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Bee Safe, Not Sorry

January 10, 2011 in

Silently, billions of bees are dying off and our entire food chain is in danger. Bees don’t just make honey, they are a giant, humble workforce, pollinating 90% of the plants we grow.

Multiple scientific studies fault one group of toxic pesticides for their rapid demise, and bee populations have soared in four European countries that have banned these products. But powerful chemical companies are lobbying hard to keep selling this poison. Our best chance to save bees now is to push the US and EU to ban this deadly product — their action is critical and will have a ripple effect on the rest of the world.

We have no time to lose — the debate is raging about what to do. This is not just about saving bumble bees, this is about survival. Let’s build a giant global buzz calling for the EU and US to outlaw these killer chemicals and save our bees and our food. Sign the emergency petition now and send it onto to everyone and we’ll deliver it to key decision makers:

Bees are vital to life on earth — every year pollinating plants and crops with an estimated $40bn value, over one third of the food supply in many countries. Without immediate action to save bees we could end up with no fruit, no vegetables, no nuts, no oils and no cotton.

Recent years have seen a steep and disturbing global decline in bee populations — some bee species are now extinct and others are at just 4% of their previous numbers. Scientists have been scrambling for answers. Some studies claim the decline may be due to a combination of factors including disease, habitat loss and toxic chemicals. But leading independent research has produced strong evidence blaming neonicotinoid pesticides. This has led to beekeepers and scientists in France, Italy, Slovenia and even Germany, where the main manufacturer Bayer is based, already pushing successfully for bans of one of these bee killers. Meanwhile, Bayer continues to export its poison across the world.

This issue is now coming to the boil as major new studies have confirmed the scale of this problem. If we can get European and US decision-makers to take action, others will follow. It won’t be easy. A leaked document shows that the US Environmental Protection Agency knew about the pesticide’s dangers, but ignored them. The document says Bayer’s “highly toxic” product is a “major risk concern to non target insects (honey bees)”.

We need to make our voices heard to counter Bayer’s very strong influence on policy makers and scientists in both the US and the EU where they fund the studies and sit on policy bodies. The real experts — the beekeepers and farmers — want these deadly pesticides prohibited until and unless we have solid, independent studies that show they are safe. Let’s support them now. Sign the petition below, then forward this email:

We can no longer leave our delicate food chain in the hands of research run by the chemical companies and the regulators that are in their pockets. Banning this pesticide will move us closer to a world safe for ourselves and the other species we care about and depend on

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It was a hard Winter for honeybees

May 25, 2010 in ,

Well now we are well into Spring its time to take stock of how our bees coped with the unusually harsh Winter. It has been estimated by the British Beekeepers Association that loss of the UK honeybee population is around 17% which compares to around 19% last year the huge 30% loss between 2007-2008!! However I have heard some stories and rumours of the losses in Scotland being as high as 50% for some beeks up here. The BBKA survey did reveal marked regional variations. Beekeepers in the north of England lost more than a quarter of their honeybee colonies, while the south-west recorded the lowest losses: 12.8% of colonies between November 2009 and March 2010.

Martin Smith, the president of the BBKA, said this year’s losses showed a “small and encouraging improvement” on the previous year and are “much better” than the “disastrous” losses of three years ago. “It shows that our honeybees are slowly moving out of intensive care, but they are still not healthy enough,” he said. “Winter losses between 7-10% are acceptable.”

So definitely an improvement especially when considering we have had such a harsh Winter! Personally I think the harsh Winter will prove useful, being a Darwinian believer; these weaker bees can no longer reproduce and so any deficiencies or unwanted traits they may have had die with them.

The other great news is that mebership of the BBKA has gone up by 20%. I personally know that some of our local associations in Scotland are seeing record numbers attending their courses. Plus this website is becoming more and more popular with visits increasing each month!

The number of hives estimated to be in the UK is around 80,000 with 48 billion bees.

The US in comparison has suffered over one third of their colonies wiped out for the fourth year in a row. Not good! CCD is the main unexplained cause.

It is thought that honey bees contribute around £200million annually to the UK agricultural economy by pollinating a huge variety of crops. Its scary to think what would happen if we lost our bees!

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Why do people import queens?

March 14, 2010 in , ,

I just dont understand it! Why oh why get a queen from abroad? I mean what possible benefit can be gained from doing so, or is it easier to get queens from abroad? Im not sure I mean how difficult is it to phone your local beekeepers association and see what they say? Failing that a chat with local beekeepers should provide fruitful and perhaps queens can be found at no cost.

Not only that if you find a queen locally it gives you a chance to see the hive and discuss with the owner the temperament and other traits.

The Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Associations (BIBBA) are offering to help beekeepers to rear queens that are more suited to their geographical locale. The areas covered are England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

All the National BKA’s advise to source bees locally and NOT to import. The reasoning is that the bees may carry disease and pests but are also unsuited to live in the country’s weather conditions.

There are still experienced beekeepers who think that all bees are the same! This is not the case and bees can be more suited to certain weather conditions or forage availability.

