Charlotte Ekker Wiggins, author of two books about beekeeping and beekeepers, is our guest today. Her first book, Bee Club Basics, Or How To Start A Bee Club, dealt with managing teachers mentors, students, classes and the basics of organizing a...
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins, author of two books about beekeeping and beekeepers, is our guest today. Her first book, Bee Club Basics, Or How To Start A Bee Club, dealt with managing teachers mentors, students, classes and the basics of organizing a start-up beekeeping organization. Her second book, just recently released is A Beekeeper’s Diary. Self Guide To Keeping Bees. [Late breaking news! "A Beekeeper's Diary" just won a Bronze Award in the Home & Garden Category from the Independent Publisher Book Awards! Congratulations Charlotte!]
This is a beginner’s book, certainly. But it is different than any you have looked at in the past. When confronted with a task for the first time, she will offer several perspectives on how to accomplish it. Which is the right one, well, IT DEPENDS, doesn’t it? So, the reader finds where she fits in on this and accomplishes the task the best way for her. There are almost always several correct answers.
She also uses checklists a lot. These are always handy and with them she often uses blank pages so you can write your own list, or make notes on something, or make a question for later.
Why do you want to keep bees, anyway? A good question right at the beginning. And start with Langstroth equipment because there is so much written about it, and so much information on it. You can graduate to other equipment when you get the basic biology stuff behind you.
There are a host of “Good To Know” tips, which cover whatever topic the chapter is covering but from a somewhat different perspective. For instance, Buying used equipment – good or bad, and why?
Check out both of Charlotte’s books. They are different enough from what you have that it will be worth your time.
Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:
We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer service, 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 www.betterbee.com
Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of Beekeeping Today Podcast. Find out more about heir line of probiotics in our Season 3, Episode 12 episode and from their website: https://www.strongmicrobials.com
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 ensure 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 http://globalpatties.com and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode!
We want to also thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of the podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine destined for your coffee table. Each page of the magazine is dedicated to the stories and photos of all pollinators and written by leading researchers, photographers and our very own, Kim Flottum.
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Podcast music: Young Presidents, "Be Strong"; Musicalman, "Epilogue". Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott
Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC
Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by the Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment.
I'm Jeff Ott.
Kim Flottum: I'm Kim Flottum.
Intro: 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 honeybees. 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 at www.globalpatties.com.
Jeff: Hey, everybody, thanks for joining us. Each week, we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor's support. They make all of this happen and provide us the ability to bring you each episode. It costs money to bring you these shows, and their support is really important to make sure that happens. With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today. We also want to thank 2 Million Blossoms as the sponsor of this episode. 2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine dedicated to protecting all pollinators. Learn more on our Season 2, Episode 9 podcast with editor Kirsten Traynor and from visiting www.2millionblossoms.com, and that is with a number two. Also check out Kirsten's new 2 Million Blossoms, the podcast, available on her website and from wherever you download and stream your podcasts. Hey Kim, how are you doing? Spring has sprung. No more snow, right?
Kim: Spring has sprung. There's no more snow. It's been in the '80s for, I don't know, the last 190 days.
Jeff: [laughs] You sound like a farmer now.
It's been really hot and really wet, and it's really green, and there's a lot of things blooming right now.
Kim: I'm hoping that the bees are getting to visit them because I've got four trees in bloom in my yard and three in the yard next to me, and there's enough honey out there. I just hope they're able to take advantage of it.
Jeff: Yes, are they gathering any? Are they collecting any?
Kim: Have they collected any honey?
Kim: No, not yet.
Jeff: I see. We have, of course, many of the same ways, we have a lot of blooms and blossoms, and the blackberries are in bloom in some parts of the region, not around me locally, but I think within flying distance of the bees. I'm monitoring my hives on using those BroodMinder sensors and the scale, and I can see the weight starting to creep up a little bit each day. You put it on a three-day or seven-day view, you can start seeing it starting to head up more than it's heading down. It's really good. Yes, that's really the fun thing to do with that geeky stuff. I love June. June is a good month. Speaking of honey and making honey, last August we had with us on the show Sarah Weiner and Mark Carlson from the Good Food Award people. I believe they are starting their honey competition.
