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

Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

60 bees and a queen

An Italian Piazza: The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata in Florence

A Prosperous City

In the early XVth century Florence was one of the most prosperous cities of Europe. Its economy was based on a strong textile industry and on an effective banking system supported by a reliable gold currency (florin).
Merchants and artisans were grouped in powerful guilds: in 1421 Arte della Seta, the Silk Guild, decided to contribute to the well-being of the Republic by founding Spedale degli Innocenti probably the first foundling hospital.

A Modern Institution

The institution flourished through the centuries and when the Silk Guild was no longer able to financially support it, the City of Florence took responsibility for it. The children residing in Spedale degli Innocenti were not only orphans and foundlings, but also children of families in temporary difficult conditions. The building maintained its original use until the end of the XIXth century, when, in consideration of its historical and artistic value, it was felt more appropriate to use it as a museum. It still hosts two small kindergartens.

The Piazza

Antonio da Sangallo turned the square named after the church into one of the finest examples of Italian piazza by building for a monastery a portico identical to that designed by Brunelleschi a century earlier.

It was a reverse influence that led to the erection of a bronze monument at the centre of this piazza: in Rome Michelangelo relocated in 1538 the monument to Marcus Aurelius to the centre of Piazza del Campidoglio. In 1608 Giambologna assisted by Pietro Tacca thought to do something similar in Florence. He erected a bronze monument to Grand Duke Ferdinand I at the centre of Piazza SS. Annunziata.

The monument was cast with the bronze taken from the cannons captured during an expedition to the ports of today's Tunisia and Algeria, from which Ottoman corsairs launched their raids on the Italian coasts.
This explains the inscription on the horse's girth: De' metalli rapiti al fero Trace - from the metals taken from the savage Thracian (a traditional enemy of the Ancient Romans).

In 1640 the rear side of the pedestal was decorated with a bronze relief showing 60 bees swarming around their queen: it was meant to symbolize Ferdinand's motto Maiestate Tantum (Great Majesty), but maybe the idea came from the bees of Pope Urbanus VIII, who was the ruling pope at that time.

thanks to Cassandra Sciortino for informing me about this beautiful image. (via Facebook!)

Plans for new meadery generate buzz in Point Reyes

Posted: 12/29/2009 04:22:35 PM PST
Rob Rogers

Gordon Hull wants you to know that the honey wine he plans to make in West Marin is not your great, great, great grandfather's mead.

"When I began making mead 12 years ago, nobody knew a thing about mead - or if they did, they were thinking about Chaucer, Shakespeare or people drinking out of medieval flagons," said Hull, who received Marin County approval last week to open his Heidrun Meadery on a former dairy farm just north of Point Reyes Station.

He expects to move operations there from Arcata in the next few months, establishing the first large-scale meadery in the county.

"A lot of the people who make mead today adhere to some of the more ancient recipes," Hull said. "And for people who have had some experience tasting meads, it hasn't always been a good experience."

Mia McNeil-Draper puts it less delicately.

"People associate mead with a syrupy-sweet concoction that is justifiably universally hated," said McNeil-Draper, a San Anselmo resident whose work with Marin County Beekeepers has given her the opportunity to sample a better class of the world's oldest fermented beverage.

"In fact, mead can be anything," McNeil-Draper said, adding that Beowulf Mead owner "Joshua Archer has been working with the beekeepers for two years, and the mead he has helped us make has been a treat for all of us."

Hull hopes people will feel the same way about his mead, a carefully crafted concoction the former brewer says is closer to sparkling wine than the beverage

served at a Renaissance faire.

"My idea was to appeal to a more sophisticated palate," Hull said. "I had to experiment for two years to develop a satisfactory product, focusing on making something dry and well-balanced."

Hull has spent the past 12 years making, perfecting and selling his mead from an Arcata facility he describes as "a light industrial warehouse." By moving to a 16-acre farm in West Marin - part of the former Giacomini Dairy - Hull hopes to expand his operation, producing much of the honey he'll use in his mead.

"We've been purchasing honey from other artisan beekeepers; the idea now is to use our own honey to produce our own mead," Hull said. "We'll also be cultivating nectar-producing crops, from fruit trees to cover crops, to feed our bees."

Hull said his six new beehives - which he hopes to expand to 12 by the spring - may travel throughout West Marin, helping other farmers pollinate their crops. That's one of the reasons the county Community Development Agency recommended the meadery for a permit. And it's good news for the bees, said McNeil-Draper, who hopes the meadery will help draw attention to an insect that's suffered tremendous losses in the past two years.

"There's been a great deal of publicity about the decline of bees, and that has made people much more aware of the products of the hive," McNeil-Draper said. "So I can see why people would begin to explore and understand mead a little more as a drink that's something different from what they might have had in the past."

In addition to the meadery, Hull has also obtained permits to raise horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens on the property, where he lives. His permit would allow him to produce up to 20,000 cases of mead each year - a goal that would require up to 36 hives and 11,000 gallons of honey - though Hull says that's a far cry from the 800 cases he sold this year.

"We're hoping to produce 2,000 cases in our first 12 months, and try to reach 20,000 cases in 10 years," Hull said.

Although most of his sales are to restaurants and retailers, Hull plans to open an on-site tasting and sales room on the Point Reyes property, with parking for up to 15 vehicles. He expects to begin work on the project as soon as he receives a building permit from the county.

Meadmaker Archer, who distributes his Beowulf Mead through Ross Valley Winery in San Anselmo, said he's looking forward to having a high-quality competitor in the county.

"I'm really excited he's coming. In fact, I envision possibilities for more meaderies taking residence in West Marin, creating a mini-Napa," Archer said. "I think West Marin is a place a lot of people like to go to refresh themselves, and it will be nice to have something new and interesting for them to do while they're out there."

Big Win for Bees: Judge Pulls Pesticide

Bee toxic Movento pulled from market for proper evaluation

NEW YORK (December 29, 2009) – A pesticide that could be dangerously toxic to America’s honey bees must be pulled from store shelves as a result of a suit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Xerces Society. In an order issued last week, a federal court in New York invalidated EPA’s approval of the pesticide spirotetramat (manufactured by Bayer CropScience under the trade names Movento and Ultor) and ordered the agency to reevaluate the chemical in compliance with the law. The court’s order goes into effect on January 15, 2010, and makes future sales of Movento illegal in the United States.

“This sends EPA and Bayer back to the drawing board to reconsider the potential harm to bees caused by this new pesticide,” said NRDC Senior Attorney Aaron Colangelo. “EPA admitted to approving the pesticide illegally, but argued that its violations of the law should have no consequences. The Court disagreed and ordered the pesticide to be taken off the market until it has been properly evaluated. Bayer should not be permitted to run what amounts to an uncontrolled experiment on bees across the country without full consideration of the consequences.”

In June 2008, EPA approved Movento for nationwide use on hundreds of different crops, including apples, pears, peaches, oranges, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, almonds, and spinach. The approval process went forward without the advance notice and opportunity for public comment that is required by federal law and EPA’s own regulations. In addition, EPA failed to evaluate fully the potential damage to the nation’s already beleaguered bee populations or conduct the required analysis of the pesticide’s economic, environmental, and social costs.

Beekeepers and scientists have expressed concern over Movento’s potential impact on beneficial insects such as honey bees. The pesticide impairs the insect’s ability to reproduce.. EPA’s review of Bayer’s scientific studies found that trace residues of Movento brought back to the hive by adult bees could cause “significant mortality” and “massive perturbation” to young honeybees (larvae).

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops grown in America. USDA also claims that one out of every three mouthfuls of food in the typical American diet has a connection to bee pollination. Yet bee colonies in the United States have seen significant declines in recent years due to a combination of stressors, almost certainly including insecticide exposure.

“This case underscores the need for us to re-examine how we evaluate the impact of pesticides and other chemicals in the environment,” said Colangelo. “In approving Movento, EPA identified but ignored potentially serious harms to bees and other pollinators. We are in the midst of a pollinator crisis, with more than a third of our colonies disappearing in recent years. Given how important these creatures are to our food supply, we simply cannot look past these sorts of problems.”

The court decision is available here.

More information on threats to honey bees at

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.3 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

Related NRDC Webpages:
NRDC: Vanishing Bees

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In Appalachia, a Researcher Makes Honey From Coal

Eastern Kentucky U.'s Tammy Horn explains the behavior of bees, which she hopes could transform Appalachia.

By Karin Fischer

Hazard, Ky.

The library at the Lotts Creek Community School is buzzing with excitement as a half-dozen grade schoolers struggle into full-body protective "wee bee" suits. As they labor with zippers and wrestle with veils, a visitor lowers herself into a pint-size chair in their midst.

"My name is Tammy Horn," she says, "but you can just call me the Bee Lady."

