Archive for the ‘Bee-ology’ Category

Rythmic Forms

The very inception of life is rhythm.

Life is rhythm and Rhythm is life.

The rising of the SUN is rhythm.

The shimmering of the RAYS is rhythm.

The BLOOMMING of a BUD is rhythm.

The Feel of the BREEZE is rhythm.

The ROAR of the WAVES is rhythm.

The Chirping of the BIRDS is rhythm.

The BUZZING of the BEES is rhythm.

The Voice in a SONG is rhythm.

The TINKLE on the FEET is rhythm.

The BREATH we take is rhythm.

The Heart that BEATS is rhythm.

From: http://www.kathakindia.org/?page=rythems

Image from: http://www.thenewyorkoptimist.com/sitebuilder/images/bs01_Rythmic_Forms_textile_detail_2005-600×450.jpg

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Flowers of a given species all produce nectar at about the same time each day, as this increases the chances of cross-pollination. The trick works because pollinators, which in most cases means the honeybee, concentrate foraging on a particular species into a narrow time-window. In effect the honeybee has a daily diary that can include as many as nine appointments — say, 10:00 a.m., lilac; 11:30 a.m., peonies; and so on. The bees’ time-keeping is accurate to about 20 minutes.

Honey bee nectaring on button willow

Honey bee nectaring on button willow (from NY Times article cited below)

The bee can do this because, like the plants and just about every living creature, it has a circadian clock that is reset daily to run in time with the solar cycle. The bee can effectively consult this clock and “check” off the given time and associate this with a particular event.

Honeybees really are nature’s little treasures. They are a centimeter or so long, their brains are tiny, and a small set of simple rules can explain the sophisticated social behavior that produces the coordinated activity of a hive. They live by sets of instructions that are familiar to computer programmers as subroutines – do this until the stop code, then into the next subroutine, and so on.

These humble little bees have an innate ability to work out the location of a food source from its position in relation to the sun. They do this even on cloudy days by reading the pattern of the polarization of the light, and pass this information to other bees. In the dark of the hive, they transpose the location of a food source in the horizontal plane through the famous “waggle” dance into communication in the vertical plane of the hive.

Honeybees can tell their sisters how far away the food is up to a distance of about 15 kilometers. For good measure, they can also allow for the fact that the sun moves relative to the hive by about 15 degrees an hour and correct for this when they pass on the information. In other words, they have their own built-in global positioning system and a language that enables them to refer to objects and events that are distant in space or time.

German scientists in the early part of the last century called this ability of bees to learn the time of day when flowers start secreting nectar and visit the flowers at appropriate times Zeitgedächtnis, or time-sense. But the species of flowers in bloom, say, this week, is likely to be replaced by a different species at a different location next week or the week after. The bee needs a flexible, dynamic appointments system that it continually updates, and it has evolved an impressive ability to learn colors, odors, shapes and routes, within a time frame, quickly and accurately.

More at: http://judson.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/28/guest-column-lets-hear-it-for-the-bees/?ref=opinion

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Two years ago last month this blog started.  I continue to be amazed at how many people visit the site.  This year has also been quite extraordinary – having caught about 8 swarms of bees.  We now have a total of nine colonies.  Quite an increase from single old Faith at the start of 2008!

The local government bee inspector rang me last week and asked to inspect my hives (for the second time this year) so he could take samples of bees from five of my hives.  Unfortunately I had to go to town that day, so I did not accompany him on the inspection.  But all was well.  Only Joy is Queenless.  The remaining eight hives are doing well – though there was not as much honey as I was hoping for as July was quite wet.

A little over a year ago I stopped working at the corporate grindstone and the last year has been interesting – with my attention being turned to smaller companies and more local initiatives with my new company, Objective Designers.  More at: www.objectivedesigners.com

Last year I was wondering why Tears of Ra, the Sun God (https://beelore.com/2007/08/24/tears-of-ra-the-sun-god) is the most popular page by far.  Someone told me that there is an American TV series called Stargate Atlantis where RA is one of the main characters.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the page’s popularity. Interested to know if anyone else has other theories.

My most favourite story was the one I posted in July (https://beelore.com/2009/07/21/a-gift-from-the-bees/).  I would love to have more stories like this to post.  Please do send me any stories from your past or ones you have heard of so they can be posted!

So what plans for beelore in the coming year?

I have finally started to write more on the Bylaugh story (https://beelore.com/category/bylaugh/)…..which is beginning to turning into a book about the practical and spiritual side of beekeeping as well as research the connection between the health of bees and the state of the planet.  I want this to be multi-media – perhaps eventually making a film or a series of videos.  I also want to use some of the material to create a course for beginners in beekeeping.  I think that there is so much about bees that can be taught alongside the basics side of practical beekeeping.  And this site will continue to collect that type of material.  So all contributions are welcome!

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Bees and Drums

What do bees have with do with drums?

In the case of the kundu (pictured below), which is a traditional drum from Melanesia, bees play an important role in the construction of the drum.

A kundu

Here is a close-up picture of the head of the drum:

The head of a kundu drum

The head of the drum is made from lizard skin. Although this is unfortunate for the lizards, the skin is tough and durable.  It is held in place by the fibre ring that you can see surrounding the head of the drum.

