like Facebook follow Twitter watch YouTube subscribe RSS Feed
Tag Archives | organic beekeeping

Beekeeping in the balance

“This is an editorial from Bee World, 1972. Probably written by Eva Crane. I think it’s still instructive today, especially the last paragraph” -Peter Borst 

HoneyLove visiting the Almond Orchards in Bakersfield


 

In many parts of the world beekeeping hangs in the balance, and the scales are tipped against the bees and the beekeeper. In countries with highly sophisticated agricultural systems, beekeeping may be in a decline because too many factors in modern agriculture work against the bees. Even in countries beginning to move away from traditional agriculture, bees are less and less part of the rural economy. Declining numbers of bees and beekeepers, and lack of official interest, are matched by falling honey yields. Yet the very changes in land use which now seem to be bringing about the end of beekeeping may lead to its recognition as an essential part of agriculture, because of its importance for crop pollination.

The factors limiting beekeeping may be summarized as follows. Forage available to bees is being reduced, by current agricultural practices, and by industrial and urban land use, including road construction. Losses from pesticide have been mitigated to some extent in recent years, but hazards are constantly arising from the use of new crops, and changes in agricultural techniques, especially for the control of pests and weeds. Also, although many of the bee diseases are well understood, and treatments available, largescale “losses” of indeterminate origin still occur from time to time, and can cause severe damage to beekeeping in the area concerned.

Beekeepers face rising costs which may so far outstrip the financial return that commercial beekeeping becomes uneconomic. At an amateur level, beekeeping as a hobby does not fit easily into areas of high human population, especially in towns and suburbs. Further, beekeepers are, in American terms, “not a well organized commodity group”: the very independence that makes a person a good keeper of bees may well make him a poor negotiator, and one who does not easily co-operate. It may also hinder understanding between beekeepers and crop growers, whether or not the growers use bees to pollinate their own crops.

Nowadays so many interdependent factors are involved in determining any one issue, that more and more interdisciplinary co-ordination is needed-and this does not come of itself, but has to be sought out and worked for. There is no magic solution, but there are ways in which benefits have been, or could be, obtained.

Human nature is perhaps the most difficult of all factors to change, but where the need is great enough – as in a nation at war – cooperation can be achieved. Surveys leading to a relatively objective assessment of the position could well be a valuable start. One such survey (concerned with development rather than decline) was conducted in Ireland in 1967, and another, specifically on bee losses and their effect on honey production and pollination, was carried out in the United States in 1970. In some countries with tracts of undeveloped land, surveys should be made to establish what further sites could profitably be used for hives, or what areas could be planted specifically for bee forage. In the more intensively used lands, pressure groups can be formed to maintain and reclaim potential areas for bee forage-even road verges are worth attention. More studies are urgently needed to define the requirements of crops for insect pollination (especially in the tropics), and to establish how widespread the dearth of pollinators is. The system of payment for colonies of bees provided for pollination, and conditions for safeguarding them, should also be restudied and improved.

Crop management techniques must be developed in which pest and weed control measures are applied only according to need, and methods are selected which are the least hazardous to bees. Much research has already been done, and if the results are presented in a way that can be assimilated, their application should not prove too difficult.

Understanding between beekeepers and crop growers has been achieved on a local, personal, scale in various countries, with very satisfactory results. Perhaps a study of these successful ventures might also show the way to more general progress.

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Organic Beekeeping Conference in Oracle Arizona

Oracle_2015_2

By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

One of the most delightful and informative ways beeks can advance their understanding of bees and beekeeping is by attending conferences. The American Beekeeping Federation conference was held in Anaheim this year in January and I went to several presentations. This was a completely academic conference, combined with a large trade show—no live bees to work with. This group also reflects a strong conventional management and commercial pollinator representation. There are always things to be learned though, and I found the time well spent.

