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What the Bee Knows

“The Sphinx, the Pyramids,

the stone temples are, all of them,

ultimately as flimsy as London Bridge;

our cities but tents set up in the cosmos.

We pass.

But what the bee knows,

the wisdom that sustains our passing life

- however much we deny or ignore it -

that for ever remains.”

P.L. Travers

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Dear friends across Europe,

4270_Beeeee_SAM_1_460x230

In less than 36 hours, European countries will vote on plans to ban bee killing pesticides, but Bayer and other chemical giants are out in full force trying to protect their profits from needed safety regulation. Our governments are buckling under the pressure – let’s counteract the corporate bullying with a flood of messages to our Agriculture Ministers to save the bees! Send a message now:

btn_sendamessage

In less than 36 hours, the European Union will vote on whether to ban toxic pesticides that are killing bees around the world and threatening our food supply. The big corporations profiting from this vile stuff are lobbying furiously to defeat the ban and we’ve just heard that key governments are about to cave — unless they feel the sting of public opinion!

Bees are disappearing around the world at alarming rates. Because bees pollinate our crops, experts are warning that these mass deaths pose a catastrophic threat to our food supply. Thankfully, numerous studies have now identified the likely culprit: a certain class of noxious pesticides. An official EU report found that banning them could solve the problem, but pesticide giant Bayer is trying to convince our leaders to ignore the science to protect their profits.

Over 2.5 million of us have signed the petition that made this vote possible — and now it’s time to tell our politicians that they must side with science to save the bees this week. Let’s flood the inboxes of our Agriculture Ministers, drown out the corporate lobby, and make sure our governments saves the bees and our food — click below to send a message then share this urgent campaign with your friends:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/bye_bye_bees_eu_spread/?bWdzgdb&v=23040

Bees don’t just make honey, they are vital to life on earth, every year pollinating 90% of plants and crops and helping to generate an estimated $40bn value and over one-third of the food supply in many countries. Without immediate action to save bees, many of our favourite fruits, vegetables, and nuts could vanish from our shelves.

Last month the European Food Safety Authority gave the most compelling evidence yet that toxic chemicals called neonicotinoid pesticides could be responsible for the bee deaths. Italy has banned some uses of these bee-killing pesticides and has already seen it’s bee populations come back, but Bayer and Sygenta are lobbying to prevent a Euro-wide ban, for fears it would harm their global business. It seems they’re close to having the support of the UK, Spain, and Germany, who want to protect their biggest chemical corporations.

Now the issue is coming to a boil. Just weeks ago, Avaaz delivered a petition signed by over 2.5 million of us to the European Commission, who proposed a ban days later. EU parliamentarians are stepping up their pressure and several other European governments have announced plans to push ahead with new legislation to ban the deadly pesticides on their own. So we have the power to win this, but we need one final push to overcome the pesticide lobby. Send a message telling our governments to support the ban now and then share with others:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/bye_bye_bees_eu_spread/?bWdzgdb&v=23040

Our world is beset with threats to what makes it habitable, and to what fills it with wonder. The Avaaz community comes together to defend both — large or small. Whether winning a battle to keep the International Whaling Commission from sanctioning the murder of these giants, or saving bees, the tiny creatures upon which so much depends, we will come together and stand up for the world we all want.

With hope,

Iain, Marie, Pascal, Emma, Ricken, Alaphia, and the Avaaz team

MORE INFORMATION

EU Proposes ban on bee killer (The Telegraph)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9840497/EU-proposes-ban-on-bee-killer-pesticide.html

Bayer slams draconian EU plans to ban neonicotinoids (Farmers weekly)
http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/01/02/2013/137451/bayer-slams-39draconian39-eu-plan-to-ban-neonicotinoids.htm

Government to ignore European ban on neonicotinoid pesticides (Independent)
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/government-to-ignore-european-ban-on-neonicotinoid-pesticides-8483916.html

The Battle to ban bee killers (Avaaz Daily Briefing)
http://en.avaaz.org/1326/eu-ban-bee-killing-pesticides-bayer 

Studies fault Bayer in bee die-off (Christian Science Monitor)
http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0406/Studies-fault-Bayer-in-bee-die-off

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 41,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

We caught the first swarm of the season on Monday night.  It was 18ft up in a bush – and I had to use an extension to my long pole (used for painting) to get the box up there.  Luckily Dennis (whose garden it was) had an additional 3 poles which I used to extend my pole as well as get the smoker up there!

The photo looks as though I am trying to catch the sun!

Having inspected the hives on Saturday, Faith is still very weak and I somehow doubt will come through as I have now tried to re-queen her twice.  We therefore decided to call this swarm “Hope” to keep the spirit of our three first hives – Faith, Hope and Charity.  The original Hope and Charity died off in 2005, but Faith has kept going since then.  Oh – and it was luck that the place that we caught the hive in started with an H – so we stuck to the Bee Law of naming the hives from the first letter of the place that they were caught!

Last week I bought (because I couldn’t rent it) the film by Sue Monk Kidd called “The Secret Life of Bees”.  Here is her entry on Beelore and Symbol from her website <HERE> (which tells you more about the book and film).  I love the idea that she wrote the book with a pot of honey which was an essential part of her continuing to write the book!  Pure magic!

Bee Lore and Symbol

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“When I decided to put three beekeeping sisters into the novel, it was not because I knew anything about bees, beekeeping or honey making. I had to read lots of books. There’s a mystique about bees, a kind of spell they weave, and as I read, I fell completely under it.

Bee lore goes back to ancient times, when bees were considered a symbol of the soul, of death and rebirth. I also discovered medieval hymns that referred to the Virgin Mary as the bee hive, and Christ as the honey that flowed from her. In some stories, the Virgin Mary was associated with the queen bee, and in ancient Greece the goddess Demeter was referred to as the queen bee, and her priestesses were the worker bees, who served her.

As the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter in the novel suggest, I thought of the pink house in the novel as a kind of hive community. As for who the queen bee in the novel might be, I’ll let you come to your own conclusions. You might be as interested as I was, though, to learn that for a very long time, beekeepers assumed that the queen was a king. It wasn’t until 1609 that people began to seriously question the existence of king bees, thanks to Charles Butler who wrote a book called The Feminine Monarchie.

Long ago, honey was regarded as a magical, sacred substance. People were buried in it, not only because it was a preservative, but because “bee-balm” as it was called, was thought to contain a resurrection potency. It was one of the libations offered to the gods of Greece, and believed to be the food of poets and muses. I’ll tell you this much, I ate honey religiously while writing The Secret Life of Bees. For some reason writing about honey made me hungry for it. I kept a jar of it sitting right on my desk. One day when I completely ran out of it, I was overcome with the desire for biscuits and honey, and abruptly stopped writing, drove to the store and bought some. Actually, I do think the writing went better after that.”

A third of UK bee colonies have been lost over the last two years and there have been many explanations given for this. There is strong evidence that neonicotinoids – a class of pesticide first used in agriculture in the mid 1990s at exactly the time when mass bee disappearances started occurring – are involved in the deaths. The evidence against these chemicals is strong enough that they have been banned or suspended in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia – but not yet in the UK.
Neonicotinoids work as an insecticide by blocking specific neural pathways in insects’ central nervous systems. The chemicals impair bees’ communication, homing and foraging ability, flight activity, ability to discriminate by smell, learning, and immune systems – all of which have an impact on bees’ ability to survive. 

It seems bees genetic make up makes them particularly vulnerable to neonicotinoids. Recent mapping of the bee genome has revealed that bees’ capacity to detoxify chemicals is much lower than other insects. Instead bees have two strategies to protect themselves. On the first day of foraging in a new area, scout bees are sent out first to taste the nectar and pollens – if any are adversely affected they will be expelled from the hive immediately, and the colony will avoid the area.

In addition, once foraging begins, nurse bees in the hive clean foragers each time they return. These strategies protect the colony from mass exposure to lethal doses of chemicals, but they do leave honey bees particularly susceptible to sub-lethal exposures to any contaminants they encounter.

The other really important factor is the complex behaviour of honeybee colonies. For example, the 10,000 forager bees in a typical hive need to co-ordinate their quest for nectar – and they do this through the famed ‘waggle dance’, which communicates the flight direction and distance to sources of nectar. The complexity and precision of these dances is breathtaking, and success relies on the integrity of a nervous system where each synapse is crucial. It is no surprise then that honey bees have been shown to have a higher number of neurological receptors than other insects.

Honey bees live and work as a colony, not as individuals; what seems to be happening is that the cumulative impact of small doses of nenoicotinoids on thousands of bees over time is affecting individual bee’s ability to work and communicate effectively as part of a colony. Because lots of bees in each colony are behaving sub-optimally this can lead to the sudden, and devastating, outcomes that we’ve been witnessing in recent years.

The Soil Association believes that there is already enough evidence to justify an immediate ban on neonicotinoids today.

Article from The Soil Association <HERE> – with addition PDF Download: Bee briefing: The evidence that neonicotinoids are implicated in colony collapse disorder in honey bees, and should be banned in the UK

Picture below from: http://www.cbgnetwork.org/2821.html

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