Wednesday, September 23, 2009
By RACHEL KUROWSKI Associated Press Writer
Updated: 09/19/2009 10:02:21 PM MDT
This Sept. 2, 2009 photo shows beekeeper Nicolas Geant taking care of his beehives on top of the Grand Palais museum in Paris. In Paris, the bee business is thriving on famous rooftops and public gardens in the middle of the urban jungle even as bees are disappearing from fields across France and the world, threatening plants and food supplies. ((AP Photo/Francois Mori) )
PARIS—In the romantic city of lights, the bees are downright busy.
Common sense says it is better to keep hives of stinging insects in the countryside, away from city centers packed with people. Yet on storied rooftops and public gardens in the urban jungle of Paris, the bee business is thriving.
Bees are disappearing from fields across France and elsewhere in the world, victims of a slow decline in number because of loss of habitat compounded by a recent and mysterious catastrophe variously blamed on disease, parasites and pesticides. The most recent science research points to a combination of interacting diseases for new collapses of bee colonies.
But in the heart of the French capital, Nicolas Geant is preparing to sell off his honey. It comes from hives on the edges of the soaring glass roof of the Grand Palais exhibition hall, just off the Champs-Elysees.
"Paris has many balconies, parks and avenues full of trees and little flowers that attract many bees for pollination," said Geant, who has 25 years of experience under his belt.
The Grand Palais beehives went up in May. They also sit in the Luxembourg Gardens, on the gilded dome of the 19th Century Palais Garnier and the roof of the ultramodern Opera Bastille.
"In Paris, each beehive produces a minimum of 50 to 60 kilograms (110 to 130 pounds) of honey per harvest, and the death rate of the colonies is 3 to 5 percent," said Henri Clement, president of the National Union of French Beekeepers.
"But in the countryside, one beehive only gives you 10 to 20 kilograms (about 20 to 40 pounds) of honey, and the death rate is 30 to 40 percent. It is a sign of alarm."
The Luxembourg Gardens' hives alone produce more than half a ton of honey per harvest. It is sold to the public during the last weekend in September, and the income funds beekeeping classes and the facilities.
In Paris, the bee business is thriving on famous rooftops and public gardens in the middle of the urban jungle even as bees are disappearing from fields across France and the world, threatening plants and food supplies.
Alain Sandmeyer, 63, a volunteer instructor at the gardens, said trees and shrubbery have grown sparser in rural areas, attracting fewer bees. Also, he said, rural bees are dying off from pesticides and fertilizers. In Paris, on the other hand, pesticides are forbidden in all parks and gardens.
Urban beekeeping isn't just a Paris thing. Berlin, London, Tokyo and Washington, D.C., are among beekeeping cities. New York City on the other hand, lists bees as "venomous insects," and beekeeping is punishable by a $2,000 fine.
Parisian Erin Langenburg, 24, a student, said the bees don't bother her when she's in Parisian parks, but they do tend to migrate to outdoor restaurants. "There seem to be a lot of bees when I'm eating outside on a terrace and they annoy me, especially when they get in my drinks," she said. "I am kind of scared of getting stung by one."
For many years bee experts worried about an aging population of beekeepers, but a new young generation has suddenly taken on the hobby, said May Berenbaum, head of the entomology department at the University of Illinois.
"There's definitely been an incredibly heartening increase in interest," Berenbaum said.
Domesticated bee populations worldwide have dropped significantly since the late 1940s. The causes have been mostly loss of habitat, disease, fungi and invading parasites, says a 2007 study by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
It is estimated that half of the honeybee population has disappeared in the U.S. and Britain, according to an April report from the International Bee Research Association.
And lately the world has been hit by a new crisis, called colony collapse disorder. In 2007-2008, it caused the loss of 35 percent of U.S. bees.
Wild bee populations have also plunged, with disease and loss of habitat being blamed. Last year, 30 percent of Europe's 13.6 million beehives died, according to statistics from Apimondia, an international beekeeping body.
