Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Member Spotlight... Leo Scarnici

I'd like to introduce a new club member who is doing great work trying to save bees.  Leo Scarnici officially joined the HCBA just last month at our July BeeBQ.  Leo shoots breathtaking photos and videos of bees and uses his work to correct the public's perception of them.

Check out this recent video...

About Bees: Flight Modes from isavebees on Vimeo.

You can learn more about Leo and his mission on his website I SAVE BEES

Welcome, Leo!  We're so glad to have you as part of the club and we look forward to seeing more great projects from you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Brushy Mountain's "Back to the Basics" August

Back to the Basics: Fall Management Prep

One of the perks of beekeeping is being able to harvest honey. We know that bees store an excess amount and they will continue storing nectar and pollen as long as there is room. At what point should we say ‘that’s enough’ and begin preparing the hive for winter? Your colony can only store what is being provided. As your queen’s laying begins to slow and your colony dwindles down, the population will not be able to accommodate a larger hive. Adding that next super on might not be the best for your colony. 

Your queen will continue laying eggs as long as the resources are available to sustain the colony. Once there is a drop in both nectar and pollen, drones will be removed from hive and the queen will begin to reduce the amount she is laying. Any supers that are not filled with honey or brood may become neglected. How do you keep them building? 

It is nice to have your bees moving up the hive, working the frames and storing honey but once their food source runs out, what is their incentive? Now is the time to prepare your feeder for the sugar water mixture or corn syrup you will be providing. Honey bees require proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and water. Larvae and queens are fed a diet of royal jelly secreted by young nurse bees’ hypopharyngeal glands. This milky white acidic substance has a high moisture content and is very rich in protiens, lipids, B vitamins, C vitamins, sugars, and minerals that are not fully found in sugar water or corn syrup. There are several nutritional supplements which incorporate these needed nutrients to maintain a healthy colony. Here are some mixtures for your feed: 
  • Honey B Healthy. This feeding supplement is used in spring and winter to stimulate the immune system. This feed stimulant with essential oils prevents mold and fungus in sugar syrup, calms bees when used as a spray, builds colonies when fed during dearth and much more. The scent of spearmint and lemongrass will attract your bees to feed almost immediately.
  • Amino B Booster. A blend of free amino acids that assimilates rapidly and directly through the mid gut to the bee’s hemolymph and hemocytes, then transported to the sites where protein is needed for bee growth. Amino B Booster provides your bees the nutrients they need when pollen is scarce or lacks the nutrients bees need.
  • Vitamin B Healthy. Helps provide needed nutrients vital for bee health especially when pollen sources are scarce or the pollen lacks the essential nutrients the bees need. Helps build strong healthy colonies for maximum honey production and pollination or can be used to help build up weak, over-winterized colonies, packages, nucs or swarms.
  • Hive Alive. A feed to help bees maintain colony strength. Prevents syrup from fermenting and helps bees absorb the nutrients, proteins and sugars needed to increase brood production. Hive Alive strengthens the bees’ immune system to help manage intestinal issues and other diseases.

A colonies health is as essential for winter survival as are the food stores they will need to survive. Providing the necessary feed the will need along with a good supplement will go along way to keep your hive healthy and strong.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Brushy Mountain's Question of the Month: August

Question of the Month: Mites

Summer is drawing to an end and fall will soon be coloring the trees. Beekeepers are taking off their last supers of honey and preparing their hives for winter. Every year we harp on the importance of treating for Varroa Mites but when is the correct time to treat? 

It is best to know your mite count before you begin treating. Mites have been able to develop a resistance to some of the products on the market. If you know your mite count before and after you have treated, you can determine if you were successful. Here are two options to obtain a correct mite count:
  • Corex Sheet. This is a sheet which slides under a screened bottom board. Spray the corex sheet with cooking oil and as the mites fall from the hive, the mites will stick to the sheet and can be counted easily. Remove sheet after 3 days to get a total count of mites. Divide total by 3 to get the average mite drop in a 24 hour period.

  • Sugar Shake. Place a few tablespoons of powdered sugar in a mason jar, add ¼ cup of bees and gently "slosh" the bees around ensuring they are fully coated. Replace the lid with #8 hardware cloth and shake the bees down over a white sheet of paper. The sugar will dislodge the mites allowing them to fall through the screen. This will give you an average mite count for your hive.

