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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Sunday, January 29, 2012

‘Bee’ing courageous

Teena L, TNN | Jan 28, 2012

Many of us stay away when we spot a giant hive on a tree.

The very thought of being there irks us out. But while all of us cower in fright and run, Josephine Selvaraj chose to adopt these bees and share her life with them. "Like others, I was also quite frightened by their sight. But when I started to move around with them, they became my lovable pets. I fondly call them as 'Angels' and not honeybees anymore."
She started her farm in Kondayambatti near Alanganallur with 3 boxes each constituting of 10,000 bees. She is successfully stepping into her seventh year with three thousand boxes - which is roughly three crores of buzzing honeybees. "My interest in this business took a dynamic turn when I started to realize the actual purpose of the honeybees. It is definitely more than just the money. Most of us are really not aware of the multiple advantages of honey. I take an effort to emphasize on the honeybees which give us the magical solution- The Honey" says the enthusiastic apiarist.
Josephine specializes in producing more than 25 varieties of honey. "We choose the trees which starts to bloom in their respective seasons and keep the honeybee box on the tree. My angels collect honey from the fresh seasonal flowers and gather honey for us. We do this process on Neem , berries and other trees that have medicinal properties." says Josephine proudly.

Apart from maintaining her buzzing friends, she provides free training to interested youngsters who are willing to start a farm of their own. She also provides them with some of her angels for them to start over. So far, she has trained 300 people and continues to do them every month. "I feel the use of honey is not correctly imbibed in the minds of a common man. Honey is the only substance that combines with the blood as soon as it reaches our taste buds. As they are very effective in upholding our immune system, there are chances that the average life time of the people can be increased these days", shares Josephine who foresees honey as a repairing solution.

Passion and commitment are the most important factors for attaining excellence and being apiarist is not an exception. Resting in her cupboards are laurels and awards that have recognized her effort. She signs off saying, "My angels conquer my dreams. I am literally addicted to them in some way. I often visualize that some day in the near future, all the trees in Madurai have honeybee hives".

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Bees" Melissa Crabtree.mp4 ...

One of the songs on the upcoming Melissa Crabtree album ~ "bees, where have you gone?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Banner week in bee science: Zombie flies & poisonous 'planter exhaust'

The online journal PLoS One released two bee studies last week: one on an old parasite newly found in honey bees, the other confirming that bees are being poisoned by the controversial pesticide clothianidin in and around the 88 million acres of U.S. countryside planted with treated corn seeds.

The parasite study was covered by Associated Press and has been widely circulated in USA Today, UK Telegraph and elsewhere under the provocative title: "Zombie fly hijacks bees' bodies and may explain die-off." On a near-annual basis since colony collapse disorder (CCD) first hit the news in 2005, media have reported the discovery of one pathogen or another "solving" the mystery behind the recent, catastrophic bee die-offs in which U.S. honey bee hives are disappearing at an average annual rate of 32%.

The current consensus, however, is that the die-offs are likely driven by a causal complex in which pesticides, pathogens and nutrition each play a role.

The pesticide study confirms a series of especially damning findings: multiple exposure routes at critical times and toxic levels for a suspect pesticide on a common crop.

The January 3rd pesticide study out of Purdue University has yet to be covered in a major media outlet, but it confirms a series of especially damning findings: bees face multiple pesticide exposure routes (pollen, dust, soil, nearby untreated plants, planter exhaust) at critical times (as nurse bees are emerging) and at toxic levels, for a suspect class of pesticides (neonicotinoids) on a common crop (corn) that commercial beekeepers say is particularly harmful to their hives.

Pollen collected directly from the treated plants was contaminated by clothianidin as expected, but bee-collected pollen samples showed higher levels, indicating additional pathways of exposure. This finding is of particular concern because clothianidin is even more toxic when ingested orally by a bee (2.8 ng/bee vs. 22 - 44 ng/bee contact toxicity).

Overall, the issue investigated and confirmed by the Purdue study is that bees are "getting it from all sides" in a mixture of modalities that probably ultimately defy quantification. Bees in and near corn fields face contact toxicity (drift of soil or planter exhaust) and oral toxicity (ingestion of contaminated pollen or guttation droplets) from a suite of pesticides, the most toxic of which persists and therefore accumulates for years in the environment. Clothianidin, which is among the most bee-toxic of the neonicotinoids, has a half life of between 148 and 1,155 days.
Poisonous "planter exhaust," dandelions & really bad timing

Among the Purdue study's (PDF) new and potentially surprising findings are the establishment of two previously unrecognized exposure routes, one through contaminated "planter exhaust" and another through untreated-but-contaminated dandelions in nearby fields from which bees are known to gather nectar and pollen.

“Extremely high” levels of clothianidin and thiamethoxam (both neonicotinoids) were found in planter exhaust material exuded into the soil and air during and after the planting of treated corn seeds. Planter exhaust tends to be especially mobile in the environment, and is likely dispersing to nearby fields and other plants.

Planter exhaust material :: Corn seeds are sown using an automated planting system that relies on air/vacuum mechanisms to space the seeds; in order to keep seeds treated with pesticides from sticking to one another, talc is used. This talc becomes contaminated and is then exhausted during planting, either down with the seed or into the air.

Timing is another special concern pursued by this study. Corn is planted throughout the Midwest from mid-April through early May, when the energy requirements of bees are increasing rapidly, as increased foraging is required as hives prepare for colony growth. Recent studies have established the potential for cascading, sublethal effects when developing bees are exposed to pesticides within the hive through stored pollen (e.g. royal jelly, brood comb).

