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Beekeeping in the Digital Age

Column #23: Here Come the Dot-Coms, Part Two – A Web Designer Combines His Skill With Beekeeping

By Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford

Last month I discussed several examples of apicultural dot-coms that have recently been proliferating on the World Wide Web. As the information revolution matures, there are sure to be many more. They will be limited only by the creativity of those who see the enormous possibilities presented by this new technology. Mr. Barry Birkey is one of a team of web designers outside Chicago involved in a host of projects involving multimedia and World Wide Web pages . He is also a beekeeper and launched a site early on with an apicultural focus. Here are some musings he sent me by e-mail late last year: “I’m just starting to implement a lot of new changes to my current web site that have been on the back burner for a couple of years. The most recent action was to acquire two new domains to begin building my new site around (beesource.com and bee-l.com). I then plan to develop some new features. One is to make Bee-l.com the browser based method for bee-l. I’ll be implementing a discussion board with an array of forums moderated by individuals who have expertise in these areas. Different forums might be, beginning beekeeping, diseases and pests, pollination, queen production, products of the hive, etc. My goal is to not take away from bee-l but to be an added value especially in light of the many posts we moderators receive that don’t fit the guidelines due to their elementary nature or redundancy. They might do better looking at a specific forum of interest. My other goal is to create a network of honey producers (mostly hobby) that would be willing to sell their honey or fulfill orders online. When you think about it, most “homegrown” honey is sold locally and never goes beyond that. I’d like to see a way for people wanting specialty honeys to be able to buy it over the internet. I’ve already talked with the owner of ChefTalk (http://www.cheftalk.com) about this.”

Barry’s site is now a reality. Accessing that home page at http://beesource.com/, one finds the following: “There is a group of beekeepers that are studying the cell size of honeybee comb and what types of foundation are in use around the world. YOU can help us! What size is your foundation? Simply measure across 10 cells on your foundation and write us with the measurement, especially if it does not measure between 5.20 and 5.45 cm. (That’s 2-1/16 and 2-1/8 inches). If you do not use foundation, what size is your worker comb? Please measure several worker combs and let us know the measurements. Also, let us know where you are (country, state) as well as, the race of bees, and latitude, longitude & altitude — if you know them. Please send results to: cellsize@beesource.com. This study comes out of the more recent work of the Lusby’s on cell sizing. Please take some time to read the historical data regarding cell size, and the current work of the Lusby’s.” Several graphics show how to do the measuring and the concept is another interesting example of how the World Wide Web can be used in innovative ways. This is a first effort in developing an online study based on a very large number of possible contributors from all over the globe. The results should be interesting and may be useful in a number of ways.

There is a news section at Beesource.com, which contains information on breaking events in the apicultural field. Of special interest are recent events on Varroa finds in New Zealand, information on the various governmental organic initiatives, and a discussion of releasing Russian queens to beekeepers. This page also contains present and past reports of the National Honey Market News, published in Yakima, Washington. This is the only place to my knowledge where this information exists, as it is not yet available electronically from the publisher. Also found here is the latest sugar and sweetener outlook. The last part of this section contains the dates of short courses, symposia and other events, such as the July 21-23 queen rearing short course at the University of Minnesota and the July 29-30 University of Illinois beekeepers’ workshop.

The point of view section of Beesource.com contains controversial and provocative material. There is found the back to biological beekeeping ideas of the Lusby’s, some of which have led to the online study mentioned earlier. “Ed and Dee are full-time commercial beekeepers in Tucson, AZ. Ed is a fourth generation beekeeper. Dee and Ed work side by side in all phases of their operation. Their non-chemical ‘back to basics’ approach to beekeeping leads them to spend much of their spare time in libraries where they search for obscure bits of information which, when assembled in logical order, yield insights into old problems such as bee kills due to the use ofpesticides, and new problems like parasitic mites. Such has been their pursuit of an understanding of the importance of comb cell diameter, an issue emanating out of their bee breeding activities and search for non-chemical methods of resolving disease and mite problems.”

Another no-less-controversial area is that surround the controversy of the bee language as put forth by Dr. Adrian Wenner. There is a compilation of pithy comments from the late Andy Nachbaur, including a philosophical exchange that Andy called a “love letter.” He concludes in that document: “I have always included all beekeepers in my efforts and do not judge individuals by the number of bees they have or the reason they have them or even what they post to newsgroups or list mailers but I read them all as time permits and even the personal Love Letters from other readers.” Other comments include those by Allen Dick on the simplicity of beekeeping and Dave Green’s remarks on using frozen honey bees as weapons. “We (I was given a team of assistants) designed a gun that would rapid-fire a couple hundred (frozen) bees. If these were lobbed into a foxhole on a warm day, the bees would revive en route and the enemy (theoretically) would run screaming from the hiding spot, to be picked off by our snipers. It was beautiful, and I was so proud of our accomplishment. The first shipment of guns and ammo went in refrigerated containers. But lack of understanding and care by the personnel en route, combined with the steamy tropical heat,allowed the bees to warm up a bit. They were usually still frozen but often not hard, when they were used. There were a couple times when they worked in spectacular fashion, but most of the time, they turned to mush and jammed up the guns.”

Also found on Beesource.com are numerous plans, most in Adobe Acrobat® format, which are usually more suitable for printing on paper than normal Web documents. These include tips on making your own beehives and how to build a bee vacuum, and the apidictor, a device that was patented by the late E.F. Woods and used sound to predict when a colony was likely to swarm. A very complete compilation of both bee supply outfits and associations is also provided on Beesource. com, including an advertisement for used and antiquarian books available from Joseph J. Bray, PO Box 203305, New Haven, CT 06520, 203-865-1594, jbray@pcnet.com. In keeping with the commercial context of Beesource.com, Barry has teamed with Barnes and Noble to advertise a range of beekeeping books from a number of publishers. Graphics of the covers are displayed along with some idea of the content of each volume.

A complete list of electronic discussion groups and how to subscribe to each is found at Beesource.com. Barry asks that the owner of a group that’s not listed, and would like to be added, send a request to: info@beesource.com. Finally, the site contains numerous fora for beekeeping topics, including beginning beekeeping, queen rearing, pollination, food-grade mineral oil treatment, items for sale and posts by those wishing to purchase items. The number of contributions to each forum is noted and there is a facility, which tells a visitor whether there has been any new posts since the last visit. Barry has made a remarkable effort at providing useful information to the beekeeping world through his site and certainly one worth looking at frequently.

Dr. Sanford is Extension Specialist is Apiculture, University of Florida. He publishes the APIS Newsletter: http://www.ifas.ufl.edu/~mts/apishtm/apis.htm

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