August is a busy month in the commercial beekeeping world
of the Southern hemisphere. It is a month of getting into gear
again. Getting on the road to feed bees and ensure that all is well.
Discovering faults in vehicles; faults that have lain in wait all
winter only to manifest themselves just as you need to really get
going. In our area, the lack of pollen is the main concern at this
time of year and this lack has taught many beekeepers the salutary
lesson that nectar is not all, and that colony development is
utterly dependent upon good pollen sources.
This edition of Apis UK looks at bees and beekeeping from many
different angles. We look at how confused avocados get when sex is
in the wind and in a similar vein we see the amazing reproductive
efforts of a particular species of orchid. Bumble bees are brought
to light in a research piece that suggests that they are brighter in
brain power than we think, even though their decline in numbers is
There are two pieces on the confusing subject of genetic
modification, one of them a short story on the inevitable, a
genetically modified bee; and this in a month when researchers in
the USA have genetically modified white blood cells which can now
attack cancer cells (skin cancer in this case) and cure people.
Bees and robots; Bees and bears, and a new view on the rewards
offered to pollinators for their services; is it only nectar and
pollen? All these subjects are covered.
Two new books are investigated and Ian Rumsey continues with his
excellent and absorbing series on hive rotation, and with these
articles and more, I believe that this edition of Apis continues the
tradition of bringing items of interest to the enquiring beekeeper.
Interest in bees and bee research has advanced so much over the past
few decades that the modern beekeeper, if he or she wants to keep
up, really needs to be a scientist of sorts. The number of subjects
covered by the term ‘beekeeping’ is immense and I firmly believe
that any young person who can grasp the nettle can make a career in
bees. A career that can take them all over the world whilst being
paid. If you think about it, a beekeeper of a few years experience
knows an enormous amount about the subject and so much about
biology, chemistry and even physics, yet so few of them realise
this. It is the aim of Apis UK to remind them.
David Cramp. Editor.
NEWS Back to top
EVENT. DRAMATIC INCREASE IN WASPS
Each year about this time, we report a dramatic increase in the
number of wasps around and this year is no exception. I always look
for the first announcement, just as I look for that indicating that
cuckoos are back, and here it is from the West Somerset Council who
say, ‘There's been a dramatic increase in the number of problem
wasps nests in the West this summer’. And go on to say that they
have had to deal with an unusually high number this year. Experts
think it could be down to the weather.
GM CROP REGULATIONS CAUSE ALARM
Environmental campaigners and consumer groups launched a fierce
attack on the government recently over its new plans to regulate GM
crops in England. The consultation document outlines suggestions for
how contamination between GM and non-GM crops could be prevented
when the technology eventually comes to the country. But campaigners
warned it was effectively giving the go-ahead to GM foods, and said
the measures proposed were wholly inadequate to protect organic and
Friends of the Earth (FoE) campaigner Clare Oxbarrow said that the
organisation regarded this consultation is a complete sham saying
that it highlights the lengths the government will go to back the
biotech industry and pave the way for GM crops to be grown in
Britain. The environment minister Ian Pearson however, denied it was
giving a "green light" to the commercial production of GM crops in
England. He said, "Our top priority is protecting consumers and the
environment. We have a strict EU regime in place which ensures only
GM crops that are safe for human health and the environment could be
grown in the UK." He added: "But we have a responsibility to be
fully prepared if crops which meet the safety criteria are developed
and grown here in future."
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
consultation proposes strict separation distances between fields
containing GM and non-GM crops, but critics warn that just 35 metres
for oilseed rape is not enough. The minimum distance for forage
maize and grain maize are slightly larger, at 80
metres and 110 metres respectively, but campaigners warn
cross-pollination through insects and wind can spread GM
contaminated crops as far as three miles. Defra also proposes that
the UK adopt the European Union's threshold of 0.9 per cent
contamination for assessing whether a crop is GM or not, saying this
would ensure GM farmers are not put under an "excessive burden" to
protect surrounding crops. But FoE are calling for a 0.1 per cent
threshold, arguing that in Brazil such a measure is adhered to
without any problems, and concerns have also been expressed about
the impact that the government's proposals could have on the organic
The Soil Association, have warned that if the government sticks to
this policy, part of the prime minister's legacy will be to leave a
GM-contaminated country behind him. Today's consultation also
proposes that farmers growing GM crops need only inform their
immediate neighbours, and appears to reject the suggestion of a
public register of GM crops in England. However, it calls for
stakeholder views on these issues. But Liberal Democrat environment
spokesman Chris Huhne believes that this is another step in the
government’s creep towards introducing unpopular GM crops into the
UK and says that commercial GM crops must be put on hold until we
know they are safe for the environment and human health.
NEW THREAT TO BUMBLEBEE SPECIES
We are often faced with threats to our environment especially when
the (sometimes) legitimate requirements of the human population come
into conflict with the requirements of other species, but I often
wonder if the spokespersons (is that the right word these days) know
what they are talking about when they speak to us of the environment
or of sustainability. What often happens is that we believe that
they do and when it eventually all goes pear shaped and a rare
species disappears, everyone has long moved on and forgotten about
the issue. Our children read about it in school projects. ‘Hey dad,
did you know that dodos’ are extinct?’ It means of course that
‘spokespersons’ can usually get away with saying what you want to
hear even if it’s total tripe. Because of this, they end up being
accountable to no one and so don’t usually give a damn anyway as
long as they can reach Friday happy hour with as little hassle as
Four rare types of bumblebee live in the Thames Gateway area
Wildlife experts are warning that rare species of bumblebee could
face extinction if hundreds of thousands of homes are built in the
Thames Gateway. Four types of bumblebee which are among the most
endangered species in the UK thrive on wild flowers in the area. “We
recognise they are rare and yet they still seem determined to build
on these sites,” said Ben Darvill of the Bumblebee Conservation
Trust. The Thames Gateway area, covering east and south-east London,
and parts of Kent and Essex, is set for 120,000 new homes by 2016.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said 90%
of development would be on previously developed land. But Professor
Ted Benton, of the University of Essex, says in his book Bumblebees
that the development will be “catastrophic”. He urges the government
to do more to ensure the bumblebees survive. As well as being very
beautiful insects, they are also incredibly important pollinators of
the majority of our wild flowers and a lot of our crops say
environmentalists and that without bumblebees you are talking about
reduced crop yields and sweeping changes to the countryside.”
