Rain stops bees from pollinating

English: Sunshine and showers A spell of unset...

English: Sunshine and showers A spell of unsettled and wet weather has prevented farmers to bring in their cereal crops which would be ready for harvesting, if only they were given a chance to dry. Torrential rain has flooded many roads and fields in the area and the dark clouds indicate that there is more on its way. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rain has not only sent holidaymakers hunkering down with a book, but bees are retreating to their sheltered hives instead of pollinating crops.

Mid-Canterbury farmer David Clark said the wet weather was good for the self-pollinating crops like cereals, but the flowering crops like potatoes, carrots and radishes needed sun and heat.

”We just need a chance for the weather to go back to typical hot summer weather so the bees can get to work,” said Clark, who is the Federated Farmers grain and seed chairman.

Our cereals are looking magnificent, but we’ve got carrot and radish crops that are in flower with no bees working.

”The region had had two and half weeks of ”gluggy, easterly weather”.

”If vege crops didn’t pollinate, that would have the same impact as a drought would on a dairy farm. But it’s not a crisis at the moment.”

Clark hoped the weather would clear so the bees could join the holidaymakers.

Mayfield farmer Rab McDowell, whose crops were damaged in this month’s hail storm, said it had actually offered ”a mixed blessing”.

The damage had knocked flowers off crops, meaning the delayed flowering would be ready for the bees once the rain had passed.

Non-irrigated crops were now yielding more than first thought in all the rain, which was compensating for the damage after the hail.

MetService meteorologist Tristan Oakley said Canterbury would have clear days at least until the weekend, but with northerly winds picking up on Thursday and Friday.

The country had been covered in rain after a low pressure weather system formed over the Tasman Sea, sending heavy rain over the North Island.

That front passed over the northern South Island on Sunday night, while another cold front came over the West Coast today.

Tomorrow was expected to be fine.


MFU, SEDCO train 200 honey producers

Map of Swaziland

Map of Swaziland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Swaziland landscape

Swaziland landscape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ABOUT 200 honey producers have been mentored in four areas, courtesy of a partnership between the Micro Finance Unit (MFU) and Small Enterprises Development Company (SEDCO).

Swaziland Honey Council (SHC) Chairman Mandla Langwenya said SEDCO and the MFU initiated a partnership under the ‘One Household One Product’ initiative.
He said bee farmers were identified for a training and mentorship programme on honey production in four tinkhundla centres in the Shiselweni region, these being Gege, Maseyisini, Shiselweni II and Zombodze.
“A total of 200 honey producers were reached and mentored during this initiative. SHC is an apex body established in 2007 with the aim of coordinating activities concerned with the production of honey and related products in Swaziland following a study that revealed the honey industry was not coordinated.
“The objectives of the honey council at establishment included the facilitation of training, access to and coordination of markets, as well as securing funding for coordination of the production and marketing of honey and honey products,” he said.
Langwenya said SHC provided an umbrella forum for all stakeholders in the Swaziland bee-keeping industry for the promotion, coordination and safeguarding of their activities and interests. He said the council also purported to promote and facilitate growth as well as expansion in the Swaziland bee sector to contribute to economic growth, poverty reduction and environmental conservation.
Langwenya said in the process, the honey council would lobby (on behalf of members) national and international governments for favourable policies and accompanying measures to support growth and expansion in the Swaziland bee-keeping sector, as well as favourable trade terms for Swaziland honey products.
He said the programme began mid-year whereupon the honey flow season was almost at its finality, adding that a mentorship programme followed thereafter extending until mid 2013.
“All trained and mentored honeybee farmers were each given a Swazi top bar hive and catch box as part of the training. Some groups were also provided with a total of 65 Langstroth catch boxes to experience migratory bee-keeping.
“The beekeepers still require additional assistance though in order to get the Langstroth hives to where there is enough bee flora to allow the bees to make honey year round. We undertook regional visits as well in collaboration with TechnoServe to honeybee farmers in order to sensitise them on the important role honey producers play as well as their participation in the council leadership,” he said.
Langwenya said this initiative led to the establishment of a new council executive committee. Adding, he said there was an advisory body which provided the technical know-how to all problems and needs of the honeybee farmers, as well as interpret all legislation related to honeybee farming and production throughout the entire honey value chain.
He said currently, TechnoServe served as the secretariat of the council, however, adding that there was need to replace the organisation and have in place a proper full time secretariat in order to attain long term sustainability of the council.
Langwenya said this was because TechnoServe was donor funded and time constrained to focus on the entire council workload for an extended period of time.

