Sacred Honey Bee Evening video clip, CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO VIEW

Sacred Honey Bee Evening video clip, CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO VIEW
Click on this photo for a video of "Evening in Honor of the Sacred Honey Bee". Photo by Daniel Bahmani

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Take the survey. Get Counted!


Dear Beekeeper:

The Apiary Inspectors of America and the USDA-ARS Beltsville Bee Research Laboratory are seeking your help in tabulating the winter losses that occurred over the winter of 2009-2010. This continues the AIA/USDA survey efforts from the past 3 years which has been important in quantifying the losses of honey bees for government, media, and researchers.

This year’s survey is faster, easier and does not require your time on the phone. It is all web based and automatic, just fill and click.

Please take a few moments to fill out our winter loss survey at:

This survey will be conducted until April 16th, 2010.

We would also appreciate it if you would forward this email to other beekeepers. The more responses the better.

If you have any questions or concerns please email, or

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Jeff Pettis; USDA-ARS Beltsville Bee Research Laboratory

Dennis vanEngelsdorp; Penn State University

Jerry Hayes; Florida Department of Agriculture

Dewey Caron; University of Delaware and Oregon State University

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder Finally Explained: Too Many Chemicals

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A combination of toxic chemicals and pathogens are probably to blame for colony collapse disorder in honeybees, according to a study conducted by researchers at Washington State University.

Researchers conducted careful studies to uncover contributors to the disorder, in which seemingly healthy bees simply vanish from a hive, leaving the queen and a handful of newly hatched adults behind.

"One of the first things we looked at was the pesticide levels in the wax of older honeycombs," researcher Steve Sheppard said.

The researchers acquired used hives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, finding that they had "fairly high levels of pesticide residue." When bees were raised in these hives, they had "significantly reduced longevity," the researchers said.

Prior research by scientists from Pennsylvania State University found unprecedentedly high levels of two pesticides in every sample of honeycomb or foundation wax tested, as well as lower levels of 70 other pesticides.

The pesticides found in the highest concentrations were fluvalinate and coumaphos, used to eradicate the bee pest varroa mites, which have themselves been suggested as a cause of colony collapse.

"We do not know that these chemicals have anything to do with colony collapse disorder, but they are definitely stressors in the home and in the food sources," said Penn State researcher Maryann Frazier. "Pesticides alone have not shown they are the cause of [colony collapse disorder]. We believe that it is a combination of a variety of factors, possibly including mites, viruses and pesticides."

The Washington State researchers uncovered another potential cause, which likely interacts with chemicals to contribute to colony collapse: the pathogen Nosema ceranae, which entered the United States around 1997 and has since spread to bee hives across the country. The pathogen attacks bees' ability to process food and makes them more susceptible to chemicals and other infections.

"What it basically does is it causes bees to get immune-deficiency disorder," said beekeeper said Mark Pitcher of Babe's Honey. "So it's actually causing the bees to almost get a version of HIV."

Sources for this story include:

Bees in More Trouble Than Ever After Bad Winter

In this photo taken Monday, March 22, 2010, Zac Browning, owner of Browning's Honey Co. Inc, shows a queen bee at a bee farm east of Merced, Calif.
By GARANCE BURKE and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press Writers Garance Burke And Seth Borenstein, Associated Press Writers – Wed Mar 24, 8:05 am ET

MERCED, Calif. – The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives laden with pesticides.

Two federal agencies along with regulators in California and Canada are scrambling to figure out what is behind this relatively recent threat, ordering new research on pesticides used in fields and orchards. Federal courts are even weighing in this month, ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overlooked a requirement when allowing a pesticide on the market.

And on Thursday, chemists at a scientific conference in San Francisco will tackle the issue of chemicals and dwindling bees in response to the new study.

Scientists are concerned because of the vital role bees play in our food supply. About one-third of the human diet is from plants that require pollination from honeybees, which means everything from apples to zucchini.

Bees have been declining over decades from various causes. But in 2006 a new concern, "colony collapse disorder," was blamed for large, inexplicable die-offs. The disorder, which causes adult bees to abandon their hives and fly off to die, is likely a combination of many causes, including parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and pesticides, experts say.

"It's just gotten so much worse in the past four years," said Jeff Pettis, research leader of the Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. "We're just not keeping bees alive that long."

This year bees seem to be in bigger trouble than normal after a bad winter, according to an informal survey of commercial bee brokers cited in an internal USDA document. One-third of those surveyed had trouble finding enough hives to pollinate California's blossoming nut trees, which grow the bulk of the world's almonds. A more formal survey will be done in April.

"There were a lot of beekeepers scrambling to fill their orders and that implies that mortality was high," said Penn State University bee researcher Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who worked on the USDA snapshot survey.

Beekeeper Zac Browning shipped his hives from Idaho to California to pollinate the blossoming almond groves. He got a shock when he checked on them, finding hundreds of the hives empty, abandoned by the worker bees.

The losses were extreme, three times higher than the previous year.

"It wasn't one load or two loads, but every load we were pulling out that was dead. It got extremely depressing to see a third of my livestock gone," Browning said, standing next to stacks of dead bee colonies in a clearing near Merced, at the center of California's fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Among all the stresses to bee health, it's the pesticides that are attracting scrutiny now. A study published Friday in the scientific journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) One found about three out of five pollen and wax samples from 23 states had at least one systemic pesticide — a chemical designed to spread throughout all parts of a plant.

EPA officials said they are aware of problems involving pesticides and bees and the agency is "very seriously concerned."

The pesticides are not a risk to honey sold to consumers, federal officials say. And the pollen that people eat is probably safe because it is usually from remote areas where pesticides are not used, Pettis said. But the PLOS study found 121 different types of pesticides within 887 wax, pollen, bee and hive samples.

"The pollen is not in good shape," said Chris Mullin of Penn State University, lead author.

None of the chemicals themselves were at high enough levels to kill bees, he said, but it was the combination and variety of them that is worrisome.

University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum called the results "kind of alarming."

Despite EPA assurances, environmental groups don't think the EPA is doing enough on pesticides.

Bayer Crop Science started petitioning the agency to approve a new pesticide for sale in 2006. After reviewing the company's studies of its effects on bees, the EPA gave Bayer conditional approval to sell the product two years later, but said it had to carry a label warning that it was "potentially toxic to honey bee larvae through residues in pollen and nectar."

The Natural Resources Defense Council sued, saying the agency failed to give the public timely notice for the new pesticide application. In December, a federal judge in New York agreed, banning the pesticide's sale and earlier this month, two more judges upheld the ruling.

"This court decision is obviously very painful for us right now, and for growers who don't have access to that product," said Jack Boyne, an entomologist and spokesman for Bayer Crop Science. "This product quite frankly is not harmful to honeybees."

Boyne said the pesticide was sold for only about a year and most sales were in California, Arizona and Florida. The product is intended to disrupt the mating patterns of insects that threaten citrus, lettuce and grapes, he said.

Berenbaum's research shows pesticides are not the only problem. She said multiple viruses also are attacking the bees, making it tough to propose a single solution.

"Things are still heading downhill," she said.

For Browning, one of the country's largest commercial beekeepers, the latest woes have led to a $1 million loss this year.

"It's just hard to get past this," he said, watching as workers cleaned honey from empty wooden hives Monday. "I'm going to rebuild, but I have plenty of friends who aren't going to make it."


AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein reported from Washington, D.C.


On the Net:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Colony Collapse Disorder:

The study in Public Library of Science One:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bees in the City? New York May Let the Hives Come Out of Hiding

New York Times

Kathleen Boyer suspects the mailman.

Room for Debate: What We Know Now About Saving Bees

She said she could not think of anyone else in her neighborhood who would have complained about the two beehives she kept under a pine tree in her front yard in Flatbush, Brooklyn, leading the city’s health department to fine her $2,000 last fall.

