My professional interest is honey bee behavior and biology, with a strong leaning toward practical beekeeping. Using these web pages, along with a weekly podcast (honeybeeobscura.com), my YouTube Channel (youtube.com/c/onetewbee), and my monthly articles in national bee journals, I try to both learn and teach beekeeping. I have been doing this for nearly fifty years. I still find satsification in the exploration of the beekeeping craft. It is constantly changing.
70 thoughts on “About Jim Tew and these pages”
Your web site looks great!
Thanks for looking. It is exciting, but not without a learning curve(s).
Attended one of your talks at HAS 2012 and was blown away by the obvious when you stated the cells bees build are actually cylinders!! Based on the pictures you showed it was a revelation to me, something I had’nt paid much attention to. So my question to you is, in your experience, do bees actually prefer the cylider shaped cells or is the hexagon just rounded out from use and spent cocoons? Any thought on this are greatly appriciated! I have been racking my brain on this for a while now, couldnt find a direct email address, so decided to go this route. If anyone else has thoughts on the topic please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org..
Thanks so much,
I don’t think that anyone actually knows the answer. It appears that the hex forms under natural pressures. I – too – have many questions. I can see hexes forming where there is comb-related stress, but why are hexes forming at the bottom edge of new combs where there is no pressure yet? Secondly, if the bees are actually building cylinders and not hexes, thousands of books that neatly show the mathematical comparison of various cylinders, triangles, squares, and hexes that are something less than correct. If bees are essentially building cylinders and hexes are forming for other reasons, then bees are not necessarily conserving construction materials and space. They are building cylinders – which are not completely efficient – and hexes are unintentionally forming.
I can’t tell that hexes are rounded out. Even old combs clearly show hexagonal shapes.
This general observation is not mine so I too am still pondering the concept. It does appear to me that bees are essentially building cylinders and hexes are forming by the pliable, thin-walled cylinders being “stacked” on each other, but as much as pressure and weight, could the bees sense where the hex wall lines would form and are manipulating the new wax into hexes using the cylinder as a format or pattern. Said differently, are bees bees essentially building cylinders and as they build more of them, they modify them into the hex format? I don’t know the answer, but clearly cylinders are playing more of a role in hex-celled wax construction that we first thought.
Can’t wait to see the “steaming” videos although I suppose that is simply a misspelling. Either way I am sure the videos will be interesting and informative.
A bit of humor that I thought would make bee pages more enjoyable. (And an example of spell-checkers hanging you out to dry.)
greetings from Bonn and our bees from the rooftop garden of the German Federal Arts and Exhibition Hall to your project.
Yours, Klaus Maresch
Trying to find out if it’s possible to purchase products from the Honeybee Laboratory online. Any advice?
I am sorry to have to tell you that the OSU Honey Store has been eliminated due to staff retirements and funding. You might try email@example.com for some possibility on alternative sources. We appreciated your business and support very much over the years. Thanks for communicating.
So sorry to hear! My niece would purchase gifts for us every Christmas. I will try the email you provided. Thanks!
As always, I enjoyed hearing you talk at the fall OSBA meeting. Enjoy your retirement, I am sure you will.
Kenny, thanks for writing. This retirement (transition) thing has been confusing and exciting, but overall, things have gone well. I appreciate you taking time to write.
Dear Jim. Thanks for your website.I have asked you: Have you any information about energy space around the hive/ bee’s aura/. In the world some beekeepers learn tis interesting data. Best regards Pyotr.
I know nothing about the colony’s aura so I can’t add to the discussion. Many years ago, I was associated with a beekeeper who was adamant that bee hives developed electrical fields. He postulated that the field was generated by flying bees (acquiring a positive charge) alighting on a landing board of a (grounded) hive. He felt that the “charge” of the hive varied with climatic conditions and even suggested that metal queen excluders should be grounded. None of this addresses your question. I only offer the string because there is still so much that is unknown.
I heard you retired and were doing some work with the Alabama folks. Glad I found your blog. Always enjoyed your perspectives. I think retirement is the part where you can now do “all” the things you wanted to and aren’t concerned about being held in check. Hoping to catch you at an upcoming conference.