However, a number of smaller and more appropriate conferences for us treatment free folk also occur every year. The 8th Annual Organic Beekeeping conference at Oracle AZ, put on by Dee Lusby allows participants to visit the 9 bee yards kept by Dee in the remote Sonora desert near the Mexican border. These bees are never moved (no migratory pollination) are at least 4 deeps tall, are not re-queened or supported with any feeds, and are visited (on average) just 5 times a year. Dee’s honey is very dry and dark, reflecting the dry climate and mixed desert flora the bees have for forage. These flowers include many desert shrubs, cactus, wildflowers, and introduced weed species too numerous to mention. The Spring rains this year have been abundant and well spaced, so we saw lots of wildflower and cactus blooms. The desert smelled wonderful—fresh, sage-y scented with alternating bright blue skies and looming smokey thunderclouds.

Oracle_2015_1

Rob McFarland (Co-Founder of HoneyLove) and I drove to Oracle, which is in a very remote area. The conference is sited at the YMCA, with cabins and bunk beds for sleeping and 3 full cafeteria meals a day. Some of the best time is spent at meals in talking with other bee keepers from all over the US and even other parts of the world.

The conference lasts 3 days, with speakers on a range of subjects—apitherapy (using bee stings for health reasons), introduction of a new national on-line register for swarm calls to beekeepers, the beekeeping management calendar year from a extreme climate perspective, and new information on genetics and breeding of queens. Michael Bush and Sam Comfort, our great friends in treatment free beekeeping not only spoke individually, but on the last night gave us a melodious, heartfelt performance for almost a hour. Michael plays guitar and sings, Sam plays ukelele and banjo and a MEAN harmonica!! It was stupendous and had people’s roaring approval.

Our final day was devoted to driving on dirt roads to Dee’s remote beeyards—she has 700 hives. The day was a bit windy and cold, with threatening rain, but we went anyway, and the desert was glorious with color. The desert bees were very ferocious in defending their colonies, reflecting the weather and forage conditions they must deal with. We were fully suited and gloved to help restore some hives that were tipping wildly from the undermining of the bottom board by tunneling rodents. The hives had to be totally unstacked, the bottom board leveled and supported by fresh soil and the hives re-stacked—each at least 4 deeps.

I urge all that wish to really know beekeeping and infuse the relationship with new knowledge to attend these bee conferences.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Workshops, Yay Bees

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

Los Angeles in June

via Susan Rudnicki

honeylove-10a_Snapseed

BEEks —we are going into high summer, and if all health is good in your colonies and the brood nest has been managed successfully to prevent swarms, you should be able to harvest honey from hives 2 years and older. Note the age—new hives, from this Spring or Winter are needing you to let them keep their stores for building up.

We are in a strong drought of three years duration, so if you live near the foothills and your bees must rely on lots of natives for pollen and nectar, they may be finding the pickings slim. You may need to feed them. Only inspection and conferring with other knowledgeable beeks will help you determine this. Please utilize the great opportunity HoneyLove offers as a networking resource by attending our educational meetings and events and using the Forum to advance your confidence by posing questions. Beekeeping is a extended learning curve craft with lots of nuances.

photo by rebeccacabage.com

Stay up on your inspection schedule (every 2 – 3 weeks)  and keeping records of when you do them, what you see, and what you think your observations portend for the colony.  Drone brood frames discovered in the brood nest can be moved up to the top box and after the drones hatch, this area is often filled with honey.

Keep  your ant control barriers in good order for young hives, weak hives, or recently hived swarms, cutouts or trap-outs. They NEED this cheap, easy and effective insurance from you.

Please take the time to be observant of all the flowering trees, shrubs, and annual flowers that your bees use for their food.  Eucalyptus, Mellaleucas, Grevilleas, Grewia and many others  are blooming now—we should strive to know these plants and their bloom cycles to truly know our bees.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, Yay Bees

Advanced Beek Meeting: October Recap

Adv Beek Mtg 1
The new Advanced Beekeeper meetings began at HoneyLove on October 27. Held on the last Sunday of each month at 11am at the HoneyLove office, these meetings will fill the gap left by the Backwards Beekeepers and will help advance the learning of the L.A. treatment-free community.

