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To Save Bees Humans Must Change

April 22, 2011 in ,

According to a recent United Nations report, the potentially disastrous decline in bees, impacting the vital pollinating element in food production for the growing global population, is likely to continue unless humans dramatically change their ways. The United Nations define these “ways” as everything from insecticides to air pollution and go on to say:

“The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st centurey.” UN Environment Programme executive director Achim Steiner said “The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the worlds foods, more than 70 are pollinated by bees.” Read the rest of this entry →

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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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3D Bees! – Scanned beehive reveals bee life live in 3D

May 17, 2010 in

Entomologist Mark Greco and his colleagues at the Swiss Bee Research Centre in Bern, Switzerland and scientists at the University of Bath led by Professor Cathryn Mitchell and Dr Manuchehr Soleimani are pioneering a new way of viewing the inside of a beehive.

3D inner beehive image

3D inner beehive image

The technique is called Diagnostic Radioentomology (DR) which scans the hive taking a series of 3D images. These images create a live picture of whats going on inside the hive, meaning we can gain a greater insight into what the bees are doing behind closed doors. These live images produced by X-ray computerised tomography can also be used to track individual bees within the hive, thus allowing the tracking of the Queen, again giving a greater insight into her movements.

Mr Greco told the BBC when interviewed, “the approach is non-invasive and does not modify their normal behaviour…..We can accurately assess the number of bees and where they are at the time of scanning.”

The researchers are working to improve this new technique which will hopefully result in clearer 3D images and more accurately measure the bee population, volumes of pollen, wax and honey within a hive.

The University of Bath scientists are also working on new computer models which will hopefully allow better evaluation of parasites and pathogens affecting the hive.

“Because the method is extremely accurate, we will be looking for critical thresholds of pathogen and parasite loads and loss of food resources from which bee populations can not recover,” explained Mr Greco, who is completing his PhD thesis.

“[We will also be investigating] how pathogens such as mites, viruses, bacteria and fungi might interact, both among themselves, and with environmental pressures or stressors, to produce colony declines or collapses.”

The team hopes too that the new imaging technique might indicate what is reducing the numbers of other solitary bee species.

“Many solitary bees forage on the same floral resources to those of honeybees, some also suffer from the same pathogens, such as fungal infestations in their nests.”

The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, together with the British government is spending £10 million on researching the population decline of bees, some of this money could be well spent on furthering these new techniques to gain greater insight into the inner-workings of beehives.

See a video of the 3D images on the BBC news website here

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Scottish Government Rebuff Black Bee Nature Reserve

April 2, 2010 in ,

Doesn't Alex care about bees?

Doesn't Alex care about bees?

The Scottish Government has rebuffed a reserve for Black bees on Colonsay. The reserve was brain child of Andrew Abraham, Andrew spent years trying to secure the reserve on Colonsay only to have it Squashed by the Scottish Government early this year.

Scotland on Sunday published an article where the Scottish Government said; “the black bee is considered a domesticated creature”. This was the reason they said no to the black bee reserve! The Countryside and Wildlife act 1981 can only be used to protect and secure reserves for wild animals, as it has be used before for Red Deer on the Isles of Rum, Jura and Arran.

I find this completely insane! How can black bees be considered a domestic creature, there must be 1000’s of wild hives of black bees in Scotland!! And of course going by this idiotic thinking the Scottish Government has failed to take pro-active measures in helping our native black bee!

I urge all who disagree with the Scottish Parliments decision to write a letter of complaint and send to:

Alex Salmond MSP,
First Minister,
Scottish Parliment,
St Andrews House,
Regent Road,

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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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Jonathon Goodwin the escapologist

January 6, 2010 in ,

Jonathon Goodwin the escapologist uses bees to “entertain”. Below is a video of him playing bee roulette and in his new show on the Discovery channel he is covered head to toe in bees while he escapes a locked box. At least he gets stung a lot! Numpty.

Im unsure if I agree with what he is doing as his over reaction to bee stings in the below video teaches people nothing about how they should react (which is dont flap your hands and arms around like an idiot). It also increases peoples fear of bees as they scream and dance around in pain from a sting!! Come on guys its really not that bad, for me a wasp sting hurts so much more!

Anyway watch the video below and keep a look out for his big bee stunt on Discovery channel and let me know what you think and if hes doing the plight of bees any favours!

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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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