For the next hour and a half, Ms. Horn, an English professor turned apiarist, fields a rat-a-tat-tat of questions: "Are there really killer bees?" ("They're African honeybees, and they're more aggressive because they have lots of natural predators.") "Where are the bees in your hive?" ("You can't bring bees to school.") "What happens if a bee gets in my suit?" ("Kill it before it stings you!")

One of the most voluble questioners is Latiefa, a slender fifth grader who sheds her bee suit to reveal an oversize T-shirt with the slogan, "Coal mining for our future. We support Kentucky coal."

But Ms. Horn, a native of the state who returned after earning a doctorate from the University of Alabama, has a bolder and more complex vision for the region's future, one in which mining, long the economic mainstay in this impoverished area, plays a crucial supporting role.

Her vision is to create nothing less than an Appalachian "honey corridor" in eastern Kentucky and neighboring West Virginia, starting with more than 33,000 surface-mined acres, which could be reforested in a way that sets up a bee industry. She envisions training hundreds of local residents in beekeeping, a once-common avocation for their parents and grandparents. In addition to jarring honey and producing beeswax for cosmetics and other uses, beekeepers could offer queen-rearing and pollination services, she says, breeding an Appalachian strain of honeybee resistant to disorders that threaten to wipe out the insect's population.

Nearby colleges, like Eastern Kentucky University, where Ms. Horn is a senior researcher, could provide assistance and conduct critical scientific research. By drawing on a pursuit once elemental to their heritage, she says, Appalachian residents could reshape their land and their economy.

"It's not just someone sitting on the side of the road selling honey out of Mason jars," she says.

One day, Ms. Horn hopes some 25,000 hives could be supported on former strip mines. Under federal law, such lands must be returned to their prior condition or reclaimed for "better and higher uses." In its initial phase, her project, Coal Country Beeworks, has 53 hives on five sites.
Hives on the slopes

On an early-autumn morning, Ms. Horn sets out to visit one of the bee yards—rendered as "bayards" in her unhurried cadence—on a section of a mine operated by International Coal Group, a 30-minute ride from Hazard. As she drives out of the hollow, clumps of fog wreathe the ridgeline, and the mountainsides are washed in muted greens and grays.

The mine site lies up a narrow, switchbacking road shared by coal-laden trucks, which seem to loom around each bend. Ms. Horn points out an older surface-mining site along the roadside; a portion of the mountain has been blasted away and laid bare for commercial reuse that never materialized.

By contrast, the reclaimed International Coal Group site appears more natural, its slopes treed with high-value hardwoods. The mining giant was one of the first companies Ms. Horn approached two years ago with her pitch: Alter your planting mix to include trees, shrubs, and flowers that pollinators prefer.

The signature tree for Appalachian beekeepers is the sourwood, a low-canopy native that blossoms late, putting out white, bell-shaped flowers near the Fourth of July, tiding bees over from spring to fall flowers. Purists value sourwood honey for its distinctive flavor, floral with a deep, almost burnt-butter aftertaste.

While sourwood's pollen is manna to bees, it is considered a trash tree by the timber industry. Because reclamation work has largely focused on planting commercial forests, sourwoods have rarely been seeded.

Still, Don Gibson, International Coal Group's director of permitting and regulatory affairs, says Ms. Horn's proposal was never a tough sell, even when she told him she belonged to a statewide environmental group that has been a biting critic of the mining industry. It costs little to plant bee-friendly trees and wildflowers, he says, and the benefits are outsized.

"People wouldn't drive five miles to see a reclaimed surface-mine site, but they'll come 1,000 miles to see a bee yard," he says. Over the last two years, more than 250 people have toured the three International Coal sites that house the bee project, giving the company the opportunity to talk to visitors about modern-day mining and reclamation methods. "If the region can see the economic promise going forward," Mr. Gibson says, "it will be a win for everyone involved."

For her part, Ms. Horn says she tries to keep the focus off politics and on the bees. Driving up the gravel path she has dubbed Bee Boulevard, she unlocks the gate to the small fenced-in bee yard and its cluster of nine squat hives, which resemble chests of drawers.

She busies herself lighting wood chips in a handheld smoker, pumping the bellows to swathe her body in fumes that cancel out the aromas of shampoo and detergent, which could alert the bees to her presence. Then she puffs ribbons of smoke along the bottoms of the hives, which prompts the bees to eat more honey and, hopefully, become more docile. She learned the technique from a South African apiarist, one of the subjects of her next book, a global history of women and beekeeping. (Her first book, Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation, was published in 2005 by the University Press of Kentucky, and she is already planning a third volume, a study of bees and the trees they pollinate.)

Ms. Horn's first beekeeping mentor was her late grandfather, Ted Hacker. She was 29 and a newly minted Ph.D. when she was passed over for a tenure-track teaching position. Wounded, she retreated to her grandparents' farm in eastern Kentucky. The progress of Parkinson's disease meant that her grandfather was no longer able to negotiate beekeeping's careful rituals, and he turned to Ms. Horn for assistance, although she admits she "didn't know a honeybee from a yellow jacket."

Opening a hive for the first time was an epiphany. Instead of a rush of honeybees, she recalls, two or three bees floated up out of the hive and landed on her veil. "They were as curious about me as I was about them," she says, almost dreamily.

Back at the mine site, Ms. Horn expertly pries off the top of the first of the hives. She painstakingly works apart the frames, sticky with honey and resin, and lifts one up. The bullet-shaped drones dully buzz about as Ms. Horn examines the honeycombed frame, nearly solid with eggs, a new brood. In the distance, a blast at the still-active mine site sounds like a muffled thunderclap.

Quickly, she slides a small square of cardboard, treated with sharply scented thyme oil, between the frames. The essential oil accelerates the bees' instinctive grooming, getting rid of potentially deadly Varroa mites in preparation for the winter ahead.

As soon as she started helping her grandfather with bees, Ms. Horn wanted to abandon academics for an apiarist's life. "By then I had enough of academe to wonder if I was cut out for it," she says. "There are always going to be people wanting to teach Shakespeare. There are not always going to be people who want to do this work."

But her grandfather persuaded her to stick with her scholarly career, even if it meant eking out annual teaching contracts, until she could formulate a solid plan. It took a decade, during which Ms. Horn taught English literature and general-education courses at Eastern Kentucky and the University of West Alabama and was the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College. In her off hours, she delved into the history of beekeeping and explored how reclamation law in the United States and elsewhere could be used to sustain a more diverse agricultural landscape. When a retiring beekeeper offered her $36,000 in financing, she was ready to start Coal Country Beeworks.

It has been a scramble. Her position at Eastern Kentucky's Environmental Research Institute is primarily supported by grants. Her "frantic" proposal writing has yielded some success, such as a project with NASA to measure whether global temperature changes are affecting the blooming cycles of regional foliage. Economic officials in neighboring West Virginia have shown interest in starting beekeeping on mine sites as a development effort in that state, and Ms. Horn has been in talks with a local biosciences company about pollination research.

Still, the bee project largely remains a one-woman show. Ms. Horn's SUV is chockablock with bee suits, extra hive frames, and the occasional fast-food coffee cup, and she spends several days a week traveling the state to meet with business leaders, talk to community and school groups, and care for the hives. "Once the temperature drops below 55 degrees" and the bees winter over, she says, "I get a social life again."

In fact, the honeybees have been a boon to Ms. Horn's romantic life—after a front-page article on her work appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader, her high-school sweetheart looked her up. The two are now dating.

An opportunity to give a beekeeper's suit to a woman to a woman in Kosovo

From Women for Women International

You’re in luck – there are still a few days left to give your loved ones Gifts That Give Back.

Browse our selection of meaningful, one-of-a-kind holiday gifts. Hurry, the deadline is December 16th!

For women survivors of war, these gifts represent simple but important ways to become self-sufficient and gain control of their lives. For your loved ones, they make unexpected, meaningful gifts.

Like okra seeds ($15)!
These seeds of hope help ensure thatwomen farmers in Rwanda, Sudan and Afghanistan have the necessary supplies to feed their families or sell their crops in the marketplace.

Just days left to give the Gifts That Give Back:

Gifts like teaching a woman to read ($50!)

Education can open doors for women across the world. Give the gift of literacy this holiday season.

go to this website of Women for Women International for more information:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rev. LL Langstroth’s 200th Birthday Celebration

Rev. LL Langstroth’s 200th Birthday Celebration

Two hundred years after his birth in 1810, Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, known as the “Father of American Beekeeping,” will be honored. Langstroth’s discovery of “bee space” and his invention of the movable-frame beehive will be celebrated with a national network of exhibits, workshops and seminars and, with your help, perhaps a commemorative U.S. postage stamp as well.

Langstroth started with “two stocks of bees in common box hives” while serving as a minister in Andover, Mass. in the 1830s. Before long he was studying beekeeping in depth. He observed his bees and sought to understand their ways in order to build hive boxes which would allow him to better combat the destructive wax moths and collect surplus honey without harming the bees or damaging their wonderful honey comb.