Braunsapis maxschwarzi: New Species of Bee from Central African Republic

Dr Michael Engel, an entomologist with the University of Kansas’ Natural History Museum, has reported the discovery of a new species of bee in the Central African Republic.


The newfound bee belongs to Braunsapis, a genus of bees that do not produce honey but are important pollinators of crops and wild plants.

Braunsapis bees are small and mostly black-colored insects. They live solitary and nest in hollow stems. Females have a sting, but are not aggressive and will only sting if handled. These bees are found in Africa, Asia and Australia.

The new species, Braunsapis maxschwarzi, is described from a number of females collected in the Central African Republic.

“The specific epithet (maxschwarzi) is a patronym honoring Dr Maximilian Schwarz, who provided the material reported herein and who has made numerous important contributions to the systematics of bees for more than 40 years,” Dr Engel wrote in the paper published in the Journal of Melittology.

Braunsapis maxschwarzi is a very small bee, about 6 mm in length.

The species is most similar to previously known bee, Braunsapis paradoxa, from South Africa. It differs by the extensively developed yellow clypeal markings, the yellow pronotal lobe and other features.


Lessons from bees


Bees and children normally have a volatile relationship.

The fear of being stung and the increasing number of children with allergic reactions tends to create a unsympathetic environment for the humble bee.

But one East Auckland school is going against the tide of fear by having bees on the school grounds.

When Mt Wellington beekeeper Sara Russ’ hives were evicted from a site in Onehunga after a neighbour complained, she asked her daughter’s school if they would take in the homeless bees.

And eventually some of her hives arrived at Riverhills School in Pakuranga.

Mrs Russ is on a mission to remove the all-consuming fear that many New Zealanders have of the simple bee.

“It is just a sting, kids might trip up and graze their knee too,” she says.

“Most people are not allergic to bees, everybody will react to a bee sting – it is venom. You are going to swell up, it is going to be itchy but it will go in a few days.”

She says people need to realise that the bee actually needs to be protected instead of loathed.

“People need to make the connection of ‘yes, we need the bees which means we need to know how to behave with the bees and to respect them’ ” – a philosophy which is taking flight at Riverhills School.

“The bees being there is such a beacon for everyone else. There is a whole community of children who know what to do, who understand what the bees do and why they do it.

“They say ‘look at us, we love them, they are great, we are fine’. These kids show that it is not scary.”

Principal Christine Mason says the school’s stance is paying off, with classrooms full of educated, bee-loving kids.

The students were absolutely humming the day the bees arrived, she says.

“But some adults were very much like, ‘oh keep them away, I am frightened’ so we knew we had to do a lot of education about the fact that bees aren’t there to sting you.”

And now Mrs Mason says the students are proud of their positive bee culture.

“They are very into how to react when there is a bee flying around, they don’t flap, they don’t muck around like that.”

She says bringing the bees on to the school was not without opposition.

“Obviously some parents were concerned about ‘how many children were going to be attacked and stung’.”

But she says that in fact the casualty list has been low, although at first a few children did see how far they could push the bees.

“All children test, well a couple of them have tested and they have found out the result which has been a been a huge learning curve for everybody.”

Mrs Mason’s recommended treatment is just a dab of toothpaste.

She says the partnership goes beyond just having the hives at school – learning about bees has also been woven into the school curriculum.

“This year we have used it as part of our full school study as well. We’ve looked at communities, which includes insect and animal communities and it’s obvious which insect we are going to choose – bees.

She says it is the most authentic learning experience for the students and a tasty one too with the fruits of their endeavour being tubs and tubs of runny honey.


Mite and weather blamed for Guernsey low honey yield


A parasitic mite and unfavourable weather have caused a drop in honey production in Guernsey, the island’s beekeepers association has said.

Honey bees have been affected by the Varroa mite and the cold weather and strong winds at the start of 2013.

The Guernsey Beekeepers Association said some keepers had seen a 50% drop in honey production.

Scientists said in recent years the mite had helped a virus wipe out billions of honeybees around the world.

Association chairman Chris Tomlins said: “Most beekeepers would tell you their honey yield might be down by as much as 50% and some beekeepers might not have retrieved any honey at all.

“Varroa continues to be a problem and various chemicals have been used to control it and we’re reasonably successful… but they’re weakening the colonies.”

However, Mr Tomlins added it was thought that the mite had not yet been recorded in Alderney.


Tags: honeybees, bees, queenbee, hives,

Bees join birdies as focus at Guelph golf course

English: Golf Course.