So we are all in agreement that bees and their queens should be sourced locally. So the Local Queen Programme is being setup to encourage beekeepers to raise their own queen from the best thats available in their locale. Your local BKA will hopefully play a big part in this scheme and help you every step of the way.

The aim of the scheme is a pyramid system with member beekeepers in the base with them teamed with a local BKA doing the propogation of queens. It is also hoped that specialised breeding groups will form locally with a more keen interest in this area of beekeeping.

BIBBA has annouced it will help local BKAs. More info can be found on their website and lectures and tuition is available.

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Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) Honeybees

February 27, 2010 in ,

Agricultural Research Services (ARS) are making positive strides in creating a strain of honeybee which is proactive in attacking the Varroa mite head on!

ARS are focusing on creating honeybees with a certain genetic trait; Varroa Sensitive Hygiene. The VSH trait in the bee means it is more likely to find and remove mite infested pupae from the capped brood developing sealed inside the comb cells. This can be obviously difficult for the bees to detect as the mite attacks the brood within the capped cells and so rely on the protective layer of wax to escape the bees natural sanitation tendencies.

ARS scientists at the agency’s Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit in Baton Rouge, LA have developed honey bees with a high expression of this VSH trait. The VSH is a specific trait and form of hive hygeine that not all honeybees possess. The VSH developed bees show an aggressive pursuit of Varroa in the hive.

Varroa on LarvaeThe Bees form groups and chew through an mite infested cell cap, lift out the infected brood and eject them from the broodnest.

This hygiene destroys the mite’s frail offspring preventing the reproductive output of the mites and preventing the usual Varroa mite hive takeover!

The team at ARS conducted field trials using 40 colonies with varying levels of VSH bees contained in each colony. The mite population growth was significantly lower in the VSH and hybrid colonies than in the colonies without VSH developed bees.

Of course if you believe in evolution the bees will eventually develop this trait on their own but would the bee population be too decimated by then to recover. After all bee breeders have been messing around with bee behaviour for years, perhaps to the detriment of the bees themselves; perhaps breeders have been focusing on certain traits like honey production and temperament and not hygiene and disease resistance.

Personally I think the discovery of the VSH trait is good for bees and humankind. I just wonder if fiddling with genetics is ever a good thing to do? What are your thoughts?

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Top Ventillation or not in Winter?

December 2, 2009 in ,

There is a lot of advice online which tells beekeepers to ventillate the top of their hives by putting an entrance there. The reasons behind this are:

1. Bees release metabolic water as they consume honey. The warm moisture rises up to the lid of the hive and will condense and rain down on the bee cluster.

2. If you only have one entrance at the bottom it may get blocked by snow and the bees could suffocate.

I say and a lot of seasoned beekeepers say nae! With the proper ventilation neither of these reasons are valid.

I think we are all in agreement mesh floors are the way forward, they offer the right ventilation which cancels out these problems. I know a expert beekeeper who has many apiaries across Scotland. She inspected her hives in the Spring for CCD and noticed hives sporting mesh floors faired far better than those not.

My advise dont mess around with upper ventilation, just invest in a mesh floor for your hive.

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Feeding Bees over the Winter – Using Fondant or Feed Paste

October 7, 2009 in , , ,

Well its getting to that time of year again when liquid feeds are no longer an option, by the end of October the cold weather should have taken hold rendering the bees unable to cope with syrup feed.

Depending on how much honey has been harvested or the strength of the hive will depend on the required feeding. If you have a strong hive and you have not taken any honey it would be fairly safe to say the bees have stored enough honey to get them through the Winter. Although checks should be made throughout the season to make sure (generally done by lifting the hive to determine weight, if its light feeding must be done).

However lets assume you want to feed your bees anyway. Using fondant or feed paste is the suggested feeding strategy in Winter, however its not, as a lot of people think just ordinary cake fondant (Im sure a lot of people use this successfully though). The fondant can be made up at home or can be purchased from somewhere like Thornes. Thornes supply fondant called Apifonda and it contains extra sugars like fructose and glucose. What you will notice about this fondant mixture is that it is in no way as hard as ordinary cake fondant, its much more malleable and will actually absorb a little moisture when placed in the hive.

This is why I would suggest either making your own fondant or buying something ready made like Apifonda, plus it has extra sugars that will help the bees. Ordinary cake fondant tends to go to hard when left in the air.

So now we have our fondant what exactly do we do with it? Well it is advised to place it on top of the brood frames (if the super is to remain on with honey you could place the fondant on top of these), spread it out and push it down between the frames slightly, so the bees dont need to move far to get it. A pack of Apifonda combined with their honey stores should tide them through until Spring but remember to do the weight check just in case.

When adding the fondant to the hive you should notice the bees hightened aggression, this is to ensure the safety of their stores, so make sure you have all your gear on to prevent stings.

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Do Bee Stings Reduce Arthritis Symptoms?

