Beekeeping in the Digital Age

Column #17: The Beekeeper's Home Pages


Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford

The World Wide Web began only a few years ago.  The first beekeeping home page I can remember was put up by a graduate student named Jordan Schwartz at the University of Washington.   I can recall thinking at that time that this was a consequence of the digital revolution.   A person relatively unknown in the beekeeping world could lay claim to the first  page on the World Wide Web with this ambitious title.   There's one reason;  he was there first.   Mr. Schwartz has now changed his site's title to the Beekeepers Reference Page.   Domain names are somewhat different.  Mr. Gilles Ratia, for example, has purchased the right to use and, but no one can really lay claim to having the definitive beekeeping home page, although occasionally someone will give it a try.  One site gets A for effort.   It is is put up by Ron Miksha in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  The URL is:  

Ron  calls his site the Beekeeper's Homepages.   On the first page he says, " Everything you want to know about beekeeping, honey, and honey bees is right here! (O.K., not everything!)."   That's about as pretentious at you will find here; in the end, of course, the author gives up the original goal as unrealistic.  Indeed, a visitor to Mr. Miksha's site has difficulty finding out the developer's name at all.  In response to my e-mail query, he sent  the following:  "I've been getting stung for forty-five years, being a member   of a family bee business that started in the 1930s. One of my older brothers is David, a queen breeder in Groveland, Florida.  Members of our family ran independently owned and operated honey farms. I took off for Saskatchewan in the 1970s, continued to raise queens in Florida until the (Canadian) border was slammed shut.  My degrees are in geophysics and today I live and work in Calgary, Alberta, in a field unrelated to bugs. I still keep a handful of bees in the Rocky Mountain foothills and I am president of the Calgary and Area Beekeeper's Club.  I try to work a few hours (no more than 4) each month on my site, doing all the coding with nothing more sophisticated than a text editor. I gather what gossip I can and pass it off as unfiltered news. Surprisingly few people have complained. I started the web site in 1995, when only four other web pages for beekeepers existed. I saw interest (and, of course, web use) move traffic from 30 visitors the first week to an average of 1800 per week today."

Ron Miksha's  work has produced a comprehensive listing of home pages related to apiculture.  These run the gamut from meetings and events to comb honey, which Mr. Miksha sells.  The former lists meetings not only in Canada (Ontario), but world wide.   The Second International Conference on honey bee mites in Tucson, Arizona is given billing as is the  7th IBRA Conference on Tropical Bees, to be held March 19-25, 2000, Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew, 99/44 Huay Kaew Road, Chiang Mai 50200 , Thailand.

The computer software page proclaims "Computer Programs for Beekeepers are WINDOWS programs designed to entertain and educate the beekeeper! Written by a beekeeper, for beekeepers!"   Several programs are bundled into one package for sale.   They include:  (1) Honey Calculator: Enter the day's weather, hive, and crop conditions and the Honey Calculator will tell you how much honey the hive should have
made for the day and how much money the honey is worth!;   (2) Beekeeper's Quiz: Are you a Master Beekeeper?
Over 300 fun multiple choice questions will  challenge you; (3) Beekeeper's Icons: This tutorial will help you learn
how to install the twenty icons included in the package. Really dress up your WINDOWS desktop; (4)  Beekeeper's Data Base: Names and Addresses of North American Bee Inspectors, Scientists, andAssociation Leaders; (5) Beekeeper's Clip Art: Dozens of Graphics and Photos
which you can use on letter heads, labels, newsletters!; (6) Beekeeper's Games: Memory Match and Puzzles for Beekeepers; (7) Bee Feeder: Calculates the amount of honey your bees will need to survive the winter; and (7) Beekeeper's Maps: Geographic Information on North America, with key nectar sources and hive production.

The Beekeeper's Homepages also has a page devoted to beeginning the craft.  Here Ron discusses everything from interactions  with federal   marshals to the immense amount of money one can spend on a beekeeping vocation.     He concludes: " If you are wondering about how much cash you'll need to get started, that depends. One hive of bees with supers (boxes) to hold comb honey and equipment to take care of the bees (veil, gloves, smoker, feeding equipment) will probably set you back three hundred dollars.  Ten hives with an extractor to separate combs from honey and all the other stuff required will be about two thousand bucks. Three thousand hives with semi-trucks, fork lifts and a couple of twelve thousand square foot warehouses will run you at least half a million dollars."  Another collection of information appears on the news page.   Here is one of the latest, dated November, 1999:  "How's the honey market? A friend in Pennsylvania calls it dismal. He'll lose twenty thousand dollars this year, running just four hundred hives. Lucky for him, he has a real job.  The issues are the same as always. Lower commodity prices, higher input cost. 'Farming is the only business where you pay retail for everything you buy and get wholesale prices for everything you sell,' he told me.  In an interview with Hannelore Sudermann, staff writer for the Seattle daily paper, Richard Adee says,
'The market for honey right now is really, really quiet. I'd say it's dead.' The president of the American Honey Producers Association adds, 'We've had 30 million more pounds imported this year over last year. That is quite a pile of honey.'"  This section also links to a collection of
writings by Andy Nachbaur, who had a large influence in cyberspace, which continues even in his absence.  Other pages have to do with answers posted to e-mail questions, a series of pictures of' Benny the Bee, billed as ambassador of  world wide beekeeping rescued from a carnivalous life, and descriptions of how honey is processed and queens are produced.

My favorite part of the Beekeeper's Homepages is the huge collection of web sites Mr. Miksha has posted.  He describes this as five hundred great places to bee on the web.   A clickable map allows one to point to anywhere in the world and find an appropriate site.  For example, selecting Brazil brings up a  site in Portugese all about Africanized honey bee history.  One can also peruse the list alphabetically.   Thus under the letter F, we see Fiji, Finland, and France.   As one might think, the Canadian beekeeping situation is well represented , including a description of  Alberta beekeeping and a fact sheet on honey production from Agri-Food Canada.     The link to information on trends 1998/1999  at Ag Canada is a must see for anyone remotely interested in Canadian beekeeping.  The very large list of links found on this site points to a continuing  paradox of the digital information revolution.  Although lots of information is out there, it seems increasingly difficult to find some that is relevant to one's need.  How does one organize all these links, for example, and navigate them efficiently?  Listing them by geographical location and/or alphabetically according to country as found on the beekeeper's home pages are two approaches.  I will explore others in future columns.

Dr. Sanford is Extension Specialist is Apiculture, University of Florida.   He publishes the APIS Newsletter: