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Tag Archives | urban farming

READ: Brood diseases and lagging bees

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Spring is the time of year when bees go into high gear to get ready to do their instinctive reproductive act of procreation—swarming. A colony grows to fill its space, replacement queens are drawn and nurtured, and the final event is a leaving from the mother hive of about 50% of the workers and the old queen. These bees will attempt to found a new colony somewhere else and begin the cycle again. During this build up in Spring we urban beekeepers must watch carefully for the signs of swarm preparation and guide it so that a swarm is not the outcome—in the city such swarms are not appreciated by the general public living in close proximity to us.

I have now been keeping bees almost four years and am getting a better feel for the rhythm of the growth cycle in a colony. We have mild winters in Los Angeles, so the Spring brooding up period often begins in January. This means we will begin seeing drones and drone brood, new brood comb being drawn, and a general increase in the number of bees and activity of the queen.

However, early this year, two of my hives at the house were not showing these changes and I really began to notice by February. It seemed they were just staying in a holding pattern—no new comb was being drawn and, at first, this was the most noticeable issue. By the beginning of March, I was seeing sac brood, perforated cappings (small holes in the brood caps), lots of uncapped pupae in the purple eye stage, dried up “mummies” of brood in cells, and some cells of open brood with watery goop that may have been European Foul Brood.  There were also some adult bees with DWV, or deformed wing virus. The wings of the bee are twisted little stumps or thread-like and useless. The colonies had plenty of stored honey and many frames of bee bread. Together, these conditions and the different maladies of the larvae and pupae are sometimes lumped under the name “Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome”  which describes diseases vectored by the activities of the varroa mite.

Here is a website entry detailing what I was seeing—

Information compiled by Beekeeper Lonnie E. Campbell of The Loudoun Beekeepers Association.

Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome was first named by The Beltsville Bee Lab to explain why colonies infested with both varroa mites and tracheal mites were not thriving. BPMS was first reported by European beekeepers whose colonies were already stressed by varroa mites. Colonies that are apparently very healthy and productive suddenly experience a sudden decrease in adult population often resulting in the total loss of the colony. Plenty of food stores are often present, but very spotty and unhealthy brood are observed.

I began searching my readings and books to find out what I might do to help these two formerly thriving hives (one hive is 5 mediums, the other 2 deeps and 3 mediums). I wanted to support them before their population dropped too much that they would be weakened beyond recovery. I saw on inspection March 22 that very little open brood was present and no eggs. One queen was seen (in the biggest colony) but in the other I didn’t find the queen.

Michael Bush’s book offered the best information for this situation that I could find. A brood break, or a cessation of egg laying by the queen, is one of the best responses for breaking the cycle of the pests and diseases that may afflict a hive. By denying the pathogens a food source the disease cycle is automatically broken. One way of doing this is to find and kill the queen and then introduce a new queen. Another way is to dispatch the queen and let them raise another one. By the time the new queen is laying, the brood break will have cleansed the disease cycle.

But the method I thought I would settle on was the use of a push in cage. This is a small confinement cage made out of eighth inch hardware cloth that holds the queen on the face of a frame for a period of time to prevent her laying eggs in the normal pattern. It is just a shallow 3 sided box of wire, 5 X 10 inches, pushed into the face of the wax comb. You try to place it in a zone with some honey cells, some emerging brood, and some open cells—all of these to serve the needs of the confined queen.

On March 28, after preparing two cages and getting my mind clear about what I was going to do, I opened up the first hive to start my search for the queen. I had at hand a  good tool for safely catching a queen— a “hair clip” catcher.

However, I soon saw that something better than my plan had already occurred. The frames that had lacked any eggs or open brood were now completely filled with eggs! The queens had stopped laying eggs by their own accord and interrupted the brood cycle of the diseases and varroa that had been afflicting them. I was very excited that the queens and their workers seemed to have a inborn strategy to get over their problems. My notes to Michael Bush to report this were confirmed in his answer here:

         Yes, the bees often do a brood break to resolve the issues.  Sometimes it’s done by dispatching the old queen and sometimes she just shuts down. EFB usually clears up on it’s own when whatever stress was the cause is relieved.  Usually by a flow in a dearth.

And this one:

It doesn’t always work out well, but then interfering doesn’t always work out well either.

“Our attentions may be useful to them but are oftener noxious to them; thus far goes our interference.” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

“…without the foresight, or rather the astonishing presence of mind of the bees, who always do at the proper time what needs to be done…” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

So, there we have it. Another beek lesson learned!

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Urban beekeeping becomes therapy for at-risk communities

By North By Northwest, CBC News

Julia and Sarah Common started their urban beekeeping non-profit organization in 2012

Bees play an important role in the ecosystem, as they pollinate plants and produce honey, but it turns out they can also play a therapeutic role for humans.

Since 2012, Julia Common and her daughter Sarah have been engaging at-risk communities in urban beekeeping through their non-profit organization, Hives for Humanity.

Mother and daughter started by placing a colony of bees at a community garden on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“The community really quickly took ownership of that hive and responsibility for the protection and care of this living, breathing colony of working insects that are just this inspiration to everyone who sees them,” Sarah told North By Northwest‘s Sheryl MacKay.

The Commons say beekeeping is therapeutic because it brings people together and the responsibility gives them a sense of self worth and community pride.

“At the beginning, we thought it was the beekeeping, but then from beekeeping, other things come,” said Julia.

“The bees have wax, someone needs to [process] the wax. Other people come forward who want to help with equipment maintenance.”

Hives for Humanity now has almost a hundred hives placed in community gardens, the rooftops of single room occupancy hotels and people’s backyards.

“No matter where you are, people take great pride in taking care of the bees, keeping them safe,” said Julia.