Kim: Yes, we got them ahead of schedule this year instead of after the show was over. Last year, we talked to them when the show was over, and they told us about what had happened. This year, we got them to send us some information before the show started so people could go look and find the directions and get their honey ready.
Jeff: Yes, we actually remembered this year, and with the help of the people there at the Good Food Awards, they sent us an audio postcard. Let's listen to it now.
Jessica - GFA: Hi there. This is Jessica from the Good Food Foundation. The entry period for the 12th annual Good Food Awards is open now through June 30th. We're accepting entries from 18 different categories of food and drink, including honey. The Good Food Awards honors American artisans crafting exceptionally tasty and responsibly produced food and drink. Entry is $78 apiece to help cover logistics, and entrants can add on the option to receive judge feedback from the blind tasting in August for $15. Head over to goodfoodfdn.org for all the details and use code BEEKEEPING at checkout for $10 off. Again, that's goodfoodfdn, F as in flower, D as in delicious, N as in nectar, .org, code BEEKEEPING at checkout for $10 off. We look forward to seeing your entry soon.
Jeff: If you want more information about the Good Food Awards and how you can sign up or submit honey for your competition, we'll have all those details or many of those details and the links in the show notes. You can check it out and submit your honey. If you do, let us know. We'd love to know that one of our listeners won.
Kim: Now I'm going to have to harvest some honey. You convinced me.
Jeff: [laughs] All right. A couple other announcements. Transcripts for our listeners, we started this month, in the month of June and the latter part of May, starting to add transcriptions to our podcast so you can hear every valuable word we utter on this show. We want to know if they're useful for you.
Kim: What transcripts do for me, Jeff, is if I'm listening to a podcast and the recording went weird or people were talking at the same time or whatever, and you miss some of the content, you can go back to the transcript and pick up what you missed. If it's a complicated subject, you get to read it a couple of times, it's going to clear things up for you. Either you get to hear what you miss or clarify what you heard. It makes the information more valuable. Of course, if you have a hearing issue like I do without my hearing aids, [laughs] it makes life simple too.
Jeff: Fantastic. Let us know in the comments and/or the voicemail chats that you can leave, let us know if you find the transcripts of use. That's another thing that our sponsor's dollars go towards providing. A couple of weeks ago, we ran a hidden mug contest in our show at the very tail end, and we said there was one mug available. It turned out that Kim was hiding a couple of other mugs in his closet. We dug those out and we sent those out. We sent out a total of what? Kim, nine mugs, I believe?
Kim: I believe that's correct. I think almost all of them made it.
Jeff: Yes, there's two were broken in transit, we hear, doggone it, but there's mugs out there in the wild. Those of you that received a mug and you know who you are, hey, we would appreciate if you take a picture of you holding that mug, maybe out with your bees, wherever, and post it on social media and tag us. We'd love to see you enjoying your bees, enjoying your favorite beverage in your Beekeeping Today coffee mug.
Kim: Yes, that'd be cool. Good idea.
Jeff: Yes, it'd be fun. Finally, in our things to talk about quickly this morning is, please, folks, if you get a chance, make sure if you enjoy the show, subscribe or follow and leave a review. We need to add those reviews, that helps other beekeepers find us. It helps us keep on the list at Apple Podcast or Google or wherever you listen, so please take time to do that. All right. Come today, we have another great guest, Charlotte Ekker Wiggins.
Kim: I don't know if you know Charlotte, Jeff. She wrote a book a while back on how to start a bee club, and I did a review of it for Bee Culture Magazine. She approached some of the issues that can cause real problems in bee clubs or any club at all. When you have differences of opinion, you got strong opinions, those sorts of things. How do you handle them so that you don't lose a friend or don't lose a club? She tackled those things very, very reasonably, I thought.
Jeff: Great. I look forward to hearing from her and talking to her here in a moment, but first, a quick word from our friends at Strong Microbials.
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Jeff: While you're at the Strong Microbial site, make sure you subscribe to their regular newsletter at the hive. Hey everybody. Welcome back. Sitting across the Zoom table from us right now is author Charlotte Wiggins. Welcome, Charlotte.
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins: Hi Jeff. Thank you for inviting me. It's a pleasure to be here.
