Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chinese Honey Laundering Update


    Three men were arrested in Jacksonville, Florida on smuggling charges this week.  Chin Chou from Taiwan, Qiao Chu from China and Wei-Tang Lo from California successfully imported over 900 containers of Chinese Honey over the past two years which they fraudulently labeled rice fructose.  Once the honey passed customs as rice fructose it was shipped to warehouses where it was relabeled amber honey and sold to U.S. honey companies.  U.S. Customs did seize 123 containers (over 5,000,000 lbs/ 2.27 million kgs.) of falsely labeled Chinese honey at 11 different ports of entry.  The smugglers saved millions on anti-dumping duty ($2.63 per kilo) which was levied against Chinese honey in 2001 to counter heavily subsidized Chinese honey.  American beekeepers unable to compete were being forced out of business.  Chinese honey is ultra filtered to remove pollen which is the only way to trace the origin.  Honey from China  can contain banned antibiotics (health hazard) and heavy metals.  Sweeteners are added to the contaminated honey to mask the acrid taste and smell ( http://strathconabeekeepers.blogspot.com/2011/11/chinese-laundered-honey.html).
     In 2010 Canada exported $70 million of honey and imported $15 million of honey mostly from the U.S.,  Australia and New Zealand.  I wonder if any of that honey came to this continent as rice fructose.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Art of Apiculture



    John Stark, an amazing British artist has created a body of art entitled "Apiculture" (beekeeping).  The theme of anonymous beekeepers engaged in ritual beekeeping is timeless, set somewhere in the past or distant future.  Like most good artwork it  is an ambiguous metaphor who's interpretation is subjective to the observer and evolving over time.  John describes his artwork as “a really nice open metaphor, that can be read in so many different ways. All through the history of literature and art, the beehive has been cited as an example of utopian society, of a selfless existence. Do these hives represent the world? An idealised world? Art, even? Are the keepers the artists, producing the art, or the collectors harvesting the art?”


     The beehives and beekeepers form the narrative instrument to delve into the spiritual existential meaning of life.  "I see painting as a way of being, it is at least a mystical path and I believe in its power as a pursuit for truth where notions of the self are reflected upon. The result is then allegorical for the viewer who projects on to these open narratives traits from their own perception of their reality. The intention is that the works operate as a gateway for us to pass through together (in the metaphysical sense) while simultaneously tapping into the collective unconscious.
I can’t name a direct inspiration for this, although I have been listening to a lot of Buddhist teachings recently and looking at the symbolism from the school of The Fourth Way which refers to a concept used by G.I. Gurdjieff to describe an approach to self-development that helps to realize ones potential by transcending the body and achieving a higher state of consciousness. It is thought that we are living in a waking sleep and there are various ways to focus our attention and energy so that a range of inner abilities become possible. So it’s something inherent and built into the work and these current paintings refer back to ideas explored in my earlier works which attempt to tackle issues of the self, individuation and ‘the spiritual’ by replacing old mythologies and placing myself in the cannon of an art historical context."


     I will never look at beekeeping the same way again.  Check out John Stark's art at his gallery.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Honey Hunters of Nepal


     In the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal men harvest Himalayan Cliff Bee (Apis Laboriosa) honey as they have for generations.  The Himalayan honey bee, the biggest in the world at up to 3 cm (1.2 inches) is specifically adapted to the harsh climate of the Himalayas.  It nests at altitudes between 2500 and 3000 meters (8200-9800 ft) and forages at altitudes up to 4100 meters (13500 ft).  They have a flight range of 5-14 kilometers (3-9 miles).  This bee builds nests under overhangs on the southwestern faces of vertical cliffs. They are found in Bhutan, India, China and Nepal.

Himalayan Cliff Bee

    The Himalayan Cliff bee migrates for seasonal blossoms and produces three different types of honey: Spring high altitude or red honey; Spring mid to low altitude honey; and Autumn honey.  The Red honey is the most praised because of it's intoxicating or relaxing effects.  It is not consumed locally but exported at five times the price of other honeys to Japan and China for traditional medicinal use.  In Korea some healers are using it to treat drug addiction.  The intoxicating effects come from grayanotoxin present in the nectar of white rhododendrons.