Britain and Ireland have 25 native species of bumblebee, of which
three have already become extinct nationally. Five are listed on the
UK biodiversity action plan as endangered species and four more are
scheduled for inclusion.
Comments from spokeswomen varied: “We need to build new homes for
our ageing and growing population.” A government spokeswoman said
building would be environmentally sustainable. If possible, wildlife
will be reintroduced to the sites following construction and the
relevant habitat checks being carried out. But environmentalists say
if the rare species lose their habitat they cannot be reintroduced
at a later date.
Bumblebees can navigate their way home over distances of up to 13km
(eight miles), a UK research team has shown. The study also found
only worker bees seemed to have this homing ability. Bees pollinate
flowering plants and therefore play a crucial role in food webs, but
numbers of the insect in Britain have been declining recently. The
team said the homing research would inform conservation strategies
that sought to adapt landscapes to create optimum habitats for bees.
NEWS Back to top
NAVIGATION SURPRISES RESEARCHERS
The University of Newcastle-led group took some 100 bumblebees
belonging to the common species Bombus terrestris and tagged some of
them with tiny identification numbers. The bees were then dropped in
different places around north-east England and left to make their
way back to the nest. The scientists set up a webcam in the hive to
record the homecomers. Early results show the bees will fly varying
distances but some that were left at a garden centre in Heddon on
the Wall in the Tyne Valley - about 13km from their nest - could get
home safely. “The current scientific literature shows that bees
normally forage within 5km, and this is probably correct,” said
Steph O’Connor, one of the researchers. The scientists tagged some
of the bees before releasing them “What we are showing is it is
eminently possible for bumblebees to forage more than 5km from the
nest.” Dr Mark O’Neill told the BBC News website. Only about 20% to
30% of the tagged insects actually completed the journey. But,
explained Dr O’Neill: “Don’t forget that a lot of bees got killed by
predators including hitting car windscreens and the researchers are
not entirely clear how the insects navigate but their vision seems
to help keep them on course and recognise landmarks. They believe
there will be a difference, because they use vision, especially the
horizon edge for guidance. So a cluttered environment is liable to
be more problematic and challenging to the bees than a green field
environment. The insects’ “maps” also include odours, but these are
limited to less than 2m (7ft). For example, when a bee has emptied
the nectar in a flower, it leaves chemical “post-it notes” to tell
others where it has been. The countryside has a more varied scent
composition than the urban landscape, and researchers are now
plotting bee routes to see which kinds of environment the insects
The team is trying to find out more about how bees forage, or look
for their food and are particularly interested to see if they find
certain environments easier to navigate. Britain and Ireland have 25
native species of bumblebee. Five are currently listed in the UK
Biodiversity Action Plan because of their precarious status: Bombus
distinguendus (great yellow bumblebee); Bombus humilis (carder
bumblebee); Bombus ruderatus (large garden bumblebee); Bombus
subterraneus (short-haired bumblebee)Bombus sylvarum (shrill carder
Bee). Many of the other bee species have undergone major range
BEES ASSOCIATE WARMTH WITH FLORAL COLOUR
As beekeepers we automatically assume that it is only the rewards of
nectar and pollen that dictate pollination, but this research shows
that there may be more to it than just that.
Pollinators may be seeking more than just food as a reward when they
choose one flower over another.
Floral colour signals are used by pollinators as predictors of
nutritional rewards, such as nectar. But as insect pollinators often
need to invest energy to maintain their body temperature above the
ambient temperature, floral heat might also be perceived as a
reward. In tests researchers have shown that bumblebees (Bombus
terrestris) prefer to visit warmer flowers and that they can learn
to use colour to predict floral temperature before landing. In what
could be a widespread floral adaptation, plants may modulate their
temperature to encourage pollinators to visit.
Some beetles spend extended periods (about 24 hours) inside
specialized thermogenic flowers, even in the absence of a
nutritional reward, and basking insects will take advantage of
floral suntraps6. Visits to flowers by pollinating insects in order
to imbibe carbohydrates in nectar are typically much briefer. But it
is possible that endothermic pollinators might also seek a metabolic
reward in the form of heat, given that the temperature of floral
nectar is the same as the flower containing it. Differences in
floral temperature occur widely between and within plant species
and, if these variations can influence the preference of
pollinators, then pollinators may forage adaptively by paying
attention to temperature when choosing between flowers.
The findings of this research indicate that floral temperature can
serve as an additional reward for pollinator insects when
nutritional rewards are also available. Researchers concluded that
the bees preferred to land on the warmer flowers, even though the
similarly coloured alternative contained the same nutritional
reward. In another control experiment in which flowers varied in
temperature but not colour, discrimination fell to chance indicating
that the bees must use colour as a cue, rather than temperature.
BUMBLE BEES CAN ESTIMATE TIME INTERVALS
To the average beekeeper the bumble bee whilst looking nicer in a
fluffy sort of way has always been regarded as inferior in intellect
to the honey bee. But this report shows that the more we learn about
this creature, the smarter it appears.