A conference last week in Montpellier, France was told that Ireland had a 53 percent drop in bees in 2006, Slovenia lost 30 to 35 percent of its bee colonies last year, and Italy 37 percent.
It's not just about honey. The U.S. Agriculture Department estimates a third of our diet comes from sources pollinated by insects, primarily bees. The French beekeepers' union reckons 65 percent of agricultural plants worldwide risk not getting pollinated. The U.S. has had to import huge numbers of bees from Australia to pollinate apple orchards and berry fields.
In the Luxembourg Gardens, beekeeping has been going on since 1856. Today, for around euro160 ($230), Parisians can spend several months learning about and participating in beekeeping and honey-extraction.
Volunteer instructor Dominique Castel, 64, has been giving all his free time to beekeeping at the gardens since retiring from his aviation industry job 12 years ago. Asked if he gets stung often, he shrugged and said: "You get used to it."
AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Apimondia 2009 :
“The bee, the sentinel of the environment” is the theme of this 41st edition.
This topic is brought to light at a time when the bee is facing a mortality record with an average of 300 000 colonies disappearing every year in France since 1995.
More than 500 scientists will gather together to compare their experiences and give you the results of their research.
An intersection of professionals :
At the heart of the Corum, Palais des Congres de Montpellier, ApiExpo provides a tremendous showcase for all professionals and service providers.
For more information visit www.abeillesentinelle.net
The bee gathers pollen and serves biodiversity
80% of the flowering plant species on our planet,
representing over 200 000 species, reproduce by pollination.
The bee works to enrich our food
beyond the production of honey, pollen and royal jelly,
the bee participates in 65% of the biodiversity maintenance
and 35% of the production of our food.
(Recent INRA studies)
THE Beekeepers Ball, held Monday night at the Water Taxi Beach in the South Street Seaport, was, among other things, a lesson in coalition politics.
Benjamin Norman for The New York Times
Honey bees are shaping up to be the latest urban agricultural must-have, the new backyard chickens.
The wrinkle is that beekeeping is illegal in New York City. Fines, while rare, can run to $2,000.
The law is precisely why the nonprofit group Just Food organized the ball to kick off its Pollinator Week in the city, which includes special honey menus at restaurants and a honey festival at the Union Square Greenmarket.
Bees may be sexy; signing petitions and phoning politicians, less so. But Jacquie Berger, the director of Just Food, clearly knows the adage about vinegar and honey.
And honey was certainly in evidence at the Water Taxi Beach: honey-coated pork ribs, hot dogs with honey mustard and burgers in sliced honey-glazed doughnuts.
The beer, provided by the Brooklyn brewery Kelso, was infused with city honey and whipped up specially for the occasion. A vendor sold delicious honey-strawberry ice pops.
The proprietors of the Long Island Meadery were on hand, passing out samples of their syrupy honey wine. They usually market the stuff at Renaissance fairs and gatherings of armored re-enactors. Though new to the locavore crowd, they were definitely used to serving costumed drinkers.
John Howe’s beekeeping suit was not a costume: it was his beekeeping suit. As founder of the New York City Beekeeping Meetup Group, Mr. Howe provides an online home for beekeeping fans, and sponsors classes, bringing what he calls wanna-bees into the fold. When he started his first rooftop hive in 2002, he knew of two or three beekeepers in the city. Now, he knows of at least 40. Lately, he has been spending more time fielding calls from the news media.
So has Andrew Coté, head of the New York City Beekeepers Association. He rattled off a list of other American cities with strong, legal beekeeping scenes, and expressed indignation that New York was not among them: “We are not followers in this city!”
Meanwhile, a 5-year-old girl in a bright yellow beekeeper suit was, unbidden, quietly handing out Beekeepers Association business cards. Her brother, in a similar outfit, played in the sand. Their mother, Mara Tippett, got the suits so the children could help with the hives at her home in Neshanic, N.J.
