Archive for the ‘Beekeeping’ Category

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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“In 1822 the first hive bees were brought to this part of the world (Sydney), by a Captain Wallace, or Willis, in the ship “Isabella,” according to Haydon. From the bees thus introduced colonies were propagated and distributed inland. In the Government Gazette, of 21st June, 1822, there appeared this advertisement : — “Hive of bees for sale by Mr. Parr. Bees imported by Captain Wallace (or Willis).” In a number of the old Sydney Gazette, dated Friday, 1st November, 1822, there appears this paragraph: — “We congratulate our readersi upon the complete establishment of that most valuable insect, the bee, in this country. During the last three weeks three swarms of bees have been produced from two hives, the property of D. Wentworth, Esq., purchased by him from Captain Wallace, of the ‘Isabella,’ at his estate, Homebush, near Parramatta.”

“In the Sydney Morning Herald, of 10th August, 1863, it stated that at a meeting of the Acclimatisation Society of New South Wales, bees were first brought to this country by Captain Braidwood Wilson, from Hobart Town, in 1831. This was contradicted in a later issue of tTie same paper in these words: — “Bees were brought from England to Sydney in the year 1824, in the ship ‘Phoenix,’ which sailed from Portsmouth in March of that year.” This, too, is evidently a mistake, or perhaps another importation, as is evident from the fact that bees were advertised for sale in 1822, which has already been referred to. In 1840, a settler at Jervis Bay purchased two colonies of beef-‘, for which he paid £4, and engaged two aboriginals to carry the hives on their heads a distance of 40 miles. These were the black or English bees, sometimes termed the; German bee. For most of these dates and extracts I am indebted to Mr. S. M. Mowle, Usher of the Black Rod, of the Legislative Council, who married the only daughter of the late Captain Braidwood Wilson, R.N.”

From: Australian Bee Lore and Bee Culture by Albert Gale 1912.

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The Beehive Ark

I came across this amazing beehive design at a Woodfair recently.  Please find the full story of this unique design for a top-bar hive below the photograph with the designer’s contact details if you want more information:

My initial inspiration to create a curved hive was from the curved structure of honeycomb created in top-bar hives.
The design re-appropriates traditional clinker boat building techniques, and celebrates long-established craft practices in the UK; beekeeping and clinker boat building.

The beehive is created using overlapping strips of steam bent oak and chestnut. Chestnut was chosen for the roof and the base of the hive, as it is a species native to Sussex, and has good properties for use outside. The central part of the hive is made from white oak, which is traditionally used in clinker boat building.

The hive is about exploring and expanding the possibilities of existing designs to create an aesthetically satisfying and functional form, which could supplement a contemporary garden space.

Despite using unconventional techniques for making a beehive, I have ensured that the construction adheres to the basic principles in order for a top-bar hive to function effectively. A swarm shall be moved into the hive next spring, and as a continuation of the project, the bees will be documented living in it.

If you’d like to ask anything about the beehive, please contact at: kayleywillcocks(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk

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CLICK HERE or on the photo below to sign the petition to save bees and our crops and send this link to everyone you know!

Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But a global ban of one group of pesticides could save bees from extinction.

Four European countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are recovering. But chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep all killer pesticides on the market. A global outcry now for a ban in the US and EU, where debate is raging, could provoke a total ban and a ripple effect around the world.

Let’s build a giant global buzz calling for these dangerous chemicals to be outlawed in the US and EU until and unless they are proved to be safe.

CLICK HERE to Sign the petition to save bees and our crops and send this to everyone.

More at: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/call-to-ban-pesticides-linked-to-bee-deaths-2190321.html

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With the first two weeks on holiday, the bees had to wait until last weekend before I removed the honey.  We took four full supers – which will produce a good crop – though I have not extracted it yet. Planning on that next weekend.

I always leave a super on each hive to over-winter.  Some beekeepers think this is a waste of good honey – but I think that the bees will be more healthy if they eat their own honey rather than sugar substitute.

Whilst inspecting the hives I took my notebook out of the toolbox to find it had been leaked on by some water – and all of this seasons records were literally dissolved.  Quite extraordinary!  So my records are now my rusty old memory and the odd blog entry.  A lesson there somewhere – perhaps use indelible ink or something?

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“Apiculture or beekeeping is the art of managing bees with the intention of getting the maximum return from this work with the minimum of expenditure.
Bees produce swarms, queens, wax and honey.
The production of swarms and queens should be left to specialists.
The production of wax has some value, but this value is diminished by the cost of rendering.
The production of honey is the main purpose of beekeeping, one that the beekeeper pursues before everything else, because this product is valuable and because it can be weighed and priced.
Honey is an excellent food, a good remedy, the best of all sweeteners.”

From the opening chapter of “Beekeeping for All” by Abbé Warré.  Translated from the original French version of L’Apiculture Pour Tous (12th edition) by Patricia and David Heaf.

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It is a while since I last wrote a post.  Life has been a bit hectic.  I was expecting it to have been even more hectic as we are half-way through the swarming season, but I have only collected one swarm so far this year.  The rest of this post is about that swarm.