This is the essence of the scientific method. Those who might think that Langstroth was an unlikely scientist would be misunderstanding the role of science in our lives. The scientific method involves experiencing the world in which we live, responding to the curiosity that naturally resides inside us, devising a method of observing and recording, testing and confirming our expectations, and evaluating the results we achieve. It is available and important to each and every one of us, just as it was to Langstroth.

Langstroth’s efforts gave us a way to raise large quantities of bees, keep them healthy and collect their honey in a truly sustainable way, without destroying their home. We all owe him thanks and, the year 2010, his 200th birthday year is a great time for people across the country to celebrate him in ways that benefit us all.

Our effort to honor Langstroth will include the study and appreciation of his efforts and what they have yielded. Throughout the year 2010, the Down to Earth Program, which I direct for the non-profit Science Friday Initiative (SFI), will be developing and coordinating a national network of workshops, exhibits and gatherings to teach and learn about the considerable science connected with the honey bee.

But there’s something we need to do right NOW. We must convince the U.S. Postal Service that America deserves a commemorative postage stamp created in honor of this outstanding under-appreciated American. It is my hope that the beekeeping community, anyone who enjoys honey, and everyone who appreciates the foods we eat which depend on the honey bee, will write a letter encouraging the U.S. Postal Service to honor Langstroth in this way at this special time.

I believe that a flood of letters will help to convince the Postal Service how important Langstroth is to all of us. The U.S. Postal Service Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee will be considering a Langstroth stamp at their January 2010 meeting, so please send them a letter, today. Get everyone you know on board the postage stamp campaign, and have them enlist their friends.
We will also be preparing a mass petition. Please visit the Postage-Due page to see how you can join our campaign, and let us know about any celebrations in your community.

Postage stamp in honor of LLLangstroth....needs your vote! Please read on.....

From The Great Sunflower Project:

Dear All:

I received a request from Carl Flatow of Science Friday (He’s Ira’s brother) to spread the word that they are soliciting signatures to get the Post office to do a stamp of L.L. Langstroth next year. Who is L.L. Langstroth, you ask? I vaguely knew that my honeybee hive had something to do with Langstroth so, I looked him up. Langstroth is considered the father of modern bee keeping. He actually invented the hives that we use today where there is a box that is filled with hanging frames. His important discovery was what he called “bee space”. This is a distance of 3/8-¼ inch or less that bees use as a passageway. If the space is less than that width, bees fill it with sticky bee sealant called propolis. If the space is larger than that width, they will fill it with honeycomb. Langstroth designed a hive where all the spaces were ¼ of an inch. He was a Congregationalist minister and took up beekeeping to keep his depression at bay. Next year will be his 200th birthday and Science Friday is celebrating it by developing a curriculum for schools to learn about bees and working to convince the Postal Service that L. L. Langstroth is worthy of a stamp. You can find out more at : There is some time sensitivity to this as letters need to be into the post office before the end of the year.

Bee Well!

The Queen Bee

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Honey Trails in the Blue Mountains: book about adivasi (indigenous) beekeepers in India

June 6, 2007
Honey Trails in the Blue Mountains

The Introduction to my new book... Honey Trails by Kunal Sharma

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) is a massive physical, ecological and cultural complex merging some of the most forested regions of the three states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka into a single ecological block. NBR is spread over eight districts - Nilgiris, Coimbatore and Erode in Tamil Nadu, Palakkad, Malappuram and Wyanad in Kerala, and Coorg and Mysore in Karnataka (Daniel, 1996).

The Biosphere Reserve is home to major honey-producing zones in the overall context of South India, with massive honey cliffs or ‘bee nesting’ trees present in large numbers. Forest sanctuaries have been accorded a high degree of protection resulting in abundance of floral and faunal species and a subsequent enduring tradition of honey harvesting. The dense forests and steep escarpments that abound in the Western Ghats provide a natural resting place for the Giant Rock Bees and ancestral dwellings of adivasis. These bee habitats are critical for the survival of the diversity of these forests having ecological, economic and socio-cultural foundations for adivasi groups.

The honey hunters of the NBR are renowned for their skill of collection from highly treacherous settings. Several adivasi groups hunt honey and each have certain methods peculiar to them. The Aalu Kurumbas in the eastern and southern parts of the Nilgiris and in Attapady are renowned for scaling cliffs more than 500 feet in height while the Kasavas and Irulas are adept in harvesting large quantities from giant trees. The Kattunaicken is an expert hunter in and around Mudumalai and Muthanga forests just as the Jenu Kurubas are eminent in Nagarhole and Mysore regions. In addition, the Cholanaicken is renowned for his legendary skills in New Amarambalam using basic equipments to scale high trees and cliffs. (Keystone, 2006)

The close link of bees to adivasi people is synonymous to linking ecology with livelihoods. This study has thrown open several aspects of forests, people and governance. Issues related to declining bee populations, NTFPs, traders and the thin boundaries between `legal and illegal’, came to us in different forms – in different places. This book explores these issues and presents facts as were seen during the travels to these areas.

After a decade of work in the field of conservation and development with adivasi people of the Nilgiris, this programme gave our team an opportunity to explore the whole Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR). This has meant an exposure to different adivasi communities, different forest types and environs. This knowledge has made the team aware that their work is `still not over’ and there are several issues that need to be addressed. Our work and perspectives have since then grown and extended to different parts of the NBR, especially in parts of Sathyamangalam Taluk, Nilambur and Wyanad.

Working in the larger Nilgiri region for several years now, we realized that the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, though intensively studied, is largely not clearly understood. Aspects of the forest, of the people, of the degradations occurring in many parts and of the uniqueness of the region are hardly presented coherently.

With our experiences from the study, it was a keenly felt opinion of the team members that the project should move ahead and primed for visibility for larger sections of the society and interested readers. The natural progression was a publication that would in effect, comprise surveys undertaken during the programme, our travails and outputs into a single unit for a varied viewership. The book thus, is a study on a unique and ecologically fragile region of the nation and an examination of the lives of the indigenous people who live here, in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The book puts forward the interlaying complexities involving bees, forests and various stakeholders. Besides primary findings, this book integrates information from secondary sources and from discussions with different people of the region. The book introduces in detail, the whole region of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, encompassing the issues it faces and present state of affairs of its indigenous population, called `adivasis’ or ‘indigenous people’ throughout this publication.

The book is divided into two distinct sections. The first part describes the entire Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve with respect to the study. The second part of the book details out the regions within the large Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and focuses on their specific issues.

The importance of this region in terms of biodiversity is elaborated in the first chapter in section A of the book. The second and third chapters cover the diverse people and forests of this region. Honey collection in the NBR is a traditional activity of the adivasis. From pre-historic times to barter to its commercialization, honey plays an important role in the lives of people. A comprehensive perspective of honey collection, its different traditions, the methods, techniques & resource use and the contemporary issues of market, pricing and quality are covered in the fourth and fifth chapters. The sixth chapter presents Keystone’s experiences and summarises the issues related to honey, people, market, forests and trade in the overall context of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It also provides some ideas for the future from our perspective and addresses some crucial development and conservation concerns.

The main issues facing the region are covered in detail by a representative subregion. This also elaborates the forests and people of that subregion and its ecological history. Each subregion within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve therefore gets its focus. This method integrates the various aspects of the region and is like a `ready reckoner’ for issues related to people, biodiversity & related livelihoods, changes within the society and the surrounding environment.

The final chapter discusses all these issues in its broadest perspective, drawing from the intricate aspects of honey and related issues and suggesting efforts for the future. This will also act like a guide for idividuals and other organizations in the area to plan their work around the issues described. The perspective from the adivasi point of view is different vis-à-vis that of other populations and stakeholders in the region. A large extent of forest land and its implications for the ecology are some of the issues discussed in this concluding chapter. This also throws up policy implications for this ecologically sensitive area and calls for improved measures for management of the land and its people.

The book, in its present form strives to be informative, easy to read and thought provoking. It is aimed at policy makers, forest managers, adivasi organisations, NGOs and other role players of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It is also useful for students and researchers of environment and livelihood studies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Keystone Foundation: beekeeping projects in the Nilgiri Mountains, India


The concept of keystone emerges from the nest-building behaviour of some birds in nature. These permanent nest structures serve as habitat for several life forms. Such keystone species become crucial in providing opportunities for other associated beings to grow and evolve. Thus, Keystone Foundation is born out of a simple ecological principle of the interdependence of natural systems.

Keystone Foundation has completed nearly fifteen years in the Nilgiris, working with indigenous communities on eco-development initiatives.

“Our Mission is to enhance the Quality of Life and the Environment with Indigenous Communities using Eco-development Approaches”

To work on issues of Natural Resources and Rural Development, with Indigenous People in mountainous and adjoining regions, addressing the challenges of conservation, livelihoods and enterprise development, through appropriate – knowledge & action, technologies, socio-economic innovations and institutions.

The beginning was made when four core members of Keystone, set out on a state-wide survey of apiculture in Tamil Nadu, in 1994. Trudging miles of mountain paths and dusty roads with backpacks, this field survey gave a precious opportunity to look at the situation of 11 indigenous communities across 15 hill ranges in Tamil Nadu.

The details of honey hunting techniques, forest vines used, associated traditions and rituals, social systems and economic dependence on such an activity, were a fascinating eye-opener. More importantly, they reflected on changes in land use, dwindling forest cover, introduction of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and other degradation, posing a growing challenge. Exploring and addressing adivasi issues of development and a natural resource from a local perspective was the key to our discovering a different approach.

Previous work in honey gathering with the Paliyan adivasi community in the Palni Hills during 1990-1993, suggested that this traditional activity could be an effective entry point to work with indigenous communities centred on natural resources and livelihoods. The survey brought the team to the lower Nilgiris, where a number of hunter-gatherer communities practise honey hunting and subsistence agriculture. A potential area for future work and learning materialised and Nilgiris, as a region, was chosen to begin work.
- Apiculture – Honey hunting and Beekeeping – exploring the role and linkage of honeybees and traditional communities in rural development and culture. Understanding the role of bees as biodiversity indicators and pollination agents of wild and cultivated plants.

White House hosts Indian Prime Minister: "pears were poached in HONEY FROM THE WHITE HOUSE BEEHIVE"

Obamas Welcome Guests With Curry At State Dinner


WASHINGTON — The first state dinner of the Obama White House had it all: Oscar-winning entertainers, Hollywood moguls, a knockout guest chef and even a wardrobe malfunction.

Traditional evening gowns vied with saris of vibrant colors Tuesday night at the high-glitz dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There were turbans and bindis as well as diamonds and brocades.

"Everyone looks great; we're feeling great," White House social secretary Desiree Rogers told a phalanx of cameras as she arrived, betraying no hint of nerves at the biggest social event of the Obama presidency.

First lady Michelle Obama had been a little more forthcoming earlier in the day when she described the trick to pulling off the event as sort of like being a swan: calm and serene above the water but "paddling like mad, going crazy underneath."

The 338-person guest list was a mix of wonky Washington, Hollywood A-listers, prominent figures from the Indian community in the U.S., and Obama friends, family and campaign donors.

Attorney General Eric Holder patted his pocket as he arrived and said his kids had prepped him with all sorts of questions for tablemate Steven Spielberg. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, asked who she was most looking forward to chatting with, ventured, "I'd have to name four." Then didn't.

Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania had to scramble when his ensemble went rogue at just the wrong moment: His cummerbund dropped to the floor just as he and his wife stopped to pose before a scrum of about 40 reporters and photographers.

Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood provided the celebrity quotient, but neither could come up with a connection to India. Underwood said he was there because of Woodard. She said she was there because she's on the president's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Dinner guests were treated to an eye-catching scheme of green and purple, from the green curry surrounding the prawns to the purple floral arrangements paying homage to the peacock, India's national bird.

Pumpkin was on the menu, too, with Tuesday's dinner coming just two days before Thanksgiving.

Hours before guests arrived and in keeping with tradition, Mrs. Obama previewed the glamorous table settings in the State Dining Room. That's often the venue for such dinners, but not this time.

Instead, in an effort to show Singh how much the U.S. values relations with his country, the Obamas decided to serve dinner in a huge white tent on the South Lawn, with views of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial through clear panels.

It wasn't your everyday tent: This one had chandeliers suspended from the ceiling and beige carpet on the floor.

President Barack Obama, in his dinner toast, said the setting conjured images of India, where special events are "often celebrated under the cover of a beautiful tent." Singh, in turn, told the president he was overwhelmed by the Obamas' hospitality and said the president's election last year had been an inspiration to millions of Indians.

Magnolia branches native to both India and the U.S. adorned the tent's inside walls, along with ivy and nandina foliage.

Guests were seated 10 apiece at round tables draped in green apple-colored cloths and napkins, offset by the sparkle of gold-colored flatware and china, including service and dinner plates from the Eisenhower, Clinton and George W. Bush settings.

Floral arrangements of hydrangeas, roses and sweet peas in plum, purple and fuschia evoked India's state bird.

Mrs. Obama brought in award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit, a Scandinavian restaurant in New York City, to help White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford and her staff prepare the largely vegetarian meal. Singh is a vegetarian.

Samuelsson said being chosen to help whip up dinner was both "overwhelming and humbling."

The culinary offerings included potato and eggplant salad, arugula from the White House garden, red lentil soup and roasted potato dumplings or green curry prawns. Pumpkin pie tart and pear tatin were for dessert; the pears were poached in honey from the White House beehive.

The after-dinner entertainment opened with the National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch, playing "Summon the Heroes," by composer John Williams. The lineup also included award-winning singer-actress Jennifer Hudson and jazz vocalist and composer Kurt Elling, both from the Obamas' hometown of Chicago, and Indian musician and singer A.R. Rahman. Rahman won two Academy Awards for the music in "Slumdog Millionaire."

Among the other guests: Hollywood moguls David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Guests with ties to India included spiritual adviser Deepak Chopra, director M. Night Shyamalan and PepsiCo chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi. Katie Couric of CBS News, Brian Williams of NBC News, Robin Roberts of ABC News and CNN Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta were among the media representatives invited. Oprah Winfrey was not on the list, but her best friend, Gayle King, was among the guests. Also there Obama friends Eric Whitaker and Martin Nesbitt, along with Obama's half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her husband, Konrad; and Marian Robinson, the first lady's mother.

Every aspect of Tuesday's events was fraught with meaning and symbolism, from the flower colors to Mrs. Obama's clothing designers.

For the dinner, Mrs. Obama wore a sleeveless, gold and cream colored sheath dress with an overlay of silver and matching shawl by Indian-born designer Naeem Khan. At the State Dining Room event earlier in the day, the first lady wore a skirt by Rachel Roy, who is Indian.

The dinner also was a debut of sorts for florist Laura Dowling, who's been on the job less than a month.


Associated Press writer Nancy Benac contributed to this report.

Under the Mango Tree: The HIVE, beekeeping project in India

Under the Mango Tree is an ethical, organic certified company which provides long-term market linkages between rural producers and urban consumers searching for pure, fairly-traded, organic certified agriculture and forest produce.

Established by Vijaya Pastala, and built on the foundation that human and economic security is achieved, UTMT partners and supports rural farmers, producer networks and communities across India, working in organic certified and non-chemical managed agriculture and forest produce based on sustainable farming and fair trade practices.

While the front-end of UTMT, the company is a market-focused, customer-centric, and profit-driven business enterprise, the UTMT Trust provides back-end support to this social enterprise through technical and capacity building, credit linkages and institutional development support that strives to improve the quality of life of primary producer families.

The Hive, a UTMT endeavor promotes community-based beekeeping. Its main objective is to support, train and partner with beekeepers across the country in the production and marketing of high quality single flora gourmet honey that is available seasonally across India.

The Hive

from petal to pallete...presenting India's monoflora honeys.

The Hive, an Under The Mango Tree endeavor promotes community-based beekeeping – “bees for poverty reduction” as a solution to India's natural resource problem, specifically decline in agriculture production with a view to increasing incomes and improving livelihoods.

Under this initiative UTMT supports, trains and partners with beekeepers across the country in the production and marketing of high quality single flora gourmet honey that is available seasonally across the country.

Bees in Art

Just discovered this website:

Welcome to Bees in Art

The world’s first art gallery devoted to Honey bees, Bumble bees and other Hymenoptera depicted in art.

Bees in Art is a sister gallery to The Land Gallery and exhibits artwork by leading artists whose fascination with bees and other Hymenoptera has inspired them.

We exhibit and sell cards, drawings, mixed media, paintings, photographs and prints in our unique and extensive online Bees in Art gallery. All work here can be purchased securely online today. Our aim is to offer you important and quality artwork by leading artists, with good investment value and at the best prices.

Bees in Art is curated by Andrew Tyzack, graduate of The Royal College of Art, London, UK and third generation beekeeper. Andrew runs several beehives and paints in the East Riding of Yorkshire, UK.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

bees and high fructose corn syrup

Keep It Cool. A new study shows that heat can produce a potentially toxic substance in high-fructose corn syrup that can kill honeybees and may also have human health implications. Some commercial beekeepers feed the sweetener, which is also widely used in soft drinks and processed foods, to bees to increase reproduction and honey production. As temperatures rose, the researchers found, levels of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) in products made with high-fructose corn syrup also increased, jumping at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers noted that that other studies have linked HMF to DNA damage in humans.
Science in Pictures: Honeybees

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beekeeping in Turkmenistan

By Mike Embrey and Bill Lord, USA

Mick Embrey and Bill Lord are extension specialists in the USA states of Maryland and North Carolina respectively. In 2001 Michael and Bill worked with the Farmer-to-Farmer project in Turkmenistan assisting beekeepers. The project is financed by Winrock International (USA).

Turkmenistan, formerly part of the Soviet Union, is a desert country in Central Asia with summer temperatures soaring as high as 50°C. The main agricultural product is cotton, and it is also the source of most of the honey. During Soviet times all honey produced was shipped elsewhere for processing and distribution. Therefore, even though beekeepers take great care of their hives, they have little experience in processing, packaging, or sale of honey. Beekeepers need to learn processing and marketing skills so they can sell honey and increase their incomes, which average about US$30 per month. Winrock International requested us to provide technical assistance in honey processing and marketing. Because of the repressive political climate in Turkmenistan, it had not been possible until the year 2000 to form a beekeepers association or co-operative. On previous trips, two attempts had been made to teach beekeepers rudimentary honey processing and sales techniques, but none of these efforts were sustained after the consultants left. Winrock was able to form a women's co-operative in the year 2000, and we thought that honey would be a good commodity for the co-operative to sell.

In 2001, Bill and Mike travelled to Turkmenistan to work with the newly organised Ilkinjiler Limited Liability Partnership (ILLP), a women's co-operative, based in the village of Bairamaly, Turkmenistan. The object of the co-operative is income generation for women, creating new jobs where none existed before, and incomes are limited to approximately $1 per day. A $2000 grant was secured from Rotary Clubs in North Carolina, USA, and the funds were used to buy honey, build processing equipment, purchase jars, and print labels. Since it had been difficult to interest beekeepers in processing and marketing honey on previous trips, the idea here was to set the co-operative up as a middleman honey processor. It is the responsibility of the co-operative to purchase honey from local beekeepers, process and pack it, and deliver it to markets in other towns to ensure a successful continuation of the marketing plan.

Turkmen beekeepers store raw honey in 50 litre aluminium milk cans. The cotton honey crystallizes rapidly. A survey of honey buyers in the capital Ashgabat carried out by a US Peace Corps volunteer in 1999 indicated most consumers preferred liquid honey. To liquefy the milk cans of solid honey, we helped the women's co-operative build a hot water bath to melt the contents of three cans at a time, and then constructed a double walled bottling tank to strain and bottle the honey, all out of locally available materials.

Another aspect of the project has been training in marketing techniques and opportunities. There is a limited market-based economy in Turkmenistan. We spent considerable time reinforcing the fact that quality products sell themselves, trying to establish a foundation of good customer service, and ensuring the co-operative kept store shelves stocked with good quality honey. One of the biggest obstacles is the lack of jars in the country, despite abundant sand and natural gas that could be used to manufacture glass. Lack of jars and simple processing equipment is typical in former Soviet republics, since under the USSR, the republics produced raw materials, but most processing was carried out in mother Russia. As the former Soviet republics struggle to develop, building basic manufacturing capacity for items like jars and cardboard boxes is a tremendous challenge.

After setting up the women's co-operative in the honey processing business, Bill and Mike travelled to other parts of Turkmenistan to meet beekeepers and develop markets for processed honey. One destination was Charjou, a city of one million people located on the Amu Darya (Oxus) River on the border with Uzbekistan. In a village close to Charjou, Mike and Bill met Professor Narkuly, a beekeeper who had been raising and caring for bees for over fifty years. When Mike showed the Professor the newly designed screened hive bottom boards he was beginning to use in the USA for Varroa mite reduction, the Professor showed Mike the one he and other Turkmen beekeepers have been using for years. He explained that beekeepers in Turkmenistan have been dealing with Varroa for more than 40 years. A good method of Varroa mite control that Mike learned from the Professor was that during the summer the beekeepers close up the hive entrances and replace the top covers with glass. This raises the temperature of the hives and kills the mites. They closely monitor the temperature and remove the glass before harm comes to the bees. Perhaps this method can be successfully applied elsewhere in the world? The Professor also demonstrated application of aerosol acid to the bees for Varroa control.

Narkuly and his beekeeping mentor Dovran work for a local farm co-operative to which they give 9.5 kg of honey every year for the use of the hives and land. Although they could sell the rest of the honey crop, they were limited to the local village and surrounding area due to lack of transportation. This is a widespread problem in Central Asia, where population centres are widely scattered and local markets are very poor. Beekeepers had considerable amounts of honey, as much as five tonnes, stored in milk cans, but were unable to sell their honey. Much honey is bartered, but little is sold for cash. Clearly the problem for Turkmenistan is not producing honey but in marketing and distribution.

The rest of our time in Charjou was spent in seeking out markets for processed honey. The grocery stores in Turkmenistan are primarily state owned stores, a throwback to communist times. Product quality and presentation has been poor in these stores, though there are efforts to modernise some of the stores. We met with the district manager of the state stores in the Charjou area, who was interested in carrying honey. With 55 stores under his supervision, it would have been a great opportunity. However, difficulties in invoicing and finding ways to pay the co-operative for honey has prevented the state stores from accepting honey for sale. A sale was made to the local state owned bakery, where a more progressive manager found a way to circumvent the bureaucratic maze of the banking system and pay for the honey.

Back in Ashgabat, the capital, we stumbled across a vendor selling 500 g Russian-made jars out of the back of a rusting shipping container at the huge Tolkuska market on the outskirts of the city. Tolkuska means 'push push' in Turkmen, as the massive open air market is always crowded with pushing crowds of buyers and sellers. While many consumer goods cannot be found in the stores in Ashgabat, if you have patience, you can frequently find what you need at Tolkuska. We got lucky on the honey jars, as the vendor had 50,000, and they were both cheaper and of better quality that the few Iranian-made jars we had been able to find to supply the women's co-operative.

Our latest update tells us the co-operative has been able to get their honey into a large Turkish department store that has recently opened in Ashgabat. The honey is selling well, and the women are very pleased with the profits from the honey business and the opportunities the additional income opens up for their families. The beekeepers from whom the co-operative are buying honey are happy too, as they begin to see cash income for their hard earned honey.

[Bees for Development Journal #62]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

new film premiers in UK : Vanishing of the Honey Bees

Imagine half a million adults skipping town and leaving their children behind. Picture an opened suitcase filled with bundles of cash at a bus stop and yet no robber wants to snatch it. The apiary science mystery known as “Colony Collapse Disorder” displays these very symptoms. Not only do the bees abandon their hive, but the queen and the brood as well. Unnatural. Unheard of. Even the predators that usually raid the hive for honey stay far away. At first, this occurrence sounds like an urban legend or an exaggerated tale. Except it’s not. The situation is both dire and all too real. Bees are disappearing all over the planet and no one knows why.

From the dawn of human society, the nature and origin of the honeybee has awakened the curiosity and interest of man. For the past five million years, this furry insect has been a creature of special sanctity, representing many things such as the human soul, industry, cooperation and the sacred feminine. Our relationship with bees also denotes the most ancient form of agriculture. Pre-historic petroglyphs depict women on honey hunts and Ancient Egyptian farmers floated beehives on rafts down the Nile to pollinate their crops.

And yet today, we live in a state of disconnect. The average consumer has no idea where things originally come from, not even something as vital as our food. They think edibles come naturally shrink-wrapped on a shelf and that the bees are merely stinging insects that make honey, when in fact these prime pollinators are responsible for one third of the food we eat, including most of the fruits, vegetables, nuts and even alfalfa used to feed livestock. In America, this amounts to about $18 billion in annual sales.

Since this nearly year-long investigation first began, thousands of beekeepers around the globe have come out of the bee yard and admitted to the same problem, with some reporting losses of more than 90 percent of their colonies. And there are no dead bees to be found. It is estimated that CCD has resulted in the death of more than one quarter of the 2.4 million bee colonies in at least 35 states across America.
The Vanishing Bees unfolds as a dramatic tale of science and mystery

So why are the bees dying now? This question merits a lengthy and well thought out response which covers massive differences of opinion among scientists, farmers, beekeepers and government agencies. Our film looks at CCD from the viewpoint of the beekeeper as well as from the perspective of hard science, while keeping in mind the mythic spirit of the honeybee. And with this crisis comes an opportunity for growth and change. As the bees die, some people are exacting more sustainable approaches to living. Biodynamic and organic farming are on the rise and a host of alternative beekeeping methods are coming into fruition.

Come this winter the beekeepers will put away their hives and anxiously wait. Will their honeybees once again disappear without a trace? If so, what impact will this have on our lives? The Vanishing Bees unfolds as a dramatic tale of science and mystery, illuminating this extraordinary crisis and its greater meaning about the relationship between humankind and mother earth.