Richard Mendel, V.P., South East Michigan Beekeepers Association.
I have been retired from OSU for four months, yet it already feels like a lifetime ago. I am still involved in US beekeeping, Ohio beekeeping, Alabama beekeeping, and trying to learn to be a grandfather. Thanks for writing. I recall that I will be in MI sometime early next spring. Maybe then.
God bless you Jim in all you have left to do. Thank you for all you have helped me with in my bee days especially in the ATI classes in the 80’s when there was a bee lab at OSU. Yes, I still have bees and love to share my stories with so many people who pass by my door.
Can you please bring ten copies of your book and we can sell it at the book stall at Cheddar mtg Feb 18th.
my name is Giorgi Shonia. contacting you has been suggested by a beekeeping colleague of yours.
myself and couple of my colleagues on OU Lancaster campus are considering a beekeeping project, I believe you’d have a lot to share on the subject. appreciate your advice.
I tried to contact you through email, not sure if I looked up the right address. would it be possible to get in touch with you at your convenience (phone, email, as you’d prefer)?
thanks in advance,
ps: hope you see my university email in blog submission records, I’ll be happy to provide any contacts. alternatively you can contact me
ex at gesho dot com
I enjoyed Dennis Barclift’s talk on Critical Points in Beekeeping. He said he would try to get the monthly timeline on the site after the conference. Where can I access this information?
I have sent the info you requested. Thanks for participating in the symposium and I hope you continue to enjoy beekeeping.
I need some help. At our last bee club meeting I was told that fungicides are the reason that our bees are being killed . I have an orchard and was told that fungicides could not kill bees is this true?
Zac Huang told me that there was research by Reed Johnson that apistan in the hive could enhance the fungicide in killing the bees? Is there some where I could read this research or get more information on this topic?
From a newbie/techie –
Heretofore = one word!
Keep posting my 9 year old is following you electronically…
I am working with Gabriel’s Place in Avondale (Cincinnati Ohio). We have several boxes of bee hive stuff and need someone like you to help us get started is there anyone in this area you could suggest. If you ever come our way please let me know. Love your website and am looking forward to seeing bees in our community garden soon.
Hello Dr Tew, I was at the VSBA last spring and enjoyed your lecture and especially your humor! I learned and laughed and that makes this rocking world go round! I’m looking forward staying in touch with you in helping my bees and to keep me smiling! I too recently retired, and how did I find the time to work? Keep smiling.:)
DearApril, Thanks for staying in touch. I had a great time (obviously) in Virginia, but I must give much of the credit to the adaptable officers and participants who were able to make major changes in their meeting and still have a meeting.
Right now, I am trying to keep my bees watered. The flow has waned here. Not much to do with the bees.
Stay in touch and good luck with your retirement.
Jim I had 22 hives of bees. I have 8 at my home and the rest on a farm in anson co nc. I have lost 4 of my hives in the last two weeks. It appears they ran out of honey and starved. Two weeks ago when I checked them the queen was laying and there was honey in the hive. Thousands of bees are in front of each hive. There is 135 acres of corn and clover around these bees. All the rest of the bees appear to not have enough honey. I am now feeding them. What could be wrong?
I am a displaced Buckeye with a curiousity about raising bees (and honey) on the land adjacent to our home in the Virgin Islands. Interested in steering me a little??
From ATI in 1979 when I met you, and now I look forward to following your pages. You remain my teacher! Congratulations on becoming a grandfather. I’m living in the Flathead Valley of Western Montana now after leaving the University of Illinois a number of years ago, and have gotten back into bees here with the hopes of building a local queen breeding cooperative. Hopefully we can get enough colonies in a concentrated area to get decent matings. I am fascinated by your washboarding video, and have not seen that behavior here in the same way. Summer is SO short here the poor bees have no time for recreation, I guess.
Jack. I remember you. Am on remote mobile phone. Please stay in touch. Happy you have returned to bees. Will be back to my home base in about a week.
