bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Thursday, September 28, 2006

More sex, better health

Popular science mags (including New Scientist) are having fun with recent evidence that insects that are promiscuous (mate with many males) produce healthier offspring.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cold feet over fiprinol

Since I've been out of action, I haven't kept up with the story about the attempts to eradicate varroa in South Island.

Latest news is that the German company whose pesticide that was designed to kill varroa (and feral bees) has withdrawn permission to use it -- after beekeepers had set up more than 300 sugar bait stations to lure feral bees that might be infected with varroa.

The active ingredient to be used to kill bees and varroa was fiprinol, often used in New Zealand to control moths and butterflies on cabbages. The manufacturers appeared to have balked at widespread untested use on bees.

Another chemical is now being sought. “The aim is to wipe out feral colonies in the three targeted areas along with any varroa they might be harbouring, so that replacement hives can be brought in from other parts of the South Island in June and July next year.”

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Monday, September 25, 2006


I've been busy -- normal service will be resumed shortly.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Honey to match your tablecloth

Israelis are to market different coloured honey -- pink, red, purple, yellow, blue and green -- maybe to match your mood, crockery or tablecloth. The colour does not affect the taste or consistency.

And there was me thinking that looking at the different natural colours of honey was fun enough. I'm so last season!

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Swiss bees have Mexican takeaway

Swiss bees had a feast of Mexican honey when there was a leak of honey at a Swiss transport company. Hundreds of litres of honey flooded out of a damaged barrel which was part of a shipment from Mexico, and word spread amongst local bees.


Backing losers

Queensland beekeepers welcomed a Coalition pledge to overturn a decision by the State Government to ban apiarists from state forests by 2024 if it won the recent election. They lost.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Montana bee fighters

I've just returned from Montana to see that I've missed a great story there. Bees have been hindering fire-fighting of the many wildfires in the west of the state. Apparently bee stings amongts firemen have “surged to as many as 50 a day”. No-one is quite sure why!


The Bees Algorithm

Bees have been helping researchers at Cardiff University’s Manufacturing Engineering Centre (MEC) develop a new algorithm:

The researchers studied how honey bees seek the best “bang” (that is, the most nectar) for their “buck” (collection effort). The algorithm parameters include density of nectar-bearing blossoms, quality of the nectar produced, size of the flower patch and flying distance from the nest. Convolved together, these parameters produce an optimization parameter indicating the fitness of each particular patch. The hive can maximize its honey production by sending the largest number of workers to gather in the fittest field.

The hive begins by sending out a cadre of scout bees who search randomly for promising prospect fields. These scouts then bring back reports that they communicate to the rest of the hive via the well-known “waggle dance”.

The hive then reallocates resources by sending additional scouts to assess locations surrounding the most promising locations, and fewer scouts to continue the random search. As reports continue to flood in, workers intent on gathering nectar concentrate on the most promising location.


A likely story

Vivid flowers on a cushion used by a woman for her motorcycle were so lifelike that hundreds of bees attempted to collect honey from it. So says the China Daily. Apparently she was scared out of her wits.


Bulgaria buzzing

Eastern Europe's honey industry is on the rise. Bulgaria will apply for EU subsidies for its beekeeping industry. It has 40,000 beekeepers and in 2005, produced 11,200 tons of honey, 3700 tons of which was exported (nearly all to the EU at an average price of $2200 to $2300 a ton.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

U Haul of B haul

A reported 30 million bees are being shipped out of the varroa-infected top of South Island, New Zealand to the already infested North Island in a last ditch attempt to rid South Island of the mite. Scientists give them a 50% chance. No costs seem to be available.

I haven't been following the story recently (hoidays), but what about the infested feral colonies?

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Oh dear, I hope another food scare is not in the offing -- this time mad honey disease. Only 58 cases have been reported but some researchers claim it is on the increase with five cases last year. But you can relax -- I think it's only really an issue around the Black Sea in Turkey. I think they should focus on mad burgers.

Here's a previous post with a short history of mad honey.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Surprise awaits

Returning from my break, I went to check my bees today and, as is usual, they had a surprise.

One colony appeared to be queenless way back in May, but the very small colony remained intact through the summer. Four months later it is still going and had even built some new comb -- but not an egg or larvae to be seen, not even from a drone-layer.

Today, as I was changing the floors of that hive and its neighbour, a queen appeared in an empty super. She was big (obviously mated) but moved sluggishly and didn't seem to be in the best of health. I thought perhaps she had somehow escaped from the large viable neighbour colony, so I placed her near the door of hat colony. The workers immediately “balled” her, trying to kill her.

I came to the conclusion that she was from the apparently queenless colony and for some reason wasn't laying. Perhaps she realised there were insufficient bees to support her egg-laying. Odd!