The Inner Cover

Kim Flottum

By: Kim Flottum

Right off the bat – Don’t forget the Bee Culture’s 2019 Calendar contest! The topic is All Things Royal – Queens! Retinues, laying eggs, emerging from cells, being fed, Mating – that would be a sure one, as would a drone comet with a queen in front, queens fighting, anything and everything queens, queen banks, queen cells, grafting queens, caging queens, holding a queen in your hand, marking queens. If you got a queen you got a picture. All Things Royal. Don’t forget! Send your photos as JPG attachments in an email, only one per email, to If your photo is too large it won’t come through. We will respond if we get your photo. If you do not hear back from us we did not get it. Reduce the size/resolution and send again.

I was in Florida at the West Palm Beach Beekeepers meeting in late May. It was a short trip – fly in Friday afternoon, talk about making money with bees Friday night, do an outdoor workshop Saturday morning testing for Varroa and on the plane heading home by lunchtime.

Here in Medina the weather had been so unseasonably hot and humid the whole previous week – the five days over Memorial Day weekend, I thought the global warming thing was home to stay. In the 90s with that kind of humidity from Friday to Thursday. Of course air conditioning only breaks when it’s hot (like furnaces when it’s cold), and ours went out Saturday morning. Getting someone to take a look wasn’t in the works over the Holiday, so we did the fans thing or a week. It was tolerable, but hot. And humid. Did I mention it was hot all week?

First thing Tuesday morning I call my trusty air conditioner repair guy and they could squeeze me in sometime late Thursday. By supper that day we had the cool back and life returned to something approaching normal. Of course the weather turned cool again Friday, just as I was getting ready to head to Florida for some more of the same, but at least it was cool here.

There, it was even more of the same. Hot, hot, hot. Humid, humid, humid. I honestly don’t know how people live in that oven. Or I didn’t until someone there actually explained it to me. Or at least how he understood it.

You actually physically change, he said. Your body produces more blood vessels near the surface of your body, dissipating heat faster and easier so you don’t over heat. And you never, never take a cold shower. Warm, heading toward hot he said. That way, when you get out, it’s actually cooler than the shower, and you cool down faster. Take a cold shower and get out and you heat up in a hurry, trying to say warm, you get too warm.

I never use air conditioning either, he said. Nope, not ever. Now, I go places where the AC is on and I have to put up with it, but I don’t stay any longer than I have to, and I always wear warm clothes when I’m in, like, a grocery store or some place. When he was telling me this, he had a light coat on over a long sleeve shirt and long pants standing in the sun. I was in shorts and a T-shirt and dying a slow death  sitting in the shade.

As he was talking, I was looking around at the rest of the folks who were there that morning. Several were wearing sweaters and coats. Now, pants made sense because they were working bees, but almost 90 and a sweater? Wow.

During the flight home, in that air conditioned plane, I got to thinking about all this. Keeping bees in that part of the world is way, way different than in my part of Ohio. We have seasons. They have honey flows as things come and go, but things are always coming and going. I ran into a beekeeper at the meeting on Friday night I used to know when he was living in New Jersey. He lives down there now, and is making a part of his living custom extracting all year long because there’s honey to be harvested all year long. An ongoing, continuous honey flow.

Beekeeping Is Local.

Honey Labels.

Calendar Contest.

If you live there I’m sure you’re going – duh! Where you been all your life? And, there are a good number of beekeepers living in that part of the world. And, I’m sure you’ve heard that all beekeeping is local, but this kind of local is way, way different than almost every book, article, youtube video, magazine story or anything about beekeeping you are likely to find. As a result, much of what folks are exposed to who live in those parts has to fixed, or adapted to accommodate what they face every day. I’m guilty of that.

I’ve made some assumptions that all things Ohio relative to bees and beekeepers are all things everywhere. Inside, I knew that wasn’t right, but it fit for what I was doing at the time, and it was easy to gloss over.

So, small hive beetles all year long. All year long honey flows. Hot all the time. Humid all the time. Rain like Noah used to see, and I suppose termites, ants, lizards (one actually tried to come home with me) and more kinds of blooming plants than you can imagine. It’s not a different planet, but it certainly is a world I’ll have to learn. And guess what….wild flower honey there is way, way different than wild flower honey here. Read on.

