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How the White House plans to help the humble bee maintain its buzz

By Juliet Eilperin via Washington Post

The humble bee — nuisance, threat, and linchpin of the American food supply — has won over the leader of the free world. And now President Obama is intervening on the bee’s behalf as its habitat dwindles.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration will announce the first National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a bureaucratic title for a plan to save the bee, other small winged animals and their breeding grounds. The initiative may feel like the kind of niche interest a second-term president devotes his time to, but scientists say his attention to the busy workforce that sustains many American crops is critical. While bee colonies regularly die off during winter because of stressful conditions, their sharp decline has been called a potential ecological disaster by some environmentalists and academic experts; conservative Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) described it in an interview as “an essential thing [that] we need to pay attention to.”

The strategy, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, will seek to manage the way forests burned by wildfire are replanted, the way offices are landscaped and the way roadside habitats where bees feed are preserved.

It is also the culmination of a years-long fascination Obama has had with the bee and its worrisome fate.

“I have to say that it is mighty darn lovely having the White House acknowledge the indigenous, unpaid and invisible workforce that somehow has managed to sustain all terrestrial life without health-care subsidies, or a single COLA, for that past 250?million years,” said Sam Droege, a U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist and one of the country’s foremost experts on native bee identification…

[Continue Reading via WashingtonPost.com]

“Bees Under Stress” – Click To View Graphic

Read full story · Posted in News

Pollinator Politics: Environmentalists Criticize Obama Plan To Save Bees

The buzz around bees has been bad lately. As we’ve reported, beekeepers say they lost 42 percent of honeybee colonies last summer.

And it seems that fixing what ails bees is no simple task. Over the past few decades, they’ve been hit by diseases and habitat loss. There’s also increasing evidence that a type of pesticides called neonicotinoids are linked to bees’ decline, too.

This could be bad news for all of us, since bees and other pollinators are critical to our food supply.

Honeybees alone, according to an Obama administration estimate, add $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year by pollinating everything from almonds and apples to blueberries and squash.

And now the administration has put forth a new action plan to reverse the declines in bees.

A key component is a strategy to restore 7 million acres of bee-friendly habitat that have been lost to urbanization, development and farming.

“It’s a big step in the right direction,” says Nigel Raine, a professor who studies pollinator conservation at the University of Guelph, in Canada.

The idea is to plant many types of wildflowers — in lots of different areas — so that bees have more places to forage and nest. “It’s making sure they have sufficient flowers to feed on,” says Raine — and places to live.

Many environmentalists say restoring bee habitat is a good place to start, but they’re critical that the Obama administration has not taken a harder line in limiting the use of neonicotinoids.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says more urgent action is needed to safeguard our food supply. “To truly save bees and other pollinators, we must drastically cut down on today’s pervasive use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides,” Peter Lehner, executive director of the NRDC, said in a press release.

And a similar message is coming from Friends of the Earth. The White House Pollinator Strategy won’t solve the bee crisis, the group says.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced in April that it is not likely to approve new uses of neonicotinoids, but the plan announced by the administration on Tuesday did not call for restrictions on current uses.

Lisa Archer, who leads the food and technology program at Friends of the Earth, said in a statement: “President Obama’s National Pollinator Health Strategy misses the mark by not adequately addressing the pesticides as a key driver of unsustainable losses of bees and other pollinators essential to our food system.”

The European Union has already moved to restrict the use of neonicotinoids. And as we’ve reported, there are proposals in Canada to limit use of the pesticides, too.

But a leading manufacturer of the pesticides says neonic restrictions are not necessary. “Neonicotinoids — when used according to labeled directions — can be used safely with pollinators,” Becky Langer of Bayer Crop Science told us.

She says the administration’s strategy to restore bee-friendly habitat is a good approach, and points out that Bayer is helping to address this issue with its Bee Care Center and efforts to encourage the expansion of habitat.

