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Hyack honeybees educate and pollinate
New Westminster Secondary School is a hive of activity these days, and not only because students are buzzing about the hallways, gearing up for second semester.
Four years ago this month, at the urging of his students, biology teacher Axel Krause approached the school board with a plan to build an apiary on the roof of the Pearson wing.
The plan was approved, and NWSS is now home to two beehives, with another shipment of bees on its way.
“It’s a unique kind of thing to our school,” said environment club president Isabel Sadowski, 17. “Not a lot of schools have beehives…”
“A hard part of being part of environment club is that sometimes your actions don’t really produce a lot,” said Sadowski. “You can raise awareness, you can change your own habits, but it’s hard to see the effect that you’re having. With the beehives, you can actually see the work you’ve been doing is creating something.”
But for Krause and Sadowski, bees are so much more important than the substances they produce.
“Every third mouthful of food you eat has had a bee involved,” said Krause, explaining that even dairy cows depend on bees to pollinate the alfalfa they eat. “It’s amazing how much food we eat that’s pollinated by bees. And the bees are dying.”
This month in California, one million beehives will arrive from all over the United States to pollinate over 700,000 acres of almonds. In the summer, many of those bees will be shipped to the Fraser Valley to pollinate blueberry crops, then to Alberta for canola.
Krause believes this practice may be a factor in Colony Collapse Disorder – the sudden loss of entire hives of bees that has plagued beekeepers since it was first documented in 2006.
“Do you like bananas?” asked Krause. “Do you want to eat bananas for two weeks straight? No. But that’s what we’re doing to our bees. We’re putting them into the almonds, and for two weeks all they get is almond pollen.”
Steady diets of a single kind of pollen, pesticides and viruses have contributed to the deaths of billions of bees in recent years, but Krause believes urban beekeeping is one solution…
ARTICLE:Los Feliz Ledger – by Norma Zager
A Beehive In Every Back Yard? GGPNC Votes to Support Urban Beekeeping
LOS FELIZ—The Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council (GGPNC) have voted to support efforts to legalize urban beekeeping in Los Angeles and encourage the City Planning Department to initiate an ordinance that would allow residents to raise their own honeybees.
A vote was taken at the GGPNC’s Jan. 17th board member after hearing from the community about the value of practice of beekeeping.
Chelsea McFarland of HoneyLove, spoke about the benefits of raising bees and said their future lies with individual beekeepers.
“According to Simon Buxton as quoted in the new documentary, The Vanishing of the Bees, the future of beekeeping is not in one beekeeper with 60,000 hives, but rather 60,000 people with one hive,” McFarland said.
McFarland and husband Rob founded HoneyLove as a nonprofit conservation organization to protect the honeybees and inspire and educate new urban beekeepers. She informed the board that bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants and one out of every three or four bites of food eaten is thanks to bees.
“The best science tells us that the future of the honeybee lie within the urban environment. Despite the irony, cities actually provide safer habitat than the farms and rural areas traditionally associated with beekeeping. Our home gardens are free of pesticides, and in cities like Los Angeles, there is year-round availability of pollen and nectar,” she said.
Atlanta, New York, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Spokane, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver and most recently Santa Monica have all taken decisive action and legalized beekeeping.
GGPNC board member Barbara Ferris, who supported the measure said, “The backyard beekeepers initiative is the most delightful issue I’ve ever heard presented to the GGPNC board.”
Franklin Hills resident Joe Andrews, who attended the meeting to show his support, has been raising bees for more than 20 years. “I like watching them and they are calming to me for some reason. It is also a quality of life issue,” he said.
VIDEO: “There is a lot of problems with bees, we’ve all read about it in the newspaper and I really think that the brain trust of the city, these people who get hooked on beekeeping in the city may very well provide the future of beekeeping… It would not surprise me at all if the future of the honeybee itself is in urban beekeeping.”
-Bryon Waibel (Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper)
Bee Behavior Mimics Brain Neuron Function –
“A new study of bees has come to the conclusion that bee swarm communication works similarly to that of neurons in the human brain.
The study, published in the December 9 issue of Science, found that bees use inhibitory “stop” signals to prohibit the scout bees from completing a waggle dance that helps bees learn the directions of competing sites for new hives. This behavior helps to ensure that the best homesite is found for the hive.