Read more at:

New film blames drug firm for plight of honey bees

By Michael McCarthy, Environment editor

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Vanishing of the Bees suggests that neonicotinoid pesticides may be behind the disappearance of honey bees in America

It's a question that has baffled the worlds of agriculture and science – what is it that has caused the mysterious deaths of honey bees all over the world in the last five years? A new film may have the answer.

Vanishing of the Bees, which will be released in Britain next month, claims the cause is the use of a new generation of pesticides that weakens the bees and makes them more susceptible to other diseases.

Narrated by the British actress Emilia Fox, the 90-minute film tells the story of what has become known as colony collapse disorder.

The problem first appeared in America in the winter of 2004, when many beekeepers across the country found that their bees had suddenly vanished, leaving behind empty hives. Since then scientists have failed to find a single cause for it.

The film goes on to suggest that neonicotinoid pesticides, some of them made by Bayer, one of the world's biggest chemical companies, may be behind the disappearances.

The pesticides include the widely-used imidacloprid (marketed under the trade name Gaucho), which has been banned in France following pressure from beekeepers. It is still in use in Britain, the US and elsewhere.

Neonicotinoids are systemic compounds, which means they are applied to seeds rather than sprayed on to growing plants. They enter into the plants themselves and affect the insect pests that consume them.

In theory, insects that are not pests should not be affected. But Vanishing of the Bees, made by the independent filmmakers George Langworthy and Maryam Henein, suggests that long-term, low-level exposure to these compounds may be having a sub-lethal but debilitating effect on honey bees.

The pesticides, it suggests, may be the final straw for a bee population that has already been weakened in recent years by diseases ranging from the devastating varroa mite to the nosema fungus and other viruses.

In particular, the film targets Bayer, the long-established German firm which invented aspirin and is the world's fourth-largest pharmaceutical company.

Bayer rejected the allegations last night, insisting that its products did not harm bees.

"Everybody knows this is about the varroa mite, the nosema pest and a number of fungal and viral diseases," said Dr Julian Little, a UK spokesman for Bayer CropScience.

"The healthiest bees in the world are in Australia, where they have lots of neonicotinoids but they don't have varroa. If you look at a country where they have restricted the use of neonicotinoids, France, they have a worse bee problem there than they do in the UK," Dr Little added.

The British Beekeepers' Association said it did not have the evidence to say if neonicotinoids were behind honey bee declines.

"All the data we have seen so far is inconclusive," said Tim Lovett, the association's president.

sponsored links:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vandana Shiva speaks at ECONOMICS OF PEACE CONFERENCE, presented by Praxis Peace Institute

Last night I heard physicist Vandana Shiva speak at the Economics of Peace Conference in Sonoma. She is a brilliant, articulate example of a woman who speaks truth to power, and seems to revel in it. To me, she is Durga embodied, and I see her as a great source of inspiration and hope in the struggle for a humane and ecologically sustainable planet. Next time I travel to India, I hope to participate in one of the courses offered at her farm in Dehradun, Uttaranchal, India.

Take a look at her website and see for yourself the wonderful work she is doing. She did not mention anything specifically about bees, but she didn't need to. Her work is integrally tied up with the fate of the bees, and vice versa. Everything she speaks about and advocates for, if enacted, would help the survival of the bees, not to mention all of the world and humanity.

She has written many books...see further on her blog and website:

urania "bee" framm

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

So why have our bees buzzed off?

Bees ... on the decline

Environment Editor

Published: 03 Oct 2009

IT has become an international whodunnit - who or what has killed billions of our bees?

There is no one murder suspect. The only thing baffled boffins can agree on is that we must find an answer soon - because the busy bee pollinates one in three plants in the human diet.

The honeybee has certainly never been under greater threat. In the UK last year beekeepers lost one in five of their colonies.

Some bee species have declined by up to 95 per cent over the last 30 years. That pattern has been repeated around the globe, with massive losses across Italy, France and America.Many of those in the US have suffered "colony collapse disorder" where hundreds of bee colonies simply disappear.

New film The Vanishing Of The Bees features footage of one of the worst incidents, dubbed the "bee holocaust". Brett Adee, the world's biggest commercial beekeeper, is shown chatting beside his 70,000 hives in Lost Hills, California, in 2007. He says: "We haven't seen any of this colony collapse disorder here."But a few months later Brett is seen returning to his hives to discover the largest disaster ever seen in bee-keeping history - 40,000 hives containing two billion bees had disappeared.

Yesterday The Sun spoke to Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg - the man who first alerted the industry to the problem. He and a number of other experts believe the problem may stem from pesticides called neonicotinoids which are applied to seeds before they are planted.

While more evidence is needed, the idea the farming industry might be poisoning itself is deeply disturbing. Hackenberg, 60, says: "I first started worrying about this in 2004. It was so mysterious we were losing bees and no one could guess what was going on."I put 400 hives in one field and when we came back there was nothing flying about.
"I lost probably 35,000 bees in one go. There was only a handful of them left, yet in the next field where there were 200 hives everything was fine."It was only later I realised the bees had been feeding on pumpkins in a field where neonicotinoids were in use."

He took some of the bees to Penn State University for scientists to analyse and they discovered a fungus inside them.He explained: "Bees are not like cows which stay inside a fence. They fly for miles so if there's something different out there they are going to find it."I knew we had changed to using more systemic pesticides, but we had been told they were safe and it didn't hurt bees or people." Then Dave discovered a study by the University of Florida which showed how these pesticides had affected the south Meditterranean termites.

He explained: "They were breaking down their immune system, causing them to quit feeding. One of the things we had noticed was our bees wouldn't eat."We tried to make contact with the chemical company, Bayer, who help manufacture it."The Penn scientists said they were certain these chemicals were the problem. They found one bee with 35 different pesticides in it, so no wonder there's a problem."

Other people suggested the problem could be created by a disease carried by mites.Dave says: "But we've had the mites since 1988. When I talked to these scientists they said this is something that has broken down their immune system. These new pesticides have only been used on a large scale since 2004. I'm very worried about this."

This week The Co-operative - Britain's biggest farmer - called for immediate research into neonicotinoid pesticides. It has already banned them on the company's 60,000 acres of farmland. And yesterday The Sun reported how Liam Gallagher is campaigning to save the honeybee.

While Dave may take some convincing otherwise, the jury is still out. Chemical giant Bayer have rejected the allegations.

Dr Julian Little, the UK spokesman for Bayer CropScience says: "This is about the varroa mite, the nosema pest and a number of fungal and viral diseases."The healthiest bees in the world are in Australia, where they have lots of neonicotinoids but they don't have varroa."If you look at a country where they have restricted the use of neonicotinoids, France, they have a worse bee problem there than they do in the UK."

Others disagree saying Australia doesn't use bees for mass pollination and France only banned the chemicals in 2004, meaning they could still be in the food chain.

Here in the UK the British Beekeepers' Association say the answers are still inconclusive.Either way, the industry agrees an international solution must be found - for the sake of the bee ... and for man.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Where have all the bees gone?" New Internationalist Magazine

The Sept issue of New Internationalist (published in Canada and the U.K.) is devoted to bees. You can read much of it online @

Quest for Local Honey, film fundraiser

Our Film

Is obviously for and with the bees. We think it's everyone's bzzness to pay attention to what's happening in the honey these days. The bees are whispering quite loudly and we are on a quest to pay attention, document our efforts & share them with this world.

We will be reaching out to many of you in the Bee World, to keep us updated on bee-issues and to bee a part of our documentary.

We'll be looking at the disappearance of the bees, pollination as part of our food cycle, beekeepers of all kinds, local honey's effect on humans, the bee-human relationship & of course, how we are celebrating the Bee all over the United States.

Our Quest is one of finding how humans are working hand in wing with the bees to create locally focused circles of economics, sustainable food production while keeping the health of the hive alive!
Where are we heading next...

We are searching for and finding local beekeepers with unique bee situations. Let us know if you have a beekeeper in your life!

We filmed at the American Beekeeping Federation annual convention in Reno, January 2009. Little ol' us, Hollywooders and a Giant Irish Doc Crew. The beekeepers have become a media magnet.

In April we found ourselves in Applegate, CA to see a 9 year old beekeeper and her grandpa in the bees. We visited George Washington's homesite in Mount Vernon, Virginia where they are keeping, guess what? Not peanuts.

This summer we continue our quest right here in Nevada County, highlighting our truly local beekeepers. Next stops-honey harvesting in Santa Cruz & perhaps a program teaching prison inmates beekeeping skills in Chicago.

A Whirled Beet Production

Nevada City, CA

Report from Apimondia

For a recent report on the huge bee conference that just took place in Montpellier, France, check out Dr.Malcolm T. Sanford's blog:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Bee Priestess in Ancient and Modern Times

Paper written for the following class in the Women's Spirituality M.A. Program:

The Priestess: Sacred Woman in Ancient, Tribal, and Contemporary Culture
Fall Quarter 2008
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
Vicki Noble, Instructor

"Anarkali: Pomegranate Pollinator Mother with Bee Vestments" original artwork by Urania

As I begin to write this paper I light my beeswax candle, invoke Brahmari Devi, the Hindu bee goddess, and pull the Ace of Wands Motherpeace card from the shuffled deck. I light a stick of Japanese incense, the fragrance of which is said to support insight, intuition and inspiration. In all these actions, I mindfully mirror components of ancient priestess practices by purifying the space, invoking the deity, and consulting the oracle. Through these ritual actions I hope to create for myself an atmosphere that is receptive and conducive to the creative work of writing and pulling together the threads of my studies in this paper.What defines and designates a woman as a priestess? Webster’s Dictionary (published 1961) does not even bother to define the term “priestess”. It simply lists the word following its definition of “priest” without any further information. A current online edition of Webster’s defines priestess as “a female priest, especially of a pagan religion.” A further online search in the Free Dictionary states that a priestess is “a woman who presides over religious rites, especially in pagan religions.” I was then delighted to find the following description of a priestess from the online Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: (informal usage) “a woman who is famous for being the best at a type of art, music etc, and whose ideas or work change the way that other people think about and make art, music etc.”
Although this is bracketed as “informal usage”, this definition is supported by Norma Lorre Goodrich in her book “Priestesses.”. She states that priestesses “thrived in ancient societies in which religion, art, and science were not as yet disjointed.” Ruth Barrett, in an article on Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries writes: priestesses ‘were venerated as priests are today, as holy persons and leaders in their societies. Their specialties included religion, philosophy, prophecy, ethics, writing, dance, temple construction, and maintenance, ritual, fund raising, tourism, social work, commerce, and cloth making. She might have been a doctor of medicine, lecturer, archivist, singer, or performing instrumentalist.” From these definitions we can begin to form a picture of who a priestess was and what her functions were. By understanding her role in ancient societies, we can formulate a conception of how a contemporary priestess might be not only relevant but also extremely necessary for the continuation of life on the planet.
I go back to my Ace of Wands Motherpeace card, and immediately resonate with the image of a baby bursting forth energetically from an egg. It has perfectly reflected and expressed the energy I am experiencing as I begin to take the first steps in producing an event that will highlight the plight of bees and CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) in the world. In Vicki Noble’s book “Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess through Myth, Art, and Tarot”, she describes the Ace of Wands card as indicating expansive energy. “It opens us to our abilities…and a heightened sense of what is possible”. I find that this is exactly how I am feeling at the moment. The morning has been filled with a flurry of emails and phone calls, connecting the different artists and participants of the upcoming “bee” event. Suddenly there are synchronistic connections occurring between participants that I hadn’t even been aware of. Pieces are rapidly falling into place. I ask my sister if she will create a painting for the poster and she immediately becomes energized and excited about the project, and starts working on it the very next day. When I am casually talking to my longtime friend, musician Karen Guggenheim, and mention to her and that I have just discovered for the first time that there were bee-priestesses in Ancient Greece, (through a lecture by Marguerite Rigoglioso given in Vicki Noble’s Priestess class) and that I want to do something for the bees, she reveals to me that she that she knows ancient bee songs from Bulgaria, and has learned a bee ritual after traveling there in 2006, and would love to participate in a bee event.
Debbi Grenn, my teacher in the Community Practicum class in the Women’s Spirituality M.A. program at I.T.P. (Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Palo Alto) suggests that I contact a friend of hers who has bees and produces honey (I have decided to produce the bee event as my Community Practicum project). I contact her friend, and it turns out that she is the same person who took my friend Karen to Bulgaria in 2006 and introduced her to women who taught her the bee songs and rituals that she has offered to do for the event!
Meanwhile on the web I find out that there is already a thriving and passionate community of bee-priestesses in the world, and that I have just awakened to something that is already around but perhaps not receiving the attention it deserves (considering the plight of the honeybee, which will most certainly affect all of humanity.)
I take a deep breath and am amazed at how the pieces of this work have come together, and continue to expand and connect and stimulate a creative process. I reflect to myself that this is what contemporary priestess-hood is about. Ritual sets the tone and allows the woman to let inspiration flow through her. Standing between two worlds, she is able to channel these inspirations into substantive action that can impact the world in a positive way through education, art, performance, and ritual. Ruth Barrett believes that “as contemporary women on the priestess path, our primary function is to create (my emphasis) or become a “container” so that an experience of the Goddess can occur. Whether it is through ritual, writing, art, dance, music, or organizational skills, the spiritual focus or specialty of the priestess becomes the larger container that helps create sacred space wherein women can connect with the Goddess.” (I would add men to that as well).
As Deborah Grenn writes in “Claiming the Title Kohenet: Examining Goddess Judaism and the Role of the Priestess through Conversations with Contemporary Spiritual Leaders” , “in teaching -or practicing- goddess traditions, I believe we can offer women strong models of self-empowerment, deeper historical and spiritual resources and references, tools through which they can access their own power and develop deeper relationships with the divine…It is the role of the priestess or kohenet to bring women these tools…“.
When I heard Marguerite Rigoglioso mention the tradition of bee priestesses in ancient Greece during her lecture on the sacred oracles, it struck a chord. I can’t explain why. But I know that it was a cathartic moment for me. Even though I knew next to nothing about them beyond the fact that they existed, just knowing that bee-priestesses had lived and practiced rituals which honored the bees was enough to set me on the path of the bee-priestesses. This reflects back to Grenn’s statement on teaching historical references and thereby offering tools for connecting with the divine. So I begin my search for more specific information about these priestesses.
Melissa Blakely-Merrall writes in her blog “Blessed Bee”, “The ancient bee priestesses were called the Melissa, which means “honeybee” in Greek. Artemis herself was called a bee, and Demeter was addressed as ‘Pure Mother Bee’. The priestess of Apollo at the Delphic Temple was called the ‘Delphic Bee’ and the bee was also the symbol of Diana and Ceres, supposedly because of its virginity. Aphrodite had a shrine at Mount Eryx, where the Goddess's fetish was a golden honeycomb. Pythagoreans perceived the hexagon as an expression of the spirit of Aphrodite whose sacred number was six. She worshipped bees as her sacred creatures because they understood how to create perfect hexagons in their honeycomb. In Her temple at Eryx, the priestesses were melissae, "bees" and the Goddess herself was entitled Melissa, the Queen Bee.”
In “The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore” by Hilda M. Ransome , she writes that the “association of the nymphs with bees and honey is a very ancient one.” Libations of honey and milk were offered “to Aphrodite Urania as mentioned in a fragment of Empedocles preserved by Porphyry:
And with libation poured upon the ground
Of yellow honey, Venus is propitious made.”
While I have not found much more on bee-priestesses, and this paper is in no way an exhaustive research effort, it seems safe to say that their historical existence is indisputable, and although we don’t know exactly what rituals they enacted, they were definitely a vital and important part of the spiritual and ritual life of ancient Greece As for priestesses in ancient Greece in general, the earliest surviving statue of a priestess was found ‘at the entrance of the sanctuary to Demeter and Kore’. Dated to the first half of the third century B.C., it depicts the priestess Nikeso, in ‘elaborate’ dress, with long hair flowing, and perhaps holding an attribute in her right arm (now broken away). It might have been a ‘basket, water jug, a scepter, or a large torch.’ [note from Vicki Noble, teacher: remember that Connelly is focused on the classical period and acts as if there is nothing preceding it; you should qualify this statement by saying it is the first priestess statue according to classical scholars or regarding the classical period. Certainly other scholars would assert that there are many earlier statues, figurines, and murals depicting priestesses—all over Crete and the Mediterranean region during the Bronze Age!]
Statues of priestesses “seem to represent the first, and one might argue, only category of women to be broadly represented in portrait statuary of the classical period.” Scenes which depicted women engaged in ritual “reinforced and perpetuated” the model of priestesses as women who represented ‘powerful archetypes for female behavior”.
Jumping to contemporary times in India, where some rituals of the Shakta (goddess worship) priestess tradition can still can be found, Dianne Jennet describes how “ordinary women can be conduits of sacred energy, and what the academic literature would call “ritual specialists” in their communities.” When she was required to choose a sacred practice as part of her ITP M.A. coursework, she focused on the traditional art of kolams, or rice flour patterns that are drawn every morning by South Indian women on the threshold of their homes. Her experience of creating these kolams on a regular basis (ritual) at her home in California had the effect of attracting people in a positive way. She found herself engaged with the community in a way that otherwise might not have occurred. She came to be called “the magic lady”, and people began to leave offerings of flowers and coins at her kolams. Her practice ended up providing a bridge between the sacred and the mundane; men from the near-by half-way house of the Veteran’s Administration began talking to her, and she began to establish friendships with them, and grieve for them when they passed away. Dianne’s practice can be seen as a contemporary priestess practice (ritual) which positively impacted herself as well as her community.
In a similar way, as modern bee-priestesses I believe it is our responsibility to re-enact rituals which will draw attention to the plight of the honeybees. I feel strongly, as does my friend Karen that their plight mirrors the state of the world and is a reflection back to us of the extreme imbalance and disconnect between humankind and nature. By extension, it points to our loss of reverence for the goddess who is herself nature. By practicing rituals which honor the bee, and presenting these to a wider audience through music, art, dance, and education and poetry and performance, we are returning to life the ancient practices of priestesses who lived and breathed and walked on this earth. By re-claiming and re-creating our own contemporary rituals, we can at least rekindle a memory of a time when the earth was more in balance, when honeybees were not indiscriminately shipped from state to state to do man’s work, all the while being exposed to lethal chemicals, insecticides, pesticides, and parasites which may be at the root of Colony Collapse Disorder, the name that scientists have given to the shocking die-off of bees in recent years.
There is also discussion by scientists that Colony Collapse Disorder is being caused in part by cell phones. (The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously home-loving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.) Perhaps bees are ‘the canary in the coal mine’ and their disappearance (in 2007 the West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 percent missing on the East Coast.”) heralds a disappearing future. It has been said (and perhaps incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein), “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
At this critical point in time, perhaps the grassroots movement of women towards becoming bee-priestesses will not seem so arcane and irrational. Perhaps instead it will be one of the more sane solutions to the issues and problems facing the bees, and by extension humanity.