In a finding that broadens our understanding of time perception in
the animal kingdom, researchers have discovered that an insect
pollinator, the bumble bee, can estimate the duration of time
intervals. Although many insects show daily and annual rhythms of
behavior, the more sophisticated ability to estimate the duration of
shorter time intervals had previously been known only in humans and
The findings are reported by Michael Boisvert and David Sherry of
the University of Western Ontario and appear in the August 22nd
issue of the journal Current Biology, published by Cell Press. Bees
and other insects make a variety of decisions that appear to require
the ability to estimate elapsed durations. Insect pollinators feed
on floral nectar that depletes and renews with the passage of time,
and insect communication and navigation may also require the ability
to estimate the duration of time intervals.
In the new work, the researchers investigated bumble bees’ ability
to time the interval between successive nectar rewards. Using a
specially designed chamber in which bumble bees extended their
proboscis to obtain sucrose rewards, the researchers observed that
bees adjusted the timing of proboscis extensions so that most were
made near the end of the programmed interval between rewards. When
nectar was delivered after either of two different intervals, bees
could often time both intervals simultaneously. This research shows
that the biological foundations of time perception may be found in
animals with relatively simple neural systems.
Scientists have spent decades trying to figure out just how an
avocado has sex. Just one tree will put out up to around a million
blossoms in spring but only 150 to 500 will bear fruit. And the
flowers have confusing time of it too. They can bloom as a female
one day and as a male the next with other varieties doing the
opposite. Scientists also argue about how best to pollinate a tree.
Research carried out in the USA suggests that wind is the primary
pollinator, whereas other research suggests that little can be
achieved without the bee and has found a strong correlation between
fruiting and honey bee activity. This is strange because bees are
not that keen on avocados and the avocado is a native of South
America where there were no honey bees. Also it seems that there may
be a genetic component coming into it all. Carniolans like avocados
more than Italians and to test how much so, the honey from the bees
was analysed. Avocados produce a unique sugar called perseitol and
by measuring this in the honey showed which bees preferred which
plant. Most bees preferred citrus honey to avocado honey and what
seems to discourage bees from the avocado trees is the mineral
component of the nectar with high concentrations of potassium and
phosphorous. Researchers have found however that bees can be bred
Research news item
AN AMAZING FEAT OF POLLINATION.
Many plants self-fertilise, but a rare orchid that grows on tree
trunks in China manages the process in an unbelievable way. Through
a gymnastic feat never seen before in plants, it bends its
pollen-containing male anther round through a full circle before
jabbing it into the female stigma to complete fertilisation.
It takes 60 days! LaiQuiang Huang, a researcher, and his colleagues
at Tsinghua University in the city of Shenzhen spotted the
painstaking process in 1900 flowers of the orchid Holcoglossum
amesianum. Unlike all other forms of self-pollination which require
assistance from wind, gravity, insects or secretions, this orchid's
is entirely mechanical. "We never witnessed an insect visiting the
flowers, or wind assisting anther movement," they say in Nature (Vol
441, p 945).
HONEY HELPS PROBLEM WOUNDS
Yet more evidence to point towards the superiority of honey in wound
treatment comes to us from Germany. We’ve previously reported on
this increasingly popular use of honey in the UK so it’s nice to see
that others in Europe are investigating its healing powers and using
it in hospitals.
For several years now medical experts from the University of Bonn
have been clocking up largely positive experience with what is known
as medihoney. Even chronic wounds infected with multi-resistant
bacteria often healed within a few weeks. In conjunction with
colleagues from Düsseldorf, Homburg and Berlin they now want to test
the experience gained in a large-scale study, as objective data on
the curative properties of honey are thin on the ground.
Honey as a remedy for wounds is a use that is as old as the hills
and in the last two world wars poultices with honey were used to
assist the healing process in soldiers’ wounds. However, the rise of
the new antibiotics replaced this household remedy. “In hospitals
today we are faced with germs which are resistant to almost all the
current anti-biotics,” Dr. Arne Simon explains. “As a result, the
medical use of honey is becoming attractive again for the treatment
Dr. Simon works on the cancer ward of the Bonn University Children’s
Clinic. As far as the treatment of wounds is concerned, his young
patients form part of a high-risk group: the medication used to
treat cancer known as cytostatics not only slows down the
reproduction of malignant cells, but also impairs the healing
process of wounds. “Normally a skin injury heals in a week, with our
children it often takes a month or more,” he says. Moreover,
children with leukaemia have a weakened immune system. If a germ
enters their bloodstream via a wound, the result may be a fatal case
of blood poisoning.
For several years now Bonn paediatricians have been pioneering the
use in Germany of medihoney in treating wounds. Medihoney bears the
CE seal for medical products; its quality is regularly tested. The
success is astonishing: “Dead tissue is rejected faster, and the
wounds heals more rapidly,” Kai Sofka, wound specialist at the
University Children’s Clinic, emphasises. “What is more, changing
dressings is less painful, since the poultices are easier to remove
without damaging the newly formed layers of skin.” Some wounds often
smell unpleasant—an enormous strain on the patient. Yet honey helps
here too by reducing the smell. “Even wounds which consistently
refused to heal for years can, in our experience, be brought under
control with medihoney—and this frequently happens within a few
weeks,” Kai Sofka says.
In the meantime two dozen hospitals in Germany are using honey in
their treatment of wounds. Despite all the success there have
hitherto been very few reliable clinical studies of its
effectiveness. In conjunction with colleagues from Düsseldorf,
Homburg and Berlin, the Bonn medical staff now want to remedy this.
With the Woundpecker Data Bank, which they have developed
themselves, they will be recording and evaluating over 100 courses
of disease over the next few months. The next step planned is
comparative studies with other therapeutic methods such as the very
expensive cationic silver dressings. “These too are an effective
anti-bacterial method,” says Dr. Arne Simon. “However, it is not yet
clear whether the silver released from some dressings may lead to
side-effects among children.”