[View original post via NPR.org]

Read full story · Posted in News

Plan Bee: White House Unveils Strategy To Protect Pollinators


By Brian Naylor via NPR.org

There is a buzz in the air in Washington, and it’s about honeybees. Concerned about an alarming decline in honeybee colonies, the Obama administration has released a National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.

NPR’s Dan Charles says the strategy, despite its rather bureaucratic title, is pretty straightforward: “The government will provide money for more bee habitat and more research into ways to protect bees from disease and pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency also will re-evaluate a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids … which are commonly used on some of the most widely planted crops in the country.”

As NPR’s Allison Aubrey has reported:

“Scientists have shown that a range of factors — from climate change to viruses to loss of habitat — are contributing to the global decline in bee health.

“And two new studies published in the journal Nature add to the evidence that overuse of neonicotinoid pesticides may also be contributing to the decline of bees.

“Neonics, as they’re known for short, have become among the most widely used insecticides in the world. The pesticide is coated onto the seeds that farmers plant to grow their crops. These pretreated seeds are used extensively in corn, soy and canola crops. In fact, it’s estimated that treated seeds are used in more than 95 percent of the U.S. corn crop.”

The White House strategy aims to reduce honeybee colony losses during the winter to no more than 15 percent within 10 years. It’s also concerned with the monarch butterfly, another species in decline. The government wants to increase the Eastern population of the monarch to 225 million butterflies occupying an area of approximately 15 acres in the insect’s Mexico wintering grounds. And it sets a goal of restoring or enhancing 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next five years. The strategy is the work of the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, an Obama administration initiative launched last year. President Obama has taken a personal interest in the plight of the honeybees. There is a beehive in the White House garden, the honey from which is an ingredient in the White House beer recipe. (If you’re interested in a good buzz.) Critics, however, say the White House strategy doesn’t go far enough. Friends of the Earth issued a stinging rebuke to the administration’s plan, charging that it “failed to adequately address the impact of pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides on bees and other pollinators.” Puns aside, it’s a serious issue. According to The Washington Post:

“Over the past five years, winter losses of commercial honeybee colonies have averaged roughly 30 percent. A consortium of universities and research laboratories announced last week that beekeepers lost 42.1 percent of their colonies between April 2014 and 2015, an 8 percent spike from the previous year, and that the number of summer deaths exceeded winter deaths for the first time since the survey began in 2010.”

The Obama administration says honeybee pollination adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. [Read the original article via NPR.org]

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: A Sharp Spike in Honeybee Deaths Deepens a Worrisome Trend

NY TIMES

A prolonged and mysterious die-off of the nation’s honeybees, a trend worrisome both to beekeepers and to farmers who depend on the insects to pollinate their crops, apparently worsened last year.

In an annual survey released on Wednesday by the Bee Informed Partnership, a consortium of universities and research laboratories, about 5,000 beekeepers reported losing 42.1 percent of their colonies in the 12-month period that ended in April. That is well above the 34.2 percent loss reported for the same period in 2013 and 2014, and it is the second-highest loss recorded since year-round surveys began in 2010.

Most striking, however, was that honeybee deaths spiked last summer, exceeding winter deaths for the first time. Commercial beekeepers, some of whom rent their hives to farmers during pollination seasons, were hit especially hard, the survey’s authors stated.

“We expect the colonies to die during the winter, because that’s a stressful season,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant entomology professor at the University of Maryland who directs the survey for the bee partnership. “What’s totally shocking to me is that the losses in summer, which should be paradise for bees, exceeded the winter losses.”

Bees are not in danger of extinction, but their health is of major concern to agriculture, where honeybees’ pollination services are estimated to be worth $10 billion to $15 billion a year.

Nobody knows with certainty why honeybee deaths are rising. Beekeepers once expected to lose perhaps 10 percent of their bees in an average year. But deaths began to spike in the middle of the past decade, when a phenomenon in which bees deserted their hives and died en masse, later named colony collapse disorder, began sweeping hives worldwide.

Those mass die-offs have abated somewhat in recent years, experts say, but colonies remain in poor health, and overall death rates remain much higher than in the past.

