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

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Honey heals sea lion wounds

Marine Mammal Center newsletter:

Gupta was rescued on October 4, 2010, from Breakwater Cove, Monterey County, California. He had severe trauma to his back and flippers from a massive sharkbite. Doctors thought the shark must have come from below Gupta and to his left. Indeed, the shark must have had a pretty decent hold for a second or so in order to create such a severe wound. Gupta’s injuries consisted of major soft tissue loss over much of the left side of his chest, multiple lacerations and multiple puncture wounds in the left ‘armpit’. During the initial evaluation, Center staff sedated Gupta, took some radiographs and thoroughly evaluated the situation.

The good news was that no vital structures were damaged. The chest wall remained intact and there was no evidence of joint involvement. The bad news was that the massive soft tissue trauma left a lot of skin and muscle without a blood supply, and this area was in various stages of dying. The wound was infected and infested with fly larvae (maggots) and it required aggressive topical cleansing, removal of dead tissue and application of some sort of antimicrobial, antiseptic ointment. That’s when the idea of honey entered into the picture.

Honey has gained recent popularity in both human and veterinary medicine as a wound treatment due largely to its natural healing properties. It has a very high sugar content and as a result binds water molecules strongly. That makes the water unavailable to organisms trying to make a living in the area. This is why honey can be safely stored on the shelf without refrigeration. Honey also contains a variety of compounds that may enhance the tissue response to infection and inflammation. It’s less expensive than most topical antibiotic ointments and evidence suggests it is just as effective. So the Center’s staff and volunteers cleaned the wound and applied a generous layer of honey to it. Thanks to both the honey and the tincture of time, Gupta’s wounds healed very quickly. In fact, he was released on October 25 at Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Shore, California.

Interested in learning more on this sticky topic? Here are two links to papers indicating the value of honey in medical treatments:

Friday, November 5, 2010

New Book "BEE" by Rose Lynn Fisher


Princeton Architectural Press

Of the ten million or so different species of insects on our planet, none is more fascinating than the honeybee. One of the oldest forms of animal life still in existence from the Neolithic Age, bees have been worshipped and mythologized since the beginning of human history. Known popularly for their industriousness ("as busy as a bee") and highly valued for their role in agricultural pollination (every third bite we take depends on them), bees are now kept by a quarter-million beekeepers in the United States alone, and millions more around the world.

Honeybees were the first creatures examined by seventeenth-century scientists whose primitive microscopes suggested a complex system of construction. Now, magnified hundreds to thousands of times with a scanning electron microscope, honeybees appear as architectural masterpieces—an elegant fusion of form and function.

Melding art and science, photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher puts this modern tool to creative use in order to reveal the microscopic majesty of these natural wonders. BEE presents sixty astonishing photographs of honeybee anatomy in magnifications ranging from 10x to 5000x. Rendered in stunning detail, Fisher's photographs uncover the strange beauty of the honeybee's pattern, form, and structure. Comprising 6,900 hexagonal lenses, their eyes resemble the structure of a honeycomb. The honeybee's proboscis—a strawlike appendage used to suck nectar out of flowers, folds resembles a long, slender hairy tongue. Its six-legged exoskeleton is fuzzy with hairs that build up a static charge as the bee flies in order to electrically attract pollen. Wings clasp together with tiny hooks and a double-edged stinger resembles a serrated hypodermic needle. The honeybee's three pairs of segmented legs are a revelation, with their antennae cleaners, sharp-pointed claws, and baskets to carry pollen to the hive. These visual discoveries, made otherworldly through Fisher's lens, expand the boundaries of our thinking about the natural world and stimulate our imaginations. BEE features a foreword by nature writer and New York Times editorialist Verlyn Klinkenborg.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

American Apitherapy Society Conference


Less than 2 two weeks to go for CMACC! HOTEL ROOM RESERVATIONS AT REDUCED RATE HAVE BEEN EXTENDED TO NOV. 2ND! See hotel info in Information Packet. For the first time our annual event has been planned with the International Biotherapy Society. Check all details when you Download the Information Packet & click here to register on line. The registration form is for those who do not register on-line. Everyone is invited to our Annual Meeting to be held Saturday, late afternoon.

(The Charles Mraz Apitherapy Course and Conference)
Presented by The American Apitherapy Society, Inc.
At the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, Universal City, California, USA
In conjunction with the International Conference on Biotherapy, presented by the International Biotherapy Society (IBS) and the BTER Foundation
(For more information see
The AAS is honored to be sharing this conference with the International Conference on Biotherapy presented for the first time in the USA. Participants will be able to partake in both conferences where two fascinating organizations share a common principle.
Medical doctors, a spectrum of holistic health practitioners, veterinarians, researchers, backyard beekeepers, and members of the general public interested in self-reliant health care will convene from all over the United states and the world to learn about apitherapy. Apitherapy, an ancient healing modality, refers to the therapeutic use of products from the beehive: honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis, and bee venom therapy.
Attendees will receive basic training in the therapeutic properties of each of the hive products including a hands-on bee venom therapy demonstration where participants obtain practical experience with this healing practice. Presentations are given by the CMACC faculty who are some of the most prominent and experienced apitherapists in the country. Examples of material covered in these presentations are allergic reactions, techniques of BVT, informed consent and legal issues, propolis and cancer, veterinary apitherapy, and patient intake for apitherapy. An exam is given to ascertain comprehension of the material in the course and certificates of completion will be issued. Continuing Education Credits are also available.
The AAS is a nonprofit membership organization established for the purpose of educating about apitherapy and advancing its use. CMACC has been named in memory of Charles Mraz, an American pioneer in the use of bee venom to treat diseases.
Visit for all information and where you can register on the website. Or you can download a registration form to mail with payment. Note that there is an early registration incentive with reduced fees for those registering by September 30th. For questions, contact the AAS at 631-470-9446 or at
Attendance: Registered AAS participants may attend the all sessions of the AAS program as well as those of IBS as part of their registration fee, except for Thursday, Nov. 11, for which an additional fee is charged. IBS participants may attend all AAS events, as part of their registration.
Accreditation: Check the BTER Foundation website noted above for detailed information about accreditation. Continuing Education Credits will be available for the Apitherapy programs done by IBS, for a total of 6 • hours (Sat.& Sun. mornings), for Physicians and other health care providers, per individual state requirements. Certificates of hours of attendance will be available to AAS registrants upon attendance at all programs and successful completion of the examination.
AAS Course, Conference, Faculty and Exam: The tentative program of the Course and Conference is provided here. Watch the website for any changes. The Faculty is described in the Presenter Profiles. AAS provides attendees the opportunity to take an exam on material taught before the exam. In our experience, most attendees welcome this exam, which is multiple choices, as a means to increase their understanding. Corrections are done right after the exam, providing the occasion to discuss issues. The exam is not required but usually everyone takes it as a learning experience.
Accommodations: See the BTER Foundation website above for details about the Accommodations, Activities, and Transportation.
Hotel: The event is being held at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, located at 555 Universal City, California, 91608-1001. A group room rate is available at $159 (plus taxes) per single room per night. Please contact the hotel reservation desk at 1-800-445-8667 and say you are with the International Biotherapy Conference, code IBC. This rate is only available until October 29.
Sharing Rooms: AAS is willing to help people who wish to share a hotel room. Please contact the AAS office at or at 631-470-9446.
Activities: The hotel has an on-site swimming pool, whirlpool, and fitness center. The hotel is close to Universal Studios, Universal City Walk, and Hollywood. There are other attractions in the area, such as Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Griffith Observatory, and Knott’s Berry Farm.
Transportation: Most attendees will be flying into Los Angeles (LAX) airport. Ground transportation is available from Super Shuttle for $18 each way. Reservations are not required but can be made by calling 1-800-224-7767, mentioning that you are with the 8th International Biotherapy Conference, with discount code 73nju. Or you can register on-line at

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bees Solve Hard Computing Problems Faster Than Supercomputers

In a new study, researchers report that bumblebees were able to figure out the most efficient routes among several computer-controlled "flowers," quickly solving a complex problem that even stumps supercomputers.

We already know bees are pretty good at facial recognition, and researchers have shown they can also be effective air-quality monitors. Here's one more reason to keep them around: They're smarter than computers.

Bumblebees can solve the classic "traveling salesman" problem, which keeps supercomputers busy for days. They learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they find the flowers in a different order, according to a new British study.

The traveling salesman problem is an (read: very hard) problem in computer science; it involves finding the shortest possible route between cities, visiting each city only once. Bees are the first animals to figure this out, according to Queen Mary University of London researchers.

Bees need lots of energy to fly, so they seek the most efficient route among networks of hundreds of flowers. They navigate using angles of sunlight, which helps them find their way home, researchers say. To do this, their tiny brains must pack a powerful memory.(Old bees are more forgetful, according to a separate study that came out last week.)

To test bee problem-solving, researchers Lars Chittka and Mathieu Lihoreau tested bees' response to computer-controlled artificial flowers. They wanted to see whether the bees would go after the flowers in the order in which they were discovered, or if they would figure out the shortest route among all the flowers even as new ones were added. The bees explored the locations of the flowers and quickly figured out the shortest paths among them, according to a Queen Mary news release.

This is no small feat, especially considering bee brains are about as big as a microdot. When it comes to intelligence, size apparently does not matter.

Earlier this year, researchers showed that bees recognize individual faces because they can make out the relative patterns that make up a face. The new research further suggests bees are highly sophisticated problem solvers, and that better understanding of their brains could improve our understanding of network problems like traffic flows, supply chains and epidemiology.

