Bees are dying in droves. Why? Leading apiarist Dennis vanEngelsdorp looks at the gentle, misunderstood creature's important place in nature and the mystery behind its alarming disappearance.
In this visually dazzling talk, Jonathan Drori shows the extraordinary ways flowering plants — over a quarter million species — have evolved to attract insects to spread their pollen: growing 'landing-strips' to guide the insects in, shining in ultraviolet, building elaborate traps, and even mimicking other insects in heat.
article from Bee Culture Magazine Jan 17,2017
For facial wash, honey is actually a surprising alternative. “Honey is the oldest skin-care ingredient and has been used extensively for both medical and skin-care purposes,” Neil Sadick, MD, the founder of Sadick Dermatology in New York.
People who have skin issues will definitely benefit from a honey facial wash because it can help soothe skin ailments. “It has antibacterial properties, anti-inflammatory properties, and it nurtures the skin. Honey’s particularly suitable for sensitive skin,” said Sadick.
Some people might harbor doubts on honey’s effectiveness as a skin cleaner. But Carla Marina Marchese, the founder and beekeeper of Red Bee Honey, and co-author of The Honey Connoisseur, said the thick, sweet product is a good salve for breakouts. It even has strong antibacterial properties that fight acne.
“Honey has a very low pH, so a lot of bacterias cannot survive in honey,” she said. “It’s about a 3.5 on average on the pH scale, and most bacteria need to thrive in closer to a 7 on the scale.”
But that’s not all honey does for the skin. It’s quite moisturising as well, and can be used by people with chapped noses or super red and dry flaky patches.
“Honey is moisture-grabbing because it’s a super-saturated solution, meaning the bees keep a lot of sugar in a little bit of water,” said Marchese. “So it’s always trying to grab water from the air to balance out the sugar. This is why people use it for baked goods — it keeps them moist for longer.”
However, Marchese warned that people shouldn’t just rush out to the grocery store and purchase whatever honey bottle they can lay their hands on. People should stick to raw honey that can be bought from the local farmer’s market, or even manuka honey, which costs more than the regular honey.
“You need to use the best quality honey that you can get,” Marchese said.
CHICAGO — An intense focus on added sugars consumption and links to obesity, diabetes and heart disease is motivating consumers to not only reduce total sweetener consumption, but to switch to sweeteners perceived as more healthful, such as honey, according to market research firm Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md. The current high level of consumer interest in honey makes it a great time to offer innovative products that piggyback on the latest and emerging trends for this sweetener, said David Sprinkle, the firm’s research director.
Keith Seiz, spokesperson for the National Honey Board, said honey is a timeless and relevant sweetener.
“Honey’s advantage as a sweetener is its marketability, its story that has always started with the honey bee,” he said. “Honey complements today’s clean label formulating trend. Marketers are bringing honey to the front of the package to clearly communicate to consumers its inclusion in a packaged food.”
The National Honey Board partnered with Chicago-based market research firm Technomic to better understand how honey is used in the United States. Using primary research, industry sources and U.S. Department of Agriculture data, Technomic estimated that of the 576 million lbs of honey sold in the United States in 2015, 40% was sold at retail as packaged honey. Food processors used 30% of the honey in prepared and packaged foods, while chefs and food service operators used 21%. The remaining 9% went into such industrial non-food applications as personal and beauty products, candles and medicine.
“We were surprised to learn that beverage was the leading food processing application, with packaged cold beverages being No. 1 followed by beer being No. 2,” Mr. Seiz said. “Cereal, both hot and ready-to-eat, came in third, followed by bread and doughs. Granola, snack and nutrition bars were fifth.”
To meet demand, the U.S. imports about two-thirds of the honey required, with the majority of suppliers based in Argentina, Brazil, India, Ukraine and Vietnam. The leading honey-producing U.S. states are California, Florida, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“Across the country there’s a growing trend in urban beekeeping,” Mr. Seiz said. “Chefs who want to market the use of local ingredients are driving this growth. Local beekeepers also sell product at farmers’ markets.”