Kim: Yes, I'm glad you could make it today, Charlotte. Hi, Kim. Good to see you again.
Jeff: Well, Charlotte, tell us about yourself. You're a beekeeper in Missouri. Can just give us and our listeners, a background of who you are and some of your history of bees.
Charlotte: Sure. I'm a Missouri transplant. I choose to live in the belly button of the state, a community called Rolla, Missouri, a small college town. It turns out to be a hub of a beekeeping interest and community. We have 440 people who are members of our local bee club. I became involved because I'm a lifelong gardener. I like to joke that I'm a lazy gardener, but it's more like I'm a practical gardener. I knew through those days of being a master gardener and gardening that, boy, these could make my life a little easier if they could pollinate some of the 32 dwarf fruit trees I have on my Missouri limestone hillside garden, where, by the way, my neighbor said nothing would ever grow. 2010, and I don't know what prompted me that particular year, I decided I was going to keep bees and I did what everybody else does.
I picked up some books. I got confused on YouTube about what I should be doing or shouldn't be doing. Found a local club, a regional club run by a commercial honey producer, and got bees from him and that's how I started. Then two years later, a local extension office contacted me because they knew I was a master gardening beekeeper and said, "We have this influx of people who want to beekeep. Could you teach a class for us?" That's how I started a career in teaching and writing for beekeepers. I basically developed the class and the book for me as a beginner beekeeper. This is what I would have liked to have had when I was starting.
Jeff: We're talking about your current book that's out now. It just was recently released, right? It's called A Beekeeper's Diary.
Charlotte: A self-guide to beekeeping because that's what it is. It walks you through the steps after you decided you want to be a beekeeper and you've decided maybe you've done some reading and you've taken a class and you've gone home and said, "Okay, now what?" The book is that now what book. I'm a list maker. I don't know about you. I can't run my life without my little sticky notes, with little things I have to do every day. The Diary is that. It's a beginning beekeeping book, but it has the information in context to what you have to do. I've taught beekeeping classes for nine years now. It's frustrating when you go through a nine-hour class with somebody and they're texting you at midnight, what kind of equipment do they need to buy? Now, you've gone through that. You've gone through that, you've given them books and yet it hasn't sunk in. Well, the Diarythen has a checklist of your basic equipment that you need to get.
Jeff: I do like the checklists that you have in the book and they are, like you said, laid out very logically in a progressive manner of starting out from the very basics and getting more in-depth into what you're doing. I didn't see in the checklist though, obtaining permission from your spouse or spousal equivalent before purchasing bees.
Charlotte: You're right. Although, I do have several tips on how to bribe them to get interested in the process. I think that's a balance there.
Jeff: All right. Duly noted.
Kim: Charlotte, I got to tell you in chapter 1, you asked a question. The question you asked is why are there so many different answers to beekeeping questions? Your answer was, it depends. The most common answer. I've been teaching beekeeping for 30 years and it's still the most common answer. You hit it on the nail on the head on that one. Like I said, you had me on chapter 1 after that. The other thing Jeff, that just noted on checklists is you leave a lot of blank space that I can add stuff to. Not only you just telling me what to do, but letting me make a note about what I did and maybe what occurred because of it. Did it work? Did it not work? I can go back. Record-keeping is certainly my greatest shortcoming when it comes to keeping bees. I can see where if you start somebody using a format like this, it could really help.
Charlotte: I think corrupting them early is a good strategy because we talk about it and I do try to keep notes and records myself, but when I started, I'm not sure I understood why I was keeping those notes. Oh, I'm going to remember where I got those queens or where I got those first two hives. Four years later when you've got 15 of them out there and you're out of woodenware and you don't remember what swam you got, where, and who's going to get what colony that you're sharing. That's when it's at critical or when you're losing your hives and you don't know how old the queens are. That's when the record-keeping is critical and you don't have it by then. I figured if you can start them early so they start that habit, they'll continue it as they successfully keep bees.
Kim: The other half of that is if you have good records, you will become more successful. You'll make better decisions. It is a self-feeding practice so that the more you do, the better you get. It's a good idea. I'm glad to see that you were, I think the word you used was corrupting them.