Ms. Tippett’s sister, Anna Bridge, is on the Pollinator Week organizing committee. Ms. Bridge, a lawyer who lives in Sunnyside, Queens, doesn’t want to defy the ban. “I have to live vicariously through other people’s bees,” until the law changes, she said. Jacen Bruni, another lawyer, set up a hive on a Brooklyn rooftop this spring. “I kind of feel like the law doesn’t exist,” he said. “But it is a burden, something that hangs over your shoulder.”
Leaning against the bar, John Bernard, burly and gray-bearded, looked over the crowd. He is an apiary inspector with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. If the law does change, his job will get a lot busier — something he would relish. He has kept bees at his home in Croton, N.Y., since the early 1990s. His wife read about the ball online, and he decided to come down to check out the emerging urban scene. “It’s wonderful,” he said.
Mr. Bernard emphasized that his department had no interest in playing Big Brother. “All I want to do is keep bees alive,” he said.
As he spoke about his duties — examining queens, checking mite levels — an appreciative crowd of young beekeepers formed around him. Several expressed a longing for the kind of oversight and assistance the state offers, and were eager to talk shop.A woman asked about swarming. Swarming, Mr. Bernard pronounced, is not a problem. It’s just something bees do.
to see more photos and view a slideshow, go to http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/dining/24bees.html
Sunday, September 20, 2009
LJUBLJANA, GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre, September 28 – 30 2010
Systems and multidisciplinary approaches to the study of honeybee products from natural sources to human nutrition and medical applications.
•Current state and development of international standards and legislation for honeybee products.
•Practice in the introduction of quality control systems for the production and processing of honeybee products.
•Local trademarks of honeybee products and their success on the global market
•Nutritional value of honeybee products for target age and activity population groups.
•Role of microorganisms for honeybee products with added value (case of bee bread).
•Medical use of honey, current trends, and market situation
MARIBOR, October 1, 2010
Satellite Symposium on Apitherapy
Honeybee products for human health care
BLED, October 1, 2010
Satellite Symposium on Apiquality
Beekeeping technology: focus on technology for higher quality honeybee products especially for medical use.
DOLENJSKE TOPLICE, October 1, 2010
Quality of bee products - focus on organic production
LIPICA, October 1, 2010
Satellite Symposium on Apitherapy
Honeybee products in human and animal nutrition and health care
September 28 – October 3, 2010
•INTERNATIONAL API-EXPO EXHIBITION
•INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION FOR BEST HONEY AND HONEY-BASED BEVERAGES
•TASTING OF HONEY AND HONEYBEE PRODUCTS
•BEEKEEPING FESTIVAL AND BEEKEEPING EXCURISON ALL OVER SLOVENIA
•VISITS AT SLOVENIAN BEEKEEPERS
•EVENING SOCIAL PROGRAMME AND NETWORKING
•PROGRAMME FOR ACCOMPANYING PERSONS
The Apicultural Museum in Radovljica
The Beekeeping Museum is placed in the baroque manor house and displays an essential part of Slovenian history and culture in general - the rich tradition of beekeeping.
As early as about the middle of the twenties, several apiarists of high repute exerted themselves to found an apicultural museum. This plan was realized in the year 1959, when the first and sole such museum was opened.
In the biological room of the museum the life and the productivity of our Grey Bees from Carniola are represented. In summer the behavior of the honeybee can be watched live, too.
The Slovene apiculture has contributed to the Slovene folk art an indispensable share, i. e. the painted front-boards of the kranjic beehives, which appeared in the mid 18th century. The older motifs are religious; before the end of the 18th century, profane motifs appeared. The acme of the illustrated beehive front-boards continued sixty years (1820-1860). In those days, this painting spread over the entire Slovene share in the Alps. This part of the exhibition is placed in the central room of the museum.
