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May 23, 2022

Beekeeping With Disabilities - Justin Ruger (S4, E49)

Beekeeping With Disabilities - Justin Ruger (S4, E49)

Can you imagine the difficulty in trying to work a standard Langstroth hive when sitting in a wheelchair? Or how about working bees while blind? These are just two of the handicaps that Justin Ruger is working on so that people with handicaps like...

Can you imagine the difficulty in trying to work a standard Langstroth hive when sitting in a wheelchair? Or how about working bees while blind?

These are just two of the handicaps that Justin Ruger is working on so that people with handicaps like these can work bees.

Justin is in a wheelchair so he knows what he’s talking about. His group is a 501 3c charitable program, working to get training apiaries in every state to accommodate teaching handicapped people how to keep bees, no matter their condition. These apiaries will have all the requirements needed for these people.

Along with University in Pennsylvania, he is developing techniques for teaching, building specialized equipment and developing standards for state programs.  This way, beekeeping organizations and equipment manufacturers can use the specifications and recommendations as guidelines to providing the right location setup and the right equipment for establishing their own accessible apiraries

Check out their web site for even more information on Accessible Beekeeping. And share what you find with everybody you can.

Also in today's episode, Kim returns with a new Bee Books Old and New, presented by Northern Bee Books. This week, Kim reviews, The Principles of Bee Improvement, by Jo Widdicombe

We hope you enjoy the episode. Leave comments and questions in the Comments Section of the episode's website.

Thank you for listening!

Links and websites mentioned in this podcast: 

Honey Bee Obscura


We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. Betterbee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, Betterbee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at

This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will help Global Pattiesensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode! 

Thanks for Northern Bee Books for their sponsorship of Bee Books: Old & New with Kim Flottum. Northern Bee Books is the publisher of bee books available worldwide from their website or from Amazon and bookstores everywhere. They are also the publishers of The Beekeepers Quarterly and Natural Bee Husbandry. Check them out today!

Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of Beekeeping TodayStrong Microbials Podcast. Find out more about heir line of probiotics in our Season 3, Episode 12 episode and from their website:

We want to also thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of the podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a regular podcast featuring interviews with leading bee and insect researchers in the world of pollination, hosted by Dr. Kirsten Traynor.


We hope you enjoy this podcast and welcome your questions and comments in the show notes of this episode or:

Thanks to Bee Culture, the Magazine of American Beekeeping, for their support of The Beekeeping Today Podcast. Available in print and digital at

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Thank you for listening! 

Podcast music: Be Strong by Young Presidents; Epilogue by Musicalman; Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus; Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott

Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC

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S4, E49 – Beekeeping With Disabilities - Justin Ruger


Jeff: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news,, information and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.

Kim: I'm Kim Flottum.

Global Patties: Hey, Jeff and Kim. Today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honeybees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honey bees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs. No matter where you are, Global is ready to serve you out of their manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana, or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today

Jeff: Thanks, Sherry and thank you, Global Patties. Each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support, and we know you'd rather we get right to talking about beekeeping. However, our great sponsors are critical to help making all of this happen. From the transcripts, the hosting fees, the software, the hardware, the microphones, the subscriptions, the recorders, they enable each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast. Bee Culture's been the magazine for American Beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today. Hey everybody, thanks for joining us. We're really happy you're here.

Before we get started, just a quick reminder to subscribe or follow Beekeeping Today podcast and give us a five-star rating. It really does help. Also, we are now adding complete transcripts of each episode on the website after the show notes, check them out. You can also leave questions and comments online under each show. You can leave a comment, ask a question, reply to a question, ours or listeners, click on, leave a comment at the top of the episode's show notes to join the discussion. Have you listened to an episode and thought, "That person sounds really interesting and I'd like to know more about them?" Well, now you can. Each episode links to a guest profile. Each profile has a guest photo, bio, contact information, including Instagram and Twitter details if they have them.

Check it out and, finally, share the podcast with your beekeeping friends, email them links, or mention it at your next beekeeper meeting.

