The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – November 2023

- November 1, 2023 - (excerpt)

A hummingbird at the bee feeder

I thoroughly enjoyed your article titled “The aviary in my apiary” [From the Editor, June]. I have been an avid birder most of my life and an avid beekeeper for 27 years. I had a really interesting incident in my apiary in May 2022. While filling a frame feeder in a new split I became aware of a very loud buzzing directly over my head. I knew it sounded familiar and the sound was definitely not from honey bees. When the feeder was filled, I looked up and a male Ruby Throated Hummingbird dropped down and began drinking out of the frame feeder. Several bees flew up from the top bars and the hummingbird quickly departed. I wondered how many other beekeepers have had hummingbirds feed out of a frame feeder in an occupied bee hive.

In addition, I couldn’t understand how the hummingbird knew I was pouring sugar syrup. Ornithologists have consistently said that hummingbirds have no sense of smell. A series of recent studies just published by scientists at the University of California, Riverside found that hummingbirds do have a sense of smell that enables them to avoid danger and find nectar. [See Hummingbirds can smell their way out of danger | News (] It only makes sense to me that there would be a little bit of overlap in the way honey bees and hummingbirds discover nectar in the environment.

I look forward to every issue. Keep up the good work.

Rod Bodkin
Maysville, West Virginia

Eugene responds:

Thanks, Rod. That’s an amazing story. There are many stories of honey bees visiting hummingbird feeders, but not the other way around. I’ve had hummers hover within a foot or two of my head while I was working near their feeder, but never had them come near an open beehive — or wet supers after extraction. It’s funny that the much-weaker scent of sugar syrup is more attractive to them than honey.

Thanks for reading!

Can we import those Cuban bees?

I read the article “Cuban European Honey Bees are Calm, Productive and Varroa Resistant,” in the May ABJ. Great information. Where can I buy queens and packages of that stock?

If enough beekeepers have the prescience to strategically place Cuban European varroa-resistant honey bees around America, it could be helpful. If you will provide an address where I could purchase [these] bees I will be appreciative. Thank you.

Twain Thomas
Eloy, Arizona

Eugene responds:

That’s an interesting question, Twain. I wish the answer were that simple. Due both to existing honey bee import restrictions and to rocky trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba, importing bees from that country would not be an easy task.

I ran your question by ABJ contributor Charles Linder, who reached out to his contacts at the American Beekeeping Federation and USDA. As it turns out, Cuban honey bees can at this time only be imported for research purposes (via a PPQ 526 permit) by federal, state or university employees — with containment mechanisms in place to prevent their escape. Any future imports by the beekeeping community would require changes in federal regulations, which could take years.

Of course, the premise of this discussion assumes two things: 1) that the varroa-resistant traits and 20-year country-wide treatment-free status championed by Cuban beekeeping officials are entirely true (keep in mind that the communist government there tightly controls both information and travel); and 2) that such traits developed in an isolated island setting would survive in the uncontrolled environment of the United States.

Thanks for reading,