In the open, the bees chose for their residence underground holes or hollow trees. After these patterns, the apiarist prepared beehives of cut-to-shape logs, or (in corn land, e. g. Bela Krajina - south-east of Slovenia or in Prekmurje - nord-east of Slovenia) of straw. A considerable advance of bee-keeping was rendered possible by the cultivation of buckwheat in the 15th century, promising a plentiful pasture in autumn. Later on, the bee- keepers began to built beehives of boards, which were easier to work. A beehive timbered of boards is mentioned 1689 by Janez Vajkard Valvasor (1641-1693) in his book Die Ehre der Herzogtums Krain (Honour of the Duchy of Carniola). Since the 18th century, the horizontal beehive timbered of boards was already in general use.
The exposed implements comprise: devices for smoking the bees out; for drawing the honey out; for pressing the wax; sundry feeding devices for the bees, and a vehicle for transporting the bees to their meadow. This transport was practiced already in the 17th century by Slovene bee-keepers. Anton Janša (1734-1773), teacher of apiculture in Vienna, has introduced there this kind of transport. Janša is one of the prominent Slovene apiarists, and one of the first in the world to discover that the drone fecundates the queen-bee outside the bee-hive.
One part of the museum shows all jobs of beekeeper through the year (modern beekeeping equipment, video) and includes multimedia, which represents bee pastures, biology, products and symbolism of the bee, Slovene literature and beekeepers, bee dwellings, beekeeper's principal tasks and Slovene phenomenon- painted front-boards of beehives.
The last room of Apicultural museum serves as display room for periodical exhibitions (bee-products and their use in medicine and cosmetics, hand fretted moulds, gingerbread, copies of painted front boards...).
Ida Gnilsak, custodian
Apicultural Museum, The Radovljica Commune Museums (home page)
Linhartov trg 1
Friday, September 11, 2009
The Faschinating and Perilous World of the Honey Bees: A Conversation with New Mexico Beekeeper Les Crowder
AM: Honeybees have this incredible capacity for navigation, memory and communication. Can you explain how honeybees locate floral sources and then communicate that to the other bees in the hive?
Les: A number of bees as they get older, start flying outside the hive and become the field bees as opposed to hive bees that work inside the hive building wax and feeding baby bees. Among the field bees, there are certain bees that designate themselves as scouts, and so rather than just work at taking nectar back and forth; they’re constantly searching for new nectar sources.
When they find the nectar source, they leave a little bit of a scent around the flowers. They fly back to the hive and then they do a dance in the hive, and the dance indicates an angle in relation to the sun, and a distance. So it says basically fly 35 degrees to the left of the sun, so to speak, 12 bee miles, and then keep your nose peeled and you’ll smell my scent and that’s where the flowers are.
They’ll bring some of the nectar and the pollen from the flower to feed the bees that are watching them. The bees that gather around them watch the dance, gather the concept and know which direction to go, and then head out to look for those flowers.
AM: Do the bees know when flowers produce nectar?
Les: Yes. For instance, there was a flower I had seen for years, and I often wondered, boy, it’s a beautiful little flower, but I never see bees working it. And then I was walking at five in the morning and there were bees buzzing all over it. I had never looked at it that early in the morning. Flowers are all competing for bees, each species of flower has a tendency to produce nectar at different times in the day in order to get the bee at that time of the day to concentrate on their species of flower. In that way, they divvy up the day so each species gets a portion of the day to itself. Some flowers will try to make nectar throughout the day, but others definitely have a certain time of day that the bees get to know.
AM: I’ve read that honeybees provide pollination for anywhere from nine billion dollars worth of food crops to twenty billion dollars. What are some of those crops in New Mexico that depend on bee pollination?
Les: In New Mexico there’s all the fruit trees – apples, peaches, pears, plums, as well as raspberries There’s a lot of melon growing, everything in the cucumber family and squash need pollination; and there are seed growers in New Mexico for onions and cotton and alfalfa, and those all need pollination.
Interestingly enough, onion honey is a totally delicious honey that has no flavor of onion in it whatsoever. Cotton honey tends to be very sweet, very clear. I don’t like it. I feel like it has almost no taste. But some people really like it. The danger with cotton is it’s so heavily sprayed that it kills a lot of bees. It’s a tricky crop to try to get near and especially to try to pollinate. They have to promise not to spray during the bloom.