A few days ago I received that pleasant call at about 16.00 from someone in the local town to say that he had just seen a swarm of bees land in his back garden.  I had received about eight calls so far this year, but for one reason and another, I was not able to pick the bees up.  So I was determined to get this one.  In any case, I have two people in our area that wanted to start beekeeping – and who had no bees – so there was even more pressure on me to collect.  The swarm was right at the top of a pear tree – about 10-12 ft up, but the owner only had a 6ft ladder.  So here, I though was a chance to try out my new pole catching contraption which I had designed after the only swarm that I did not catch successfully last year (it was about 16ft in the air – though on the call, the woman had told me it was only about 8ft.  Height off the ground and accessibility are two really important issues when catching swarms!

Anyway, I went to the house.  It was a beautiful summer’s evening.  I made up a very “Heath Robinson” contraption from string, duck tape all on the nucleus box I use which was then hooked onto the end of a long yellow heavy-duty extension pole that painters use for painting high ceilings.  It worked a treat!   Here is a picture of it:

In one movement I swung the box up on top of the tree, pretty much right on top of the swarm.  I then secured the handle of the pole to the top of the step ladder with some more duck tape so that the pole stayed in position until it was time to swing the box back down to the ground.

I then went shopping for about an hour and waited for the bees to climb up into the box.  When I returned, most of them were in.  With a little smoke, the rest went in over about 15 minutes.  I then took the pole and lifted the box off the top of the tree.  It was much heavier!  I swung the box back to the ground and placed it on the step ladder to encourage the rest of the flying bees into the box.  Overall it was a great success.  The swarm was housed in my garage overnight before deciding who to give them to.

The next morning I rang the prison.  They were delighted.  It was only the day before had they been saying they wished to have some bees.  So I went over there with Andrew to put them in their new home.  Since our first site visit, (where we had found the old place where the vodka bees were kept), the prison staff had decided to move the site for the new apiary into the prison gardens – behind the wire.  So that is where we put the bees.  It took about an hour and I gave a short lesson at the same time.  Mick, the prison groundsman was thrilled.  The bees had finally returned to the prison.

As I left through the main gate, I joked at the guard that he now had about 30,000 new inmates, that none of them had names or passports and that quite a few were already breaking-out through the fence!  He laughed.  Little did I know how true my analysis was.

It was only yesterday did I ring Mick to find out how they were getting on.  I wanted to offer him some help on his first inspection.  He was quite low in spirit.  He had gone into the hive on Monday and only found about 100 bees in it – though they had drawn-out quite a lot of comb.  Last Saturday was a VERY warm day and I can only think that they had become uncomfortable in their new hive and found a better location.  So the swarm really had escaped.

So it is back to the drawing-board.  We must find a location where the bees want to be.  I am in favour of the old site (bees naturally seem to come back to where they have been before.  We shall have to see.  One thing for sure, though is that bees don’t like being kept prisoner.  They will definitely buzz-off if you don’t give them a good spot to make their home!  In this case, I think the site was a little exposed and possibly quite uncomfortable in the direct sunlight at about 11.00 am in the morning.  We live and learn!

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So you want a little bee like me to write a story about the current plight in the bee kingdom (or more strictly correct, queendom)?

Humans have become increasingly aware of the stresses and strains that have been placed on the bee population.  Not just the honeybee, but bumblebees and other types of bees.  There has been much written in newspapers and alarmist commentary on documentaries.

So what really is going on, you ask?

Well to put it into context, bees have been around for about 50 million years.  Humans for a lot less than that!  So, as you often say bees have “been around the block a few times!”

We have survived global warming, global cooling, global volcanic disruption and the impact of many out-of-space objects the likes you could never contemplate.  And we are still here!  Indeed some of your scientists have predicted that if there were a nuclear war, we would be one of the few creatures to survive.  I am glad though, you have decided not to press the button and test that particular theory!

The thing is, we are all connected.

We, as the worldwide population of bees, help to provide about 50% of your food.  And we continue to do this without complaint, getting on with our daily lives.  Yet you are poisoning our food (and yours) with chemicals that were never meant to be used in such concentrated force.  You are also changing the seeds that grow the food so that they become pre-laden with additional concentrated poisons.  And you are now doing this on a massive scale.  We are all connected.  Your poison is our poison is your poison.

We are used to suffering local catastrophes, but, in certain parts of the world large proportions of your domestic honey bee hives are loaded into lorries and transported across continents and then poisoned, and fed on junk-food – simply so that we can pollenate your almond groves.  The industrialisation of your food industry is one of the biggest man-made disasters of the last century.  We are all connected.  Your corporate-mega-industry-process is creating our junk food which is creating your junk-food.

We have certain problems like the mite that attacks us, makes us weak so that we are susceptible to virus attacks.  We have faced these problems before.  Your beekeeping methods help us to manage this problem.  You are also understanding other aspects of bee health and good husbandry.  We are all connected.  Our health is now dependent on your help which is dependent on you becoming more conscious and more connected with your food and your environment.

We are all connected.  Buy more honey.  Take more of an interest in we small bees.  Become a beekeeper!  You may well become addicted to a hobby of a lifetime!

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The author of the “beekeepers bible” has died aged 92.  Not a bad innings, as they say in cricket!

More at: http://www.britishbee.org.uk/news/obituaries/ted-hooper-1918-2010.shtml

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A great programme from the BBC on Heater Bees broadcast this evening.

Unfortunately, you can’t watch the whole programme any more, but there are some clips here:


And this amazing photograph:


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