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Archive for the ‘Bee Present’ Category

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.”

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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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In February we moved our five hives to a new apiary.

Four have queens – and Faith is, unfortunately, Queenless.  Today (for the second time), I put a frame from Liberty into Faith to see if we can create a new queen before the workers die off.

The photograph shows the new apiary – which is surrounded by bluebells in the most beautiful wood that I can walk to.  It makes a difference from the 10 mile drive to the old (now out-apiary).  Hope you like the look of their new location!

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American scientists have discovered that a fly parasite can turn honey bees into confused zombies before killing them, in an advance that could offer new clues to why bee colonies are collapsing.

So far, the parasite has only been detected in honey bees in California and South Dakota, American researchers reported in the open access science journalPLoS ONE this week.

But if it turns out to be an emerging parasite, that “underlines the danger that could threaten honey bee colonies throughout North America,” said the study led by San Francisco State University professor of biology John Hafernik.

Hafernik made the discovery by accident, when he foraged some bees from outside a light fixture at the university to feed to a praying mantis he’d brought back from a field trip.

“But being an absent-minded professor, I left them in a vial on my desk and forgot about them. Then the next time I looked at the vial, there were all these fly pupae surrounding the bees,” he said.

Soon, the bees began to die, but not in the usual way by sitting still and curling up. These bees kept trying to move their legs and get around, but they were too weak, said lead author Andrew Core, a graduate student in Hafernik’s lab.

“They kept stretching them out and then falling over,” said Core. “It really painted a picture of something like a zombie.”

Further study showed that bees that left their hives at night were most likely to become infected with the fly parasite, identified as Apocephalus borealis.

Once bees were parasitized by the fly, they would abandon their hives and congregate near lights, a very unusual behavior for bees.

More at: http://news.discovery.com/animals/parasite-bees-zombies-010512.html

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The singing bee comes like a little ship,

And docks beside a rose for cargoed wine,

Its gossamer paddles spinning in the air

A little plane upon the flower vine.

It anchors in the bell upon its quest,

And lulls its motor in the crimson bower,

Then with its honey glides on to the west,

A tiny airplane stealing off a flower.

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Its paddles fan the wind in silver singing,

A boom of music down the garden dells;

The honey monoplane with motors ringing,

Its gauze propellers purring like soft bells;

And so it dips and soars and dives and noses,

A little ship among the summer roses.

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by Edwin Curran (1892-????)

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Snowflakes are beautiful decorations on Christmas Day. Why not make your own?

Rowse Honey had a lovely site with a bee snowflake design (see picture above).

However, the design has vanished.  I’m asking Rowse to send me a copy if they still have them.  Let’s see!

The old link was:

 

Make the Christmas Bee Snowflake

 

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