bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bees on You Tube

British comedian, Eddie Izzard's take on beekeeping.


Introducing ... sublingual therapy

Sublingual therapy might sound a little riske to ignoramuses like me, but apparently it's not an uncommon way to treat allergies. And now they are experimenting with it for allergies to bee stings.

Italian researchers found that putting honeybee venom under the tongue was safe and significantly reduced reactions in people allergic to bee stings. So far they have only tested it on people who have "local allergic reactions" -- which seems seems an unusual use of the term to me. can anyone enlighten me?

But in any language, a tongue drop seems much better than a stab in the butt.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Penthouse bees

Bees in downtown areas of Japan seem to becoming popular. A shopping mall recently bought some hives as part of its development project. They seem to be using a mix of eastern and western honeybees (Apis cerana and Apis mellifera).


Honey -- the ugly sister

Why is that honey can only command a fraction of the price of wine?

I had a very heated debate on this last night -- heated in the sense that it was in a sauna. We had been discussing Trockenbeerenauslese (as you do) and a gorgeous wine that retails at £25 ($50) for a half bottle. (This one -- Trockenbeerenauslese 2000 37.5cl Welschriesling/Pinot Gris Josef Lentsch Podersdorf/See -- to be precise.)

I thought the price was quite high, but was berated because I wasn't taking into account all the trouble that went into making the wine -- from tending the vines, to selective berry picking and then its actual fermentation and production.

Well, I couldn't argue with that. But then I mentioned all the work that my tens of thousands of girls do to collect nectar, how I provide furnished lodgings and medicare and and and ...

The most expensive honey in the world is thought to be Sidr, retailing at $200 a kilo, but I think that is a complete one-off. My honey retails at about £9 ($18) a kilo. Unfortunately no-one buys cases of it, but then again it doesn't cause bar-room brawls and broken homes.

So if CCD continues apace and spreads globally, what might happen to the price of honey? Not a lot, I'd guess. But pollination costs, as we have seen are quite a different story.

I think we need to break away from traditional honey shows and start tasting honey properly -- the way wine tasters do. It's just such a pity that honey cannot be consumed in significant quantities at a session. Perhaps sales could be increased by using it in copious quantities as a sauna massage oil ... Ugh!

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Royal jelly flicks a switch

The royal jelly secret that turns larvae into queens rather than workers may have been uncovered.

Scientists at the Research School of Biological Sciences at the Australian National University (ANU) have discovered that royal jelly flicks a genetic switch in larvae.
"Royal jelly seems to chemically modify the bee’s genome by a process called DNA methylation and disrupts the expression of genes that turn young bees into workers," explains Dr Ryszard Maleszka.

"When we ‘silenced’ a gene controlling DNA methylation without recourse to royal jelly, we discovered that the larvae began to develop as queens with the associated fertility, rather than as infertile workers."
DNA methylation is well-known in animals, but they think this has been the first time it has been observed in insects.

The process also has implications in the age-old nature-nurture debate. Here, environment (food) can be seen to be affecting genetic development.

The work grew out of the honeybee genome project.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sticky moment

It's nice to know that the New Zealand authorities seem keen to ensure the authenticity of the medicinally-acclaimed UMFR manuka honey. The paperwork of an un-named supplier is under investigation by the Active Manuka Honey Association. They say there is no problem with the honey.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Too much to bear

After failing to stop a bear stealing honey from his hives by playing Serbian turbo-folk music at great volume, an exasperated Serbian beekeeper took the bear to court and won.

The bear didn't show up and won't be punished, but because it is a protected species the state must pay the beekeeper 2,238 Euros for damage to his hives.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Honey money demanded

While I have been off doing other things, you may be interested to know that the British Beekeepers Association has been kicking up a media stink about the plight of honey bees and the UK Government's refusal to invest research funding.

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Another bee movie: The Secret Life of Bees

The best seller The Secret Life of Bees featuring two beekeeping sisters and focusing on racism and civil rights is being made into a film.


The godfathers of the ant world

First: long time, no post. Apologies -- if you care!

There is a fascinating BBC News Online story about another social insect today -- the ant and how its males surreptitiously pass on the queen gene to ensure that their offspring become reproductive queens, not mere workers. Or, to put it another way, unlike honeybees it isn't just the larval food that determines who can become a queen.

Apparently, the male ant spreads his royal gene secretly and probably around several colonies to make sure he isn't rumbled by other ants who might revolt if they thought they were being burdened by too many queens.

I must find out more about the ant's social milieu.