Dr. vanEngelsdorp said increasingly poor nutrition could be a factor in the rising summer death rate. Rising crop prices have led farmers to plow and plant millions of acres of land that was once home to wildflowers; since 2007, an Agriculture Department program that pays farmers to put sensitive and erosion-prone lands in a conservation reserve has lost an area roughly equal to half of Indiana, and budget cuts promise to shrink the program further. Dr. vanEngelsdrop and other scientists cite two other factors at work in the rising death rate: a deadly parasite, the varroa mite,and pesticides.

In recent years, some experts have focused on neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides used almost universally on some major crops in the United States. The European Commission has banned the use of three variants of the pesticide on flowering plants, citing risks to bees, and questioned whether they should be used at all.

The Environmental Protection Agency said last month that it was unlikely to approve any new uses of the pesticides until more tests on the risks to bees and other pollinators have been completed.

Neonicotinoid manufacturers say that the pesticides are much safer than others they have supplanted, and that in any case, they are safe when used according to instructions.

In a news release, an entomologist at one of the major neonicotinoid manufacturers, Bayer CropScience LP, called the survey results good news because wintertime bee deaths appeared to have stabilized at a lower rate than in the past. The entomologist, Richard Rogers of the company’s Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said that scientists had yet to establish a normal range for summer bee deaths.

The annual survey released on Wednesday did not directly address the causes of honeybee deaths. But it said varroa mites were a much bigger problem among so-called backyard beekeepers, who keep fewer than 50 hives, than among commercial beekeepers, who are probably on higher alert for deadly infestations.

The survey’s authors called the spike in summer honeybee deaths troubling, noting that in the past, more bees have died during the winter months than in good weather.

The Bee Informed Partnership has collected data on summer bee deaths since 2006, and it expanded its survey to cover winter deaths in 2010. The surveys are financed largely by the Agriculture Department.

[read original article via nytimes.com]

Read full story · Posted in News

Thanks for the buzz! @smdailypress @sspitzSaMo

SMDP

Reality vs. fantasy (Culture Watch)
by Sarah Spitz

SAVING BEES

…Speaking of sustainability: there would be no food without bees.

Join local non-profit organization, HoneyLove (www.honeylove.org) for its 2015 Yellow Tie fundraiser. Wear yellow, pose for Yellow Carpet photos, and enjoy great food, fun drinks, local honey tasting and music by the Leftover Cuties, in support of HoneyLove’s mission to protect honeybees and inspire and educate new urban beekeepers! Go online to find your ticket.

It takes place on May 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Cook’s Garden by HGEL at 1033 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice. Children dressed as bees get in for free. Your ticket is here: YTE2015.eventbrite.com.

[Read full article on SM Daily Press]

YTE15_slide

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RECIPE: Honey Grilled Watermelon Caprese Salad

via howsweeteats.com

YIELD: SERVES 4
TOTAL TIME: 30 MINTUES

ingredients:

2 large, round watermelon slices, each cut into 4 triangles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons [RAW LOCAL] honey
1 pint of grape tomatoes, quartered
4 ounces of fresh mozzarella, cut in half or sliced
a bunch of fresh basil leaves
balsamic glaze for drizzling

directions:

Preheat your grill to medium heat. Brush both sides of each watermelon triangle with olive oil and season all sides with salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of honey over each triangle and place them on the grill, grilling each side for about 2 minutes. Remove and add a little more honey if desired.

Assemble salads by placing 2 watermelon triangles on each plate, then cover with a sprinkle of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves. Add some salt and pepper on top, then drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve!

[click here to view the full post on howsweeteats.com]

Read full story · Posted in Recipes

READ: Planting Herbs that Attract Honey Bees

By Ann Barczewski via keepingbackyardbees.com

When the bees start flying I can’t wait to get out there and dig in the hives and the dirt. There’s a huge variety of herbs that are not just great for cooking and medicinal purposes, they’re great for the bees. Planting herbs that attract honey bees is something that anyone can do.

