Bjorn Apiaries

Once stated...."We are not here to tell you how to keep bees. We are here to tell you why something is"...

                                                         University Researcher.

Infamous qoute

"Any beekeeper saying they never experienced CCD, is someone who does not know what they are talking about and is too stupid to know what to look for"

                           A Questionable Commercial Beekeeper 2009

Research at Bjorn Apiaries

Bjorn Apiaries has been supporting research over the years on a wide range of topics. Some of this research support and participation has been while working as a Pennsylvania state apiary inspector, and some out of our own curiosity and willingness to spend our own money in attempts to find answers to the many questions in the bee industry.

Some of the information on this page includes our opinion and conclusions on what we have observed and experienced. As with most research, additional tests and studies could stretch continued questioning of information into what would seem as endless cycle of research. We are not a research facility supported with million dollar grants. We are simply beekeepers willing to spend some of our own time and money trying to find some answers.

Over the years, we have been involved with testing and research collecting on such items as; Pennsylvania Native Bee survey (2 years), Small Hive Beetle lure testing (2 years), Comparison testing of varroa treatment products, some of which are not yet on the market (1 year), Winter loss survey and the Belgium disease study (mentioned below), mite bee yard transfer data collecting, apiary location disease analysis, as well as a number of other research items not being mentioned. Some research is ongoing or has not yet had the information published. 

With any research, it takes time and money. One study alone had Bjorn Apiaries dedicating 50 hives for the research. This required us to not super for the year, losing the honey production of these hives. A big sacrifice.

Today, we are still willing to participate in small research programs. But it is either our own research or in conjunction with other small beekeeping operations who are testing "in the field" ideas and applications on a range of practical and sensible items that beekeepers can benefit. Due to personal agenda, ego, and monetary motives of those conducting research at university programs, we no longer support research at that level.

We encourage those beekeepers who can, to try different things. Have a good idea, a hunch, some interesting thoughts on something perhaps not seen before....then try it out. We are convinced that extreme amounts of knowledge and information can be obtained and gained, from beekeepers in the field. If beekeepers with common sense could have a fraction of the money that universities receive every year, I bet beekeepers would solve some of the ongoing problems much sooner, and be more effective in obtaining information based on practical applications.

We have a number of studies, simple research programs, and many observations, to list and add to the website. Below are three items of interest. Included are our own thoughts and observations. While you may have varying opinions and opposing thoughts, we hope you enjoy and find the openness and willingness of our choice to offer these items, to your benefit. Thank you.

Backyard casual observations, small experiments, and advice from things we play around with:

Queen Rearing Observations (click here)


Drawing Natural (foundationless) Comb (click here)

On this page you will find:

Testing pollen from Bjorn Apiaries

Testing commercial pollen


Random disease testing (Belgium Study)


Feral Honey Bee study





Trapped Pollen at Bjorn Apiaries Location

The basis for this testing was trapping pollen by bees returning from foraging. Trapped pollen gives an indication of internal chemical tainting of bees and also of the pollen being collected in the local area.

Researchers at Penn State in 2008 tested multiple samples of commercial foundation. All were tainted with chemicals. All our discussions indicated fluvalinate and coumophos were present in all foundation samples tested.

So we collected samples of pollen from honey bee colonies on commercial wax foundation.

The following chemicals were found:

Atrazine  4.7 PPB with LOD 6

        Herbicide used for broad leaved weeds.

        Used primarily for field corn production.

Azinphos Methyl  (Guthion) 7.8 PPB with LOD 6

         Insecticide - Used on vegetables and fruit trees.

         Very Nasty!

Phenothrin    83.9 PPB with LOD 10

         Discontinued for dog flea and tick collar, due to death and health concerns.

         Used in the cattle industry for flea and tick dip.

The apiary this pollen sample was taken is next to a long established cattle operation. Multiple treatments (dips or sprays) of their cattle is made every year. This is also in a highly agricultural area.