Hey everybody, thanks a lot for joining us today. I hope your spring is going well. I have to say that finally spring has arrived in this part of the Pacific Northwest with sunshine and daytime temperatures into the 60s. Personally, I have my honey supers all set to go because after this late start, I expect a nectar flow will come on quick and strong.

As you may recall, in an earlier episode I mentioned that I am participating in the Bee Informed Partnership's Sentinel Apiary Program. That's hard to say. So, I'm getting set to prepare my first four samples. I will be writing about all of this and the Beekeeping Today Podcast blog on our website as the season progresses. I hope you'll follow along and provide comments and feedback.

We have a really good show and topic all set for you. First up, a Bee Books Old and New with Kim Flottum. In this episode, Kim reviews, a Northern bee book titled The Principles of Bee Improvement by Jo Widdicombe. That's J-O W-I-D-D-I-C-O-M-B-E. Then Kim and I talk with Justin Ruger about beekeeping with disabilities. He runs the website and is leading an effort to set standards and recommendations to make beekeeping, well, accessible to people with all disabilities, from hearing, to vision, to mobility, to even beekeepers in wheelchairs.

It is a fascinating discussion and definitely one that needs to be heard and one we are certain touches families of all beekeepers. All right, let's roll on now with Bee Books Old and New.

Kim: Today's book isn't brand new, but it's not very old either. The science and bee management included here are spot on if you are a backyard beekeeper who wants to improve the quality of the bees you use. Many of us, probably most of us, are growing weary of buying New Queens every year that seem to last only part of the season. One problem that can be resolved is to develop a queen line that has the exact traits you want and need in a queen. What you can't fix, however, is the environment your bees must live in, but this is a fantastic start to figure out how to make even that situation better for your bees.

The name of the book is The Principles of Bee Improvement. It was written in 2015 by Jo Widdicombe and published by Northern Bee Books and offers, as the author puts it in his preface, a low-tech approach relevant to an achievable by all beekeepers. It is the alternative to bringing in new stock from somewhere else that lasts maybe a year or so. Then the next generation of queens begins to produce offspring that descends into a mishmash of low-quality non-native hybrid offspring that do not do well in your backyard. You're then forced to repeat the process of buying new and starting over, and lately that's pretty much every year.

Local bees that survive local conditions are what we need and what we want. Mr. Widdicombe quite expertly shows us how to make that happen. The author's from the UK and belongs to the BIBBA. That is the Bee Improvement Bee Breeders Association, which has led the way in bee improvement in the UK and Ireland for years. His theory is that bringing in stock that isn't local works against the benefits of natural selection. The great advantage of local stock rather than repeatedly bringing in new stock is that these are the bees that have survived under prevailing conditions.

He qualifies the difference between bee breeding where the male contribution to the genetics of the line are controlled as opposed to bee improvement, where there is complete control of the queen's genes he drone's contribution is somewhat controlled anyway, as with drone flooding in the mating area. With natural selection, we begin with selecting the characteristics we want to assess. Begin by choosing fewer qualities with each mating. Choose those that are easy to measure and are the most needed in your location. Common to this are appearance, temper, low swarming warming health and brood pattern and productivity. Then, unlike many authors, he details what it is in each of these you should be measuring and, even better, how to measure them. That seems to be the trickiest part of this.

Then he offers a good argument for starting your selection from local strains of bees rather than bring in non-local strains, which in all probability will not be adapted to your location or as well adapted to your location. He takes an interesting turn here, though. How do you know if the strain you develop is, in his words, pure? Well, he discusses DNA tests and morphometric measurements to determine purity. He's right to suggest this, but he immediately acknowledges that these techniques tend to exclude some or often many of the other traits we are looking for. Basically, do they look alike or better? Do they act alike? Plus they are expensive and time consuming.

The remaining sections focus on queen rearing methods, mating, and the role of drones in the process. His queen raising sections are extremely well discussed and the photos are very useful, even if you have tried this before. At the end, he offers something I haven't often seen in how to books, a summary of his book. He breaks it down into the 10 most salient points to remember and consider when choosing to improve your bee stock. Then he offers this, ordinary beekeepers can prove that progress in improving the quality of bees can be made through working together with a common aim. It is a huge challenge, but one that has never been more necessary than now. He's got that exactly right. This book is available from Amazon and from Northern Bee Books. Check it out. It'll be worth your time.