Below is a very general guide to determine if the colony should be treated.

Sampling MethodSpringFall
Corex Sheet5-10 mites50-60 mites
Sugar Shake3-4 mites10-12 mites

This is the time of year to begin treating for varroa mites if your count falls above or near the general guide. Treatment in early fall is vital for a healthy winter colony. The virus that persists after the mites have been treated is what poses the real threat for winter loss. It takes a few generations of brood rearing for virus levels to reduce. If you wait until late fall to reduce the Varroa population, due to the viruses, you will still have unhealthy bees going into winter. The best time to deal with the mites is late August/early September depending on your location. 

Top Treatments for Varroa Mite:

  • 1. Soft Chemicals: An effective treatment while leaving the least amount of residue. We offer Api Life Var and MiteAway Quick Strips. Both are 95% effective, however, both work through the evaporation of essential oils or organic acids, thus making themweather sensitive.

  • 2. Hard Chemicals: Will kill the Varroa Mites but label instructions must be followed and do not leave on longer than recommended. We supply Apistan StripsCheck Mite Plus and a newer treatment, ApivarKeep in mind varroa have shown a resistence to Apistan and Check Mite upon continuous use.

  • 3. Non-Chemical: Beekeepers have been using powdered sugar to monitor mites but if heavily dusted with a Dustructor, it can control the mite population. The Varroa reproduction is directly tied to the bee reproduction cycle. Because drones are capped longer as brood, the Varroa are more attracted to drone brood where they can lay more eggs. Using Drone Foundation or a Drone Frame, you can wait until the brood is capped, remove and destroy the foundation. Non-chemical or IPM techniques can be effective to control mites; however, they require dedication and time to be successful.

Friday, August 1, 2014

August Meeting...

         Hampden County Beekeepers Candy Bagging Party!

               When: Thursday, August 21st at 7:00pm

           Where:  Willimanset Heights Improvement League (WHIL)
                       118 Mount Vernon Rd.
                       Chicopee, MA 01013

                Pizza and beverages will be served! 
                 Come help out and have some fun!

We’ll be bagging candy in preparation for the Big E, so while this will not be a regular meeting, we will have the opportunity to discuss all things bee while we work.  Come lend a hand, and get some last minute tips for harvesting and fall and winter management. 

Have you tested for mites yet?  Treated?  Do you have honey?  Have you harvested?  Getting ready to?  Should you?  Can you borrow the extractor?  Are you feeding?  Medicating?  Are your hives in danger of robbing?  When will you put on your entrance reducers?  Are you using a slatted or screened bottom board?  Should you switch?  Come one, come all!  Some of us have questions, and other have answers, new and experienced beekeepers come together and help each other out! 

 See you there!   And don’t forget to volunteer for a shift at the Big E! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Brushy Mountain's "Back to the Basics" July

Back to the Basics: Bearding

Hot and humid weather is hard on the bees during the summer months. Honey Bees can only do so much to help regulate the hive temperature at 90-95 Degrees Fahrenheit. When the colony is at its max population and internal hive temperatures continue to rise, clusters of bees will try to escape the heat of the hive and hang out at the entrance of the hive. This can be misinterpreted as swarming when in fact it is bearding.
Why do bees beard?

When you find bees clustering or hanging at the entrance of the hive, they are bearding. This gives the appearance of the hive having a beard. Some colonies will cover the entrance where others will hang from the bottom board. Colonies will create these beards outside the hive when the inside becomes overcrowded, hive lacks ventilation, or temperatures become too high. Honey Bees typically do this to help maintain the brood nest temperature. Brood requires a certain temperature and will not survive if it becomes too hot or too cold.

How do bees regulate the hive temperature during Summer and how can Beekeepers help?

Have you ever seen a bee at the entrance of the hive beating her wings but not taking flight?She is fanning the hive. Bees will collect water to use for evaporative cooling. Bees will face away from the entrance of the hive and begin fanning. The airflow that is created from the bees beating their wings will evaporate the water droplets throughout the hive. Whenever you find bees fanning at the entrance, know that there are many more inside fanning as well.

