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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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Great Bee Count in Marin and across the nation Saturday

By Mark Prado
Marin Independent Journal
Posted: 08/16/2013 03:58:12 PM PDT

The sixth annual Great Bee Count will occur Saturday, the brainchild of a Corte Madera professor aimed at tracking the world's important pollinators.

Anyone can participate, in fact the more the merrier, said Gretchen LeBuhn, who teaches ecology and conservation biology at San Francisco State University.

"The count happens all over the world, but is strongest in Canada and the United States," the Corte Madera resident said.

LeBuhn is building data on bees — and for the first time this year other pollinators, such as hummingbirds, butterflies and moths — which work their magic on flowers, almonds, apples and alfalfa, among other flora. Observers are asked to take a few minutes to note what

they see and upload the information to

The project has been gathering information since 2008 and now boasts the largest single body of data about bee pollination in North America. While people can make their observations and send in data any time, Saturday has been named the day of the national count.

"We want to see what is happening in our wildlands and open space," LeBuhn said. "Our goal is build a data set for more than just bees that people can use."

Saturday's count occurs in the wake of an announcement this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it has developed new labels that prohibit use of some neonicotinoid pesticide products where bees and other pollinators are present.

Neonicotinoid are a class of chemicals that act on the central nervous system of insects. Beekeepers and environmental organizations say they are toxic to bees and could be a significant factor in colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honeybees in a colony suddenly disappear or die. This year, some beekeepers lost up to 50 percent of their colonies.

"The proper use of pesticides is critical for the protection of honey bees, and the crops that depend on them for pollination," said Kathleen Johnson, EPA's enforcement division director for the Pacific Southwest said in a statement.

The new labels will have a bee advisory box and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. The EPA will work with pesticide manufacturers to change labels so that they will meet federal rules.

The new label rules affect products containing the neonicotinoids imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

Contact Mark Prado via email at

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Join Friends of the Earth in calling on Michelle Obama to protect the bees

The first lady has long been a supporter of organic gardening, and even bough a bee hive into White House garden, and now we're calling on her to stand up for the bees by opposing bee-killing pesticides.

Call on the CEOs of Home Depot and Lowe's to stop selling plants poisoned with bee-killing pesticides.

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Call on the CEOs of Home Depot and Lowe's to stop selling plants poisoned with bee-killing pesticides.

Our new first-of-its-kind report found that more than half of the “bee friendly” home garden plants sold at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s contained bee-killing pesticides called neonicotinoids. Please take action, and like and share this image to stand up not only for the bees, but our entire food system.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Latest issue of TIME Magazine, August 19, 2013

The Plight of the Honeybee
Mass deaths in bee colonies may mean disaster for farmers--and your favorite foods
By Bryan Walsh Monday, Aug. 19, 2013

You can thank the Apis mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls you'll eat today. Honeybees — which pollinate crops like apples, blueberries and cucumbers — are the "glue that holds our agricultural system together," as the journalist Hannah Nordhaus put it in her 2011 book The Beekeeper's Lament. But that glue is failing. Bee hives are dying off or disappearing thanks to a still-unsolved malady called colony collapse disorder (CCD), so much so that commercial beekeepers are being pushed out of the business.

So what's killing the honeybees? Pesticides — including a new class called neonicotinoids — seem to be harming bees even at what should be safe levels. Biological threats like the Varroa mite are killing off colonies directly and spreading deadly diseases. As our farms become monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn — plants that provide little pollen for foraging bees — honeybees are literally starving to death. If we don't do something, there may not be enough honeybees to meet the pollination demands for valuable crops. But more than that, in a world where up to 100,000 species go extinct each year, the vanishing honeybee could be the herald of a permanently diminished planet...

Read more:,9171,2149141,00.html#ixzz2bPOkBbwQ

A Different Kind of Beekeeping Takes Flight By DOUGLAS M. MAIN

Much of the honey eaten in the United States and Europe comes from the European honeybee. But Apis mellifera and the handful of other species in the honeybee family aren’t the only ones that make this sugary treat. A much larger and more diverse group called stingless bees also produce honey — and they’re creating a stir among beekeepers and researchers worldwide as pollinators and as a newfound source of food and medicinal products.

Made up of more than 600 species, each of which makes its own version of honey, this tribe of bees lives throughout the world’s tropics. Like honeybees, they are social and form colonies with a queen and workers, many of which collect nectar from various flowers before bringing it back home to churn painstakingly into honey. Their foraging transfers pollen from one bloom to another, a service that many plants — and agriculture as we know it — could not survive without.

But stingless bees are pickier than their European counterparts about what flowers they visit, making them important for keeping certain tropical forests healthy.
Honey from a native stingless bee species cultivated in Bolivia's Amboró National Park.Patricia VitHoney from a species cultivated in Bolivia’s Amboró National Park.

