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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I began my 11th year of beekeeping in April 2016. Now there are about 1275 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.

Even if you find one post on the subject, I've posted a lot on basic beekeeping skills like installing bees, harvesting honey, inspecting the hive, etc. so be sure to search for more once you've found a topic of interest to you. And watch the useful videos and slide shows on the sidebar. All of them have captions. Please share posts of interest via Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

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. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Meeting Marla Spivak


Marla Spivak is just as lovely a person as she appears to be on her TED talk. When I've listened to her TED talk, as I have many times, I have thought that she's someone I'd like to just sit with and have a conversation. At the same time, I know that the TED talk presenters are highly rehearsed and well-trained, so I didn't really know how she'd be in person.

I had the opportunity to meet her in person, to listen to her give three talks, and to hang out with her at our sort of "after gathering" in the hotel lobby on Friday night of the GBA conference in Griffin, GA. And she is a lovely person.

Her talks at GBA covered any number of topics. On Friday night, she talked about the changes in the landscape - the fields that no longer have weeds, the lawns that are treated, etc. and that accompanying impact on the nutrition of the bee. On Saturday her talks were more about the work of her graduate students.

She talked on Saturday about an interesting program that her students began and which have now blossomed into a much larger operation. Called tech transfer teams, her students act as consultants to commercial beekeepers to help them maximize the success of their hives. They travel to the commercial migratory operations and work directly with the beekeepers and their bees.

The openness of the way this research morphed into a consulting project made me in awe of how she works with her students. Every example of a student project reflected how well she supports and encourages innovative thinking in her students. I have a PhD in psychology, not entomology, but I remember professors in my graduate program and how hard it was to get supportive minds for individual research. I found myself envious of her students who get to work with someone who is generous, giving and very open-minded in thinking outside of the box.

Her last talk was the most interesting to me. She talked about the propolis in the bee hive. In trees, the bees completely coat the interior of a hollow tree in which they build their hive with propolis. In our Langstroth boxes, this is not the case. The bees find the surface of the wood of the hive box too smooth to coat with propolis. One of Marla's students cut up those plastic propolis traps and lined the inside of hive boxes with them. The result was that they had to remove one frame and run nine frame boxes instead of ten to accommodate the space used by the propolis traps on all sides. But with the installed traps on the walls, again the bees coated the walls with propolis.

She made the point that the propolis serves a purpose in the tree for the bees' health and when they can't do it in a hive box, something important is missing. She indicated that unless we had rough wood interiors, the bees were unlikely to coat our Langstroth boxes. Made me wonder about top bar hives again and the rough way that they are often constructed in Africa. I wonder if they are coated with propolis? And I wonder how much healthier our bees would be if it were easy for them to cover the walls with propolis?

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