks during the long cold periods, when the colony turned weak. This further explains why the rate of winter losses gets higher with the latitude. Let me make this point clearer:
We know the bees adapt to cold weather by  ....