Jeff: Hey, thanks a lot, Kim and, and thank you Northern Bee Books for your continuation of your support of this podcast through Bee Books Old and New with Kim Flottum. Hey, everybody, check out all of the great beekeeping books at Northern Bee Books. You can find the link to their website in our show notes. All right, let's get right to our interview with Justin Ruger from First, a quick word from our friends at Strong Microbials.


StrongMicrobials: Hey beekeepers, many times during the year, honeybees encounter scarcity of floral sources as good beekeepers. We feed our bees artificial diets of protein and carbohydrates to keep them going during those stressful times. What is missing though are key components, the good microbes necessary for a bee to digest the food and convert it into metabolic energy. Only super DFM Honeybee by Strong Microbials can provide the necessary microbes to optimally convert the artificial diet into energy necessary for improving longevity, reproduction, immunity, and much more. Super DFM honeybee is an all-natural probiotic supplement for your honey bees. find it or at fine bee supply stores everywhere. [music]

Jeff: Hey, thanks a lot Strong Microbials. Hey, sitting across a virtual Zoom table here at Beekeeping Todaypodcast virtual studios we have Justin Ruger from Accessible Beekeeping. Justin, welcome to Beekeeping Today podcast.

Justin: Thank you for having us. I met Kim Flottum at the West Virginia conference and he was promoting your podcast. I'm excited to get on here and talk with you guys.

Kim: Well, it's good to see you again, Justin.

Jeff: I think we first learned of you or I first learned of you, after our podcast with Jonas Saunders from Jonna Sanders from Hives. Then I think you mentioned, or you sent us an email saying that you use hives and they're great for beekeepers with disabilities, and it's a great topic and I'm excited to have you on to learn more about what you're doing with beekeepers with disabilities and how others can help you help others.

Justin: I actually do not have an hive yet. I have an experimental apiary that I'm building that will have a Layens hive, a Sam Comfort hive. Of course the Langstroth hive, just for comparison. Two top bar hives and then a civilian hive and a horizontal hive from horizontal bees in North Carolina.

Jeff: Very good.

Kim: That's going to be an interesting apiary to visit, and I hope I get a chance to get down there and see all of these different ways to keep bees. I think, well, for the value of what you're doing, certainly for people who have challenges, physical challenges, is excellent. The goal that I see this also accomplishing is for people like me who are heading towards having a disability soon and having to adjust the way I keep bees rather than quit having to keep bees. I hope the people who are listening to this, I'm looking at it a bad back and it's not going to get any better.

Even with surgery, they tell me it's not going to get much better so long hives suddenly look real tempting to me as opposed to lifting 90 pounds of honey off the top of a five-stack high Langstroth hive. Two values in what you're doing. One is helping people who are already, and then informing people who are probably going to need the equipment that you are proposing. That makes sense?

Justin: Yes, that makes total sense. I started off as what I considered an able-bodied beekeeper. I was then in a car accident that gave me a BI and an onset of seizures. Then from that TVI, a couple of years later, I ended up having a stroke that put me into a powered wheelchair. I stopped beekeeping for two reasons. One was the HOA, the homeowners' Association in our neighborhood said that honeybees were livestock and that we were not allowed to keep them. The second reason was even though we had an orchard, a local orchard that we could put honey bees at, I had no way to get to the orchard or any idea of how to physically manage beekeeping with a power wheelchair or a disability at the moment.

Kim: It's quite a challenge. I can see a lot of people just giving up, just say, "Well, beekeeping isn't in my future. Stamp collecting perhaps is going to be a lot easier," but it's a good thing you didn't.

Justin: Thank you.

Jeff: Can we define, just for those who may have a limited or no knowledge, what's your definition of a beekeeper with a disability? What disabilities are you considering in this classification?

