There was one time when one mentioned YouTube beekeepers, the immdiate image was one of misinformation, mockery, and mistakes. But that is no longer the rule. There are great beekeepers producing great YouTube content, one of them is our guest today,...
There was one time when one mentioned YouTube beekeepers, the immdiate image was one of misinformation, mockery, and mistakes. But that is no longer the rule. There are great beekeepers producing great YouTube content, one of them is our guest today, Fred Dunn.
Fred lives in Northwest Pennsylvania, with his many bee hives and numerous chickens, ducks and other critters. Fred joins us today to talk his life with bees and his YouTube channel.
If you like watching YouTube and are looking for a good, reliable beekeeper to follow, Fred's channel is one you do not want to miss!
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:
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Podcast music: Be Strong by Young Presidents; Epilogue by Musicalman; Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus; A Fresh New Start by Pete Morse; Wedding Day by Boomer; Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott
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Jeff Ott: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 Flottum:I'm Kim Flottum.
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Jeff:Thank you, Sherry, and thanks to Bee Culture for continuing their presenting sponsorship to this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. A quick thanks to all of our sponsors whose support enables us to bring you this podcast each week without resorting to a fee-based subscription. We don't want that, and we know you don't either.
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Hey, we sure are glad you joined the show today, and we have a great one lined up for you. Before we get to it, we need your help. We are asking our listeners. Yes, you. You sitting there listening to us with your headphones or your earbuds or driving down the road in your car, and you're saying there, "Well, how can you help?" Let me tell you, that's easy. Just use your cell phone, your computer, your tablet, whatever you listen to the podcast, and record a brief opening message welcoming listeners to the show. State your name and where you live, and be creative, have some fun with it.
For even more fun, you can even ask your local club or regional club to join you in the opening. Now, that would really make it memorable. Just make sure it's audible. Send your audio file to firstname.lastname@example.org, and listen for it in the next couple of weeks. You may just hear yourself opening the next episode of Beekeeping Today Podcast.
Hey, Kim, do you subscribe to or watch anything on YouTube?
Kim:Boy, I've got to tell you, Jeff, hardly ever.
Kim:It's not because I don't like what I see there, and there are lots of good things going on, but there's only 24 hours in a day, and I'm sleeping 12 of them.
Jeff:[laughs] Oh, 12 of them? Oh my gosh. I can't imagine.
Kim:Who's there that you like?
Jeff:Early on, YouTube was full of really funny weird things, and it was not the best place to get good beekeeping advice. In fact, you could pretty much say that about anything on YouTube, you have to look at it with a critical eye because there are some really good influencers on YouTube and specifically for beekeeping. We talked to Kamon Reynolds late last year, and coming up in just a few moments, is another YouTube beekeeper, Fred Dunn. Fred has a really good channel on YouTube. You need to check that out, Kim.
Kim:I remember the show with Kamon. In fact, someplace I was reading that one of the YouTube channels, both Fred and Kamon are going to be on a show together. I remember Kamon's show, he was pretty spectacular. I think this will probably be even better, so I'm looking forward to learning more about what Fred does.
Jeff:Fred's a photographer. His background is photography, so he does have some really good video to go along with the lessons that he provides. Look forward to talking to Fred.
Kim:Oh, Jeff, just want to let people know our new blog was up on Going Planet media's web page. It's on climate change, bees and beekeepers, and beekeeping. We're looking at not so much climate change. What is it, but what's it doing to the people that keep bees, what it's doing to bees, what it's going to do to beekeeping, and then what it's going to do to the people that need beekeeping and beekeepers. Check it out.
Jeff:I'm looking forward to reading this, Kim. It's been something you've been working on for quite a while. We've mentioned it on the podcast, and folks can go out to our website at growingplanetmedia.com and check the blog page, and you can read up on Kim's articles on the climate change and its effects on bees and beekeeping.
Jeff:Well, all of that's coming up. First, a quick word from our sponsors.
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Jeff:While you're at the Strong Microbial site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive, their regular newsletter full of interesting beekeeping facts and product updates. Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. Sitting across the virtual Zoom table right now is somebody I know that you'll be wanting to hear, Frederick Dunn, from Way To Bee.He has a YouTube channel that you probably familiar with. Fred, welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast.
Fred Dunn:Hi, Jeff. Thank you so much for that invitation, and welcome. I'm really happy to be here with you and Kim. I'm just honored to be a part of your program, so thanks for having me on.
Kim:It's good to finally meet you, Mr. Dunn.
Fred:Thank you, Kim.
Jeff:So formal, Kim, you never call me Mr. Ott. All right. Well, that's good. I can go with it.
Kim:Well, there's reasons, Jeff.