During the period observed in the Purdue study, emerging nurse bees were feeding on pollen reserves in the form of royal jelly. Authors calculated that, at the levels observed, a new bee would consume 50% of the oral LD50 (a common measure of acute toxicity, the amount required to kill 50%) during the 10 days it spends as a nurse bee.

Readers may recall that in December of 2010, PAN and Beyond Pesticides joined beekeepers in urging EPA to take action to protect bees from clothianidin on corn and canola. These two crop uses were concurrently evaluated and approved.

Based on a leaked internal agency memo (PDF) that quietly downgraded the single field study on the basis of which clothianidin's conditional registration had been granted, we pressed for immediate withdrawal until some scientifically valid evidence of clothianidin's safety for bees could be offered. The study in question, funded by Bayer, suffered from a number of flaws including the lack of a control group and a suspiciously inappropriate focus on canola instead of corn.

This last point is relevant because bees forage from corn's abundant pollen, as confirmed by the Purdue study in which corn pollen made up over 50% of the pollen collected by bees, by volume, in 10 of 20 samples. Corn is also by far the more abundant crop, covering more U.S. arable land than any other crop — 88 million acres and growing.

The nail in the Bayer study coffin, if it needed one, is this: the Purdue study found that bee-collected pollen from clothianidin-treated corn were 10 times more contaminated than the deeply flawed Bayer study (PDF) in canola had shown.

We'll be taking action in the coming weeks, stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Deadly parasite turns Bay Area honeybees into zombie slaves

By Lisa M. Krieger
Updated: 01/03/2012 03:47:11 PM PST

Study: A New Threat to Honey Bees, the Parasitic Phorid Fly

San Francisco biologists have made a macabre discovery that might help explain the mysterious crash of honey bee populations: parasites that turn bees into zombies.

Infected bees go mad, abandoning their hive in a suicidal rush toward bright lights, according to a new study by San Francisco State University researchers.

"It's the flight of the living dead," said lead investigator and biology professor John Hafernik, also president of the California Academy of Sciences.

The parasite, a tiny fly, has been found in bees from three-quarters of the 31 surveyed hives in the Bay Area -- essentially, everywhere except Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

In a plot line similar to a George Romero horror film, the fly deposits its eggs into the bee's abdomen, then takes over. The hapless bees walk around in circles, with no apparent sense of direction. Some are unable to even stand on their legs.

"They kept stretching them out and then falling over," Hafernik said. "It really painted a picture of something like a zombie."

The bees' demise may contribute to what's known as "Colony Collapse Disorder," a phenomenon of failing honey bee hives around the United States -- and a great concern in the agricultural community, which depends on these pollinators.

Despite six years of intense research, scientists have been unable to find a single reason for colony collapse. Increasingly, they suspect that several factors, including
viruses and fungus, may be to blame.

"This is one more piece in the puzzle," said researcher and SFSU graduate student Jonathan Ivers. "But no one has come up with a coherent picture of what the puzzle even looks like."

The stakes are high, because honeybees are the primary pollinator of most nuts, vegetables and fruits. California's $1 billion-a-year almond business, for instance, is entirely dependent on the honey bees.

"The agricultural economy of California would be devastated if honey bees disappeared," Ivers said.

This creepy parasitic parable started in an unlikely place: a desk at SFSU. Three years ago, Hafernik returned from a field trip with a hungry praying mantis, so he scrounged for insects for it to eat. He found some bees under the light fixtures outside his classroom at Hensill Hall, and stuck them in a vial.

"But being an absent-minded professor," he joked, "I left them in a vial on my desk and forgot about them."

When he looked at the vial again -- a week or so later -- there was a startling sight: the dead bees were surrounded by small brown fly pupae.

"I knew that was unusual," he said. "I knew that a parasitic fly was feeding on them."

The fly's identity -- Apocephalus borealis -- was revealed through a DNA test. The same fly is known to infect wasps and bumblebees.

Ivers and fellow grad student Andrew Core gained permission from Bay Area beekeepers to set up traps at the hives, then caught 20 to 50 so-called "worker bees" en route to find food.

Infected bees were found in San Francisco, Oakland, Orinda, Walnut Creek, Concord, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Benicia, San Rafael, Mill Valley and Larkspur. They were not found in hives in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose or Mount Hamilton.

The parasitic flies even engage in mind control. Somehow they're able to hijack the bee's normal daytime behavior, turning it into a nocturnal creature. Seven days after death, little larvae emerge from the bee.

The casualties are hard on a hive in two different ways. Not only does it lose important workers -- but when these foragers are gone, younger bees inside the hive are forced to take their place. The entire labor structure of the hive goes awry.

"As you lose more and more workers, there's a tipping point, which could lead to collapse," he said.

Bees from the infected hives are often infected with a virus and a fungus -- suggesting the fly might be a vector for these pathogens.

There are other gruesome examples in the insect world of exploitation.

An Asian wasp stings a cockroach in the brain, and injects venom that controls where the roach walks. Then it lays its egg on the roach and its larvae eat it alive.

And there's an Amazonian nematode that, once inside an ant, turns the insect's abdomen the same bright hue as a tasty berry. The ant is eaten by birds, who spread baby nematodes through their poop.

While SFSU researchers are far from discovering a treatment for bees, the next step in is to expand their geographic search for infected hives.

Already, Hafernik has noticed a colony in the walls of his San Francisco house. "At night, they bounce against the windows while my wife and I are at the dinner table," he said brightly.

And they'll deploy a range of identification tools to better understand the freeloading fly. Next spring, they will glue tiny radio-frequency devices -- smaller than the head of a pin -- to the backs of bees, then track their travels. Once sick, do they re-enter the hive, infecting others?

"We don't know how big a player this is" in collapsing colonies, he said. "It could be a really important one."

Contact Lisa M. Krieger at 408-920-5565.