The research will be published this week in the journal The American Naturalist.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bee Goddess Pendant, “Lady in Gold” unearthed on Crete

Archaeologists made an important discovery when they unearthed an ancient female skeleton covered with gold foil in a grave in the ancient city of Eleutherna on the northern foothills of Mount Ida near Rethymno, Crete. The finding dates back to the early Archaic Period.
The findings were inside a 2,700-year-old twin tomb, the only one in ancient Eleutherna, located very close to a necropolis of fallen warriors. The woman, of high social or religious status, was interred with a second skeleton in a large jar placed behind a false wall, to ward off body snatchers.
The tiny gold ornaments, ranging from 1 to 4cm long, in different forms (square, triangle, and diamond-shaped) were found next to the remains of the woman, discovered a few weeks ago by a team led by archaeology professor Nicholas Stampolidis of the University of Crete – head of the Eleutherna excavation.
A unique jewelry piece depicting a bee as a goddess was also found amongst the thousands of gold plaques. Excavators also unearthed perfume bottles, hundreds of amber, rock crystal and faience beads and a gold pendant in the form of a bee goddess.
The findings are so extraordinary that they justify the decision made recently by the Archaeological Institute of America to include the excavations at ancient Eleutherna among the best worldwide.
YouTube: Introduction to the Excavation of Orthi Petra Eleutherna

View full post on Embassy of Greece in Poland Press & Communication Office

Queen of the Sun, new film on the honey bees

In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, a scientist, philosopher & social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse. His prediction has come true with Colony Collapse Disorder where bees are disappearing in mass numbers from their hives with no clear explanation. In an alarming inquiry into the insights behind Steiner’s prediction Queen of The Sun examines the global bee crisis through the eyes of biodynamic beekeepers, scientists, farmers, and philosophers. On a pilgrimage around the world, 10,000 years of beekeeping is unveiled, highlighting how our historic and sacred relationship with bees has been lost due to highly mechanized industrial practices. Featuring Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Gunther Hauk and beekeepers around the world, Queen of The Sun weaves a dramatic story which uncovers the problems and solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature.

Upcoming Screenings

Hollywood Theater
September 17th–Oct 14th, 2010 or longer- Portland, OR.
See above for up to date screening times.

Wednesday, Oct.6, 2010 - Middlebury, VT
Wednesday, Oct. 6 @ 7:30 PM
*Filmmaker in attendance.

Thursday, Oct.7, 2010 - Waitsfield, VT
Thursday, Oct. 7 @ 7:30 PM
*Filmmaker in attendance.

Tacoma Film Festival
Oct. 7–Oct. 14 - Tacoma, WA
Oct. 9 @ 4:15 PM - School of the Arts - Tacoma, WA

October 7th–17th, 2010 - Mill Valley & San Rafael, California
Tuesday, Oct. 12 @ 6 PM - Sequoia Theatre - Mill Valley, CA
Wednesday, Oct. 13 @ 7 PM - Smith Rafael Film Center - San Rafael, CA
*Filmmaker in attendence.

Friday, Oct. 8–Oct.15th - Burlington, VT
Friday, Oct. 8 @ 7 PM & 9 PM
Saturday, Oct. 9 @ 7 PM & 9 PM
Check here for the rest of the week's showtimes.
*Filmmaker in attendance.

Abu Dhabi Film Festival
Oct. 12–Oct. 19, 2010 - Abu Dhabi, UAE
Oct. 17 @ 7:30 PM - Abu Dhabi Theater - Abu Dhabi, UAE
Oct. 18 @ 7:30 PM - Marina Mall 2 - Abu Dhabi, UAE
*Filmmaker in Attendance.

Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival
Oct. 13–Oct. 17 - Toronto, CANADA
Friday, Oct. 15 @ 5:00 PM - Royal Ontario Museum
Venues and Times TBA.

October 13th–17th, 2010 - Syracuse, NY
Sunday, Oct. 17 @ 3:00 PM - Capitol Theatre - Rome, NY

Oct. 15-Oct. 24, 2010 - Hot Springs, AR
Saturday, Oct. 16 @ 4:10 PM: Malco Theater - Hot Springs, AR
Thursday, Oct. 21 @ 11:45 AM: Malco Theater - Hot Springs, AR

Austin Film Festival
Oct. 21–Oct. 28 - Austin, TX
Sunday, Oct. 24 @ 7:30 PM - Rollins Theatre

October 21–24, 2010 - Memphis, TN
Venues and Times TBA.

Rudolf Steiner 2011 Press Conference
Thursday, November 4th, 2010 @ 11 AM to 4 PM: Goetheanum - Dornach, Switzerland
*Filmmaker in attendance.

November 4–7, 2010 - Charlottesville, VA
Sunday, Nov. 7 @ 11:30 AM: Univ. of Virginia

United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF)
October 22nd - 31st, 2010 - Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Saturday, Oct. 30 @ 3:30 PM: Annenberg Auditorium

November 11–14, 2010 - Springdale, Utah
Friday, Nov. 12 @ 6:45 PM: Dixie Auditorium - Springdale, UT

November 11–21, 2010 - St. Louis, Missouri
Monday, Nov. 15. Venue and showtime TBA - St. Louis, MO
Tuesday, Nov. 16. Venue and showtime TBA - St. Louis, MO
*Filmmaker in attendance.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 - Pleasantville, NY
Showtime to be announced.
*Filmmakers in attendance.

International Documentary FIlm Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
November 17th–28th, 2010 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Venues and times TBA.
*Filmmakers in attendance.

Berlin summt! – Honig von prominenten Dächern der Hauptstadt.

Berlin summt! – Honig von prominenten Dächern der Hauptstadt.
Das Vorhaben

Im Jahr 2011 sollen auf mehreren prominenten Gebäuden und an bekannten Orten Berlins Bienenstöcke aufgestellt und unterhalten werden. Dies geschieht in Kooperation mit dem Imkerverband Berlin und erfahrenen Berliner Imkern.

Mit dieser Aktion und zusätzlichen Informationsmaterialien werben wir für diese traditions­reiche Form der naturbezogenen - und auch lokalwirtschaftlich nützlichen - Beschäftigung und machen auf (stadt-) ökologische Zusammenhänge aufmerksam. Dazu motivieren und vernetzen wir Imkervereine und ihre engagierten Mitglieder, Naturschutzverbände, zuständige Berliner Behörden, Haus- und Gartenbesitzer sowie inter­essierte Bürgerinnen und Bürger für eine Zusammenarbeit. Das Projekt will mit dieser Idee auch für mehr Nachwuchs in der Berliner Imkerschaft sorgen.

Sinn und Zweck

Honigbienen erfüllen als Bestäuber von Bäumen, Blumen und Nutzpflanzen (vor allem Obst, Gemüse und Feldfrüchte) eine wichtige ökologische und landwirtschaftliche Funktion! Die Bienenzucht ist eine Kulturtechnik mit langer Tradition, in der überliefertes Erfahrungswissen und moderne Wissenschaft zusammentreffen. Als Hobby oder Nebenerwerb ist die Imkerei auch für jüngere, berufstätige Menschen eine interessante, naturbezogene Tätigkeit, die für ökologische Zusammenhänge sensibilisiert und einen Beitrag für nachhaltige lokale Wirtschaftskreisläufe leisten kann.

Städte bieten Honigbienen sogar besonders gute Voraussetzungen, nämlich längere Wärme- und durch­gängige Blütezeiten sowie geringeren Pestizideinsatz als auf dem Land. In Berlin gibt es ungefähr 500 Imker, allerdings mit einem hohen Altersdurchschnitt. Die von ihnen gehaltenen Honigbienen sind nicht aggressiv und stechen nur, wenn sie sich bedroht fühlen.

Die Zahl der Imker kann durch unsere Kampagne und die Vernetzung der bereits bestehenden Initiativen deutlich gesteigert werden. Das Hauptstadt-Projekt soll Strahlkraft entwickeln und bildet den Auftakt für die Ausweitung auf weitere Städte und Regionen in Deutschland (bei Interesse bitte beim UfAZ-Team ( melden!).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bee Mystery Unsolved? Lead Investigator Had Connections to Pesticide Maker

Yesterday's New York Times featured a heartwarming ending to the years-long murder mystery of what was causing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) among honeybees. Experts suspected pesticides or genetically modified foods, but the article reported that the University of Montana's Bee Alert Team, working alongside the Army, found the cause: the combined effects of a virus and fungus. Data sharing! Chance discoveries! Honeybees live on to sting another day! But according to Fortune, there were a couple of details left out of the front-page story. The team's lead investigator, Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, may have previously dropped out of testifying in a class-action lawsuit after he received a significant research grant from the pharmaceutical giant Bayer. For years, beekeepers have tried to pursue legal action against Bayer Crop Science over their pesticides, in particular a type of neurotoxin that gets rids of insects by attacking their nervous systems. The beekeepers allege that the pesticides disoriented and killed their hives. One of the markers of CCD is a bee's tendency to fly off in a random direction before it dies.

Fortune contributor Katherine Eban came across this information working on a story about the pesticides connection for Portfolio, but the magazine folded before she finished her reporting. Print media's poison cup runneth over! Eban says that during the course of her research, Bromenshenk also acknowledged that his company, Bee Alert Technology, would benefit more if CCD was caused by a disease, not pesticides, since the company is developing handheld acoustic scanners to detect bee ailments. Eban cites Bayer's funding for the grant as the reason Bromenshenk dropped out as an expert witness in the class-action lawsuit against Bayer. But Bromenshenk denies that Bayer was a factor in either dropping out or the current study.

