PHOTO: Bees Knees
“We need bees for the future of our cities and urban living”
-Noah Wilson-Rich, founder of Boston’s Best Bees Company
ARTICLE: Young beekeeper enjoys honey, helps tend hives and isn’t afraid of being stung
Through his white beekeeper’s veil, 8-year-old Sam Shapiro looks down at the delicate black and yellow worker bee that just landed on his chest. “She won’t hurt me,” Sam says. “A lot of kids go psycho when a bee gets near them. But if I just stand still, she’ll think I’m a statue.” Wearing a veil when working with bees is like wearing a helmet when riding your bike… According to Sam, bees make great pets. They are fun to take care of, and they make food for their owners.
Sam has spent his entire life with bees in his family. When he was 2, he would stand at the window and watch his dad (experienced urban beekeeper Milt Shapiro) checking the hives in the side yard of their home in Northwest Washington. When he was 3, he and his dad would sit outside in the summer, admiring the worker bees as they delivered pollen (carried on their back legs “like little puff balls,” Sam says) to the hive…
Each summer, Sam and his dad harvest the honey. “When my dad takes a comb out of the hive,” the Lafayette Elementary third-grader says, “it’s covered with honey. You don’t want to put it on the ground because leaves would stick to it, so my job is to hold it.”
Next, they squeeze the comb into a clean bucket where it will drip honey through a filter for a few days. “The honey drips so slowly,” Sam says, “but you don’t want to waste a drop. It’s worth something even better than money.”
It smells good, too — like standing in a field of freshly cut hay on a bright, breezy summer day.
Finally, Sam and his father open the spout at the bottom of the bucket and pour the honey into glass jars. “I can just feel the honey dripping off my hand,” Sam says. “It’s sticky, and I lick every bit off my fingers. It tastes like heaven.” Later on, he enjoys his heavenly treat by the spoonful, on bread and in gooey sandwiches with peanut butter.
VIDEO: Urban beekeeping in Glasgow, Scotland
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…
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.”
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