Mr. Seiz emphasized that honey is honey regardless of where the raw material is sourced.
“Honey is a pure product that does not allow for the addition of any other substance,” he said. “Codex Alimentarius is very explicit and states ‘honey sold as such shall not have added to it any food ingredient, including food additives, nor shall any other additions be made other than honey.’”
This is not to say that all honey is created equal. Honey varies in color, flavor and even consistency, based on the flowers worker bees extract nectar that eventually becomes honey. The colors of honey form a continuous range from water white to dark amber. Light-colored honey typically has a mild flavor, while a darker color is more intense.
There are three types of honey, with liquid honey being the most common. It is extracted from the honeycomb by centrifugal force, gravity or straining and is typically free of visible crystals.
“Dried honey is derived from pure liquid honey and will include processing aids and other ingredients,” Mr. Seiz said. “The honey is dried to a low-moisture content. This gets converted to free-flowing powders, flakes or granules with a minimum 50% pure honey content.”
Both liquid and dried products are used as sweeteners in food formulations, with the former having additional functions, such as ingredient binder and humectant. The third type of honey is known as whipped or creamed honey. It is sold in a crystallized state and at room temperature used as a spread much like butter or jelly.
Recent retail packaged food innovations shows honey being used in almost every conceivable product category, with inclusion recognized on front labels or product names. Formulators are embracing the natural sweetness of honey, along with the color, flavor and viscosity it contributes. In some instances, honey is being promoted as a source of natural, sustainable energy.
In such grain-based foods applications as hearty bread made with ancient, sprouted and whole grains, honey is recognized for its ability to round out bitter notes and robust textures. It also will function as a natural shelf life extender, as it inhibits mold growth in baked foods by binding moisture. The same property makes it a useful humectant in gluten-free baked foods, which tend to dry and stale easily.
With spicy foods, honey adds just enough sweetness to mellow the initial heat, while with some fruit flavors, honey balances floral notes. In high-protein foods, especially when the protein comes from plants, honey may mask undesirable green, beany off flavors.
There are important considerations when working with honey and in product reformulations, as there is no direct one-to-one substitution. This is because honey may be as much as 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, on a dry basis. Honey also contains enzymes that may break down other ingredients in a formulation, impacting the finished product.
“Amino acids in honey can elevate the flavor intensity of spices and herbs, which is why honey is often used in dressings and sauces,” Mr. Seiz said. “Honey will also speed up the Maillard reaction in baked goods, so time and temperature often needs to be adjusted.
“In brewing, the point of honey addition is important, as honey is fermentable.”
For the most part, honey works well with other sweeteners and is almost always used with one or more in packaged prepared foods. This is because too much honey flavor may be overwhelming in some applications, for example, yogurt and ice cream.
Source: October 11, 2016: Bee Culture
Solved! A bee-buzzing, honey-licking 2,000-year-old mystery that begins here, with this beehive. Look at the honeycomb in the photo and ask yourself: (I know you've been wondering this all your life, but have been too shy to ask out loud ... ) Why is every cell in this honeycomb a hexagon?
Well, this is a very old question. More than 2,000 years ago, in 36 B.C., a Roman soldier/scholar/writer, Marcus Terentius Varro, proposed an answer, which ever since has been called "The Honeybee Conjecture." Varro thought there might be a deep reason for this bee behavior. Maybe a honeycomb built of hexagons can hold more honey. Maybe hexagons require less building wax. Maybe there's a hidden logic here. I like this idea — that below the flux, the chaos of everyday life there might be elegant reasons for what we see. "The Honeybee Conjecture" is an example of mathematics unlocking a mystery of nature, so here, with help from physicist/writer Alan Lightman, (who recently wrote about this in Orion Magazine) is Varro's hunch.
