Over the past years, this has become the most popular post on this blog. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Originally posted on Bee Lore:

According to one ancient egyptian myth, honey bees were the tears of the sun god Ra.  In this context, the bee was seen as the messenger of the gods, falling down, like tears, towards the earth (and man) to pass on some secret message.


The above symbol was called the Udjat in ancient times.  It is now more commonly called the Eye of Ra or Eye of Horus and represents the right eye of the Egyptian Falcon God Horus and was also associated with the Sun God Ra.  It is supposed to be where the tears (or bees) came from.

According to another legend, the left eye was torn from Horus by his brother Seth. It was magically restored by Thoth, the God of Magick.  After the restoration, some stories state, Horus made a gift of the eye to Osiris, which allowed this solar deity to rule the underworld.


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The swarming season is drawing to an end.  We caught one final swarm this week – making it a total of five.  Two of the swarms decided to move on within days of being put into their new home.  I have often found this happening when there are several really hot days after the swarm has been moved.  It is only natural, I suppose.  We have enough colonies, anyway.

As June draws to a close, the June gap has taken away the youthfulness of Spring and the seasons are drawing breath before the garden once again flourishes with July and August colours.  I can’t wait for the purple firework displays of the buddleia to come out!

I was moved this week by a fascinating insight into  Rabindranath Tagore’s “Relevance for the Future of Spirituality and of Humanity” by Deepak Chopra given a few years back at the Tagore Festival.  It is well worth watching: I have not come across Tagore’s work before – but Chopra kept referring to a book of poems of his called Gianjali which I downloaded (for free) from  an amazing website called The Spiritual Bee.

Here is part 89 of the collection.  It really struck a chord for me.  I hope you enjoy it too!

“No more noisy, loud words from me ⎯ such is my master’s will. Henceforth I deal in whispers. The speech of my heart will be carried on in murmurings of a song.  Men hasten to the King’s market. All the buyers and sellers are there. But I have my untimely leave in the middle of the day, in the thick of work.

Let then the flowers come out in my garden, though it is not their time and let the midday bees strike up their lazy hum. Full many an hour have I spent in the strife of the good and the evil, but now it is the pleasure of my playmate of the empty days to draw my heart on to him; and I know not why is this sudden call to what useless inconsequence!”

This week, Susie (my wife and I) caught two swarms of bees. One on Monday. The other on Wednesday.
in previous years, the swarming season has started earlier. But in no year have the bees been so easy to catch.
In each case, the two swarms were clustered on branches of young trees about 4 feet off the ground.
Sometimes in life, things are easy to catch.
In previous years, they have been 15 feet in the air or clustered in difficult-to-catch nooks and crannies.
But this week, two swarms were there, waiting to be caught.
Not only that, but Susie took a video of me catching the first swarm – which you can see on YouTube.
The second swarm Susie caught. It was so quick we did not have time to video it!
The joy of foraging!

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.”


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