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Mark Thompson’s Halo

“For many years Mark Thompson, a beekeeper local to my area, had the bizarre urge to build a Live-In Hive – an active bee home you could visit by inserting your head into it. He was working in a yard once when a beehive spewed a swarm of bees ‘like a flow of black lava, dissolving, then taking wing.’ The black cloud coalesced into a 20-foot-round black halo of 30,000 bees that hovered, UFO-like, six feet off the ground, exactly at eye-level. The flickering insect halo began to drift slowly away, keeping a constant six feet above the earth. It was a Live-In Hive dream come true. Mark didn’t waver. Dropping his tools, he slipped into the

Mark didn’t waver. Dropping his tools, he slipped into the swarm, his bare head now in the eye of a bee hurricane. He trotted in sync across the yard as the swarm eased away. Wearing a bee halo, Mark hopped over one fence, then another. He was now running to keep up with the thundering animal in whose belly his head floated. They all crossed the road and hurried down an open field, and then he jumped another fence. He was tiring. The bees weren’t; they picked up speed. The swarm-bearing man glided down a hill into a marsh. The two of them now resembled a superstitious swamp devil, humming, hovering, and plowing through the miasma. Mark churned wildly through the much trying to keep up. Then, on some signal, the bees accelerated They unhaloed Mark and left him standing there wet, ‘in painting, joyful amazement.’ Maintaining an eye-level altitude, the swarm floated across the landscape until it vanished, like a spirit unleashed, into somber pine woods across the highway.”

From: Out of Control – Chapter 2 – Hive Mind by Kevin Kelly

A revolutionary new beehive called the FLOWhive is launching this week on Kickstarter. It apparently harvests honey in a very innovative way and is set to revolutionise beekeeping and honey harvesting worldwide.  If it works the way the marketing video says, then it could save hours of manual labour taking the supers off hives and extracting honey with all the mess it brings with it. The project goes live on Indigogo in the next few days.  I’m definitely going to look out and see what these guys are offering!

From Scientific American (see link at bottom of article)

Home-based bird watchers might have mixed up a batch of nectar to attract the feathered objects of their affection. It’s pretty easy—just mix sugar and water. But the real stuff is a lot more complex—nearly all nectars are laced with amino acids, and some contain alkaloids, like nicotine and caffeine.

What’s the plants’ motivation for producing such chemicals? “It’s possible that this is an antimicrobial adaptation of plants—that they’re toxifying their nectar to protect it from spoilage by yeast or other microbes.” Leif Richardson, an ecologist at the University of Vermont. He says the compounds might also be a chemical defense. “Maybe the compounds are deterrent to nectar robbers, who take nectar without pollinating.” And yes, “nectar robbing is indeed a thing.”

But Richardson and his colleagues* have come up with yet another function for nectar’s chemicals: as medicine for bees. They found compounds in the nectar of wild tobacco, linden, and white turtlehead flowers that cut the numbers of a common gut parasite in bumblebees by as much as 80 percent. The results are in the journalProceedings of the Royal Society B. [Leif L. Richardson et al: Secondary metabolites in floral nectar reduce parasite infections in bumblebees]

The big unanswered question here is whether bees might actually self-medicate when they’re sick. Preliminary work suggests they do. And if that notion holds true, farmers and home gardeners alike could boost bee health—simply by growing plants that serve up the right medicine.

By Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is a transcript of a podcast which can be found at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/nectar-helps-bees-medicine-go-down/.]

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a major threat to bee colonies around the world and affects their ability to perform vital human food crop pollination. It has been a cause of urgent concern for scientists and farmers around the world for at least a decade but a specific cause for the phenomenon has yet to be conclusively identified.

Bees usually begin foraging when they are 2-3 weeks old but when bee colonies are stressed by disease, a lack of food, or other factors that kill off older bees, the younger bees start foraging at a younger age.

Researchers attached radio trackers to thousands of bees and tracked their movement throughout their lives. They found that bees that started foraging younger completed less foraging flights than others and were more likely to die on their first flights.

The researchers, from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), Macquarie University in Sydney, Washington University in St Louis, and University of Sydney, used this information to model the impact on honey bee colonies.

They found that any stress leading to chronic forager death of the normally older bees led to an increasingly young foraging force. This younger foraging population lead to poorer performance and quicker deaths of foragers and dramatically accelerated the decline of the colony much like observations of CCD seen around the world.

Dr Clint Perry from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at QMUL, said:

“Young bees leaving the hive early is likely to be an adaptive behaviour to a reduction in the number of older foraging bees. But if the increased death rate continues for too long or the hive isn’t big enough to withstand it in the short term, this natural response could upset the societal balance of the colony and have catastrophic consequences.

“Our results suggest that tracking when bees begin to forage may be a good indicator of the overall health of a hive. Our work sheds light on the reasons behind colony collapse and could help in the search for ways of preventing colony collapse.”

Like many beekeepers in the UK, 2014 turned out to be a very good season for honey.  With a very wet start to the year, we had a near-ideal spring and summer.

Having a previous record of 150 lbs in previous years, this year we managed to take off 250 lbs form 4 hives.  I’m sure other beekeepers have achieved more productivity per hive – but for us, it was a great year.

At the start of 2013 I took the advice from a seasoned beekeeper who posted on this site.  He told me to use TWO National brood chambers per hive – not one.  Having spent several seasons frustrated that the brood took at least one brood chamber and one super-as-brood chamber, I experimented in 2013.  The system worked well.  So in 2014, I gave each of my established hives the extra space.  Combined with the fact that the hives recovered much more strongly after swarming, I can’t understand why

Faith (the first hive I ever installed) continues strongly having re-queened a number of times – and lives up to her name.  She produced the best crop of honey with four supers (not all full).  The more observant will see an additional concrete block on the top of the hive.  I had problems with badgers tipping some of our hives over a few years back.  The weight of the block on top of the hive seems to have stopped this particular problem.

IMG_1100

Faith, with two brood chambers, ready for over-wintering.

I will write more about the other five hives in future posts.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 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 17,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

An Australian supplier of Mediterranean and Turkish food products has been stung with a $30,600 fine for misrepresenting its “Victoria Honey” product, which is neither derived from bees nor made in Victoria.

The ACCC found Melbourne-based distributor Basfoods to have made misrepresentations on its product labelling and its website that suggested its “Victoria Honey” was produced by honey bees, when it was mainly comprised of sugars from plants including corn and sugar cane.

The watchdog also considered by naming and labelling its product “Victoria Honey”, Basfoods had represented the product as originating from Victoria, Australia when in fact it was a product of Turkey.

The product was supplied to independent supermarkets, speciality retailers, online stores, delis, restaurants and cafes across Australia, as well as through Basfood’s retail stores and via its website.

More at: http://www.smartcompany.com.au/legal/42519-aussie-supplier-stung-with-30-000-fine-for-honey-not-made-from-bees.html?utm_source=SmartCompany&utm_campaign=125c1cda85-Thursday_19_June_201419_06_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_234118efee-125c1cda85-93822749

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