“I was kind of surprised,” said Mrs. Boyer, an art director with a media company. “People see us in our bee suit and they’d bring their kids to watch us and ask us questions.”

New York City is among the few jurisdictions in the country that deem beekeeping illegal, lumping the honeybee together with hyenas, tarantulas, cobras, dingoes and other animals considered too dangerous or venomous for city life. But the honeybee’s bad rap — and the days of urban beekeepers being outlaws — may soon be over.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s board will take up the issue of amending the health code to allow residents to keep hives of Apis mellifera, the common, nonaggressive honeybee. Health department officials said the change was being considered after research showed that the reports of bee stings in the city were minimal and that honeybees did not pose a public health threat.

The officials were also prodded by beekeepers who, in a petition and at a public hearing last month, argued that their hives promoted sustainable agriculture in the city.

A ban, of course, has not deterred many New Yorkers from setting up hives on rooftops and in yards and community gardens, doing it as a hobby, to pollinate their plants or to earn extra income from honey. Although the exact number of beekeepers in the city is unknown, many openly flout the law. They have their own association, hold beekeeping workshops, sell their honey at farmers’ markets and tend to their hives as unapologetically as others might jaywalk, blaming their legal predicament on people’s ignorance of bees.

“People fear that if there’s a beehive on their rooftop, they’ll be stung,” said Andrew Coté, president of the New York City Beekeepers Association, which was formed two years ago and has 220 members.

“Honeybees are interested in water, pollen and nectar,” he said. “The real danger is the skewed public perception of the danger of honeybees.”

Still, some beekeepers say their renegade status causes headaches.

Sam Elchert, 22, a Columbia University student who is majoring in writing and philosophy, said it took him months to find a suitable home for his hives, which resemble short wood filing cabinets with movable frames inside. His building’s management turned him down, fearing legal problems because of the hives, he said. A community garden in Brooklyn welcomed the hives, but wanted them tucked away in the bushes where they would not get the sunlight they needed.

A friend of Mr. Elchert’s, who owned a brownstone in Manhattan complete with a backyard, declined to house the hives because his father was a lawyer, Mr. Elchert said. So did Columbia, where officials in charge of dining services and some green roofs said no, though they were supportive.

A teacher hosted the bees on her farm in Connecticut for a couple of months while Mr. Elchert kept up his search for a home for his hives. Finally, in June, a community garden in Harlem agreed, and Mr. Elchert goes there every other week to tend to the hives. He said that an article he read last year about beekeeping introduced him to the hobby, which he finds “oddly relaxing,” he said. He said he had also read about declines in the bee population and wanted to do his part to nurture the insects.

“It is a good cause, and there’s some sense of morality, even if we’re not on the right side of the law,” he said.

But Mr. Elchert admits that so far he has found his hobby more “nerve-racking” than relaxing, and inspects the garden only on weekdays to avoid weekend crowds.

“What if somebody, some cop, sees me?” he said. “It’d cost me $2,000. It’d really ruin my day.”

Busted beekeepers, as it turns out, are not exactly common. In 2009, 53 inspections were conducted in response to calls related to the harboring of bees and wasps, health officials said, and 13 resulted in notices of violation and fines of $200 to $2,000. In 2008, 48 inspections were made and 7 citations were issued.

Beekeepers say that beekeeping is a relatively low-maintenance and inexpensive endeavor — Mr. Elchert said he spent $500 on hives, equipment and about 20,000 bees to start.

Recently, 70 people filled a room in Lower Manhattan for an “Urban Beekeeping 101” workshop held by the New York City Beekeepers Association.

The class seemed more concerned about the challenges of keeping hives in tight, tall spaces than with the legality of beekeeping, asking questions like: “How high should the hives be?” (About five stories.) And “How much space is needed around the hives so that the bees can fly out to pollinate?” (At least 10 feet.)

But some students were worried about their liability should someone be stung, a hazard that leads most beekeepers to wear protective gear when they tend their hives.