Jeff:We won't go into those, that's for sure. Well, Fred, thank you for joining us on the show. You have a real fine YouTube channel. I really enjoyed watching it. You have a very calm personality, which is fun to see, and listen to on the YouTube channel on your videos. I can see where you come in as naturally as a beekeeper, your personality just fits in perfectly with the bees.
Fred:Being calm as an individual, I think you already know, does impact the way you interact with bees, or any wild animals as far as that goes. The more calm and deliberate you are in the way you interact, that has a calming effect, and a ripple effect through all the animals that you're around, honeybees included.
Kim:You got that exactly right. Fred, let me go back to the beginning. How did you get into bees?
Fred:Well, thanks for that question, Kim. Actually, it goes back to-- I've always had a general interest in all animals, so including wasps, and bees, and ants, and other social insects, but when the documentary came out about colony collapse disorder, and one of our biggest beekeepers in the state of Pennsylvania, Hackenberg had lost so many of his colonies, I got interested in 2006. I'm also a cinematographer and a photographer, so I contacted the Department of Agriculture, and I volunteered my services to go and photograph honeybees, and their different issues, that they were demonstrating in the hive, or in apiary, and made arrangements to meet with some of our state inspectors at apiary inspections, and started documenting honeybees. When we found a condition that was interesting, I photographed it for them, and provided that service for free.
I think the state inspector was a little tired of orchestrating with me because he suggested that I get my own bees, that maybe if I had them closer, I wouldn't have to travel so far, and arrange everything just to show up and get an inspection, and orchestrate all of that. It dawned me that I could get my own bees, and I had my wife's permission, which was really important.
Kim:[laughs] That's always important.
Fred:Yes, so like a lot of people, then I started researching bees. I got desperate to get bees. I wanted them in 2006, I wanted them right away. As we all know, most people get their bees in the spring, I was already looking for bees in mid-summer, late summer, also researching lines of bees. Now keep in mind I had not taken a bee course, I did not have a honey bee-keeping mentor. We had a nature center here, which we still have Asbury Woods, and had a volunteer beekeeper there that ran a weekend course, that later shifted to weekdays. I took that and got a package of bees and started my beekeeping adventure that way primarily, so I could see them up close and have them handy.
Right here on my property, I have 8.5 Acres in farm country dairy, small dairy farms here. We had eight dairy farms on our road here, adding bees was no problem. That's how the obsession began, and just the accessibility of having bees in a hive right on my property. No matter what's going on, I can go out there, and now I can study my own bees. That's how it started.
Kim:You're in Pennsylvania, are you in the east side? West?
Fred:We're in the northwest corner of the state, what they call the snowbelt. If you looked at your EPA, your EPA is 500 feet above sea level. I am at 1,350 feet above sea level, so we get a much more severe weather situation here. I'm considered an Erie County, Pennsylvania.
Jeff:All Right. Fairly familiar with that area.
Kim:It's a good thing you're not close to that train wreck in Ohio.
Fred:Yes, everyone asks about that, the air quality and everything because we do get prevailing winds out of the west here, so they're tracking that.
Kim:I hope it doesn't get as far as you are. I'm beginning to hear some bad things about that so far. At the time you got started, how many you got on that eight acres now, how many colonies?
Fred:How many colonies? I went in winter with 22 colonies, and I'm down to 20.
Kim:That's not a bad winter.
Fred:That is not a bad winter. I belong to the Northwest Pennsylvania Beekeepers Association, so we keep track on winter losses and things like that. We have some side liners there. Losing 80% of your colonies is not unheard of in this neck of the woods. 30% I think is about the average right now, colony loss. If I keep in mind, I don't put a lot of the pressures on my hives, my colonies, that some of the others might because they're not production hives. I'm not pushing them for honey productivity. We don't do pollination, so they're not moved around. They all have static positions. It helps me again keep track of them through the years to see which even positions, landing board directions, hive configurations, things like that.
From 2006 to today, we can get a pretty good consensus, at least in this climate, how different things are working out. My losses have always been very low. I was a treatment-free beekeeper by the way, at the beginning because that just seemed like a holistic way to do it. I did that for 10 years and was losing 50% roughly every year, which still wasn't that much out of sync with what those who were treating were getting. When I started understanding better about varroa destructor pressure on the bees, as far as their health goes, as well as just colony collapse, again, through just the mites ruining my nurse bees, when I started treatment, and accounting for mites at 100% survival the next two years, that was a very dramatic wake-up moment for me.
Jeff:What kind of bees are you running, or do you prefer right now?
Fred:I started years ago with Italians, and they were some of the meanest bees I ever had. Also, they didn't winter well because they were going into winter with huge brood patterns, and brooding it up like they would be full this time of year. Of course, the environment's not supporting those bees, they would require a lot of attention to survive.
