Keeping bees on Long Island since 1949.

President's Message

President's Message: I WANT YOU

President’s Message: Our Club's Website in 2014

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

I'm happy to report that our Club's website has been as busy as a, well, you know.

From January 1 of 2014 to January 1 of this year we've had 18,973 visits to the website (that’s right – over 18,000 hits!). Out of those visitors 13,355 were first-time visitors and the remaining 5,618 were people who came back for another look. That's an average of about 36 new visitors to the website every day. Our best day last year was on May 14 when we had 124 visitors.

Overall, about 71% of the visitors are first-timers and 29% are returning visitors. That's a good ratio because it means that we have lots of people finding their way to the site and having a look around, and a consistent number of people (most likely members) are coming back. Of those people returning to the site, 23% of them have been back 2 to 8 times previously and 6% have visited 9 times or more. (74 people have visited the site over 200 times each!)

Although the majority of our visitors come from the United States (95%), we do get visitors from all over the world. About 1% of visitors are from the United Kingdom, another 1% are from Brazil, and the remaining 3% are from various locations everywhere else, like Australia (28 visitors) and Italy (40 visitors).

So, how do visitors find our website? Well, about 17% of them have the website saved as a favorite and click directly to the site. About 11% get referred to the Club's website by another website, like Facebook (yes, the Club has a Facebook page) or other sites like beeculture.com. The remaining 72% of our visitors arrive after using a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. I intentionally embed into the website keywords that allow search engines to return our website high on a list of search results. You can try it for yourself: perform a Google search for "long island beekeepers" or "long island bees" or "long island honey." Most likely the Club's website appears on the first page of the search results.

The most popular pages on the website, other than the home page that people arrive at first, are the "Local Honey" page (if you don’t have your honey listed on this page then you’re probably missing out on potential sales), the "Classifieds", the "Meeting Schedule" page, and the "Bee Trouble" page.

You're probably wondering how we get all this information. I suppose I could just say that a little bee told me, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Hidden inside the website is a little program that gathers data about each visitor. That information is relayed to a database that collects and analyzes it all, and I periodically run reports to see how the website is performing. There's even more information available other than what I've summarized here. For example, not surprisingly, more and more people are using mobile technology to view the website: 27% have used a mobile phone and 17% have used a tablet. Nonetheless, we can't, and would not, gather names, addresses, or other personal information from our visitors.

If you have questions or comments about the Club's website, feel free to send me an email: president@longislandbeekeepers.org

President’s Message: You Can Be the Judge of This

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

Every October the Club holds its “Annual Honey, Wax, Mead, Cookery, Arts and Crafts, and Gadgetry Contest.” That title is a bit long, so we usually just refer to it as “Honey Judging.”
But as you can see from the “official” title, we encourage our members to bring more than just honey to the contest. And, as you might expect, we have categories and rules for our judging. You can find the current rules on our website: http://www.longislandbeekeepers.org/library/honeyrules/honeyrules.html
This year will be no different, but we asked some of our members to review those rules and categories and make some suggestions to change them and bring them into alignment with current trends and practices. You can find a copy of the proposed document in the Club’s Digital Library: http://www.longislandbeekeepers.org/library/digitallibrary/digitallibrary.html
You will notice that proposed deletions are in red and through-lined, and additions are blue and underlined. These are only proposed changes, so we need your feedback on whether you agree with the suggestions, or maybe you have some of your own. We’ll be discussing the changes at the next meeting.
Whatever the result, the changes would go into effect for 2015, but it’s probably a good idea to think about the revisions during this year’s competition.
Also at this month’s meeting we will have our Master Beekeeper’s Forum and an opportunity for honey tasting. The honey that’s entered into the October judging is evaluated on a number of factors, but the taste is really secondary. So we thought it would be fun to have everyone bring an unlabeled jar of their honey to the September meeting so we all get to do a little sampling and judging of our own.
So if you’re looking for an opportunity to be a little (or maybe very) judgmental, then you don’t want to miss the September meeting because you will get the chance to express your opinion on the proposed contest judging rules and everyone else’s honey. See you there!

President’s Message: Magic Wands

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

Recently, researchers at the University of Illinois have combined thin silicon sheets of photodiodes and 180 elastic micro lenses and stretched them into a hemisphere. Each of these photodiodes is essentially a camera, and together these cameras can capture a 160-degree-wide field of view. Sound familiar? What these scientists are attempting to duplicate is the compound eye of an insect, like a honeybee. (The bee has other types of “eyes” on its head, the dorsal ocelli, but we’re going to discuss the functions of only the large compound eyes.)

A traditional camera, like a digital or film camera, imitates the functionality of the human eye: a single lens that projects light onto a photoreceptive surface, the retina in an eye or the sensor plate in a digital camera. For humans, two eyes and a head that swivels enables us to explore our surroundings without even moving from our seat. But for the honeybee, the movement of the head is restricted, so a pair of single-lens eyes wouldn’t be as useful. Instead, the bee has a compound eye made up of multiple lenses that effectively spreads the retina all over the surface of its head. Unlike the man-made version mentioned above, that only has a 180 micro lenses, the worker honeybee has about 5,000 lenses (the queen has about 3,500 and the drone about 10,000).

Each of the six-sided lenses visible on the surface of a compound eye is actually the cap on the end of a long crystalline cone, or wand; it is these wands, the ommatidia, bundled in a hemispherical shape that makes up each compound eye. The tip of each ommatidium is clear to let in light, but the sides of the tube are surrounded by a layer of cells with black pigment to prevent light from passing between adjacent tubes; each ommatidium looks sort of like a conjurer’s magic wand with only a white tip on one end.

Inside the ommatidia are nine photoreceptors that relay to the bee’s brain the intensity and color of the incoming light. Unlike a single-lens camera or the human eye, each ommatidium does not project a tiny inverted image of the outside world, but instead the ommatidia act together to create a mosaic of light and dark spots. The “image” created in the bee’s brain is very coarse-grained and nowhere near the resolution of the human eye.

While we would consider this lack of spatial resolution to be a disadvantage, the ommatidia of the compound eye have an attribute that is lacking in the human eye and highly valuable to a honeybee: temporal resolution. When we look at a slowly flashing light we can distinctly see each flash, but if we increase the rate to 35 or 40 flashes per second, then the light appears to us to be constantly “on.” The photoreceptors in the human eye cannot respond quickly enough to distinguish the flashes of light above a certain rate. (We actually make use of this “shortcoming” when we watch a movie or a television screen; what is actually a flickering image appears to be a continuous image to our eyes.) By contrast, the ommatidia in the compound eyes of a honey bee can detect flashes of light as high as 200 times per second. So, objects moving quickly past our eyes (or as our eyes move quickly past objects if we were flying like a bee) would look blurry and indistinct, but would appear very clear and obvious in the eyes of a honeybee. We can simulate this difference ourselves at an electronics store. Low-quality flat screen televisions will have a low refresh rate, so scenes from a high action movie will appear “smeared” because the action is happening quicker than the images can appear on the screen, while the same scenes on a higher quality flat screen television appear clear and more “realistic.” The bee’s eyes are like the high-quality flat screen, which is perfect for navigating around flowers at high speed, or in the case of a predator like a dragonfly, for capturing prey.

The photoreceptors of the ommatidia are also sensitive to a different range of the electromagnetic spectrum than human eyes. The electromagnetic radiation that pervades our universe ranges from very long wavelengths, such as gamma waves, X-rays, and ultraviolet, to very short wavelengths like infrared, microwave, and radio waves. Our eyes have evolved to be sensitive to a very small range of this spectrum; which is what our eyes and brain interpret as being from blue to red. For honeybees, that range is shifted toward the blue end, so bees see from ultraviolet, which is invisible to us, to orange; what we see as red is invisible to honey bees. If we use a special camera that is sensitive to ultraviolet light to photograph flowers, we can see patterns on the petals that are visible to honey bees. These patterns create radial targets that help guide bees toward the center of the flower. They also help bees to distinguish between flower types; so to us the dandelion and the ragwort both appear as yellow flowers, but the honeybee can see two completely different flowers in ultraviolet light.

Although the large majority of the surface of a compound eye is devoted to discerning low-resolution patterns, there is a narrow band on the upper edge of each eye that specifically aids in navigation. The ommatidia in this region are oriented up toward the sky and are sensitive to polarized light. If our eyes were sensitive to polarized light then when we looked up we wouldn’t see the sun’s light diffused across the sky, instead we would see concentric rings of light and dark. The rings would be very thin and light immediately around the sun, and would get increasingly darker and wider as you looked away from the sun. So even if the sun was hidden behind some trees, or even just below the horizon, or the day was cloudy, you could always tell in which direction the sun was just by looking at the width and direction of the polarization rings in the sky. This is what the polarization region of the compound eye does for the bees. After witnessing a foraging worker perform a waggle dance, a bee can then emerge from the hive, determine the direction of the sun from the polarization rings, and fly at the appropriate angle to the sun to find that patch of dandelions.

So, despite what you may see in the movies, a bee’s, or a fly’s, compound eyes do not create a mosaic image composed of hundreds of pictures of the same screaming woman, instead they create a single low-resolution, sort of blotchy, but not “smeared,” blue-green-yellow image of a large pale oval with a small dark screaming oval; probably not as frightening an image, but far more useful to the honeybee.

President's Message: Where Did the Time Go? Spend Time With Your Bees Now

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

Time flies! It's an old saying, but in today's fast-paced world, it's never been so true. Before we know it, our bees are all grown up—out on their own or off to swarm. Most beekeepers realize the rewards of close ties with their hive. Yet the demands of jobs and day-to-day household activities can be stressful and tiring. So, it's easy for quality time with our bees to get squeezed out.

You won't want to find yourself looking back, amazed at how quickly it went, and realizing you missed something special. More important, spending time with your bees gives you a chance to shape their values. As your bees get older, you can provide a good frame of reference as they are exposed to the growing influence of wax moths and hive beetles. The more time you spend with your bees, the more you will be able to help them tune in to their abilities, comb-building activities, and healthy friendships with flowers.

Okay, but do your bees want to spend time with you? As bees get older, they begin to declare their independence. But studies show that most young bees like spending time with their beekeepers. So, if you set fair rules and give your bees the freedom that's right for their age, you most likely will be able to enjoy each other's company.

Time set aside works well: feeding time, foraging time, feeding time, wax-building, or a game in the evening. Still, finding real "quality" time can be tough. So, take advantage of that one-on-one time that just happens as you are gardening, weeding, riding in the car, or raking leaves.

What is quality time? Quality time means communicating in an upbeat and useful way; watching the bees come and go in silence doesn't count. Talking with bees is one of the best things you can do to help them grow up confident and secure.

How to strike up a chat? Ask questions that take more than a yes or no answer. Ask younger bees to explain something or talk about a flower you both enjoy, objects you found in nature together, or their take on plastic comb and pollen traps. With older bees and queens, talk about issues and events that occur outside the hive or neighborhood. Ask queens for their opinions. Discuss the meaning of drones and mating flights. Mention problems you had during the day and how you dealt with them. Problem-solving skills can keep bees from turning to alcohol and illegal drugs to deal with troubles or from going along with risky activities.

Be positive. Praise your bees for things you might take for granted, such as getting up on time, helping to build wax comb, or dragging out the dead bees without being told. Praise hard work as well as success. Avoid value judgments. Show you understand even if you don't agree. Let your bees know you respect their feelings and help them work through hard situations. They'll probably welcome your attention even if they don't admit it. Most bees say they turn first to a beekeeper for help in solving problems.

Spending time with your bees takes more than talk, though. Find a chance each week to do something special with your bees. If they are active in foraging or creative propolizing, go to as many activities as you can. Exposing bees to activities, people, places, and ideas can stir their imaginations and provide a menu of tempting choices. Take trips, look at art, gaze at stars, and play games. Activities that call for planning, forming, or solving involve making choices and thinking about results. These pursuits will fuel a bee’s curiosity and build creative thinking habits. Find out what they like. For every interest, there is something to try.

Sure, life can be hectic. But don't forget, when it comes to spending time with your bees, the rewards can be great—for you and them. If you haven't done enough, don't waste time feeling guilty. Just get started, it's never too late to be the best possible beekeeper. Don’t be the beekeeper that wonders, “Where did the time go?”

[Ok, I can’t claim to be the author of this entire article. This is actually one of those public service announcements about how to spend time with your children with a little creative editing, like replacing “children” with “bees,” just for the purposes of humor. However, if your bees are having issues with alcohol and illegal drugs, then you need to come to our next meeting on November 24th. No, really.]

President’s Message: I am a Beekeeper

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

I don’t know if anyone else has seen these “I am an Entrepreneur” posters that seem to pop up everywhere, but I decided that since beekeepers are entrepreneurs also, we needed our own version. You can download a letter-size version from the club’s Digital Library. After printing it out, you’ll find it suitable for framing or wrapping fish.

Bee Poster scaled

President’s Message: Raison d’abeille

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

For two weekends this month, September 20 to 22 and 27 to 29, the Long Island Fair will be at the Old Bethpage Restoration Village. Once again the Club has been invited to participate by setting up a table at the event to promote the benefits of bees and beekeeping. Since one of the goals of the Club is to educate not just beekeepers but also the general public, this will be a great opportunity to fulfill that mission.

As beekeepers who are deeply involved in our craft we’ve already thought about and incorporated into our passion the reasons for doing what we do, and unless someone asks us why, we probably don’t articulate our motivation that frequently. So, why do we keep honeybees?

The answer lays with the bees themselves and their amazing ability to provide irreplaceable products and services.

Chief among those services would be pollination. The honeybee accounts for 80 percent of all pollination done by insects and without the honeybee's pollination services more than a third of the fruits and vegetables that humans consume would not exist. Pollination by honeybees is not just important to commercial plantings, like apples and almonds, but it is also essential for fruits and vegetables found in backyard gardens, like cucumbers, squash, melons, and strawberries. A hive in the garden can be the difference between success and disappointment for a local gardener.

The two significant products that wouldn’t exist without the honeybee would be honey and beeswax. The ability to harvest and share honey is probably the most influential aspect in the decision to become a beekeeper. Local honey is an unbeatable and delicious natural sweeter that has subtle, and occasionally not so subtle, variances of flavor that are dependent on the floral sources available to the bees; there is nothing more accurate to express the “local flavor” of the indigenous environment than the local honey.

Fortunately, evolution has not only produced an insect that can convert nectar into honey, but has also created a harvestable method by which honeybees can store that honey. Honeybees have wax-producing glands on the underside of their abdomens and they can manipulate this wax to create combs of hexagonal cells that can be used to store nectar, pollen, and to raise new bees. Because beeswax has a high melting point (144 to 147 degrees F), it makes for excellent candles that have a "warmer" colored flame and very little visible smoke. Beeswax can also be used in natural soaps, lotions, and cosmetics such as lip balm, and as a superior wood polish.

Of course the list of beneficial services and products provided by honeybees can be expanded even further, but if this brief description was enough to get you excited about sharing your passion for bees and beekeeping then I have an opportunity for you. I’m inviting all of our members to come down to the Long Island Fair to spend an hour or so as a Bee Club Ambassador. You get to share those amazing stories about your life among the bees with fair visitors, and in the process help promote our organization. There is nothing like the look on the face of a non-beekeeper as you thrillingly describe how you boldly thrust your bare hands into a box filled with thousands of stinging insects to wrestle away their highly coveted liquid gold (or words to that effect). We even give you time off for good behavior so can visit the rest of the fair, which may not be as exciting as beekeeping, but looks to be highly entertaining.

The Long Island Fair at the Old Bethpage Restoration Village takes place on Friday, September 20 and 27, from 10:00 to 4:00, and Saturday and Sunday, September 21, 22, 28 and 29 from 10:00 to 5:00. Our next Club meeting is September 22 at Suffolk County Community College, Wicks Road, Brentwood, so we will be skipping that day.
On Saturday, 9/21, and Sunday, 9/29, admission is $1.00 for everybody. For all the other days: for adults it’s $12.00, children (5-12) and seniors (over 60), $8.00, and children (under 5) are free.

The Restoration Village is located at 1303 Round Swamp Road, Old Bethpage. Once you get there just look for the tent surrounded by awestruck visitors and that’s where you’ll find us.

President’s Message: Our Annual Meeting

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

Last month was the end of our fiscal year, so after our guest speakers (the wonderful Dean and Ramona Stiglitz) completed their presentation (the “Microbial Culture of the Hive") we held our annual meeting. Each of the Club’s board members had an opportunity to talk about what was accomplished during the past year, what their respective goals are for the coming year, and answer questions from our members.

We then held elections for four of the board positions (board members serve a 2-year term, but elections are held for only half of the board each year).

I’d like to thank Ray Lackey and Moira Alexander for continuing as Education Director and Programs Director, respectively. I’d also like to thank our outgoing Vice President, Wayne Vitale, for his dedicated service to the Club, and welcome Donal Peterson as the new Vice President. Unfortunately, our Secretary position continues to be vacant.

As with any volunteer organization, the success of our efforts is entirely dependent on the contributions of our members. Our board members have stepped forward to take on responsibility and a leadership role to help pursue the three goals of our club: Successful and Responsible Beekeeping (educating beekeepers), Public Outreach (educating the public about beekeeping), and Fellowship. But they need our help; please don’t assume that they can do it alone.

Below is a brief description of each of our committees and I’m asking that as you read them you look for an opportunity to participate; even volunteering for a simple task can help. As a responsible beekeeper you wouldn’t walk away from your bees, so don’t walk away from your club. (I’ll forgo the torturous and insipid comparison between social insects and social humans, and how both can achieve great things by working together. Just volunteer already.)

The Education Committee develops, implements, and administers the Club’s educational programs, beekeeping courses, and maintains the Club’s library of books and videos. Ray Lackey is the Education Director.

The Outreach Committee distributes information, prepares promotional and educational displays, produces of the newsletter and manages the website. The Club also attends many events and fairs to promote and educate people about beekeeping, and we need Club Ambassadors to help spread the word. The Outreach Director is Marianne Sangesland.

The Programs Committee arranges for speakers, plans and produces the meeting programs, and oversees hospitality (i.e. coffee, snacks, etc.).The Programs Director is Moira Alexander.

Every club needs to have a program for recognizing achievements, so the Awards and Contests Committee, which reports to the Vice-president, Donal Peterson develops, implements, and administers the Club’s awards program, scholarship program, and its annual honey and hive product contest.

So, next Sunday, climb out your cell (give it a good cleaning first), get off your comb, fly out your hive, come on down to the meeting and lend a hand (or six).

President’s Message: We Band of Beekeepers

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

It’s time for some reader participation. I want everyone who reads this column (that’s right, all three of you), to sit up and exclaim, “I am the future of beekeeping.”

Not bad, but again, with a little more effort: “I AM THE FUTURE OF BEEKEEPING!”

If you don’t feel slightly embarrassed when you say that out loud, then you need to be more earnest. There’s an importance to being earnest, but that’s a story for another play, I mean day.

Nonetheless, it is imperative that you believe that statement, because it’s true. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been a beekeeper, the future of honey bees and beekeeping is entirely up to you.

If you’re new to beekeeping, then you’re standing on the edge of a whole new universe of entomological knowledge, and by exploring that universe you will be carrying beekeeping into the future.

If apiculture has been a part of your life for some time, then you have a universe of knowledge (and opinions) to impart. The world of beekeeping has as many facets as a honey bee’s compound eye and each facet looks toward the future by sharing experiences from the past.

Let’s face it, it’s not as though the unwashed masses are clamoring to become beekeepers. There’s only a limited number of people in each generation that have the courage to stick their hands into a box of 20,000 stinging insects, but by doing so we preserve a vital part of the local ecology. Keeping the honey bee alive on Long Island is our collective task and the future of that mission is entirely up to us. We are the future of beekeeping.

If Henry V was a beekeeper, he might have encouraged us thusly (with apologies to Mr. Shakespeare):

We few, we happy few, we band of beekeepers;
For thee today that is stung with me
Shall be my comrade; be thee ne’er so ordinary,
The honey bee shall ennoble their condition;
And common folk, now a-feared,
Shall think themselves unworthy they were not here;
And hold their courage cheap when the bee flies
Whilst we did take their honey upon this summer’s day.

President’s Message: A Beekeeper’s Resolutions

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

Well, I guess it’s that time of the year again. Actually it’s past that time of the year, but I suppose January it’s still early enough to make resolutions for the rest of the year. I guess I can just start with that list of resolutions from last year, there’s probably a few on there that I never ”resolved.” Now where is that? Ah, here it is, right where I left it last year.

Resolution #1. Do something with that unused equipment in the corner of the bee yard.

If I remember correctly, the Club is having some sort of equipment swap. Here it is on the web page: there will be a Bee Swap on January 27th at the Brush Barn in Smithtown. Great! I can bring that equipment over and maybe swap it for something else. Maybe I can even sneak that way-too-cute bee-shaped cheese grater into the pile without the wife noticing; maybe I can get something more useful for it like a new queen excluder. Oh, there will also be a Master Beekeeper Forum the same day! Well, that helps take care of resolution number two.

Resolution #2. Get somebody to answer all those nagging beekeeping questions in the back of my head.

I should start writing those down now. I bet I can stump one or two of them too. Maybe joining this bee club thing wasn’t such a bad idea. That reminds me…

Resolution #3. Pay member dues to Long Island Beekeepers Club.

Conni might not let me into the meeting without paying dues and Joan is going to need that money in the treasury to keep the Club running. I’ll write out that check now and put it in my wallet. Now, what else do I have here from last year…

Resolution #4. Learn how to raise queens.

That’s right, I wanted to save some money by learning how raise queens and maybe over-winter some nucs. I saw something about that on the club’s Yahoo Group. Here it is, Ray Lackey is hosting some meetings on queen rearing and the next one is on February 13th. While I’m marking that on the calendar…

Resolution #5. Go to Beekeeper’s Club meetings.

I’ll just mark that down on the fourth Sunday of every month (except February). And here it says that I can just add the Club’s calendar to my Google calendar. Well that was easy. Moira always seems to find interesting speakers for the meetings, and now at least I’ll have other beekeepers to talk to about bees once a month, since the wife is pretty much fed up with listening to me drone on and on (Reminder: use that joke at the next meeting). In fact, if I volunteer for the Club’s outreach program I can attend events and bore non-beekeepers with all my fascinating bee stories! I should put that down too.

Resolution #6. Volunteer for Club’s Outreach Program.

I’ll talk to Marianne at the next meeting about the events where the Club will have the observation hive this year. Gee, the Club does so many important things each year and all with volunteers. We really need to get more people to help.

Resolution #7. Get more volunteers to help with the Club.

We really need to find someone to be Club Secretary. I think I have some books here somewhere that could be useful. Here they are: “Using Shame to Get People to Do the Right Thing” and “Make Friends and Influence People Through Guilt.” I’ll just set those aside. I wonder if I can guilt Wayne into being president next year?

Resolution #8. Write the President’s Message for the newsletter one month in advance.

I’ll work on that one next month.

President’s Message: Reaching Out, Part 2

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

In Part 1 of this column, I wrote about some of the ways and means our outreach program helps to educate the general public about the benefits of bees and beekeeping.

Here in Part 2, I will be writing about how important the Club’s outreach program is in combating one of the chief threats to beekeeping: ignorance.

It’s human nature to perceive animals that can cause personal injury and gather in large numbers as a threat. Honey bees fit the bill for most people, but as beekeepers we know that honey bees are rarely aggressive and that swarms are harmless. Beekeepers don’t perceive honey bees as a threat because we have more knowledge than the average person about honey bee behavior.

Now let’s look at the typical situation for a suburban hobby beekeeper from the neighbor’s perspective: the prospect of living near boxes filled with thousands of potentially stinging insects is probably ignored by many, worrying to some, and seen as a serious threat by a few. So let’s say that 1 out of 10 people perceive the bee hives in their neighbor’s yard as a serious threat. What do most people do when their neighbors do something (or possibly not do something, like cut the lawn) that they perceive as a threat to themselves or the community at large?

At first they might complain to the local municipality or law enforcement, but they could also speak to an elected official. And given the current desire of most elected officials to solve their constituents’ problems, an emotionally-charged objection to a neighbor’s honey bees could easily lead to that dreaded “r” word, regulation. Since it’s highly unlikely that an elected official will know any more about honey bees than the uninformed neighbor, its not difficult to foresee the attempt to create a local law or a zoning code modification that’s intended to “protect” the community from “scourge” of beekeeping.

Now, we have a community that unnecessarily regulates (or possibly bans) a hobby that provides local honey and free pollination services essentially because of ignorance; ignorance of the benefits of beekeeping and the true behavior of honey bees.

Let’s now imagine the same scenario but with one chief difference: you. If that one neighbor or that one elected official had an opportunity to visit our educational display and talk to a beekeeper like you, you could be the agent of change. Even if that visit or conversation were a brief one, you would still have an opportunity to raise their awareness about beekeeping and let them know that the club exists as a resource for information. With a little more time you could probably describe the basics of beekeeping and the agricultural advantages of pollination by local honey bees. Could you remove all fear of honey bees and convince them to become a beekeeper? Probably not, but by seeing your positive attitude about honey bees as you describe their essential role in our ecosystem, in the future they will less likely to perceive a box of bees as a threat. And that could mean the difference between being able to keep bees in your backyard, or not.

But that one neighbor or that one elected official won’t have an opportunity to talk to you if you’re not there. A public educated about the benefits of bees is our best advocate for beekeeping, and only a beekeeper like you can help us achieve that goal. We need you to be a Bee Club Ambassador; we need you to share your passion; we need you to talk to the neighbor and the elected official; we need you to participate in our outreach program.

Don’t wait for someone else to do it and don’t wait until it’s too late. If keeping bees is what you want to do, then help the Club make sure that someone who knows nothing about honey bees doesn’t take that away from you.

President’s Message: Reaching Out, Part 1

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

Autumn is a busy season for the Club and its volunteers. Within the past few weeks our Outreach Director, Marianne Sangesland, has been coordinating the Club’s educational displays at the Second Annual NYC Honey Festival in Rockaway, the Long Island Fair at Old Bethpage, the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center Fall Wildlife Festival at Jones Beach, and the Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park Fall Garden and Harvest Festival in Oakdale. At each of these events our Bee Club Ambassadors participate by setting up a table with information about the Club, honeybees and beekeeping, samples of our tools and equipment, and an observation hive in order to promote the benefits of bees and beekeeping. Since one of the goals of the Club is to educate not just beekeepers, but also the general public, these events present a great opportunity to fulfill that mission.

I try to participate in as many of these events as possible, and inevitably the most frequent question I get asked by non-beekeepers who stop to see our display is, “why do you keep honeybees?” (Actually, it’s usually phrased more like, “why in the world would you want to keep bees?!”) I’m sure it’s a question we all get asked now and then, but as longtime craftspeople already involved in the craft of beekeeping we’ve already thought about and incorporated into our passion the reasons for doing what we do, and unless someone asks us why, we probably don’t articulate our motivation that frequently. So, why do we keep honeybees?

The answer lays with the bees themselves and their amazing ability to provide irreplaceable products and services.

Chief among those services would be pollination. The honeybee accounts for 80 percent of all pollination done by insects and without the honeybee's pollination services more than a third of the fruits and vegetables that humans consume would not exist in sufficient quantities. Pollination by honeybees is not just important to commercial plantings, like apples and almonds, but it is also essential for fruits and vegetables found in backyard gardens, like cucumbers, squash, melons, and strawberries. A hive in the garden can be the difference between success and disappointment for a local gardener.

The two noteworthy products that wouldn’t exist without the honeybee would be honey and beeswax. The ability to harvest and share honey is probably the most influential aspect in the decision to become a beekeeper. Local honey is an unbeatable and delicious natural sweeter that has subtle, and occasionally not so subtle, variances of flavor that are dependent on the floral sources available to the bees; there is nothing more accurate to express the “local flavor” of the indigenous environment than the local honey.

Fortunately, evolution has not only produced an insect that can convert nectar into honey, but has also created a harvestable method by which honeybees can store that honey. Honeybees have wax-producing glands on the underside of their abdomens and they can manipulate this wax to create combs of hexagonal cells that can be used to store nectar, pollen, and to raise new bees. Because beeswax has a high melting point (144 to 147 degrees F), it makes for excellent candles that have a "warmer" colored flame and very little visible smoke. Beeswax can also be used in natural soaps, lotions, and cosmetics such as lip balm, and as a superior wood polish.

Of course the list of beneficial services and products provided by honeybees can be expanded even further, but if this brief description was enough to get you excited about sharing your passion for bees and beekeeping then we need you as a Bee Club Ambassador. At the events the Club attends you get to share those amazing stories about your life among the bees with the public, and in the process help promote our organization. There is nothing like the look on the face of a non-beekeeper as you thrillingly describe how you boldly thrust your bare hands into a box filled with thousands of stinging insects to wrestle away their highly coveted liquid gold (or words to that effect).

Next month, in Part 2 of this article, I will be writing about how important the Club’s outreach program is in combating one of the chief threats to beekeeping: ignorance.

President’s Message: So Long, and Thanks for All the Honey

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

It lasted for seven years. I guess I shouldn't complain, since I never had to pay for it. But still...

Sure, we only went around together once a year, so you would think it would have lasted longer. Most times it was a sweet experience, even when it was a lot of work. And despite the occasional problems, everything still came out in the bottom.

But when the difficulties are too great to overcome, sometimes you just have to say, "So long, and thanks for all the honey."

I'm going to miss that honey extractor.

During my first year with the club, a member approached me to say that he was giving up beekeeping. Not that he wanted to, but he and his wife decided to give it all up, the bees, the equipment, the house, the job, and buy a mobile home to travel around the country. (I'm guessing that the whole venture probably cost him less per year than beekeeping.) He had a hand-crank, nine-frame, stainless steel extractor with a dent in the bottom so it didn't quite work right, and he didn't feel it was worth much, but since I was the newest member and just starting beekeeping, maybe I could get it to work. Since extractors are expensive, I was planning to do without and super the hives with Ross Rounds every year. He didn't have to ask me twice.

I managed to jury-rig a fix and get it to operate, but it was always finicky. This year I couldn't keep the gears properly aligned consistently, so hand-cranking all of those frames became a bigger chore than usual. In the end, with a tear in my eye (from fighting off the feelings of penuriousness) I decided it was time for a new extractor. (My wife says it needs to be motorized because her arms get tired, but I think she's exaggerating.)

But which one to buy? With that kind of an investment you want to get something reliable. I needed to do research, and price comparisons, and budgeting, and more research, and get confused, and then give up. It was during one of those times of quiet indecision with my head in my hands and the catalogs spread before me on the floor that I heard them. Far off in the distance, struggling to make themselves known, it was the advice of my fellow beekeepers: "No, don't buy that one, you idiot." "This one is great." "I'll never buy that model again."

It became quite obvious that I needed the one thing that every beekeeper has at least two of and will give away for free: an opinion.

So here's your chance to contribute to: "Help George Choose an Extractor" or "Whatever You Do, Don't Buy This One" or "This is the Extractor For You."
Just go to this form and fill it out with your opinion: http://www.longislandbeekeepers.org/extractor/extractor.php

You will have a choice of keeping your opinion private (just between you, me, and the bee on the wall), or sharing your advice with the group. I'll post the advice you want to share here on the website so others can benefit. In either case, everything will be anonymous, so feel free to express it all: what you like, what you hate, what you really think of your mother-in-law, etc.

Until next month: "So long, and thanks for all the advice."

President’s Message: Life Unfolds

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

Life unfolds. Like undoing an origami crane or trying to flatten a crumpled ball of paper. Sometimes it opens along sharply folded lines; other times it only comes undone with torn creases and frayed edges. But each act of unfolding reveals something new inside. At times something pleasant, occasionally unexpected, now and then sad. Nevertheless, undoing the fold forever leaves an enduring wrinkled crease in the paper.

As beekeepers we witness life unfolding within the comb in a very distinct and predictable pattern, thousands of times over. But with human lives, not so much.

Dave Alexander always struck me as a man who was pleased with the way his life unfolded, which is uncommon. On Sunday afternoons before a Club meeting, I would often find Dave quietly working on the Sunday Times crossword puzzle. Knowing that I was also a devotee of the Sunday puzzle, when I walked by he would look up and ask me if I thought the puzzle was difficult that week. But before I could begin to answer, he would shake his head saying, “No, no, don’t’ tell me.” Dave really didn’t want to know how the puzzle would unfold, because being difficult or easy was inconsequential; he had every intention of completing it, regardless. He was going to open that small crinkled corner of his ball of paper to reveal the experience hidden inside.

For Dave, life certainly presented many more tribulations that were far more challenging then a crossword puzzle, but he faced them all with the same unpretentious audacity.

I couldn’t tell you how much of his paper Dave got to unfold, but I think he was pleased with what the visible surfaces revealed. However, I can tell you that on the ball of paper in front of me there’s a damp crease from being a witness to his courage.

President’s Message: The Honey Bee’s Accelerometer

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

If you own one of the new ‘smart phones’, like the iPhone, or had a chance to play with someone else’s, you have probably noticed that the phone responds to gravity. For example, the image on the screen will orient itself automatically in response to the position in which you hold the phone; hold it horizontally and the image will display horizontally; rotate the phone vertically and the image responds appropriately. This occurs because inside the phone there is a microelectromechanical device called an accelerometer. At the heart of the accelerometer is a tiny, flat, square-shaped weight with rods projecting out from the edges in each of the four directions. The weight is held in place by small springs at the end of each rod and each spring provides just enough resistance to gravity so that if you lay the phone flat the weight will be centered, but when you tip the phone the springs will allow the weight to move in the direction of gravity. Also projecting from each edge of the weight are tiny rod-shaped capacitors that move with the weight. Parallel to these are another set of rod-shaped capacitors but these are fixed to the phone. So as the weight moves the pairs of capacitors are moving past each other. The paired capacitors respond to the change in voltage that occurs depending on how much the capacitors overlap. If you stand the phone on end, the weight moves downward, making the weight-mounted capacitor at the bottom of the weight completely overlap the fixed capacitor. The tiny computer inside the phone senses the voltage change and tells the display to respond appropriately.

Honey bees use a similar type of mechanical device to sense gravity. Unlike humans and other mammals, honey bees do not have a vestibular apparatus (the arrangement of tiny fluid-filled semicircular tubes in the inner ear). The bee uses the position of its head to determine which way is down.

The outside surface of a honey bee is an articulated exoskeleton and at the joints between the body parts are hair plates. These plates have evolved in such a way that when one part, let’s say a leg, moves, it stimulates the hairs that are located around the joint where the leg is attached to the thorax. The movement of these hairs sends a signal to the bee’s central nervous system (similar to the signal your brain receives when the hairs on your arm move), and in this way the bee can perceive the position of it’s leg. These hair plates that signal the position of body parts are called proprioceptors (a fancy way of saying self-perception receptors).

At the joint where the bee’s head is attached to the thorax there are hair plates that have the specific function of determining the position of the head in response to gravity. The bee’s head is similar to the weight inside an accelerometer; gravity forces the head into a slightly different position when the bee is standing on a vertical surface, like hive comb, facing down than it does when facing up. And the hair plates on the bee’s neck are similar to the rod-shaped capacitors in that they sense the position of the head [weight] and relay that information back to the central nervous system [tiny computer]. This arrangement that allows the bee to sense gravity is called the proprioceptor gravity receptor system (or PGR system).

But the similarity doesn’t end there. A smart phone uses its accelerometer to control its fancy display and a honey bee uses its PGR system to put on a rather fancy display of its own. The waggle dance is the method by which a single honey bee can convey to other honey bees in the hive the distance and direction of a food source. During the dance the performing bee walks at a certain angle in relationship to gravity and waggles its abdomen (remember, all the bees are standing on the vertical surface of the comb). It is thought that the other bees that are witnessing the dance are able to transpose that angle of orientation with respect to gravity to an angle of orientation with respect to the sun. After witnessing the dance additional foraging bees can now find the new food source by flying in a direction that has that same angle of orientation to the sun. Performing the waggle dance to communicate with other bees is only possible because of the bee’s ability to sense gravity with its PGR system.

As I mentioned above, humans have a vestibular apparatus in the inner ear to detect the direction of gravity, but our brains also use two other methods: visual evidence perceived through the eyes and proprioception. The proprioceptors in humans produce results similar to the ones in honey bees, in that they convey the position of our body parts, but they operate differently. Humans have sensory neurons, like stretch receptors, in our muscles and joints that, almost imperceptibly, convey to our brains how are arms and legs are positioned in relationship to gravity. You can easily test your proprioceptors by closing your eyes, raising your left hand over your head, and trying to picture in your mind where your left hand is positioned. If, when you open your eyes, your left hand is where you thought it would be then your proprioceptors are working just fine.

For more information on the honey bee’s response to gravity, see “Form and Function in the Honey Bee” by Lesley Goodman (ISBN 978-0860982432), and for a compelling story on the consequences of losing the use of your proprioceptor system, see “A Leg to Stand On” by Dr. Oliver Sacks (ISBN 978-0684853956).

President's Message: “This hitteth the nail on the head.”

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

2012 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the Club. We’re going to start things off in February with taking the first couple of steps in our reorganization of the Club, kick off our Local Nuc and Queen Rearing Program, and we’ll have our first guest speaker of the year.

Our first order of business at this month’s meeting will a vote on the approval of the new Bylaws. I hope that by now you’ve taken some time to read the new Bylaws (if you haven’t, you can find them on the Club’s web site). Since the current bylaws do not contain a provision for amending the Bylaws, we’ll be using the procedure established in the new Bylaws; therefore the new Bylaws will be ratified upon “two-thirds affirmative vote of the members present” at the February meeting; assuming we have a quorum (i.e. ten voting members excluding officers).

Next we’ll be placing nominees on the ballot for the nine Executive Board positions: President, Vice-president, Treasurer, Secretary, Membership Secretary, Education Director, Outreach Director, Programs Director, and Immediate Past President (or a Director appointed by the Board). Voting takes place at the Annual Meeting in March; and the new officers will take their positions at the start of the fiscal year in April.

As I mentioned in my last column, under the new Bylaws the Club has three elemental goals: Successful and Responsible Beekeeping, Public Outreach, and Fellowship. So we’ll be asking for volunteers to sign up and participate on the Club’s new committees: Finance, Membership, Education, Outreach, Program, and Awards and Contests.

It’s at this point in my missive that I planned to insert some rousing and inspiring words to convince you that your involvement in these committees is what will make them, and the Club, a success. But with much aforethought I’ve decided that some simple epigrams penned by a far more creative writer than me, specifically the 16th-century English playwright, John Heywood, would be more effective:
Two heads are better than one.
Many hands make light work.
The more the merrier.


Next on the program, will be a discussion of the Club’s new Local Nuc and Queen Rearing Program. But if I told you all the details here it would spoil the surprise. So, you’ll just have to make it to the meeting to find out how you can help create “Long Island” honey bees and maybe make a little extra money on the side.

And finally, this month’s speaker will be Mary Woltz. Ms. Woltz is a beekeeper living on the east end of Long Island, where she manages approximately 100 colonies and her company, Bees’ Needs, focuses on direct sales through farmers’ markets and her Community Supported Apiculture program. You are not going to want to miss this.

Now at this point you’re probably asking yourself how are we going to fit all that into a Sunday afternoon? Well, starting this year all of our meetings will be starting promptly at 1:00. The room will open at 12:30, so you will have some time to grab a snack and do a little networking with your fellow apiarists before things get rolling. So, join us at 12:30 on Sunday, February 19, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 31 Rider Avenue, Patchogue, and get ready for a year of beekeeping. Or as John Heywood would say: “When the sun shineth, make hay.” (He probably meant “honey.”)

President's Message: Come On Over To My Bee House

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

The design and construction of the perfect bee house has always held a certain fascination for me. A small shed to store beekeeping equipment would certainly free up some room in the garage, and a place to secure the hives and provide some additional protection from the elements wouldn’t be bad. Also, having a single location to keep the bees and the equipment together would be convenient; no more schlepping everything out to the beeyard.
I’ve collected various books and plans over the years in an attempt to learn what has worked for beekeepers in the past, and to also understand the design elements to be considered when working with bees, essentially, inside a closed room.
Here are some of the design objectives I’ve tried to address, and some images of the plan I’ve been working on this summer in the hope of building a prototype next year.
• Adequate light: Unless you use electrical lighting, an abundance of sunlight is necessary to work with the bees inside. This is a challenge, especially while still trying to achieve the next two goals:
• Weather-tight: The enclosure needs to be at least as weather-tight as your average shed to keep out the rain, wind, and snow, otherwise it won’t be doing much to protect your equipment and bees. So, large empty openings for adequate light won’t work. Windows would seem to be the solution to adequate light and weather-tightness, but windows can be expensive and you don’t need the girls constantly beating their little blond heads against the glass as they attempt to escape. Window shades are a possibility, but unless you use Velcro, the bees will find a way to get trapped between the glass and the shade. Hence the next objective:
• Bee escape: Once you open a hive inside a room, you need to provide a pathway back to the exterior so the bees can re-enter the hive through the front entrance. Fortunately, the bees have a tendency to head for sunlight, so providing a bee escape at the same location as you’re letting in the sunlight would work well. In my current design I’ve used a translucent roofing material with a closeable bee escape vent facing south. I’m not entirely satisfied with the arrangement, so some field-testing may be in order.
• Use existing equipment: Many of the bee house designs I’ve come across use specialized or built-in hive bodies to hold frames, but after investing quite a bit in Langstroth equipment, and its various accessories, I’m reluctant (and too cheap) to give it all up. So the design needs to incorporate the ability to use existing equipment, which I’ve solved by placing the hives up against the outside wall on interior shelves and some strategically placed openings.
• Mobility: Being able to move the bee house as necessary is certainly a consideration. Placing the structure on wood skids is the easiest solution, but it also raises the floor off the ground.
• Ramp: Tripping out of your elevated bee house with an armful of honey-laden supers is ideal inspiration for inventing new and innovative invectives, but not so ideal for your blood pressure. A reinforced door hinged at the bottom solves the security problem and provides a ramp up to the elevated floor.
• Cheap and easy to build: Albeit these are relative terms, the goal is to use inexpensive material that’s easy to assemble. So, for the major components I’ve selected wood lumber in standard sizes that require the minimum amount of cutting (e.g. the floor is two uncut 4x8 sheets of plywood).
These are the major objectives I’ve tried to address with my current design. Suggestions are always welcome.




President’s Message: Communicating Honey Bee Science

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

As an architect, one of my primary responsibilities is to communicate. Typically, I have two audiences to communicate with: the client and the construction contractor. For the client, I would use renderings and models to communicate the intended appearance of the building. For the contractor, drawings and specifications communicate the knowledge necessary to construct the building appropriately. In both cases the instruments of communication need to be clear, concise, correct, and complete, and convey the intended work results, but the drawings and specifications are more technically oriented and require specialized knowledge, while the renderings and models are intended for a more general audience. But in both cases the goal is the same: to communicate the appropriate understanding of how the building will look when it is complete.

Science, specifically honey bee science, also has a goal: to communicate an understanding of how the honey bee functions. Honey bee scientists also have two audiences: scientists and everyone else interested in honey bees (non-scientists). As you would expect, communicating with other scientists is more technically oriented and requires specialized knowledge, while communicating with a more general audience needs “renderings and models,” i.e. comprehensible and appealing instruments of communication. But in both cases the information needs to be clear, concise, correct, and complete. Ay, there’s the rub.

While attending the EAS Conference in Rhode Island last month I had the opportunity to attend a variety of seminars, including many presented by scientists. The audience included both scientists and non-scientists, but the majority consisted of the latter, so it would be safe to assume that when choosing between the two forms of communication (e.g. technical or non-technical, drawings or renderings), the non-technical approach would be the appropriate one. And in most cases the non-technical, or at least the not-so-technical, method was how the information was conveyed, but with diverse variations of success. It wasn’t that a particular topic was uninteresting, on the contrary, the information was always fascinating and relevant, even for the hobby beekeeper, but the manner in which it was conveyed did, at times, require intense concentration and several strong cups of coffee.

The questions asked by the audience at the end of the presentation were the most telling determinant; if the questions invited the scientist to elaborate even further on the topic then that meant most people understood the content of the presentation and wanted to know more. However, if the questions just resulted in the scientist repeating portions of the presentation, then most of the audience didn’t get it the first time. To be clear, I’m not criticizing the personality of the scientist or the idiosyncrasies of their presentation style, an audience with the desire to learn about the topic at hand will easily forgive these foibles, I’m focusing on how well the scientist was able to convey the results of their research to a general audience in a comprehensible and appealing manner.

Alright, so some science presenters are less effective than others, why does this matter?

As humans, we use two fundamental tools to objectively understand and explore the world around us: math and science. Ironically, these are the same two subjects that most people report as being the most difficult to understand in high school and beyond. It would seem that although humans are naturally curious and have a predilection for solving math problems (see the study “Exact and Approximate Arithmetic in an Amazonian Indigene Group,” http://tinyurl.com/3zkyuwd), we still have a hard time using those skills in a formal process. But we don’t abandon math and science because they are difficult; to paraphrase President Kennedy, we do math and science because they are hard, because they will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, and because it is a challenge that we are willing to accept. We know what we know about honey bees and beekeeping through the employment of the disciplines math and science; it has improved our beekeeping skills and we can’t afford to abandon or ignore those disciplines because it may be difficult.

But we must also recognize that that difficulty is a barrier for most non-scientists. The discoveries made by scientists working in apiculture need to be presented at forums such as EAS, but those scientists also need to appreciate that the manner in which they communicate their research to a general audience is just as important as the research itself. Building a house will require drawings and specifications, but most of us want to see the renderings and the models; it’s same information just presented differently and the latter method substantially increases the size of the audience.

But it would be unfair to place the burden of communicating the advances in honey bee science solely with the scientific community. Effective communication requires both parties to be responsive and responsible. As the “users” of honey bee research, beekeepers should at least have a basic understanding of bee biology. One doesn’t have to be an expert in all things math and science, but we must make the effort to comprehend what we can. I have yet to hear someone state that understanding math and science, especially honey bee science, doesn’t make them a better beekeeper.

President’s Message: The Lady in the Hive

By George B. Schramm, LIBC President

(With apologies to Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe.)

It looked like another dark and stormy night. So I took off my wet sunglasses and squinted at the bright sunshine of a cool spring day. The Kingsley Apiary was, and is, on Olive Street, near Sixth, on the west side. The garden in front of it had a fresh coating of immaculate green sod. A hatless pale man with a face like a halibut was planting dandelions into the sod and looking as if it was breaking his heart.

I went past him through an arcade of wisteria into a small field with short white columns scattered about. Tiny yellow and black dots moved about on the stages in front of each column like little girls at a dancing class. A neat little blonde sat off in a far corner on a small bench under the shade of maple and well out of harm's way.

She wore black slacks and under the unzipped white jacket a dark yellow shirt and a silk scarf of lighter shade around her neck. The edges of the hive tool in the breast pocket looked sharp enough to slice bread. She wore a linked bracelet and no other jewelry. In front of the pushed back white veil her gold hair was parted and fell in loose but not unstudied waves. She had a smooth ivory skin and rather severe eyebrows and large gray eyes that looked as if they might warm up at the right time and in the right place.

I held out my plain card, the one without the honeybee in the corner, and asked to see B. Kingsley. She looked down at the card and pretending to ignore it said: "Have you an appointment?"

"No appointment."

"It is very difficult to see Ms. Kingsley without an appointment." That wasn't anything I could argue about.

"What is the nature of your business, Mr….?"

"Personal."

"I see. Does Ms. Kingsley know you, Mr….?"

"I don't think so. She may have heard my name."

I grinned at her and said, "But maybe the best way to find out is to ask her."

"I don't like your manner," she said in a voice you could have cracked an acorn on. But there was a little sly laughter behind her eyes now.

"That's all right," I said. "I'm not selling it." She reared back as if I had hung a week-old mackerel under her nose. After a moment she stood up turned her back on me and said over her shoulder: "I’m Ms. Kingsley and I'll give you exactly three minutes. God knows why."

Beatrice Kingsley marched briskly behind one of the gleaming white hives and pulled a shiny smoker out of a copper and mahogany box, shoved in a handful of pine needles and lit it with a large butane lighter. She took her time about it. It didn't matter about my time. When she had finished this, she pumped a little smoke into the air and said: "I'm a busy woman. I don't fool around. I take great pride in my apiary and my expertise as a beekeeper. You're a licensed inspector your card says. Show me something to prove it." I got my wallet out and showed her things to prove it. She looked at them and slapped them away with the back of her hand. The celluloid holder with the license in it fell to the ground. She didn't bother to apologize.

"Everything is jake," I said. "You can check on it."

"Not necessary. I guess you might do, but don't get flip with me. And remember when I hire a man he's my man. He does exactly what I tell him and he keeps his mouth shut. Or he goes out fast. Is that clear? I hope I'm not too tough for you."

"Why not leave that an open question?" I said.

She frowned. She said sharply: "What do you charge?"

"Twenty-five a day and expenses."

"Absurd," she said. "Far too much. Fifteen a day flat. That's plenty." I said nothing. She seemed a little surprised that I said nothing.

She leaned over the hive and pointed with her smoker. "I haven't hired you yet," she said, "but if I do, the job is absolutely confidential. No talking it over with your inspector friends. Is that understood?"

"Just what do you want done, Ms. Kingsley?"

"What do you care? You do all kinds of inspection work, don't you?"

"Not all kinds. Only the fairly honest kinds." She stared at me level-eyed, her jaws tight. Her gray eyes had an opaque look.

"For one thing I don't count drones," I said. "And I get a hundred down as a retainer - from strangers."

"Well, well," she said, in a voice suddenly soft. "Well, well."

"And as for your being too tough for me," I said, "most girls start out either by crawling down my shirt or stinging me to show who's boss. But usually they end up very reasonable - if they're still alive."

"Well, well," she said again, in the same soft voice, and went on staring at me. "Do you lose very many of them?' she asked.

"Not if they treat me right," I said.

"Have a hive tool," she said.

I took a hive tool out of the copper and mahogany box and put it in my pocket.

"I want you to find my queen," she said. "She's been missing for a month."

"Okay," I said. "I'll find your queen." She patted her smoker with her left hand and quickly pulled it away while a hissing sound escaped from between her lips. She stared at me solidly. "I think you will at that," she said. Then she grinned. "I haven't been burned like that in four years."

I didn't say anything.

She ran a hand through her thick gold hair. "She's been gone a whole month," she said. "From that hive over there." She tilted her head and my gaze followed the direction she indicated. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the burnt fingers of her left hand go into her mouth.

"What have you done about it?" I asked.

“Nuffing. Nuf a fing...”

I reached over and gently pulled the fingers from her mouth. Her eyes apologized.

"Nothing. Not a thing. I haven't even been in there." She waited, wanting me to ask why.

I nodded, gathered my exhibits together from the grass and put them away in my pockets. "There are more angles to this than I can even see now," I said as I lifted the smoker from her grip. I walked over to the hive and started to do what she was paying for.

The sun wasn’t much higher in the sky when a small droplet of water fell from the tip of my nose and stained the hive cover as I adjusted it into place. From behind me a voice laughed “Given up already?” A sharp cold laugh. I turned slowly.

She still had the white jacket on. She stood with her back to the sun. Her gold hair had a faint halo. “No,” I said, “I found what I was looking for.”

"Your queen is dead" I said. "If it's any news to you." Ms. Kingsley stared at me and moistened her lips. I lifted my hand and between my thumb and finger was the elongated abdomen of a queen bee, but nothing more of it.

“How dare you” she hissed. “I didn’t pay you to kill her with your bumbling.” She started to advance towards me with anger in her hips.

Before she could take the second step I was at her side. My left arm wrapped around her waist pinning her right arm against my stomach. She let out a small choked sound and her left hand came up to claw at me. I caught her wrist and began to twist it behind her back. As I dropped my right hand I let go of her wrist and yanked the hive tool out of her breast pocket.

Her body went limp and her whole weight sagged against the arm that was around her waist. Her eyes were staring at the hive tool when her face writhed against my chest and I think she was trying to scream.

There on the gleaming edge of the tool was the head and crushed thorax of a queen bee. Her diaphanous wings twinkling slightly in the breeze.

Ms. Kingsley’s moist eyelids dropped closed as I undid the scarf around her ivory neck. The silk square fell out of my hand and fluttered down into the grass between two hives. I guided her sobbing frame gently onto the lawn crushing a dandelion beneath her. I laid the hive tool down beside her.

As I headed back toward the arcade of wisteria I glanced back at something. Something that had once been a queen.