Charlotte: [laughs] Yes.
Kim: It's a good thing to do. A third part of that, of course, is that you mentioned four years. I'm thinking four weeks when I do something and what did I do four weeks ago? Jeff, how good is your memory four weeks ago?
Jeff: There was a four weeks ago.
Kim: I do want to add on the record-keeping and I found it really valuable and long-time listeners will get tired of me saying this, but I'm relatively new to the Pacific Northwest as a beekeeper. I came up through Ohio and Colorado and the Pacific Northwest, and I've had my challenges in the Pacific Northwest keeping bees. I've liked going back to my records to figure out, "Oh, when was this blooming? When did this start blooming? When did these blooms die? When did everything shut off?" Now I've through my records, being able to say, "Hey, we're two weeks early this year, or we're not." That's really valuable with the logbook or record book and with the checklist that you provide.
Charlotte: You notice, I start out chapter 2 with what I call feeding bees naturally, which is basically primmer for beekeepers on what they need to have it within the scope of their apiary for food for their bees. I had several people who read the draft and said, "Well, this should chapter should be at the end. I'm a beekeeper. Why do I need to know anything about flowers?" Which frankly always stops me in my tracks. I say, "Your garden is your bees' larder. That's their food." I put it at the front because I've also mentored people who have a hard time understanding just how many flowers bees need just to supplement themselves for a winter, let alone make extra honey for a beekeeper for whatever reason. I wanted people to understand that the environment in which they're keeping the bees is pretty critical. You hear now, the researchers like Dr. Samuel Ramsey and Dr. Kirsten Traynor talking about, you keep your bees healthy by what food they eat.
They can stay strong and they can ward off some of the challenges if they are healthy and health, just like in people, comes from what they eat. I said, Nope, that's chapter two. We're going to go straight into understanding what our bees are eating so that, at least when they're thinking about where to place the apiary, they're considering the food source.
Jeff: Good advice.
Kim: What to plant and when to plant it and how to take care of it. That was good. The next chapter you had in there on basics, and you were talking about the equipment and the types of hives that people use. We recently just did a series on hive types and what you reasoned out was, and I hope people will listen to this, is, start with a Langstroth only because there's so much more information available on basic biology and timing and all of those things. As much as top-bar hives and long hives and AZ hives are interesting to work with once the fundamentals, you got to learn the fundamentals, and that's a good way to start.
Charlotte: Wait around here. We've had people who get excited about the horizontal hives because of their backs, or they've heard beekeepers have bad backs, so they don't like weight. They're looking for shortcuts or flow hives. We've had several people who have talked about I'm going to get a flow hive that way I don't need to know about the bees. I just open the spigot and I get honey. We always say in our classes, "Well, wait a minute, you still have to know what the bees are doing regardless of where you place them." The things that they do may depend on where you place them. The basic biology in understanding the life cycle of bees is pretty important to do regardless. We always say, "If you want to do that, do it later. Do it after you've gotten the basics down and then you can play with it." When you start playing with it at the beginning and you don't have a baseline to understand what's happening, you're just doomed for failure, unfortunately,
Kim: That's what I was getting to is that by starting with Langstroth just because there's 400 books out there on keeping bees in Langstroth-type equipment, as opposed to the other ones, which sometimes are few and far between and hard to find.
Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of the Beekeeping Today podcast. For over 40 years Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalogs to their supportive beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of, "Beekeepers serving beekeepers." See for yourself at betterbee.com.
Kim: The other thing that I liked when you were talking about taking care of pests and diseases and you treated each one of them sort of in a formula. You said, if you got Varroa, small hive beetle or wax moths or AFB, any of the things, what are you going to see? What can you treat them with? How do you prevent them? You treated each one of those diseases the same way. The formula thing makes a lot of sense. I've never thought about it that way and it makes a lot of sense because somebody that's new and getting started that's, "Okay, what am I looking at? Oh, I know what I'm looking at how do I treat it? Okay, how do I prevent it next time?" That sort of thing. That was good.