Each meeting will have a member-speaker teaching us all something new as well as a general open Q&A and mentorship opportunities. Beekeepers of all levels are welcome to attend; HoneyLove also has more introductory-level beekeeper meetings on the 2nd Saturday of each month. Attendees are encouraged to join HoneyLove.org for extra benefits and the tax-deductible donation.

The October speaker was Josip Benko, a second-generation beekeeper with over 30 years of experience. Josip is from the former Czechoslovakia and shares the philosophy of observing the bees because they’ll show you what they need. He is also big on experimentation and customizing his hive boxes.

Josip brought several hive box samples; these are reduced for education purposes. He now uses 7 or 9 frame boxes because his observation is that bees don’t like even numbers.

ADV Beek 1
Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, HoneyLove Workshops

HoneyLove.org featured on KPFK 90.7FM

KPFK RADIO ARCHIVE: 4/8/13
http://archive.kpfk.org/mp3/kpfk_130408_143040deadlinela.MP3

What’s up w/ URBAN HOMESTEADING in LA? Join Laurie Kaufman & Barbara Osborne to learn about urban bees, backyard chickens and more with Erik Knutzen (rootsimple.com) & Rob McFarland (HoneyLove.org).

kpfk

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Buzz

Bees Buzz Each Other, but Not the Way You Think

by Sid Perkins via news.sciencemag.org

Electric bees? Honey bees may use electrical fields that accumulate on their bodies when they fly or move about to communicate with each other within the hive, a new study suggests.
Credit: Ken Thomas/Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The electric fields that build up on honey bees as they fly, flutter their wings, or rub body parts together may allow the insects to talk to each other, a new study suggests. Tests show that the electric fields, which can be quite strong, deflect the bees’ antennae, which, in turn, provide signals to the brain through specialized organs at their bases.

Scientists have long known that flying insects gain an electrical charge when they buzz around. That charge, typically positive, accumulates as the wings zip through the air—much as electrical charge accumulates on a person shuffling across a carpet. And because an insect’s exoskeleton has a waxy surface that acts as an electrical insulator, that charge isn’t easily dissipated, even when the insect lands on objects, says Randolf Menzel, a neurobiologist at the Free University of Berlin in Germany.

Although researchers have suspected for decades that such electrical fields aid pollination by helping the tiny grains stick to insects visiting a flower, only more recently have they investigated how insects sense and respond to such fields. Just last month, for example, a team reported that bumblebees may use electrical fields to identify flowers recently visited by other insects from those that may still hold lucrative stores of nectar and pollen. A flower that a bee had recently landed on might have an altered electrical field, the researchers speculated.

Now, in a series of lab tests, Menzel and colleagues have studied how honey bees respond to electrical fields. In experiments conducted in small chambers with conductive walls that isolated the bees from external electrical fields, the researchers showed that a small, electrically charged wand brought close to a honey bee can cause its antennae to bend. Other tests, using antennae removed from honey bees, indicated that electrically induced deflections triggered reactions in a group of sensory cells, called the Johnston’s organ, located near the base of the antennae. In yet other experiments, honey bees learned that a sugary reward was available when they detected a particular pattern of electrical field.

Altogether, these tests suggest that the electrical fields that build up on bees due to their flight or movement are stimuli that could be used in social communication, the researchers report online this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The team’s findings “are very significant,” says Fred Dyer, a behavioral biologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. “I hadn’t heard about the possibility that honey bees could use electrical fields.”

One of the honey bees’ forms of communication is the “waggle dance.” When the insects have located a dense patch of flowers or a source of water, they skitter across the honeycomb in their hive in a pattern related to the direction of and the distance to the site. Fellow worker bees then take that information and forage accordingly. The biggest mystery about the dance, Dyer says, is which senses the bees use—often in the deep, dark recesses of their hive—to conduct their communication. “People have proposed a variety of methods: direct contact between bees, air currents from the buzzing of their wings, odors, even vibrations transmitted through the honeycomb itself,” he says.

But the team’s new findings introduce yet another mode of communication available to the insects, Dyer says. He notes that the group found that antenna deflections induced by an electrically charged honey bee wing are about 10 times the size of those that would be caused by airflow from the wing fluttering at the same distance—a sign that electrical fields could be an important signal.