“Everyone from kindergarten right up to somebody who is 92 realizes bees are threatened and they just feel wonderful that they’re playing their [part].”

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver beekeeping program engages at-risk communities

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Bees prefer the buzz of a town

Bees prefer the buzz of a town: Urban sites found to have more species than rural areas

By Fiona Macrae via dailymail.co.uk

  • Agriculture and mass crops blamed for decline of bee numbers 
  • Towns and cities have wider variety of plants and flowers in autumn
  • Pesticides, climate change and disease causing bee numbers to fall 

We think of them as thriving in wildflower meadows and rolling fields. But new research suggests Britain’s bees are happier near towns and cities.

A study of wildlife sites across four English counties has found that most are home to fewer species of bee today than they were in the past.

It found that the expansion of farmland has actually been more damaging to Britain’s bee population than the concreting over of the countryside for housing.

Reading University researcher Deepa Senapathi believes intensive agriculture is to blame.

While the gardens, parks and churchyards of towns and cities provide bees with a variety of plants to forage on and an extended flowering season, popular crops such as oilseed rape only bloom for a few weeks.

She said: ‘While concreting over the countryside may appear to be bad news for nature, we’ve found that progressive urbanisation may be much less damaging than intensive agriculture.

‘Urban areas may benefit bees more than farmland by providing a wide variety of flowering plants, providing a cosmopolitan menu for insects from spring through to autumn.

‘Over the past century rural landscapes in Britain have become increasingly dominated by large expanses of monoculture – the growing of a single type of plant, which has helped boost crop production.

‘But without a mixture of habitat and food sources, rural areas can sometimes be little better than green deserts for biodiversity.

Scientists around the country are trying to work out why populations of bees and other insects are plummeting.

Pesticides, climate change and disease may, like intensive farming, be playing a role.

[view full article here: dailymail.co.uk]

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

READ: Sacramento City Council approves urban farm ordinance

BY MARISSA LANG via sacbee.com

Buying locally sourced fruits and vegetables may soon become as simple as walking over to a neighbor’s garden, thanks to a new urban farm ordinance passed Tuesday night by the Sacramento City Council.

In a 6-1 vote, the city effectively opened the door to minifarms on private properties and in vacant lots that would be able to sell produce out of urban farm stands, despite reservations from some council members about urban beekeeping and how urban agriculture may affect those who live close to the new farms.

The new ordinance enables city residents to grow and sell food directly from their properties and offers tax incentives to landowners who allow their properties, including vacant lots in residential, commercial, industrial and manufacturing zones throughout the city, to be turned into minifarms. The farms would be restricted to 3 acres.

The aim, in part, is to reduce urban blight and bring fruit and vegetables to so-called “food insecure” populations, whose access to fresh produce has been limited by a lack of healthy options in low-income neighborhoods.

A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 23.5 million people do not have access to a supermarket within a mile of their home.

Urban farm stands in residential neighborhoods would be restricted to operating Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., except those on vacant lots, which would be allowed to operate without time or day restrictions.

Advocates of urban farming played on Sacramento’s campaign to market itself as the farm-to-fork capital of the country and challenged the city to get farm food to “every fork.”

More than 100 people packed the council chambers to support the ordinance.

James Brady, a self-proclaimed urban farmer who works as an aquaponics consultant, told the council that the benefits to low-income communities and people extend beyond the nutrition. He said giving people the opportunity to sell the food they produce would grow a new population of entrepreneurs and allow low-income people to grow their own food and earn additional income by selling to their neighbors.

Representatives from the Southeast Asian American community said another, less visible benefit to low-income and immigrant communities is purpose, pride and empowerment.

“My family arrived in this country with very few skills and spoke no English,” said Cha Vang, an organizer with Hmong Innovating Politics. “But my mom knew that she could always rely on her ability to grow, cultivate and garden anything, anywhere. Not only did gardening empower her, it also provided our family’s dinner table with fresh produce when most other low-income families had to settle for unhealthy fast food.”

More than 300 Sacramento residents signed a petition asking the council to pass the ordinance, according to the Sacramento Urban Agriculture Coalition.

In passing the urban farm ordinance, Sacramento followed the lead of several cities around country that have looked to inner-city agriculture to combat blight and produce more fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods with few grocery stores. Among them: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

The ordinance’s passage Tuesday was not without concerns from council members.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said in Natomas, properties are often divided up among several people or families. She worried that the person with control of the yard could unilaterally make a decision to delve into urban farming without consulting with other people in the property.

Councilman Larry Carr, the lone no vote on the measure, worried about the urban beekeeping aspects of the ordinance and asked whether the insects could be contained or kept away from people. In an attempt to quell his concerns, Councilman Jeff Harris, himself a beekeeper, invited Carr to his home.

Prior to passing the ordinance, agriculture activity – growing produce for sale – was only allowed in specially zoned lots.

New urban farmers would be subject to city water conservation ordinances and would be required to adhere to the same restrictions as other outdoor water users.

Anyone attempting to sell their produce out of an urban farm stand would be required to obtain a business operations tax certificate, city officials said Tuesday. For a stand that earns less than $10,000 per year, a certificate would cost $31.

No liability insurance would be required.

Tax incentives for lot owners who allow their property to be turned into minifarms could add up to $6,127 an acre each year, according to Sacramento city staff estimates, but a New York City study found community gardens boosted the values of nearby properties.

Read full story · Posted in News

Backwards Beekeepers in an upcoming documentary

“Dan Susman is making a documentary called Growing Cities about urban farming across America. He and his partner Andrew Monbouquette shot this segment about a hive rescue with LA Backwards Beekeeper Warren, who does a great job of explaining our mission.”

Read full story · Posted in Uncategorized