For years now, beekeepers around the world have been concerned about the widespread use of agricultural pesticides, and specifically imidacloprid, which has been banned from some crops in Europe in an attempt to protect honeybees. Now, a UC San Diego study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology suggests that beekeepers’ concerns are justified.
If you’re a New Brunswick beekeeper – or planning to get into beekeeping this year – be advised that Country Fields Beekeeping Supplies Ltd. (Upper Coverdale) has just posted their 2012 prices for nucs and queens.
Nucs (nucleus colonies) are $150.00 each with a $5 discount for payment by cash or cheque. A deposit of $30 is required. A nuc includes 2 frames of bees and brood, a laying queen, a frame of honey and pollen, and an empty frame for the queen to build on.
Queen bees are priced according to where they come from. This year, the Wheatleys will be bringing in queens from Hawaii (Kona only, not Big Island), California, and Australia. Local queens from Nova Scotia are expected to be available in early June.
Supplies of honeybees are limited, of course, so you’ll want to get your order in right away. Find more information on their website at www.countryfields.ca.
Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg has spent 35 years watching the natural world through a camera. His film Wings of Life, inspired by the plight of the honeybee, is a remarkable celebration of pollination and the tiny pollinators who keep our world alive:
Rarely seen by the naked eye, this intersection between the animal world and the plant world is truly a magic moment. It’s the mystical moment where life regenerates itself, over and over again.
Here, from his presentation, recorded March 2011 at TED2011 in Long Beach, California, Schwartzberg presents some of the his film’s extraordinaryhigh-speed images of pollinators in action:
If you’d like to watch at full screen size — highly recommended! — just click on the icon in the upper-right of the embedded video player.
(Note: If you’re reading this in an email and can’t see the video player, please visit http://cba.stonehavenlife.com/2011/11/schwartzberg-pollination-film on the Central Beekeepers Alliance website.)
Beauty and seduction, I believe, is nature’s tool for survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with. Their relationship is a love story that feeds the Earth. It reminds us that we are a part of nature, and we’re not separate from it.
When I heard about the vanishing bees, Colony Collapse Disorder, it motivated me to take action. We depend on pollinators for over a third of the fruits and vegetables we eat. And many scientists believe it’s the most serious issue facing mankind. It’s like the canary in the coalmine. If they disappear, so do we. It reminds us that we are a part of nature and we need to take care of it.
You can learn more about Louie Schwartzberg and the film Wings of Life at www.MovingArt.tv.
Over the past few years, a number of researchers have looked at the possible impact on honeybees of electromagnetic waves produced by human-made devices. One such study, published in Apidologie, Volume 42, Number 3 (May 2011), observes that active cellphones placed in bee hives cause the workers to pipe — to make the same sounds that normally signal either that the colony has been disturbed or it is about to swarm.
The study, conducted by Daniel Favre of the Laboratory of Cellular Biotechnology (LBTC), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and the Apiary School of the City of Lausanne, Switzerland, “electromagnetic waves originating from mobile phones were tested for potential effects on honeybee behavior.”
The worldwide maintenance of the honeybee has major ecological, economic, and political implications. In the present study, electromagnetic waves originating from mobile phones were tested for potential effects on honeybee behavior. Mobile phone handsets were placed in the close vicinity of honeybees. The sound made by the bees was recorded and analyzed. The audiograms and spectrograms revealed that active mobile phone handsets have a dramatic impact on the behavior of the bees, namely by inducing the worker piping signal. In natural conditions, worker piping either announces the swarming process of the bee colony or is a signal of a disturbed bee colony.
Interestingly, although the workers piped, the colonies did not produce a swarm as they would normally be expected to so shortly after that signal, and no queen piping was observed. The author suggests that perhaps worker piping is only one of a number of a signals that the bees rely on to trigger a swarm.
Favre further notes that the experiment placed cellphones right inside the hive itself — putting the bees in much closer proximity to the source of electromagnetic waves than they would be in normal circumstances. The question is raised, however, whether long-term exposure to low levels of these waves might have a similar “dramatic impact” on bee behavior. More research will be required, however, before scientists can draw any conclusions about the implications for the beekeeping industry and our honeybee populations.
Mobile phone-induced honeybee worker piping by Daniel Favre may be read in full online at Springerlink: DOI 10.1007/s13592-011-0016-x. Apidologie, an official publication of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) and Deutscher Imkerbund E.V. (D.I.B.), is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the biology of insects belonging to the superfamily Apoidea.
Farmers in California and other states are turning over a percentage of crop land to wildflowers and shrubs that are attractive to bees. Improving bee habitat and nutrition, they hope, will boost the dwindling populations of native bees and help cut the costs of commercial pollination.
The bee habitat enhancement effort was organized by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit group out of Portland, Oregon.
Getting farmers to plant bee habitat is key, [Mace] Vaughan [the group’s pollinator program director] said, because bees with nutritionally sound diets are better able to fend off diseases and other problems.
Bee habitat can also reduce a farmer’s costs and alleviate the stress on honeybees. Through research on California’s watermelons, University of California, Berkeley, professor Claire Kremen found that if a farmer sets aside between 20 percent and 30 percent of a field for bee habitat, the farm can get all or most of its pollination from native bees.
That’s unrealistic for most farms, but Kremen said adding hedgerows and other plantings can help sustain a beneficial combination of native and commercial bees. Research has found that native bees make commercial honeybees more efficient pollinators by getting in their way and making them take a more circuitous route from plant to plant.
“What it means is you don’t have to have a huge number of native bees, but if you have some then the combination of honeybees and native bees has a huge effect,” Kremen said.
Other researchers have found that setting aside bee habitat leads to better crop production on the remaining land, compensating the farmer.
Read the full story, Farmers Add Plants to Attract, Nourish Bees at the National Public Radio website, NPR.org.
The first beekeeping vocational program in Canada for the education and training of commercial beekeepers will be offered at the Fairview campus of Grand Prairie Regional College (GPRC), Alberta, Canada. The college is now accepting applications for the program’s January 2012 launch.
Certificate in Commercial Beekeeping
This 45-week course of vocational training will provide its graduates with the substantive knowledge, skills, and practical experience needed to work in commercial beekeeping.
Graduates will be prepared for employment in Canada, the US, and other parts of the world as:
- Apiary assistants and field supervisors with commercial beekeepers;
- Technicians with government agriculture departments;
- Self-employed beekeepers; and/ or
- Project coordinators for beekeeping/honey production projects
in the developing world.