English: Golf Course. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

GUELPH — Golfers might be wondering what all the buzz is about at Cutten Fields Golf Club this spring and summer.

The historic College Avenue private club has teamed up with seed and crop product multinational Syngenta to increase the bee, butterfly and other insect population by planting patches of wildflowers proven to attract them.

Called Operation Pollinator, it is an extension of similar programs initiated by Syngenta in some European countries, including England, where it was called Operation Bumblebee.

“Operation Pollinator is about restoring natural habitats and improving the source of food for bees, butterflies and other insects,” said Dr. Paul Hoekstra, stewardship manager with Syngenta Canada.

“Cutten Fields has been incredibly supportive of the initiative,” Hoekstra said.

Syngenta has supplied specific seed mixes that were planted in the fall at various out-of-play locations on the golf course that will attract bees and butterflies next year.

“Basically we’re trying to increase the pollinator-friendly habitat on the golf course,” said Dave Kypers, Cutten Fields superintendent.

He said golf courses often get a bad environmental reputation, sometimes unfairly.

“Our primary purpose is obviously that being a golf club, but if we can be good environmental stewards and do things to help the community and the environment, we’ll definitely look into it,” Kuypers said.

Syngenta also works with the golf courses to educate them on the project.

Brantford Golf and Country Club is also undertaking a similar project.

Kuypers said this is an extension and expansion of a similar project the club started three years ago. There is now half a hectare dedicated to the project, or roughly half a football field.

The bees and other insects the flowers will attract don’t offer any particular benefit to the golf course specifically, but it is an effort to be part of the greater ecological good and help increase the amount of pollinators in the urban community, Hoekstra said.

“Pollinators are vital to food and plant production,” Hoekstra said. “One third of our food production comes from crops that rely on insect pollinators.”

He said the European projects have shown that over three years there was a 600 per cent increase in bees and a 12-fold increase in butterflies on golf courses that undertook projects similar to the one Cutten Fields is doing.

Hoekstra said Syngenta has had several calls from other golf courses inquiring about joining the program. He will also be spreading the word about Operation Pollinator at the 2014 Canadian International Turfgrass Conference in Vancouver.


Honey bee production down 26% in 5 years


Saudi Arabia’s honey bee production fell by 26 percent to reach 119,000 kg in 2011 compared to 156,000 kg in 2007, a report released by the Ministry of Agriculture shows.
Production of honey bee continued to decline from 2007 gradually over the next five years to reach 137,000 kg in 2008 and 130,000 kg and 125,000 kg in 2009 and 2010, respectively, the report said.
Based on the ministry’s report, Jazan produced the biggest quantities of honey bee in the Kingdom in 2011 at 33,000 kg, followed by Madinah (24,000 kg), Jouf (19,000 kg), Riyadh (8,000 kg), the Northern Border Region (1,930 kg), the Eastern Province (1,818 kg), and Hail (1,062 kg).
However, the Bee-breeders Cooperative Association (BCA) said the data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture is not accurate but contrary to the report, production continued to grow. Board chairman of BCA Dr. Ahmed Al-Khazim said that the ministry’s report focused on fixed apiaries and ignored mobile ones which form 90 percent of the total apiaries in the Kingdom.
He said the number of beehives in the Kingdom estimated at 1 million are producing 9,000 tons of honey bee annually while the Kingdom’s imports stand at some 14,000 tons. 70 percent of production originates in the areas located between Taif, Baha, Asir and Jazan, he said.
Al-Khazim said that the BCA draws its statistics from masters and PhD theses and from questionnaires distributed Kingdom-wide in addition to national projects and studies supported by King Abdulaziz City for Sciences and Technology (KACST).
The governorate of Baha recently supported the BCA on a study aimed at determining the number of bee-breeders, apiaries and the volume of production, Al-Khazim said.
He said plans are under way to organize a workshop in Qunfudah on how to minimize losses of bee-breeders resulting from locust spraying campaigns. The workshop, scheduled for next Thursday, will be organized by Bugshan Chair for Bee Research at King Saud University, the Bee-breeders Society in Baha and the Locust Research Center in Jeddah. The major causes of losses lie in drought, pests and diseases and the hot summer temperatures in Riyadh and Qasim, he pointed out.


Saving the Bees!

On December 21st Beekeepers from the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association (SBBA) were determined to save a hive of bees. The bees escaped from a failed extermination attempt and created a beautiful exposed hive 30 feet in the air.

The hive consisted of 5000 bees and 12 piece of amazing comb hanging off a 6-inch horizontal branch. The bees had been in a safe and warm tree hollow but now they were in trouble exposed to wind and cold. They were also low on honey. Please see SBBA’s blog for additional photos and information.

The height would have a problem but Chris from Branch Out Tree Care loaned the beekeepers use of his bucket truck. The lift allowed the beekeeper to get up to the hive to perform a cutout. A cutout is were the hive is carefully removed from its current location piece by piece and reassembled in a standard beehive then moved to a new location. SBBA can remove almost any hive in any location.



Athreb Mountain: Where scenery and honey are redefined

ABHA – Athreb Mountain is one of the highest in the Asir region. Standing at 2,200 meters above sea level, it has always been an important tourist attraction because of the mesmerizing scenery, serenity and beautiful weather.

Its strategic location overlooks breathtaking plateaus and hills. Anyone who visits the place will fall in love with it at first sight. The same is true for anyone who tastes the honey produced there.

The Athreb honey is considered the best nationwide because it is 100 percent pure and natural. The village of Bariq, situated near the top of the mountain, is known for its high-quality honey. Beekeepers there grow plants naturally without using any chemical fertilizers. Copious amounts of natural honey are produced in Bariq.

As you approach the top of the mountain the fog gets heavier, the weather colder. It rains all year round in the hills.

From the top of the mountain, everything looks tiny except Bariq. Populated by 600 people, the village looks like a busy beehive from the top.

Some villagers are busy plowing their land while others engage in different routine activities such as beekeeping and cattle raising. The majority of people in the village rely on these two trades for their living.

The ancestors of most families living in Bariq came to the region many years ago and decided to settle there because of the beautiful weather and the fertile soil, said Muhammad Al-Barqi, 80, who was born and raised in the village.

He still remembers how in the 1930s it used to be hard for his parents and other residents to get to the top of the mountain carrying water on the back of their donkeys.

“It used to take them from six to eight hours because of the rugged terrain. Today, it takes less than half an hour’s driving.



A new suspect in bee deaths: the US government


As scientists race to pinpoint the cause of the global collapse of honey bee populations that pollinate a third of the world’s crops, environmental groups have indentified one culprit: US authorities who continue to approve pesticides implicated in the apian apocalypse.


Case in point: The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) conditional approval inMay of sulfoxaflor, a type of agricultural pesticide known as a neonicotinoid. The European Union has banned neonicotinoids for two years in response to scientific studies linking their use to the sudden death of entire beehives, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Over the past six years, CCD has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives worth $2 billion. Bee colonies in the US are so decimated that it takes 60% of the nation’s bee population to pollinate a single crop, California almonds. And that’s not just a local problem; California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds.


Now environmental and food safety groups are seeking to overturn the EPA’s green-lighting of neonicotinoids in a series of lawsuits that for the first time invoke the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) to protect the bees. “EPA inadequately considered, or ignored entirely, sulfoxaflor’s harm to pollinators and the significant costs that harm will impose on the agricultural economy, food security, and natural ecosystems,” attorneys for the nonprofit Center for Food Safety and other groups argued in a legal brief (PDF) filed in December in litigation aiming to revoke the approval of sulfoxaflor.


Another lawsuit filed in March in federal court in northern California by the Center for Food Safety asks a federal judge to overturn the EPA’s approval of two widely-used neonicotonioid pesticides called clothianidin and thiamethoxam.


Both cases argue that the EPA violated the ESA by failing to adequately consider the impact of the pesticides not just on honey bees but on a host of imperiled wildlife listed as threatened or endangered under federal law—from the Ohlone tiger beetle to the Quino checkerspot butterfly.


The ESA could prove a powerful weapon to wield on behalf of the bees. The law prohibits government agencies from taking any actions that could harm a protected species, requiring them to first consult with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In the bee cases, environmental groups cite government records to show that the EPA did neither. “For at least one neonicotinoid insecticide, FWS scientists are on record stating ‘EPA is ignoring their duties with respect to consulting with FWS,’ ” the lawsuit states.


If the courts agree, approval of the pesticides could be at least temporarily revoked while the EPA consults with the wildlife agency and conducts a scientific study of the pesticides’ potential impact on protected species. The EPA maintains it properly approved the pesticides. But in August, the agency acknowledged the potentially deleterious impact of the pesticides when it said it would restrict the use of some neonicotinoids around bees.


The litigation also puts a human face on the bee story. Several of the plaintiffs are longtime beekeepers who have seen their decades-old businesses collapse alongside their beehives.


Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, for instance, is losing as much as 60% of his bee colonies annually to CCD, while a Florida beekeeper, Bill Rhodes, lost 80% his 9,000 beehives one year.


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