Of course, I started looking into survivor line bees, colonies that were making it on their own. I got interested in the BeeWeaver family in Texas and Daniel Weaver, and his treatment-free practices there. There's two, it's kind of a split there. There's R Weaver and then there's Bee Weaver. This is the Bee Weaver group, and they're not actually listed among the survivor lines. We got a list of reputable breeders of queens and things, and The BeeWeaver family wasn't on it, but I watched a seminar that he gave, and his philosophies were sound as far as I was concerned.
I contacted them. They don't ship packages. What I was doing then, I was collecting swarms, and then I was requeening swarms with the B Weber line. The varroa mites counts were very low, so that became my go-to genetic line, when it comes to if I'm buying a queen, and not making my own, I've been going to them.
Jeff:We had Danny on the show in December, known him for quite a few years. They do a good operation down there.
Fred:What impressed me about that family is that they were a multi-generational beekeeping family, and they were willing to take the losses. Even Dr. Sealy kind of pointed out that anyone who takes that approach of genetics only will witness profound losses of your colonies in the onset. Of course, he was studying bees in the Arnot Forest at the time, that the varroa destructor mite showed up. Daniel Weaver did the same thing. The Weaver family just shed thousands of colonies of bees, and worked with what the remnants were, and continued the program that way. That's a bold move when you consider that that is their bread and butter there.
Kim:That was an investment, that's for sure. That's basically how they were looking at it. There's going to be a cost to get there, but once we're there, the cost goes way down really fast. You're right, it would've been a tough choice.
Fred, how did your YouTube show get started? What got into you to do that?
Fred:Actually, the reason I started YouTubing was very different from why I continued to YouTube. I started off with chickens because I'm a poultry technician also, and so I've been raising chickens since the turn of the century. It sounds better when you put it that way.
I actually had a friend that needed me to vote on something that was on YouTube, and the only way to do it was to create a channel. That's why I created the channel, was to vote on someone else's YouTube video. I was teaching about honey bees, and it didn't take very long to realize I don't particularly enjoy having a bunch of people show up at my house wanting to learn about bees. If you wanted to get the word out, and we've all seen the groups. If you've got a fellowship of beekeepers, they show up, and somebody's going to do a hive inspection. 25 people cluster around a hive, and they're not really able to see what's going on.
What I decided was that if I could make videos, I already had the photographic gear and the cinematography equipment, if I could show them close-up in a way that probably they wouldn't even see them if they were looking at it just with their glasses or in a normal bee suit, not only would I reach more people with that, but it's there forever. That's good and bad, by the way. The good is that the image quality is there, and the documentation is there. Your opinion and instruction about what's going on in the hive may change.
I know that Kim grew up knowing everything about bees, and that never would've been a problem for him, but for me, if you change your method as you go now, YouTube's forever, so the mistakes are forever as well. Early on, they couldn't even comment the way you do today. That just became my way of reaching out to more people with a very simple video.
The other part of it is it also became my bee diary. We all have to document, we've got a lot of different methods.
People are using IT, they've got it on their phones, their logs for keeping bees. For me, if I'm making a video as part of my log just to show what's going on with a particular hive, that also helps me tie in exactly what the progress of that hive is, oh yes, I did a YouTube on that September three years ago. How is it going? How is it configured? You actually get to see a condensed history of the apiary.
Jeff:I do a presentation on using technology in the bee yard, it's changed a lot since any of us started. One of the easiest pieces of technology anybody has, and you alluded to it, is just using the video on your cell phone. Even if you do nothing with it, you can go back and look at your video from last year, what was this colony doing last year? What was it I saw last year? Look at it on the video. I'd like that approach of documenting it through the video.
Fred:There are apps in development. I don't know if you're familiar with the BeeScanning app. BeeScanning is where you actually take pictures of the frames, and they identify anomalies on the surface of the frame. It can identify a breed disease. It's a work in progress. It requires you to use your cell phone, and in four sections, take photos of a frame. It records the history of that, but they also alert you when they see a mite, which we think is flawed, obviously, because the mites are usually on the abdomen, they're in the nurse bees, things like that, but they prorate that. The good news is if you do see a mite with that BeeScanning shot, you have a problem because that means it was on the back of the bee. It was on the back of its abdomen or somewhere where it was visible.
That's a valuable tool, too. Yes, I agree that cell phones have-- I buy my cell phones based on the cameras that come with them. I don't care about anything else it does. It's handy. You mentioned earlier on the Hive Life Conference. I did a video of that conference, and I did the whole thing with my cell phone. Nobody looking at that presentation would know that that's how it was done. We are definitely advanced there.
Jeff:Let's take this quick break for a word from one of our sponsors, and we'll be right back with Fred.
