Wandering Beekeepers of Ancient Egypt

Detail of a Bee Hieroglyph from the tomb complex of Senusret IDid you know that the ancient Egyptians used to put their hives on boats and float them down the Nile to new forage grounds, when nectar grew scarce?

Other cultures copied the practice, from the ancient Romans right down to the Mississippi Valley beekeepers of the early 1800s, and the transportation of English bees to forage was reported in the London Times of 1830:

As the small sailing vessel was proceeding up the Channel from the coast of Corn-wall and running near land, some of the sailors noticed a swarm of bees on the island; they steered for it, landed, and after they succeeded in hiving the bees they took them on board and proceeded on their voyage. As they sailed along the shore, the bees constantly flew from the vessel to the land to collect honey and returned again to their floating hive; and this was continued all the way up the Channel.

These fascinating facts about beekeeping in ancient Egypt may be found in Freemasonry, Greek Philosophy, The Prince Hall Fraternity and the Egyptian (African) World Connection by Keith Moore, which you can preview via Google Books.

Are Cell Phones to Blame for CCD?

The latest theory about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), as reported in The Independent (UK) and other media, is based a German study that shows the normal behaviour of bees is severely affected when hives are located within the radio frequency and electro-magnetic fields produced by powerlines. This has led researchers at Landau University, Koblenz, to look at the possibility that the widespread use of cell phones may be playing a role in CCD. The theory is that radio waves could be confusing the field bees, causing them to lose their sense of direction and become unable to return safely to the hive.

Colony Collapse Disorder is Studied, Not Confirmed in Canada

While American beekeepers come out of winter with staggering losses attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), it is still too early for most Canadian beekeepers to determine whether we have been similarly affected.

No instance of CCD has been confirmed in Canada, despite recent reports of “suspicious losses” in Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

Dr. Peter Kevan, an associate professor of environmental biology at the University of Guelph, told CBC News recently that the cause of CCD remains a mystery. The recent disappearance of honey bees and decline in hive populations “might be caused by parasitic mites, or long cold winters, or long wet springs, or pesticides, or genetically modified crops — or stress.”

Continue reading Colony Collapse Disorder is Studied, Not Confirmed in Canada

Spring Pollen Diet for Honey Bees?

From the journals of  the Entomological Society of America, we note a study out of Department of Environmental Biology, Guelph University, Canada, on the Influence of Pollen Diet in Spring on Development of Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Colonies:

A 3-year study on pollen and pollen-substitute feeding in spring suggests that there was little difference in effect between the two diets. Feeding the bees a pollen or a pollen-substitute, either one, helped the colonies to build up in the spring — however —

an investment in supplementing the pollen diet of colonies would be returned for situations in which large spring populations are important, but long-term improvement in honey yields may only result when spring foraging is severely reduced by inclement weather.

So, if I’m reading this right, the decision of whether a beekeeper will get a good return on money invested in spring pollen supplements for the bees is going to depend on the likelihood of poor foraging weather, and how stressed the bees are likely to be (larger spring populations might be more important for commercial honey producers and pollination services).  So, with a good long-term weather forecast, lots of nectar-and pollen-bearing plants within easy forage range of the apiary, and a hobby bee operation where the colonies are not transported or put to monoculture crops, there might be no great benefit in giving extra pollen. Something to keep in mind when planning your spring beekeeping.

The full report has a cost attached, but you can read the short Abstract online, free of charge.

Mite-Away Inventor Recognized

The Ontario government recognizes that innovation will pave the way forward for the province’s agri-food sector, and Premier Dalton McGuinty took the opportunity to recognize farmer-innovators at the province’s Summit on Agri-Food on 8 March 2007.

“Ontario’s farmers have helped build a world-class agri-food sector in this province,” said Premier Dalton McGuinty. “By recognizing their hard work and investing in their innovative ideas, we can help farmers pursue new markets, attract investment and strengthen our rural communities.”

The first $100,000 Premier’s Award of Excellence for Agri-Food Innovation will go to David VanderDussen. VanderDussen developed Mite-Away II, an environmentally friendly product to protect honeybees from mite infestations, which is exported around the world.

Honey Bees & Beekeeping