Category Archives: World of Apiculture

Beekeeping around the globe: pollination, honey, bee and queen breeding outfits, and hobby beekeepers too

Bee Farms for the Stereopticon: Vintage Beekeeping Photographs


A bee farm in California, from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. No date or more specific location is known. The hive stands are interesting feature of this old photograph.

More stereoscopic images of old-time beekeeping:

When I first saw these photos, I wondered why Carleton Watkins would go to all the trouble to take these pictures. Photography back in the 1880’s was not exactly a casual “point and shoot” thing — there were heavy plates and equipment to lug around. There must have been something about the apiary or the whole idea of keeping honey bees that grabbed his attention. Might be that beekeeping was kind of novel — honey bees were relatively new to California — introduced in 1857. Or maybe he sampled some of the Villa’s honey and was taken by the little insects that produced it.

You may remember seeing a stereoscope tucked away in a cupboard at your grandparents’ house, as we do. It made a quiet entertainment for children on a rainy day, together with a dusty box of the two-pictured cards from a by-gone era.

The Stereoscope

Stereoscopes, also known as stereopticons or stereo viewers, were one of America’s most popular forms of entertainment in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The first patented stereoscope was invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838. … However, Wheatstone’s stereoscope was not as popular as a later version, made by Oliver Wendell Holmes. … Stereoscopes continued to be widespread in America until the 1930s. Then stereoscope production declined, likely due to the new interest in motion pictures. However, the stereoscope continues to offer viewers something that no ordinary photograph or movie can offer, namely a sense of depth and image realism.

Hand held stereoscope

Candy-Coloured Honey Not So Sweet for French Beekeepers

What would you do if your bees starting making blue and green honey? For some beekeepers in France, the answer is – swallow a bitter financial loss.

We know that the flavour and consistency of honey will depend to a large extent on what forage plants our bees have been working, and some of us will be familiar with the challenge of trying to sell a dark-coloured strong-flavoured buckwheat honey to customers raised on pale mild white clover honey in the mass market… but that’s nothing compared to the challenge facing some French beekeepers this season, according to a recent Reuters news story.

When their bees started to fill the combs with strange blue and green honey in August, beekeepers near the town of Ribeauville, in the Alsace region of France, did some digging. They discovered a biogas plant within bee forage range has been processing waste from a Mars candy factory that makes the popular multi-hued M&M candies. As soon as the plant management was alerted that the sweet waste was attracting honey bees, they took steps to clean out waste containers and keep incoming material under cover – but meanwhile the beekeepers of the area are stuck with a tainted harvest.

The news story doesn’t tell us whether the candy-coloured honey has been tested for food safety, but it seems doubtful whether the blue and green harvest could find a market even if it were approved for human consumption. And the long-term effect on the bees of ingesting the food dyes? Also unknown.

Read more:
Bees in France produce blue and green honey; beekeepers blame M&Ms. Bees have a taste for M&M’s candy, beekeepers discover by Patrick Genthon (Reuters) and Photos: M&M’s turn bees’ honey blue?, 5 October 2012.

Photo by Bribri2B (fichier personnel) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Common Pesticide Makes Honey Bees into Picky Eaters: New Study

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.

Continue reading Common Pesticide Makes Honey Bees into Picky Eaters: New Study

Mobile Phones in Honeybee Hives Cause “Worker Piping”: Research Study

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.”

Abstract:

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.

US Farmers Plant to Feed Bees

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.

New Commercial Beekeeping Course Unique in Canada

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.

Continue reading New Commercial Beekeeping Course Unique in Canada