The Essential Honeycomb
Honeycombs, we all know, store honey. Honey is obviously valuable to bees. It feeds their young. It sustains the hive. It makes the wax that holds the honeycomb together. It takes thousands and thousands of bee hours, tens of thousands of flights across the meadow, to gather nectar from flower after flower after flower, so it's reasonable to suppose that back at the hive, bees want a tight, secure storage structure that is as simple to build as possible.
So how to build it? Well, suppose you start your honeycomb with a cell like this ... a totally random shape, no equal sides, just a squiggle ...
Source: May 14, 2013: Robert Krulwich/NPR
The heart of the American commercial honey bee industry is under threat from land use changes.
A U.S. Geological Survey study says the Northern Great Plains of North and South Dakota – which support more than 40% of U.S. commercial honey bee colonies, are quickly becoming less conducive to commercial beekeeping as a result of land-use changes.
The researchers say that conversion of pasture, conservation grasslands and bee-friendly cultivated crops to biofuel crops likely impact both managed and wild pollinators because it reduces forage availability and increases the use of chemicals that negatively affect pollinators and their ecosystem services.
Most of the commercial honey bee colonies that spend the summer in the Dakotas provide pollination services for crops such as almonds, melons, apples and cherries elsewhere in the U.S.
The USGS study says the Northern Great Plains have served as an unofficial refuge for commercial beekeepers because of their abundance of uncultivated pasture and rangelands, and cultivated agricultural crops such as alfalfa, sunflower and canola that provided forage for bees.
Source: Bee Culture Magazine, September 4, 2016
On Sunday morning, the South Carolina honey bees began to die in massive numbers. Death came suddenly to Dorchester County, S.C. Stressed insects tried to flee their nests, only to surrender in little clumps at hive entrances. The dead worker bees littering the farms suggested that colony collapse disorder was not the culprit – in that odd phenomenon, workers vanish as though raptured, leaving a living queen and young bees behind. Instead, the dead heaps signaled the killer was less mysterious, but no less devastating. The pattern matched acute pesticide poisoning.
By one estimate, at a single apiary – Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply, in Summerville – 46 hives died on the spot, totaling about 2.5 million bees.
The cause was an airplane that dispensed Naled in parts of Dorchester County. Naled itself is used in a common insecticide that kills mosquitoes on contact. What was discovered was that their bees had been poisoned by Dorchester's own insecticide efforts.
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Source: BY BEN GUARINO, WASHINGTON POST - September 1, 2016
New research published today in PeerJ has identified the most serious future threats to, but also opportunities for pollinating species, which provide essential agricultural and ecological services across the globe.
- New research identifies future threats to, and opportunities for insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles that pollinate wild flowers and crops
- 35% of global crop production, and 85% of wild flowering plants rely on hard-working pollinators to thrive
- Researchers calling for proactive prevention not reactive mitigation, and continuation of positive steps to reduce chemical use across landscapes
From the expansion of corporate agriculture, new classes of insecticides and emerging viruses, pollinators are facing changing and increasingly challenging risks. In response, researchers are calling for global policies of proactive prevention, rather than reactive mitigation to ensure the future of these vital species.
The study was conducted by an international group of scientists, government researchers, and NGOs led by Professor Mark Brown from Royal Holloway University of London, supported by the EU-funded network SuperB.
PREVENTION, NOT PANIC
They used a method of horizon scanning to identify future threats that require preventative action, and opportunities to be taken advantage of, in order to protect the insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles that pollinate wild flowers and crops.
“35% of global crop production, and 85% of wild flowering plants rely on hard-working pollinators to thrive. We are increasingly adopting practices that damage these species. Then, we rather absurdly look to mitigate their loss, rather than prevent it in the first place,” explained Professor Brown.
“This is an expensive and back-to-front solution for a problem that has very real consequences for our well-being,” Brown continued, “Most research focuses on the battles already being fought, not on the war to come.”