Honey Harvesters are stung repeatedly (and I thought my bees were mean) 

     The ownership and control of honey harvesting has always been in the control of local villages but in many areas because of increased foreign demand control has been turned over to non-traditional harvesters and exporters.  This, along with loss of habitat and the introduction of the European honey bee has caused a tremendous decrease in the Himalayan Cliff bee population.  To view a study on the status of Apis Laboriosa (Himalayan Cliff Bee) go to "The status of Apis Laboriosa in Western Nepal".  The European honey bee has also brought with it a bacteria which causes European Foulbrood (bee disease) to which the Himalayan bee has little resistance.  There are four types of honey bees native to Nepal: Apis Laboriosa; Apis Dorsata (Tropical giant Honey Bee); Apis Florea (Dwarf Honey Bee); and Apis Cerana (Asian Honey Bee).  To view the status of these native bees and the imported Apis Mellifera (European Honey Bee) go to Himalayan Honey Bees and Beekeeping in Nepal.

The Himalayan Honey Bee is aggressive and has never been domesticated as it does not use enclosed cavities for nesting

     The Himalayan Cliff bee is essential for the pollination of high altitude plants and their decreased populations puts these ecosystems in jeopardy.  For the past ten years groups have been working to protect the Himalayan Cliff bee by returning sustainable harvesting control back to the local villages and protecting habitat.  Their habitat has become fragmented due to deforestation.  In recent years bee populations have stabilized and it is hoped that increased income from "Honey harvesting tourism" will be an incentive for young people to learn the traditional harvesting methods of their elders. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has created a "Center of Excellence for Asian Bees" to work with traditional honey hunters and beekeepers to maintain a healthy population of native honey bees and subsequently ensure needed pollination of native plants.
     Although Apis Dorsata, a family of bees which the Himalayan Cliff bee, Apis dorsata laboriosa is a member have never been kept by indigenous people because of it's aggressive nature, open nests and seasonal migration a form of sustainable beekeeping called "Rafter Beekeeping" has begun in Cambodia.  Unlike the traditional honey hunters the Cambodian Rafter beekeepers selectively take only portions of the honey leaving the nest intact.  The bees return year after year.  (Rafter Beekeeping).
     This wonderful film is about an English farmer and beekeeper who travels to Nepal to be part of the traditional, amazing honey harvest of the wild Himalayan Cliff bee.

 

     I will definitely add this to my bucket list (sustainably).  To check out great honey hunting photos from David Caprara go to The Honey Hunters of Nepal.  To watch honey hunting in Nepal go to Adventure Geo Treks.



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chinese Laundered Honey




Beekeeper in Jiyuan City, Henan province
     Is the honey you buy from the super market really honey? Unfortunately that is a question you should be asking. China is by far the largest producer of honey in the world (approximately 300,000 metric tons per year). The Chinese agriculture industry uses pesticides and herbicides banned in most developed countries. The deleterious effects of these chemical additives on humans and bees has been well documented. In one example excessive use of pesticides in pear orchards wiped out entire bee populations in parts of Sichuan Province where they now must pollinate by hand (we ain't that good at it).

Pollination in China : farmers in orchard pollinating
Farm workers in Sichuan, China pollinating pear and apple trees by hand
    Chinese beekeepers are known to use antibiotics (to treat bee diseases) banned in most developed countries because of health concerns. One of these anti-biotics is chloramphenicol which is the drug of choice in third world countries because it is cheap and easy to manufacture. Chloramphenicol is known to cause aplastic anmenia, bone marrow suppression and childhood leukimia. These antibiotics used by the Chinese beekeepers seep into the honey and contaminate it. Heavy metals, probably from lead containers used to store the honey have been found in tested Chinese honey.  To mask the acrid smell and taste of this contaminated honey they mix in sugar, corn syrup, rice syrup or malt sweeteners.


     In 2001 the U.S. Commerce Department imposed a $1.20/lb anti-dumping tariff on imported Chinese honey because American beekeepers were being forced out of business by cheap, heavily subsidized Chinese honey. The Chinese honey was selling for 25 cents/lb while North American beekeepers needed $1.50/lb to break even. To counteract this Chinese honey producers began using ultra-filtering methods to conceal the origin of their honey. Prior to this ultra-filtering was not used by the world's honey manufacturers. Ultra-filtering is a high tech process where the honey is heated, sometimes dilluted and forced at high pressure through micro filters to remove microscopic particles including pollen which is the only way of identifying the origin of the honey.


     Bee pollen has been used by many cultures including the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks for it's health benefits and therapeutic properties. Bee pollen has a higher density of protein than any animal source and is a concentrated source of b vitamin complex (provides energy). It also contains vitamins A,C,D,E,selenium,lecithin and powerful phytochemicals (carotenoids and bioflavonoids) making it a potent antioxidant (important in cancer prevention). Chinese medicine has recognized bee pollen benefits for thousands of years.
        

     The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says any product so ultra-filtered to not contain pollen is not honey. The World Health Organization, European Commission and other health organizations state the only way to determine the legitimate and safe source of honey is through the pollen. More than 75% of honey sold in stores in North America was found to have no pollen meaning it was ultra-filtered. The only reason to ultra-filter honey is to hide it's origin.

honey-without-pollen-food-safety-news1.jpg

     This ultra-filtered honey is laundered through other Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and now the country of choice, India.

Chinese laundered honey sold through India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand

    This is one example of a German company laundering cheap Chinese honey through other countries.  The company imported millions of pounds of honey by disguising it's origins.  To read more about this go to "The Honey Trap" .

    

     A South Dakota beekeepers' battle against honey laundering.
   

     A senior figure in the Australian Honey industry had his car's brakes tampered with and received death threats after exposing Chinese honey laundering to the U.S. through Australia.  A number of arrests have been made of honey launderers in the U.S. and Europe with no effect on the supply of laundered honey.
     Honey is used in countless processed foods like cereals, granola and cookies and until governments implement honey standards that include unfiltered pollen and testing for contaminants  the only safe place to buy honey is from your local beekeeper.
     What can you do?  Check out "True Source Honey", a good updated information base for ethically and non ethically produced honey (http://www.truesourcehoney.com/take-action/) or better still buy locally.  The best policy always is to buy from your local farmer and beekeeper.


My honey.  Safe and tasty.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Insecticides and Bees



     Imidacloprid (some of the trade names are Winner, Advantage and Gaucho) is a neonicotinoid insecticide (type of pesticide) widely used on a number of major agricultural crops since 1986.  France, Italy, Slovenia and Germany have banned it's use on certain crops because of health risks to bees (Neonicotinoid effect on European Bees): 
In France, beekeepers reported a significant loss of honeybees in the 1990s, which they attributed to the use of imidacloprid (Gaucho). See Imidacloprid effects on bee population. In response to this loss of bees called "mad bee disease," the French Minister of Agriculture convened a panel of expert scientists (Comite Scientifique et Technique) to examine the impact of imidacloprid on bees. After reviewing dozens of laboratory and field studies conducted by Bayer CropScience and by independent scientists, the panel concluded that there was a significant risk to bees from exposure to imidacloprid on sunflowers and maize (corn), the only crops for which they had exposure data. Following the release of this report, the French Agricultural Ministry suspended the use of imidacloprid on maize and sunflowers. Italy, Germany, and Slovenia have also suspended certain uses of the neonicotinoids based on concerns for bees.  To see studies done on the impact of neonicotinoid insecticides go to "The Impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on bumble bees, honey bees and other non-target invertebrates".


