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
For more information:
Marge Dwyer
Harvard School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people’s lives—not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at HSPH teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brushy Mountain's "Back to Basics" May

Back to the Basics

It is amazing to know that the honey bee will travel between 2 to 3 miles in search of nectar producing flowers. This distance for a bee to travel is extremely far. Would it not be more beneficial to have a flowering garden closer to home for the bees to pollinate and forage? But what flowering plants are the honey bees attracted to?

Provide the best bee-friendly garden:
  • Choose the right plants: When selecting bee-friendly plants for your garden, you want to consider what will be useful for the bees. Flowering plants will be highly melliferous but are they all beneficial for honey bees? They may produce nectar and pollen but the shape and size of the flower may prevent the honey bee from visiting them.
    Bees enjoy flowering herbs, berries and many flowering fruits and vegetables but they will also travel through surrounding wildflowers. If you have the space, planting any type of fruit tree or other blooming trees such as maple, tulip poplar, sourwood, willow, black locust, sumac, and basswood are all good food sources for your bees. Look into different nectar producing plants for your state.
  • Consider Blooming Season: You will want to offer a range of plants in different blooming seasons. Have an early spring bloom, summer and fall so the bees will have a continuous food source. Some plants will have a short infrequent bloom whereas others will have a long rich bloom. The longer the bloom, the more frequent visits it will receive.
  • Weeds and Wildflowers are your Friends: When you have noticed your bees bringing in pollen and nectar but you know your garden is not in bloom, you always wonder where they are getting it from. Look around your yard for dandelions or clover;these are vital plants for bees. Your bees will also forage through the native wildflowers.
  • Be Conscious of What You Spray: Many pesticides are toxic and can be harmful or deadly to your bees. If there are no other options to using pesticides, use them in the evening so the field force are not carrying the chemicals back into the hive.Do not place pesticides directly onto blooming flowers and try using less toxic or rapidly degradable pesticides. There are different formulations that can be used to reduce bee exposure (solutions, emulsifiable concentrates, and granulars are the best to use). Mention this to your neighbors as well.
When planning your garden, consider how you can accommodate more bee friendly plants. Check on the blooming season of flowers and what vegetation will grow in your area. Providing a bee-friendly garden is as simple as planting small patches of wildflowers, herbs, or a flowering vegetable garden. Start planting your garden for your bees. 

Brushy Mountain's Question of the Month: May...

Question of the Month

It is always exciting to find a swarm (except if it is from your hive) because, as a beekeeper, you know those are free bees. Swarming is a natural means for a colony to reproduce. Bee colonies are considered superorganisms and may swarm/reproduce several times throughout the season. Swarming season will typically happen after the queen has made it through winter, leading into the spring or early summer months. A newly established colony does not have the tendency to swarm but may, if they become overcrowded. When working the frames in a beehive, you can find swarm cells clustered together along the bottom edge of a frame.

When a hive decides to swarm, they will send out scout bees in search of a new home. This process can happen very fast (within a few hours) or they may search for a couple of days before finding a suitable home. While scout bees are searching for the next home, the swarm will find temporary resting points relatively close to their original hive (roughly 50 to 100 feet). Generally, swarms will find shelter on tree branches but can find rest on any style structure.This is your time slot to go out and capture them! Grab your NUC (cardboard orwooden) to put them in and head their way.

So, you have located a swarm, what do you need to do when you find this swarm?
A swarm may seem overwhelming and frightening but during this stage, they are not aggressive. Locate the swarm, they may have landed 1 foot off the ground or they could be 80 feet up in a tree. Access the situation and determine if the bees can be acquired safely. 
    Here are some things to consider:
  • Use Protection: You never know when a mistake will be made, therefore, wear your protective equipment. You are handling thousands of stinging insects that may become aggressive. Wear your veil and gloves (depending on comfort level with bees)and remind any spectators that bees can sting.
  • Remember, Safety First: Bees will not always land in an ideal location. If a ladder is required, use your best judgment to determine how best to retrieve the swarm(a branch may need to be cut off). Other options may be available if a ladder seems too risky (like the Hipps Swarm Retriever).

You have spotted the swarm and are ready to transfer them into your NUC.
    Here are some tips how:
  • Swarms on Branch Accessible from Ground: Lay a white sheet out below the swarm. Take your NUC box and determine if the swarm is small enough to bump into the NUC. If it will fit perfectly, go ahead and give it a couple bumps to dislodge the swarm from the branch. If it exceeds the NUC box, try to get the center cluster inside the box, leaving the outskirts to fall onto the sheet.
  • Swarms on Branch Accessible by Ladder: Place a white sheet below the swarm. Stand ladder on top of the white sheet so that you can easily reach the swarm.Determine if the bees can be acquired safely. Safely carry the NUC box up the ladder to dislodge the swarm into the NUC (best done with two or more people for support).
  • Swarms on Something Other than a Tree Branch: They may have come to land on a fence post, roof overhang, or even on the ground. The main objective is to transfer the large cluster without disrupting them continuously. The best procedure is to spray them down with a sugar water, making it difficult for them to fly. Lay out your sheet below the swarm (as best you can) and brush them into the NUC. Try to acquire the main cluster in the beginning and then retrieve the bees on the fringes.
The sheet is placed underneath the NUC in order to catch any bees that didn’t make it into the NUC. The sheet will also help any stragglers find their way to the main cluster. Take your NUC and the sheet to where you intend to place the colony. At this point if you are using awooden NUC, you can leave them be until they are fully established. Add the frames that are needed and place the top on.

If you are using a cardboard NUC, you will need to transfer them into a permanent 8 frame or 10 frame hive. Place the sheet so that it leads to the entrance of their new hive and set the NUC so that the opening faces the hive. The bees will walk right up the sheet and into the hive. 

Capturing the Queen is Key! To successfully acquire the swarm, you must retrieve the queen. She is likely to be in the center of the swarm, surrounded by the cluster of bees. She will be extremely hard to determine or locate, as she will have lost weight in order to fly. After capturing the swarm, check back in a couple weeks to ensure she is laying. Treat this as a new colony and FEED, FEED, FEED!

This is the time of year when colonies tend to swarm and they can swarm more than once throughout the season. Check out our other blogs about swarm prevention:
Dealing with a Swarm
Seizing the Swarm

If your colony does swarm, have your NUC box handy to go out and retrieve it. Check the hive that swarmed and ensure that they are left with a laying queen. Now one hive just became two! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Honey for Healing Cuts and Burns...

Natural Remedy Honey helps speed healing of cuts burns and wounds Honey for Healing Cuts and Burns
I’m often amazed at things that our generation thinks we’ve discovered, only to find out that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had been using them for years.
Case in point: Honey for wound healing.
I’d seen some studies recently on using honey in hospitals for helping wounds and burns heal and I’d also known veterinarians who had used honey on animals, so I started looking in to it more.
I also mentioned it to several people, and the ones old enough to remember more than a couple decades ago remembered using honey as a remedy. What’s old is new again, I suppose. I’d personally used honey internally for digestive problems and mixed with cinnamon during illnesses, but am glad to see all the research on topical ways to use honey for healing.

Research on Honey for Healing:

Often, it seems that there is an unspoken divide between natural remedies and conventional medicine, but honey bridges this gap. There is a great deal of research supporting the use of certain types of honey in a medical setting, and it has been a natural remedy for centuries.
Research is even showing that ability of honey to help in cases of MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and MSSA (methicillin sensitive Staphylococcus aureus), which are resistant to antibiotics.
This study explains:
“Honey works differently from antibiotics, which attack the bacteria’s cell wall or inhibit intracellular metabolic pathways. Honey is hygroscopic, meaning it draws moisture out of the environment and thus dehydrates bacteria. Its sugar content is also high enough to hinder the growth of microbes, but the sugar content alone is not the sole reason for honey’s antibacterial properties.
When honey is diluted with water, reducing its high sugar content, it still inhibits the growth of many different bacterial species that cause wound infections.
In addition to its antibacterial properties, medical honey hastens the healing of wounds through its anti-inflammatory effects. The amount of wound exudate is related to the activity of the local inflammatory process, in particular in wounds, which are colonized or infected with bacteria. Thus, the anti-inflammatory action of honey reduces oedema and the amount of exudate by down regulating the inflammatory process. It also reduces pain, as the pain in wounds results from the nerve endings being sensitized by prostaglandins produced in the process of inflammation, as well from the pressure on tissues resulting from oedema.”
Research has also shown the benefit of using certain types of honey when dressing burns. An especially compelling study showed that none of the nine most common organisms found in burn wounds could survive even a 30% concentration of raw honey. Another study showed that 28 of strains of bacteria that are most-resistant to antibiotics were all eliminated by raw honey.
Honey has been used in a medical setting:
  • As a salve on burns to reduce rates of infection and speed healing
  • On amputee patients to speed recovery and reduce risk of complications
  • In deep or puncture wounds- honey is used to fill the wound as it heals
  • On bedsores
  • On surgical wounds to speed healing
  • On puncture wounds
  • To fill abscesses after they have been drained to prevent complications
  • I know several midwives who recommend honey to patients to speed healing after a c-section.

    Personal Experience with Honey for Healing:

    My husband recently got a pretty severe cut on his foot. It has visibly cut through a vein and took a long time to stop bleeding. For several days after he cut it, it would re-open and bleed if he did too much activity.
    I wish I’d remembered to try honey right away, but as soon as I remembered, I applied it to his foot. By the next morning, some of the redness was gone and after two days, it had closed up and was no longer bleeding if he moved around too much. I now also use raw manuka honey in place of antibiotic ointment for all cuts/burns at our house.

    How to Use Honey for Healing:

    Regular raw honey can be used for healing, but a specific type of raw honey has been shown to be most effective: Manuka Honey. It is made by bees after they pollinate the manuka (tea tree) flowers, giving it additional antibacterial properties.
    It is important to only use raw (and preferably manuka) honey for wounds and burns. Regular honey found in most grocery stores has been heated and sometimes chemically altered, making it ineffective for wounds.
    Regular raw/manuka honey can be used and I keep both of those on hand, but I also keep a specific medical-grade honey on hand since it has been verified to have a high concentration of manuka for additional antibacterial properties. I have the following three things at our house for burns and cuts:
    1. Medihoney Gel for burns and cuts
    2. Medihoney wound paste
    3. Medihoney wound dressings for big wounds
    Have you ever used honey as a natural remedy? How did you use it?