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Archive for the ‘Beetwixt & Beetween’ Category

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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Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt – marvellous error! –

that I had a beehive

here inside my heart.

And the golden bees

were making white comb

and sweet honey

from my old failures.

——

Antonio Machado

(1875-1939)

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“The Sphinx, the Pyramids,

the stone temples are, all of them,

ultimately as flimsy as London Bridge;

our cities but tents set up in the cosmos.

We pass.

But what the bee knows,

the wisdom that sustains our passing life

– however much we deny or ignore it –

that for ever remains.”

P.L. Travers

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We caught the first swarm of the season on Monday night.  It was 18ft up in a bush – and I had to use an extension to my long pole (used for painting) to get the box up there.  Luckily Dennis (whose garden it was) had an additional 3 poles which I used to extend my pole as well as get the smoker up there!

The photo looks as though I am trying to catch the sun!

Having inspected the hives on Saturday, Faith is still very weak and I somehow doubt will come through as I have now tried to re-queen her twice.  We therefore decided to call this swarm “Hope” to keep the spirit of our three first hives – Faith, Hope and Charity.  The original Hope and Charity died off in 2005, but Faith has kept going since then.  Oh – and it was luck that the place that we caught the hive in started with an H – so we stuck to the Bee Law of naming the hives from the first letter of the place that they were caught!

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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

.
“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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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.

.

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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“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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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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What colors creatures see has long interested scientists, and aside from us, more is known about what colors bees see than any other living thing.  Like us, bees are trichromatic.  Whereas we base our color combinations on red, blue, and green, bees base all their colors on UV, blue , and green.  Just as color blind people do not see red or green, and therefore experience the world of color differently, bees also perceive the world in colors entirely different from ours.  Bees do not see red and have a hard time distinguishing it from surrounding green leaf backgrounds.  Bees that frequent red flowers are either perceive them in color they can see, or the red flower is not being lost against a green background.  Even though bees don’t see red, they can see other reddish wavelengths such as orange and yellow.

The light spectrum bees see is from 600 – 300 nm. The colors bees see are blue-green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet, with research showing our purple followed by our violet then our blue as their favorites. Mixing ultraviolet wavelengths with the wavelengths of colors they can and can’t see, gives bees a world of color different from our own.   If deprived of UV light, bees lose interest in foraging, and remain in the hive until forced out by severe food shortages.

Bees not only see flowers in different colors than we do, bees also see ultra-violet light patterns, invisible to us, at the center that are a different color than the rest of the flower.   From a bee’s-eye-view, the UV colors and patterns in a flower’s petals dramatically announce the flower’s stash of nectar and pollen.  These UV patterns serve as a landing zone, guiding the bees to the nectar source.

we see 
bees see
add in UV
red black uv purple
orange yellow/green*
yellow yellow/green* uv purple
green green
blue blue uv violet
violet blue uv blue
purple blue
white blue green
black black

*even the experts don’t agree as to what colour the bee sees!

Below is a fantastic link of photographs of flowers taken with Ultraviolet filters showing the landing patterns and flouresence.
The color of these uv flowers is dependant on the filter used by the photographer, and is not the color perceived by the bee.
Here is a picture of Arnica angustifolia Vahl as a human might see it:
And here is a picture of the same flower as a bee might see it – with an ultraviolet “bullseye” pattern to attract the bee:

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The following animation takes my vote for the best animated bee movie ever:

Here is some background on Dot’s story (running away from her world as it is being destroyed – and saved by a bee!).

It also gives some great insights into the world’s smallest film (even though it is a subtle advert for Nokia mobile phones) and brings together cutting-edge medical technology with 3D printing. Totally awesome!

Vote for it on the Webby Awards here!

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