bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Monday, January 30, 2006

Leatherwood souls

Eight months of campaigning has finally resulted in the first minister in twenty years listening to Tasmanian beekeepers' concerns about logging out of the leatherwood forests.

The Save Our Leatherwood Honey president Bob Davey, said beekeepers had just received a letter “at the 11th hour” from Forests Minister Bryan Green promising to look into their concerns.

See the earlier government response that seemed to fear for logging jobs.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Beefarming business burnt out

Zac Long, a 27 year old Australia beekeeper, had just built of his commercial beefarming business in Victoria, Australia when fires incinerated 160 of his hives.

He'd just moved them into Hall's Gap where there is some of the best bee forage in the state when the bush fires struck and took out two-thirds of his colonies. With a young family to look after, he must now look elsewhere for a job, but expects to keep on beekeeping as a hobby. He started beekeeping aged seven.

Update 30 Jan 2006: I think this is the fire.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Beekeeper tops Palestinian poll in Hebron

He did it! Nayef Rajoub, beekeeper, Hamas candidate and brother of Fatah election opponent in Hebron, topped the poll in that city.

A political commentator noted:
“It is obvious that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era and we all must come to terms and adapt to the new reality.”
I think he was referring to the success of Hamas, rather than the success of a beekeeper.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Bees in his band

I've been to hear the wonderful Richard Thompson and Danny Thompson (no relation) tonight. Apart from being a class act (a highly distinctive English guitarist and songwriter) Richard has something about bees, but I'm not sure what (oh yes, and Danny Thompson is just about the most exciting double-bass player you are ever likley to hear):

Richard Thompson's website is called Beesweb with lots of bee and hive motifs. And, mid-performance, if even told a bee joke:

He wryly dedicated a song (Don't sit on my Jimmy Shands) to the late Jimmy Shand, a Scottish accordion player not well-known for his modesty -- “when I die, Scottish music dies”. Well, Jimmy was staying in a British bed-and-breakfast and asked the landlady if she had some honey. Yes, she replied, returning a little later with a thimble-sized honey pot. “Ah!” quoth Jimmy (Scottish accent required), “I see you keep a bee”.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Check your honey pots

A $50,000 dollar honey pot from pre-Civil War America. It's an Antebellum honeypot made by JW Cravens from Tennessee, born in 1805, died in 1860, who made the pots for 20 years, didn't sign them, but occasionally left his fingerprint on the rim.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Beekeeping behind the Iron Curtain

I've heard that beekeeping thrived under the Soviets because it was the one occupation that the state couldn't control. But in this article, there's a suggestion that Lenin quite liked beekeeping and wouldn't restrict it:
“It was the only legal private business permitted in the Soviet Union. Lenin himself forbade any restrictions on beekeeping. Beekeepers even were paying no taxes.” said Andrey Pchelka.

Their family came to America from Kazakhstan in 1993 and was among a wave of Russian-speaking refugees from the former Soviet republics seeking freedom of religion here (USA). In Kazakhstan, they all were beekeepers, said Andrey Pchelka, whose last name means Little Bee in Russian.

“All of us were engaged in the rearing of bees and selling honey. In fact, I think, about 80 percent of people in our church were beekeepers. And we used to get on with each other pretty well.”

Will Hamas beekeeper win in today's Palestinian election?

Hamas is being represented by a beekeeper in today's Palestinian elections. And he is standing against his brother, a Fatah (Arafat's party) representative in Hebron:
48-year old Nayef (the beekeeper) is a slight, studious man who drives a clapped out Hyundai sedan. Big brother Jibril is a gravel-voiced bear of a bloke who speeds about in an armoured four-wheel drive chock full of bodyguards dripping in weapons.

... “There's no doubt that when Jibril and I meet, politics is the main subject of discussion,” says Nayef Rajoub. “But our political disputes don't affect our intimate family relationship. I'll always be close to my brother Jibril,” he says.

