Is Honey Bee Suite Credible?
Rusty Burlew’s credentials make her blog, Honey Bee Suite, a credible source of information even though some of the content is not backed up by a secondary source.
It’s a Blog About Bees
Simply put, Honey Bee Suite is a blog about bees and (incidentally) beekeeping. Rusty Burlew, the author of the blog, has a strong scientific background and uses it to reliably inform her readers about bees and, occasionally, other pollinators.
The Author’s Credentials
The first place to look when determining the credibility of something is, of course, the author. Burlew lists her academic achievements on both Honey Bee Suite’s “About Me” page and in the provided “Press Page” linked in the footer of the blog: a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomic Crops from Oregon State University, and a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from Evergreen State College.
Burlew also describes what she researched for her master’s thesis on the “About Me” page: “While in school, I spent my time researching the effects of contaminated pollen on larval bee development, and studying the possibility of using non-Apis bees to supplement or replace the honey bee in modern agriculture.” Burlew even provides a copy of her master’s thesis (which clocks in at over a hundred pages long) and some of her other research papers on the “Papers” page of her blog.
Burlew’s position as the “…director of the Native Bee Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to education about wild pollinators,” also adds to her credibility on the topic of bees. I cross-checked this against the Native Bee Conservancy’s “Board of Directors” page, and Rusty Burlew is indeed listed as a director.
So far, Burlew’s credibility is looking strong due to her educational background alone. The credibility of her blog’s content still needs to be analyzed, however.
The Credibility of the Content
What is the content like?
The blog’s mission statement is at the bottom of every page, greeting the reader: “Honey Bee Suite is dedicated to honey bees, beekeeping, wild bees, other pollinators, and pollination ecology…” The tone of the blog is casual, which makes it extremely accessible to readers. I don’t think the casual tone harms the credibility of the content, but it does make it the content seem less than scholarly.
The content on the Honey Bee Suite blog can be categorized as either personal or informative. By personal, I mean that a particular post may be a personal story or anecdote. If you want an example of this kind of post, you can look no further than the post entitled, “My worst beekeeping day ever.”
Analyzing the informative side of the blog
Burlew’s blog has a plethora of informative content on her blog—all of the more crucial topics are linked to in the header of the blog. The blog even has a glossary available!
Because the blog has so much content available, I have selected two informative posts from Honey Bee Suite for analyzing the credibility of the overall content.
Chocolate is not pollinated by bees
First is the post called “Chocolate is not pollinated by bees,” published to the Honey Bee Suite blog in 2014. Burlew attempts to clear up a common misunderstanding about bees—they don’t actually pollinate cocoa trees, like commonly claimed. Burlew claims that, “In truth, the chocolate plant, Theobroma cacao, is pollinated by a small fly called a midge.”
In the next sentence, Burlew backs up her claim with evidence. Burlew names a primary source along with the information and links to it: “According to the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign [NAPPC], this little fly—only one millimeter long—is the only pollinator that can negotiate its way into the complex chocolate flower.”
The NAPPC document that Burlew names as her source of information has a list of resources they used to compile their information on the midge. Going down the list of those resources, four of the seven links are dead. The three operational links are to websites that look extremely dated—probably created back in the 90s and not updated since then. The NAPPC document does not list the date of its creation, so it’s impossible to tell how outdated the information might be. It’s possible that Burlew did not check the links on the document when she cited it as a source.
Pollen variety and bee health
Next is the post named “Pollen variety and bee health,” written in 2011. Burlew explains how bees need a variety of pollen in their diet in order to remain healthy. Towards the end of the post, Burlew describes the consequences of bad nutrition: “Bees lacking in nutritious food are more prone to disease, don’t live as long, and can’t maintain a strong hive. Brood production falls off and eventually a colony will die.”
Burlew has not cited any source of her information in this post. I assume Burlew is acting as the primary source for this information. Burlew has the credentials and knowledge on bees to do so.
I did some research and found some correlating information from an article entitled “The Benefits of Pollen to Honey Bees” provided by IFAS (The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) and the University of Florida. The article states that:
When considering the nutritional requirements of honey bees, it is important to remember “variety, variety, variety”. No single pollen meets all the nutritional needs of a colony so a variety of pollens from different plant sources will help ensure that these needs are met. (Ellis, Amanda, et al.)
Burlew might not have considered citing a source of information because this is common knowledge to her. My additional research into the information has proven that the information Burlew provided was indeed factual, so I don’t think this is detrimental to her credibility.
Because Rusty Burlew is the primary source of most of her information, some facts or information contained in the Honey Bee Suite blog are not cited from another source. To Burlew it is common knowledge, and the blog has more of a casual tone instead of purely academic. Her credentials give her an incredible amount of credibility, and the information provided is verifiable with additional research. Burlew may be a biased source of information, however, due to her links to the Native Bee Conservancy. I still would say that Honey Bee Suite is a credible source of information and that her supposed bias does not ultimately cast her blog in a bad light.
Burlew, Rusty. Honey Bee Suite. 2010, honeybeesuite.com. Accessed 8 Oct. 2016.
“Board of Directors.” Native Bee Conservancy. 2011, http://www.nativebeeconservancy.org/about-nbc/. Accessed 8 Oct. 2016.
Ellis, Amanda, et al. “The Benefits of Pollen to Honey Bees.” EDIS. The University of Florida IFAS Extension, 2010, edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in868. Accessed 9 Oct. 2016.