AM: What are some of the problems that are contributing to bee colony collapse disorder?
Les: Last year in California, I was helping the honeybee inspector in Modesto County inspect hives. There were a lot of hives with dead bees arriving from out of the state that were full of apistan and check mite strips, which are insecticides that beekeepers use to kill parasitic mites. You’re supposed to leave them for two weeks and take them out, and then dispose of them as hazardous materials, which costs a lot of money to dispose of them properly. Beekeepers were struggling, the price of honey is very low, and diesel fuel is high, etc. So they didn’t take the time or pay for the labor to remove the strips; they just left them in. Next year, they put in two more, and next year two more.
When the inspector took samples of those combs and had them analyzed he found lethal doses of both miticides in the honeycombs due to an accumulation of the chemicals. Each time the beekeeper was putting in the strip, he was putting in a sub-lethal dose for a honeybee. But it’s a fat-soluble insecticide that over the years was absorbing into the beeswax and killing the bees. That’s one of the factors.
High fructose corn syrup, which is a low cost food source for bees used by industrial beekeepers transporting bees across country, interferes with their digestion. Antibiotics interfere with their digestion, just like if we take antibiotics we get diarrhea sometimes because we kill off our natural flora. My wife just recently wrote an article for the American Bee Journal, which they declined to print, indicating that the use of antibiotics can set up conditions for things like Candida and Nocema cerranae [a pathogen tentatively linked to colony collapse disorder] in honey bees. In beekeeping, they advise you to give antibiotics to bees, every beehive, every year as a preventative. It is administered in the winter to prevent them from getting sick in the summer, which doesn’t make any sense.
AM: Administering sub-therapeutic antibiotics has proven to be a risky policy in cattle breeding resulting in increased antibiotic resistance, why would it be any different with bees?
Les: Right, and then you feed bees high fructose corn syrup on top of that and destroy their digestion, weaken them, expose them to insecticides. Just one thing after another. Too many hits from too many directions.
AM: What are some of the other industrial practices that are detrimental to the health of the bees?
Les: Beekeepers often use a bee repellent to drive the bees out of the top of the beehive where the honey is so they can lift the whole box and put it on the truck. Some of the bee repellents are relatively innocuous, but they smell bad and bees often come out rubbing their eyes. I always felt repulsed by them and sorry for the bee.
There is a wax moth in all beehives that will eat honeycombs. So they fumigate the honeycombs with some kind of poison, and nowadays the legal poison is mothballs.
The other thing is the reuse over the many years of the comb. Just now reading an article in the American Bee Journal about how Europeans have always felt that you should renew the honeycomb in the brood nest because it gets dirty; it gets old. The cocoons build up in there and it gets full of bee feces, larval feces, and the honey bees eventually, in nature, abandon their old combs, let the wax moths eat them up and then they clear the wax moth webbing and build new combs.
Every comb that you throw out, you have to replace for $1.50 or so, plus the labor or putting it together. So there’s a reluctance to cull the old combs, but the old combs harbor disease and there is a build up of insecticides.
AM: How about the issue of mites and miticide resistance?
Les: I started keeping bees when I was a kid. It was then I read an article in the American Bee Journal was reading about the varroa mite in Europe, written by an Italian who was researching the Italian honeybee in its natural state. He calculated how many feral beehives there were throughout Italy. When the varroa mite arrived, many of the feral hives died.
About eight years after the arrival of the varroa mite, he noticed a general increase in the feral Italian honeybee population in the wild. He concluded that they had developed a natural resistance to the mite. And, of course, nobody applied any miticide to those bees. They’re just wild bees out in nature. So, honeybees left alone will naturally develop mite resistance.
AM: Not allowing that evolutionary process of mite resistant bees to become the dominant survivors, we now have an opposite situation with the use of miticides, the mites have become resistant.