“I’m not even allowed on the roof of my building,” said Matt Griffin, 33, a cook from Queens who said he would probably wait for the law to change and figure out “a few issues” before setting up his hives.

Katrinka Moore, 56, a poet and book editor in the financial district, said that if the law changed, she would ask neighboring churches to host her bees.

That would mean an end to life on the run for Mrs. Boyer’s two hives. They are now lodged with a friend — Mrs. Boyer would not say where — but she plans to retrieve them once they are legal.

Mrs. Boyer said that she and her husband, Chico, took up beekeeping last year so that they could teach workshops in Haiti, where Mr. Boyer was born.

The earthquake has delayed the couple’s plans, but their hives are thriving with 80,000 bees that have yielded more than 100 pounds of honey.

“We gave it to friends for Christmas,” Mrs. Boyer said. “They love it. Everybody is asking for more.”

Ms. Moore said that after working in advocacy against gas drilling in upstate New York, she looked to beekeeping for some relief.

She said: “You get honey. You’re also pollinating gardens. It’s such a positive, happy thing to do.”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reinstate the Boy Scout Beekeeping merit badge

Christopher Stowell

We’d like to introduce you to Christopher Stowell, a Boy Scout in Troop 250, Skiatook, OK. Christopher recently asked our help. He is submitting a proposal to the National Boy Scout Council to reinstate the Boy Scout Beekeeping merit badge which was discontinued in 1995.

Christopher says, “I believe that now more than ever before the survival of the honey bee is important to all. If other boys are not encouraged to learn how to become beekeepers, the honey bee will surely die out. Not only do I feel this way, but beekeepers all across America believe in the importance of teaching the younger generations the importance of the honey bee."

He not only enlisted our help but has also contacted beekeeping organizations across the country for their endorsement and pledge that they will help train the Boy Scouts interested in beekeeping.

We encourage you to send the letter for Christopher. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the designated area. We will print and send all of the letters to Christopher at the end of June to support his proposal.

You can also sign a petition at The Experience Project website to show your support.

Good luck Christopher! We appreciate your hard work!

Bee pendant by Alex Woo to support the bees


When jewelry designer Alex Woo noticed the Häagen-Dazs loves Honey Bees logo on the package of ice cream she was enjoying, she was eager to learn more. She had just created a bee pendant for her Little Seasons collection, and wanted to tie her new design to a relatable and important cause.

After visiting and learning more about the plight honey bees are currently facing, Woo approached the Häagen-Dazs brand and joined the cause to help these pollinators that are responsible for one-third of our food supply and ingredients that go into more than 50 percent of Häagen-Dazs ice cream's flavors.

In November, Alex Woo launched her new bee-shaped pendant, and will donate 10 percent of the sales of each necklace to university research that focuses on determining the cause of the honey bee crisis. The pendants are available in silver, gold, white gold with diamonds and a special edition yellow gold with diamonds.

Visit to learn more about these pendants and how you can help the honey bees.

Judge Upholds Ban of Spriotetramat….

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A federal appeals court refused to delay a ban on the sale of a pesticide that some environmental groups claim is killing honeybees.

The decision prevents Bayer CropScience, from selling its pesticide, Spirotetramat, while the company appeals a lower court ruling that halted sales.

"Bayer has demonstrated neither that it will suffer irreparable injury absent a stay, nor that it has a substantial possibility of success on the merits of its appeal," U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood and U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph McLaughlin said in the ruling this week.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering what to do with existing stock of Spirotetramat, known by the trade names Movento and Ultor, said spokesman Dale Kemery.

Sales of the pesticide remain legal in Europe, Canada and Mexico, according to Bayer CropScience, which is based in North Carolina. Bayer's North American headquarters is in Robinson.

The decision was handed down three years after scientists identified Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious breakdown of bee immune systems that each winter roughly halved the number of bee colonies the nation's large, commercial beekeepers own. The cause of the breakdown largely has eluded researchers.