It has already been proved that medihoney even puts paid to
multi-resistant germs such as MRSA. In this respect medihoney is
neck and neck in the race to beat the antibiotic mupirocin,
currently the local MRSA antibiotic of choice. This is shown by a
study recently published by researchers in Australia. In one point
medihoney was even superior to its rival: the bacteria did not
develop any resistance to the natural product during the course of
It is also known today why honey has an antiseptic effect: when
producing honey, bees add an enzyme called glucose-oxidase. This
enzyme ensures that small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, an effective
antiseptic, are constantly being formed from the sugar in the honey.
The advantage over the hydrogen peroxide from the chemist’s is that
small concentrations are sufficient to kill the germs, as it is
constantly being produced. As a rule much larger quantities of
hydrogen peroxide would have to be used, as hydrogen peroxide loses
its potency over time. However, in large concentrations it not only
damages the bacteria, but also the skin cells.
Furthermore, medihoney consists of two different types of honey: one
which forms a comparatively large amount of hydrogen peroxide, and
another known as “lepto-spermum honey”. Leptospermum is a species of
tree which occurs in New Zealand and Australia. (Manuka in NZ and
jelly bush in Australia. Ed). Honey from these trees has a
particularly strong anti-bacterial effect, even in a 10% dilution.
“It is not yet known exactly why this is,” Dr. Arne Simon says.
“Probably it is a mix of phenol-type substances which come from the
plant and make life particularly difficult for the bacteria in the
POLLINATING SERVICE AT RISK IN THE UK
Wild Bees And The Flowers They Pollinate Are Disappearing Together
The diversity of bees and of the flowers they pollinate, has
declined significantly in Britain and the Netherlands over the last
25 years according to research led by the University of Leeds and
published in Science this Friday (21 July 2006). The paper is the
first evidence of a widespread decline in bee diversity.
Concerns have been raised for years about the loss of pollination
services, but until recently most of the evidence has been
restricted to a few key species or a few focal sites. To test for
more general declines, an international team of researchers from
three UK universities (Leeds, Reading and York) and from the
Netherlands and Germany compiled biodiversity records for 100s of
sites, and found that bee diversity fell in almost 80% of them. Many
bee species are declining or have become extinct in the UK. Lead
author, Dr Koos Biesmeijer from the University of Leeds said: “We
were shocked by decline in plants as well as bees. If this pattern
is replicated elsewhere, the ‘pollinator services’ we take for
granted could be at risk. And with it the future for the plants we
enjoy in our countryside.”
The team examined pollinator and plant data, collected by
professional and volunteer researchers and naturalists in Britain
and the Netherlands, comparing records from before and after 1980.
The results showed bee diversity had declined consistently in both
countries, whereas the diversity of hoverflies (another group of
pollinating insects) stayed roughly constant in Britain, but
increased in the Netherlands. Loss of bee diversity in itself might
not be too worrying, so long as other surviving insect pollinators
are similar, and capable of pollinating the same flower species.
However, this is not the case. The research found for both bees and
hoverflies, the “winners” and “losers” were consistently different;
insects which pollinate a limited range of flower species or which
have specialised habitat needs were most often lost. Overall, a
small number of common generalist pollinators are replacing a larger
number of rarer specialist species.
Stuart Roberts from the University of Reading pointed out: “In
Britain, pollinator species that were relatively rare in the past
have tended to become rarer still, while the commoner species have
become even more plentiful. Even in insects, the rich get richer and
the poor get poorer.” There have been parallel shifts in the plant
world, with the plants that depend on pollination by bees
disappearing too. Dr Bill Kunin, coordinator of the project at the
University of Leeds said that they looked at plant changes as an
afterthought, and were surprised to see how strong the trends were.
When they contacted their Dutch colleagues, they found out that they
had begun spotting similar shifts in their wildflowers as well.
In Britain, where bee diversity has fallen and hoverflies have at
best held steady, there have been declines in 70% of the wildflowers
that require insects for pollination. However, wind-pollinated or
self-pollinating plants have held constant or increased. The pattern
is slightly different in the Netherlands, where bees have declined
on average but hoverfly diversity has increased. In that country
there has been a decline in plants that specifically require bees
for pollination, but not in plants that can make use of other insect
pollinators. Thus the plant declines closely mirror those of the
This difference between the countries suggests the declines in
pollinators and plants are causally linked. Researcher Dr Ralf
Ohlemüller from the University of York explained: “The parallel
declines of wildflowers and their pollinators seem too strong to be
a coincidence.” The research can’t tell us whether the bee declines
are causing the plant declines, or vice versa, or indeed whether the
two are locked in a vicious cycle in which each is affecting the
other. It’s also not clear as of yet what the ultimate causes of the
declines are, although land use change, agricultural chemicals and
climate change may be important factors. The researchers hope to
clarify these issues with follow-up studies. Dr Biesmeijer explained
that whatever the cause, the study provides a worrying suggestion
that declines in some species may trigger a cascade of local
extinctions amongst other associated species.
The research may not yet prove a global decline in pollination, but
in two countries at least there is strong evidence that both wild
pollinators and the wildflowers that they visit are in serious
ARTICLES Back to top
BEES AND ROTATING HIVES (PART 4 OF 5)
Not having observed at this time the results of rotating a hive by
10 degree increments on a daily basis in a clockwise direction, an
identical experiment was commenced in hive 8-5 with an
anti-clockwise rotation. This, one hoped, would depict a mirror
image of the initial experiment showing the effect rotation has on
comb construction. We have already demonstrated the influence
vertical magnetic fields have on comb alignment and the considerable
distance over which this field may be able to operate. It is
therefore impracticable to conduct a rotating hive experiment and a
vertical magnetic field experiment at the same time. As another
swarm was collected to commence a further series of vertical
magnetic field experiments, this second rotational hive experiment
was not abandoned but rather modified to now include the
introduction of a vertical magnetic field at the end of day 2. This
would effectively turn the hive a further 70 degrees in an
anti-clockwise direction if our results from the previous experiment
were to be believed. The resultant comb alignment after a 10 degree
anti-clockwise movement at the end of nine consecutive days, plus
the introduction of a vertical magnetic field at the end of day 2,
is shown below.