Bromenshenk defends the [new] study and emphasized that it did not examine the impact of pesticides. "It wasn't on the table because others are funded to do that," he says, noting that no Bayer funds were used on the new study. Bromenshenk vociferously denies that receiving funding from Bayer (to study bee pollination of onions) had anything to do with his decision to withdraw from the plaintiff's side in the litigation against Bayer. "We got no money from Bayer," he says. "We did no work for Bayer; Bayer was sending us warning letters by lawyers."

When Eban contacted Times reporter Kirk Johnson, he told Eban that Bromenshenk never mentioned the connection, adding that he "tried to convey that caution in my story." He also noted that Bromenshenk's study never said that pesticides couldn't be the underlying cause of one of the uncertainties that remain, namely how the virus and fungus, which separately aren't fatal, combine to interact. Other scientists conjecture that they might leave the bees' immune systems weakened. In 1999 France banned the neurotoxin Imidacloprid after a third of its honeybees died. The EPA has approved that type of pesticide, called a neonicotinoid. After suing the EPA in 2008, the NRDC is currently shifting through Bayer's studies on neonicontinoids.

What a scientist didn't tell the New York Times about his study on bee deaths [Fortune]
Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery [NYT]

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery

Mike Albans for The New York Times

Members of a joint United States Army-University of Montana research team that located a virus that is possibly collapsing honeybee colonies scanning a healthy hive near Missoula, Mont.
Published: October 6, 2010

DENVER — It has been one of the great murder mysteries of the garden: what is killing off the honeybees?

Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered “colony collapse.” Suspected culprits ranged from pesticides to genetically modified food.

Now, a unique partnership — of military scientists and entomologists — appears to have achieved a major breakthrough: identifying a new suspect, or two.

A fungus tag-teaming with a virus have apparently interacted to cause the problem, according to a paper by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana in the online science journal PLoS One.

Exactly how that combination kills bees remains uncertain, the scientists said — a subject for the next round of research. But there are solid clues: both the virus and the fungus proliferate in cool, damp weather, and both do their dirty work in the bee gut, suggesting that insect nutrition is somehow compromised.

Liaisons between the military and academia are nothing new, of course. World War II, perhaps the most profound example, ended in an atomic strike on Japan in 1945 largely on the shoulders of scientist-soldiers in the Manhattan Project. And a group of scientists led by Jerry Bromenshenk of the University of Montana in Missoula has researched bee-related applications for the military in the past — developing, for example, a way to use honeybees in detecting land mines.

But researchers on both sides say that colony collapse may be the first time that the defense machinery of the post-Sept. 11 Homeland Security Department and academia have teamed up to address a problem that both sides say they might never have solved on their own.

“Together we could look at things nobody else was looking at,” said Colin Henderson, an associate professor at the University of Montana’s College of Technology and a member of Dr. Bromenshenk’s “Bee Alert” team.

Human nature and bee nature were interconnected in how the puzzle pieces came together. Two brothers helped foster communication across disciplines. A chance meeting and a saved business card proved pivotal. Even learning how to mash dead bees for analysis — a skill not taught at West Point — became a factor.

One perverse twist of colony collapse that has compounded the difficulty of solving it is that the bees do not just die — they fly off in every direction from the hive, then die alone and dispersed. That makes large numbers of bee autopsies — and yes, entomologists actually do those — problematic.

Dr. Bromenshenk’s team at the University of Montana and Montana State University in Bozeman, working with the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center northeast of Baltimore, said in their jointly written paper that the virus-fungus one-two punch was found in every killed colony the group studied. Neither agent alone seems able to devastate; together, the research suggests, they are 100 percent fatal.

“It’s chicken and egg in a sense — we don’t know which came first,” Dr. Bromenshenk said of the virus-fungus combo — nor is it clear, he added, whether one malady weakens the bees enough to be finished off by the second, or whether they somehow compound the other’s destructive power. “They’re co-factors, that’s all we can say at the moment,” he said. “They’re both present in all these collapsed colonies.”

Research at the University of California, San Francisco, had already identified the fungus as part of the problem. And several RNA-based viruses had been detected as well. But the Army/Montana team, using a new software system developed by the military for analyzing proteins, uncovered a new DNA-based virus, and established a linkage to the fungus, called N. ceranae.

“Our mission is to have detection capability to protect the people in the field from anything biological,” said Charles H. Wick, a microbiologist at Edgewood. Bees, Dr. Wick said, proved to be a perfect opportunity to see what the Army’s analytic software tool could do. “We brought it to bear on this bee question, which is how we field-tested it,” he said.

The Army software system — an advance itself in the growing field of protein research, or proteomics — is designed to test and identify biological agents in circumstances where commanders might have no idea what sort of threat they face. The system searches out the unique proteins in a sample, then identifies a virus or other microscopic life form based on the proteins it is known to contain. The power of that idea in military or bee defense is immense, researchers say, in that it allows them to use what they already know to find something they did not even know they were looking for.

But it took a family connection — through David Wick, Charles’s brother — to really connect the dots. When colony collapse became news a few years ago, Mr. Wick, a tech entrepreneur who moved to Montana in the 1990s for the outdoor lifestyle, saw a television interview with Dr. Bromenshenk about bees.

Mr. Wick knew of his brother’s work in Maryland, and remembered meeting Dr. Bromenshenk at a business conference. A retained business card and a telephone call put the Army and the Bee Alert team buzzing around the same blossom.

The first steps were awkward, partly because the Army lab was not used to testing bees, or more specifically, to extracting bee proteins. “I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”

The process eventually was refined. A mortar and pestle worked better than the desktop, and a coffee grinder worked best of all for making good bee paste.

Scientists in the project emphasize that their conclusions are not the final word. The pattern, they say, seems clear, but more research is needed to determine, for example, how further outbreaks might be prevented, and how much environmental factors like heat, cold or drought might play a role.

They said that combination attacks in nature, like the virus and fungus involved in bee deaths, are quite common, and that one answer in protecting bee colonies might be to focus on the fungus — controllable with antifungal agents — especially when the virus is detected.

Still unsolved is what makes the bees fly off into the wild yonder at the point of death. One theory, Dr. Bromenshenk said, is that the viral-fungal combination disrupts memory or navigating skills and the bees simply get lost. Another possibility, he said, is a kind of insect insanity.

In any event, the university’s bee operation itself proved vulnerable just last year, when nearly every bee disappeared over the course of the winter.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ancient Greek Grave Hides Golden Bee Goddess pendant

Published September 28, 2010

ATHENS, Greece – Greek archaeologists have found an ancient skeleton covered with gold foil in a grave on the island of Crete, officials said Tuesday.

Excavator Nicholas Stampolidis said his team discovered more than 3,000 pieces of gold foil in the 7th-century B.C. twin grave near the ancient town of Eleutherna.

Cemeteries there have produced a wealth of outstanding artifacts in recent years.

The tiny gold ornaments, from 1 to 4 centimeters (0.4 to 1.5 inches) long, had been sewn onto a lavish robe or shroud that initially wrapped the body of a woman and has almost completely rotted away but for a few off-white threads.

"The whole length of the (grave) was covered with small pieces of gold foil -- square, circular and lozenge-shaped," Stampolidis told The Associated Press. "We were literally digging up gold interspersed with earth, not earth with some gold in it."

The woman, who presumably had a high social or religious status, was buried with a second skeleton in a large jar sealed with a stone slab weighing more than half a ton. It was hidden behind a false wall, to confuse grave robbers.

Experts are trying to determine the other skeleton's sex.

The grave also contained a copper bowl; pottery; perfume bottles imported from Egypt or Syria and Palestine; hundreds of amber, rock crystal and faience beads; as well as a gold pendant in the form of a bee goddess that probably was part of a rock crystal and gold necklace.

"If you look at it one way up, it's shaped like a lily," said Stampolidis, a professor of archaeology at the University of Crete who has worked at Eleutherna for the 25 years. "Turned upside down, you see a female figure holding her breasts, whose lower body is shaped as a bee with wings. The workmanship is exquisite."

The ruins of Eleutherna stand on the northern foothills of Mount Ida -- the mythical birthplace of Zeus, chief of the ancient Greek gods. Past excavations have discovered a citadel, homes and an important cemetery with lavish female burials.

The town flourished from the 9th century B.C. -- the dark ages of Greek archaeology that followed the fall of Crete's great Minoan palatial culture -- and endured until the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bees Change Their Internal Clocks

Honey bees removed from their usual roles in the hive quickly and drastically changed their biological rhythms, according to a study in the Sept. 15 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The changes were evident in both the bees' behavior and in their internal clocks. These findings indicate that social environment has a significant effect on the physiology and behavior of animals. In people, disturbances to the biological clock are known to cause problems for shift workers and new parents and for contributing to mood disorders.

Circadian rhythm, the body's "internal clock," regulates daily functions. A few "clock genes" control many actions, including the time of sleeping, eating and drinking, temperature regulation, and hormone fluctuations. However, exactly how that clock is affected by — and affects — social interactions with other animals is unknown.

Senior author Guy Bloch, PhD, and his colleagues from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, chose to study bees in part because of their complex social environment. One role in bee society is the "nurse": bees that are busy at all times caring for larvae. This continuous activity is different from other bees and animals, whose levels rise and fall throughout the day.

Bloch and his team thought that changing the nurse bees' social environment might alter their activity levels, so they separated them from their larvae. The researchers found that the bees' cellular rhythms and behavior completely changed, matching a more typical circadian cycle.

"Our findings show that circadian rhythms of honey bees are altered by signals from the brood that are transferred by close or direct contact," Bloch said. "This flexibility in the bees' clock is striking, given that humans and most other animals studied cannot sustain long periods of around-the-clock activity without deterioration in performance and an increase in disease."