You may not have a large plot of land for an herb garden but most people can tuck a few herbs in somewhere, even if they only have a postage stamp yard, balcony, hanging basket or doorstep. Container gardening can be just as rewarding and help your local bees.

If you are purchasing already grown herb plants instead of starting them from seed, please remember to purchase from an organic supplier. We get ours from our local CSA which is good for the bees and our local economy. Many big box stores sell plants that have been cultivated with the use of insecticides which are toxic for bees. So while you are trying to do something nice for the bees you may actually be doing harm.

Here is a short list of herbs which the bees love and so will you!

Borage – This powerhouse herb produces a lot of nectar, it’s easy to plant from seed, blooms well into the fall, will self-seed once you get it going and it’s readily available. Historically, it’s been planted to increase honey production. It’s great as a companion plant alongside tomatoes and cabbages because it helps to ward away harmful insects and worms. It’s also believed to improve the health of the plants that grow around it. The flowers and leaves are not only beautiful but they’re a welcome addition to any salad.

Chives – These wonderful plants flower early in almost all regions, conditions and climates so when the weather is warm enough for your bees to fly, the chives are already producing nectar for them. They are also perennials so they will produce for many years to come. If you haven’t had chive infused butter, you have been missing out!

Comfrey – an amazing herb which will enrich your soil from deep below the surface. It leaches high levels of potassium and nitrogen into your soil. Both of these elements are key nutrients and will ensure you have a healthy garden. Its leaves are high in allantoin, a substance that causes cells to multiply, making it a great addition to your herbal medicine cabinet to treat burns, wounds, bug bites and even bee stings! It’s great topically (like our St. John’s Wort & Hemp Salve) but is toxic to humans when consumed so don’t eat it! But best of all, the bees LOVE it!

Lemon Balm (Melissa) – Lemon Balm is known by many names, Melissa, the genus name means “honeybee” and it is definitely a favorite of the bees. It’s also a wonderful herb to have on hand. The leaves are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, sedative and aromatic. It’s used to treat many conditions. Internally it’s good for insomnia, migraine, hyperactivity, Flu, and anxiety. When used topically (like our RESCUE Salve) it can help with cold sores and shingles. In short, it’s pretty much good for all that ails you and it tastes beautiful!

Rosemary – a perennial which likes sun and well-drained soil, this plant will be a wonderful addition to every garden. It also lends itself to being grown in a pot as a bonsai (and how cute is that?) It’s a culinary herb which attracts bees from far and wide. You can also use rosemary infused in apple cider vinegar as a rinse for your hair to help with dandruff and itchy scalp. For herbal recipes you can check out our blog on Ann Bee’s Naturals, The Natural Buzz.

Dandelions — And of course, don’t forget to let your dandelions, plantain, and clover grow, they are some of the first sources of nectar for the bees. While you’re at it, remember that many plants which are considered weeds are beneficial to honeybees. So let the multiflora rose, wild asters and goldenrod bloom before you hack them down. The bees will thank you.

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

WATCH: Girl Next Door Honey

Girl Next Door Honey from kelsi dean on Vimeo.

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

READ: 5 Healing Honeys Known For Their Medicinal Power

by Anna Hunt via truththeory.com

One of the most natural foods in the world, honey has many uses and benefits the body in many different ways. Many of us think of honey as a nutritional natural sweeter – a great replacement to processed white sugar – and as a flavor enhancer in dressings and sauces, but in addition honey has been used worldwide since ancient times for its medicinal properties.

Honey’s Medicinal Properties

Honey is an effective treatment for many health conditions. It is rich in antiseptic and antibacterial properties, making it a great alternative to topical antibiotic ointments, which are starting to be less and less effective due to the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria. It is also great for respiratory ailments, especially symptoms of cold and flu such as sore throat and cough. Furthermore, honey contains flavonoids and antioxidants, two essential elements needed to aid in the prevention of cancer cell growth. With skyrocketing cancer rates, honey can be a beneficial component of your daily cancer prevention regimen.

Honey’s composition consists of equal parts fructose and glucose that have bonded with water molecules. This means that each serving of honey gives your body a natural energy boost. Additionally, honey’s antibacterial and antifungal properties may help reduce gastrointestinal disorders. Your skin can also benefit from honey. Its antibacterial properties make it an effective moisturizer that will nourish the skin, especially when combined with other ingredients such as apples or cucumbers. Honey can also help some unpleasant skin ailments such as acne and sores.

The Creative Honeybee

It may surprise you that there are over 300 unique types of honey available in North America and thousands of varieties worldwide. Honeys differ in color, flavor and aroma depending on the nectar source of the flowers visited by the honeybees. Lighter honeys such as Alfalfa and Clover usually have a milder flavor and are considered a great natural sweetener for everyday use, while darker honeys such as Manuka, Avocado and Buckwheat can be quite robust and rich in flavor.

Lab testing shows that different types of honeys differ in their vitamin and mineral content, because each honey has a unique compilation of nectars. Similar to wine, honeys of a specific type can even vary year to year, depending on the climate, temperature and rainfall.

If honeybees are predominantly visiting a certain type of plant, then they will produce a specific honey variety. Each variety is packed with certain levels of nutrients, thus giving different honeys different healing properties. Yet, many honeys – even specific varieties – include a blend of nectars because honeybees are quite intelligent when it comes to which flowers they visit. They collect nectar of certain flowers because of the vitamins and minerals that will give them a balanced diet and a mix of needed phytochemicals (biologically active compounds produced by plants). Honey manufacturers will also add different honeys to a specific honey type to meet certain qualities. For example Sage honey is blended with other varieties to slow down granulation because it is extremely slow to granulate.

Healing Honey Varieties

Although all honeys have some of the same medicinal properties, certain honeys have shown to alleviate specific health problems and have been used as natural medicines for ages. The following honeys have become quite popular over the last few years and now are somewhat easy to find:

1. Acacia honey is created from the nectar of the Black Locust blossoms (Robinia pseudoacacia). Its high fructose and low sucrose content make it a great choice for diabetics. Acacia honey is known for its therapeutic effects such as cleansing the liver, regulating digestive processes especially in the intestines, and reducing inflammation in the respiratory system.

2. Eucalyptus honey comes in many varieties because Eucalyptus is one of the larger plant genera with over 500 species, hence Eucalyptus honeys can vary in color and flavor. Its origin is Australia but it is now also produced in California. Traditionally, Eucalyptus honey has been used to protect against colds and headaches. With a hint of menthol flavor, it can be quite effective in alleviating mild cough, chest congestion and other cold symptoms. Furthermore, Eucalyptus honey has also been widely used as a topical treatment or blended in natural topical medicines for healing wounds, ulcers, burns, sores and abrasions, as well as for insect bites and stings. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it beneficial in relieving muscle and joint pain when massaged into the skin.

3. Linden honey, most commonly recognized in Northern Europe where Linden trees (Tilia) are planted in city parks and gardens and along the roads, is known for its light yellow color and delicate woody scent. It has slight sedative properties, therefore it is recommended for anxiety. It can also aide with insomnia if used in a bath before bedtime. Its antiseptic properties make it a natural treatment for colds, cough and other respiratory ailments such as bronchitis.

4. Manuka honey is collected from the flowers of the Tea Tree bush (Leptospermum), found in the coastal areas of New Zealand. This type of honey has strong antibacterial properties thus making it an effective elixir for digestive problems such as stomach ulcers and indigestion, for symptoms associated with colds such as sore throat, and for skin problems such as acne and pimples. The taste of Manuka honey can be quite robust, but it will vary depending on which brand you buy so if you don’t like one, try another.

5. Neem honey is a popular Ayurvedic treatment and can be commonly found in India where Neem trees (Azadirachta indica) are common. It is used to lower high blood pressure, diabetes, skin problems, allergies, dental illnesses, and throat infections.

In addition to buying raw and, if possible, organic honey, many natural products are now available, especially for skin care, that come pre-blended with these honey varieties. Some of my favorites include Wild Ferns Manuka Honey Facial Care products and Amazing Ayurveda cleansers.

There are many other wonderful honey varieties that are perfect for cooking, baking, salad dressings and so forth. Some common ones include Alfalfa honeyAvocado honeyClover honeyBlueberry honey and Orange Blossom honey, although, once again, there are thousands of honey varieties. If you haven’t found something that suits your needs, keep exploring.

Sources:

Waking Times

http://naturehacks.com/natural-food/how-raw-honey-is-the-ultimate-survival-food/

http://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/natural-remedies/honey-as-medicine-zm0z14ndzhou.aspx

http://www.honey.com/honey-at-home/learn-about-honey/honey-varietals/

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

Bee Informed Partnership Hive Scale Project

Susan BIP Scale
via HoneyLover Susan RudnickiHave you ever wondered how our local, LA Urban beekeeping differ from other areas of the country? I just read the other day that beekeepers in Wales expect about 25 pounds of honey per year on their hives—33 pounds is a bumper crop!   This does not seem like much. Our bees are active year ’round, making brood, honey and drones. This growth is very different from temperate climate bees and, as well, we are using Africanized hybrid ferals—a relatively rare population to survey. We now have a opportunity to participate in amassing data on our specific niche by the generosity of HoneyLove who purchased the SolutionBee Hive scale for me to monitor a hive in my backyard garden.

The project is managed by BIP (the Bee Informed Partnership)  and the hive data is automatically sent to their website as well as the SolutionBee team, the manufacturers of the hive scale (purchased from Brushy Mountain). The colony I selected came from a large swarm hived on April 27, 2014 which has proven to be super productive and nicely behaved. They now occupy 3 deep boxes and 2 mediums after seven months and have produced 60 pounds of honey.  I have also raided their brood nest for frames of brood for weak nuc hives. They are VERY strong bees and a pleasure to work.

The goal of the project is summarized below, as taken from the initial offering to participate sent out by BIP. I am having great fun with this, watching my bee’s growth graph going ever upward in weight gain. For the first time I am also having to learn how to use a cell phone—my son’s iphone—as the data recording and uploading device. Arghh!  —this is not my strong suit.

The Bee Informed Partnership is dedicated to helping beekeepers make informed data-based management decisions. Monitoring weight changes in colonies has huge potential to help us understand disease and parasite population growth, as well as the timing of management practices. We are seeking some innovative beekeepers who are willing to help us develop and beta test the hive scale tools’ ability to develop a system that will provide the best regionally specific management practices based on real time data. We are collaborating with NASA’s Honeybee Net, under the direction of Wayne Esaias, to test this exciting effort.

Why hive scales?

Hive scales weigh individual colonies at regular intervals, keeping track of strong nectar flows, swarming, and other conditions that affect management decisions.  Beekeepers may respond to rises in weight by putting supers on, inspecting colonies for swarm cells, and extracting full honey supers. Conversely, weight loss may indicate a need to feed colonies, robbing or indicate the colony has swarmed and is at increased risk of becoming queenless.

With new digital hive scales, beekeepers can track the weight of colonies without having to do a hive inspection. The scale we are using for our beta testing will utilizing Bluetooth with an Android device (e.g., Android phone or tablet), and a visit to the apiary is required to read the data. The data can be viewed on the device or be uploaded via cellular or WIFI communication. However, in the future these same scales when used with a data collector will allow for data to be automatically uploaded via cell phones or cell phone service data plans that allow for remote monitoring.

Armed with data from hive scales and other disease monitoring efforts, the Bee Informed Partnership hopes to make predictive models of honey flows and disease population growth. These models will help us develop an “alert system” that will make management recommendations based on real-time and regionally specific data.

As to my particular case,  I don’t expect the disease/pest monitoring aspect will be so relevant to my bee population. The varroa mite has not been a great destroyer of my bees in the past and they seem to manage the pest well on their own. When Spring comes, it will be interesting to observe the growth of the brood nest and respond with management techniques to overcome swarming tendencies.   One thing is sure—that time will be sooner than any other part of the country.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, Newsletter Articles