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Kim:Fred, now you know why I'm not the technician in this organization here. Jeff has got all of that down. My use of the cell phone is much like yours in taking pictures, recording something that I haven't seen before, or documenting that I've seen it. Of course, you can get lots of information from that. When I'm working with people who are just starting out, I encourage them to take pictures of every frame with brood on i, and try to anticipate colony growth. Take a picture, come back 12 days later, take a picture 12 days later, so that you can see how the queen is doing. You can see how the population of the colony is going.
That's about it for me and technology, but even that information is very worthwhile, I think. I've had a number of people who I encouraged them to take pictures and I said, and then begin practice estimating the percent of brood on that frame. If 75 % full, and you've got how many cells, then you know about how many cells. Very quickly they learned how to go through a colony, very quickly and see how good their queen is growing.
Just scanning your YouTube page, I couldn't find something you haven't covered. You've covered a lot of ground in the time that you've been at that. What was your favorite? What was your least favorite, and what's coming up next? I guess that's a good way to look at this.
Fred:I'm glad, Kim, that you asked for my favorite because we're talking about cinematic moments because I have a dream sheet of behaviors, and things I want to catch, and I go after it with micro and macro equipment, and some of the favorites are super slow motion. We shoot at 1,000 frames per second, which means that a 6-second activity is really a minute and 10 seconds in real time, once you load it up. That lets us see behaviors and things.
One of the things I really wanted to do that I captured that's on my channel, is a lot of people don't know about skunk cabbage. I don't know what you guys know about it. It's a warm-blooded plant. It comes up through the wetlands, and it'll melt its way through the snow. I like thermal cameras because I like to know what's going on thermally, so I can see which bees are the heater bees, and exactly how much heating they're doing, and over what period of time. That's aside from the sequence I wanted to get was in the wetlands, crawling around in the mud in the wet, I wanted to get a honey bee going into the skunk cabbage, which creates a little sauna around the polling anthers.
You'd be all set up, and you fix on one of those. Now, maybe there's 50 skunk cabbage, and off in your periphery, you see another bee fly out and take off. There's a learning curve. I picked one that just looked right. Here's what I did. I went downwind of the skunk cabbage, and I smelled for the strongest one. We know our olfactory senses are much reduced compared to what a bee can do, but I figured the smelliest one, that's the one that's going to draw in a bee. I set up all my equipment, lay it down at eye level with the skunk cabbage, which is only about three or four inches tall, and just fixed-focused everything right there, and once you know a bee flew in, and I got my circumstances a year ago.
That's a big moment for me. Other people might yawn and think, "Okay, you got to be in a skunk cabbage. Way to go, Fred."
The other thing is I wanted to get, getting a queen emerging from her queen cell. I haven't gotten that yet. I do have queens leaving the landing board when the colony is swarming. I've got that three times. Now, my next goal is just to get that even better. I want to see the behavior of the bees while they're waiting for the queen to come out during the swarm because we know they're facing the hive, and they're impatient, and some are even going back in the hive, and then coming back out, and then hovering, facing the hive. All of these tells about the queen about to emerge, and when she comes out, and then who's in charge when they go.
The swarm dynamic is exciting for me too, and I want to fill the screen with that. I've gotten that too. Trophallaxis, that's fun to video. I have three observation hives, which, of course, let me look at what's going on inside, and by having three, I know that something's going to be going on in one of them. They're all inside the same building, and that lets me check them out.
Kim:Have you seen on the landing board when they're waiting for the queen to come out, several of them, they're just walking in place. Their legs are going up and down, but they're not going forward or backward. They're just, "Come on, come on, come on. Let's go." [laughs]
Fred:Yes, and what you're doing there, Kim, is admitting that you've had a lot of time on your hands.
The ability to observe those body gestures, the movements of their appendages, all of that stuff is really exciting about beekeeping. You can be at this forever. I mean, I have not been at this as long as either of you have, but I'm excited every day just to go out there, and the ability to see something new, and then this is where the camera is so important, that's your witness. You could go and talk to a bunch of beekeepers at a meeting and say, "I just saw a worker bee inside the hive beep a forager that was in doing the waggle dance, and stop that forager from waggle dancing." Then you'd get a picture. If you don't have pictures and videos of these behaviors, your integrity could be challenged.
Kim:Let's go the other direction. What's the, maybe not the least favorite, but maybe the hardest program that you put together that is memorable?
Fred:The hardest, of course, are the long-term studies because when I put together a video for social media, I've never liked it when you're watching something and say, "This is part one. Check back in for parts two and three," and then two and three, look at their channel, and it never came along. I have long duration 10-minute videos, that took six months to do. That's because I'm showing the progress of something that takes that long, and I do it in one video. I don't want someone to have to tune back in.