Bees can only do so much to reduce the heat in the brood nest. Beekeepers must provide sufficient ventilation for the hive. Here are some tips and tricks for beekeepers to help fight the summer heat:

Nothing can beat a screened bottom board. Airflow is able to move up through bottom board and can significantly help with hive temperature. The screened bottom board is only useful if the screen is left open. Be sure to remove the corrugated sheet used for mite counts.

Ventilate the top as well as the bottom with a ventilated inner cover.Heat rises and the ventilated inner cover offers the space the heat needs to escape. The inner cover props up the hive top allowing airflow to move up and through the hive.

Open up the hive entrance. Larger entrances are better for the summer heat. This provides more fanning space and less congestion for incoming bees.

Allow for more bee space by reducing the number of frames. Consider using 9 frames in your 10 frame hive or 7 in your 8. This will open up space between the frames and better ventilate your hive.

Give your hive some shade. Provide a source of shade especially if the hive is in direct sunlight during the entire day. The sun beating down on the hive makes it difficult for the bees to maintain hive temperature. Open up your upper entrance. This small vent will allow heat to escape the hive and provides an alternate entrance/exit for your bees.

Use light color paint for your hives. Dark colors will absorb heat while lighter colors will reflect the sun’s heat.

Have a reliable source of water near your bee yard. Bees can use up to a quart of water during a hot day to keep the hive cool. Keep the water supply filled and in a shaded area.

Summer heat will keep the bees constantly working to maintain the hive temperature and reduces the number of bees able to forage for nectar and pollen. Help the bees regulate hive temperature and give them a stronger field force to bring in the feed they need. 


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Brushy Mountain's Question of the Month: July

Question of the Month: Extracting 

This is the time of year when beekeepers are pulling off honey supers and uncapping their frames to extract. Beekeepers always want to know the best way to uncap their frames and what size extractor they will need. This deals with many personal decisions that we cannot make for you, however, here is some ‘food for thought’.

Let’s start with uncapping. The number of frames you are uncapping and the time you want to spend during this step is dependent upon the method you should proceed with. 

Using a Cappings Scratcher is an easy method to work small sections of capped honey at one time. Slide the forks underneath the comb at a horizontal angle and lift vertically to remove cappings. Many beekeepers will scrap the forks against the comb to open the cells.Please note this damages the comb and requires more cleanup from your bees.

A Cold/Hot Knife will slice away larger sections of capped honey from the frame. Place at a slight angle along the top and move down the frame in a sawing motion. Be careful not to ‘dig’ into the comb or tear apart the frame. The Cold Knife has a serrated blade and can stick if not kept clean. The Hot Knife is temperature sensitive and will melt away the wax. Preheat before use. A Cappings Scratcher may be needed for unevenly drawn out sections of the frame.

The Rolling Uncapper will roll over the capped honey and pierce the cappings. Allow the cappings to be pierced by pulling or pushing the Rolling Uncapper parallel to the frame. Do not push roller into the frame. Clean central bar if roller begins to resist in rotating.

If time is of importance, the Sideliner Uncapper is a quick and easy method. Run your frames through the roller blades and both sides of your frame will be uncapped. This does not require you to hold the frame and all the debris is caught in the container underneath the sideliner uncapper. A Cappings Scratcher may be needed for unevenly drawn out sections of the frame.

Let’s discuss extractors. Beekeepers new to the hobby are always excited about their first extraction but are unsure on how to proceed. Do I need an extractor? What size extractor should I get? Which is better, hand cranked or powered? There are three main questions you need to ask yourself and the answers will point to the extractor that best fits you.

How many hives do intend to have?
You do not want to outgrow the extractor. You may have five or ten hives currently but you are expecting to expand your bee yard to thirty hives. By the time you reach your thirty hives you do not want to look back and wish you got the bigger extractor.

What is your budget?<br> Let’s be realistic, an extractor is a large investment. There are different alternatives if an extractor isn’t in your budget. You may be able to borrow/rent an extractor from your local bee association; you can uncap and let the honey drain from the frames; you can strain your comb through cheese cloth; other methods are available. 

How do you value your time?
Extracting is not a ten minute process that will happen in an afternoon. Each extractor will hold an allotted amount of frames. The more frames an extractor will hold the less cycles you will need to run to extract the honey from the frames. Do you have time to run through thirty extractions on a compact extractor or would it be beneficial for you to run six on an 21-frame extractor.