Thomas Seeley, a biologist from Cornell University, said this behavior is “analogous to how the nervous system works in complex brains. The brain has similar cross inhibitory signaling between neurons in decision-making circuits.”
To study this behavior the researchers set up swarms, one at a time, on an island off the coast of Maine that was devoid of natural nesting cavities. After setting out two identical nesting boxes, they labeled scout bees with two different paint colors. They then videotaped the scout bees doing the waggle dance. The dances were tracked by watching the scout bees with the marks by using microphones and videotape to tell when they received the stop signals and from which bees.
The team observed that the stop signals came from scouts that were marked at the other site.
Visscher said, “The message the sender scout is conveying to the dancer appears to be that the dancer should curb her enthusiasm, because there is another nest site worthy of consideration Such an inhibitory signal is not hostile. It’s simply saying, ‘Wait a minute, here’s something else to consider, so let’s not be hasty in recruiting every bee to a site that may not be the best one for the swarm. All the bees have a common interest in choosing the best available site.”
According to the press release once the bees decide to swarm and move to a new nesting site the message of the stop signal changes. Visscher says, “Apparently at this point, the message of the stop signal changes, and can be thought of as, ‘Stop dancing, it is time to get ready for the swarm to fly. It is important for the scouts to be with the swarm when it takes off, because they are responsible for guiding the flight to the nest site.”
Huffington Post Article:
Kosher Honey: Making It a Sweet Rosh Hashanah With Bees
“At no time during my experience in a New York City rabbinical school did I think I would ever be donning full beekeeper regalia and watching as thousands of bees made honey on a farm in Michigan’s Amish country. But that is precisely what I found myself doing for the first time this past spring.
In addition to learning about the honey-making process, I’ve also learned about colony collapse disorder, the unexplained phenomenon of worker bees disappearing from hives causing a shortage of bee honey in recent years. I learned this from Don and Carol Ragan, a lovely couple who own the Windmill Hill Farm in Croswell (located in the “thumb” of Michigan). Carol first contacted me in February immediately after reading an article in the Detroit Free Press about Kosher Michigan, the kosher certification agency I started. She wanted to know what was involved in obtaining certification for her bee honey.
I told her that I would have to get back to her because I really wasn’t sure what it took to certify bee honey as kosher. The mere fact that bee honey is kosher is itself odd. After all, it is a product of the non-kosher bee (no insects except for certain locust species are deemed kosher by the Torah). So, how can a product of a non-kosher animal be kosher? It is believed that honey is kosher since it is produced outside of the body of the bee. But that isn’t totally true. In actuality, bees suck nectar from flowers with their proboscis (mouth) and this nectar mixes with saliva and is swallowed into the honey sac, where enzymes from the saliva break down the nectar into honey. The nectar is never digested, but rather transformed into honey by the saliva. The honey is regurgitated when the bee returns to the hive and the water is evaporated, thereby thickening it into honey which is then sealed in the honeycomb. The rabbis of the Talmud explain that bee honey is kosher since it is not an actual secretion of the bee, but rather the bee functions as a carrier and facilitator of the honey-making process.
All of this is interesting because honey is a staple food of the Jewish New Year’s holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which begins this year on Wednesday, Sept. 28… Among the familiar traditions of Rosh Hashanah are the dipping of apple slices in honey and eating honey cake…
“We’re passionate about making honey,” said Carol Ragan. “When we first discovered hives on our Croswell farm we were excited to experiment with making honey. We never realized how much we would come to enjoy it or how much of a market there is for honey products.”
Even with colony collapse disorder, beekeeping is on the rise throughout the country. New York City legalized recreational beekeeping last year, and even Michelle Obama had a beehive installed outside the White House.
…While the Bible describes Israel as “the land flowing with milk and honey,” it was more than likely referring to date honey. Bees were not common in Israel thousands of years ago, but today Israel has about 500 beekeepers with approximately 90,000 beehives that produce more than 3,500 tons of honey annually.
The basis of using honey in baked goods and dipping apples into honey on Rosh Hashanah is to have a sweet year. While the secular New Year is kicked off with toasts of champagne, the Jewish New Year is launched with the sweet taste of honey. And maybe a little sugar high too.”
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