bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hampshire's beekeepers celebrate 125 years at Wooton St Lawrence

This may seem like any other English parish church, but it has a particular association for beekeepers and on 10 November 2007, Hampshire Beekeepers Association (HBA) celebrated its 125th birthday there for a very special reason. It is the church of the Rev Charles Butler, sometimes called the Father of English Beekeeping.

Born in 1560, Butler was vicar at Wooton St Lawrence parish church in Hampshire, UK from 1600 to 1648. His book, The Feminine Monarchie was a tour de force and amongst other things popularised the notion that the largest bee in a hive was a female and therefore a queen and that bees made wax from scales on their underbellies.

Butler's achievements are now recognised with a wonderfully detailed stain-glass window installed in 1953.

And, as the Chairman of HBA said at the meal afterwards, what can we do that will last 125 years to emulate our predecessors who established the HBA in 1882.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

All he is saying is ...

A lawsuit is flying because Jerry Seinfeld's recently released Bee Movie uses the catchphrase "Give Bees a Chance,". Richie Gerber, known to Howard Stern fans as Cousin Richie, owns an organic skin and hair-care company called BeeCeuticals Organics that claims the phrase as its own. He claims that DreamWorks and Paramount, after initially exploring opportunities to work with Gerber, went ahead and used the phrase to market the movie as if it were their own.

Howard Stern's cousin is crying foul about Jerry Seinfeld's recently released Bee Movie, saying the flick uses his company's catchphrase, "Give Bees a Chance," without permission.

Richie Gerber, known to Stern fans as Cousin Richie, owns an organic skin and hair-care company called BeeCeuticals Organics, and claims in a lawsuit filed late last week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that DreamWorks and Paramount, after initially exploring opportunities to work with Gerber, went ahead and used the phrase to market the movie as if it were their own.

"We were talking about co-sponsoring an event, a 'Bee In,' for National Pollinator Week in June," Gerber told MTV News, "and even on that press release, we used that slogan."

"We are not killer bees," Gerber said. "All we want is for them to acknowledge that it's our intellectual property and license it from us. We're worker bees, we'll work with you."


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bees ferry ban

Amongst the new conditions for the resumption of the Hawaiian interisland Superferry are: watch out for whales. But Governor Linda Lingle admitted that she forgot to include restrictions on the transport of bee equipment to deter the spread of destructive varroa mites from O'ahu to the Big Island, the centre of the state's bee industry.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

CCD and bee industrialisation

Mark Winston, the head of bees at Simon Fraser University in BC, Canada has been letting off steam about the industrialisation of beekeeping.

He thinks that CCD crisis goes much deeper than a particular virus. He thinks that the industrialization of bee farming has made bees more susceptible to mass die-offs and abrupt disappearances.

By "separating bees from their keepers," Prof. Winston argues, modern farming has increasingly exposed bees to a host of debilitating parasites, pesticides, antibiotics and malnutrition.

"Our agricultural philosophy is all about overwhelming nature rather than collaborating with it," he says. "If we could hear bees talk, they would be crying right now and they would saying, Leave us alone."
According to the article, Mark has closed his apiary and has refocused his teaching, preaching "bee-like virtues of collaboration and congeniality to undergraduates in a unique interdisciplinary program at SFU that focuses on civic dialogue. "My experience with bees grew into a serious concern about how we teach students to engage with the world," he says."

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Bay of Plenty empty

After reports of the potential CCD threat to New Zealand's kiwi fruit crop, reports of widespread honeybee deaths appear one day later.

The second report implies agricultural chemicals are suspected, something that will doubtless be rectified rapidly since kiwi fruits are dependent on honeybee pollination arnd are worth $NZ 720 million a year.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

"There's a lot more veterinarians out there than apiculturalists"

Eric Mussen of University of Califiornia, Davis, gave an excellent overview of CCD last month. Here are a few extracts ...

Mussen identified malnutrition, parasitic mites, infectious microbes and insecticide contamination as among the possible culprits. It’s a complex issue, he said, but one thing is certain: “It seems unlikely that we will find a specific, new and different reason for why bees are dying.”

Mussen linked malnutrition as a key factor in CCD. Honey bee nutrition is "weather dependent," he said. "The best-fed bees are the healthiest, while malnourished bees are less resistant."


Malnutrition and climate-linked issues include:

Did local weather events affect pollen-producing plants negatively?
Was there a lack of bloom (nectar and pollen) due to lack of rain or too much heat?
Was there reduced access to flowers due to excess rain?
Did cold nights interfere with meiosis (cell division) that led to "sterile" or "non-viable" pollens?
Do these types of pollen contain the usual proteins, vitamins, minerals and lipids required by the bees?


USDA scientists found the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), in nearly all of the CCD colonies they tested, but none in the control group. In addition, they found the Kashmir bee virus in all the CCD colonies tested.

Also found in all the CCD colonies tested were the infectious microbes Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis. N. ceranae, a relatively new fungal disease of American honey bees, was imported from the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana. N. apis, its American counterpart, has been around for at least a century.


Among the more "quirky" explanations for CCD: cell phone usage, alien encounters, honey bee "rapture" (where hive populations “ascend to that big honeycomb in the sky en masse”); and chemtrails, aircraft-released vapors. "Some thought chemtrails was a military-industrial complex plan to kill all children and old people—and got the bees and birds by mistake," Mussen said.


During the question and answer period, commercial beekeeper Rich Schubert of the Vacaville-Winters area said that if 5600 dead cows were found in a pasture, instead of 5600 dead bees, people would start paying attention.

Mussen agreed. "There’s a lot more veterinarians out there than apiculturists," Mussen said.

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