Charlotte: We also started talking in my classes and I say we because I have a dear friend who's a bee buddy David Drager who helps run the clubs and helps me with my classes and I go to his house and ask his wife, "Can David come out and play so we can go play with bees?" In our class we'll be talking about you're really managing two bugs now because when we differentiate hive management and colony management, from pests and diseases, people then think they have the option of saying and they've done this to us, "Well, I don't have Varroa. I don't see Varroa in my hive so I don't have any." We've just decided to skip that discussion and say, "You have them." You're managing at least two bugs in your colonies and your hives. You're managing honeybees, and you're managing a parasite Varroa. Now you may have in addition to that at no extra cost, small hive beetles, [laughs], and ants and cockroaches because people get very excited about seeing the ants when they're just starting at the top of that inner cover.
You're managing a series of bugs in this box and that way, they don't have the option when they're starting to say, "Well, I don't want Varroa. I don't see Varroa so I don't have Varroa, so I'm not going to manage Varroa." They lose time by thinking that that's even an option.
Jeff: Time and bees, right?
Charlotte: Oh, absolutely. Heartbreaking when you think about all the time and effort that they're putting into this and the enthusiasm they have. Yet that one little glitch where they think that's optional. We've found that that's been successful by just going straight over that and saying, "You have these. Now, how many you have? Let's identify how many are in there." The less you have the better but you will have some combination of these pests inside your hives.
Jeff: That's a good approach. I like that.
Charlotte: Kim, have you done classes lately?
Kim: Have I done classes?
Charlotte: I know you've done lectures. Have you been doing classes lately?
Kim: I haven't been out of my zip code in 14 months.
Charlotte: Oh, my.
That's okay. I was just curious what questions you're hearing. We're seeing a transition in questions from people that are in the classes. I think maybe that shows that people are becoming more aware of the role and the importance of bees in our ecosystem, which I think is a positive thing.
Kim: Part of that Charlotte, certainly is the fact that beekeeping is expensive. It's not cheap to get started and if you lose your bees three times, you're probably going to take a figure skating or some other activity. Not only are people beginning to teach that Varroa is part of the game, not maybe part of the game but part of the game, but people are learning that it's expensive to ignore Varroa.
Charlotte: Yes, I joke that it's $700 in a freezer because you're going to have to at one point or another, put those frames in cold to get rid of whatever's on that frame. If you haven't warned your family about that, that's a whole story.
Kim: [laughs] Surprise.
Charlotte: We have to embrace that that's going to be a tool that you're going to be using now if you're a beekeeper. We have beekeepers who have joined us after being gone 30 years and they're some of the hardest beekeepers to talk to because it's so different today than when it was when they were keeping bees. They'll talk about these huge hauls of honey, and we're celebrating if we have 100 pounds. It has changed a lot just in the time that I've been teaching and then I don't know about going back 20 or 30 years, but it's a whole new ballgame for sure.
Jeff: You're definitely describing my experience coming from Ohio in Colorado. Definitely, Ohio, Varroa was not an issue. Our biggest issue is American foulbrood and we had great hauls of honey and the same thing with Colorado and then starting up this year, where Varroa is a big issue. I knew they were in Florida at the time, but not in Colorado, at least where I was and hopefully, it's not that I saw at the time. It was not a management issue. It is a daily factor for me now even if I'm just obsessive-compulsive and just pull the bottom screen board to see what's lying underneath there. It's always a mental note of, "Did I see a lot of Varroa today or not?" It's a big management issue.
Charlotte: I'd love to have been in the days when all you were worried about was wax moths, that would have been-- [laughs] I still wonder sometimes about how those days were because that would have been quite an interesting time and much easier than what we do today.
Kim: Sometime when you've got some time, Charlotte, I'll tell you because I was there.
Charlotte: Hopefully. It's okay.
Kim: The biggest problem I ever had back then was, "How heavy is that box?" Everything else came in third. Anyway, another thing that I liked about what you were doing is when you were talking about doing inspections, you had inspection frequently asked questions. Talk about that a little bit, because I've never seen anybody do that.