Justin: When I started this, I started because I was physically limited. There are a lot of veterans and people who have had traumatic experiences that suffer from PTSD which also can make it hard to keep bees in a stressful environment, if something starts to go wrong. It can also be an aid in recovery for those that have PTSD and mental disabilities. There are some studies done on people with autism and how using step-by-step beekeeping in a vocational sense was able to help rehab them some. To answer your question, we cover blindness, deafness, basically head to toe. Bad backs TBIs, PTSD, and anxiety. They actually cover substance use disorder under the ADA.

I guess the best way to say it is anything that the ADA considers a disability we are considered working with.

Jeff: Very cool.


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Kim: I can see we're working with the veteran's groups. Meshes very nicely, because they have the same issues. What you're going to be doing is providing ways to solve some of the problems they're having in just that you can't lift a box off the top of a Langstroff hive, you still can keep bees. For the veterans who run into that issue you've made the people who run those groups' life a lot easier I would hope.

Justin: I agree. One of the sad things that I noticed, is that I'm very supportive of veterans, I have family who is veterans, but I noticed that there was nothing in the United States for beekeeping with disabilities for the general public.

Kim: You're exactly right.

Justin: There are a lot of grants out there specifically designed for veteran use. We are partnering with different veteran nonprofits to file for grants and work together. I wanted it to be not just for veterans. I wanted it to be for myself, the general public, or as you said, for your back. Something that might come up in the future for somebody who already did not have a disability and feels like they have to get out of beekeeping.

Kim: Well you're exactly right. The veterans already are getting some attention, which is excellent, but you're just spreading the wealth, as it were, to the rest of us who aren't veterans. You mentioned blind. I got to have you explain how that works. I can't imagine trying to do keeping bees, I can't imagine finding my hive, let alone being able to work it.

Justin: We had two vision-impaired beekeepers on our podcast, Accessible Beekeeping and More, it's on YouTube. It also has just audio on our accessible beekeeping webpage. Ariel Gilbert from California is fully blind. She was a traveling nurse until she had an accident that took her blindness away and she uses her other senses. She goes up to the hive and she listens for their activity and the amount of noise they're making lets her know if it's an okay time to go into the hive or if she should wait. When she starts to pull off the boxes she uses her scent to determine if there's something wrong, because you have a certain smell that you expect when you open up a beehive. If something is abnormal, then you know that there's something that might be wrong.

She does use a partner that goes with her, but her hives are in her backyard right off of her deck. She has a partner that does the major inspections with her, but she goes in there and she'll check on the weight of the honey supers. She will use her hands. She does not wear gloves because covering up her hands is like adding more of a disability to her and she will use her hands to feel the cone itself. She's like, "Occasionally I get stung," but if you're gentle enough and you don't squeeze your fingers and startle the bees they don't really mind you brushing your fingers across them would like you would maybe a turkey feather or a light brush.

Kim: Well I can see both tactile and odor would be tools that you'd have to fine tune but certainly not impossible. From what you just said this lady is made it work for her. If you've got somebody doing the lifting and moving but you've got your senses telling you what's going on and telling you what needs to be done, or shouldn't be done I guess I should say. You've got blind people and I can see how you could train another person what they would need to do if you always had a steady partner. The disability that you have, you said you were in a wheelchair. I can see how a very low, long hive would be, I'm certainly not going to say easy, but would be possible without a lot of manipulation. Is that what you are using? What are you using?

Justin: Right now I am building up the experimental apiary. This year we won't actually have bees because I had to get some funding to get some of these hives together and I've had some donations. I'm working with Horizontal Bees, it's a company in North Carolina that makes horizontal hives. We're actually working together on how to tilt the horizontal hive towards me when I'm ready to inspect it so that I don't have to reach over the frames in the wall. It'll actually be similar to an AZ hive where I just pull the frames a little bit straight out instead. We're trying to tilt it to about a 45 degree angle.

Kim: How clever. I'm going to guess that the bees don't care whether the frames are at a 45 degree angle or a 90 degree angle or at 180 degree angle. They're just frames hanging in a box and so I can see where that would work quite well.