So close in fact, that after tomorrow's election the Rajoub brothers are likely to be sitting right near each other in the Palestinian Parliament.
Update: Result.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Indian scape goats?

Indian honey prices have plummeted this year. The middle men are blamed, but that seems lame. Could it be Chinese honey finding new markets to replace the western markets it temporarily lost?

Drones choose queen

There are those who think I should not dignify such sexism by reporting it, so I'll whisper that Wisconsin has a new Honey Queen, Laura Berlage. She's even a beekeeper!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Utah bee losses worst ever

Robert Newswander, Utah's biggest beekeeper, says that the state has had more honeybee colony losses in the fall and early winter than ever before. Varroa (and resistant varroa) is of course the culprit.

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Indian women beekeepers win award

An Indian community (grama panchayat) has won the best grama panchayat award in its state with the help of its excellent honey production.

Beekeeping provides employment for about 400 women and the honey is sold door-to-door and now marketed all over the state of Kudumbasree. The local cashew nut and rubber plant crop seems to provide much of the nectar, and the cashews are pollinated by the bees.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mummy doles out viruses

For the first time it has been shown that queens can transmit viruses directly to their offspring say USDA researchers.

Utah's skep quarter

Here is one of the final designs for Utah's Commemorative Quarter according to KUTV. The two other designs feature a woman snowboarder and a golden spike.

The Beehive became part of the first official seal of the State of Utah in 1897 and official state emblem in 1959. Symbolizing industry and working together for common purposes, the Beehive is evident on the State flag, license plates, highway patrol vehicles, uniform patches, fire hydrants, stationery, and in other forms. Utah is nicknamed "The Beehive State". The honey bee is the official insect of the state.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Yemen honey production expanding

Honey is one of the Yemen's top agricultural products yielding more than 700 tons, 17% of which is exported providing $9 million last year. A 1993 German training project started things moving and there are now over 4,000 beekeepers. Further development is planned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Propolis stops tooth decay

Oral biologists have discovered that compounds in propolis inhibit a key enzyme that forms dental plaque.

Urban and rural bees

The French say their urban bees fare better than their rural bees. Agricultural pesticides, says The Union of French Apiarists (Unaf), are the problem. The effects of two banned chemicals Gaucho and Regent they say are still being felt. Others blame the importation of foreign strains of bee which are unsuited to conditions.

I can't say I'm thoroughly convinced by these arguments, but UnaF have launched a campaign to increase urban beekeeping.

I certainly think that urban honey is often tastier than rural honey and that the heat-island effect of cities often enables bees to forage more days in the year.

Here's another slightly more detailed report.


Snowdrops daring to show their heads in my local churchyard.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Kiwis swap bees for wasps

Taranaki in North Island in New Zealand is reporting fewer bees and swarms (because of varroa), but more wasps. There's probably no connection though - the mild winter may have helped the wasps.

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From the killing fields to the buzzing fields

Ugandan war veterans are being encouraged to take up beekeeping to help them re-integrate into civilian life by improving their household income. Some 8000 hives are to be distributed to 425 UPDF war vets who will also receive beekeeping kit and training.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Beehive cluster high in the sky

At the end of January and beginning of February, look towards Saturn and you should see a cluster of stars known as the Beehive Cluster. It's a cluster of about 40 stars -- though you will probably need binoculars or similar to see it. Here's a pic.

Pacific beekeeping

Papua New Guinea is a second effort to establish commercial beekeeping. The first attempt is the 1970s didn't come to much partly because of a few bad seasons. But a beekeeping exists with about 320 members and, backed by the government, funding is being sought to re-establish the industry. Unusually for a Pacific nation, the domestic market is quite large, though there is competition from Australian honey producers.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

An idea whose time has come?

It's not about bees, but if you are interested in sustainability and the developing world, the Honey Bee Network makes fascinating reading.

Celebrating bee products

Two dates for your diary:

UK's National Honey Week 13-18 February 2006.

World Apitherapy Day 30 March 2006 with T-shirts!

Anyone doing anything interesting?

Squeezable honey squirts higher

At last, a little more on the British Breakfast Wars: as honey overtakes marmalade at the British breakfast table, squeezable honey sales rose 45% in one year and now comprises 17% of honey sales.

But young men aren't playing ball: sweet spreads tend not to be bought by young C2DE men aged 15-24.

The overall UK honey market is now worth £361 million.

A Mintel report costing £995 will tell you more.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I suppose someone had to

Bandwagon time: “Bee Propolis may provide some Protection against Bird Flu”.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Social insects on TV

At last I caught up with BBC's Life in the Undergrowth programme on social insects. Marvellous! Along with a segment on giant Asiatic honeybees (watch here) was a feature on Arizonan ants: by day harvester ants search for seeds, but before retiring for the night roll stones over the nest entrances of night ants to delay their night-time search for the same scarce foodstuff. Oh, what wags!

The scent of a man

A mobile scent seller sent bees into a rampage in Nigeria reports the official News Agency of Nigeria. People sheltered indoors overnight and in the morning emerged to find domestic animals stung to death.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


The honey fraudster Bakers were found guilty -- sentencing will be sometime this month. The trial here.

New US AFB antibiotic

The USA has approved a new antibiotic to combat AFB. Tylan Soluble (tylosin tartrate) will now supplement oxytetracycline hydrochloride (Terramycin) which has been proving less effective because of the emergence of resistant strains of American foulbrood.

Farewell Tony Banks

Lord Stratford, former British Labour MP Tony Banks, died in the Florida today having suffered a massive stroke. He is famed amongst British beekeepers for having registered his gift of honey from his local beekeeping association in the House of Commons Register of Interests. His fierce but ascerbic wit will be sorely missed:
Tory MP, Terry Dicks, was dismissed as “living proof that a pig's bladder on the end of a stick can be elected to Parliament”.

... he accused Lady Thatcher of having “the sensitivity of a sex-starved boa-constrictor” during a Commons debate.

... a keen animal rights activist tabled a motion condemning human beings as “obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal”. It also “looked forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the Earth and wipes them out, thus giving nature the opportunity to start again”.
More of his quips here.

The growing economc importance of honey

The African Development Board has pledged a $5 million grant and a $4 million loan to honey producers in Uganda to boost their production capacity.

Goodbye pollen analysis? Not yet!

A report on testing honey sources using photonics:
FTIR (Fourier Infrared Transform Spectrometer) identifies the nonvolatile components of honey via the vibration of molecular bonds. Surface acoustic wave sensing, on the other hand, ferrets out information related to the volatile flavor compounds.

... Tewari said that a fused sensor capable of both FTIR and surface acoustic wave measurements would be needed for industrial and on-site honey grading. Such a tool might save overhead expenses and time while increasing product quality and reliability. However, he added, such a device does not yet exist.

The scientists are not working to produce such an instrument because their current focus is on extending the technique to other applications. The technology can spot adulteration in petroleum products as well as identify food contaminants. It also can be used to detect biological and chemical weapons as well as for other security applications.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

HM Customs seize more honey than heroin

Britain's HM Revenue & Customs officials seized nearly 15 tonnes of honey last year -- 10 times the weight of heroin they snatched.

“We're concerned that in many countries it is not being produced in a hygienic way,” a spokesman explains earnestly. Importing honey from more than 100 places -- including Egypt and the Virgin Islands -- is a criminal offence that can land you a £500 fine.
I had assumed the crackdown was an attempt to stop the spread of bee diseases through honey.

Apiguard in the USA

Apiguard, the thymol-based near-natural anti-varroa treatment from Vita (Europe) Limited, has been approved by US authorities. Each state must now give its approval. It may help US beekeepers who currently face mites resistant to other treatments.

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Buzzing on Voice of America

Voice of America has just broadcast three programmes on bees.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ku Klux Bee

Happy 2006. I'm back and trying to catch up. Meanwhile here's a picture of an ambitious Central American honeybee.