Their honey, too, is different, containing more water — you would probably drink it as opposed to eating it with a spoon, said David Roubik, a bee expert with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

It’s also more difficult to get: a typical colony may only produce a couple of liters of honey per year, compared with 50 or more for honeybees. Their nests consist of many small “honey pots” instead of the honeybee’s regular combs. And as their name implies, they lack stingers and are generally less aggressive than honeybees, making them easier to raise; they’re kept as “pets” in many places and can often be tended to by children.

Because there are so many different species of stingless, or meloponine, bees, they produce a wide variety of honey. Its taste has been variously described as sweeter, more bitter or sharper than the honeybee’s product, often with a delightful floral aftertaste, said Stephen Buchmann, a native bee researcher at the University of Arizona. Dr. Buchmann, who has sampled hundreds of varieties, said the best-tasting honey comes from the royal lady bee, a stingless species that the Maya people of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula have cultivated for 2,000 years.

Stingless bee honey also has a variety of medicinal uses. Numerous reports attest to its antibiotic properties, no surprise to native people worldwide who use it to treat eye infections and wounds. A study to be published by the Journal of Experimental Pharmacology by the researcher Peter Kwapong found that this honey is slightly more effective than a store-bought antibiotic at treating eye infections in guinea pigs. And other studies have hinted that it might help deter cancer.

Aside from the Maya, though, few groups have worked out sophisticated methods for cultivating colonies of these bees in manmade structures, partly because of the insect’s tiny size, small colonies and many varieties. Most often, people merely harvest the honey from nests in forest trees and move on, Dr. Roubik said.

But that’s beginning to change. In Brazil, for example, the raising of these bees for their honey, called meliponiculture, is widespread. (The word comes from Meliponini, the taxonomic term for stingless bees.) In some areas, it’s even more common than the cultivation of honeybees known as apiculture.

Patricia Vit, a researcher at the University of the Andes in Venezeula, for example, took humorous issue with frequent references to the stingless bee’s product as the “other honey.” “In the forest, the ‘other honey’ is that of Apis mellifera,” or the European honeybee, she wrote in an e-mail.
From left to right, "uruçú" and "tiúba" honey from Brazil, Mexican "negrita" and Bolivian "suro negro." Patricia VitFrom left to right, “uruçú” and “tiúba” honey from Brazil, Mexican “negrita” and Bolivian “suro negro.”

Indeed, many prominent meliponiculturists in Brazil and elsewhere have long waiting lists for purchasing their honey, said Breno Freitas, a researcher at the Federal University of Ceará in Brazil. This honey often sells for 10 times the price of honeybee honey.

Dr. Kwapong, an entomologist at Ghana’s University of Cape Coast, first learned about — and fell in love with — stingless bees at a conference in Brazil. When he returned to Ghana, he founded the International Stingless Bee Center, dedicated to studying and spreading meliponiculture of native bees throughout West Africa. Dr. Kwapong has helped train more than 200 people from around the region in the delicate trade.

The practice is also receiving growing recognition and study at institutions throughout Central and South America, Australia and elsewhere. In Japan, stingless bees are being cultivated to pollinate greenhouses, a feat at which they excel. Since they can’t survive in temperate areas, they cannot escape and interfere with local insect populations, a problem that has dogged the use of bumblebees for the same purpose.

Still, little is known about how to raise the vast majority of stingless bee species. That’s frustrating for would-be meliponine beekeepers; many give up on the idea because they cannot get the information they need, Dr. Freitas said.

Sam Droege, a biologist with the United States Geological Survey, said in a phone interview that the newfound interest in meliponiculture may be a harbinger of a revolution in animal husbandry. “In the sweep of history, we don’t often see new groups or classes of domesticated animals arising,” he said.

Of course, meliponiculture is nothing new for certain groups, most notably the Maya, who recorded their age-old craft in the glyphs in ruins throughout the Yucatán and in the Madrid Codex, one of the few surviving collections of Mayan hieroglyphics.

Yet the Mayan beekeeping tradition is in serious danger of dying out. Populations of the bee have declined with deforestation, and beekeepers are less frequently passing on the tradition to younger generations as they move to cities, Dr. Buchmann said. To counter this trend, he has taught a series of classes throughout the peninsula to encourage beekeeping and has published a meliponiculture manual in Mayan and Spanish.

While Dr. Buchmann is worried for the future in the Yucatán, he’s encouraged by the spread of meliponiculture elsewhere. But he doesn’t consider the bees a domesticated animal. “We just give them a place to live, and let them be,” he said.
Honey pots on the Paraguaná peninsula in Venezuela.Patricia VitHoney pots on the Paraguaná peninsula in Venezuela.