We have developed a Extracting Chart that shows the amount of time needed to extract with each extractor. The time depicted is for running extractor and does not include time needed for uncapping, loading, unloading, and any other actions needed for extracting.

Time consumption for the extraction depends on the Extractor being tangential or radial. Tangential extractors seat frames parallel to the center and only extract one side during the spin cycle. Radial extractors seat frames perpendicular to the center and will extract both sides at once.

Anticipate the numbers you will have in the future before you purchase the extracting equipment you need. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Meeting BeeBQ...

Hampden County Beekeepers’ July Meeting

When: Thursday July 17th
Starting at 5:30pm

Where:  Willimanset Heights Improvement League (WHIL)
118 Mount Vernon Rd.
Chicopee, MA 01013

Our first BeeBQ Pot Luck Picnic of 2014!

Hampden County Beekeepers’ July Meeting

When: Thursday July 17th
Starting at 5:30pm

Where:  Willimanset Heights Improvement League (WHIL)
118 Mount Vernon Rd.
Chicopee, MA 01013

Our first BeeBQ Pot Luck Picnic of 2014!

Come one and all!  It’s our first BeeBQ of the summer!  We’ll start earlier than usual so we can take advantage of maximum daylight.  The club will provide hamburgers and hot dogs, soft drinks and water.  The rest of us can pitch in by bringing a side, salad or dessert.  Time to bust out your favorite summer recipes!  Please let me know what you plan to bring when you RSVP.

We will also need a Grill Master!  Last year, club president Jeff Rys handled the grill duty, so this year’s volunteer will have big shoes to fill!  Up for the challenge?  Please let me know right away.  The Grill Master will be responsible for getting the grill to the hall for the BeeBQ and for cooking our burgers and dogs.

This will be more social event than meeting, but a great time to get together with your fellow beekeepers and ask questions and share knowledge.

We will have use of the parking lot, side yard, and hall so we’re covered even if it rains.  If you’d like to sit outside in the grass… PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN CHAIRS!

Feel free to… BYOB

If you plan to attend, please RSVP by July 10th
RSVP to Jessica Martin by email jessicapulse@gmail.com or

Phone 860-978-5388.  Texts are OK too.  Include your name, the number of people attending, and if you plan to bring a side.

Friday, June 27, 2014

US Retailers Look to Limit Pesticides...

U.S. retailers look to limit pesticides to help honeybees

Wed Jun 25, 2014 2:36pm EDT

Shoppers look at appliances at a Home Depot store in New York in this December 23, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

(Reuters) - Home Depot (HD.N) and other U.S. companies are working to eliminate or limit use of a type of pesticide suspected of helping cause dramatic declines in honeybee populations needed to pollinate key American crops, officials said on Wednesday.
The moves include requiring suppliers to label any plants treated with neonicotinoid, or neonic, pesticides sold through home and garden stores.
Atlanta-based Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement retailer, is requiring its suppliers to start such labeling by the fourth quarter of this year, said Ron Jarvis, the company's vice president of merchandising/sustainability. Home Depot is also running tests in several states to see if suppliers can eliminate neonics in their plant production without hurting plant health, he said.
"The Home Depot is deeply engaged in understanding the relationship of the use of certain insecticides on our live goods and the decline in the honeybee population," Jarvis said in an email.
Also on Wednesday, BJ's Wholesale Club [BJ.UL], a warehouse retailer with more than 200 locations along the East Coast, said it was asking all of its vendors to provide plants free of neonics by the end of 2014 or to label such products as requiring "caution around pollinators" like bees.
At least 10 other smaller retailers, with locations in Minnesota, Colorado, Maryland and California, have announced plans to limit or eliminate neonics from plant products.
The class of pesticides known as neonics are sold by agrichemical companies to boost yields of staple crops such as corn, but are also used widely on annual and perennial plants used in lawns and gardens.
A report issued on Wednesday by the environmental group Friends of the Earth said that 36 out of 71, or 51 percent, of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contained neonic pesticides.
Scientists, consumer groups, beekeepers and others say bee deaths are linked to the neonic pesticides. But Monsanto, (MON.N), Bayer (BAYGn.DE) and other agrichemical companies say a mix of factors such as mites are killing the bees.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates total losses of managed honeybee colonies at 23 percent over the winter of 2013-14, the latest in a series of annual declines.
Last week, the White House announced a plan to fund new honeybee habitats and to form a task force to study how to reverse the honeybee declines. The bee die-off is worrisome for agriculture because honeybees pollinate plants that produce about a fourth of the food consumed by Americans.
An analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies released this week by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, a group of scientists from several countries, concluded that neonics were a key factor in bee declines and had other harmful effects on the environment.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Swarm Rescue Update...