Like all drums, the resonant frequency of the kundu is very important: it must sound just right to be in tune with other musicians that might want to play at the same time.  Most drums are tuned by adjusting the tightness of the drum head material with strings or clamps.  But with the kundu drum, they use something else.  If you have a look at the photo above,  you will find a clue.  And this is where the bees comes into the story:

The bee that allows the kundu to be tuned

The drum-makers usually make dark little globs which they put on the drum skin from an incredibly sticky beeswax obtained from the hives of the little bee above. There are also other materials that are used for tuning.  (In fact the globs on the kundu above are not beeswax at all. They are made from some gooey substance derived from breadfruit – but it makes for a good story about bees!)

By adding mass to the head of the drum, the resonant frequency is lowered. You can adjust it only downwards by adding mass, so you have to start out by stretching the skin very tightly to get a frequency higher than you want. Then you add the mass of the beeswax a little at a time until it is just right.  If the frequency is too low, the drummer holds the head of the drum near the flames of the fire to tighten the head and raise the frequency.

Which is one way that bees are connected to drums!
Main idea and pictures from: http://www.messersmith.name/wordpress/2008/10/drums-and-bees/

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Here is another interesting design – which has the same frame size for both the brood chamber AND the supers – the Rose Hive OSB (one-size box).  As well as having the same sized boxes for brood chamber and super, it also has no queen excluder!  The other advantage is that the roof and floors are National sizes – so for those with existing hives, many parts can be reused in the Rose OSB system without having to buy new rooves, floors or stands.


I think this is a really neat idea.  It means that the queen is free to roam the whole hive and brood comb is not constrained.  And the problem of having not enough drawn comb for the brood chamber simply vanishes – because all drawn comb can be moved around depending on what the bees need – and there is no build-up of old black comb which can encourage varroa and wax moth.

rose hive

The only downside seems to be that the supers are more heavy than the conventional National / Commercial bee hive – but I tend to use a wheelbarrow when it is harvest time – which takes a lot of the back pain away.

Thornes (in the UK) are apparently selling the Rose Hive.  I am very interested in trying this new system – as well as having any comments that anyone has on how successful it has been for them – or any other observations they might have on it!

More at:  http://www.rosebeehives.com/index.php

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A great video on YouTube that gives the Lifecycle of the Honeybee:


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When visiting the apiary yesterday I noticed a beautiful white cobweb glistening in an apple tree about 10 metres from the hives.  As I drew closer, I saw it had a cuttlefish-like structure.

On closer inspection it turned out to be a piece of pure white honeycomb – about 5 inches long by 4 inches wide that had obviously been drawn out by one of the swarms from the apiary earlier in the month.  It was not the yellow comb you get in older hives.  It had no pollen, honey and certainly no sign of the darkened cells you get from the queen laying eggs.

It was quite beautiful.  Pure virgin white.  I took it home and put it on pride of place on the mantlepiece!  I wonder if it will go yellow over time?

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The bees in the first swarm that I caught last week were very black.  Noticeably different from the brown and black stripes on most of the honey bees I have kept so far.  So the article below encouraged me:

From The Daily Telegraph

By Ian Johnston
Published: 7:00AM BST 18 May 2009

Britain could be saved from the devastating effects of a collapse in its bee population by turning to a native British species, which is more aggressive and hairier than the southern European honeybees favoured by apiarists.

One in three hives were lost over the last winter alone for reasons that are not clearly understood although bad weather, the use of insecticides, a lack of wildflowers and the varroa mite, which has spread rapidly since arriving in Britain in 1992, are thought to be partly to blame.

However, the majority of the bees in Britain’s 274,000 hives are actually a subspecies which originated in southern and eastern Europe.

New research has found the native black honeybee could be better able to survive any external threats as it is better equipped to deal with the British weather.

A study by the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association (BIBBA), backed by The Co-Operative supermarket, found the black honeybees’ thick hair and larger body helped them to keep warm and cope with the shorter breeding season in Britain.

Paul Monaghan, the Co-operative’s head of social goals, said the supermarket was taking the bee crisis seriously and asked the public to report sightings of the species so more research could be carried out.

“The hardy native black honeybee has had a bad press over the years, but it may hold the key to reversing the decline in the UK’s honeybee population,” he said.

“There are isolated populations of the native black bee dotted around the country and we want to help BIBBA to confirm these and map these populations.

“We would also like to help to develop a breeding programme that would increase the number of native colonies and hopefully help reduce the losses experienced in recent years.”

More at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5339370/Bee-population-collapse-could-be-saved-by-British-species.html

You can also listen to a radio programme from the BBC’s Farming Today channel: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kcprd

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The flowers were blooming on the peach trees the first time I went out to photograph bees.

After being told what I would need to do and where I would need to stand I was told to change into something white.

But why? I asked.

“Because you’re wearing black jeans and a dark sweater. To the bees you look like a polecat, a bear – something come to steal the honey,” was his reply.

How odd, I thought – that bees would practice profiling.


Thanks for leaving this story, Becky!

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Following my post below, here is another TED talk that sees the world from the point of view of bees and plants.

Makes you think!

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