Again a unique alignment has been produced and the construction over
the nine day period has some striking similarities to its clockwise
cousin, if one allows the gravitomagnetic field to be realigned 90
degrees instead of the 70 degrees by the introduction of the
vertical magnetic field.
From the diagrams below, figs 31 - 40, it may be seen that if the
gravitomagnet field, indicated by the arrows in red, run
horizontally, a change in direction of 90 degrees, and if comb
construction follows the lines of this force, there is a direct
correlation between figs 21 - 30, and figs 31 - 40
The bees are solving the same puzzle in a similar fashion in each
case, namely days 1 - 5, solving the puzzle and days 6 - 10,
building the comb. Therefore it would seem that we have two colonies
being set the same problem, taking the same time, coming to the same
conclusion, under slightly different circumstances, never ever met
before. I believe this indicates that these bees have each had
original thoughts: the ability of an intelligent life form, capable
of intelligent design.
Honey Bee Thermoregulation
My name is Desmond Pierce. I am engaged in a research project
examining the internal temperature of a colony of bees. As a small
beekeeper, I have kept bees for the better part of 25 years. I would
describe myself as a keen enthusiast rather than an expert and hope
that this story and data may be of interest to fellow beekeepers.The
stock in question and under observation started life during June
2005. It was an amalgamation of approximately five swarms joined
together headed by a virgin queen probably heading a cast swarm. I
would not do this again nor would recommend it since I believe that
the stress induced caused a lowering of resistance to varroa which
it contracted about four weeks after establishment.
At first everything went fine. The bees covered ten bars (BN’s) and
quickly covered another ten giving a surplus of honey. After the
varroa infestation the stock became quickly depleted of bees and
following treatment went into winter hardly covering five bars.
During late March I inserted a data logger to monitor the stock’s
ability to control temperature and see if I could learn something of
temperature control not only from the point of view of monitoring a
varroa-infected stock, but generally to see if the data could
influence hive design and perhaps other aspects.
This research project was part of a web site design I wrote towards
my MSc in Internet computing at the University of Hull, Scarborough
campus. Tiny Tag Data loggers very kindly let me have the equipment
without charge being mindful of student finances.
From the graph below, you will notice that there is a wild
fluctuation of temperature ranges.
This strongly suggests that the stock has little control over the
temperature since the size of the cluster cannot expand and contract
effectively. A feeding regime began in February using candy. Sugar
syrup was given commencing in the third week of March and a total of
100 kilos of sugar was given to 15 colonies over a period of six
weeks. The body of the research data is as follows:
The vast majority of biological systems in the living world operate
within temperature ranges. For optimum performance, or in the worst
case scenario, simply to survive, there are tolerances the outside
of which stimulate stress, the inside of which promote 'well-being'.
Bees are no exception since they have become through millennia, a
highly-evolved social insect, relying on their own number to
continue the species from season to season.
Background to the 'Data Hive'
The colony started life during the third and fourth week of June
2005. It is an amalgamation of five cast (a cast is usually a small
colony and is a term given to any swarm to emerge from the parent
hive after the first has emerged) colonies joined together over a
period of three-four days to give sufficient bees to cover ten bars.
During the following six weeks, the stock yielded 15 kilos (30 lbs)
of honey and then contracted Varroa. In spite of my treating the
condition with strips, the colony became depleted of adult working
bees, perhaps two thousand bees. From the industrious and productive
stock of June, the colony went into Winter covering only 3/4 bars -
a size with only a minimum of chances to survive since small stocks
cannot contract and expand as can their more robust sister stocks.
Before analysing the data presented in graph format, it is useful to
list the exact days on which the stocks were fed sugar and water in
the ratio of 2:1 to form a thick syrup This is known as 'stimulative'
feeding and encourages the queen to lay eggs. Since it takes six
weeks for a bee to emerge from the hive as a fully developed worker
and as an adult worker, only has a life span of 20-30 days, it is
important for the survival of the colony that laying commences early
in the year, usually January-February.
Feeding days/ Amount given to all 15 stocks / Temperature rise
March 29/06/ 16 kilos(38 lbs) 14-32C
April 3/06/ 16 kilos(38 lbs) 11-25C
April 5/06 / 4 kilos(8.4 lbs) 11-30C
April 14/06/ 9 kilos(20 lbs) 12-30C
April 20/06/ 15 kilos(33 lbs) 17-29C
The rise in temperature closely following an application of syrup
strongly suggests that the queen is stimulated to lay eggs.
This involves the process of respiration
The lowest temperature recorded is 0 degrees C and the highest
recorded temperature recorded is 35C. This suggests that a small
colony has limited control over the temperature variation/control.
During the period May 4th - May 12th, there is a marked difference
in the extremes of recorded temperatures. Here, the minimum is 20 C
and the highest 33 C. This suggests that the colony is now
expanding. It has more control over the range. To what extent the
outside temperature influences those of the internal ranges could be
examined by a dual channel logger.
Is there any body out there who would support my search for more
This research article has been sent in by Desmond pierce who
explains his research project on honey bee thermoregulation. If
anyone out there has similar data or is carrying out similar
research, please let us know. Ed.
PROBLEMS WITH BEARS
In last month’s Apis UK I mentioned that one way that the EU deals
with bears is to shoot them. The fact that there are so few and that
they are a magnificent and generally harmless creature is apparently
neither here nor there. Yes, there is a problem with the clashing of
interests; man’s use of land and the requirements of wild life; but
surely it is in everyone’s interest to use a bit of imagination in
solving these problems and to prove that it can be done
imaginatively, the Spanish have done just this. They’ve managed to
do this in Spain by encouraging bears to attack bee yards and ravage
the landscape! Read on.
The Spanish Brown Bear
The brown bears of Spain (Ursus arctos, similar to, but a little
smaller than, the American Grizzly) are the last survivors of a
population that once inhabited nearly all of the mountains of the
Iberian Peninsular. Now this population is in danger of extinction.
The reason is an obvious and commonplace one; the conflict of
interests between man (including beekeepers), and bears (and other
wild life). The largest population in Spain of the brown bear, lives
in the hills and mountains of the Asturias and Cantabria in the
North of the country, and numbers only some 80 examples. Just 80.
The conflict of interests with man still persists and continues to
be one of the major threats to the bears’ survival
|An apiary destroyed by bears in Spain
Man isn’t the only problem however. Other problems too affect the
bears’ habitat. In particular, forest fires and rural depopulation
have resulted in many large areas suffering a loss of diversity of
wild fruit producing trees and other plants, many of which were
previously kept in a good state of conservation because ‘man’
collected the fruits and managed the trees. With rural populations
moving to the cities, plantations are not being kept in good order
and oaks, apple, pear and especially cherry trees are becoming more
and more scarce in the wild. The few that remain are avidly searched
out by bears as important food resources all year round. Many
traditional farm crops have also been lost as a result of rural
depopulation. For centuries, what man produced for himself served as
an increasingly important dietary supplement to wildlife
populations. Maize crops are an important example.
All in all, the plight of the bear was, and to certain extent still
is, dire. All is not lost however. Since the early 80s a small but
innovative and imaginative organisation called FAPAS has been
working hard to try and resolve these conflicts and provide a
strategy for survival for the bears. To work this out, they have
enlisted the aid of honeybees. (FAPAS is simply the Spanish initials
for ‘Fund for the protection of wild animals’).
|Placing a ‘feral’ nest
The food of bears is varied. For the whole of the year bears must search for food but of course in winter, when the bears have young, food is scarce. Some resources though are available in winter; one we all know about being stored honey. But it is not only honey that bees can provide as a food for bears. Varroa has decimated the population of wild bees in these mountain areas, and this lack of ‘wild’ honeybees has had a hugely negative effect on wild fruit production. FAPAS has come up with a series of imaginative ideas to protect these mountain areas by using bees to help bears with their project which is called ‘Beehives for Bears’. The objectives of this project are to revive the population of wild bee colonies in the areas inhabited by bears. This is intended to have two main effects. To provide pollination of those trees providing food for bears, and to provide those bears with a chance of that other favourite food, honey.
|An old Stone walled apiary
In much of the countryside beekeepers used to keep their primitive ‘trunk’ or ‘cork’ beehives in stone enclosures to protect them from the ravages of bears. These are now largely abandoned and in many cases some parts of the walls are broken down. FAPAS has acquired various of these in known bear areas and is installing primitive cork hives in them to both help increase the wild bee population and to provide honey for the bears. The broken walls of the enclosures allow the bears to enter the enclosures without too much difficulty and once in, they get their honey by ravaging the hives. The plan is to provide 100 primitive hives in various enclosures distributed over 500 square kilometres between the provinces of Asturias and Leon. 30 of the 80 bears that survive in the North of Spain roam this area. Far away from the bear area and well protected, the organisation has set up a stock yard of 100 more modern hives for bee population re-supply purposes. The result is that the bears receive the benefits of increased fruit (especially cherry) pollination from the increased number of bee colonies, and they also get access to honey as well from the primitive hives in the old stone enclosures.
Of course, this type of project can’t work on its own. FAPAS and other environmental organisations have also worked for compensation for beekeepers that suffer bear damage, and provide a damage verification service for the ministry of agriculture. If FAPAS assess the damage, the regional government provides the compensation more rapidly and with no argument. The organisation also provides equipment; advice and technical assistance on apiary protection from bear damage and have instituted a native tree nursery to produce thousands of wild fruit trees especially cherry for replanting in the wild. Scrub land has been ploughed and replanted with maize and a team of rangers has been created to hunt out and destroy bear traps. In fact they are creating a farming/wilderness environment suitable for ‘ravaging’ by bears. Above all though they have instituted a system of education about bears and other wild life for schools and other groups; and they work closely with other nature conservation groups and government bodies. It needs a big team effort and a lot of education.
So the fight for the bear goes on and the assistance of the bees in helping one of their worst enemies is proving to be invaluable. The Spanish perspective on bears is slightly different from similar organisations in North America in that they are dealing with a species in danger of extinction, but essentially it comes down to finding effective solutions to the problem of management of land resources and the ever increasing
problem of sharing land between man and nature. Time will tell whether their efforts are successful. But at least they are using their imagination and not their guns.
The full version of this article first appeared in The American Bee Journal Vol 142, No 12, December 2002 written by David Cramp.
BOOK AND FILM REVIEWS Back to Top
This month we are able to look at two books that have re-emerged onto the beekeeping scene.
The first is ‘Producing Royal Jelly’ by Dr. Ron van Toor one of the foremost experts in this field. Price £15.95 plus P&P
This fully illustrated guide to Producing Royal Jelly is both for the commercial operator and the hobbyist beekeeper, so whether you have just one hive or one thousand, this is the book for you. For the commercial operator, even one who already produces royal jelly, the book offers a wealth of information on how to increase production and how best to use your producing hives. For those wanting to start out in royal jelly production the guide tells you exactly how, step by step. It explains what you do on day one, day two, and so on and when you get a rest day and how many hours are required for each task. It really is that detailed and comprehensive. It follows up with harvest methods, storing methods and sales. For the beekeeper with one hive, it explains in as much detail how you can produce royal jelly for the family or just for yourself. Well worth buying for yourself or as a gift.
