Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Bee Tale

The Sunday Herald
Sunday, March 28, 1897 Syracuse, New York

Strange Battle         
Recalled by "Forty-niner"
of Cortland

And Told in His Own Words

Incident Brought to Mind by
Farmer Webster's Bees.

Remarkable Conflict Between California
Honeybees and Yellow Jackets, Near
Vinegar Pond, Where Pickled
Cucumbers Grew.

Portland, March 27 - "I am astonished that there are so many educated people that never knew that honey bees would mate with lightning bugs until they read of a case of the kind that occurred in Trexton in last Sundays Hearald." said an old California Forty-niner to a reporter for the Herald today."
     "It was common practice among bees and lightening bugs in California when I was there." said he. "Off in the region where pickled cucumbers grew upon the vines and upon which we fatted and pickled pork on the hoof, as I told you a few weeks ago, and where the giant California trees grew, it was no uncommon thing for prospectors for gold to discover in the hollow of some of these gigantic trees immense swarms of bees that worked a night force who were provided with illuminating wings. In fact, it was necessary for such an economy among bees in that region in order to fill the hollows of these gigantic trees.  

    "I remember of finding a bee tree one day, the hollow of which was so large that you could easily have placed the Cortland Nominal school building within it, were it of a more oval shape.  This hollow was filled with thousands of tons of the most delicious honey you ever tasted. There was a large stream of honey that flowed from a crack in this tree to a depression in the ground about an eight of a mile distant, forming a lake of pure honey that was several rods across.  This lake was surrounded by hundreds of California bears that fattened on this honey. They would toil about Honey lake, as we called it, through the day, only leaving it long enough to visit Vinegar pond, a mile distant, to quench their inordinate thirst created by continually lapping honey from this lake. We were constantly supplied with the juiciest and most delicately flavored bear steaks from the bears we would shoot while on there way from Honey lake to Vinegar pond.  These bears were very docile, as they were never hungry, and it was a common thing for members of our prospecting party to mingle with the bears at the lake side. They never offered to resent any intrusion from us; they were in fact less savage than so many fattening hogs.

     "This particular variety of California bee is much larger than our bees. They average about the size of sparrows. The queen is as large as a robin. Not far from this particular bee tree was located an immense nest of yellow jackets, about the size of humming birds. This nest was suspended between two of the largest of the giant trees and was three or four times the size of the dome of the Capital at Washington, D.C. It was these yellow jackets that had created the crack in the bee tree, through which the honey flowed that created Honey lake. The yellow jackets drilled the crack with their stingers and thrived upon the honey that ran out until the bees organized a night attack on the yellow jackets nest.

Aerial Attack by Night.

     "While in camp one night telling stories over our supper of broiled bear steak and delicious honey, with natural grown pickled cucumbers and pickled pigs feet fresh from the pen, we were startled by a terrific roaring that resembled the sound of a distant waterfall.  We strengthened the fastenings of our tent and got inside, expecting a terrible storm to burst upon momentarily.  After several minutes of suspense we ventured outside, and beheld in the distance the strangest sight imaginable.  The night force of bees were all out and flying in regular line of battle, some fifty lines deep, I should judge.  The constant flashes from their illuminated wings lighted the surrounding country for a half mile. You could see to read as plainly as under an electric light.  The roaring sound created by their wings was what we had believed to be the warning of a great storm. We followed the direction the bees were taking and some came near the immense nest of yellow jackets suspended between the trees. The bees surrounded the yellow jacket citadel by the million and soon covered the entire outside until the dome like shape of the yellow jacket nest glowed with the constant flashing of the wings of the bees, making it resemble an immense ball of fire.  The yellow jackets inside the nest were at the mercy of the bees, who tore large holes in the nest and stung  to death the yellow jackets as fast as  they were reached, and who were evidently bewildered by the flashing lights from the illuminated wings of the bees.  The roaring sound created by the bees was augmented by that of the doomed yellow jackets."

     "The fight lasted approximately three hours and the next morning the ground was covered eight or ten feet deep with the dead bodies of the yellow jackets and bees for rods. The great dome like nest of the yellow jackets looked as though a cyclone had struck it. The bees had simply annihilated the yellow jackets, however, and had lost thousands of their own number as well."
     "The second day after the battle the stench that arose from the scene of conflict was so great that we were obliged to move our camp two miles away. I have never cared for honey since that time."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Miracle Bees

     On February 30th we picked up our two packages of hybrid Carnolian bees from New Zealand. From the start we were very concerned because the temperature was 5-6 degrees Celsius below normal and often hovering below freezing with the wind chill factor.  One hive appeared far weaker in numbers and activity than the other.  It was difficult to check the hives because of the cold, windy, wet weather.  I checked the hives on day 3 and then again on day 10.  We had fed the bees with sugar cakes and pollen patties but were worried about their survival.  After 2 weeks the weather was particularly cold (-5 with the wind chill) and I brought the hives into the greenhouse to inspect them. Although there was some activity in one hive, which was clustered closely on the pollen patty, the other hive appeared completely lifeless.  We trained a temperature gun on the active hive cluster which read 18 degrees Celsius ( 64 fahenheit ).

On the lifeless hive the bee cluster read 6 degrees Celsuis ( 43 fahrenheit ).  I picked up the lifeless cluster of bees in my hand and there was absolutely no movement.  With little hope for survival I left the seemingly lifeless colony of bees in the greenhouse overnight.  The greenhouse, although unheated was 5-6 degrees celsius warmer than outside and windless.  The next day after work I checked the hive and to my amazement the cluster of lifeless bees was actively feeding on the pollen patty.

     We fed the bees dry sugar (the mountain camp method), syrup (on the advise of the long time commercial beekeeper and the person we bought the packages from) and pollen patties.  The bees have ignored the dry sugar and taken to the pollen patties.  From the beginning I disagreed with feeding the bees syrup because of the cold temperatures and as I expected there are dead bees in the syrup and it has since been ignored. In one week the strong hive has consumed much of the pollen patty and unfortunately combed most of the feeding eke.

I removed the comb and will remove the feeding eke as the temperatures this week appears high enough for the bees to leave the cluster to feed.

     Checking both the new hives for brood we were delighted and more than a little surprised to see both capped and uncapped larvae in both the hives.

Because my eyesight is not the best I like to use a magnifying glass at times to check on the larvae.

     Today was a balmy 10 degrees celsius and the ladies were going crazy.  Our original hive of girls were actively collecting yellow pollen, probably from nearby forsythia.  There was no observed pollen collected from the new weak hive but some from the new stronger hive.  Stay tuned as we will update the progress of the new hives through the spring.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

EPA Petition

     The EPA grants "conditional" registration to new pesticides which allows the use of these products until complete safety testing can be completed. If testing reveals there are "no unreasonable environmental effects" full registration is granted.  The EPA granted conditional registration to the pesticide Clothianidin under the condition that a "Core honeybee life cycle study" be completed in 2003.  Although this study was not completed Clothianidin was granted full registration.  This petition to the Environmental Protection Agency is to remove the "full registration" status of Clothianidin until it's required environmental impact testing be completed.  The petition uses as evidence studies showing the dire effects of Clothianidin on insects like bees (Insecticides and Bees). The EPA is currently reviewing the status of Clothianidin with a projected completion date of 2018.  Bees are dying now and we can't wait another 6 years for this study to be completed.
     Below is a letter providing you with the opportunity to sign this petition to the EPA:

Dear Fellow Beekeepers, 
We are writing to give you an opportunity to sign a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency, which at its core is a request for the agency to follow it's own mandates. This petition calls EPA ‘out on the carpet’ for improperly granting FULL registration to a pesticide that lacks the necessary data to support that registration. 
In recent years EPA Risk Assessment has “Conditionally” registered nearly 70% of all pesticides coming on to the market. While the law allows EPA to issue these conditional registrations, the original idea was too (“conditionally”) allow the use of new chemistries until test data could be generated confirming their safety. Once the ‘conditions’ are met, the pesticide can then be granted “Full Registration”. EPA has become dangerously lax in following through and completing the full registration process for pesticides which have not demonstrated they have  “no unreasonable environmental effects” as required by law. 

This petition is a request for EPA to remove FULL registration from the chemical Clothianidin based specifically on the fact that EPA has lacked a Core honeybee life cycle study which was supposed to be completed in 2003. It is also intended to instigate a discussion of the appropriateness of the Conditional Registration process.  This petition is only a request that the EPA be required to follow it's own rules and guidelines for pesticide registrations. 
Please take time to examine the summary and and consider adding your name to the petition.   It is important that beekeepers participate in this request that the EPA do it's job in protecting our honey bees and our own personal safety as well. 
Please send your name, address contact info and a few sentences about why this issue matters to you to Paul Towers: by March 16th.  Or feel free to call him at 415-625-9072 if that is easier. 
A link to the petition is available here: Emergency Petition to the EPA

Go to Panna, the Pesticide Action Network to sign a petition to the U.S. E.P.A to pull Bayer's bee-killing pesticide Clothianidin (Petition).

This note is from informed/concerned beekeepers… 

Jeff Anderson, California Minnesota Honey Farms 
Steve Ellis, Old Mill Honey Co. 
Dave Hackenberg, Hackenberg Apiaries 
Tim Tucker 

Paul Towers
Organizing & Media Director
Pesticide Action Network North America 

Frequently Asked Questions: Legal Petition on Clothianidin

What action is being taken? The parties to this action are exercising their lawful right to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to acknowledge that it has failed to satisfy the legal requirements necessary to allow use of (the legal term is register) the pesticide clothianidin and that, consequently, the Agency should revoke all existing allowances to use this chemical.
Why is this action being taken?        The petitioners are taking this action because the public record confirms that in the case of clothianidin, the EPA has not satisfied the legal conditions that must be met for a pesticide to be registered. This procedural failure by itself is sufficient grounds to revoke a pesticide’s registration because the EPA is not following its own rules. Scientists within the Agency required a field study examining the potential harms of clothianidin to non-target insects - specifically honey bees - because they had reason to believe the pesticide may harm pollinators. In the years since the Agency first required this study, a substant ial body of evidence has accumulated in the peer-reviewed scientific literature confirming that the use of clothianidin as a seed treatment on corn in particular presents substantial risks to honey bees and other insects that are in or near recently sown fields and foraging on corn pollen or on the pollen of nearby plants that take up this extremely persistent pesticide. 
How has EPA failed to meet its legal obligations regarding clothianidin? EPA granted a conditional registration to clothianidin in 2003 without a required field study establishing that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on pollinators. Granting conditional registration was contingent upon the subsequent submission of an acceptable field study, but this requirement has never been met. EPA continues to allow the use of clothianidin nine years after acknowledging that it had an insufficient legal basis for allowing it to begin with. Additionally, the product labels on pesticides containing clothianidin are inadequate to prevent excessive damage to non-ta rget organisms, which is a second violation of the requirements for using a pesticide and further warrants removing all such mislabeled pesticides from use. Further, the EPA did not consult as required with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act on the potential effects of clothianidin on Federally-listened threatened and endangered species. 
Who is responsible for this action? The petition was researched, written and submitted by a partnership of public interest organizations in collaboration with a national network of affected parties including commercial beekeepers, farmers and consumers. The lead organizations submitting the petition are the Center for Food Safety and its sister organization, the International Center for Technology Assessment, Pesticide Action Network North America and Beyond Pesticides. 
Are the petitioners suing EPA?         No.  A lawsuit would involve filing a court case claiming that the EPA has failed to satisfy its legal obligations and requesting that the judicial system intervene to redress their error. The petition process is an opportunity for a more immediate resolution because the petitioners are going directly to EPA and requesting that it acknowledge and redress its error by itself.
What are the expected outcomes of this action?          This petition initiates a public process under which EPA is required to consider the arguments it contains to revoke clothianidin’s conditional registration. Any individual or organization can submit information that would be relevant to EPA’s review of this subject.  It is possible that EPA could move swiftly to revoke clothianidin’s conditional registration and thereby prohibit its use, take a longer period of time to revoke the conditional registration, impose use restrictions on products containing clothianidin or take no action. The EPA is concurrently conducting a review of clothianidin’s registration, which it projects completing in 2018, which is far too long to wait given the urgent concerns raised in the petition. 

Go to Panna, the Pesticide Action Network to sign a petition to the U.S. E.P.A to pull Bayer's bee-killing pesticide Clothianidin (Petition).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Obama Honey Ale

     Michelle Obama, the first lady, has been gardening on the south lawn of the White House since her arrival.  She grows over 60 different kinds of vegetables, many of them heirloom varieties and hops which they use to make beer.  The garden is used by the White House chef and is also a nutritional education project for children.  A third of the crops are donated to Miriam's Kitchen, a local service that feeds the homeless.
     In 2009 Michelle brought beehives into her White House garden (White House Bees).  One of the hives produced a record 225 pounds of honey.  With honey and hops from their garden the Obama's have produced a honey ale which they serve at some of the White House functions.     


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Genetically Modified Honey

     In North America genetically modified foods are not labelled or effectively regulated.  The powerful lobbies of Monsanto (Monsanto the Evil Empire), Bayer and other corporations producing genetically modified seeds have successfully silenced Canadian and American politicians.  In Europe it is a much different story.  Not only are genetically modified seeds and foods strictly regulated and labelled but in virtually every European country people are aware and concerned about GMO food.

     Recently the European Court of Justice ruled that honey containing any pollen from genetically modified plants must receive prior authorization before it can be sold as food:

GM honey must get EU thumbs up
19 September 2011 | By David Boderke
HONEY containing even small traces of pollen from GM plants must now receive prior EU authorisation before it can be sold as food, the European Court of Justice has ruled.
The ruling, which says such pollen should be classed as a food ingredient, resulted from a case brought by German beekeepers from Bavaria who, in 2005, found their honey contained traces of pollen from insect-resistant GM maize plants developed by Monsanto, which were being grown for research purposes near their hives.
They said the presence of that pollen made their honey unsuitable for sale and consumption.
While Bavaria’s Environment Minister Markus Soder, a number of environmental associations and the German Beekeeping Association are now calling for safety distances of 3-10km between beehives and fields with GM crops, some beekeepers and the German honey association, Honig-Verband, are worried the ruling could spell the end for some beekeepers.
It has been suggested the ruling could pave the way for compensation claims by beekeepers against biotech companies, while EU authorities claim it could hit European imports of honey from countries where GM crops are widely grown.
The GMO Safety organisation from Germany says the fact pollen is now classified as a food ingredient could have ‘far-reaching’ consequences for beekeepers and the food industry, In future, pollen must be included in the list of ingredients, meaning every batch of honey will have to be analysed for the presence of pollen.
“In any event,” it adds, “beekeepers are going to find themselves facing as yet unforseeable financial burdens and liability consequences.”
The British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) said in a statement it had been in contact with Defra and the Food Standards Agency, who had said they would be ‘considering the potential implications’ with the European Commission and other member states.
The BBKA added it would be monitoring developments and assessing the possible effects both for its members and the public.

     With a honey bee foraging range of 6 kilometers (4 miles) or more (Beesource) it may be very difficult in the future to get honey that does not contain pollen from genetically modified plants.  

Genetically modified strawberry

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