The results suggest that the bees' internal clocks were shaped by certain social cues. Jürgen Tautz, PhD, of the Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg in Germany, an expert in honey bee biology who was unaffiliated with the study, said it is a wonderful example of the tightly regulated interactions between genes and behavior in a bee colony. "The presence or absence of larvae switched the genes 'on' or 'off,' which guaranteed the adaptive behavior of the bees," Tautz said.

Because bees and mammals' circadian clocks are similarly organized, the question is whether the clocks of other animals also strongly depend on their social environments. The next step is to find just how social exchanges influence gene expressions. Further research into this question may have implications for individuals who suffer from disturbances in their behavioral, sleeping, and waking cycles. Research into how these rhythms may be altered and even stabilized might identify new treatment options.

This 'Bee Suit' Suits Him Fine; Norman Gary Billed as 'Human Bee Hive' Sept. 14, 2010

DAVIS--When honey bee expert Norman Gary “suits up,” don’t expect a standard-issued bee suit.

It’s not an “ordinary” bee suit. And what he does is not “ordinary.”

Norman Gary, a retired University of California, Davis entomology professor, wears his bees—thousands of them.

And that suits him just fine. To him, bees are not only a science (study of apiculture), but an adventure.

Gary, 76, who retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career, will appear Thursday, Sept. 16 on a History Channel show wearing 75,000 bees. The show, part of Stan Lee’s “Super Humans,” is scheduled to be broadcast at 10 p.m., Pacific Time (Channel 64 for local Comcast viewers).

Host-presenter Daniel Browning Smith has billed him as “the human bee hive” and will explore bee behavior and the science behind the bees.

A crew from England filmed Gary in mid-May at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, at Rick Schubert’s Bee Happy Apiaries in Vacaville-Winters and then in a UC Davis open field where the 75,000 bees clustered his entire body.

“That’s about 20 pounds, depending upon how much honey or sugar syrup they have consumed,” Gary said. “A hungry bee weighs approximately 90 mg and within a minute of active ingestion she can increase her weight to 150 mgs!”

Norman Gary knows bees. And he knows their behavior.

As a beekeeper, he’s kept bees for 62 years and as a researcher, he’s studied them for more than three decades. He’s published more 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and four book chapters.

But he is also a bee wrangler. He trains bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits over the last 35 years include 18 films, including “Fried Green Tomatoes”; more than 70 television shows, including the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; six commercials, and hundreds of live Thriller Bee Shows in the Western states.

Gary estimates he has performed the bee cluster stunt at least 500 times over the past 35 years. He remembers 54 performances at the California State Fair alone.

The History Channel episode may be his last professionally staged bee-cluster stunt, he said. However, he will continue to serve as a bee consultant to video producers and has just written a beginning beekeeping book, “The Honey Bee Hobbyist,” to be published in early December by Bow Tie Press.

“Bees are trainable, if you ask them to perform behaviors that are in their natural behavioral repertoire,” Gary said.

For the shoot, Gary borrowed New World Carniolan bees from Schubert, whose bee stock originated with bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of the Laidlaw facility. “Bees are not inclined to sting if they are well fed—happy and content—and are ‘under the influence’ of powerful synthetic queen bee odors—pheromones—which tend to pacify them,” Gary said.

Bees are attracted to pheromones and cluster on drops of pheromones he places on himself. While at UC Davis, he formulated a pheromone solution that is very effective in controlling bee behavior.

“Bees wrangled by this procedure have no inclination to sting,” he said. “Stinging behavior occurs naturally near the hive in defense of the entire colony not for the individual bee, because it dies within hours after stinging. Using this approach I have has as many as a million bees clustered on six people simultaneously “

Gary once trained bees to fly into his mouth to collect food from a small sponge saturated with his patented artificial nectar. He holds the Guinness World record (109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds) for the stunt.

“Most people fear bees,” Gary acknowledged. “They think bees ‘want’ to sting them. Wrong! They sting only when the nest or colony is attacked or disturbed or when they are trapped in a physical situation where they are crushed.”

Sometimes, with the heavy weight of the bees on his body, he’ll receive one or two stings per cluster stunt. Sometimes none.

Gary, who began hobby beekeeping at age 15 in Florida, went on to earn a doctorate in apiculture at Cornell University in 1959. During his career, he has worn many hats, including hobby beekeeper, commercial beekeeper, deputy apiary inspector in New York, honey bee research scientist and entomology professor, adult beekeeping education teacher, and author.

Known internationally for his bee research, Gary was the first to document reproductive behavior of honey bees on film and the first to discover queen bee sex attractant pheromones. He invented a magnetic retrieval capture/recapture system for studying the foraging activities of bees, documenting the distribution and flight range in the field. His other studies revolved around honey bee pollination of agricultural crops, stinging and defensive behavior, and the effects of pesticides on foraging activities, among dozens of others.

Today his life centers around music and bees. He has played music professionally for more than 50 years and for nine years has led a Dixieland band, appropriately known as the Beez Kneez Jazz Band, recording two CDs. He has performed more than 30 years in the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, the world’s largest jazz festival.

His instruments include the “B-flat clarinet,” which he plays when he’s covered with bees.

“I’m still very active in bees and music,” Gary said. “It’s a good life.”

(Editor’s Note: Access his website and the History Channel.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Honey Trail

The Leonard Lopate Show

The Honey Trail
Friday, September 10, 2010

WNYC audio player code:

Stream m3u

Grace Pundyk discusses the ways honey and bees are being affected by globalization, terrorism, deforestation, the global food trade, and climate change. The Honey Trail: In Pursuit of Liquid Gold and Vanishing Bees looks at the state of our environment and the impact it is having on bees and honey. The novel takes us to the Yemeni deserts and Borneo jungles, through the Mississippi Delta and Tasmania’s rainforests, over frozen Siberia, and through ancient Turkish villages in search of honey.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First World Conference in Organic Beekeeping Kicks off in Bulgaria Environment | August 27, 2010, Friday

The world's first ever conference in organic apiculture kicks off in Bulgarian Black Sea resort Sunny Beach Friday.

The event, set to last August 27-29, is organized by the Bulgarian Organic Apiculture Union together with the Nessebar municipality, and with the support of the International Federation of Beekeepers' Association – Apimondia.

The field of organic beekeeping has started out only in the last few decades and is gaining momentum and recognition worldwide.

Expected participants are around 150-200 and include not only bee-farmers and researchers from across the world.

They are going to hold sessions devoted to topics such as sustainable beekeeping, technology of organic beekeeping, health and environmental advantages of organic beekeeping, and regulatory context.

The Bulgarian Organic Apiculture Union also holds adjunct events – a seminar on Organic Beekeeping for Bulgarian participants and public, as well as the 9th International Honey Festival to be held August 28 – September 5 in the old town of famous Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Nessebar.

it's all related! increased pesticide use will contribute to the death of bees: watch this video clip of the film: Unnatural Selection

Thursday, September 2, 2010

bee shop in Oakland

just found out about this bee/honey shop in Oakland!

Bee Healthy Honey Shop is a family owned business which started over two generations ago. We have over 100 years of experience in learning all there is to know about bees and natural honey preparation process. We take personal care and pride in preparing natural pure quality honey. We strive to find new ways of preparing honey that are conducive to the natural environment. We also have over 15 years of beekeeping experience with pure local raw honey and we are committed to preserve bees, so that they provide their natural gift.

Meet our beekeeper Khaled Almghafi. He has been tending bees since he was 5 years old. His father was a beekeeper. So is his younger brother in Yemen. Bees are in his blood. He is the second-oldest of 10 children. He came to the US with a friend in 1986, and moved straight to California because everyone in Yemen knows that California is good for agriculture and bees. He had hopes of attending UC Davis to study bees but could not afford it. Instead, he ended up at a gas station as a clerk. He hated it. Every day rude customers would sting his pride. And with a wife and two small children, he was not earning enough, money to make a living. One day in 1992 he opened up the Yellow Pages and looked under the heading Bee Removal. He found a beekeeper near his home in Oakland who let me join him on his jobs. When the beekeeper died a few years ago, he inherited his business and his wooden vacuum box. Billions of bees later, he still finds them fascinating. Khaled says "We learn a lot from bees. We learn how to be social. We learn how to give, not only take. They give us honey. They pollinate and give us fruit and vegetables. They give us medicine. And they don’t ask for any thing in return."

Be Healthy Honey Shop Orange Blossom Honey is produced in California's Orange Belt. With the snow-capped mountains of King and Sequoia Canyons in the background, these fragrant groves extend to Fresno. Each spring for more than 60 years, the Be Healthy Honey Shop family has placed their colonies here to harvest nectar which carries the aromatic flavor of the blossom. Star Thistle, California Valley and Florida Tupelo round out the selection, meeting the flavor needs of the most discriminating honey lover.

The subtleties of unblended, pure floral source honey is truly incomparable to any other honey. When sampled, estate bottled Be Healthy Honey Shop Honey exemplifies quality in its discrete but extraordinary color, aroma and flavor.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vanishing of the Bees, Trailer

Bee deaths leave puzzling mystery By Frank Konkel • DAILY PRESS & ARGUS • August 29, 2010

The unsung heroes of Michigan's agricultural industry are dying at unprecedented rates.

The honeybee, known for stinging and producing honey, is also responsible for the pollination of half of Michigan's $2 billion fruits-and-vegetables industry.

It's also entirely responsible for pollinating agricultural crops with an estimated value of nearly $1 billion in Michigan and $15 billion across the country.

In addition, these bees annually churn out $7 million worth of honey in Michigan.

However in recent years, it's the honeybee that's gotten stung.