The book is available from Bassdrum Books at 35 Newborough Road, Wimborne Minster, Dorset BH21 1RB. Email:
Or from Thornes of Wragby at web site www.thorne.co.uk
Our second Book is a welcome reprint of William Kirk’s Pollen Loads of the Honey Bee by IBRA
A Colour Guide to Pollen Loads of the Honey Bee (2nd edition)
by William Kirk
Beekeepers everywhere are fascinated by the sources of pollen brought back to the hive by their bees. Being able to identify the plants producing this pollen is the key to unlocking important information about bee forage in your area. Dr Kirk and his team have painstakingly collected pollen loads from bees from Britain and Germany, giving us surprising evidence of the natural variation in the colours seen at the hive entrance. The guide contains a key of 500 colours, and describes the pollen loads of 268 plant species found in Europe. There is also an account of how this book is useful as a practical guide to pollen identification. The text is given in English, French and German, because of the wide demand for such a book throughout Europe.
The new second edition includes updates and corrections of the first edition. It also benefits from the many advances in colour printing technology that have occurred over the twelve years since the first edition came out in 1994. The new edition is printed more accurately and should replace copies of the first edition, which may have changed colour through fading and paper aging over the intervening period.
Available from Northern Bee Books, Scout Bottom Farm, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge HX7 5JS
At a price of £16 post paid
Phone +44 (0) 1422 882751 Fax +44 (0) 1422 886157
RECIPE OF THE MONTH Back to Top
A healing propolis stick.
This month we take a look at an American healing recipe rather than food. With many of the healing recipes that have been sent to me or that I have read about, it is a wonder that the person on the receiving end doesn’t explode on contact, such is the list of ingredients, but this recipe is simple and effective and should cure rather than kill!
1 tsp (4g) each of almond oil, olive oil and wheatgerm oil.
1/3rd (10g) ounce of cocoa butter
1/3rd ounce of beeswax
1/5th (5g) ounce of propolis. (This should be clean but not processed in any way).
Mix all the ingredients in a bain marie and keep stirring constantly. Any propolis that won’t mix will settle to the bottom of the container and can be used another time.
When well mixed, pour into cylindrical moulds to form a stick. (eg old lipstick containers etc).
Use on minor skin cracks and irritations, and cold sores.
Remember that propolis can cause allergic reactions in some.
FILE Back to top
HISTORICAL NOTE Back to top
The subject of reproduction among bees has until comparatively recently been a much misunderstood subject; something so mysterious that even the great bee scientists of old such as Swammerdamm were unable to fathom it. The great Virgil in Book IV of the Georgics approaches the subject thus:
Most you shall marvel at this habit peculiar to bees-
That they have no sexual union: their bodies never dissolve
Lax into love, nor bear with pangs the birth of their young.
But all by themselves from leaves and sweet herbs they will gather
Their children in their mouths, keep up the [kingly] succession
And the birth rate, restore the halls and the realms of wax.
POEM OF THE MONTH Back to top
|There is a flowerTHERE is a flower that bees prefer,
And butterflies desire;
To gain the purple democrat
The humming-birds aspire.
And whatsoever insect pass,
A honey bears away
Proportioned to his several dearth
And her capacity.
Her face is rounder than the moon,
And ruddier than the gown
Of orchis in the pasture,
Or rhododendron worn.
She doth not wait for June;
Before the world is green
Her sturdy little countenance
Against the wind is seen,
Contending with the grass,
Near kinsman to herself,
For privilege of sod and sun,
Sweet litigants for life.
And when the hills are full,
And newer fashions blow,
Doth not retract a single spice
For pang of jealousy.
Her public is the noon,
Her providence the sun,
Her progress by the bee proclaimed
In sovereign, swerveless tune.
The bravest of the host,
Surrendering the last,
Nor even of defeat aware
When cancelled by the frost.
Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924
SHORT STORY Back to top
As most plants and animals will soon be genetically modified, why not bees? This short story, or perhaps fantasy récit, gives a brief glimpse of the future and introduces the novel concept of varroa as a protected species!
GM Bees. A concept for the future.
A new queen arrives tomorrow from ABC, the Acme Bee Company. I was so disappointed with last year’s crop of hawthorn honey that I decided to change that queen. ABC are very good they can supply queens which will produce workers designed to gather in honey from one or two specific sources of flowers of your choice. I have one which does the early oil seed rape and the heather but ignores the late rape which overlaps the time that I am preparing to go to the moors and I don’t want to risk contaminating the hive with rape honey.
I suppose we were all quite impressed by the slick salesman who came to one of our meetings to make an introductory presentation of the genetically modified honey bees, or to put it another way, “sell”. Phrases flowed from his lips such as “increased readily harvestable assets” which we took to mean more honey and “the mono-sapidity of the product which would enhance the marketability to a new and wider consumer base” at which point three people walked out having decided that English was not this man’s first language.
ABC, he told us, had, as it were, taken the bee apart genetically and put it back together to a particular design which they could alter at will. The bespoke honeybee had arrived and with it designer honey. The beekeepers pounced on the idea grasping the concept with both hands and swallowing the honeyed sales patter hook, line and queen excluder. ABC issued a list of high nectar producing flowers with their, now genetically controlled, flowering periods. From this list the beekeeper chose any combination he wished, handed over a cheque for an obscene number of “New Euros”,
(speedily recoverable from the increased harvestable assets) and waited expectantly for the arrival of “your personally designed colony producer”,
(allow 28 days for delivery).
The need of beekeepers in different parts of the country had not been overlooked. Now that the South, more or less below that well-known line from Birmingham to the Wash, had been designated a GM area while the North was “GM Organic”, a concept far too difficult to explain in less than 50 pages, it was possible, indeed essential, to specify GM or GMO tendency for your queen. It had been decided that this was the best way to maintain the integrity of two areas. The alternative it seems would have required a 6 mile wide band of tarmac across the country.
I had also ordered one of the training colony queens since I did a lot of work taking the craft of beekeeping to schools in the area They were excellent because their workers had been so designed that they did not use their sting and so could be handled with total safety and without the need for expensive safety equipment for the whole class. It is a pity that one of the side effects of that modification has been that they don’t collect much honey and so have to be fed almost continuously.
There was a panic when the Large Wax Moth, having been tempted further North by the warmer weather associated with the general climatic changes, reacted badly with the GMO pollen in the Pontefract liquorice fields. The resulting flocks of mutants have now been driven into hiding in the depth of Sherwood Forest where once Robin Hood held sway and where local hunters now stalk them armed, of necessity, with shot guns.
On the plus side, I suppose you could say that Varroa as a parasitic enemy of the bee has now been largely wiped out. The drones, in whose cells they tended to breed, began eating the young before they themselves emerged from the cell. There are now so few of them about that BBKA were last heard of considering whether or not to ask the government to make them a protected species.
Ian S. Copinger.
LETTERS Back to top
To the Editor
Varroa: genus politics!
"The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the
word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'."
DATES FOR YOUR
DIARY Back to top
11 – 12 August Shrewsbury Flower Show Alongside, the Shropshire Beekeepers Association will be staging fascinating displays, reflecting the wide range of interest in everything to do with bees, from honey to mead and other homemade wines. Members of the association believe that their display at Shrewsbury Show is second only to the annual National Honey Show.
1 – 3 September The 78th Midlands & South Western Counties Convention of Beekeepers Hothorpe
Hall, Theddingworth Nr Lutterworth Leicestershire
1, 2 & 3 September National Amateur Gardening Show Royal Bath & West Showground at Shepton Mallet
8 - 10 September BIBBA Conference will be held at the University of Bath
9 September Thornes of Windsor Sale Day. Oakley Green Farm, Oakley Green, Nr Windsor. 10am
29 September - 1 October Ruskin Mill College of Further
“The Hives and Lives of Bees”
7 October The Quekett Microscopical Club ANNUAL EXHIBITION OF MICROSCOPY
Demonstration Room, Natural History Museum, London. 10-3Oam to 4-3Opm
19 - 21 October The National Honey Show The venue: The RAF Museum, Grahame Park Way, Hendon, London, NW9 5LL, UK
28 – 29 October The Countryside Live Yorkshire Honey
Show, Harrogate Showground
11 November Kent Beekeeper's Association Autumn Lecture: Beekeeping Challenges for the Future by Ivor Davis, Chairman of the BBKA at West Kent College, Tonbridge
13 - 14 November INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON “INTEGRATED BEEKEEPING DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH ASIAN COUNTRIES”
, New Delhi, see Editor’s letters above
Kent Beekeeper's Association Autumn Lecture.
Beekeeping Challenges for the Future by Ivor Davis, Chairman of the BBKA at
West Kent College, Tonbridge. The Kent Beekeeper's Association aims to
inform beekeepers in the South East. As part of a series of important
lectures the group is delighted that Ivor Davis has agreed to talk to us
this autumn. Ivor Davis will focus on the current issues for beekeepers in
the UK, both political and environmental, and bring us up to date on the
negotiations the BBKA is having with the Government and its agencies. He
will then look at the management of varroosis - as this is the key issue
that weakens our colonies and makes them susceptible to other problems. The
lecture will then address future issues including diseases, management
methods and the short term effects of a warmer UK. Ivor will conclude by
suggesting how we beekeepers can ensure that beekeeping remains in a healthy
state in this country and why this is so important for our wellbeing and the
environment. This will be followed by a forum session where you can pose
your own questions, or raise issues that you feel need to be addressed. The
lecture starts at 3pm with doors open at 2pm for refreshments, a browse
around the bookstall and catching up with old friends. Cost £2.00 in advance
or on the door. Cheques should be made payable to KBKA. For further
information and purchase your ticket in advance contact: Terry Hardy, Kent
Education Group Secretary, 6 Springrove Cottages, Goudhurst Road, Marden,
TN12 9JU. Tel: 01622 832066 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hives and Lives of Bees
Friday 29th September - Sunday 1st October
£85 (Incl all meals & VAT) Venue: Ruskin Mill College of Further
Following last year's successful workshop, Michael Weiler is returning once
again to lead an event in the UK. A main focus of this year's workshop will
be on the hive. What is the most appropriate way to keep bees? Should they
live in mass produced modern hives, in hand crafted and specially shaped
ones or in old fashioned skeps? Should the hives stand out in the open or be
housed in stone or wooden bee houses? Ruskin Mill College, the educational
establishment hosting this event, is developing a training curriculum for
its students and is particularly interested appropriate hive structures.
The workshop will explore some of the remarkable phenomena that can be
observed in and around a bee colony as well as addressing the many practical
issues connected with bee keeping. Newcomers as well as experienced bee
keepers are very welcome.
During the workshop there will be a launch of the English edition of Michael
Weiler's book "Bees and Honey - from Flower to Jar" published by Floris
Books. In this book, previously available only in German, he offers clear
and imaginative insights into bee nature and draws on more than 25 years of
practical bee keeping experience to back them up. Copies will be available
at a special price (and for signing by the author) during the workshop.
Biodynamic Bee Workshop
The Hives and Lives of Bees
Friday 29th September – Sunday 1st October
£85 (Incl all meals & VAT)
Post code: .........................
Tel. No.: ............................Email:......................................................
Please send me a list of accommodation in the area
(own arrangement – not part of workshop fee)
I would like to camp (free of charge)
Workshop Fee: £85 (including all meals which are vegetarian)
(Please pay prior to workshop)
NB: If you have any special dietary requirements please state below
Please send this form with payment to:
BDAA, Painswick Inn Project, Gloucester Street, Stroud, Glos GL5 1QG
DEADLINE: FRIDAY 22nd Sept 06
QUOTE OF THE MONTH Back to
This month’s quote comes from the mouth of a very great literary personage who remains my favourite author.
So who said this and why?
‘Wherever the bees advanced, the Indians and buffalos retreated.’
Editor: David Cramp Submissions
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