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.
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.
This video is a segment of “Silence of the Bees,” a remarkable documentary mini-series that premiered on PBS in October 2007, when the apiculture community was just beginning to suspect the devastating effects that Colony Collapse Disorder would have on honeybee populations.
As the video explains, and as beekeepers know by their own observations, bees are “just this magnificent little engineered thing, just perfect for all the things they can do”:
An architectural marvel, the honeybee’s design is an elegant fusion of form and function. A proboscis for ferreting out nectar stored deep in a flower’s folds. And powerful mandibles for eating, feeding young, and manipulating wax.
Photo: Bee on lavendar via Flickr
Two compound eyes are comprised of 6,900 lenses and covered with sensory hairs for detecting wind speed. Three additional eyes, called ocelli, receive light signals for orientation.
Four wings clasp together with tiny hooks and beat up to 230 times a second.
For defense, a double-edged, serrated sting, which she can use only once — at the cost of her own life.
Hind legs are broadened into special baskets for carrying heavy cargo of pollen to the hive. Feathery hairs coat the body and build up a static charge as the bee flies. When the bee lands on a flower, pollen literally jumps on to her body.
Nature’s award-winning Silence of the Bees was narrated by American actor F. Murray Abraham, winner of the 1985 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus. It was produced by filmmaker Doug Schultz — and if you’re interested in what went on “behind the scenes” in making the documentary, you can read an interview with Doug Schultz at the PBS program website.
Silence of the Bees is available on DVD (packaged together with an equally interesting documentary, Parrots in the Land of Oz). You can get it direct from PBS online or from Amazon.com in the United States and from Amazon.ca in Canada.
Constructing an Observation Bee Hive is written by Malcom T. Sanford, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida. It includes simple plans for building an observation hive, and tips on maintaining a hive if you plan to keep bees in it for longer terms, rather than simply for a display.
(You may recognize Dr. Sanford’s name as the entomologist who updated a classic beekeeping book by Richard E. Bonney for the Storey Publishing company’s Down-to-Earth Guides series in Fall, 2010.)
If for some reason the FullScreen and Download buttons at the top of the embedded document aren’t working for you — those darned computers! — you can download a printable PDF version of this document at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG32000.pdf directly. That way, you’ll be able to see the measurements and instructions on the observation hive plans included.
Build or Buy an Observation Hive
If you’re looking for an alternative style, plans for building a 3-Frame Observation Hive are available free at Bee Source. Also, a fellow on the Beemaster’s International beekeeping forums has posted step-by-step photographs and description of building an observation hive.
Long-time Central Beekeeepers’ Alliance member Earl Gilbey has a four-frame observation hive that may interest and inspire you, too — see Inside An Observation Hive to read about it.
If you’re not into woodworking, you can still enjoy bee-watching as a hobby. you’ll find a remarkably wide range of observation hives for sale at Draper Bee — some of which are quite showy, more like livingroom furniture! — or visit Dadant to see a nice simple 2-frame observation hive priced at just under $100 US (plus shipping, of course).
Unexplained honey bee die-offs in recent years, filed under Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), have been the focus of considerable research but very few solid answers. Now, according to the folks at the investigative news program Dan Rather Reports, the situation is worse than at first thought: “the whole food chain is at risk.”
Where is the finger pointing this time?
Systemic pesticides, self-regulation by the chemical industry, and a flawed process for testing and registration of products by the EPA…
Continue reading Beekeepers are Worried: Dan Rather Reports
On the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of July, participants from all around the Maritimes came to Sackville, New Brunswick, to take part in Community Forests International beekeeping workshop. Emphasizing natural management techniques and hands-on learning, this weekend learning event was led by Peter and Kathleen Hardie.
[Backyard Beekeeping 2011 photographs by Canadian Forests International on Flickr.com]
The beekeeping workshop was written up in a recent CanadaEast article by Molly Cormier, which emphasized the growing appeal of hobby or backyard beekeeping by Maritimers with an interest in a sustainable lifestyle:
Sackville-based Community Forests International hosted its second apiculture course last month and welcomed prospective beekeepers for a weekend of learning the ins and outs of the beekeeping world. You might say it was a hive of activity.
All bee jokes aside, CFI’s Nick Belanger organized the workshop with an emphasis on all-natural techniques and hands-on learning.
“Backyard beekeeping is a loose term for a small operation,” he says. The honey and wax produced by the bees doesn’t have to be used for profit, but it can be a nice way to supplement an income, he noted.
Busy as a Backyard Beekeeper by Molly Cormier, 18 August 2011, CanadaEast.com.
Community Forests International (http://forestsinternational.org/):
“Community Forests International connects people to the forest, fostering sustainable environmental relationships while strengthening communities against climate change. Driven by farmers, foresters, and their rural communities, CFI’s programming spans the globe: planting trees with rural villages in Pemba, connecting environmentally-minded youth in India, Tanzania and Canada, and promoting ecological forestry in Atlantic Canada.”