bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Girls eat sterile men

The honeybee genome project is set to have reverberations throughout the beekeeping world. Here's an intriguing aspect considering a few reports last winter of some colonies dying off without an obvious cause.

Bees -- along with wasps, ants, ticks, mites -- have unfertilized eggs that develop into males. The discovery in 2003 of the complementary sex determination (CSD) gene helped explain the phenomenon. CSD has many versions, or alleles. Males inherit a single copy of the gene; females inherit two copies that are different. Bees that inherit two identical copies of CSD would develop into sterile males if they weren't eaten by bees as larvae to save resources.

And guess what can happen through inbreeding? It increases the likelihood of producing sterile males. And then colonies may die.

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Toronto truffle honey

You may drool:
Truffle honey is gaining popularity for its one-two punch of aroma and sweetness, especially good with cheese. Corbin Tomaszeski makes his own, steeping fresh truffles in mountain honey to anoint the chevre-chicken breast sandwich at Holts Cafe on Bloor, while Alida Solomon drizzles Sulpizio white truffle honey over taleggio with walnuts at Tutti Matti for a fantastic antipasti.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Vegemite if vegecould

Vegemite (Australia's version of the UK's Marmite, that favourite breakfast spread) has been banned in the USA.

Could this be a subversive act of the US National Honey Board? Or is it a ruling from the Director of Toastland Security?

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Queen Elizabeth lays 2000 eggs a day

Queen Elizabeth lays 2000 eggs a day -- it's true, Reuters says so! Oh, and she also lives ten times longer than workers like me.

They are blaming overzealous spell checkers -- don't weal! The original uncorrected story is still here, for the moment anyway.

Thanks, Martin.


Oldest bee discovered

A 100 million year old bee has been discovered in amber. With some waspish features, it's regarded as much closer to a bee and is 35-45 million years older than any other known fossilised bee.

The bee was discovered in a mine in the Hukawng Valley of northern Burma and has been named Melittosphex burmensis. It's surprisingly well preserved in the tree sap and very tiny (3mm) -- supporting the notion that the early flowers which emerged after the dominance of conifers about 100 million years ago were also very small.

George Poinar, professor of zoology at Oregon State University, US, reported the discovery in the journal Science.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Free papers and crap copy

Inexorably, free newspapers are taking chunks out of proper newspapers in Britain. I was in London today and within ten yards two free papers had been thrust into my hands: London Lite (aptly named) and The London Paper. News is not their forte. Celebrity drivel is their strong suit.

In The London Paper there was a letter about beekeeping from Albert Ross. Albert was proclaiming from the depth of his obvious experience that bees are only aggressive if they are “badly hived” in “inadequate living conditions”. Apparently “well hived bees never sting”. Oh and by the way, he says Homo sapiens is similar!

I don't think it was satire, just idiocy. Maybe a journalist making things up, but of course they would never do that now, would they?


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Previewing Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie

One of the very first posts on this blog was about Jerry Seinfeld's planned bee movie. Well, it's due to be distributed by Dreamworks on 2 November ... 2007.

Here's a synopsis:
Bee Movie is the comedic tale of Barry B. Benson, a graduate bee fresh out of college, who is disillusioned with the prospect of having only one career choice -- honey. On a chance opportunity to go outside the hive, Barry's life is saved by a woman, Vanessa, a florist in New York City. As their relationship blossoms, Barry's eyes are opened to the world of humans and he soon discovers that people partake in the mass consumption of honey. Armed with this information, Barry realizes his true calling in life and decides to sue the human race for stealing the bees' honey. As a result, the bee and human communities get involved in ways they never had before, each one of them pointing a finger at the other. Barry gets caught up in the middle and finds himself with some very unusual problems to solve.


Honeybee Genome Scoop!

A kind reader has shown me the news release due to be distributed tomorrow about the completion of the honeybee genome project.

The sequence covers more than 98 percent of the genome and the primary results will be presented in the October 26 issue of Nature. The honey bee project is one of five insect genomes the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine has undertaken, including the fruit fly, wasp, pea aphid, and red flour beetle.

The honey bee has many vertebrate genes not previously found in sequenced insect genomes. These are not recently developed genes, but date back 600 million year to the last common ancestor of bees and vertebrates. Their absence in other insects is a reflection of evolutionary specialization in the different insect lineages.

“The honey bee genome sequence will aid genetic research into host-pathogen interactions,” said Dr. Kim Worley, Ph.D., also of the BCM-HGSC. “There are striking differences between the immune system gene complements of honey bees and other sequenced insects.”


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fiji stamp of approval

Despite cyclones and other naural disasters, one of the fastest growing industries in Fiji is beekeeping. Hives are expected to increase from 7000 to 8000 this year and honey production from 200 to 250 tonnes.

And they are celebrating beekeeping in stamps.

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Scientists say pollinating Bs are declining

The Boston Globe is worried about there other Bs: bees, bats and birds. As pollinators to about 75% of all flowering plants, they are vital to the economy. But they are in decline.

A report issued today by the National Academy of Sciences said that the three species are “demonstrably” declining, but declined to quantify. The 15 scientists who wrote the report called on donors to fund research to take a census of bees, birds, and bats; examine habitat loss; and to measure the effects of certain diseases on birds and bees.


Liquid to set in a couple of hours

I've completed nearly all my reinstallations now after the theft and PC crash, so now I can get back to blogging.

Since I was so rudely interrupted, I've been processing that late honey I mentioned a few posts ago. Strange stuff. Some of it crystallised within an hour or two of having been heated. I'm not exactly sure what it was, but I suspect ivy honey from its rather sharp taste.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Coming out of digital rehab

Another blogging lull from me -- this time because of the theft of my laptop and mobile phone, followed six days later by a crash of my server PC.

“Goodness gracious” was my response. I'm slowly getting back to some sort of normality after days of re-installations et al.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Crop art

An excellent honeybee maize maze in Minnesota.


Bees help a few after quake

One year on from the horrendous earthquake in Pakistan and India, 250 beekeeping families have been helped by ActionAid through the provision of honeybees.


Beekeepers do it for longer

At 104 years of age, Waldo McBurney of Quinter, Kansas is thought to be America's oldest worker. His current job? He's a beekeeper.


Late season report

All my hive treatments are finally underway. I may be late, but all looks well ... so far. First, I found another 100+ lbs (40kg) of honey on the hives; all look healthy, and this weekend after between 8 and 4 days of treating with Apistan, the mite drop doesn't look as severe as I have seen in previous years.

But could any resistant varroa be lurking? I hope not. None have yet been found within 50 or so miles, but it can't be long now until they arrive.

And will all the queens manage to continue laying throughout winter? Now there's a question!

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Almond mathematics

Californian almond pollination for 2007 is already causing concern. About 60% of honeybees that are transportable in the United States will go to California for almond pollination claimed Dan Cummings of The Almond Board. One million colonies are needed for 2007, but two million are predicted to be needed by 2012. And guess what .. pollination prices are soaring -- up 50% each year over the past two years and now around $140 per colony.

As if that isn't enough, the transport of bee colonies causes other concerns: import of red ants into California, and small hive beetle to name but two.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Most expensive honey in the world Part II

I've noticed that quite a few people have found this blog by searching for “most expensive honey”. They find this post, but I thought I'd show my entrepreneurial spirit by attracting them here and offering my honey as the most expensive in the world -- I'll sell a jar to anyone for £1000 or $2000 -- any takers? No, I thought not.


We're all trendy now!

Alison Benjamin, the deputy editor of Society Guardian, took up beekeeping in North London this year and her story has made it onto TV, a blog ... and of course The Guardian newspaper.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

My bees are too healthy

I've left treating for varroa a little late this year, but my bees seem healthy -- almost too healthy. They are still occupying supers and I'm having to remove them before treating (with Apistan this year since resistant varroa aren't quite here yet). There are so many bees, it's turning what used to be a quick job into a more elaborate one involving double and triple trips to apiaries as thunder is in the air and heavy showers come just when they are least expected.

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