Videos that span a season, I'm working on them right now that we start in the fall, and then, of course, the finish of that sequence will be in April or May, so it's a patience game, but anything that requires long-term observation, those are the most challenging because anything can happen. The one colony that you pick that you're going to tell a story about, is the one that absconds and fall, or the queen dies, or they're raided by wasps, which if you can get that, that's a bridge in cinematography. That's a challenge, and that is dynamic in itself.
I have a lot of cameras out that let me know what's going on, so I won't miss the activity. I've taken down my bear fence because I want to observe wildlife now with-- I have sound repellers that come on at night, so any movement around the apiary, 115 DBs, bears don't like noise. They don't care about flashing lights, they don't care about a spotlight coming on. They'll still come into your apiary, but noise bothers a bear. Then that's an unachieved goal right now, is to get the bear's reaction to that.
Now, on the dark side, if the bear prevailed, and came into my bee yard and tore everything apart with all the alarms going off, I still have an epic video sequence.
Even your failures are successful, to some degree.
Kim:I guess what I'm thinking is someone who has lots of time on their hands, but I can see why you need lots of times to capture those things, and then to maintain continuity through a whole season. I don't have that much patience. I don't think I could do that. No, I know I don't have enough patience to do that.
Fred:I have another example that just came to mind, and this is where proximity counts. This is why my bees are 85 feet from where I'm sitting right now. As soon as you decide you want to capture something specific, that will never happen. It's like snake hunting. We were talking earlier about snakes. Someone will tell you, this place is infested with snakes, you get in there, you're going to get one in five minutes. You show up, there's not a snake around. My goal was I wanted to get a shrew. The short-tailed shrew, because I like to find out what can get into your hive, what can eat your bees, how big the entrance is that allows them in. Motion activated cameras, that means you have to be ready to roll out of bed, and get out there with your equipment at 3:00 AM, if that's what it takes. It's 3:30 the morning, I got my shrew.
The reason you have to move quickly if you live-catch something, something like that has a meteoric metabolism, it's going to die in captivity in just a matter of hours. You have to get out there, and get that sequenced, but also what that gave me, was an opportunity to figure out how small an opening they can get through to get into a bee hive. We know the evidence of a shrew eating out your bee hive would be either heads are removed, their thorax is cleaned out, and there's piles of them on the bottom. Then we find out that it's not enough, there's a short-tailed shrew, which is a venomous mammal, but we also have the pygmy shrew.
People that lose bees are convinced that it was a pygmy shrew, but if we determine that a pygme shrew can't even get still through a three-eighths inch opening, we've arrived at an opening size that prevents all mice, and all shrews at three-eights lof an inch, and so now we don't need a mouse guard. It becomes practical information as well as sensational, as far as video goes.
Kim:I've seen results of shrews programs people have done, but I don't think I've ever had one. I would have waited a long time.
Fred:You've hit it right there, Kim. Nobody sees them. It's because of the way this animal lives, and moves, and 80% of them die through winter, is as you can hear them in the fields. You hear them squeaking, and there's a very distinctive thing, plus they communicate ultrasonically. I went down the rabbit hole of trying to get ultrasonic recording equipment, which, if anyone has a good idea of where I can find that, because I thought then I would just record the ultrasound, and modulate it down, so we can hear it, but no, because they use ecolocation to find their way through tunnels, and find their way around. The shrews are all that blind.
That is scary, and really fascinating, the way they use sound to find their prey.
Kim:What kind of cameras are you using? You're using video capture?
Fred:Yes. It depends on what I'm after. I use Sony equipment, but I'm also a Nikon pro. I get Nikon equipment before it releases to the public. I have Ultramacro gear. Since it's just us talking, and no one else is going to hear it,-
Fred:- there's a Nikon body, the Z9 is a mirrorless camera, which I have. The cool thing about that is most people that have photographic equipment, if we're shooting insects in flight, your fastest exposure is going to be an 8000th of a second. With this camera, I can shoot my exposure up to a 30000th of a second, which for a honeybee in flight, but now we have to have what's called fast glass, so you need really good lenses that shoot wide open, that can shoot that fast, and we can do it in daylight. That's my goal this year going forward, is I want stop action in flight, full frame photos with the Nikon Z9. That's one piece of kit that I'm really excited to have just because it opens up.
You can be a great photographer, and there's always people that will say, "Well, it's not the camera, it's the shooter." Okay then, you go get that instamatic that still shoots film, and I'll take the Z9, and let's go see what happens. Equipment, and Kim mentioned this earlier, technology has advanced our ability to see what's going on, to capture what's going on, and to share what's going on. That's part of in my channel, what I'm doing. So many people know about bees, so I need to find a way to show the bee closer in a different light in a way that others may not be seeing it, so that makes it exciting for me, and then exciting for the viewers.
Jeff:Are you editing all your own video?
Fred:I do all of my own post-production, yes. To answer your question, yes, I'm working seven days a week. Kim, I do not have a lot of time on my hands.