We were very satisfied to read that no beekeeper induced chemicals were detected. These hive had never been treated with fluvalinate or coumophos based products.

We are very concerned about what was being dragged in from the surrounding countryside as the bees foraged. We could keep our operation as clean as we could, but the bees were still finding pesticide and chemical contamination.

In 2008, Penn State as part of the CCD research, tested 5 commercial samples of wax foundation. All were found to have chemicals, including beekeeper miticides such as fluvalinate and coumophos. Many beekeepers have assumed that this was a basis for claiming foundation was harming or even killing bees. That has never been established. To date, no further additional testing of placing clean bees on tainted foundation has been conducted that we know. So any claims or suggestions of wax foundation being harmful to bees is purely speculation. 

We are confident that any chemicals in the foundation we purchased, (Remember, every sample tested has shown tainted with beekeeper applied chemicals present) was not the source of the chemicals detected in this test. We either purchased the only clean foundation known to exist at that time, or any chemicals present in the wax was not transferring to the bees. This may be for reasons of the chemicals in the wax being encapsulated. No fluvalinate or coumophos was detected. And the chemicals that were found, was very likely from the pollen being collected in the fields. More testing is needed to establish if commercial wax is indeed a problem. But we again note, that claims of wax foundation  harming bees are unwarranted with little or no actual research. This unverified claim seems to be mostly used by beekeepers selling a concept or style of beekeeping that would benefit from telling you that commercial foundation is bad. There is no basis for this. And it is clear, no matter the foundation or foundationless system you use, chemicals will be a problem as the bees collect pollen from the surrounding countryside. Tainted holding ponds with chemical buildup may also be a source of chemicals. Comb rotation (every 3-5 years) and not having beekeepers place chemicals in the hive, is one of the keys to hive health.



Commercial Pollen Testing

The following data sheets are the results of testing commercial pollen being sold on the market through large supply companies.

The story behind the story.....

In early 2008, a few select beekeepers started questioning where pollen had first originated, and then sold in the bee supply companies. Among others things, the listing of nutrition was lower in some supplemental feeds, after pollen was added. Making the quality of pollen very questionable on the market. After invited a representative from one of the major supply companies to voice their position in discussions, two things were divulged. 1) The pollen was not being added for nutritious purposes. It was being added to increase palatability of the pollen supplement. 2) The pollen was being brought in from China. This was the first time I can recall a major company acknowledging their pollen was being brought in from China.

About two weeks later, I was contacted by several beekeepers asking me where I bought my pollen. The conversations were based on pollen being pulled off the shelves from the company that divulged their pollen was being imported from China. It seems this created a small run on pollen and normal buyers were finding their normal source closed.

I then contacted a west coast provider of pollen. I purchased two 25 pound bags. The customer service representative at the end of the order asked me if this was being bought for bee feed. I said Yes. She stated that the pollen was ok for bee feed, but not for human consumption. Wow, what thoughts this started. I was buying pollen that could be used in the very hives that I produced honey and yet was not good enough for me to eat directly.

After receiving the pollen, I stored it away in a refrigerator. A month later I got a letter from the USDA requesting that any pollen I had previously bought, be returned to the supplier from which I purchased it. They followed that mailing request with a phone call. I specifically asked what was the problem? They stated that it was labeled wrong. I asked "Was there any problem with the pollen?" The representative stated the pollen was ok, but due to labeling problems, it needed to be returned. I stated that I did not have any left. The conversation ended. In the following two weeks, I received another warning letter, and two phone calls from the supplier that sold me the pollen. I kept thinking how odd that they so strongly wanted their pollen returned. I sent back nothing.

In late 2008, I paid for, and sent a sample off to Penn State for testing. What you see below is the testing results of that pollen.

The three chemicals detected were:

Fluvalinate - The ingredient in Apistan. 52.5 PPB with LOD of 1

DDT - 6 PPB with LOD of 20. Does not sound bad until you understand that DDT does not dissipate over time or break down on the same levels as other chemicals. It has compounding effects in fatty tissue and brain cells. Continuous consumption of DDT at the same level just means the amounts stored in the victim, will compound until massive amounts will have dire consequences.  

2,4 Dimethylphenyl formamide (DMPF)  9.8 PPB with LOD of 4


From these results, one can reasonably conclude that the chemical of choice of Chinese beekeepers for mite control is a fluvalinate based product. That or they use it in massive amounts in other agriculture practices and the bees are collecting it. Fluvalinate is also used off label by some beekeepers by using products such as MAVRICK or Tacktic, which are what some consider pure forms of the product. The use includes soaking cardboard, coasters, shop towels, etc., and placing it into the beehive. A practice seen in the U.S. for years in the commercial bee industry.

The DDT was shock to us. Many suggest a residual amount could be found in many agriculture products in the U.S. even though it was banned in the early 70's. But did you know that one of the largest manufacturers of DDT is in New Jersey. Although we can not use it here in the U.S., we manufacture and sell DDT to many countries around the world. To think that DDT was finding it's way into bee hives in the states through massive quantities of foreign pollen being sold, really ticked us off.

Ironically, the removal of the foreign pollen was not ultimately due to diligent and concerned beekeepers asking the right questions. A follow-up conversation with a large supply company official, confirmed the following. A Canadian pollen supplement company was listening in on the conversation (internet chat) being made in early 2008. They made phone calls to the USDA and other folks, not for the goodness of helping beekeepers. But to smash a competitor and only from what some would suggest as dirty politics.

So how much of this pollen was sold through the major supply companies in the U.S.? How many beekeepers bought supplement patties with pollen added? What was the effect on hive health? How many commercial operations with CCD losses were making, using, and feeding bee colonies tainted pollen? We may never know. And it seemed the few people I contacted about this, were more than willing to sweep it under the rug. 

I was once told that all goods coming into the states was irradiate. I know cosmetics and spices are irradiated. Not sure if that applies to pollen or other food products. It would seem not, because the chemicals were certainly there for all to find. And I was told that this irradiation would break down and clean up chemicals such as pesticides. Nobody had a vested interest in testing pollen over the years it seems. No money in that.



Random Pest and Disease Testing


The following was a sample study that Bjorn Apiaries participating in 2008. These samples were also part of a larger Belgium study for viral and bacterial sampling. The samples were collected from the hives on 15 September 2008.

These two hives were not ever treated for any disease or pests. Please note that tracheal mites are nonexistent. And nosema spores are well below the threshold (1 million). While one hive did have a moderate mite count, it was not severe for the time frame being tested in September. The other hive was almost free of mites. These hives sat on the same hive stand. So mite transfer or "mite leveling" is not an issue. These hives were at least three year old.


A spring follow up survey had everyone perplexed. I had been conducting queen evaluations with other beekeepers on this day, and I had mentioned as we were driving to this yard, that this was going to be a great place to evaluate queens. I knew going into winter, everything looked great. When I reported that 9 out of 11 hives (82% loss) in this apiary was dead, the researchers had to ask a second time to verify this. They were shocked to find that these hives had died at the rate they did. This whole bee yard tested as one of the best in the study. It was the bee yard with the highest mortality rate that Bjorn Apiaries experienced that particular year.


No follow up testing of the dead hives was conducted. We can only guess that a late season pesticide incident or other factors were at play. We have never had a winter kill rate above 20% at this yard with our no treatment or pest chemical IPM approach.



Feral Honey Bee Study

The following is the first permit Bjorn Apiaries received in our on-going feral honey bee study. This application did not mention the feeding stations that was also part of the research. Feeding in state parks in not permitted. The results are being held due to some research being part of other beekeepers research applications, and our respect for their wishes. The second page detailing our objectives, methods, and finer details of the study are also not shown. If you are interested in discussing further details and are considering doing studies such as this, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to discuss the application process and help in any way we can.