“They show that the electrical fields are there and that they’re within the range of what the animal can sense,” Dyer says. “Their claim of evidence is quite compelling.”

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

“Bay Area’s ‘urban’ bees like native, diverse plantings”

By Lou Fancher via mercurynews.com

Bay Area's 'urban' bees

Dr. Gordon Frankie said native bees have preferences, and knowing what they like can improve the health of your garden.

“If they have a choice, they’ll go after native plants,” said Frankie, a professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley. He and Steve Gentry, a founding member of the Mount Diablo Beekeepers Association, teamed up for a recent Lafayette Library Foundation Science Cafe presentation.

Frankie’s point — that local gardeners hoping to attract Agapostemon texanus or Xylocopa varipuncta, two local native bee species, should include native plants in their gardening plans. And mulching should be done lightly because 70 percent of all native bees nest in the ground and can’t burrow through materials heavier than soil.

A project at Frog Hollow Farm and other Brentwood farms is demonstrating the impact of placing native plants between crop rows.

Urban areas are ideal for bees, Frankie claimed, because of the diverse food supply they offer. The Oxford Tract Bee Garden he and his team of researchers planted allows them to monitor and categorize bees’ attraction to native and nonnative plants. A 10-city survey across California is providing a detailed picture of the bee population. San Diego, he said, is the worst city for attracting bees.

“It’s their gardening culture: No one is using diverse, floral plants,” Frankie said.

On the other end of the spectrum, a 30-by-30-foot garden in Ukiah had 68 bee species, and Santa Cruz is a hotbed beehive community. (The Bay Area is fifth on that list.)

Gentry, known by local residents as “Bee Man” — although he is considering an upgrade to “Emperor of Bees” — began the popular event’s 60-minute talk with a bucket.

“All of these products from bees are helpful to humans,” he declared, pulling hunks of beeswax and jars of honey, pollen and actual bees from the container. “Their history goes back thousands of years.”

Within five minutes, Gentry had advocated (beeswax is used for lubricants in cosmetics, candles, wax-resist dyeing and food preserving), acknowledged (“We have some hindrance about eating insects, but watch a bear break into a bee’s nest. He’ll eat the whole thing,” he said), and advertised (pollen is the new superfood, with protein, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, according to Gentry).

He also shared a 30-year-old epiphany he had while watching a black bear and her two cubs demolish a rotted tree while feasting on termites.

“I wasn’t the first person to see natural things. Forty thousand years ago, hunter-gatherers watched bears, bees and insects, too. The timeline is long,” he said.

Skipping through honeybee history, from Middle Eastern origins to monks in monasteries needing dependable light sources to small farmers before World War I who kept just enough hives to feed their families and pollinate their crops, Gentry landed on the contemporary world’s bee dilemmas.

“Industrialization changed farms. They became bigger, and now, large pollination contracts and commercial beekeeping are driving the business. (More than a million) hives are brought into the central Southern California valley for pollinating almonds each year.”

Frankie, whose business is less about keeping bees and more about watching them, asked the Science Cafe audience of gardeners, beekeepers and general science fans a series of questions.

Delighting at stumping his listeners, he said 1,600 bee species were attracted to California’s 5,000 flowering plants, drawing a hefty percentage of the United States’ 4,000 total bee species.

“Notice, you are not on their list,” he said. “Bees are vegetarians. They’re not after you or your burgers. Wasps are the ‘meat bees’ after your burgers.”

Generating a local buzz
The University of California Press will publish Gordon Frankie’s findings in a forthcoming book, “Native Bees and Their Flowers in Urban California Gardens.” Bee appreciators who don’t want to wait can find information at http://nature.berkeley.edu/urbanbeegardens/index.html and diablobees.org.

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

HoneyLove School Outreach at Valmonte Elementary

Valmonte Elementary Valmonte Elementary

Valmonte Elementary

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin

HoneyLove featured in “Gardening for Geeks” book!

Learn more here: http://gardenerd.com/gardening-for-geeks/index.html

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLovin