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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Jamie Ellis at GBA

Jamie Ellis' presence at the GBA Spring meeting was absolutely delightful.  The researchers at UGA tend to be telling us something different every time we see them.  Their goal is to come up with a way to deal with the varroa mite because it has been so devastating to beekeepers.

Jamie began his talk to us about the state of beekeeping with a graph from NASS (the National Agricultural Statistics Service).  Here's what it looked like:

This is a photo I took of my computer screen that I took with my iPhone, so if you want to see the real thing, it's on the sixth page of this.

From this graph, Jamie pointed out that the numbers of honey bee colonies in this country have been declining steadily since a peak in 1945.  If you look closely, the decline has leveled off a little since the arrival of varroa!

To listen to other university researchers, we are in desperate times BECAUSE of the varroa.  Jamie pointed out that we are in desperate times because of the lessening numbers of colonies, but not because of varroa.

I was particularly interested in his approach because I now know a number of beekeepers - local ones like Jerry Wallace and Bill Owens, and national ones like Michael Bush and Sam Comfort who haven't used any treatment for varroa or anything else for years.

Jerry Wallace almost sheepishly confessed to me that he (who used to use treatment including oxalic acid) has been splitting his strong hives and not worrying about the ones that died.  Michael Bush doesn't count varroa for the same reason.  He has hives that don't need him to count varroa.  They may be in the hive but his bees are strong enough - whether that means they are hygienic or disease resistant - not to need to worry.

Jamie did not paint a pretty picture of beekeeping in these times for many reasons, but referenced many factors - environmental and otherwise.  His concern was the decline in the numbers of hive SINCE 1945.

He explored the Oxbow Center where the conference was held.  He is with his oldest son in the photo below.

They came to look at a giant turtle near the newsletter table where Gina and I sat, representing the GBA newsletter that we edit.  We spent the day in front of a coiled rattler behind us (in a glassed display, but still...)

We brought several printed issues of Spilling the Honey and a suggestion box for ideas for the newsletter.  We gave stickers that stated "I contributed to Spilling the Honey!" to everyone we saw who had written for the newsletter or who had contributed an idea or photo.

We both wore fedoras with PRESS stickers in the hatbands.  We had a good time.  This is not a good photo of either of us, but at least you can see our PRESS hats.

After a talk on pesticides that I missed, Jamie gave a third talk about the ways honey bees have answered life's four most important questions for him.  I'm not going to try to explain the delightful, hilarious talk, but he ended by telling us how honey bees explain Lady Gaga (don't ask).


  1. Could the leveling off of the decline be due to the creation of more hives through splits from the ones that have survived to make up for the hives lost?

  2. If that's so, that's a good thing - hives that survive have something that caused them to survive, so great if the splits from good hives are the answer!

  3. In the Pacific Northwest, there is a lot of talk just lately on the loss of forage habitat as a huge contributor to honeybee stressors and declines. I am at work in my community, hoping to get more flowers into every nook and cranny. BTW Linda (and I love your press hats!!) an item for your next newsletter could be the work of Stuart Roweth in England, who is the inventor of the "Bee Gym". Check out his page! I am trialling his device this year in my apiary.

  4. Anonymous11:16 PM

    I take this sort of topic seriously .. and look up to Jamie Ellis (and Keith Delaplane) and the work that they do; This blog entry started on a scientific high-note and the just fizzled into silliness... your blog has potential though ... so many of us stop by here looking to learn more; why not reference Jamie's documents on this so we can learn more? The graph was a great start ... it tells us that varroa is not 'the' enemy .. but then you reference other issues ... and then ... there's just no meat here. I mean this feedback in a good way, Linda.

    There is so much more to the story and 'Jamie did not paint a pretty picture' refers to that meat of the story; That kind of information is so important to us. A URL or a reference or bibliography at the minimum ... otherwise, this is just a fun blog and only distracts from the real story of why the nearly-straight-line (down) with a blip at the varroa introduction (US) ... why that line down in colonies? Back to google ... wasted time.

  5. Hi Anonymous, I also take this topic seriously, if you mean the topic of whether the bees die because of varroa or something else. Jamie didn't give us references and I encourage you to visit his U of Fl website where you can find more information. I didn't intend this to be a scientific post but rather an overview of his presentations at the GBA conference and the GBA conference in general. I'm glad it piques your curiosity, though and good luck in your varroa exploration. This is hopefully a fun blog where I point people in different directions and give some practical pointers from my own beekeeping. If you want scientific data, this is probably not the place. If you want practical approaches to beekeeping, this probably is!

  6. Anonymous11:52 AM

    Do you or Jamie think the significant decline in the number of U.S. Hives has anything to do with the fact the entire farm population has dropped 99% in two generations? We had 2 million family farms in 1948. Now we have less than 200,000.


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