like Facebook follow Twitter watch YouTube subscribe RSS Feed
Tag Archives | treatment-free beekeeping

Save the Bees BOOK!

Save The Bees Book

We are so excited!! Rob & Chelsea McFarland (founders of HoneyLove) WROTE A BEEKEEPING BOOK! It’s a great primer for anyone interested in treatment-free beekeeping, and a good read for established beekeepers.

Learn more here and SPREAD THE BUZZ!


Check out some of the book reviews!

Michael Bush author of THE PRACTICAL BEEKEEPER:
“Rob and Chelsea have a beautiful positive energy that shines out in all their work, including this book. The writing is lyrical, detailed, informative and practical. Save the Bees starts from the perspective of the complete beginner and offers insight and instruction in a very readable, understandable and entertaining way with gorgeous pictures to illustrate it. But best of all, it’s about how to keep bees naturally – no treatments, no chemicals. This is a delightful and insightful book from delightful and insightful people.”

Noah Wilson-Rich, Ph.D Founder & Chief Scientific Officer, THE BEST BEES COMPANY and author of THE BEE:
“What a fantastic book! It’s important, accessible, accurate, enjoyable and filled with experience. Anybody serious about modern beekeeping should read this.”

The Easy and Treatment-Free Way to Attract and Keep Healthy Bees
By Rob and Chelsea McFarland, Founders of 

From 1947 to present day, the number of honeybee colonies has declined by more than a whopping 50 percent. Bees and other pollinators are one of the most critical components to our food supply – if they disappear, so do we.

That jarring statistic, paired with an awe-inspiring and completely serendipitous encounter with a swarm of honeybees one afternoon, was enough for Rob and Chelsea McFarland to leave their stressful lives running a technology start-up and dive into the world of honeybees. Like Rob and Chelsea like to say, “You don’t choose to be a beekeeper, the bees choose you.”

Their chance encounter led to forays in urban beekeeping, and eventually, to running HoneyLove, a non-profit dedicated to educating and inspiring urban beekeeping to save the bees for future generations. Now, SAVE THE BEES WITH NATURAL BACKYARD HIVES is an extension of that philosophy. It’s Rob and Chelsea sharing all the wisdom from the ancient practice of beekeeping in a way that is fresh, modern, and easy for anyone to do.

Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives breaks down the complexity of beekeeping so you can learn step-by-step how to acquire a colony, care for it, and reap the reward – both for you and future generations. Like Rob and Chelsea write in the book’s introduction, “We figured that if we could inspire people living in cities around the world to welcome bees and beekeepers into their communities, we could help clean up our urban environments, promote sustainable living, advance urban agriculture and empower people with the idea that they can make a difference in their own backyards.”

Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives provides a how-to primer on an alternative approach to the established, chemical-based way of beekeeping. This all-natural approach is laid out in the first chapter, Principles of Treatment – Free Beekeeping and How it Will Save the Bees. Treatment-free beekeepers believe that chemicals make bees more vulnerable to the very problems like mites and microbes they were aimed at solving, which is why this philosophy is fundamental to the rest of the book.

From there, the book progresses with chapters: Beekeeping Basics, Acquiring Honeybees is Simple, and Getting to Know Your Superorganisms. In chapter five, Bee Success, Rob and Chelsea explain how to be aware of common problems (and how to fix them, too). They provide equipment checklists; explain how to inspect for disease, and of course, how to keep the Queen happy.

Other critical chapters include, Nectar Flow, Beebread and What to Feed Your Bees, with useful information on a healthy diet, the baggie feeder approach, and tips on planting pollinator forage. Now, after eight other chapters for success, Rob and Chelsea get to one of the many rewards of beekeeping: the Honey Harvest chapter. They include sections on escape boards for honey extraction, photo diagrams of the bottling process, and even notes on honey tasting and variation.

One of the biggest takeaways from Save the Bees is that the art of beekeeping and bee culture is an evolving education, which is why Rob and Chelsea end the book by saying, “My hope is that you will continue to read and learn about bees, take in all kinds of perspectives, resist confirmation bias and be open to ideas about solutions even if they challenge what you think you know.”

Available online through the retailers below and wherever books are sold:


Barnes & Noble:

Google Play:






Book Depository:

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

Heat and collapsing honey combs

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

The weather this summer in the LA basin has been record-breaking hot. These prolonged conditions stress the bees trying to maintain the proper temperature in their hives. They normally coat the insides of the hive bodies with water they gather, and fanning with their wings, induce a “swamp cooler” air conditioning.

I have seen the entire front of hives covered with bees trying to stay out of the interior—even great clumps of bees hanging from the front porch landing area. All this heat has caused the honey combs in two of my larger hives to fall out of the frames and fold over. It is quite the mess. Clearly, this trend of hotter, longer summers is being predicted by climate scientists, so something needs to be done to help the bees vent the heat.

I have fitted each hive with a wood framed, screened top board that fits under the regular migratory top. By turning the migratory top over (upside down) the cleats will create a shaded, one inch air space to relieve the bees’ heat issue and not expose them to direct light. Very many more bees are now back inside their hives, instead of hanging out on the front.

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

Breeding, buying and Varroa: a few thoughts

By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

I have had a lot of cognitive dissonance lately from the talk among beeks about breeding, treating, buying queens, etc. Maybe you’ve run into some of the same. If so, here’s a small bit of information that cements my certainty that when we select for certain traits we inadvertently de-select for things that serve the organism and discard important traits we definitely don’t want to lose.    

Our feral bees have strong characteristics of hygiene, pest and disease resistance. They tend to propagate a small worker bee (4.7 to 4.9 mm brood cell diameter) which allows the young bee to beat the emergence of parasitic varroa by emerging before the mite completes its development by at least one day. This natural characteristic of Africanized honey bees is being sought by bee breeders of European honey bees through genetic selection in laboratories with artificial insemination of queens and with strict control of drone mating areas. I have found that the behavior of our bees in pre-selecting young brood—before they emerge—by uncapping at the purple-eye development stage—is clearly apparent in my hive inspections.   


I was asking Michael Bush (author of the “Practical Beekeeper—Beekeeping Naturally”) some questions recently about these processes and the attempts to circumvent natural selection by purchasing queens from breeders for the trait of varroa resistance or VSH (varroa sensitive hygiene). He sent a very interesting answer, including a quote from eminent beek, Kirk Webster.

One thing to know—Michael kept a large, 4 frame, glassed observation hive for several years in his living room with a tube to allow the bees to come and go. This device was very instructive for understanding what bees actually do, minute to minute over a long period of time.

To Michael from Susan:
I have a question about the uncapping of brood at the purple eye stage. [During pupae development,coloration begins with the eyes: first pink, then purple, then black.]   I have always taught (and believed) that this signals a problem with the larvae and the bees plan to drag that pupa out and discard it.     Is that correct? 

Michael’s answer:
It is a sign of hygienic behavior if they uncap the brood.  Dee [Lusby] says they remove the mite and leave the larva.  I was not trying to answer that question when I was observing uncapping in my observation hive, so I never noticed.  Sometimes they removed them.  But recapping them would not be inconsistent with my observation though I never tried to track that.

I think VSH is going to turn out to be a very bad idea to breed for. There are already reports (lots of them) from people who say their VSH bees cleaned up the entire brood nest and threw the brood out of the hive.  I think they are breeding OCD bees.

I think any breeding for one trait has always failed spectacularly in any species we humans have attempted it.  We should look at the big picture.



“We’re making the same mistake with our honey-bees.  We’re trying to ensure the failure of modern bee-keeping by focusing too much on single traits; by ignoring the elements of Wildness; and by constantly treating the bees.  The biggest mistake of all is to continue viewing mites and other “pests” as enemies that must be destroyed, instead of allies and teachers that are trying to show us a path to a better future.  The more virulent a parasite is, the more powerful a tool it can be for improving stocks and practice in the future.  All the boring and soul-destroying work of counting mites on sticky boards, killing brood with liquid nitrogen, watching bees groom each other, and measuring brood hormone levels—all done in thousands of replications—will someday be seen as a colossal waste of time when we finally learn to let the Varroa mites do these things for us.  My own methods of propagating, selecting and breeding bees, worked out through many years of trial and error, are really just an attempt to establish and utilize Horizontal breeding with honeybees—to create a productive system that preserves
and enhances the elements of Wildness.  My results are not perfect, but they have enabled me to continue making a living from bees without much stress, and have a positive outlook for the future.  I have no doubt that many other beekeepers could easily achieve these same results, and then surpass them.”

–Kirk Webster, many decades beekeeper in Vermont, treatment free, survivor stock “What’s Missing From The Current Discussion And Work Related To Bees That’s Preventing Us From Making
Good Progress?”

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

LISTEN: Natural Beekeeper Kirk Anderson via @rootsimple

Root Simple’s interview with Kirk Anderson, a natural, no-treatment beekeeper and mentor. Kirk tells funny stories and shares his wisdom on how to keep bees in a big city. During the podcast they discuss:

[click here to view podcast on Root Simple]

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Interviews

RECIPE: Honey Grilled Watermelon Caprese Salad




2 large, round watermelon slices, each cut into 4 triangles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons [RAW LOCAL] honey
1 pint of grape tomatoes, quartered
4 ounces of fresh mozzarella, cut in half or sliced
a bunch of fresh basil leaves
balsamic glaze for drizzling


Preheat your grill to medium heat. Brush both sides of each watermelon triangle with olive oil and season all sides with salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of honey over each triangle and place them on the grill, grilling each side for about 2 minutes. Remove and add a little more honey if desired.

Assemble salads by placing 2 watermelon triangles on each plate, then cover with a sprinkle of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves. Add some salt and pepper on top, then drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve!

[click here to view the full post on]

Read full story · Posted in Recipes

READ: Organic Beekeeping Conference in Oracle Arizona


By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

One of the most delightful and informative ways beeks can advance their understanding of bees and beekeeping is by attending conferences. The American Beekeeping Federation conference was held in Anaheim this year in January and I went to several presentations. This was a completely academic conference, combined with a large trade show—no live bees to work with. This group also reflects a strong conventional management and commercial pollinator representation. There are always things to be learned though, and I found the time well spent.

However, a number of smaller and more appropriate conferences for us treatment free folk also occur every year. The 8th Annual Organic Beekeeping conference at Oracle AZ, put on by Dee Lusby allows participants to visit the 9 bee yards kept by Dee in the remote Sonora desert near the Mexican border. These bees are never moved (no migratory pollination) are at least 4 deeps tall, are not re-queened or supported with any feeds, and are visited (on average) just 5 times a year. Dee’s honey is very dry and dark, reflecting the dry climate and mixed desert flora the bees have for forage. These flowers include many desert shrubs, cactus, wildflowers, and introduced weed species too numerous to mention. The Spring rains this year have been abundant and well spaced, so we saw lots of wildflower and cactus blooms. The desert smelled wonderful—fresh, sage-y scented with alternating bright blue skies and looming smokey thunderclouds.


Rob McFarland (Co-Founder of HoneyLove) and I drove to Oracle, which is in a very remote area. The conference is sited at the YMCA, with cabins and bunk beds for sleeping and 3 full cafeteria meals a day. Some of the best time is spent at meals in talking with other bee keepers from all over the US and even other parts of the world.

The conference lasts 3 days, with speakers on a range of subjects—apitherapy (using bee stings for health reasons), introduction of a new national on-line register for swarm calls to beekeepers, the beekeeping management calendar year from a extreme climate perspective, and new information on genetics and breeding of queens. Michael Bush and Sam Comfort, our great friends in treatment free beekeeping not only spoke individually, but on the last night gave us a melodious, heartfelt performance for almost a hour. Michael plays guitar and sings, Sam plays ukelele and banjo and a MEAN harmonica!! It was stupendous and had people’s roaring approval.

Our final day was devoted to driving on dirt roads to Dee’s remote beeyards—she has 700 hives. The day was a bit windy and cold, with threatening rain, but we went anyway, and the desert was glorious with color. The desert bees were very ferocious in defending their colonies, reflecting the weather and forage conditions they must deal with. We were fully suited and gloved to help restore some hives that were tipping wildly from the undermining of the bottom board by tunneling rodents. The hives had to be totally unstacked, the bottom board leveled and supported by fresh soil and the hives re-stacked—each at least 4 deeps.

I urge all that wish to really know beekeeping and infuse the relationship with new knowledge to attend these bee conferences.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Workshops, Yay Bees

Advanced Beek Meeting: October Recap

Adv Beek Mtg 1
The new Advanced Beekeeper meetings began at HoneyLove on October 27. Held on the last Sunday of each month at 11am at the HoneyLove office, these meetings will fill the gap left by the Backwards Beekeepers and will help advance the learning of the L.A. treatment-free community.

Each meeting will have a member-speaker teaching us all something new as well as a general open Q&A and mentorship opportunities. Beekeepers of all levels are welcome to attend; HoneyLove also has more introductory-level beekeeper meetings on the 2nd Saturday of each month. Attendees are encouraged to join for extra benefits and the tax-deductible donation.

The October speaker was Josip Benko, a second-generation beekeeper with over 30 years of experience. Josip is from the former Czechoslovakia and shares the philosophy of observing the bees because they’ll show you what they need. He is also big on experimentation and customizing his hive boxes.

Josip brought several hive box samples; these are reduced for education purposes. He now uses 7 or 9 frame boxes because his observation is that bees don’t like even numbers.

ADV Beek 1
Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, HoneyLove Workshops

WATCH: Michael Bush on Treatment-Free Beekeeping via

[Visit HoneyLove’s YouTube channel to view all 5 videos from this series]

Read full story · Posted in Uncategorized