Jeff: Is it tilted when you go to inspect it? Is there something you turn or you move it so it's tilted when you inspect it and then it goes back to a flat position?

Justin: Yes, that is what we're working on. I think we were talking about maybe using boat swivel seats, locking boat swivel seats that will allow it to rotate when I'm inspecting it and then rotate back to a flat position, as you mentioned.

Jeff: Well, that'd be really cool.

Kim: That's good idea. I took a quick look at your webpage and you've got a lot of information on there that I encourage people, Jeff you'll have that on our webpage and so people can find it. That's good. One of the things on your webpage was talking about working with some people from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

Justin: Yes. I was watching I'm not sure if you're familiar being from Ohio, but they have the stream team. It's Greg Burns and Castle Hives and Bruce Jenn. They all get together on Wednesdays to do a podcast themselves. They were talking about my work with disabilities and someone in the comments sent me a message and said, "Hey, can I get in contact with you?" I was like, "Of course, I'm willing to make contacts anywhere." He said that he was a professor from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and adaptive technology is what his doctorate is in.

He actually works with webpages and making technology accessible for blind, deaf, other disabilities, vision impaired, stuff like that. He asked me what my goal was and I told him, well, I want to get information on the disabilities in America that are, for lack of a better word that I can think of right now, plaguing beekeepers. I want to be able to use that information to say, "Hey, these are the disabilities that we have. How can we help them?" I'm working with National AgrAbility to do the design fabrication and research of these accessible hardware. There's a few things that are going on, one with Brian is the first exploratory survey of disabilities in beekeepers.

It's about a 10 to 15 minute survey that you can go on and take it and say you're a beekeeper and you have a disability or you don't have a disability. We ask everyone to fill it out, even if you do not have a disability, because it gives us a better number of if 200 people out of 1,000 say that they have a disability it gives us a benchmark for saying, "That percentage of people are suffering with disabilities." That can grow year to year. We're doing this survey every year ,usually after the Bee Informed partnership colony loss survey.

Kim: For people listening today, if you know somebody that has a disability, or you yourself listeners have an issue, or if you don't, go to the webpage and help these people. Give them the information that they're asking for. More data is always better than less. If you know somebody who's going through this, get them headed in that same direction because, like I said, more data is always better than not enough. The more they have, the more information they'll be able to put into what direction to go next, what things do we need first, second and third that sort of thing. Right?

Justin: Yes, and it will give us a direction on where to start putting the grant money. If we have more people say they're beekeeping from a wheelchair then we may have to start off with writing grants for helping people with building accessible apiaries for wheelchairs. Most people just put their apiaries on a flat piece of ground in the grass which, if it rains or anything, it's not accessible. I did want to mention that the survey is from May 4th to June 30th. Depending on how the responses go that may be extended, the survey may be extended a little bit longer.

There is a prize drawing at the end of the survey. When you go to the survey and you take it they ask you if you would like to input your email to be entered into this prize drawing. If you go onto the webpage it actually has a survey tab at the top that tells you what the prizes are. They're all beekeeping related, from local businesses around the country. We have Guardian Bee Apparel donated a full suit and we had HillCo in Indiana donate a full hive. Bearsville Bees and some authors donated books. At the end we're going to do prize drawings and it's like a thank you for taking time to help us be successful and here's a little way that we can pay you back as a group.

Jeff: Justin, how can a bee club help or change their program to help beekeepers with disabilities?

Justin: That's an important question. One of my goals is, granted that we're able to make this all happen, is in each state I want to have at least one experimental apiary that they can have people with disabilities come to and see how it's set up so that they can learn how they can change theirs. One way that clubs can help is to, actually, if they have a bit of land that they could donate to making something like this. The other thing is making it level, sometimes adding pavers, garden cloth down and pavers for weeds makes it easier for somebody with a wheelchair or a bad back, or maybe a limp, to be able to maneuver around the bees.

