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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – December 2019

- December 1, 2019 - (excerpt)

Queens “Playing Possum”

In answer to Horace Huse’s question in the October issue about a queen temporarily appearing dead as a result of handling, it’s actually not uncommon for the occasional queen to “play possum” when handled. She may appear to have suddenly and inexplicably died, but just give her a few minutes to recover — she’ll come back to life in a few minutes. I just rest her on a frame of nurse bees, out of direct sun so that she doesn’t overheat, and keep an eye on her until she revives.

Randy Oliver
Grass Valley, California


Bear Fence Clearance

In your October issue of American Bee Journal on page 1113 there is an article by Joseph A. May entitled “Suspended Bear Fence for Honeybees.” The illustrations in the article reveal an electric fence with clearances from the hive being only 8 and 12 inches, back and front. I surely hope that his fence will protect his hives but I believe your readers should know that a bear would have little trouble reaching in and knocking over the hives.

I hope that Mr. May is able to protect his hives from bears with this fence but most would recommend a vastly larger clearance between the fence and the hives.

Dr. Don Heindel
Blacksburg, Virginia


Dr. May responds:

Typically, animals investigate new things with their nose before rushing headfirst into unknown territory. I’m counting on this behavior and I’m betting a shock to the nose will send the bruin elsewhere. There is a video demonstrating this on the Virginia DGIF website:

Here is another one from Wyoming:

No fence is absolutely foolproof but it sure beats doing nothing! I have evidence of bears foraging under rocks 40 yards from the hives yet the hives haven’t been touched so far!

Joseph May, DVM


Wrong use of antibiotics

Dear Jerry Hayes,

My October 2019 issue of ABJ arrived in the mail yesterday. Thank you so very much for the verbal censure you administered to the writer who insisted that frequent, indiscriminate use of antibiotics constitutes “just taking care of the bees properly.”

As a registered nurse for the past 33 years, I have seen first-hand and read research about what happens when antibiotics are used “just in case,” or “because we ought to do something.” Among other problems, we now have strains of superorganisms that are frighteningly resistant to many formerly very efficacious medications — both for humans and for livestock.

Clearly the Veterinary Feed Directive, instituted by the Food and Drug Administration in January 2017 and which now includes honeybees, is a strong response designed to stem the tide of individual beekeepers who chose in the past to stockpile medications “because I might need them.”

I recently had the experience of observing a beekeeper who found EFB in one of his hives. Another beekeeper went promptly to his vehicle and brought back a container of an antibiotic. Stunned, I asked, “Do you always keep that in your truck?” The beekeeper replied, “No, not always. Just for the last two years.” The product label showed an expiration date of July 2016.

Whether intentionally or otherwise, the October ABJ offered the research to back up a significant part of the responses you provided to emphasize the importance of avoiding antibiotic overkill. “Microbes on the Menu for Bee Larvae” (p. 1083) describes clearly the value to bees of a healthy gut microbiome — “beneficial bacteria and fungi” working quietly in the digestive tract to assure healthy larval growth and development — unless, of course, the beekeeper kills off the microbiome by “just taking care of the bees [im]properly” …

Jackie Hough
Red Springs, North Carolina


Jerry Responds:

Good morning Jackie,

You are spot on of course. I wish more people, in general, all understood what pluses and minuses antibiotics have in our lives and in our pets, livestock and in this case honey bees.

Thank you.


Richard Taylor

Thanks so much for the informative article about Richard Taylor! I only met him on two occasions, but I saw him as a unique individual. In Ron’s otherwise excellent article, there was no mention of the Finger Lakes Bee Club, over which I presided for several years. Richard formed the club in the 1970s, about the time I got into bees myself. He did so in response to what he felt was the attitude of the state association toward sideliners — like him. Dr. Taylor was the newsletter editor of ESHPA, the Empire State Honey Producers Assn, which also still exists today. In 1976 he wrote the following, which I believe is worth pondering some forty plus years later:

It has become obvious to me that the most pressing need of this association right now is more new members and a larger role for those belonging to the hobbyist and sideliner class. The association has given too much attention to the purely commercial side of beekeeping, often at the expense of all the other aspects of beekeeping that are the source of so much enthusiasm and vitality on other beekeeping associations.

I have recently spoken at the state beekeepers associations of New Jersey, Ohio, Connecticut and Vermont, and found in all of them a degree of