Michigan's total honey-producing bee colonies decreased from 95,000 to 65,000 from 1988 to 2006, or by almost one-third. Scientists coined the term colony collapse disorder in 2006 in an effort to describe what was happening to honeybees across the country.

Shawn Shubel witnessed it firsthand. In 2008, Shubel, a 40-year veteran beekeeper and owner of Nectar Sweet Apiaries in Genoa Township, lost 95 percent of his 600-plus hives. Between starter hives, which average 10,000 bees to 20,000 bees, and mature hives, which contain more than 50,000 bees, Shubel lost close to 30 million bees. This year, he's lost about 15 percent of his summer hives, which is still five times more bees than he typically loses in the summer.

"I do believe it was caused by many things, not just one factor," Shubel said, regarding the apparent collapse of his bee colonies.

He also suspects some variant of a virus played a role.

"What they're calling colony collapse disorder is, I think, a cumulative effect of all the problems plaguing bees right now," he said.

Since 2006, countless beekeepers across the United States have reported similar occurrences, leading researchers to suggest myriad suspected causes for the colony collapses.

Gretchen Voyle, horticulture educator at Michigan State University Extension — Livingston County, said varroa and tracheal mites, pesticides, hive beetles, and viruses are all suspected to play a role in colony collapses. Speculation abounds, she said. Cell phone towers, malnutrition, feeding habits and bees feeding on singular food sources have all been fingered as possible honeybee killers.

Ultimately, she said, it remains a mystery.

"Nobody knows why, but something is certainly causing bees to disappear," Voyle said. "They don't know what it is."

Shubel and fellow beekeeper Tim Bennett, owner of Turtlebee and Honeytree Farms Inc. in Deerfield Township, believe new, added stresses placed on honeybees over the years have also contributed to their recent plight.

An average bee colony of 50,000 honeybees will bring in 200 pounds of nectar and handle 60 pounds of pollen during the summer. Each hive is a demonstration of teamwork, Bennett said, with a single queen laying 1,200 eggs per day, several male drone bees mating with her, and thousands of worker bees making hundreds of daily trips to bring nectar and pollen back to the nest.

Beekeepers typically harvest about half of the 100 pounds or more of honey each hive produces each year, leaving the bees the rest of their hard-earned food for the winter. Still, most beekeepers lose 30 percent of their hives in the winter.

All of this occurs in a typical stationary beehive.

In other words, Bennett said, typical domestic bees are naturally stressed out.

The emergence of large mobile hives further increases the stress levels of honeybees.

Thousands of beekeepers transport their hives around the country each year, pollinating major U.S. commodities, like California's $1.5 billion almond crop. These bees mix with each other like a honeybee version of 1969's Woodstock music festival, spreading mites and diseases. They're also fed a singular food source — corn syrup — which Bennett said weakens their immune systems.

When the migratory bees' job is done, they're taken back to their native habitat, interacting with and sometimes contaminating a new batch of local honeybees.

"Our ability to move things from one side of the world to the other has got us into trouble," Bennett said.

Beekeepers like Shubel and Bennett are paid to bring their many beehives to various local orchards throughout Michigan for pollination purposes, but the bees only travel short distances and receive a rich diversity of food.

"Moving from the East Coast to the West Coast is not how God designed bees," Bennett said. "To whatever degree (colony collapse disorder) exists, it's definitely attributed to the many facets of the way our agricultural system is now arranged, the way honeybees are now managed. It's to be credited to many different things, not just one."

It's not just honeybees that are being affected.

Rufus Isaacs, a berry-crops entomologist for Michigan State University, said his latest research suggests increased efforts by crop farmers in pest management — like pesticides — have a negative affect on wild-bee populations.

In a three-year study of Michigan's blueberry crop — which is pollinated almost entirely by bees and is a $120 million industry in the state — Isaacs and fellow entomologist Julianna Tuell determined that increased insecticide use translated to a decline in bee abundance and species richness.

"These results indicate that wild bee communities are negatively affected by increasingly intensive chemical pest-management activities in crop fields," Tuell said.

Where does that leave the honeybee? Nobody knows.

Despite his summer hive losses, Shubel said he "can't complain" about this year's bountiful honey production. Bennett said his bees have avoided the chaotic colony collapse disorder for the year and should also cap off another sweet, productive year.

One thing is for sure. Nobody is losing these honeybees without a fight. If they do, the resounding consequences will sting everybody.

"What's going to happen in the long term, I don't know," Isaacs said. "But from everything I know about beekeepers, they've kept bees alive this long. They're a very industrious bunch, and I think they're quite capable of doing what's needed to keep them alive."

Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Frank Konkel at (517) 552-2835 or at

"Vanishing of the Bees", Marin County Documentary Film Premier

Open Secret Bookstore in San Rafael, California was the site of the Marin County premier showing of the just-released documentary film "Vanishing of the Bees" (

In attendance for the first public showing were author and teacher Marguerite Rigoglioso, PhD, interviewed in the film, as well as author and activist China Galland. The audience consisted of beekeepers, bee lovers, and just plain interested persons who hoped to learn more about the current state of bees in the world. This film has been compared to "An Inconvenient Truth", and gives extensive background and information about the current and continuing plight of honey bees, CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder), and what is being done around the world to address these issues. A must-see for all. Go to or write to see a copy of the trailer and order you own DVD.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bee Haven to Open in California

Bee Haven to Open in California

A half-acre garden designed for bees and human visitors will open September 11, 2010 on the UC-Davis campus. There are already six million bees and 55 different species that frequent the garden. “We have bumblebees, carpenter bees, leaf cutters, borer bees, mason bees, sweat bees. It’s pretty incredible who we’ve found,” said Neil Williams, an assistant professor who works with native bees.

A garden design competition was held prior to the development, and the Sibbet Group, from Sausalito, CA won out of 30 submissions. Forty different plants were included in the winning design. Haagen-Dazs has donated $500,000 for bee research to UC-Davis and Pennsylvania State University. For their support of bees, the garden was named the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. The ice cream company focused on supporting bees, because they pollinate many plants used to flavor about half of their ice cream products.

“We’ll not only be providing a pollen and nectar source for the millions of bees on Bee Biology Road, but we will also be demonstrating the beauty and value of pollinator gardens,” said Melinda Borel, program manager at the California Center for Urban Horticulture.

Some of the plants in the bee garden are Basil, Eggplant, Honeysuckles, Mint, Roses, Red Sage, and Oregano. If you are interested in helping bees by planting a garden, here are some suggestions for plants that attract bees.

Bees around the world are in steep decline, a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. If bees continue disappearing, many plants will go unpollinated and agriculture could be impacted very negatively. A Cornell University research study estimated the value bees contribute to U.S. agriculture was $14.6 billion in the year 2000.

posted by Jake Richardson Aug 28, 2010 2:03 pm
filed under: Community Service, Conscious Consumer, Healthy Neighborhood, Nature & Wildlife, Pets & Animals, Wildlife, bees

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Prayer To Our Lady of Blackberry Pie — A Plea for the Sacred Honeybee

thank you to Shiloh Sophia for sharing this on National Honey Bee Awareness Day

Prayer To Our Lady of Blackberry Pie — A Plea for the Sacred Honeybee

August 9, 2009 by Shiloh Sophia
Eye on Humanity

Prayer To Our Lady of Blackberry Pie:

A Plea for the Honeybee

Queen of Honeybees
Lady of the White Dove
Branch laden with ripe fruit
Deliverer from heavy woe
Sender of the cheer of comfort
Sunlight lighting the soul
Breast of sweet milk
Bringer of the Morning Star
Our Lady of the Red Thread
Our Lady fo the Red Rose

Open Open Open
Mine eyes that I might see the way
Our eyes that we might see the way
through to the other side of
poisoned fields, unholy water and honeyless hives

Mother of the true vine
Mother of the way
Mother of the way through

Impossible (seemingly) tasks lay before
your children of red earth
your children who eat the honey and drink the milk
your children who call for help in night
in the presence of foes
are offering unholy food as if it is good to eat.
(it is not but we are hungry and give in)

Lady of Humankind and all good solutions

Reveal Reveal Reveal

a way to save our earth, Oh, Virgin de Papaya
our rivers our turnips our tomatoes
our potatoes our raspberries our apples
peaches, pomegranites, basil, thyme, maple syrup and bay
orchid, clover, nasturtium, lily of the valley

Our Lady of Blackberrie Pie

I know you see everything
every effort and every effort thwarted
I call on your name now
Our Lady of Blackberry Pie
Just think of things like Blackberry Pie becoming extinct
(And us being fed false colored berries with red #9. Sigh. Shudder)

Please don your garment of justice
please now
I know you know…but….
For those who do not know and those who want to know:

Just ask the Queen Bee what is happening to her hives
Just ask the Mama Whale what is happening to her sea
Just ask the Empress Butterfly what has happened to her cocoons
Just as the Mama Frog what has happened to her shimmering legs
Just ask the Princess Salamander how far from home she has had to travel
Just ask the wolf, La Loba, what has happened to her wooded trail
Just ask the Salmon Mother why her children cannot make it up the river

The extinct ancestors of the Rain Forest have sent messengers back to us
but so few are listening to the messages
but those who are
are taking courage
those who are
are calling for justice.
Lady of Justice, don’t wait for the time when the blackberries are gone
and the bumble bees have all gone to slumber – grant us passage through
this matrix not made of the mother matter
but other matters of money, money
who has no other mother than man and woman
and how we have chosen to raise it.

Honeycombs without honey haunt our collective dreams.

Some seek to turn our tragedy into profit –
those are the selfsame who caused the problem
others are looking for the prophet, someone with answers.
We shall not give out, give up or give in
Oh Holy Lady
but this day,
this morning with honey in my coffee,
and bees buzzing around my bare feet in wet grass
I found a four leaf clover, my first
and then I found another, my second
and then I found another, my third
Knowing that you are the Mother of Clover and
Feeling lucky enough, I stopped looking
and came to you in prayer
with this my plea for the sacred honeybee.

Shiloh Sophia McCloud

Great News for the Bees (and Us) !!

Finally, there is some good news regarding protection of our precious bees. This is from the July/August issue ofThe American Gardener, the fantastic gardening magazine from the American Horticultural Society. (If you don’t have a subscription, you’re missing a lot a great articles and information about plants and gardening.)
“Federal Court Shelves Pesticide (quoted from July/Aug. issue of The American Gardener)
Following a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Xerces Society, a New York federal court ruled that the systemic insecticide spirotetramat be removed from circulation due to concerns about its long term effects on honeybees and other pollinators. The pesticide, produced by Bayer CropScience, goes by the trade names Monvento, Ultor, and Kontos. It was approved for use on hundreds of crops – including apples, pears, peaches, oranges and tomatoes – by the U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 2008 (during the Bush Administration’s tenure), but the court found that the EPA did not meet the legal requirements for registering a pesticide. When an insecticide manufacturer submits an application for its product to be registered by the EPA, the agency is legally obligated to publish it for review by the public, as well as allow for public comments for 30 days. (This pesticide is already banned in Europe when it was recognized to be leading cause of honeybee mortality; my comment.) In the case of spirotetramat, the EPA failed to follow this process.
The NRDC and the Xerces Society filed the lawsuit, in part because of beekeepers’ fears that the insecticide may have a delayed, negative impact on bee populations that is not fully understood because of the absence of long-term data. The court ordered the removal of spirotetramat from the market in December 2009, and in March 2010, the EPA announced a temporary cancellation order, which bans its sale and distribution. The agency must now reevaluate the pesticide to determine whether it is likely to cause chronic damage to bee colonies.”
All the more reason to be eating organically produced foods and refusing to let these big multinational corporations put profits before the welfare of the environment and public health!

Happy National Honey Bee Awareness Day!

August 21st, 2010

Today is the second annual National Honey Bee Awareness Day. Check out the website for more information about the inspiration behind this day, and what you can do to help the honey bees:

In the San Francisco Bay Area you can celebrate by coming to see the premier of the new documentary Vanishing of the Bees. On their website times and dates of local events can be found:

In Marin County the film will be shown @ 7:30 pm at Open Secret Bookstore, 923 "C"St. San Rafael, CA 94901 415-457-4191. It will be hosted by Barbara "Bee" Framm. In attendance will be Professor Marguerite Rigoglioso, who is interviewed in the film. She will be staying afterwards for a discussion and has offered to teach a bee 'mantra', or toning, to those who are interested. Please join us! suggested donation $10, but no one turned away! The film runs about 1 1/2 hours. Look forward to seeing you there, please pass the word!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scientists stunned as bee populations continue to decline

(NaturalNews) Monday, August 16, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Scientists remain stymied as honeybees in the United States and across the world continue to die in large numbers.

"There are a lot of beekeepers who are in trouble" said David Mendes, president of the American Beekeeping Federation. "Under normal condition you have 10 percent winter losses ... this year there are 30, 40 to 50 percent losses."

For many years, beekeepers have been plagued by colony collapse disorder, in which formerly healthy bees abruptly vanish from their hives. The number of beehives in the United States dropped 32 percent in 2007, another 36 percent in 2008 and still another 29 percent in 2009.

A number of explanations for the phenomenon have been suggested, including diseases, parasites, malnutrition, but toxic chemicals are emerging as a major concern among beekeepers.

"It might not be the only factor but it's a contributing factor," said Jeff Pettis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.

A study recently published in the journal Public Library of Science found 121 different pesticides in 887 samples taken from beehives in 23 U.S. states and Canada.

"I don't put my bees in Florida because the last couple of years there has been tremendous increase in pesticide use in the orange crop to fight a disease," Mendes said.

"A few years ago they did not use any pesticide at all."

Pettis said that the destruction of natural lands is having a negative impact on the health of bees, which require a "diverse natural habitat."

"The world population growth is in a sense the reason for pollinators' decline," he said. "Because we need to produce more and more food to feed the world we grow crops in larger fields."

The irony, he noted, is that global agriculture depends heavily on honeybees to pollinate critical food crops.

"A growing world means growing more food and to do that we need pollinators," he said. "And the fact that the world is continuing to grow is the driving force behind the habitat destruction."

Sources for this story include:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010



Philadelphia has a long history of “firsts” – from the first hospital to the first zoo to the discovery of electricity, innovations of all kinds have happened here. Beekeepers across the city and the United States are buzzing away, preparing to celebrate another Philadelphia “first”– the invention of the movable frame bee hive. December 2010 marks the 200th birthday of Philadelphian Lorenzo L. Langstroth, “The Father of American Beekeeping,” and inventor of the hive that changed the future of apiculture forever. To celebrate his birthday, four Philadelphia organizations have teamed up to present the Philadelphia Honey Festival on the weekend of September 10-12, 2010. The coordinating partners are the Wagner Free Institute of Science, Philadelphia Beekeepers G uild, Bartram’s Garden and The Wyck Association, organizations invested in educating the public about natural science.

The festivities will kick off with the placement of a historical marker at 106 South Front Street, the house where Langstroth was born. The marker placement will be on Friday, September 10th at 3:30 PM, MC’d by Kim Flottum, Editor of Bee Culture Magazine, and one of the event’s sponsors, and includes a keynote address from Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding, an appearance by the Pennsylvania Honey Queen, and will conclude with the viewing of Langstroth’s papers at the American Philosophical Society.

There will be something for everyone at the festival, the three anchor sites, Wagner Institute, Bartram’s Garden and The Wyck Association will be buzzing with events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

What better place to celebrate the importance of bees than right on the banks of the Schuylkill River at the birthplace of American botany? Bartram’s Garden is the landmark home and garden of America’s pioneering family of naturalists, botanists and explorers. During the Honey Festival this Southwest Philadelphia site will appeal to those interested in the history of beekeeping, and the aesthetic inspiration these important pollinators provide. On Friday, Bartram’s Garden will host the opening of the DaVinci Art Alliance exhibition aptly titled “What’s the Buzz,” from 5 – 8 PM. On Saturday, September 11th, and Sunday, September 12th, the Garden will be open all day, for botanical illustration meetups and house tours. History buffs should not miss the lecture, History of American Bee Keeping 17 76-1810 on Sunday afternoon at 1 PM, presented by Professor William Butler. His lecture will be followed by a curator’s talk, Bees in Art, presented by Dr. Debra Miller of DaVinci Art Alliance.

For those interested in starting their own apiary, Historic Wyck is the place to be! This remarkable Germantown site has been a home and a working farm for more than 250 years, and features a nationally-known garden of old roses (over 30 varieties), originally planted in the 1820s. Wyck will host three well-known beekeeping authorities on Saturday from 12-4. Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture Magazine, will discuss the Joys of Urban Beekeeping. Elizabeth Capaldi Evans, Professor of Biology at Bucknell University and author of the book, Why do Bees Buzz? Fascinating Answers to Questions about Bees will discuss her work on bee behavior. Dean Stiglitz, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping will talk about Natural Beekeeping. Also, Historian Matt Redmon will do a short presentation about Lorenzo Langstrot h, Philadelphia’s own inventor of the modern beehive. Honey extractions and hive demonstrations will also be happening throughout the day. Food will be available for purchase, as well as honey from local beekeepers and honey and wax related products from a number of vendors.

The Wagner Free Institute of Science will be the Honey Fest host for children and their families. This Victorian natural history museum located in North Philadelphia, has been dedicated to providing free science education to the public for over 150 years. Children make up 1/3 of the museum’s annual audience, and the Honey Festival will kick off the Institute’s 2010-11 season of Saturday Family Programs. Open from 12 – 4 PM on Saturday, September 11th, the afternoon will feature “Pollinator Power!” a lesson for children ages 6-12 about the importance of pollinators in our lives. Sip honey-sweetened iced tea, and listen to local folk rocker, Liam Gallagher, while you peruse goods from local booksellers, bee artists and beekeepers. Beeswax candle-making, free Häagen-Dazs ice cream treats, scavenger hunts, and the debut of the Institute’s new native pollinator garden will sweeten the day for all who attend.

The goal of the Philadelphia Honey Festival is to raise awareness about the importance of bees to our environment, the impact of local honey on our economy, and to promote urban beekeeping and gardening. All festival events are free. Some events require reservations, please see attached schedule for more details.

For more information:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Vanishing of the Bees", Marin County Film Premier

On National Honey Bee Awareness Day, Saturday August 21st,
Urania sponsors the premier showing in Marin of the new film "Vanishing of the Bees"
7 pm
Open Secret Bookstore,
923 "C" St.
San Rafael, CA 94901

To read more about the film , and see a trailer , go to

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Secret Life of White House Bees

Posted by Jason Djang on June 23, 2010 at 01:04 PM EDT

When White House carpenter Charlie Brandts told some of First Lady Michelle Obama’s staff about his latest hobby in beekeeping, Chef Sam Kass was quick to ask him if he knew how to make honey that could be used in the White House kitchen. Fortunately, not only did Brandts know how to make the honey, but he also had a spare beehive at home that he was happy to donate to the White House. Now Brandts is the White House’s official beekeeper tending a hive of approximately 70,000 bees near the new Kitchen Garden.

Watch this new "Inside the White House" video on the first ever White House beehive:

At German Airports, Bees Help Monitor Air Quality

Airports in Germany have come up with an unusual approach to monitoring air quality. The Düsseldorf International Airport and seven other airports are using bees as “biodetectives,” their honey regularly tested for toxins.

“Air quality at and around the airport is excellent,” said Peter Nengelken, the airport’s community liaison. The first batch of this year’s harvested honey from some 200,000 bees was tested in early June, he said, and indicated that toxins were far below official limits, consistent with results since 2006 when the airport began working with bees.

Beekeepers from the local neighborhood club keep the bees. The honey, “Düsseldorf Natural,” is bottled and given away as gifts.

Biomonitoring, or the use of living organisms to test environmental health, does not replace traditional monitoring, said Martin Bunkowski, an environmental engineer for the Association of German Airports. But “it’s a very clear message for the public because it is easy to understand,” he added.

Volker Liebig, a chemist for Orga Lab, who analyzes honey samples twice a year for the Düsseldorf and six other German airports, said results showed the absence of substances that the lab tested for, like certain hydrocarbons and heavy metals, and the honey “was comparable to honey produced in areas without any industrial activity.” A much larger data sampling over more time is needed for a definitive conclusion, he said, but preliminary results are promising.

Could bees be modern-day sentinels like the canaries once used as warning signals of toxic gases in coal mines?

Assessing environmental health using bees as “terrestrial bioindicators“ is a fairly new undertaking, said Jamie Ellis, assistant professor of entomology at the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory, University of Florida in Gainesville. “We all believe it can be done, but translating the results into real-world solutions or answers may be a little premature.” Still, similar work with insects to gauge water quality has long been successful.

Many experts say aircraft are not the only, or even main, source of pollution at airports. Cars, taxis, buses and ground activities as well as local industry are often major polluters.

Not surprisingly, Nancy Young, vice president of environmental affairs at the Air Transport Association of America, an airline trade group, defended the air quality at airports. “Airports are not significant contributors” to local air pollution, she said, adding that aviation emissions represent “less than 1 percent of the nation’s inventory and typically only a few percentage points in any given metropolitan area with a major airport.” She said the United States had improved the air quality at its airports through more stringent standards and improved monitoring techniques.

Internationally, there have been similar improvements, said Steven Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. Since the 1960s, carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, smoke and nitrogen-oxide emissions have been substantially reduced, he said. Standards for most of them are set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations body.

“It’s a challenge for an industry that continues to grow,” Mr. Lott said. But the industry has invested in developing cleaner aircraft engines and ground-support equipment and vehicles as well as improvements in how equipment is operated. Initiatives like its Green Teams, for example, allow industry consultants to visit airlines to identify and share ways to reduce fuel burn and emissions. More than 105 airlines have participated, he said.

Still, some community groups are not persuaded that air quality at airports has improved.

“It’s way worse than people think,” said Debi Wagner, a board member of Citizens Aviation Watch USA, who lives in Seattle. Some emissions are not adequately sampled and measured, Ms. Wagner said, and other potentially dangerous ones are not monitored at all. She said she was concerned particularly about the health of people living within three miles of commercial airports.

Two recent studies also raise questions about the quality of air at airports. Both focus on small general aviation airports, like the one in Santa Monica, Calif., which was studied in both reports.

“The traditional pollutants did not seem to be a local issue,” said Philip Fine, atmospheric measurements manager for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, an air quality regulatory agency for most of Southern California. “However, there were issues for ultrafine particles and lead.”

Dr. Fine, who oversees a network of air-monitoring stations, was a lead researcher on a study financed by the Environmental Protection Agency that is to be released in the next few weeks.

The lead levels from non-jet aircraft emissions did not exceed federal limits, but were significantly elevated, Dr. Fine said. Elevated levels of ultrafine particles, primarily from jet aircraft, were also a concern. The particles are short-lived, but because they are in high concentration down wind during takeoff, they are particularly worrisome for people who live close to small airports or who are repeatedly exposed, he said.

Most large airports are farther from residential communities, and also have buffer zones separating them.

The health implications of ultrafine particles are not yet known, but some medical research suggests they could pose a serious risk because the extremely fine particles pass through cell walls easily and are able to penetrate far into the brain and circulatory system.

Epidemiological studies have shown there are health risks from elevated levels of these particles emitted by cars and trucks, a concern for people who live near or frequently travel on busy highways, said Suzanne E. Paulson, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. But “we know next to nothing about the health effects of aircraft emissions” of these particles, Dr. Paulson said. She was a lead researcher on another study, published late last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The federal government sets standards for pollutants like ozone and particulate matter, Dr. Fine said, “but ultrafine particles are not currently regulated.”

Europe has limits on ultrafine particles from vehicle emissions, Dr. Fine said. But Emanuel Fleuti, head of environment services for Zurich Airport, said there were concerns in Europe as well. Meanwhile, he said, he is confident about the biomonitoring work the German airports are doing with bees, as the results are consistent with traditional air quality monitoring in Europe.

“If you look at the honey, it’s perfectly fine,” Mr. Fleuti said, adding that he often gets jars of it when he visits Germany. “It’s good honey.”
A version of this article appeared in print on June 29, 2010, on page B6 of the New York edition.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Ritual for our Times: An Evening in Honor of the Sacred Honey Bee

Paper for Uncommon Kinship Class
by Urania (Barbara "bee" Framm)

Institute of Transpersonal Psychology

June 10, 2010

Instructors: Luisah Teish, Judy Grahn, Dianne Jenett

In “Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect our Lives, our World”, Joanna Macy writes: “…in our time, these three rivers—anguish for our world, scientific breakthroughs, and ancestral teachings, flow together.” In creating a community ritual, it was these three rivers that informed three women, including myself, who banded together to create an event which would educate, honor and grow community around concern for the honey bees.
Our ritual developed synchronistically: we were three women who had known each other over many years, mostly in the context of world music and dance. A chance conversation about the plight of the honey bees, triggered by a lecture given Marguerite Rigoglioso on the Delphic Oracle and bee priestesses, or Melissae, of Ancient Greece, led to the discovery that my two friends had traveled with Joan Marler on an anthropological tour to Bulgaria several years back. In the course of this tour, they had been introduced to the Bistrisi Babi, grandmothers from the villages of Bulgaria who still maintain the traditions of singing and dancing. The Babis taught my friends Karina and Jana a song to the honey bees, which would have traditionally been sung in a circle of six women --mirroring the sides of the honeycomb-- with a ceremonial matriarch standing in the center.
Hearing this, and discovering that this had only been performed once for the public, the idea arose that we could create an entire evening around this one song in praise of the honey bee. We met together and brainstormed. First we came up with the name: An Evening in Honor of the Sacred Honey Bee. We wanted the word “sacred” to be prominent, so that it was apparent from the outset that we were honoring the honey bees; this would also be reflective of a long history of cultural connection between the honey bee and the sacred –in literature, poetry, mythology, stories, saints, and symbols. We decided that we would use several different mediums throughout the evening: film, lecture, poetry, participatory ritual, music, and dancing.
The Evening began by greeting each participant at the door with a beeswax taper. When everyone was gathered, a candle was lit from the altar, which we had elaborately decorated with imagery relating to the bees, and this flame was passed on, one by one, to everyone in the audience. We then all processed up to the altar, and placed the lit tapers in a large bowl filled with sand. The procession was accompanied by live Eastern European folk music. This was followed by the showing of a film trailer of “The Vanishing of the Bees”, a work-in-progress which just recently premiered in London. Marguerite Rigoglioso then spoke about the bee priestess of ancient Greece and illustrated her talk with images relating to the Melissae and bees. After this, the heart of the evening was enacted: the Bulgarian bee ritual, originally performed out in the fields, surrounding the beehives. In the place of an active beehive we had placed a traditional woven “skep” (bee-hive) at the center of the room. Six singers surrounded me, arms entwined with each other, as I stood in the middle of the circle, holding the place of the matriarch. We each wore ceremonial headdresses composed of grain and greenery, and were dressed in either Bulgarian finery or special ritual clothing of our own choice. I carried a small cauldron of water, and a whisk made up of green grass. The singers sang the bee song: “Pchelice medna iliadina”, in praise of the sweet, small honey bee. (The song can be heard online:
After the song was sung several times, the matriarch (myself, in this case) took the grass whisk, dipped it in the cauldron of water --now blessed, by the singing of the song-- and sprinkled each of the singers, and the audience, with it. The conclusion of the ritual, and the evening, consisted of the entire audience participating in Bulgarian circle dancing, accompanied by village folk music of Bulgaria, played on the gaida (bagpipes) and daval (large drum).
When we actually enacted the ritual evening, we ended up with over 150 people, in a space meant for closer to 120. The advantage of this was that, although we were definitely crowded, we had somehow created a ‘hive’ of our own. The closeness lent an intimacy and friendliness to the evening. At one point towards the conclusion of the night, when the dancing had come to an end, but we still remained in a standing spiral, a spontaneous hum arose from the group, as if on cue; it had not been planned! If anything was an affirmation of the power of our shared community ritual, this moment was emblematic of that. We all stood in the glow of that hum, aware of the connection between ourselves, and aware that something special had just occurred: for several moments we had dissolved together—become unified--through our joined focus on the bees. Through the music and circular dancing, we had momentarily, at least, erased divisions between ourselves, and perhaps even forged new long-term connections and understandings.
As Native American poet Victoria Lena Manyarrows writes, we were ‘dreaming together’. Her poem “See No Indian, Hear No Indian” speaks to the importance of sharing dreams with each other:

“i tell you how we the indians always listened
listened to one another and
talked out our differences.
i tell you this world
this world, strangled and distorted by white men
will die a bitter and harsh early death
if no one learns to listen
and dream together.”