The swarm  I rescued a few weeks ago, is now kicking some serious butt!  The swarm queen, who I am now calling Catherine II or Catherine the Great is an egg laying machine!  Look at this brood pattern!
 And the rest of the girls are working hard and putting up some honey!  I can't wait to try it!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Swarm Rescue...

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to rescue a swarm from a small apple tree in Northampton.  It was a good sized swarm, and lucky for me I could reach it with both feet on the ground!  The bees have since been moved from my swarm catching nuc box to two 8 frame deeps.  I plan to peek in and check the progress of the swarm queen this weekend.  Let's cross our fingers and hope she's a good layer!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Brushy Mountain's "Back to Basics" June

Back to the Basics:  Moving Your Hive
Beekeepers will get their hives all setup and painted in a certain location, but sometimes it is not the desired location or they want to move their bees to a different area with a better honey flow.
Either way, sometimes it is necessary to move your hive.

Once bees become established in a certain location, they will go on orientation flights. They start off in small circle, flying back to the hive, and grow the circle until they are set on the location of the hive. Moving a hive will disrupt where the bees are oriented to and beekeepers can lose many foraging bees (Beekeepers hate losing bees!). If you intend to move your hive, we suggest following the rule of 3 (up to 3 feet or over 3 miles). If you move a hive across your 10 foot yard, the bees will return to where the hive was originally located.

If you are intending to move your hive, no matter how far, screen off the entrance the night before with hardware cloth. Your foraging bees will come back to the hive at night and will be leaving when the sun comes up. Screen off the entrance at night so you will be transporting all your bees (inevitably there will be a few stragglers left behind). Don't strain when moving your hive, use a hive carrier or a hive strap to make moving easier.

If you intend to move your hive across your yard or a short distance away from its original location, you must move it off site (over 3 miles away) for a week and then move it back to where you find more suitable. If you intend to move it to a separate location for a better/different honey flow, ensure that you are moving it further than 3 miles from its original location.

Honey Frame

Wait... there is another way?
Sometimes it is difficult to continuously move your hive

If your desired location happens to be further than 3 feet and less than 3 miles (a.k.a. across the yard), you can use a different method. To trigger the bee’s orientation flight, the environment outside of the hive must be significantly different. Obstruct or impede the entrance to the hive with brush (grass, tree branches, straw, etc.) so that when the foraging bees leave the hive, they must crawl through the “brush” before they can fly. After a day, remove part of the brush and continue this process until all the brush is removed after three days. They will see the disturbance in the environment and reorient themselves.

It is best to leave the hive in its initial location. Moving the hive will hinder the bee’s production for days and cause stress within the colony. Also note that 10% of queens are lost when moving a hive. Set up the hive in an ideal location that will suit their needs as well as yours. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Brushy Mountain's Question of the Month: June

Question of the Month

I went out to my hive and noticed a good portion of my bees were gone!!!I saw swarm cells last time I checked, but did not think they would swarm this late into the year. Now, I cannot find a queen anywhere to purchase!
What am I supposed to do with the remaining bees?

Swarming is always an issue a beekeeper must deal with.
  • Be alert and add the needed supers when your bees require them (waiting too can allow your bees to become overcrowded).
  • Be proactive and have a Cardboard NUC handy... just in case!
  • If swarming does occur, there will be a daughter queen remaining with the bees that did not swarm. She will take over as queen of the hive.
The daughter queen will hatch a virgin and must go on a mating flight to become fertile. A mating flight will span the course of 2 – 3 days in which the queen will mate with 10 – 15 drones. If all goes well she will return to the hive and begin laying, in which you will begin to see eggs 1 -2 weeks after your bees swarmed.

queen bee

As many of us have experienced, things never go well and we must prepare for all things to go wrong. 
Once your virgin queen goes on her mating flight, she may not return.