PRIORITY POLLINATOR CHALLENGES
Out of a long-list of sixty risks to, and opportunities for pollinators the team identified 6 high priority issues, including:
1) Corporate control of agriculture at the global scale
2) Sulfoximine, a novel systemic class of insecticides
3) New emerging viruses
4) Increased diversity of managed pollinator species
5) Effects of extreme weather under climate change
6) Reductions in chemical use in non-agricultural settings
The research highlights consolidation of the agri-food industries as a major potential threat to pollinators, with a small numbers of companies now having unprecedented control of land.
The rise in transnational land deals for crop production, for example the use of large areas of Brazil for soybean export to China, now occupies over 40 million hectares.
“The homogenization of agriculture effectively means that corporations are applying blanket production systems to landscapes that are vastly different, significantly reducing the diversity and number of native pollinators,” explained Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species and Aquatic Programs, The Xerces Society and Deputy Chair, IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group.
POSITIVES ON THE HORIZON
Professor Brown continued, “However, it is not all doom and gloom. For example, such global domination provides an opportunity to influence land-management to make it favourable for pollinators at huge scales, but this would require the agri-food industry to work closely together with NGOs and researchers.”
Speaking about the influence of new insecticides, co-author, Lynn Dicks from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge said, “Identifying environmental issues in advance, before they become large scale, allows society to plan responses and reduce environmental risks before they are upon us. It is a routine part of strategic planning in financial management, and it should also be routine in environmental planning and policymaking. Many of the pollinator issues we identified on the horizon can be responded to right now, for example by working with corporations already controlling large areas of agricultural land to develop pollinator management strategies, or by planning research on the sub-lethal effects of sulfoxaflor before it is widely used.”
However the study also found more explicitly positive opportunities for pollinators. For example, the current and future reduction of chemical use in non-agricultural land, gardens and parks, could be fruitful for pollinating populations.
“We must continue to encourage these practices across industry, government, and the public, so that we give our important pollinating species the support they need to do their vital work,” concluded Professor Brown.
Source: Bee Culture Magazine, Aug 16, 2016
"While experts welcome the rising national interest in beekeeping as a hobby, they warn that novices may be inadvertently putting their hives — and other hives for miles around — in danger by not keeping the bee mite population in check."
Jonathan Garaas has learned a few things in three seasons of backyard beekeeping: Bees are fascinating. They're complicated. And keeping them alive is not easy.
Every two weeks, the Fargo, N.D., attorney opens the hives to check the bees and search for varroa mites, pests that suck the bees' blood and can transmit disease. If he sees too many of the pinhead-sized parasites, he applies a chemical treatment.
Garaas has lost hives in his first two years as a novice beekeeper. But with nine hives now established near his home and a couple of University of Minnesota bee classes under his belt, he feels like he's got the hang of it, although it's still a challenge.
"You can get the book learning. You can see the YouTubes. You can be told by others," he says, but "you have to have hands-on experience. When you start putting it all together, it starts making sense."
Scientists wish every beginner beekeeper were as diligent as Garaas.
While experts welcome the rising national interest in beekeeping as a hobby, they warn that novices may be inadvertently putting their hives — and other hives for miles around — in danger by not keeping the bee mite population in check. Many hobbyists avoid mite treatments, preferring a natural approach, says Marla Spivak, a bee expert at the University of Minnesota. But that's often a deadly decision for the bees, she says.
National surveys by the Bee Informed Partnership show backyard beekeepers are taking the greatest losses nationally, and those losses are often the result of an out-of-control infestation of the varroa mite, says Spivak.
Varroa mites arrived in the United States nearly 30 years ago, and they've become a big problem in recent years.
Untreated hives can spread mites and viruses to other hives within several miles, Spivak says. Healthy bees will invade a dying hive to steal its honey. When they do, they carry the mites with them back to their hives.
"The combination of the mite and the viruses is deadly," says Spivak.
The University of Minnesota Bee Squad, a group that provides beekeeping education and mentoring in the Twin Cities, is seeing more healthy hives become rapidly infested with mites and the viruses they carry.