Spacing is important. You don't want everything to be too close together so that somebody in a wheelchair can't maneuver or somebody with anxiety, for example, gets overwhelmed with everything going on. It's like, I guess for me as somebody with a disability, when I go to work on a hive that has to be my only focus. I can't worry about bumping into the hive next to me or any other issue that might happen with something surrounding me. They can bring people to their apiaries and show them the basics with the Langstroth hive, but most likely the disabled beekeeper is going to struggle using that type of hive.

If they're able to bring multiple hive types into their club apiary and learn how to use them, somebody can come to you and say, "I have this disability. I would like to start beekeeping," and they can go for six months and learn how to keep bees on a hive that fits their disability before going out and spending money, because 9 times out of 10, if you have a disability that's affecting you, your finances aren't as great as you would like them to be.

Jeff: Well, true. I was thinking this would be a wonderful program for many state beekeeping organizations and the state university extension service, where there're often those types of programs or many types of programs available.

Justin: Yes. I'm actually working with National AgrAbility. They are in 25 college campuses across the United States. Every time the bid comes back up universities have to bid to house AgrAbility in their university here in Virginia. It's in Virginia tech, and then Michigan state university has it in Michigan. There's one in California and Colorado, and what they do is they're starting to make a swing to accessible beekeeping. At first, they started with farmers and agriculture and how to make farming accessible to people with limitations. I went to them, we had a mutual interest of making beekeeping accessible. We made a community of interest group that meets once a month.

If anybody's interested in joining that community of interest, it is nonprofits, engineers, different people in the beekeeping community that all have the same goal of making beekeeping accessible. We meet once a month and we talk about how to help each other. For example, how we can all grow as one in making sure that veterans and the general public have the resources they need to be successful.

Kim: How do I get in touch with that group?

Justin: That's a good question. We just had our first meeting last week, and I'm not sure that it's on the AgrAbility community of interest page.

Kim: I'll bet you you're going to get it on your webpage tomorrow, aren't you? Well, that would be good information to have. Your webpage would be the perfect place for people to go look for it. I think one of the other things that I would hope that will come out of this group, or some faction of it, would be, basically, long ago and far away I wrote extension bulletins for a living, and I can see an extension bulletin coming out, designing a bee-yard for challenged people, disability people. The things that you just mentioned, the distance between hives, the level, the solid rock, all of those things and a hundred that I'm not aware of, so that a group, you mentioned a group in the state, would have someplace to start to start.

"This is the location we need, and these are the things we're going to need to put in it," and then take it from there. I hope that would be an excellent tool to really produce for your group.

Jeff: It really would. Wouldn't that be a fabulous showcase apiary, for universities and colleges to have a beekeeping apiary for beekeepers with disabilities or accessible apiary that they can showcase showing the different types of hive types, where the long Langstroth may be on a tilt mechanism that their engineering folks could design? Other hive types, the AZ hive, the Slovenian hive, you name it, or some other hive that's yet to be designed for accessibility. That would be fabulous.

Justin: That's my goal. The grants I'm putting in that I want to find land or somebody to donate land in each state so that we can start this. Unfortunately at the beginning, it may be that somebody with a disability would have to travel a little bit to get to this apiary. The experimental apiary that I'm setting up here in Virginia will be my personal one that I'm doing for the YouTube channel. This season we're collecting all the hives. The videos will be on first thoughts, how to work with the hive, all without bees in it. Then next spring, we'll start getting packages and nukes and having people sponsor a hive on these apiaries to show people what it's like to just get the box and go, "Now what do we need to do to prepare for the bees?" Then have the bees and go, "Now, how do we take care of them?"

I'm going to be blunt because I can't help you if I'm not. I have to say, "This hive is not working for me. This hive is working for me." For example, the Langstroth hive, really difficult to do from a wheelchair, but they do have lifts that clamp onto Langstroth. Some are mechanical, some are manual crank that you will lift off the tops, all the honey supers at once. You can move it out of the way, and then you can get into the brood boxes just by itself, and then use the lifts to put the boxes back on and you're not doing all that lifting.

Kim: Wow. Well, it would be one way to tackle that problem, if that was, I'm going to say your only option. I can see, I'm not going to say better choices, but choices that would make that task simpler. I wonder Jeff, we have interviewed over the last several years a lot of people who have electronic information embedded in their hives. I'm betting that some of that would also make this easier for people without having to go to the bee yard to see if things are okay. You just check your computer or your phone and say, "Yes, things are fine, or not. I need to go." I can see where that might also be beneficial.

Jeff: It definitely opens up another area for the sensor manufacturers to consider their products. Whether their sensor and their sensor reporting information is ADA compliant or is it accessible compliant? Does it meet those requirements for the visually impaired or whoever? It opens up a whole new field for those products. Yes, you're absolutely right.

Kim: Not only that but, Justin, I'm thinking that your group that meets once a month could probably come up with a fairly concise list of the requirements that would meet the standards for dealing with disabled people. What is that called, you just mentioned Jeff?

Jeff: Well, I said ADA compliant, but I don't think that's right for the websites.

Kim: I guess what I'm thinking, Justin, is this ADA group would probably be beneficial, would benefit this ADA group if they had a list of the things that a bee yard for disabled people must have, should have, and would be good to have. Some different levels of accessibility. I can see your group coming up with that list also at the same time, "This is what a bee yard requires, but this is what the ADA requires, minimum standards, maximum," that sort of thing. Does that make any sense?

Justin: Yes, that makes total sense. Give a guideline to bee clubs that say, "Hey, if you want your apiary to be accessible, this is what you need." Typical wheelchairs can fit through 44 inch doors so the spacing between your hives needs to be at least 45 to 50 inches. Stuff like that.

Jeff: That would be definitely be a great first video in your YouTube series on accessibility and bee yards. How to design an accessible bee yard, I think would be so valuable. So cool.

Kim: Well, you got us going here, Justin. What have we missed in all of this that we've talked about?

Justin: We talked about the survey. We talked about accessible beekeeping, the community of interest. I just want to talk about my books.

Kim: Justin. Jeff, have you seen Justin's books?

Jeff: No, I haven't. No.

Kim: Well, you're missing a treat and a half. Justin sent me one a while back and it was Henry Meets Bee. Was that the title?

Justin: Honeybee.

Kim: Henry was the star of the book, but Henry is a bee, correct? If I'm recalling.

Justin: Henry is a boy that turns into a bee to be able to follow a queen bee around and learn about pollination, the roles of the drones, queens, and worker bees, and the different jobs of the worker bees within the hive.

Kim: We reviewed it at Bee Culture when it first came out and he has two more now that are available. One is called Honey Teaches Beekeeping and Honey Teaches Beekeeping to Kids, two different books. It's an excellent illustration, it's good information, easy to sit down with a child and read, lots of pictures. Lots of, "Can you find?" little things in there that are fun to do as kids. Where can I get these books?

Justin: They can be ordered from or from Amazon. My mother makes me sign every book that comes out of my house.


Kim: That's good.

Justin: I can't offer a signed copy if you order from Amazon but I can offer a signed copy if you order from Hippie Chick Apiary.

Kim: That's good. They're not terribly expensive. Like I said, they're easy to use with the child and full of good information and exceptional art. I'm going to guess some of these will be used to teach some of the people that you're teaching beekeeping?

Justin: Yes, sir. Part of my grant money is to get to a point where we can purchase these books and donate them to kids that we give talks to.

Kim: It's good.

Jeff: Justin, you do have a podcast. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your podcast as well? Since we're on a podcast let's do some cross-pollination. [laughs]

Justin: I don't know how I forgot about that. I started Accessible Beekeeping and More. It is a podcast for disabled beekeepers. Myself and my co-host Jonathan Bennett, usually every Wednesday around 7:00 PM we do a live YouTube interview with a beekeeper with disabilities, with authors of beekeeping, with businesses that are designing accessible hardware. Some of the disabilities that we have have been CMT. We've had two blind beekeepers, we've had beekeepers who've had strokes, we've had beekeepers from the UK and from Australia come on our podcast. It's a lot of fun to talk to people about how they have been successful in beekeeping despite the limitations that their disabilities have put on them.

Kim: A lot of those interviews on your webpage. I encourage people to take a look at them because there's a broad range of information available there.

Jeff: The podcast's available not only on your website but I also noticed that it's available on Apple Podcast as well. It's readily available for anybody who wants to listen. I do encourage our listeners to look for Accessible Beekeeping and More if you have anybody in your life who would benefit from those podcasts. Anything else Justin?

Justin: I do want to say that nonprofit officially received its 501(c)(3) status that is backdated to March 22, 2022. If you are interested or willing to make a small donation to help us build assessable apiaries and start helping out people with disabilities, you're able to go to the website and the donation page. Any donation that you make will be tax-exempt and you'll receive a receipt at the end of the year with our tax-exempt information.

Kim: It makes life simple for people who want to help, which is good. Definitely.

Jeff: Well, Justin, we really appreciate having you on the show today. I enjoyed talking to you. I think the work that you're doing and that you're kicking off here is really important. Really, frankly, overlooked. I'm glad that you've picked up the torch and carrying it for people who will benefit from the accessible beekeeping.

Justin: Thank you. I appreciate being here. One of the things that we are doing, just a quick thing, is going to different bee conferences and we'll have our table set up to explain what the nonprofit is doing and have t-shirts available as well. If you happen to go to any beekeeping conferences, keep an eye out for us. We may be there depending on what our schedule is like.

Jeff: Real good.

Kim: Well, I'm also, Justin, I'm thinking if you put that information on your webpage, "We're going to be at the Florida meeting or the Tennessee meeting," or whatever, people could say, "Now I know where they are. I can go there."

Justin: That's a great idea. Thank you.


Jeff: Well, Justin, thanks for being on the podcast today. We look forward to having you back and having regular updates.

Justin: Thank you so much.

Kim: Thank you, Justin. It was a good time.

Justin: Thank you both.

Jeff: I'm glad we had Justin on the show. I'll be honest, and I probably am repeating myself, I didn't even think about beekeeping for those with disabilities or accessible beekeeping until we talked to Jonna and she talked about how beneficial having those AZ Hives was. That was the first time I thought, "Well, geez, there's a whole world of people out there that would benefit from this type of beekeeping."

Kim: Not only that, definitely that, but just talking about it and talking to Justin today, I'm thinking out loud as we were going along as the things that are needed to serve that community. We mentioned the extension bulletin, and we mentioned, state associations having a bee yard with the right kinds of hives and a class once a year or something. There's lots to do. A lot has been done but there's lots to do. I hope people get motivated after listening to what Justin's got going here.

Jeff: Even everything from the hive makers to tool manufacturers, when they start considering beekeeping for those with disabilities, or accessible beekeeping is probably the more politically correct term, there's improvements that can be made. I think those would be really valuable.

Kim: Definitely. There you are equipment people and manufacturing people. There's a whole world of new beekeepers out there waiting for you to start producing stuff that they can use.


Jeff: I like it. Well, that about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcast or wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find this quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any web page. As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

We want to thank our regular episode sponsor Global Patties. Check them out at Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of this podcast. Check out their probiotic line at We want to thank Better Bee for their longtime support. Check out all their great beekeeping supplies at Thanks to Northern Bee Books for their support of Bee Books Old and New with Kim Flottum. Check out all of their books at

Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener, for joining us on the show. Feel free to leave us comments and questions at leave a comment section under each episode on the website. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks a lot, everybody.

[00:48:46] [END OF AUDIO]

Justin RugerProfile Photo

Justin Ruger

Author / host

I started beekeeping with my mother after my traumatic brain injury in 2015 for therapeutic reasons. in October 2020, I had a stroke that affected the right side of my body. For therapy, I wrote and illustrated, Henry Meets a Honey Bee, that I released in October 2021 to educate children about honey bees.

March 2022, I started a podcast, Beekeeping With Disabilities and More! that aims to connect disabled beekeepers and teach them how to adapt and live their life as beekeepers.