  • A hungry bird, the windshield on a car and many other threats stand in her way.
  • If the weather is not excellent, she may not be properly mated when she returns to the hive.
First, beekeepers must check and make sure there are eggs to ensure there is a queen in the hive; Second, you must check the brood pattern to see if she is properly mated. A poorly mated queen may have a spotty brood pattern with multiple empty cells rather than solid with few empty cells or she may be laying drone eggs. If everything appears to be ok, then you know your hive is queen right!

2 alternatives to make sure you come out with a queen right hive:

  • If you find that you have a second hive that shows swarming tendencies, you can split that colony and use the queen cells to raise out a queen in the previously swarmed colony (in the case that the swarmed hive remains queenless after 1 – 2 weeks). This will alleviate swarming from your other hive and will give the swarmed colony a second chance at raising out a queen.
  • The hive that has, or is about to swarm will develop multiple queen cells. Create aNUC from a separate hive and introduce a frame, with queen cells, from the swarmed hive into the NUC. This will double your chances of having a properly mated queen. If the Swarmed hive or the NUC produces a properly laying queen and the other does not, combine the hives with a NUC introduction board. If both show signs of a queen right colony, you now have a NUC to overwinter with. Great for running a 2 & 1/2 Hives. Larry Conner discusses the advantage of 2 & 1/2 hives in this webinar:

In the end, if you find eggs and the brood pattern looks good, you have a queen right hive.

Spider Venom May Save the Bees...

Spider venom may save the bees
Bee populations, both wild and captive, are in decline in Europe, the Americas and Asia for reasons scientists are struggling to understand

PARIS - Venom from one of the world's most poisonous spiders may help save the world's honeybees, providing a biopesticide that kills pests but spares the precious pollinators, a study said Wednesday.

Bee populations, both wild and captive, are in decline in Europe, the Americas and Asia for reasons scientists are struggling to understand, with industrial pesticides among the suspected culprits.

Last year, scientists said certain pesticides used to protect crops or bee hives can scramble the brain circuits of honeybees, affecting memory and navigation skills they need to find food, placing entire hives under threat.

The EU has since placed a temporary ban on some of these chemicals.

Now a team led by Newcastle University, England, found that a biopesticide made with a toxin from Australian funnel web spider (below) venom and a protein from the snowdrop plant, was bee-friendly.

"Feeding acute and chronic doses to honeybees, beyond the levels they would ever experience in the field... had only a very slight effect on the bees' survival and no measurable effect at all on their learning and memory," said a university statement.

Neither adult bees nor larvae were affected, said the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The biopesticide was previously shown not to be harmful to humans, despite being highly toxic to a number of key pests.

Bees account for 80 percent of plant pollination by insects. Without them, many crops would be unable to bear fruit or would have to be pollinated by hand.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) says pollinators contribute to at least 70 percent of the major human food crops.

The economic value of pollination services was estimated at 153 billion euros ($208 billion) in 2005.

"There isn't going to be one silver bullet," said study co-author Angharad Gatehouse.

"What we need is an integrated pest management strategy and insect-specific pesticides will be just one part of that."


Sunday, June 1, 2014

June Meeting...

Hampden County Beekeepers Association

When: Thursday June 26th at 7pm

Where:  Willimanset Heights Improvement League (WHIL)
118 Mount Vernon Rd.
Chicopee, MA 01013

If you plan to sell honey or beeswax products at the Big E this year, you must attend the Big E Sellers meeting.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Waggle Dance...

Honeybee waggle dance tells researchers about the health of the ecosystem...