Les: Exactly. Initially one miticide was used for many years, which was a guaranteed way to select for a resistant mite, and that happened fairly quickly. So we went to two. One of them was an organophosphate. You had to get a special exemption to use it because it’s like DDT; it has a very, very long life.
I took a serious hit the first two years because I didn’t use any miticide and I lost almost all my bees. And then I got bees from the Russian bee project. I went to beekeepers conference in Colorado Springs. A lot of the bee keepers got together and said, where is this mite from, aren’t there Apis mellifera [honeybees] near there, and wouldn’t they be mite resistant? One of the experts said that bees cannot be resistant to the mite, that’s like lambs being resistant to the teeth of wolves. It made me angry.
But there was another doctor, Dr. Thomas Rinderer from Baton Rouge Bee Lab, who said fluvalinate [miticide] was sterilizing the queens and the drones and that we needed to find an alternative. He decided to go to Southeastern Russia, and he found that, even though there were mites on the bees they weren’t hurting the bees.
He called the beekeepers there peasant beekeepers. He said they didn’t understand bee biology, but they had mite resistant bees. So he finally imported some of those Russian bees and they’ve been great. I don’t even think about mites anymore. I see them occasionally, every once in a while I’ll see a mite on a bee, but I don’t worry about it.
AM: What are some of the other ways that your practices differ from some of those industrial practices?
Les: Industrial honey manufacturing uses extreme processing methods: pressing, adding water, heating, filtering, which, take all of the pollen, all the enzymes out, you’ve basically ruined it at that point. It becomes sugar syrup.
We just brush the bees off of each comb, cut the comb into a bucket, crush the combs and then pour them over a strainer and the honey drips through. We melt the wax in a solar melter. Because we squeeze and crush the combs, the honey potentially has more pollen and some of the propylis, which the bees us as a varnish on the inside of the beeswax, so our honey will crystallize a little faster. We don’t ever heat or filter the honey. We just let it settle, and let the wax float to the top, and sell it crystallized.
AM: Is honey basically nectar that the water has been evaporated off of, or is there further processing by the bees?
Les: There is a little bit of processing, but yes it is basically distilled nectar. Bees add enzymes. One enzyme makes hydrogen peroxide when exposed to water and carbon dioxide. So, if yeast begins to digest some of the sugar in the honey, which would make water and carbon dioxide that would turn on the enzyme, which would make hydrogen peroxide, which would kill the germ. So, it self preserves. The bees preserve it with a natural enzyme.
There are also enzymes that help digest the honey. Honey has got a variety of sugars so that it comes into our blood more slowly and doesn’t give us really high blood sugar and then subsequently low blood sugar. The plants make nectar to attract the bees. They put sugar in it, but it’s fairly dilute. Honey bees will take about eight to ten drops of nectar and reduce it down to one drop of honey.
AM: What are some of the other health benefits of honey?
Les: Honey contains pollen from your neighborhood, which seems to help people become less allergic to the pollen in their neighborhood. So it reduces allergies.
Honey has some trace minerals. It turns out that the darker honeys have more minerals and iron. Honey, if it’s been heated, is potentially not as good for you. You denature the enzymes.
Honey has also been used as a wound dressing. It is a great burn ointment. It humidifies and kills germs on the skin and actually feeds the tissue of the burned skin.When you place it right on an open wound honey acts as an antibiotic, but pasteurized honey doesn’t work nearly as well because the pasteurization gets rid of the enzymes that kill the germs on your skin.
AM: What needs to happen to protect our wonderful ally the honeybee?
Les: We need more small beekeepers. We need cities to encourage bee keeping. I was just reading an article in the American Bee Journal about a man in France who keeps bees on top of the Paris opera. There are people in San Francisco, right downtown, that keep bees up on rooftops.
Les Crowder is a chemical-free beekeeper, who has been teaching beekeeping since 1988 and is a member of the Permaculture Institute
Wednesday, September 2, 2009