Finally, a haiku by Matsuo Basho, called “The Bee”

How reluctantly
the bee emerges from the deep
within the peony

What You Must Know about Imidacloprid

Pesticide Implicated in Widespread Bee Deaths

While environmental activists including the SafeLawns Foundation claimed a temporary victory Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the emerging battle concerning the widespread use of imidacloprid in Worcester, Mass., beekeepers and many other observers across North America are deeply concerned about the precedents being set in the rural community.

As the threat of exotic invasive pests spreads— just as more alarming information becomes available about the pesticides currently in use — it is imperative correct decisions be made in situations for which no easy answers exist.

On Friday, Sept. 11, SafeLawns, the Toxics Action Center of Boston and later the Pesticide Action Network North America sent out an urgent call to block a proposal to spread more than 1 million gallons of imidacloprid solution into 15 square miles of soil in Greater Worcester, in the center of Massachusetts. Worcester has made national headlines due to its overwhelming infestation of an exotic invasive insect known as the Asian longhorn beetle. Approximately 25,000 trees have been cut down already and imidacloprid, synthetic nicotine, is the only known treatment for the pest.

Imidacloprid, marketed as Merit by the original manufacturer Bayer, is well documented for its toxicity to bees, as well as birds, worms and aquatic life. Many beekeepers, environmentalists and scientists — though not all — feel that imidacloprid is the root cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD) of bees. CCD is a mysterious ailment that began wiping out millions of beehives in the United States in 2006, just a year after imidacloprid replaced diazinon as the pesticide of choice for many insect infestations. Diazinon was banned by the EPA in 2004 due to its toxicity to birds and humans.

France has long-since banned most applications of imidacloprid ever since the synthetic nicotine compound was blamed for wiping out its bee-keeping industry during the 1990s. The Bayer Corporation reportedly paid French beekeepers $70 million to rebuild the beekeeping industry, but as recently as Sept. 15 a representative of Bayer claimed to the Boston Globe that imidacloprid has “no connection whatsoever” to colony collapse disorder. Widespread evidence and common sense suggest otherwise.

“Findings reveal a disparity between independent research and the research that was undertaken by Bayer,” said a September 2009 report by Buglife, a British conservation group that released the most comprehensive study ever published about imidacloprid.

The proposal considered Sept. 16 by the Massachusetts Pesticide Board subcommittee would have allowed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use three times the legal amount of imidacloprid in soil treatments around Worcester starting in the spring of 2010. When beekeepers and others began contacting SafeLawns and asking for help, we rallied allies and voiced our collective opposition. At the end of the meeting, the subcommittee wisely asked to table the issue for two months to gather more information.

“I don’t believe that the environmental assessment done by (the EPA) is sufficient to justify any treatments because, as part of the assessment, they must determine if the bees will encounter enough imidacloprid to cause harm,” said Dean Stiglitz, a beekeeper from the Worcester area. “The problem is, no one has data showing how much imidacloprid will end up in the pollen, nectar, and/or plant resins (that bees collect) of the early blooming maple trees. Certainly not with the dosages (proposed).”

The Toxics Action Center, which organizes community support for pesticide reduction, drafted a letter, which was read aloud to the Pesticide Board. Here are just a few excerpts:

“Imidacloprid can persist in soil for 26.5 to 229 days in soil,” wrote TAC. “For this reason, direct application to soil as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing should be avoided at all costs. It can easily migrate from soil into groundwater resources and has been detected in both ground and surface water in New York. California put imidacloprid on its groundwater protection list due to its potential to contaminate groundwater.

“Imidacloprid has been linked in animal studies to reproductive, mutagenic and neurotoxic effects. There is reason for concern about human exposures if it migrates into drinking water.”

The chemical, unfortunately, is the only known solution in the fight against the Asian longhorn beetle, which is believed to have first arrived in New York City in packing materials from China in the 1980s. Perhaps the most troubling insect ever to invade the U.S., it infests most deciduous hardwood trees with the exception of oak. By boring pea-sized holes into trees, the insect causes a slow but certain death.

Virtually everyone agrees that doing nothing is not an option, yet this is clearly a situation with no perfect solutions. Citizens of Worcester, justifiably, do not want to lose any more of their trees to the insect. The maple sugar industry of Northern New England is in a virtual panic that the insect will spread northward. Yet beekeepers are petrified about the pesticide impact on their hives — especially given that the pollen of maple trees is an essential spring source of food for the bees. Imidacloprid does wind up in the pollen of the flowers all most treated trees.

Given that imidacloprid is the only control, two primary application methods exist. One involves manually injecting trees with small amounts of imidacloprid. The other involves drilling vastly larger amounts of the pesticide six inches deep into the soil. While everyone agrees that injection is the preferred method, soil “drenching” has been proposed in Worcester due to cost considerations.

Christine Markham, director of the Asian Longhorned Beetle National Program for the USDA told the Boston Globe that soil injection is more “cost effective” than tree injection.

“We will be able to treat more trees,’’ said Markham.

Treating the trees is different than saving the trees, however. Scientific data collected at numerous infestation sites across the country shows that soil injection offers low efficacy in relation to tree injection. Injecting a tree has shown to be virtually 100 percent effective for up to two years; soil injections often need to be repeated year after year — which eventually mitigates any cost differential.

“Soil treatment, while the cheapest option, is like using a fire hose to treat for this beetle when really a small syringe would work just fine,” said Megan Jenny of the Toxics Action Center. “We should be phasing out toxic pesticides and replacing them with safer alternatives. In this case, the tree injection method may be significantly safer than soil applications. Tree injection minimizes the amount of pesticide needed, prevents the pesticide from migrating into groundwater and drinking water, and reduces pesticide exposures to the environment.”

Whether you live in Worcester and are affected by this immediate crisis, or you reside anywhere else in the nation, the imidacloprid issue affects you directly. By most estimates, honeybees are responsible for pollinating a third of our nation’s food supply. Any use of a pesticide that can harm the bees should be carefully considered — yet most homeowners who apply imidacloprid for grub control on their lawns or insect control on their fruit trees never even think about the impact on bees. Most people have never heard the word imidacloprid, which is buried in the fine print of the pesticide label.

With two months until the Pesticide Board in Massachusetts takes up the issue again, both sides will be preparing arguments. On the one hand, Bayer and the other manufacturers will continue to maintain their imidacloprid is safe and the USDA, faced with finding a solution to the Asian longhorn beetle, will push for widespread use of the pesticide. On the other hand, SafeLawns, Toxics Action Center, the Pesticide Action Network and others will point out the myriad toxicity issues associated with imidacloprid.

We urge all of you to: 1) Form an educated opinion and 2: Make your voice heard. If you live in Massachusetts, write to Gov. Deval Patrick and Senator John Kerry and all of your other local representatives. If these folks hear multiple voices on the same issue, they will respond. If you live anywhere else in the nation, keep your eyes out for issues involving honeybees, or imidacloprid, or pesticides in general.

At your own home, read those pesticide labels. Outside your home, eliminate or minimize pesticide use and never attempt to treat for the Asian longhorn beetle on your own; it is a job for a licensed professional. And within your larger community, don’t be afraid to speak out. Nothing less than our forests and our food supply depend on it.
Share and Enjoy:

Pesticides and Bees
This post was written by:

Paul Tukey - who has written 115 posts on Safelawns Daily Post and Q&A Blog.