Yes, I do. I use Adobe Premiere Pro for my cinematic work, and I have the whole Adobe Suite, so I can use audition aftereffects, everything.
Jeff:The production value shows in the work that you do, that you really come at this at a pro thinking level. You're thinking it through, it's not just lap together videos done solely on a cell phone. It's not a TikTok video, for sure. I appreciate that and what you're producing, Fred, it's really nice.
Fred:Thanks, I appreciate that.
Kim:I enjoy the final product, but getting there is way beyond my comprehension, so I'll just watch if that's okay.
Fred:That's fine, Kim. I completely get it.
Jeff:You've kept bees since around 2006, and you've obviously kept them a lot, and you're doing a lot of work with them. You look back through the years, and you're looking forward, what do you see changing, and where do you think today's beekeepers are going? What are they going to be experiencing in the next couple of years, that you're going to help them through?
Fred:What I noticed too is, of course, this has to do with what your goal is with beekeeping. There's a gray area in sideliner beekeepers, there's the commercial beekeepers that want to make money off their hives, and that's an entirely different kind of pressure. Then there are people like myself, that want to just know more about bees every day, and it's for the joy of beekeeping, I guess would be. I think if we look at the numbers, we're talking about more beekeepers are backyard beekeepers. More bees are controlled by commercial beekeepers.
We have a niche of people, I think COVID had a lot to do with it, to be honest. People were staying home, they were looking for things to do on their property, and if they lived in a rural area, a lot of urban areas are trying to help people keep bees in their backyard. I don't always know if that's a great thing, but we're headed with bees towards, the long game is genetics. I think we hit on that early. The varroa destructor mite was the number one cause of bee failure. Understanding what kind of pressures your bees are under, but then the big picture seems so daunting, and that's that we have environmental issues.
We have agricultural practices that are working against bees, not just bees, all pollinators, so it's the big picture. That's what I hope when I'm talking to beekeepers that are back yarders. That's the focus of my channel, is because I want to open you up to thinking about the entire thing. You talk about the canary and the coal mine, and when that canary dies in that cage, you get out of that coal mine. That's not what we're doing. They're resuscitating the canary, and they're keeping it there.
We're not altering the environment that the canary is in to make it safe. We need to change the way we're thinking about that, and look at the entire picture, air quality, diversity, forest for your bees, which benefits everything, that's the whole-- Our agricultural practices are working against us, but the almighty dollar drives it. That's also why we know about bees, and why we have bees in this country, is because they're worth so much.
That's the split, not everyone is like me who just wants to learn about bees, because some people need their hobby to earn an income. I spend way more than I earn on my bees, and I'm not ashamed to say it.
I think the backyard, where's it headed? We seem to be teaching everyone everything there is that we know to share about bees, and it's becoming incredibly complex. I don't know if it has to be that complex. This is, again, the divide. People want simplicity, they want to know the very basics, and they want an absolute answer, which we all know in beekeeping is almost non-existent. Everyone is finding their fan club, and locking in, and staying with their fan club when it comes to how to manage and care for bees. That's why we have the horizontal hive group, we got the layens hive group, the long-layens straws group, slow hives, which aren't even allowed in some bee clubs, and then, of course, the standard layens straws hives.
This is all interesting to me because here's what I could tell you what my dream sheet is. That people would accept all beekeepers' opinions, and allow everyone to be at the same table in keeping bees, regardless of what your feeling is about whether an Apimaye hive is too much plastic, or if you want to only keep yourself in a top bar hive. There's no reason these people can work together, because the biology of the organism is at the center of all beekeeping.
I think that regardless of how you house your bees, you're going to be able to contribute and learn from those who are practicing beekeeping.
Jeff:That's a great message.
Kim:If there's a caveat there at all, it's that I finally got it figured out, and then the world changed with climate change. [laughs]
Fred:Classic example. We had the lowest snow fall here since 1847. Climate shift, climate change, which means our bees need to be durable, and our housing practices are almost all-weather housing practices, but then we'll notice that treatments small hive beetles are heavy on the south, I don't have them here. Not everyone has the same experience, and not everyone has the same goals, but if we focus on the biology of the bee, what makes it healthy, then we can get a good core that we can move forward from.
I think bee genetics are going to play heavy, but again, not everyone is on board with it. The state of Florida has done dramatic things as far as controlling bee genetics, not allowing people to collect swarms, keep their queens that come with a swarm. They're required to requeen because they have to control, they've got a state program, which I hope where I live that doesn't happen. I also understand the logic behind why that happens with the Africanized genetics, and things they're dealing with down there.
I think that in the long term, I also think all our bees are becoming so hybridized that you almost can't identify a line anymore. People say, I've got butt first, I've got all these others, but you see these mixed traits. I don't know how they're able to control their queen finishing yards, and then their drone yards and everything else, and realizing that a queen could, if she needed to, fly up to nine miles. The genetic controls are not as simple as a lot of people would like to present them, as being so simple and controllable because these drones are also flying different places.