That rush of heat and rain in late May here really screwed up the bloom sequence of a lot of plants. Locust was early, as was tulip popular right on top of it, and basswood came on strong early too. What this did was jam up getting some of these as varietals because they got mixed. The locust got too much color and lost that ‘ding’ after taste that’s so special, and anything approaching tulip popular color had a not-sweet-enough flavor from the locust.

And where this is going is the Honey Report survey on honey labels. Actually, differences in what’s on honey labels across the regions we use. Like the climate I experienced in Florida, every region has a local label flavor that I hadn’t quite expected.

One of our reporters summed it up for a lot of us – if you know the beekeeper, all the rest isn’t needed. If the beekeeper says it’s . . . some kind of honey – then you know what you need to know and don’t need to know any more. And for a lot of folks that works. Steady customers come to your home or Farm Market stand on a routine basis, you recognize them, know their kids and they buy a one pounder and know it’s safe, real and that you made it. That works. Unless you’re not there.

And you’re not at the store with your honey, or that other farm market, so you’re label has to be as good as you are to sell that jar.

For instance. Take a look at question three. Does your label have “Local” on it? Many do, but a lot don’t. The rationale is that my address is on it so it has to be local, right? Maybe.

Top labels. Even when you have a Farm Market stand, what folks see is the top of your jar, almost never the front. Not using that space is wasting space. Yes, the label costs. But telling a buyer it’s Local, or that you are part of your state’s Agriculture program gives a bit more information right off.

We didn’t ask, and should have, do you use Wild Flower on your label? I’ll bet almost everybody does on at least some of their honeys. When it’s a mix, it’s wild flower, right? Well, 38% over all do some varietal honeys and label them as such, but that range is as low as 13% to only as high as 68%. Only 38% use a seasonal distinction, such as Spring Beauty, or Autumn Harvest.

Only 25% put Product of U.S. on their labels, when fully 80% of the honey consumed in this country is from off shore. Shouldn’t we be screaming from the rafters that our stuff isn’t from off shore? That foreign stuff has gotten a lot of serious, and necessary bad press in the recent past, and I’d like to see us get as far from that junk as possible (see below). Another way to do that is to say something like Proudly Made In Ohio or something similar that denotes not only is it US made, but even closer, it’s made right here in Ohio. Frankly, I think labels are under used as a promotional device, especially – especially when it isn’t us selling face to face. 

While we’re on the Honey Report page, have you looked at the prices yet? Somebody somewhere is getting only $1.35 /lb for light amber honey in the drum! $1.35! You have to make 30 pounds of honey to buy a $40 queen. Meanwhile, somebody somewhere is getting $50 for a 5 pound jar. That’s $10/lb, which is about what honey should be. The average price of a 5 pounder, however, is only $27, or just a hair over half of that at $5.40/lb. Meanwhile, the retail price of maple syrup on Amazon runs about $7.50 – $8/lb. sold in 2 pound jugs, almost exactly the same average retail price of honey at $7.50/lb. What am I missing here? A gallon of maple syrup weighs 11 pounds. The range of prices for a gallon last year was $30 – $70, or $2.73 – $6.36/lb. All of this of course negates mentioning the cost of the bottle, label and delivery.

I’ve made maple syrup, and I’ve harvested honey. I’d rather make maple syrup than try to keep bees alive, tend to them, get stung and then have to clean up the mess of 40% of them dead every Spring. But then, honey from off shore is coming in at a lot less. India – $0.87/lb., Vietnam – $0.81/lb., Ukraine – $0.90/lb. All just a tad over half of the lowest price on our report this month. But then, you don’t get propolis or beeswax from a maple tree, so we do have that.

But happily, average pollination prices are up. Not a lot, but at least in the right direction. But have you heard? From a mid-June BUZZ – Dropcopter, which uses a drone to pollinate tree crops, successfully demonstrated its Worker-Bee pollinator at the 800-acre orchard, which is home to more than 350,000 trees, in Lafayette, N.Y.

Each year, 400 hives of bees (at an average cost of $86/hive or $34,400) help pollinate Beak & Skiff’s crops. However, the potential to have drones supplement the pollination performed by bees (and increasing fruit set 10% -15%) offers the ability to distribute precise amounts of pollen five to 10 feet above the tree canopy (day or night or both) and provide backup support to Mother Nature, explains business accelerator GENIUS NY, of which Dropcopter was a finalist team.

Cheaper, more efficient honey production, and cheaper, better and more efficient crop pollination by a machine. It was only a matter of time.