beekeeper with smoker

Beekeeper Dave Harrod with smoker.

I first met Dave Harrod at The Miquon School where his daughter Nina and my son Wynn were classmates. Neither one of us were beekeepers back then. We lost touch after the kids graduated from Miquon. It was a pleasant surprise to meet up with him several years later at one of The Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild meetings.

Wanting to get back to my Beekeepers series I messaged Dave asking if I could photograph him working at his apiary. He replied yes and said to meet him 10:00 am Saturday at The Saul School. 

The Saul School is a magnet school that specializes in agricultural sciences and is located along Henry Avenue in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. The school gives Dave a place to keep his bees and in return his bees pollinate Saul’s crops, flowers and fruit trees. 

Saul School Apiary

Dave Harrod working his apiary at W.B. Saul School.

“Better Suit UP”

It was a hot and humid morning so I hoped to get away with not wearing my bee suit, it is possible at times. As I approached the hives Dave called out that I had better suit up. He said he was really disputing the hives and that they were in a bad mood. I heeded his advice.

Aside from the suit being hot it’s not easy peering through a viewfinder while wearing a veil. Nor is it easy changing camera settings wearing thick gloves. On the other hand it’s hard to take photographs while writhing in pain from multiple bee stings!

Beekeeper taking a break

Dave taking a break in a grove of trees for shade and to escape angry attack bees.

In an attempt to re-queen hives in the Guild’s apiary Dave had inserted Queen excluders into some of his hives. A queen excluder is a screen that restricts the queen’s travel to the boxes at the bottom of the hive. This causes the bees in the upper boxes to create a new queen that can later be moved to a queen-less hive.  

While Dave’s day job is in finance he earned an MFA in Photography from University at Buffalo. At times our conversation veered away from beekeeping to cameras we have owned, darkroom techniques and the merits of film vs. digital. He offered to let be borrow his Kodak Master View 8×10 camera. I thinks its time to take him up on his offer!    

Dave is the current president of Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild.

A Purdue queen bee and her attendants in queen cage               ©2016Addison Geary


The plight of the honeybee has received quite a bit attention in the media lately and for good reason. Honeybees are directly responsible for, or help in the pollination of 30% of the food we eat.  Since 1990 the honeybee population has dropped by 25%. Researchers are calling this Colony Collapse Disorder and are trying to determine the causes.



Climate change has caused flowers to bloom earlier, sometimes before the bees come out of hibernation. Pesticides used in farming, particularly neonicotinoid’s are toxic to bees and they are losing habitat due to development. Last but not least parasites, especially the Varroa mite, spread viruses and weaken hives.
Varroa Destructor




Varroa destructor is a parasitic mite that attaches itself to the back of a honeybee sucking on its blood. This not only weakens the bee but spreads diseases like deformed wing virus.  Some researchers believe Verroa mites are responsible for the majority of hive losses in the United States.




There are chemical treatments for Varroa mites but placing chemicals inside the hive is not ideal especially when there is honey in the hive that you will want extract at some point in the future. Many beekeepers try more natural methods of mite control like breaking the brood cycle of the hive as Varroa lay their eggs inside the brood chamber along with the bee larvae. 
Wynn installing Purdue queen 
Entomologists at Purdue University collected dead mites from the bottom of hives in their research apiary.  Inspecting the mites under a microscope they discovered some were missing one or more of their eight legs. Apparently as the bees helped to groom one another they would chew off the mite’s legs to detach it from the other bee causing the mite to bleed out and die.
For each hive in the apiary the researches counted the number of dead mites and noted the number of mites that had missing legs. It was decided that the Queens from the hives with highest number of mites with missing legs would be used in the breeding program in hopes of  rearing hives with aggressive grooming characteristics baked into their genes. 
This would be the ideal scenario, future generations of bees that could mange Varroa on their own without the need for chemicals.

The Purdue Queens are beginning to make their way around the country and we were lucky enough to get one from our local queen rearer. 

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