Through the presentation of information on the honey bees, as well as music, dance and ritual, we were able to create a space for listening, hearing, and dreaming. We also had a question/answer time when members of the audience could ask questions and voice their opinions about the current state of the honey bees; this led to a passionate discussion about Colony Collapse Disorder and it’s possible causes. Many members of the audience were already bee lovers, but few had actually heard the statistics, or understood the implications of massive bee die-offs that have been occurring since 2006, around the world.
I think we were dealing with two different levels of uncommon kinship in this crowd: on the one hand, we had devoted beekeepers and persons who already had an interest in the honey bees. On the other hand, we had curious participants, who came out of an attraction to the cause as well as the knowledge that ritual, music and dance would be part of the event. There was some disconnect between these two groups, as the beekeepers—not a homogenous group by any means—had their own agenda (some of them rejected the “sacred” label), while the more ritually oriented participants were passionately attached to their belief system regarding the care and breeding of the bees (which in many cases diverges from standard beekeeping methods), using an entirely natural, pesticide free, approach.
As an example of this divide, I even received a “hate mail” letter from a Marin County beekeeper the morning of my second bee event in August of 2009. He wrote something to the effect that I was a “greedy, money-mongering, hypocritical new -age space cadet”, and I should desist from presenting such events --which apparently I was only doing for the massive amounts of money I was making (!!). This really opened up my eyes to the opposing mind-set that I was dealing with as I embarked on the path of “bee activism”. I was temporarily shocked, depressed, and daunted by his hateful email, but since I received it the morning of the event, I was forced to put it out of my mind and carry on, which was just as well. It was a good lesson in an unfortunate type of diversity, however, and it made me reflect on the ways our presentation could be fine-tuned so as not to be offensive to mainstream beekeepers.
Joy James, in her essay “Truth Telling” writes: “ I have found that, while it is easy to dismiss my opponent’s humanity and use that heightened anger and that “moral justification” to push things through, anger is not the best energy to work with if it doesn’t have a loving perspective…A very important aspect of the idea of community is that you can’t learn this loving in isolation. You really only can learn this kind of loving when it is not easy. It is almost as if through struggle you learn love that is reconciliation without acquiescence. This requires understanding the lay of the land and then doing what is necessary to change the terrain, to change the landscape and make it more habitable for human beings.”
When I originally began this project of getting involved in honey bee activism, it never occurred to me that this subject could in any way be controversial. Who doesn’t love honey? And who wouldn’t love a honey bee, or want them to survive and thrive? I never imagined that this sub-culture (which I have discovered it to be) could be so diverse in its own way, and also so quirky. The range of people who keep bees encompasses a complete spectrum. There is as much variety in this group of people as any cross section of the population. Interestingly, the current problems afflicting the bees have brought together beekeepers in an unlikely accord; the overriding concern about the survival of the bees has transcended differences, and united individuals under the banner of saving the bees.
I feel strongly that nature is speaking to us through the bees, as well as many other insects, mammals, and fish: if we do not wake up to the call of the animal world, and the natural environment which sustains them, we risk our own survival, as is becoming increasingly evident. Referring to this awakening as “the Great Turning”, Joanna Macy writes: “the shift that is happening now, both as cognitive revolution and spiritual awakening…is the third, most basic dimension of the Great Turning…The realizations we make in the third dimension of the Great Turning save us from succumbing to either panic or paralysis. They help us resist the temptation to stick our heads in the sand. They also help us withstand the temptation to turn on each other, finding scapegoats on whom to vent our fear and rage. But when we know and revere the wholeness of life, we can stay alert and steady. We know there is no private salvation. We join hands to find the ways the world self-heals—and see the chaos as seedbed for the future.”
I think that both of our “Evening in Honor of the Sacred Honey Bees” events, one in February of 2009, and one in August of 2009, did provide a forum for deep listening; we were able to engage the community in discussion regarding issues surrounding the disappearance of the bees, as well as provide a historical, cultural background of their prominent place in ancient history. The seed of this discussion was rooted in a concern—love—for the honey bees; through compassion we can arm ourselves to make this fundamental shift in consciousness—the “Great Turning”, as Macy names it.
On another level, we were also engaging in a conversation with the bees—insects which have been misunderstood and feared, as much as they have been loved and appreciated. By presenting information about the bees, their importance to the planet and their integral role in the life of all of us, we hopefully were able to undo
some misconceptions about the bees, and replace those falsehoods with credible knowledge.
Gunther Hauk, a German beekeeper, disciple of Rudolph Steiner and the Anthroposophic philosophy he formulated, writes in his book “Towards Saving the Honey Bee”: “At this time, I cannot ward off the feeling that the GREAT BEE herself is in despair for the general misuse and treatment of her colonies. It is withdrawing, collapsing, unable to give of her blessings because she is simply too exhausted by our exploitation…Let us consider, in our mind and heart, a renewed approach of reverence and care for all of our earth’s creatures. Let us help the honey bee regain her health and joy of living.”
Interestingly, the life of the honey bee provides a model of community interaction and cooperation. Without this intensely focused cooperation, the colony would not survive. A strong colony of honey bees can contain between 40,000 to 60,000 bees. The majority of the colony are female worker bees, who are responsible for feeding larvae, feeding drones, nectar ripening, producing heat, collecting water for cooling, housecleaning, guard duty, and field collection of pollen, propolis, and nectar. A female worker lives approximately 6-8 weeks in the summer, and she will work until her wings give out. If the workers stopped feeding the drones (responsible for mating with the queen), they would die. Additionally, the workers must feed the queen royal jelly, without which she would not be a queen, or be able to produce in excess of 1000 eggs per day.
“Honey bee colonies employ strategies remarkably similar to those of mammals, and raise relatively few, but extremely well-prepared and carefully protected reproductive individuals to release into the world. To this end, honey bees have developed specific abilities and behaviors that belong among the most amazing in the living world. We are only just beginning to understand this highly complex tapestry….Maurice Maeterlink, a scientist from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries, was still able to perceive the life of the colony as an organism and express deep awe and reverence for the greater forces and mysteries indicated by the life of the bees (Maeterlink 1915). Modern science creates a dichotomy out of this very advanced and integrated life expression. On the one hand, researchers marvel at the intricacies of activity, timing and production that the bees so amazingly execute among themselves, to provide gifts for the rest of the world (not only pollination, honey, wax). Yet under the sway of our technological mentality, they try to define the life of the bee colony by separation and delineation of its ‘individual’ components: queen, workers, and drones.”
Even as scientific knowledge about the bees has increased, our “technological mentality” has stripped us of a compassionate understanding and approach to beekeeping. We have “commodified” the bees, turning them into--like everything else in this Western society-- a “product”. The standard method of reproduction is now no longer the naturally occurring mating of the queen with her drones; queen bees are now routinely artificially inseminated. This process, available for viewing on the internet, is akin to torture: the queen is placed in a holding tube of an instrument and anesthetized with carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, the drone’s head and thorax are crushed, effectively turning the drone inside out, so that semen can be collected. Hooks are used to help insert a syringe with the semen into the queen bee. Noah Lewis, who has posted a page about artificial insemination of the queen bee on her website, writes about the practice: “I do not mean to trivialize human rape and certainly an individual human rape is far worse than an individual honeybee rape, but as a cultural phenomenon, they are equally evil and, in fact, flow from the same source.”
When considering the current plight of the honey bee, we cannot overlook this insensitivity to the basic impulses and natural functioning of the honey bees. In nature, the queen normally mates once in her life--in mid-air with 7-17 drones (male bees) who then die. By submitting the queen bee to this ‘rape’, we are erasing a fundamental function within the hive, of both the drone and the queen. Gunther Hauk feels that “the single most serious factor causing the lowered state of health and vitality of the honey bee (is) our ‘great’ achievement of artificial queen production”. Michael Bush, of Bush Bees Farms, Canada writes, “We have a narrow gene pool to start with, and between pesticides, pests, and overzealous programs to control Africanized Honey Bees, many of the pockets of feral bees have been depleted leaving only the queens that people buy. When you consider that there are only a handful of queen breeders providing 99% of the queens, that's a pretty small gene pool. This deficiency used to be made up by feral bees and people rearing their own queens. But the recent trend is to encourage everyone to not rear their own queens and only buy them.” This is ultimately leading to a situation where the gene pool is deteriorating. Marin County Beekeepers recently have launched their own program called “Survivor Stock Queen Project”. Under the guidance of master beekeepers like Serge LaBesque of Sonoma County, the Marin Beekeepers will attempt to raise their own queen bees, without resorting to artificial insemination methods, removing the necessity of purchasing queens from one source, as is the current custom throughout the United States.
Awareness of all the above facts—the commodification of the bees, artificial insemination, and other contemporary beekeeping practices—has led to a slow shift in consciousness; beekeepers throughout the United States can no longer ignore the fact that the bees are dying and that this will have an immediate and highly detrimental impact on the production of produce, their jobs and livelihoods, and in general, the continuation of life as we know it.
The bees are communicating to us through their demise. We have to make that shift, entering into the “Great Turning”, and direct our energies to focus on ways that we as a global community can come together, in the richness of our diversity, in an uncommon kinship, and find ways that together we can help the honey bees. In helping the bees, we will also be aligning ourselves with “our deepest desires…we will choose life.”

Photos: August 15, 2009
An Evening in Honor of the Sacred Honey Bee. Pt. Reyes Dance Palace. Pt. Reyes, CA
The Melissae Chorus, dressed in Bulgarian traditional costume