Charlotte: I mentor not only do we have classes but our club is designed to support the students. Yes, if you're a beekeeper, you can come but our focus is helping the students and when we go out, I'd go out with a student and start saying, "What do you see in the hive? What's on that frame?" Or, "What are you looking for?" They would give you this deer in the headlights look. Right now, we've got people with bees swarming because they think that putting a super on top of the hive gives the queen more room. I keep saying up, "Where's the queen though?" She's not on top, she's down in the brew chamber, the room has to be in the brew chamber. The idea was to collect the questions that I was asked or saw people asking and struggling with doing those hands-on hive inspections, and including them in the book so that people understood those concepts as they were reading because they're pretty common questions that people ask.
Kim: Both the beginners and the mentors?
Kim: You can as a mentor, reading through that quickly, I can begin to see that, this is the points I need to point out. These are the things I need to point out to people that I take for granted. I just don't even think to mention it yet it's one of those frequently asked questions. Yes, that works well.
Charlotte: The book has actually been reviewed by the Great Plains Master Beekeeping governing board. It's a program out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and they mention I was asked a couple of questions about that too. They like the idea that the questions are all foundational to the best management practices. They have those as well. We have so many different inputs that people can get from YouTube, from books that they read, from their friends, from depending on who they're asking, a commercial honey producer is going to give you a different answer than a hobby beekeeper is going to do. Trying to come up with more of a baseline of information so that everybody's starting from the same place. That's one of the purposes of this book is to give them so that we're all going into it with the same answers so that we can build on the right things because so many times when we see students that come to us who are discouraged, they've been doing this for three years and I'm giving it one more time and then throwing in the towel is because they don't have a good foundation to understand what's happening.
I'm glad that you liked that because that was-- Again, I would go back to-- At one point, Kim, I had 45 beginning beekeeping books stacked up in my basement next to my desk. Your book, by the way, was one of them. Double-checking facts, double-checking what other people were saying about this to make sure that what I was saying was part of the mainstream. That was not something really off the wall. There's some off-the-wall things in that book, but [laughs] that's a different story.
Kim: I've got the same stack of books over here.
Charlotte: [laughs] I know.
Kim: Tell me, you also spent a lot of time talking about honey. Throw out some of the highlights, the big points that you made because it was just fun to read.
Charlotte: I was at the state fair working the booth for the Missouri State Beekeepers Association a couple of years ago, and this gentleman walks up with five little boys, "Ma'am, would you please tell my nephews and my grandchildren how many bees it takes to make honey?" I'm looking at these little faces and I thought, "No, I'll go up one better. I'm going to tell you how many flowers the bees have to visit to make one pound of honey." Then, we got into this discussion about, "Wait a minute, bees visit flowers? What is really honey?", "It's nectar that flowers produce to basically attract pollinators that then take the pollen and help the plants reproduce." It's a very interactive relationship. I call bees, "The matchmakers." Listen to these young men completely look at beekeeping and honey from a different perspective was a lot of fun number one, but the best one was the grandfather and the uncle who turned around to me and said, "How many bees does it take?"
I said, "It depends."
I'm trying to remember. There were a number of facts in there. I tried to put things in there that people would not necessarily know commonly. We know every one out of every three healthy bites of food we eat are pollinated by bees. We don't necessarily understand the relationship of honey, which is carbs. To bees, I call it, flight fuel. Honey is their flight fuel. It gives them energy. I also talk about how honey is medicinal in some ways. Dr. Traynor talks about how you can put honey on scrapes. There's a lot of research that proves that that's a really good use of honey. I have a friend who has Porter horses and she had an injury in one of their legs. The vet said, "Call a beekeeper, get some honey. That's the only way you're going to get that fixed quickly." I try to include some of those facts and stories in that chapter.
Kim: It was fun to read. That's for sure. Jeff, did you get a chance to take a look at the calendars that are in the back of her book, the first year and second year calendars?
Jeff: Yes. I was going to comment on the second-year calendar because everyone focuses on the first year and I don't recall anybody pointing out the second-year calendar and what you should be looking for in that. I was going to ask you about that. Why did you include that?
Charlotte: I call the first year of beekeeping, the honeymoon year because the bees are small, they're well-behaved. You go out, maybe with your suit on the first couple of times you're going to check them. You only check them maybe once a month. The recommendation is three to four weeks. By the end of that season-- Randy Oliver talks about the knowledge base of a beekeeper is the highest in their second year because they've gone through their first year and luckily you haven't had any problems, you haven't seen any Varroa. You're all set. We say to people, "Wait till your second year because that's a whole different ball game." Not only is beekeeping different from your year, but going from that transitional first melancholy, nice calm gentle year to when your bees have established themselves and they're saying, "This is our home. What are you doing here?" You have a different relationship with your bees in that second year. You're starting earlier.
Your first year, you start around here, you start April, May when you get your bees, your packages, and maybe your nucs. Then, you have basically half a year. Then, you tuck them into bed in November and you go, "That was easy." Well, your second year, you need to be making sure that they've got food through winter, make sure that they've collected enough honey. Your second year starts a whole six months earlier. We've had people who have lost their bees because they waited to go out and look at them until March and April in the second year. We wanted to make the point that your second year is different. You need to start doing certain things in January. That's why we have a separate calendar. First-year calendar says what you're doing, what your bees are doing. Then, the second-year calendar which then incorporates both of them into the calendar.
Jeff: That's really good. I appreciate it.
Charlotte: Oh good. I'm glad it was helpful.
Kim: You finished up with disagreements as an interesting way to end the book, but of course it has to do with bee club basics, how to start a bee club. I'm sure your first book out there. You drew on that. You put three beekeepers in a room and pretty soon one of them is going to leave because the other two agree on something and the third one doesn't. There are as many bee clubs as there are because people don't know how to disagree and not get mad. Finish us off with a little bit about how that works.
Charlotte: We've become a social-media-based society too where even though we think we're connected, I think we're more disconnected today than we've ever been because it's one-way communication. You post something on Facebook. I don't like it. I can zing you and move on. I've not learned anything from that exchange. When you're in club meetings and you ask a question-- The joke is right, ask two beekeepers, you get five different answers. I always caution people and say, "Think about that. Why are you getting five different answers? Why do you keep bees?" There are at least four reasons to keep bees, for pollination, for honey, because you're selling bees, I joke about it, for pets. The four different reasons are going to dictate for sure different approaches to what you're doing. If you're keeping bees for honey, you don't want to be splitting before the flow. You're going to split after the flow. You've got your bees, get their honey, and then you split. That's why you get different answers. You have to understand when you're talking to somebody, make sure that you have your questions, you understand where you are sitting and you're open to information that may or may not jive with what you saw on YouTube.
Then, the person giving you the information needs to make sure that they're being clear about how they're expressing the advice, the experience, whatever the information is that they're sharing. I think if we're more cautious on both sides and we've spent more time on listening versus on zinging each other, we'll have better communication. We've gotten out of the habit of doing that listening side, Communication's a two-way street and takes both talking and listening.
Jeff: That goes beyond bee meetings too.
Charlotte: Definitely, yes.
Jeff: That's true. A lot of new bee clubs start up every year because of the disagreements.
Charlotte: Not only that but when somebody tells you something that doesn't match your experience level, we have a tendency to just reject that instead of saying, "There's another way to look at that." Or, "Why is that? Why do you say that that's happening? What was your experience?" If we can learn to listen to each other's experiences, we're going to learn faster. We will maybe learn new things that we would not have experienced ourselves or known that were happening. We just grow better by having that input of new information. I think we have a tendency to put up walls more now than we used to. That's not necessarily healthy for all of us.
Kim: I think you belong in Congress, Charlotte.
Charlotte: [laughs] I was going to say, "Thank you," but on a second thought--
Kim: [laughs] What have we missed on this? This has been short, but what's the one point that we didn't catch that you think is important?
Charlotte: I'm trying to think. I think you made the point. It is a book that goes with beginning beekeeping classes. We will have them through Great Plains Master Beekeeping. My class is my master's project for that program. When you become a certified master beekeeper through Great Plains, you'll be able to get my class, my beginning class, which covers the whole apprentice level. Then, you can use the book to supplement that.
Kim: The book is A Beekeeper's Diary: Self Guide to Keeping Bees by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins. I know it's available on Amazon, probably wherever books are sold. Jeff will have information on where and how to get it, right Jeff? On the webpage?
Jeff: You bet. Just check on our show notes, and then in the webpage. Check there, and we'll have all those patent links.