     One of major problems occurs during seeding of neonicotinoid coated seeds and the dusting that occurs during the machine planting process which in windy conditions can spread the insecticide a mile or more.  To see a study done on this problem go to "Effects of neonicotinoid insecticide coated maize seed on honey bees" and "Neonicotinoid effect on Bees".  This spring a number of commercial beekeepers in Canada and the United States have experienced devastating losses during the planting of neonicotinoid coated seeds.  To listen to the heart wrenching meeting between Canadian government officials and beekeepers who experienced these devastating losses go to the Parliament of Canada.
     This week Bayer, the major producer of Imidacloprid voluntarily removed Almond trees from their suggested use label.  The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.) is reviewing this.  There are over 800,000 acres of almonds in California alone which are pollinated 100% by bees (the major seasonal crop for professional pollination companies).  This is great news for the billions of honey bees employed each year in the almond pollination industry.  This article by Kim Flottum : 
Imidacloprid On Almonds May Be History
Early this morning Bee Culture received a call from Steve Ellis, a member of the Honey Bee Advisory Board…the group of dedicated beekeepers working to make beekeeping a safer place by making pesticide businesses…farmers, applicators, sellers, manufacturers, researchers…more aware of the incredible damage their products can do to honey bees and pollinators.
The Honey Bee Advisory Board is in Washington D. C. this week, meeting with, among others, representatives of the EPA and Bayer CropScience. During the discussions it became apparent that Bayer was voluntarily removing almond trees from the label of their imidacloprid products.
Our call this morning was to inform us, and now you, that EPA is reviewing this request. Yes, reviewing. It seems that crops are so seldom removed from a label, especially by voluntary request, that the internal engine at EPA isn’t quite sure how to make that happen. So they are reviewing it.
Mr. Ellis was quite sure the review process would be swift and action taken very soon. Hopefully before it is to be used on almonds during the coming season, thus saving billions of honey bees from the opportunity of exposure to this chemical.  Members of the Honey Bee Advisory Board are all volunteers, not supported by any National or Regional beekeeping organization. They are to be commended for their ongoing pursuit of a better, safer life for honey bees, beekeepers, and all pollinators.

Pesticides are carried away by wind, evaporation, leaching and runoff

     Imidacloprid is not banned or even restricted for use in Canada and is also used for pet flea treatments.  It is obviously toxic to beneficial insects like bees, earthworms and ladybugs and causes reduced egg production in birds (http://www.sierraclub.ca/national/programs/health-environment/pesticides/imidacloprid-fact-sheet.shtml).  To view studies on the effects of pesticides on honey bees go to Pesticides and Honey Bees.



The effects of today's systemic pesticides on bees.

     Another neonicotinoid pesticide produced by Bayer is Clothianidin which like Imidacloprid is toxic to bees and it's use has been suspended by Germany.  The film below outlines the inability of the current system (EPA and corporate testing) to properly identify the safety of insecticides.



Beekkeeper Leaks EPA Document from Bee The Change on Vimeo.

     The video below is further evidence of the agricultural industry using agrochemicals irresponsibly with total disregard for safety or suffering. Productivity and profit are the singular motivation.  Endosulfan is an insecticide that was brought to the market in 1954 by Bayer CropScience and approved by the USDA.  Although the toxic effects on the environment and humans has been known for years it wasn't until the year 2000 that home and garden use was terminated in the United States.  In 2002 the EPA determined that endosulfan residues on food and in water pose unacceptable risks and so restricted but did not ban agricultural use.  In 2007 the Canadian government announced that endosulfan was under consideration for phase-out.  From 2007-2010 international steps were taken to restrict the use and trade of endosulfan but it wasn't until 2011 that the EPA announced that the registration of endosulfan in the U.S. will be cancelled.  Although in most parts of the world endosulfan is banned it is still being produced and utilized in reduced quantities.



     A few good sites to check regarding information on insecticides are: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/ ;
The pesticide action network: http://www.panna.org/ ;The Permanent People's Tribunal http://www.agricorporateaccountability.net/ ; Coalition Against Bayer Dangers http://www.cbgnetwork.org/328.html

*To view further studies on the effects of insecticides on bees go to Insecticides and Bees in our Beekeepers' Library.



