Saturday, November 17, 2012

Protect Your Ass (Donkey)

     I know that most of you (like me) at one time or another have wondered why don't they make a beekeeping outfit for my donkey.  Wonder no more. Manuel Juraci Vieira, a beekeeper and inventor from Brazil has designed a protective outfit for Boneco his friend and beekeeping partner for 10 years.  Boneco does most of the heavy lifting.  According to Manuel, Boneco is his most faithful friend. 

The Itatira region (a largely arid and uncultivable landscape) is the largest producer of honey in the district of Ceara, Brazil, harvesting about 90 million pounds of honey per year.  Most of the harvested honey comes from africanized bees ( Killer Bees) so Boneco is definitely appreciating the new garb.  


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tales From the Hive

One of my girls enjoying a Sunflower

     "Tales from the Hive" is a beautiful movie from the PBS program Nova which follows a bee colony for a year.  The usage of macro lenses allows the viewer to see intimate activity inside the hive like the exchange of nectar between the foraging bees and the hive bees. They were also able to film bees in flight and the mating of the queen. 

     "We built a tower about 26 feet high and mounted the camera at the end of a six-and-a-half-foot-long extension. With this we were able to set the camera into a 360-degree rotation. (The queen has to be flying to mate.) We "tied" the queen in front of the camera, then we had to lure the drones from their altitude of 100 feet or so down to the level of our queen. For this purpose, we filled a weather balloon with helium, tied queens in a cage underneath that balloon, and let it rise. The idea was to draw the drones down with the queens' pheromones."

Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler

Mating Tower

     "Amazingly, it worked on the very first day. I don't know how or why; perhaps I'm lucky. On the other hand, we never succeeded in repeating this scene over the following days. When the queen finally moved her wings, the drones were not interested; when she flew and the drones felt like it, the wind was too strong. If I had known how impossible it would be to film the scene while I was writing the script, I would have cut out the queen's mating flight." 
     "With every day of the shoot, we became richer in experience, and so I saved myself the most difficult shots for the end. These included the queen laying her eggs (filmed from the inside of the honey cell), the storage of pollen, and the feeding of the larva with royal jelly. Again we had a lucky day, because queens are the shyest of all bees, especially young queens. As soon as something disrupts their environment, they stop their natural behavior and hide among thousands of bees."   
         Cinematographer Wolfgang Thaler     


Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Urban Homestead

     On just one tenth of an acre, on a city lot in Pasadena, California 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles the Dervais family have created a truly amazing "urban homestead".  They produce 7,000 lbs (3175 kgs) of organic produce annually on their city farm which includes ducks, chickens, goats and bees.  Their livestock provide eggs, milk and honey for their vegetarian diet and they use alternative fuels like biodiesel, pedal power and solar panels.  I think this is an amazing, inspirational example to us city folks as to what can be accomplished on a small parcel of land. Go to Urban Homestead to learn more about this urban farm.

      In our society growing food yourself has become the most radical of acts. It is truly the only effective protest, one that can- and will- overturn the corporate powers that be. 
By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world… (
The Dervaes family on a small city lot in Pasadena, California

     One of the greatest obstacles our bees face is living in the toxic environment we have created.  Living and planting organically, producing our food locally and reducing our consumption of fossil fuels will go a long way to creating a more healthy environment for our bees and our children (Urban Homestead Bees).  

P.S.   If you are in the Pasadena area on November 22 Urban Homestead is holding a Thanksgiving Dinner. Wish I could be there.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Effects Beekeepers

     Hurricane Sandy has devastated a large number of people by the destruction of property and most importantly loss of life.  Bees and beekeepers are not immune from the suffering.  Many beekeepers have lost their hives to the hurricane including those from the Brooklyn Grange’s Navy Yard urban farming project  (Brooklyn Grange) that lost 25 hives situated near the water.  Chase Emmons, a managing partner and the chief beekeeper at Brooklyn Grange said “All our hives that were out on the pier were destroyed.  An additional 10 hives located on Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop farm survived — but the loss is catastrophic for the city’s largest apiary. Emmons knew before the storm that the hives were at risk.  There was little we could do without a Herculean effort,” he said.  What’s most heartbreaking, said Emmons, is that all of the lost hives were donated by a retired Pennsylvania beekeeper last year — so they housed extra-hearty bees with stellar genetics.  “The biggest loss is to our selective breeding genetic program. Our plan is to end up with bees that are well suited to the New York environment,” said Emmons. “This puts us back at least a year.”

     The loss of bees and hives is not comparable to those who have lost their property and more importantly their lives.  However, when reassembling the hives the beekeepers were shocked to see surviving bees attempting to rebuild their colonies just as survivors of the Hurricane are now courageously rebuilding their lives.  Our prayers and best wishes go out to all those effected by Hurricane Sandy.  

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