Kim: Good. Charlotte, this has been fun. Thank you. Thank you for you sent me your book and it's signed. I'll pick that one off my big pile and put it on a different pile.
Charlotte: Thank you.
Jeff: Thanks a lot Charlotte for joining me.
Charlotte: Thank you, Jeff. Appreciate the invitation.
Jeff: You bet. Take care.
Jeff: I was really happy to have Charlotte on the show. Her book is really useful and I really encourage all beekeepers, especially the first-year beekeepers to use that book as they go out to the yard and inspect their bees.
Kim: First year and second year. She tackles the second year which is very uncommon. She looks at the problems. The thing I like about this book, mostly, well two things. One is that if you ask five beekeepers a question, you'll get seven different answers but she tells you why you'll get seven answers. People cover beekeeping from different directions. Some are commercial, some are honey production, some are queen production, and you're going to tackle problems differently depending on how you and your bees are living together.
The other thing that stands out, it's been my favorite for 20 years in teaching beekeepers is it depends. It does, it depends. Again, for the same reason that if you ask me, how do you do something? Well, it depends on if you have a full-size colony, do you have a nuc? Do you have a brand new queen? Are you recreating? It depends on how you're going to do something and those two along with a list on the blank pages to take notes are very useful. Driving home the concept of why you'll get different answers because keep people keep bees differently, I think is the most valuable aspect of that book.
Jeff: Yes, I agree with you. It'll be good. I appreciated what she had to say.
Kim: She was fun and her book, what more can you say? It's very useful for a beginning beekeeper first and second year.
Jeff: Yes, pick it up. All right. That about wraps it up for this episode. Make sure you go out and check out the Good Food Awards. If you're into honey competition, this would be a great label to add to your jar honey. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple podcast wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker. Even better write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly on 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 the Beekeeping Today Podcast. We want to thank our regular sponsor Global Patties. Check them out at www.globalpatties.com. We also want to thank Strong Microbials for their support of the podcast. Check out their probiotic line at www.strongmicrobials.com. We want to thank Betterbee for joining us as our latest supporter. Check out all their fantastic beekeeping supplies at www.betterbee.com.
Finally, we want to thank you the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on this show. Feel free to send us questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you. Anything else we should mention Kim?
Kim: You know Jeff we have an anniversary coming up.
Jeff: That's right. We do.
Kim: I encourage people to tune into the beginning of our fourth year next week. It's going to be a good show.
Jeff: I always look forward to that. All right, we'll see you here.
[00:43:34] [END OF AUDIO]
Author, Master Gardner
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a lifelong gardener and now master gardener emeritus. She added bees to her Missouri limestone hillside garden, where neighbors said nothing would grow, in 2010. Bluebird Gardens is now a Monarch Way Station, Certified Wildlife Habitat, award-winning garden and working apiary.
Charlotte has a master's degree in management from Webster University in St. Louis and has established a dozen educational non-profits since 1979, including a bee club in 2014. In 2015, she helped change Missouri's honey labelling laws and was awarded a Missouri State Beekeeping Association Beekeeper of the Year Award. She is a contributing author and on the Steering Committee for Missouri’s Master Pollinator Steward program, an award-winning program about the value of pollinators.
She currently serves on the Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative, some 150 state and federal agencies working together to increase pollinator habitat. She is also Missouri State Beekeepers Association partnership liaison, working with Great Plains Master Beekeeping to bring a certified master beekeeping program to Missouri. She was tapped to be the military representative for Missouri's Heroes to Hives' chapter, teaching military veterans beekeeping.
In 2019, she was selected to discuss “Why Bugs Matter” at an April 2019 Missouri S&T TEDx.
Charlotte continues to teach classes, lecture and write on a variety of beekeeping-related topics.
Books or articles (and TEDx)
1. "A Beekeeper's Diary Self-Guide to Beekeeping"
Available paperback and ebook at many book outlets
2. "Bee Club Basics or How to Start a Bee Club"
Available paperback from Amazon
3. "Tips on Running Bee Club"
February 2021 Bee Culture Magazine
4. Missouri S&T TEDx "Why Bugs Matter" April 2019.
5. Missouri Master Pollinator Steward Program: