Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pesticide suspect in Bee Deaths

     Excessive bee loss in southern Ontario in May has initiated an investigation by Health Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.  In initial testing 28 of 37 samples taken from various locations contained the insecticide Clothianidin (Pesticides and Bees).  The use of this pesticide has been suspended in Germany because of the health risk to bees.  The findings are in no way conclusive but reveal the need for better initial screening of agrochemicals.  All pre market testing is now carried out by the corporation that stands to profit from the sales of the product.  An obvious conflict of interest. 
     Below is an article from which illustrates the danger to bees from Clothianidin.

Bayer and Monsanto Killing Off Bee Populations With Patented Chemicals

For over a year, the media has been reporting about the dramatic loss of bees in Europe and North America. As many as 50 percent to 90 percent of the bee populations have simply vanished, leaving their hives empty and forcing farmers to demand investigations to determine the cause.
The most popular theory, aside from the varroa mite and cell phone RF radiation, has been the belief that a virus—similar to AIDS—has infected the bees. .
But it now appears that a much more basic culprit has killed the bees—Bayer Corporation. CCD is poisoning with a known insect neurotoxin called Clothianidin, a PESTICIDE manufactured by Bayer, which has been clearly linked to MASSIVE bee die offs in Germany and France.
One of the most important food crops is corn. Corn is also used to make ethanol for fuel. But modern varieties of corn are vulnerable to diabrotica vergifera vergifera. Commonly known as the "root worm," the bug burrows into the newly forming roots of the corn plant and causes the plant to wither and eventually die. By 2003, Bayer Pharmaceutical had developed "Clothianidin" to address the rootworm problem. BAYER'S OWN STUDIES showed that its pesticide was HIGHLY TOXIC to BEES but CLAIMED that, because it would be applied to corn seed and would be buried in the soil, it would be harmless to other creatures.
Farmers were instructed to buy special machines to apply clothianidin to their seeds with a special adhesive seed coating manufactured by MONSANTO. The POISON is supposed to stick to the seed coat and to be toxic to the rootworm. These poison-coated seeds are NOW growing ALL OVER the GLOBE.
In July, 2007, the German corn crop was infested with the rootworm. The German government ordered that every possible method should be used to eradicate this pest, including the use of clothianidin. Shortly after the seeds were planted, in May of 2008, some 330-million bees abruptly died.
According to the German Research Center for Cultivated Plants, 29 out of 30 dead bees had been killed by direct contact with clothianidin.
Philipp Mimkes, spokesman for the German-based Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, said: "We have been pointing out the risks of neonicotinoids for almost 10 years now. This proves without a doubt that the chemicals can come into contact with bees and kill them. These pesticides shouldn’t be on the market."

     Let's improve our initial pre market testing of agrochemicals and reduce our dependency on them.  Support your local organic farmer and beekeeper. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Extinct Bumblebee returns to England

      The Short-haired Bumblebee (Bombus Subterraneus) was declared extinct in the United Kingdom in 1988.  Intensified agricultural land use to feed the growing post World War II population resulted in a gradual disappearance of bumblebee habitat.  An estimated 97% of Britain's wildflower meadows, necessary for bumblebee foraging has vanished in the last 70 years.

     In April 100 of the Short-haired Bumblebee queens (Look out Liz) were brought from southern Sweden where the native bee population is strong because of natural preserved habitat.  The bees were quarantined for two weeks and screened for parasites.  Conservationists have spent the last three years preparing a reserve in Dungeness for the arrival of the new queens.  The preparation involved the collecting and planting of native wildflower seeds.  This is the second attempt to reintroduce the Short-haired bumblebee.  A 2009 relocation from New Zealand failed due to a lack of genetic diversity.  Ecologists are much more optimistic about the survival of the Swedish bees.

     This year I hope to identify more of our native bees.  The western bumblebee and blue orchard mason bee are fairly common but this week I identified a new native bee for me.  The Hunt's bumblebee (Bombus Huntii) with it's distinctive orange backside is easily observed foraging along with my honey bees in the geraniums and raspberries.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Plants Bees Love

Bombus melanopygus (Black-tailed Bumble Bee) in a Cranesbill Geranium

     It's a beautiful, sunny 15 degree celsius (60 fahrenheit) day in the garden.  This time of year in Vancouver is particularly special because so many plants are in bloom.  Since I became a beekeeper I have found myself much more observant of blossoms and their attraction to both native and honey bees.  Above is a photo of what is a Bombus melanopygus (Black-tailed Bumble Bee) whose orange backside makes for easy identification. If you look closely you can see the pollen being scattered beneath the native bee.   

     All of the bees are particularly attracted to the Cranesbill geranium which in our area is an easy to grow ground cover.  I have also noticed that bees have a fondness for members of the onion family which includes garlic, onions, leeks and chives.  Below is a picture of one of our girls enjoying some chive flowers.

     The Bluet is a friendly invasive (controllable) plant and another favourite of all species of bees.  I've heard this plant called a variety of names but I've not found it in any plant books.  

   * I found the Bluet in the plant files of the website Dave's Garden.  It goes by the common names Mountain Bluet, Mountain Cornflower and Perrenial Cornflower "Gold Bullion".  The latin name is Centaurea Montana.  Below is the Dave's Garden plant file search engine.  It is also in the side bar.
Find your plant by searching PlantFiles:

     I apologize for the obvious amateur nature of the photography but the photographer (me) insists on blaming the camera.  Below are a few photos of the girls enjoying the absolute favourite fast food (along with plum blossoms) in our neighbourhood this time of year which is flowering Kale.  

     After a slow start (cold wet spring) our girls are actively collecting pollen and producing brood.  We'll check the hives in a few weeks and possibly do a split or two depending on their progress.  Meanwhile, here I sit watching my bees listening to Taj and Etta sing "Queen Bee". 

     For a more complete list of plants bees love check out the "Bee Plants" pages of this site and for detailed information go to the Planting for Pollinators section of our Beekeepers' Library.  Also, for a guide to making a garden bees love go to "Make your garden a bee friendly garden".

Friday, May 18, 2012

Proof Bees like baseball

     A swarm of bees decided to take in a baseball game in Denver on Thursday.  The game was briefly suspended in the fifth inning when the bees decided to operate the camera much to the dismay of the television camera operator.  Refusing to leave when asked by security the bees were evicted from Coors field by a local beekeeper using a vacuum cleaner.  This supports my theory that bees do enjoy sports (not just the drones).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Flowering Kale

One of the girls enjoying the flowering Kale
     It is a beautiful, warm, (20 celsius/ 68 fahrenheit) sunny, May day and the bees are actively collecting pollen.  It was a very difficult winter for our bees as the predicted "el nino" effect reduced temperatures from February to May by approximately 5 degrees celsius (9 fahrenheit).  This is important where we live because it puts the temperature below the acceptable flying limit.  I have found that my bees will take cleansing flights (bathroom breaks) at 7 celsius and collect a little pollen but really won't get active until the temperature reaches 10 celsuis (50 fahrenheit).  Brood production was down in one hive and noticeable, excessive excretion indicated a possible nosema outbreak which is not uncommon in a cold, wet spring.  I treated with fumagillin.
     For the first time we bought two early packages of bees in February which I will not due again because of the unpredictability of the weather in our local.  With the wind chill we had below freezing temperatures for about a month after we purchased our southern hemisphere bees from New Zealand (where it was 25 celcuis).  The shock to the bees from excessive weather change, extensive travel and  utilizing a southern hemisphere queen who thinks it's fall is not in my opinion the right way to acquire bees in spring.  Over 20 years ago Canada placed a ban on bee imports from the U.S. to prevent the invasion of the Varroa Mite.  Surprise, it didn't work.  Geographical border exclusions don't work for bees.  They don't declare themselves at the border (illegal immigrants).  Many people think the restrictions still exist because of a trade agreement with Australia which obviously does not want American competition.  My belief is that the long term solution lies in local bee breeding of survivor stock which presently does not exist in the Vancouver area.  There are good bee breeders on Vancouver Island and the interior (small scale) but not in the greater Vancouver area.  This probably has something to do with the high real estate prices which prohibits the profitability of bee breeding in our area.  At any rate both of the queens died in our early packages.  I raised one queen by introducing a frame of uncapped eggs from another hive and Dan bought a queen for his hive which arrived this week from Australia.  The bees from his hive are now actively collecting pollen for the first time which is an indication that the queen has taken control.

This flower is a Bluet.  A friendly invasive.
     We are fortunate to keep our bees at a 4 acre community garden which has 120 individual garden plots, approximately 40 fruit trees, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, kiwis, grapes, nut, mulberry and black locust trees. The plum and cherry blossoms have finished and the present pollen of choice appears to be apple and kale.  Strangely enough many of the gardeners, because of their love of bees have let their kale go to blossom which is absolutely loved by the bees (both honey and native).  I have identified native blue orchard bees, bumble bees and an assortment of smaller native bees in our garden. The June pollen favourite for our bees is raspberries and July is the Black Locust trees but as you can imagine there are literally hundreds of plant pollens available for our girls.
     I believe strongly that the future of healthy beekeeping lies in the regression to small cell (4.9 mm) natural beekeeping.  Over 100 years ago beekeepers increased the size of foundation cells to increase honey production.  This unnatural increased cell size allows for excessive mite production and a myriad of ailments that do not effect natural cell sized bees.  Over the next year I hope to complete the transition of my bees to the natural cell size.  Stay tuned.

P.S.  Best Wishes go out to Steve at East Van Bees.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Legalize Beekeeping in Los Angeles

     Over the last 10 years many cities have legalized beekeeping. Atlanta, New York, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Spokane, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver and most recently Santa Monica have all taken decisive action and legalized urban beekeeping. In each case it seems to be a long, arduous process battling the stereotypical image of angry bees and swarms.  Beekeepers in the Los Angeles area are now going through that process.  Backwards Beekeepers (a great LA based beekeeping organization) and Honeylove Urban Beekeepers are working to make beekeeping legal in Los Angeles. Join them today at the L.A. Municipal building and sign the petition at  

WHAT: Meeting about legalizing beekeeping @ LA City Councilman Rosendahl’s Office

WHEN: Thursday May 3rd @ 7pm

WHERE: WLANC Offices West L.A. Municipal Building
1645 Corinth Avenue (entrance on the West side of the building)
Los Angeles 90025
Google map 

More event info on Facebook 

Please contact us if you want to get involved!

Call: (424) 625-8BEE (8233)

Recent Posts

Recent Posts Widget