Fall is an especially critical season, says Rebecca Masterman, the Bee Squad's associate program director.
"That late season reinfestation means that bees are going through winter with a lot of mite pressure and it's really hard for them to come out of that and survive," she says. "It's important enough to really try to get every backyard beekeeper in the country to at least be aware of it."
Masterman says she's also encouraging commercial beekeepers to check their bees more often for surprise mite infestations. A new online mite-monitoring project lets beekeepers anywhere in the country share data on infestations that will help researchers track the spread.
A mite control experiment this summer should provide more information about how to best treat mites in bee colonies.
Bees face other challenges beyond mites, including poor nutrition, disease and pesticides. Even veteran beekeepers say it takes more effort to keep their bees alive these days.
But the mite and virus threat to bees is something that can be controlled, says Spivak.
"I really understand why some people might not like to have to treat their bee colony for mites. It just sounds so awful. It's such a beautiful bee colony and to have to stick some kind of a treatment in there seems so unnatural," she says.
"But our bees are dying. And it's very important to help do whatever we can to keep them alive."
Source: NPR August 12, 2016 by DAN GUNDERSON
A new study of male honeybees shows that two insecticides, banned in some European nations but still used in the United States, can significantly reduce the bees’ ability to reproduce.
The study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the leading biological research journal of the Royal Society, found that thiamethoxam and clothianidin, two chemicals from the neonicotinoid family of insecticides, reduce living sperm in male honeybees, called drones, by almost 40 percent.
“We’ve been able to show for the first time that neonicotinoid pesticides are capable of having an effect on the male reproductive system,” said Lars Straub, a doctoral student at the University of Bern in Switzerland and the lead author of the study.
The effects of pesticides on honeybee populations are considered one culprit among several factors causing periodic declines.
Neonicotinoids have been shown by other studies to harm the health of individual bees and the reproductive ability of female insects. The new study expanded on the dangers of the pesticides for males, finding that bees subjected to the two chemicals had 39 percent fewer living sperm on average than bees that had not been exposed.
Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland who focuses on honeybee health, said that while the new study was “well designed,” it mostly helped to corroborate work that had already been done.
“Certainly, we already know that insecticide exposure can have an effect on sperm,” he said. “What we didn’t know is that it was so immediate.”
The two neonicotinoids used in the study were banned in the European Union in 2013, but are used on an industrial scale in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will release risk assessments for the two chemicals, as well as another neonicotinoid, dinotefuran, in December.
The decline of bees has been a concern for scientists over much of the last decade. A significant amount of the global food supply is made up of plants that require pollinators like bees to survive. Any widespread threat to bees also constitutes a greater ecological threat.
Beekeepers in the United States lost 44 percent of their honeybee colonies from April 2015 to April 2016, according to an annual survey conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, where Dr. vanEngelsdorp is a project director. The loss was 3.5 percent greater than that found from 2014 to 2015, when beekeepers lost 40.6 percent of colonies.
Mr. Straub emphasized that various stresses were working together to adversely affect the honeybees’ health.
“There are heaps of different factors that can actually affect colony health,” he said. “Pesticides alone are probably just one of the small pieces of the bigger puzzle.”
The study began in April 2015 and ended in April 2016, Mr. Straub said, although the sperm assessment of the bees had been completed by October. After reaching sexual maturity, drones that had been subjected to insecticides were dissected, and had their testes and mucous glands removed and analyzed for sperm viability.
Although the colonies used in the experiment were subjected to realistic amounts of the insecticides, the drones were raised to sexual maturity after being removed from the colonies in which they were exposed to the chemicals. Mr. Straub said that the next step would to be to investigate the effects of the pesticides on drones that were allowed to live those 14 days in the colonies.
“We now have to go on and take this information and do further field-realistic studies, and also, a main point would be to investigate these interactions that are occurring,” he said. “There’s not just one stressor. There’s multiple different stressors acting together.”
Source: The New York Times
July 28, 2016
By JONAH ENGEL BROMWICH