The Buzz




Going Against The Flow: Is The Flow Hive a Good Idea?

It’s fab, it’s new, and the honey flows straight into the jar. It’s so easy. But then, powdered instant potato is easy, too. Does that make it a good idea?

Despite my mission to focus on positivistic messages of change, at Milkwood we’ve got a charter of calling it like we see it.

And to call yet another plastic beehive addition which does not benefit the bees but only the beekeeper… what it is.

We’ve seen a lot (like, a LOT) of media about the Flow Hive ™ in this last week and after a few hundred questions about what we think of it, we thought we’d spell it out.

The basic innards of the Flow Hive™ system seem to be sets of plastic half-built comb, which face each other, and which the bees then finish off and connect up, fill with honey, and cap.

Then, when the beekeeper is ready, they turn a key, the two plastic hive foundations crack apart, the honey flows out down a channel and out a spout, into the jars provided below.

Is it good for the backyard beekeeper looking for a trophy moment? Heck yeah. The effect of the honey drizzling out looks great, and has caught imaginations world-wide.

SAVE THE BEES. Because anything (like, anything) that has to do with bees, or that uses bees, is good for the bees. Right?

Actually, no. Not so much.

Bees want to build their own wax comb. It’s part of the bee superoganism. The wax is literally built from their bodies.

The comb is the bee’s home, their communication system (which doesn’t work nearly as well if it’s made from plastic rather than bee-drawn wax, as discussed in Tautz), and functions as a central organ.

The comb is the bee’s womb – it’s where they raise their brood.

And given a choice, bees do not want a pre-built plastic womb, home or larder, any more than we would.

It’s the birthright of bees to build comb.



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Wild bees are least abundant where they're most needed, study says

Bees are an integral part of California's nearly $3–billion–a–year almond industry.

 (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

By Geoffrey MohanContact Reporter

"We are a state with a huge dependence on pollination. We have very intensive agriculture, which has challenged our wild bee pollination a lot," said UC Davis entomologist Neal Williams, one of the authors of the study.

Increased gaps elsewhere in the nation came from a greater rise in acreage dedicated to crops that are only moderately dependent on pollination, such as soybeans, cotton, canola and sunflower, the researchers said.

Some almond growers have begun to take notice, adding wild bees to their pollination plan and restoring native vegetation. Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds, formerly known as Paramount Farms, will use blue orchard bees this year during pollination season, for example. 

The effort is part of a national campaign to diversify the way crops are pollinated, Williams said.

"Where there are wild bees present, even modest numbers of wild bees can make the honey bee a better pollinator of almonds," Williams said. "It changes the behavior of the honey bees. For some reason … the wild bees cause the honey bees to move more between varieties. So they’re essentially transporting better pollen.”


Bye Honey

Why is Honey Expensive?

From 2001 to 2011, total annual honey production by bees in the United States fell one-third, from 221 million to 148 million pounds. In the same period, use of the three most common neonicotinoid pesticides grew from 280,000 to more than 4.5 million pounds domestically.


As corn yields rise, bees are dying worldwide

Not that long ago, third-generation commercial beekeeper Jim Doan was a prosperous man. He maintained as many as 5,300 hives on his farm in western New York. In addition to selling honey, he earned a good living renting out the services of his honeybees to pollinate crops such as butternut squash, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers, and apples. 

But around 2006, Doan noticed that something was wrong with his bees. Whole colonies were simply disappearing, leaving behind empty hives. And in those colonies that remained in Doan's hives, the numbers were down, and they weren't making as much honey. He began losing half of his bees every year--something that he'd never seen in more than 40 years of beekeeping. 


‘What’s the Buzz About Wild Bees?’

Journalist Mark Bittman visits Full Belly Farm in Guinda, outside of Sacramento, to meet with conservation biologist Claire Kremen. They discuss what exactly is a pollinator, why they're so important, and the American dependence on honeybees in the face of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Norway is creating a highway just for bees... And we should, too

 Image and content courtesy of the  Washington Post

Image and content courtesy of the Washington Post

The capital city of Oslo now has what it's calling a bee highway. Created by the Oslo Garden Society, it's a path of flowerpots full of bee-friendly plants on balconies and roofs throughout the city. The objective is to keep bees well-fed as they pass through the urban mecca of Oslo. A Web site shows locals where more flower coverage is needed and encourages them to plant more. Does this sound like something the U.S. could really benefit from? 

Read more here.

Honeybees dying, situation ‘unheard of’

 Image courtesy of the Washington Post

Image courtesy of the Washington Post

Just last year, it seemed there was something to celebrate despite planet Earth’s ongoing honeybee apocalypse: Bee colony losses were down. Not by enough, but they were down.

“It’s better news than it could have been,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland entomology professor who led a survey of bee populations that reported a loss of 23 percent of bee colonies — less than 30 percent, the average from 2005 to 2013. “It’s not good news.”

Click here to read more.

Capitol Hill abuzz after 15,000 honey bees swarm Senate entrance

By Ted Barrett, CNN

Updated 8:39 AM ET, Sat June 20, 2015

A swarm of bees took to the main Senate entrance of the U.S. Capitol Building on Friday, frightening onlookers before they were captured.

Washington (CNN)In an unusual sight on Capitol Hill Friday afternoon, beekeepers were called in to capture and remove about 15,000 honey bees that had swarmed around the main Senate entrance of the U.S. Capitol Building, frightening onlookers before landing in a tree.

Three volunteer beekeepers, including one who is a top congressional aide, worked carefully but without protective suits to capture the queen and her thousands of offspring. 

The bees had been out of their nest in search of a new, larger home, according to Rachel Perry of Capitol Bee Care, an organization that works to protect honey bee colonies that, for a variety of reasons, are dying off in large numbers. Wearing just a scarf hanging over her head, Perry sat patiently beneath the tree luring the bees into a hole in a medium-sized cardboard box that was sealed with gaffers tape, gently nudging with a brush the last stragglers inside.