Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Culture and Customs remind us that honey holds an important place in the history and traditions of the Emerald Isle:
Ireland has been described by many poets and story-tellers as the land of milk and honey, and there is little doubt that there was milk and honey in abundance in earliest times…
Honey was so important in early Ireland that a whole section of the Brehon Laws was devoted to bees and beekeeping. Tributes were paid in honey and no banquet table was complete without honey and mead, the legendary drink made from it. Honey was used not just for cooking, but also for basting, and as a condiment in which to dip meat, fowl and fish at the table.
The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore by Hilda M. Ransome (first published in 1937) explains that there’s a whole section about honey in the Brehon Laws, which date back to somewhere around 600 AD and probably much earlier — the “Bee-judgments” as the laws about beekeeping were called.
For example, under those old laws, anyone who kept bees was obligated by law to share the honey harvest with land-owners of the four adjacent farms, as that’s where the bees gathered nectar.
And if a man found a swarm in the faithche (the green surrounding and belonging to a house), three-quarters of that colony’s honey harvest at the end of the year was owed to the owner of the house. It certainly speaks to the value placed on honey!
Continue reading Irish Honey Lore for St. Patrick’s Day
As beekeepers may have noticed, ice cream company Häagen-Dazs has set its marketing might firmly on the side of honeybees, in the face of colony collapse disorder and declining bee populations. And it makes sense — more than 40 percent of Häagen-Dazs all-natural ice cream flavours include ingredients that are dependent on honey bees for pollination.
Part of the Häagen-Dazs loves Honey Bees™ campaign is an engaging website that’s sure to brighten a winter day.
Visitors to the website click on an old-fashioned skep-style beehive to reveal the website’s menu of educational and entertaining options —
- fly through the fields with a pollinating honey bee,
- make a cartoon bee< and send her by email to another honey bee fan,
- download a lesson plan about the bee crisis and how you can help,
- shop for “Feel the Love Buzz” and “Long Live the Queen” T-shirts to support honeybee research
- and more.
Go to HelpTheHoneyBees.com to learn more and explore.
Lots of people would love to keep honey bees, for various reasons, but they can’t do it because they live in cities or suburbs with by-laws against beekeeping. But that doesn’t mean they can’t help take care of the earth’s essential pollinators in other ways!
The Urban Bee Barn
During a lively conversation at the grocery store checkout, one day, a man in line told the rest of us shoppers about his innovative version of urban beekeeping: a “bee barn” among the birdhouses near his patio.
This “bee barn” provided an artificial habitat for native bees in and around this man’s downtown property. It was basically a shaped chunk of wood, decorated to look like an old-fashioned barn with a hip roof, that had all sizes of holes drilled in it. When he put it out in the spring, wild bees — solitary bees — took up residence in the holes, picking whichever hole was the right size for them, and stayed all season.
The bees gave the man’s children a wonderful close-up view of Nature in action, and pollinated his patio tomatoes. Win-win!
Continue reading Help Other Pollinators: Build a House for Solitary Bees
Here’s a collection of video and audio presentations about research on CCD from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and colleagues:
Colony Collapse Disorder: A Complex Buzz, originally published in Agricultural Research magazine (May 2008)
Discovery Communications video: Bee Killer Hunted by Scientists (6:00 minutes, 2007). ARS researchers Jeff Pettis and Jay Evans at the ARS Bee Research Laboratory in Maryland explain some of the tactics that agency scientists have been using to try to develop a scientific understanding of colony collapse disorder.
Continue reading Round-Up of Reports on Colony Collapse Disorder
Thanks to Gail Duncan for sharing a gem of beekeeping history — “I guess it could have been worse,” she says, of the “Beekeeping for Women” section from the 1915 classic Beekeeping book by E.F. Phillips. “Sounds like he was trying to soften the blow to the dear sweet women folk!”
Beekeeping for Women
A question much discussed in books and journals on bees is that of beekeeping for women. Many women can and do handle bees (Fig 14) with marked success. In those parts of the business which require delicacy of touch and minute attention, such as queen-rearing, women often surpass men in proficiency. As amateur beekeepers they are at home. The question which usually presents itself, however, is whether beekeeping is suitable for women as a means of earning a livelihood and repeatedly has the writer been asked for advice on this subject. Professional beekeeping on a scale sufficiently large to supply an adequate income requires long hours of work in the hot sun, heavy lifting and unremitting physical endurance. On a small scale these obstacles may be overcome, but in a commercial apiary, the work must be done promptly, for delay means loss. While some women have found pleasure and profit in the commercial beekeeping, it emphatically cannot be recommended for the majority of women, and this should be made clear to avoid disappointment for those who may be attracted to it. Of course, this applies only to those women who have no man in the company to do the heavy work. Many a professional beekeeper has received assistance of incalculable value from the women of the family. It should be made clear that the obstacles to the commercial success of women beekeepers are physical ones only.
Beekeeping: A Discussion of the Life of the Honeybee and of the Production of Honey
by Everett Franklin Phillips (1878-1951)
The rural science series, L.H. Bailey editor
New York: The Macmillan Company, © 1915, reprinted 1917
Gail Duncan is lucky enough to have a printed copy of this book, which she brought to show us at the the last CBA meeting, but the rest of us will have to enjoy it online. The full text is available in The Hive and the Honeybee: Selections from the E. F. Philips Beekeeping Collection at Mann Library, Cornell University.
The Phillips’ Beekeeping Collection at Cornell’s Albert R. Mann Library is one of the largest and most complete apiculture libraries in the world. The Hive and the Honey Bee consists of the full text of 30 rare beekeeping books from the Phillips Collection, and each book is fully searchable. To find out more about supporting this growing collection, please contact Eveline Ferretti, Albert R. Mann Library, by telephone at (607) 254-4993 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://bees.library.cornell.edu.
The Honey Files: A Bee’s Life is an educational video and teacher’s guide set, available now through the National Honey Board.
The focus is, of course, on beekeeping and pollination in the United States, but there’s a great deal here of value to teachers and home-schooling parents in other countries as well.
This 20-minute VHS videotape and 96-page teacher’s guide will have you and your students buzzing! Designed especially for educators of grades 4 – 6, these fun, new educational materials provide information, classroom activities and reproducible worksheets about bees, honey and pollination.
Although the package is designed for grades 4 – 6, much of the material is equally appropriate for more advanced levels as well — and the information contained in the Educator’s Overview sections alone will provide teachers, parents, and older children with a solid understanding of honey bees and their role in nature and agriculture.
Just take a look at the Table of Contents for the Teacher’s Guide:
Continue reading Honey Bee Video and Free Teachers Guide