Dr. Tew, I believe that I have Phorid Flies killing my bees. I only have one top bar hive that was established last year (2012), they have done very well. I have fed them sugar candy this winter, have an observation window in back of the hive, usually check them every 3-4 days from the window, lots of bees, very active on the warmer days. Checked them this AM (2/10), noted that there were a number of dead bees on the water surface of the foot containers which have water in them to prevent ants and a number of small flies on/around the hive that appear to resemble the phorid. Took some photos, would like to send them electronically to you. Should I be concerned with the situation. Tks Joe Harris, 256-377-4730
John, I lost sight of this message and have only found it now. What was the result of your Phorid Fly issue. Did it clear up? I apologize for my shortage in responding. Your message can in during a software update and I did not recognize it as a new message.
Jim, I’m an expectant father, my first bees (nucs) are arrving in 4 weeks to me in Rhode Island. I’ve been absorbing John’s and your videos in earnest and appreciation for this great shared resource. My question relates to thescreen
upper screened box used in moving the two hives to another location. What purpose does this box serve? Thank you- John
John, the upper screened box was for ventilation. I have had some very bad experiences in the past with suffocation during a colony move. They fare much better being too cool rather than too hot. Thanks for your kind comments.
Question: prior to swarming a large number of bees collected on the front of my hive. Is the queen usually with them on the face of the hive or are they waiting for her to emerge from the hive?
Realized when we saw swarm cells a few days earlier that I should have attempted a split. Woes of a rookie beekeeper.
Jim, during the organized confusion of the swarm departing, the queen can be anywhere. If the swarm departs without her, it will normally return to the colony. I suspect if she is outside already, then swarm departure is imminent. Splitting a few days earlier might have stopped the behavior or it could have resulted in a swarm from each divided half. Swarming is a strong tendency once under way. Good luck.
This might be a good topic for an expert to write on in a bee journal or a blog.
Over the years since I started keeping bees about 50 years ago, I have always seen and heard the advise to never paint the interior of a beehive. I have passed that advice on to those I’ve mentored and taught. But, the great beekeeping pioneer, Lorenzo Langstroth said, “For this reason, the hive should be made of sound lumber, entirely free from cracks, and thoroughly painted on the inside as well as outside.” So, I want to know whether the no-interior-paint advice is really sound advice or an old wives’ tale perpetuated by well-meaning beekeepers.
The no-interior-paint advice generally includes the statement that the bees apply their own “varnish” to the wood. But, has scientific research been done to show that the bees’ own “varnish” really better than modern paint at protecting the wood and keeping the bees happy and healthy?
One argument against painting the interior is that un-painted wood absorbs condensation. Doesn’t bee “varnish” also reduce or eliminate absorption of condensation? What does absorption of condensation do to the longevity of the wood?
Is the no-interior-paint advice rooted in the fact that, decades ago, paint had lead-based pigments and the intent of the advice was simply to keep lead out of the hive and out of our honey? If so, why continue the no-interior-paint practice with modern no-lead paint?
Is that advice based on the fact that, decades ago, we used oil-based paint and the intent of the advice was to keep the oil out of the hive and out of our honey? If so, why continue the no-interior-paint practice with modern latex paint?
Has anyone approached paint companies for their advice on whether paint on both sides of the wood is best? Yeah, they have a financial interest in selling more paint, but they also should have the research.
I’ve seen many hives that were painted inside and out and the bees seemed to do just fine. Has anyone done a scientific comparison to see whether it really matters to the health and happiness of the bees?
Has anyone done a scientific comparison of the longevity of the wood to see whether painted interiors lengthen or shorten the usability of the equipment?
First, I am very sorry for missing your interesting message. The error was on my part and not related to hardware or software. I am sorry for being months late.
You ask perfectly logical questions. Yes, I think the recommendation was related to lead-based paint. I have a Q&A book coming out within a few months (I hope) in which I recommended to paint the inside of bee boxes and let the paint cure for several weeks. Not that it would be toxic, but that it would be soft and bees might do strange things with it. I am a woodworker. A common question is what finishes are proper for children’s toys and food dishes made from wood. In general, any modern finish is thought to be safe — again once cured and not just dried. Lead paint and lead-based finishes are not acceptable.
Essentially, moisture wicks through the wood and around the joints and ultimately causes the paint film to fail from the inside – not the outside. Encapsulating the wood on all sides with a latex based paint product would prevent most moisture from penetrating the wood fiber. I am totally comfortable painting the insides of a hive but most beekeepers don’t do it. Thanks for asking a good question.
I was just getting back into beekeeping after a 30 year break, it is a long story.
I am now hearing that there is an Africanized Bee threat here in the mid west and some of the swarms are super aggressive as should be expected. When I was a young boy of about 10 years old we had an aggressive hive of German bees. I attended the local Bee Association Meetings, with my mom, and got some very unique advice from an older member that was in his 80’s at the time, This was the early 70’sto put a time line on this.
He told me to do a couple of things to “tame” this hive I will never forget. First he told me to go out in the pasture and ick up a hand full of dried puff balls. I thought ‘OK’ this guys senile. Then he told me to get an old rag and make 2 strips about an inch wide and 6 inches long. then have me and my mom wipe some of our sweat one each. Then he said to put the dried puffballs in the smoker and it will put the bees to sleep in a few minute then lift the lid and put the sweaty rags in the hive. The next day the bees will not bother you any more. So I did it the next day and it worked. they did not bother me or my mom but anyone else had the same issues when they got within 50 foot of the hive.
I understand the sent part of this event but the puffball part is what was amazing. I used the puffballs again to remove a swarm from the wall of a house once and it truly does stun the bees for a time leaving the sedated and lifeless only to return to normal within an hour.
I think this nearly lost information needs to be studied if it has not already been to see if this could be a way to help fight these aggressive swarms. It may also be a breakthrough in promoting the art of Beekeeping to those who are interested but afraid of the sting.
Thanks for your time . Mel
Any idea which species of puff ball? I, too, see how it could work, but are there risks to the beekeeper? At any rate, interesting.
I am not sure of the exact species of puffball they were but I can tell you the area I lived in at the time. I was living in Kensington Ohio 44427 this is in Columbiana County which borders on Western PA. They would grow to a variety of sizes from a golf ball to a softball and remained white in color until they would dry turning a greyish brown. I have looked at photos on line but the only thing that is close was Calvatia gigantea or Giant Puffball. They are eatable for humans and quite good I may add.
The only thing that bothered me at the time was the smell. It was kind of a burnt hair and dung combo, something you have a hard time forgetting. The smell or taste did not transfer to the honey, thank god.
I have been reading this site and have enjoyed what I am reading. Thanks for your commitment and insight. Mel
On line, in an archived version of The Canadian Beek-Keepers’ Guide, 1865, there was reference to using tobacco smoke and even stronger smoke from dried puff balls. In Ohio, there are Pear-Shaped puffballs, Gem-Studded puffballs, Spiny Puffballs, Giant Puffballs, and purple-spored puffballs. Apparently beekeepers past knew something about the effects of these plants.
Then I would say these were the Giant Puffballs. The others are not even close to what I remember using and I think I would remember eating any of the others or maybe not based on the toxins in some of them.
I have used tobacco and it just made me cough The bees did not seem to know the difference.
There are many things we have lost to new technology that are still of use today but considered obsolete. I think the puffball thing can be a valuable tool. Just to find the chemical compounds that have the effect on the bees and incorporate that into our modern equipment and techniques may help change the way bees can be studied. Having a live incapacitated specimen to examine, one would think, would be better than a basket full of dead subjects. Just my thoughts.
I have given you all the info I can. I hope it will lead to something better for all of us. I will continue to use the puffballs when I feel it is necessary. Because I don’t know all the facts and effects it will be a judgment call in rare situations as it was over 30 years ago. Thanks again for the insight and a place to share ideas and information.
After posting the last message I was doing a little more research and it appears this has been looked into. Hear is a posting I found by pure luck.
Wood W.F., 1983: Anesthesia of honey bees by smoke from the pyrolysis of puffballs langermannia wahlbergi and keratin. Journal Of Apicultural Research: 107-110
Anesthesia of honeybees by smoke from burning African puffball Langermannia wahlbergi, Lycoperdales : Lycoperdaceae, is due in part to H2S, one of the products of pyrolysis, though HCN and other unidentified substances may act along with the H2S. H2S is also produced during the pyrolysis of human hair and is the principal agent responsible for the anesthesia of honeybees. Preliminary studies using human hair or chicken feathers as a source of smoke indicate that its use to anesthesize bees does not shorten their lives. Properly used, human hair or chicken feathers might enable tropical African beekeepers to anesthesize their bees when harvesting honey.
Evidently Giant puffballs work too. Mel
I must admit that I had no information in this area. I would need to know species that seem to have the affect on bees and is there any effects on the beekeeper who is also breathing the smoke. This has been an interesting discussion that you started. Thanks for bringing me along.
I’m no Scientist or Dr. nor do I pretend to be but the chemicals in the article says the most active or identifiable are H2S , Hydrogen Sulfide, and HCN, Hydrogen Cyanide. Both are present in Tabaco when smoked. Not in the same dosage I can only guess and not real good for you. Like I had stated this would only be a once in a while thing. I did it twice and didn’t die and no adverse effects. I didn’t wear any protective gear either. How long can you withstand chicken feather smoke ? actually I think they use feather smoke for military gas mask training.
I know one thing when I use them again I will be using a protective respirator Like an Auto Body Painter would wear,$40.00 could save a whole lot of side effects. A cheap hasmat suit and a bee vale with a respirator would more than do the trick I would think. Back in the early 70’s Lead Paint , Saccharin, and DDT were ok and used without concern. Now we know better. I keep expressing this would not be a thing I would do on a daily basis. I figured this out years ago when I was just a kid. For uses like re-queening a hive that has been Africanized or to study a living specimen for the control of parasites would make this a great tool to have. Who knows the gasses from the smoke may have effects on parasites as well.
Oh: The Puffballs I used as a kid are the Calvatia gigantea or Giant Puffball native to N.E. Ohio and I’m just glad I have a chance to share my experiences and thoughts. Thanks Mel
Would you be interested in being a speaker for the Florida State Beekeepers Association convention in October 2014?
Kevin Lausman, Chairman
Kevin, thanks for the invitation. Sorry for delay in responding. I will check the dates and get back to you within a few days. Again, thanks
I’m interested in becoming a beekeeper. I just found out about the Beekeeping Symposium in Auburn on Saturday the 4th, just do not know if I will be able to make it.
I have a wild hive somewhere close to my home in Wadley, but I haven’t found it yet.
I’m hoping to get started this spring. Going to Amazon to order your book and to see If they still hold classes in Clay county.
I have been distracted for the past two weeks due to the Annual Workshop that was held at Auburn. I apologize for this late response. I hope you can find beekeeping friends in Clay County. You would also want to review the Alabama Beekeepers Association web page for additional information and support. Let me know if I can be helpful.
Dr. Tew- You and I have spoken several times at events in Alabama. I am a member of both the Alabama Beekeeping Association and the Tennessee Beekeeping Association. The reason I am trying to contact you now is that I have been asked to do so to inquire about the possibility of having you as a speaker at the 2014 Tennessee Fall Conference in October. I know the AL meeting is the same month, but the TN meeting should be a different weekend this year. The TN meeting is 10-11 October 2014. If you could attend, please let me know ASAP. You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 865.332.0603 and let me know what you will need to do so and I will contact the appropriate people. Thanks. James M. Wagner
Hi Jim, I live in the Caribbean, more specifically on the island of Trinidad. I am thinking of getting into bee keeping. what book or books should I read and what advice could u give me/ do u have any advice specific to the Caribbean/ Trinidad?
Just descovered your blog while reading your book Wisdom for Beekeepers. Keep up the good work.See you in Maryville,Tn. Andy Morris
Dr Tew, I’m trying to include an ad for the 2015 ACES symposium in the Madison County Beekeepers Association newsletter. Do you have the graphic of the flier you distributed at the AL Master Beekeepers session? Would you please post a copy here on your blog? Thanks!
As we speak, we are working on the announcement information. I would love to have you post it in your newsletter. I am trying to arrange live-share parts of our meeting with the combined NC/SC meeting on Feb 7 in Monroe, NC. In this way, I can have more speakers for about the same $. We are trying to post this. Thanks for your patience.
Send me an email so we can catch up it’s been awhile.
Hi, I’m a new beekeeper and have started observing my bees washboarding. Maybe I haven’t found the latest research yet, but I was curious if there is a relationship between washboarding and dearths. I read most of the bees are adolescent bees so it this some sort of practice foraging activity? To me, it looks similar to the motion of the bees on flowers. Thanks for video and site info!
Dear Diane G, Yours is a fresh idea. To my knowledge, there is no “latest” research. The bees do seem to perform this behavior during warm (actually hot) months. If your idea is the answer, then you open a second question — “What need does washboarding meet for unemployed youthful foragers?” Please keep thinking. It is such as obvious behavior to be so mysterious. Thanks for writing.
At the moment, my thought is that wash boarding may be like sports for kids and serve multiple functions. 1. The unemployed foragers have the instinct to forage and the action may be close enough in action fulfill that need. 2. By going outside the hive, they reduce the heat they would have produced in the hive. 3. The motion contributes to their internal circulatory system and could help with both internal cooling and general circulatory function. I’m not an etymologist and don’t play one on tv, so I may be way off base, but that is my current theory.
I attended the 2017 beekeeping symposium in Alabama. My first meeting of this type. Truly enjoyed your opening remarks and it was amazing to see over 700 people in one location that love bees. Thank you for your time & efforts with this event! As a newcomer to the work of beekeeping, I am honored to learn from you and others that have made a life’s work of honey bees. Great event & looking forward to next year!
Was reading ‘The Beekeeper’s Problem Solver’ which I got from our local (EMBA) winter workshop. Regarding Problem 30, in which is written that a reversal should be made in early winter. Don’t you mean early spring? The bees should be depleting their honey stores and can now use the empty comb to for a brood nest.
Sorry, I meant Problem 39 – the bifocals failed me. Bob
Bob, I had just figured out the 39 thing. The book is in several languages and I do now have many of those versions. Yes, it should have been “late winter”. As you say, it would make so sense to reverse the bees and their resources in the early winter. Thanks for finding the error. You are the first. I do not market the book and its distribution. I will do what I can with the few that I sell, but for the most part, I suppose this will go uncorrected. That disconcerting.
Hey Jim. I am going to start making my own foundation using a DIY wax foundation press. I have been doing quite a bit of research. Here is the issue: Using wax supplied directly from the bees makes a somewhat brittle foundation. There is a notable change when the wax is rolled underneath a rolling pin. However rolling a sheet would just press the embossed cells smooth. One fellow puts in about 5 to 10 percent paraffin wax. Since that is an oil based product I wonder if this process is advantageous to the bees using this comb. Or is it a good idea since we will be eating the honey produced on this foundation? My email is: email@example.com. Could you please answer these concerns and send them to my email. I am a fan of your and appreciate your advice. Thank you Rick
I just watched your video from last year, where you did an oxalic vaporization on a hive in (what appeared to be) the dead of winter.
What were the results of that test? Did you notice any difference in the mite loads between that hive and others that had not been treated that extra time?
Can you provide a follow up to your winter treatment last year using oxalic acid? Your video was the first time I have heard of anyone using that treatment in the winter. I’m curious about the results and whether you would recommend its use.
I enjoy watching your videos.
Jim, I read three “books” a year and I just finished Honeybee Democracy last month. Needless to say when you showed up at MABA and referenced Seeley I had a moment.
Thank you for your wildly entertaining presentation and inspiration.
I’m off to pay more attention to the swarms!
I’d have stayed thru the night if your wife wasn’t pulling you off the stage!
Thank you so much for your time there.
Nathan and I are working on our queen bees and nucs. We are raising our own queens and selecting bees that are able to survive in t he presence of Varroa Mites and good honey producers with gentleness as secondary. Hope all is well in your neightborhood.