The BeeHolder, April 2011
Dave was a generous man who produced a website to help beekeepers. Throughout the world Dave’s website became the first port of call when needing bee advice. Rather than extol his virtue let this piece of writing by Dave himself serve as his memorial. His site is being preserved and will remain a treasure for beekeepers everywhere.
The usefulness of Internet information
Many beginning beekeepers use the internet as their first port of call when looking for information, but all beekeepers use the internet at some time or other. This can give some misleading information to the unwary as, indeed, can many books and research papers which can sometimes give a narrowly focused view.
Let me explain that bee research is carried out in many different parts of the world, mainly using the bees that are locally available to the researchers. Bees are not all the same, all races have different characteristics and behaviour and exist in various degrees of racial purity, so information gathered and conclusions drawn in any particular study cannot be applied universally to all other bees and circumstances.
The UK and Ireland have a population that contains a large proportion of Dark European Honey Bee genes and as such are very different in behaviour to the majority of bees commonly studied by scientists, so we have to be particularly careful about interpreting and applying information that we read in books and gather from the internet.
When reading papers and books you should try to fix in your mind where the bees concerned were and what racial type they may have been. For instance, in USA the bees are generally a mixture of Italian and Carniolan types, with less than three percent Dark European Honey Bee genes; parts of Germany can be Carniolan or Dark European; Slovenia and Czech Republic are almost exclusively Carniolan – and many parts of South America are Africanised.
There is another problem with online information, in that the internet is not policed, so Joe beekeeper can promote his favourite theory just as easily as a university researcher can publish genuine research. There are no checks as to whether the information is right or wrong so that someone who is a glib writer may easily promote misinformation just as easily as accurate data. Books pose other, additional problems in interpretation. During the period either side of year 1900, many of the beekeeping authors were members of the clergy, some of whom imparted a religious or moral 'spin' to their information. However the main problem with books is the propagation of inaccurate information, which in turn is repeated in subsequent books written by others that have done their learning from the earlier books. The fact that said piece of inaccurate information occurs in several books then lends weight for such information to be believed. There is another tendency with belief of printed texts and that is that 'it must be true because it has been published'.
I cannot give you any method of sorting the wheat from the chaff other than by improving your own education on bee matters. The best way of achieving this is by attending meetings, lectures and conferences and getting to know the researchers and lecturers themselves, so that you can ask them direct questions. This requires an investment in time and sometimes incurs travel costs, but over a few years you will gain enough knowledge to make sensible judgment on what you are reading. This process is also fun and you will meet many beekeepers in the process. I visit many conferences every year. I also get to meet many beekeepers as I also do a bit of lecturing. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last ten years, during which I have attended hundreds of conferences and have met thousands of beekeepers from all over the world. I hope you all get as much enjoyment from your own self education as I have had during mine.
(the late) Dave A. Cushman
Leicestershire & Rutland Beekeepers Association
Newsletter, via eBEES.