In December, Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote banned the sale of Spirotetramat on grounds the EPA skipped steps required in any pesticide approval process, including not taking public comment. Cote's decision did not explicitly address the impact the pesticide might have on honeybees.

"Bayer has been touting this as a greener pesticide. It is designed to stop insect reproduction, and it seems to do the same thing to bees," said Aaron Colangelo, an attorney for the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, which, along with the Portland, Ore.-based wildlife conservation group Xerces Society, sued the EPA.

Jack Boyne, an entomologist for Bayer CropScience, said the company is confident the EPA will reapprove Spirotetramat's registration.

"It is unprecedented for a lower court to vacate an approval. We believe the decision was not correct. We have been injured improperly and believe that science is on our side," he said. "As the manufacturer, we are not allowed to sell our inventory of product to our distributors."

The EPA approved Spirotetramat in 2008 for use on hundreds of crops, including apples, pears, peaches, oranges, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, almonds and spinach. Bayer CropScience developed the pesticide after scientists identified Colony Collapse Disorder in late 2006.

"This is one of the safest insecticides for bees," Boyne said.

According to the Department of Agriculture, bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops in the United States.

An estimated 29 percent of all U.S. honeybee colonies died last winter, about 11 percentage points higher than what beekeepers consider normal, but lower than losses during the previous two winters.

Colony Collapse Disorder is linked to viruses, mites, poor bee treatment and poor nutrition, said Dennis van Engelsdorp, a honeybee expert and researcher at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Yet the cause of the die-off remains elusive.

"Will we ever have one cause for cancer? That's what this is like," van Engelsdorp said.

Dave Hackenberg of Lewisburg in Union County is Pennsylvania's largest commercial beekeeper. Because of his concerns about the effect of pesticides on his bees, for the first time in 42 years, Hackenberg will not take his bees to Florida to pollinate oranges.

"I am not going to put my bees in orange groves. The chemicals they are using are doing something that is breaking down bees' immune systems," he said.

This message brought to you by Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping

Monday, March 1, 2010

2009: Worst U.S. Honey Crop Ever!

2009 was a terrible year to be in the honey business. Bee Culture’s unofficial poll last fall came up with a crop estimate of 119 million pounds, produced by 2,223,000 colonies. The USDA on Friday released their figures. Though higher than ours at 144,108,000 million pounds of honey, it is still the worst honey crop on record. Ever. USDA figures showed a colony count of 2,462,000…a couple hundred thousand higher than our guesstimate.

Honey stocks left over from 2008 plus imports during 2009 totaled 248,571,251 pounds, and when you subtract the honey that beekeepers exported – 28,924,255 pounds, the final figure gives a nice picture of how much honey was used in the U.S. overall during 2009. That total figure is 363,754,996 pounds. If you divide that total figure by the average U.S. population for 2009, you get per capita consumption, which is, for 2009 - .903 pounds, or right about 14.5 ounces. Did you eat your pound of honey last year?

. Last year it was .960 pounds, or 15.4 ounces per person. The figure most honey experts use is a pound a person every year, so though a tad off, these figures are still in the ball park.

The imported figure is daunting not unlike a lot of other foods we consume. The U.S. imported 211,418,300 pounds…or almost 60% of the honey we ate last year. That percentage has been creeping up slowly for several years and no end is in sight. Less U.S. production coupled with the fact that U.S. honey costs more than almost all imported honey makes that easy to understand.

The average price of honey increased 2 percent over last year’s prices, from $1.421 to $1.445 per pound. Retail prices, however, were even higher, rising from $2.247 to $2.784 per pound, or just over 50 cents a pound. That’s a hike by any standard.

The last caveat for this report is that the USDA does not contact, nor count, beekeeping operations that have 5 or fewer colonies. There are a lot of these in this country and their production does add up, but for the most part, the honey produced by these beekeepers does not enter the stream of commerce, but rather is consumed at home, shared with neighbors and family, or sold to friends or coworkers.

This message brought to you by Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company.