August 27, 2009 in , , ,

Apitherapy or BVT

Apitherapy or BVT

Bee stings or apitherapy (The term comes from the Latin apis, which means “bee”) as it is known or BVT (Bee Venom Therapy) is thought by many to reduce the effects of arthritis. The bee venom is administered either by needle or actual bee sting. The theory has been banded around for years, with the main concept being the bee venom reduces inflamation. This is of course true as South Korean found that the principle peptide in bee venom (melittin) blocks the expression of inflammatory genes that can cause painful tissue swelling in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Another anti inflamatory subtance found in the venom is adolapin. Melittin stimulates the body’s production of cortisol, a natural steroid that also acts as an anti-inflammatory.

BVT is also used to treat a number of other ailments such as tendonitis, bursitis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms, and even pevent and treat cancer.

Of course with anything there is a risk involved, an allergic reaction to the stings could result in Anaphylaxis (anaphylatic shock). This can lead to death in extreme cases.

The history of apitherapy reaches back to ancient China, Egypt and Greece. Hippocrates, the Greek physician known as the “father of medicine”, used bee venom to treat arthritis and other joint problems. The Austrian physician Phillip Terc initiated the modern study of bee venom and intentional bee stings when he published his article “Report about a Peculiar Connection Between the Beestings and Rheumatism” in 1888. The late beekeeper Charles Mraz of Middlebury, Vermont is credited with popularising bee venom therapy over the past 60 years in the United States. Today, thousands of medical professionals and lay practitioners use apitherapy acroos the globe.

I realise this infoi isnt anything new but I think its very interesting and wondered if any of my readers have tried it? Or perhaps you get stung regularly while beekeeping and you notice the health benefits? Please let us know by using the comment form below:

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American Foulbrood Hits Scotland

August 2, 2009 in

American Foul Brood

American Foul Brood

Whilst searching for European Foul Brood (EFB) which was discovered in over sixty hives in the Perthshire and Angus area (forty of which have been destroyed), the American strain has also been found in Perthshire apiaries and hives. American Foul Brood (AFB) has been found in atleast four hives and three apiaries.

European Foul Brood

European Foul Brood

EFB infected colonies can fortunately be treated and normally saved, those with AFB however must be destroyed by burning the infected hive. The disease itself is caused by a bacterium that infiltrates the bee larvae, consuming their food supply starving the larvae to death. It can be recognised by the strong rotten fish smell (not always present) created in infected hives and the discolouration of cells (see pic), sunken/perforated cappings with brownish meltings inside. The advice of experts is to check your hives regularly and if any signs are present to contact your local beekeeping association to seek advice and to inform the government body DEFRA. Or if in Scotland you can notify these contacts:

SGRPID, Broxden Business Park, Lamberkine Drive, Perth, PH1 1RX. Tel: 01738 602000. Fax: 01738 60200. Email:

Gavin Ramsay, SBA Diseases Convener, Park View, Station Rd, Errol, Perth, PH1 1RX. Tel: 01821 642385 / 07751 142155. Email:

EFB was discovered in Perthshire and Angus last month.

Gavin Ramsay from the Scottish Beekeepers Association said: “It’s the worst problem in beekeeping in Scotland for very many years.

“It’s going to be very disruptive to beekeeping probably for a few years.

“It’s a notifiable disease, so that means if you have a suspicion that you have it in your bees you have to tell the authorities and the bee inspectors will come and have a look and test it.

“It’s a new problem, it’s something that we’re not used to dealing with here, so it means people are going to have to learn how to identify it in the early stages so it can be treated, and also how to change our beekeeping to minimise the likelihood it’s going to appear.”

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Native black British bee could be key to population survival

July 7, 2009 in ,

Native Black Bee

Native Black Bee

The Co-operative Group which launched a 10 point programme to help save the honey be called ‘Plan Bee’ has announced funding for Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders (BIBBA) to find and map the locations of native black honey bees and their hybrids.

The native black British bee has evolved to cope with the seasons here and developed a thick black hair covering its body. There is talk that the decline of bees in Britain is partly due to beekeepers using foreign queens producing bees that are unsuited to our climate. This has happened because the native black bees doesnt produce as much honey as its foreign counterparts but if you take the honey production over the lifespan of the hives the native black bee should win because CCD is not as common.

Our advice is dont buy foreign queens and bees, seek out native, black honey bees and queens to populate your hives. Its our native bee, we should be proud of it and try to preserve it. Greed will be the death of us all!!

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Broadcasting Masts Causing Colony Collapse Disorder?

July 7, 2009 in ,

Radio Mast

Radio Mast

Ive just read a very interesting article written by Marion Lang in the Scottish Beekeeper magazine. She explains that the multitude of masts close by her apiary in Angus seems to be affecting hives and causing CCD.

In the article she explains the masts and the broadcasting radiation produced and states that in 2008 Mr Orjan Hallberg and Dr Olle Johanasson produced a paper showing that there is a marked increase with immunity problems in humans when exposed to electrical currents at 100MHz. In the West we broadcast between 87-107 MHz band.

Marion explains that the broadcasting radiation affects her when she lies down and that it affects people across the globe.

Surely if we are affected by these electromagnetic radations then it could also be affecting the bees? More research must be done to discover if these masts are having a detrimental effect on bee health and ours too!

Has anybody else got any information on this, perhaps you think masts are affecting your hives? Please let us know here!

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