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Insulated Moisture Quilt

    
      One of the major reasons for winter loss of honey bee colonies in cold climates is cold, moisture dripping on the cluster of bees.  The moisture is created when the warm air emitted from the cluster of bees rises and contacts the cold surface of the outer cover, creating condensation.  A major source of winter moisture can be the feeding of syrup in late summer and early autumn which gets stored but not capped.  In the spring you can find these frames covered in mold.  When creating your winter hive makeup (in our area that is October) make sure you don't have excessive frames of uncapped honey or syrup which will act as himidifiers.  As someone who has spent most of their life working outdoors in the winter I prefer 30 below and dry to 2 above (Celsius - 35 Fahrenheit) and wet.  
       Winter bees are produced at the end of the summer. They are physiologically different from summer bees with a different blood protein profile and fatter bodies with the specific purpose to survive until spring.  Once the temperature drops below 14 Celsius these winter bees begin to form a cluster within the hive.  The bees on the outside act as insulators with their heads pointed towards the center of the cluster.  On the inside of the cluster the bees move their wings rapidly and the friction of this movement creates heat.  The centre of the cluster, where the queen resides is approximately 32 degrees Celsius.  As the heat rises the bees in the middle of the cluster move outward to become insulators and the outer bees move inward to become heat generators.  This movement of bees is continuous throughout the winter.   


       With the Insulated Moisture Quilt installed the warm air from the cluster rises up through the quilt contacting the less cold, insulated surface.  The reduced condensation that is formed will drip on and be absorbed by the wood chips.  The air vents will dry the wood chips.   
        To build the Insulated Moisture Quilt you could simply use a medium or deep super but for those like myself who like to build things here is a step by step description using scrap material.  First I screwed together some 6 inch wide 3/4  inch plywood (any 3/4 inch dimensional wood would work) to create a box that would fit on a deep super. 

   Then I screwed in 3 pieces of plywood 3 inches high. 


       I stapled landscape cloth (porous) over the bottom of the quilt box (2011).  More durable and better alternatives to landscape cloth are window screen or 1/8 inch hardware cloth (2017).  Also, some have found that the bees will try to work the landscape cloth and get stuck in it.  I recommend window screen or 1/8 inch hardware cloth and stapling it to the bottom sides rather than underneath so that a gap (width of the 1/8 inch hardware cloth) is not created between the moisture quilt and the upper super. 


The 3/4 inch vent holes were drilled 2 inches above the landscape cloth.  Hardware cloth is applied over the vent holes to prevent entry by bees or mice.


       On the bottom I screwed on an optional 1 inch frame so the bees don't attempt to join the frames to the quilt surface.  The extra space will allow for pollen patties or sugar feeding in the early spring but could be replaced by a candy board between the quilt and the super to prevent comb building. This space could be modified or reduced to be more in line with proper 3/8 inch bee spacing.  I don't find this much of a problem for me as the quilt is primarily on when there is little or no foraging and wax burr comb creation.  Note the upper entrance chiseled improperly on the side of the eke.  I repaired this and added a front upper entrance.


                                                     Two inches of wood chips are added to absorb the moisture.


                            I added a 1/4 inch plywood cover with stapled rope for easy removal.                                 


        2 inches of solid insulation is added. It's a good idea to paint the finished project for weather protection.                   


Winter hive set up with 2 inch feeder and insulated moisture quilt


      Another way to combat the winter moisture issue is putting a 2x4 under the rear of the hive so that the condensation formed on the underside of the outer cover runs down the front of the hive instead of on the cluster.  Also an upper entrance is recommended to increase ventilation. Here are a few different quilt designs and a downloadable version of the Insulated Moisture Quilt: A non insulated Langstroth quilt;  A quilt using wool as the absorption material; and a Warre Hive quilt.  "The Biology and Management of Colonies in Winter" describes the temperature and moisture dynamics that occur within the hive in cold climates during winter.   For more information go to the "Winter Management" section of the  Beekeepers' Library.
      I received a World Wide Patent on this design which stipulates that anyone who uses this design must give me a jar of honey.  What can I say it's the law.  All honey related patents in Canada are strictly enforced by the C.H.P. (Canadian Honey Police), Chief of Police Winnie (from Winnipeg) T. Pooh.