Bee researchers use waggle dance to assess ecosystem health
Do you remember wishing you could speak to animals when you were a kid? It appears that dream can come true, as researchers at the LASI Bee Research & Outreach center have proven that learning the language of the honeybee's waggle dance can serve as a useful research tool.
Bees communicate in which direction they have found rich sources of pollen to their comrades in the angles of the waggle dance. The duration of the dance indicates the distance to the treasure. Scientists can actually measure these parameters and create a set of data points that coalesce into clouds of higher density in the areas where the bees have enjoyed the best flowers.
The bees surveyed over 94 square kilometers (36 square miles) of land during their communal foraging. Margaret Couvillon of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex puts that in perspective:
Imagine the time, manpower, and cost to survey such an area on foot -- to monitor nectar sources for quality and quantity of production, to count the number of other flower-visiting insects to account for competition, and then to do this over and over for two foraging years. Instead, we have let the honeybees do the hard work of surveying the landscape and integrating all relevant costs and then providing, through their dance communication, this biologically relevant information about landscape quality.
It turns out that bees really do prefer nature preserves, a finding which can help justify the economic expenditure of maintaining some land free from agricultural use. In an interesting twist, bees found little to love in rural tracts being converted to organic farming techniques. The team hypothesizes that the intensive mowing required to control unwanted plants during the conversion period reduces the pollen producing plant density as well.
This breakthrough expands the utility of bees in environmental research. For example, scientists have monitored chemicals in bees' honey as an indicator of air pollution andbees' venom in detectors for airport security.
If there was any doubt about the importance of bees for their pollination services alone, these many amazing feats should leave no one in doubt that we must do everything in our power to improve bee habitat, reduce pesticide poisonings, and stop the colony collapse disorder to save these useful insects.
Maybe now the bees can help save themselves -- if only enough people can listen in as they waggle dance!
The paper is published this month in Current Biology.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Neonicotinoid Study...

Study strengthens link between neonicotinoids and collapse of honey bee colonies

Honey bees on a hive

For immediate release: May 9, 2014
Boston, MA — Two widely used neonicotinoids—a class of insecticide—appear to significantly harm honey bee colonies over the winter, particularly during colder winters, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The study replicated a 2012 finding from the same research group that found a link between low doses of imidacloprid and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which bees abandon their hives over the winter and eventually die. The new study also found that low doses of a second neonicotinoid, clothianidin, had the samenegative effect.
Further, although other studies have suggested that CCD-related mortality in honey bee colonies may come from bees’ reduced resistance to mites or parasites as a result of exposure to pesticides, the new study found that bees in the hives exhibiting CCD had almost identical levels of pathogen infestation as a group of control hives, most of which survived the winter. This finding suggests that the neonicotinoids are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD.
The study appears online May 9, 2014 in the Bulletin of Insectology.
“We demonstrated again in this study that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD in honey bee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter,” said lead author Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at HSPH.
Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honey bees from CCD. Pinpointing the cause is crucial to mitigating this problem since bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide. Experts have considered a number of possible causes, including pathogen infestation, beekeeping practices, and pesticide exposure. Recent findings, including a 2012 study by Lu and colleagues, suggest that CCD is related specifically to neonicotinoids, which may impair bees’ neurological functions. Imidacloprid and clothianidin both belong to this group.
Lu and his co-authors from the Worcester County Beekeepers Association studied the health of 18 bee colonies in three locations in central Massachusetts from October 2012 through April 2013. At each location, the researchers separated six colonies into three groups—one treated with imidacloprid, one with clothianidin, and one untreated.
There was a steady decline in the size of all the bee colonies through the beginning of winter—typical among hives during the colder months in New England. Beginning in January 2013, bee populations in the control colonies began to increase as expected, but populations in the neonicotinoid-treated hives continued to decline. By April 2013, 6 out of 12 of the neonicotinoid-treated colonies were lost, with abandoned hives that are typical of CCD. Only one of the control colonies was lost—thousands of dead bees were found inside the hive—with what appeared to be symptoms of a common intestinal parasite called Nosema ceranae.
While the 12 pesticide-treated hives in the current study experienced a 50% CCD mortality rate, the authors noted that, in their 2012 study, bees in pesticide-treated hives had a much higher CCD mortality rate—94%. That earlier bee die-off occurred during the particularly cold and prolonged winter of 2010-2011 in central Massachusetts, leading the authors to speculate that colder temperatures, in combination with neonicotinoids, may play a role in the severity of CCD.
“Although we have demonstrated the validity of the association between neonicotinoids and CCD in this study, future research could help elucidate the biological mechanism that is responsible for linking sub-lethal neonicotinoid exposures to CCD,” said Lu. “Hopefully we can reverse the continuing trend of honey bee loss.”
Funding for the study came from Wells Fargo Foundation and the Breck Fund at the Harvard University Center for the Environment.
“Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder,” Chensheng Lu, Kenneth M. Warchol, Richard A. Callahan, Bulletin of Insectology, online Friday, May 9, 2014
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Marge Dwyer
photo: iStockphoto.com
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