I think trying to work regionally, locally, and recycling back your own adapted bees, and then hope that these weather extremes that come along don't unhorse that practice.
Kim:Isolation's tough anywhere you go, I think.
Jeff:Unless you're sitting on an island somewhere 10 miles out in the ocean.
Fred:That's why so many studies happen on Hawaii because they have so much control. I think it's because people hate the climate there. Researchers do not want to be sent to Hawaii, but they pretend that it's necessary because of the environmental isolation.
Kim:Isolation is the problem. Most of us have zero chance of controlling that if our colonies requeen themselves, or we bring in a queen and change the biology of the area a little bit for a little bit, and then it's back to where it was. How do I find you? Where do I find all of these slow-motion pictures?
Fred:The YouTube channel is Frederick Dunn, F-R-E-D-E-R-I-C-K D-U-N-N, and the channel, I have a website, which is thewaytobee.org.
Fred:You can just Google Frederick Dunn, and find everything. You might find in there that I'm also a portrait photographer. That's the same guy, you didn't hit the wrong thing. Yes, I take wedding pictures, which is really funny because I've had people think they recognize me at a wedding, not understanding that I would be the photographer, and they're not believing me when I say that I am the bee guy.
Jeff:Yes, I really am. Well, we'll have links to your YouTube channel, and The Way to Tee website, and even your portrait website. Those will be in the show notes. Folks, you can find that there. I'll go ahead and do this for Kim because I know he's just jonesing in to do this. Let's talk about poultry.
I'm going to step back, and let you and Kim talk about chickens and ducks for a few minutes. You both have that in common. Kim has a grudge full of chickens.
Fred:You're keeping them, okay.
Kim:We've had them, I don't know, quite a while. We go ups and downs. Population gets older and older and older, and then pretty soon you have to start over again. That's okay. I enjoy it. Interestingly, I'll just tell you this, and then I'll get out of your way. The last batch that we got, we had one that was born crippled. She couldn't walk straight. She flopped on one leg, and Kathy said, "Well, let's keep her and see what happens."
Well, of course, she did never learn to lay eggs, and she could just barely get around to eat, but she managed to survive, and then thrive.
Early this week, she wasn't there one morning. You look for hawks or something, looking for a pile of feathers out in the yard or whatever,and I don't think she ran away because she couldn't run. We're trying to solve that mystery, but what do you do with chickens? You said you had them at home?
Fred:Yes. It used to be at the turn of the century, it was Fred's Reds. I just did Rhode Island Reds because they had this great maritime history. A lot of people don't realize that poultry are the oldest judged livestock in the United States. There is the poultry fancy, which is poultry competition, and that's where we get our American standard of perfection, which lists all the different breeds that are recognized by the standard, and their origins.
There's a bunch of American breeds, the Plymouth Rocks, the Rhode Island Red, the leg ones are not. Those are Mediterranean bird, but those are where most of your eggs are coming from.
Purebred poultry is one thing that's really exciting to have. I've had as many as 70 at a time, and we represented 13 different countries. I did a DVD called Regarding Chickens, which takes you from eggs to adults.
I can't believe you're laughing at that.
Jeff:No. It's gleeful happiness. It' not at that.
Fred:Then I realized to be a part of the National Poultry Improvement Plan, you had to blood test your birds, and band them and everything else. I was trying to find a poultry technician to band, and test the blood on my birds, but I found out they were all taking care of their own flocks. Long story short, I became one of those, so I could do my own. Then I volunteered and did free blood testing for four age kids, and people that wanted to exhibit their poultry at county fairs and things like that. If you were 18 or under, I did all that for free, just so you could enter your birds, and engage in the poultry fantasy.
We also did ducks too. We bred the black and white magpie ducks. I got to meet the guy that brought those to the United States because it turned out he's also in Pennsylvania, and he's a hall of fame exhibitor. You get to meet all these poultry people.
I don't know Kim if you've been to a show, or if you've ever met people that are very serious about the way their birds look, and walk, and even they're crowing categories? It's all super interesting. Right now, we boil it down to my fastest-moving free range birds, which are the Minorca. It's the largest of the Spanish, largest of the Mediterranean breeds. It's a Spanish bird. They lay white eggs, and they can fly 150 feet, if something comes after them. They put themselves to bed at night. We have three chicken coops. They lay eggs at a high rate.
The Minorca right now, if you want to save on chicken feed, which as we all know, isn't chicken feed anymore, you want them to forage, and because this year we had such a low snowfall, these birds go out, they don't care what the temperature is. They're out foraging, they're eating grass, they're eating everything. They eat bugs. You want to debug your yard, they walk right through the chicken yard. They will not eat dead bees, much to my disappointment.
Kim:I saw one of your shows was talking about feeding larvae infested with-- and we discovered that early on. It's now to the point that when I go out and work my bees, my chickens can see my beehives from their pen. I don't run free range, I keep them in a pen. The whole time I'm out there, they're pressed against that fence waiting for me to come back.
Fred:Now see, you learned a valuable lesson. I know that chickens, although they're not smart, they can be very annoying. If they know that you're the source of the food, they will chase you everywhere, which all of my kids have discovered. My daughter, if she laid down in the yard, she was covered in chickens, which she thought was cute at the beginning.
What we're talking about for those that are listening are, the drone tone frames, which are the green ones. If you're using that as part of your mite control, mite reduction, for pest management, they can pull those out. Some people are saying that even woodpeckers and wild birds will feed on those. What Kim was talking about, is I put them out, and I put chicken feed on the drone frame. That way, when the chickens come out, they don't get to see you do it, Kim. If you have to do it while they're in the coop, then they come out, and they discover on their own because chickens think everything that they see happens, and if there's no person associated with it, they don't associate it with a person. Now they run, but they see that green frame, and anywhere they see a green frame, they would run and flock to it. Don't ever let them see you physically provide it, or they'll be following you everywhere.
Kim:It's way too late for that. [laughs]
Fred:You're done once they see it. If you've ever picked up a chicken, and had it flap and squawk, you never put down that chicken while it's flapping and squawking. You have to hold it, and carry it with you until it calms down. The other chickens are watching, they're all keeping your eye on you. They want to see if it got away from you, or if you were nice, and you set it down, and then let it walk away.
We do that to mean roosters too. I carry them like a football with their tail feathers out, and I do all the chores until they're calm, and then I set them down, and let them walk away. Never let a chicken think it got away from you on its own, and never let other chickens see you, and think that you were mean to a chicken.
Kim:There you go, Jeff, that's good advice.
Jeff:You know what, this is quite honestly a little bit more than I expected, but it's wonderful. I know we've covered a lot of ground, but having you here, we've expanded the show to beekeeping today and poultry.
Fred:There you go.
Jeff:I think that's a new theme. Maybe we can all come together in one big show.
Fred:Those are very, very good companion animals. People that don't like spiders will never find a spider web around a foundation with free-ranging chickens around.
Jeff:Fred, we've covered a lot of territory. Anything that you would like to mention that we haven't asked you about yet?
Fred:Not really. I just really want to thank you for bringing me on your podcast. It's been a real honor to be here with both of you, and I just appreciate the time.
Jeff:Really enjoyed having you on the show and introducing you to our listeners. I encourage everybody to go out and check out Fred's YouTube channel, if you haven't already.
Kim:Good having you here. Thank you.
It was fun having Fred on the show. He's really personable. I can see why he has 124,000 subscribers on YouTube. It's fantastic.
Kim:Very professional, but he's also very easy to talk to, which makes doing what he's doing a lot better, and he's doing some neat things. You guys were talking cameras before we got started here. My camera is my cell phone. That's as sophisticated as I get anymore, and it's as sophisticated as I need to be for what I do. It was fun listening to you.
I enjoyed the part where he was talking about learning about the things to get in beehives. He was talking about various sundry animals and bugs, and what have you. It's something I never even considered worrying about.
Jeff:He definitely has a photographer's perspective on the beehive, and what's going on, and wanting to capture it. Even before we started talking about cameras, I sensed that. You can really see that in what he delivers. I encourage our listeners, go out and check out Fred Dunn's YouTube channel. You'll really enjoy it.
Kim:Yes, you will.
Jeff: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. 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 webpage.
As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support ofBeekeeping Today podcast. We want to thank our regular episode sponsors Global Patties and Strong Microbials and Betterbee for their longtime support of this podcast. Thanks to Hive Alive for returning this spring, and thanks to Northern Bee Books for their generous support. Check out all of their books at www.northernbeebooks.co.uk.
Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today podcast listener for joining us on this show. Feel free to leave us questions, and comments at leave a comment section under each episode on the website. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks a lot, everybody.
[00:52:43] [END OF AUDIO]
Frederick Dunn is a Cornell University Certified Master Beekeeper. He keeps a small research apiary on his rural property in Pennsylvania, where he makes his observations and documents honey bee behavior with photography and cinematic sequences.
Fred also evaluates beekeeping equipment, various hive configurations, and conducts basic backyard beekeeping experiments that he shares via YouTube and in-person presentations.
He began keeping his own Honey Bees in 2006. Find out more about Fred through his website: TheWayToBee.org; Fred's Podcast is The Way To Bee (PodBean) and on YouTube: YouTube@FrederickDunn
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