Chief of Police

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Make your Garden a Bee Friendly Garden


Nest of a ground dwelling bee

                                                                                                                                                                                                          .
        There are approximately 20,000 species of bees in the world.  British Columbia has approximately 450 species of bees but with further identification that number could grow to 500 within a few years. Many of the bee species are non-social or solitary.  70% of the bee species in North America are ground dwelling bees including some species of bumble bee (bombus).  Although there are obvious benefits to mulching (water retention, weed control) areas of bare earth provide a nesting area for ground dwelling bees.

  
                                                              Mason Bees at City Farmer
                                                                                                                                                              
     One of our native bees (Blue Orchard Mason Bee) the Blue Orchard Mason bee likes the clay between rocks. Wood or stem nesting bees prefer a pile of branches and all species need a source of water for nest construction or cooling.  It is easy to build your own mason bee home (Mason Bee Vancouver).  

Mason Bee home
Being a bee is thirsty work
     Consider providing a bee bath which should be shallow (bees are not good swimmers) with a landing area.  It is important to remember that bees are not aggressive away from the hive.  If a bee lands on you away from the hive it will not sting you unless it is physically threatened.   Consider reducing or eliminating your lawn and growing plants that will provide habitat and food for bees and other criters.   Do not use toxic herbicides and pesticides.  Bees have a relatively weak immune system and as such are a prime indicator species for the toxic effects of a product.  To learn more about the effects of insecticides on bees go to Insecticides and Bees post in this site and to the Insecticides and Bees section of our Beekeepers' Library.

Bumble Bee (Bombus) enjoying a Cosmos (not Kramer)
What a bee sees
we see 
bees see
add in UV
red
black
uv purple
orange
yellow/green*

yellow
yellow/green*
uv purple
green
green

blue
blue
uv violet
violet
blue
uv blue
purple
blue

white
blue green

black
black


     Bees see colours differently than we do and studies show they prefer purple, violet and blue in that order. Bees can see ultraviolet light patterns invisible to us.  Having said that you will find bees enjoying flowers of all colours.  When choosing plants you should provide a succession of flowers (pollen and nectar) that will feed the bees from early spring to late fall.  Use native plants which have specific adaptations for your area and attract native bees which have adapted to these specific characteristics.  Avoid plants that are highly hybridized as this often reduces the amount pollen and nectar and leaves the plant sterile.  Single flower tops like daisies or marigolds are better than the more showy double flowers (i.e. double impatient) which have less nectar and are more difficult for bees to access their pollen.   Nectar is loaded with sugar and is the bees main energy source while pollen provides a balanced diet of protein and other nutrients.  Bees prefer plants grown in groups (3-4) rather than as individual plants.  Bees, being cold blooded prefer sunny spots over shade and need shelter from strong winds.

Bee Balm

Dill
The key is to provide plants that flower through the entire growing season including early spring and fall.   Some of the plants bees like in spring are crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, lilac, blueberry, plum and cherry.  In summer bees love bee balm, salvia, cosmos, echinacea, california lilac, lavender, chives, clover, tomatoes, raspberries, mallow, locust trees, rudbeckia, snapdragon and foxgloves.  In the fall there are zinnia, sedum, asters, calendula, Japanese anemone, witch hazel, goldenrod and heather.  I've noticed that bees love invasive plants like mint, fennel, blackberry, lemon balm and goldenrod.  In our community garden we have found a few seasonal favorites like raspberries in June, Black Locust trees in July, blackberries in August, asters in September and Calendula and Japanese Anemone in October.  Here is a list of plants that bees love.


*For a more complete list of plants bees luv go to the Bee Plants page of this site or to the Planting for Pollinators section of our Beekeepers' Library

Here's a few sources of information for making your garden a bee friendly garden.  Though some of the sources are Californian most if not all of the plants are grown here:  

Bees love sunflowers





The Melissa Garden
Urban Bee Gardens
Make a Bee friendly garden




Don't mess with my home, homie


The Honeybee Conservancy  http://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/


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