Bee healthy! Severely diabetic teen harvests honey that can save his life

Adam-Dawson

 

A TEENAGER with severe diabetes has taken up a life-saving hobby – keeping bees and harvesting honey that could save him from a coma.

Adam Dawson expertly looks after a colony of 600,000 bees across two hives – and relies on the honey he harvests to stop him slipping into a diabetic coma.

The 16-year-old has Type 1 diabetes, which means his blood sugar levels can fall dramatically (hypoglycaemia) requiring an instant hit of glucose to quickly raise them again.

Adam, from Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, has such a severe case of diabetes that he has had an insulin pump fitted for the past 14 years to regulate his blood sugar levels.

He said: “It’s really dangerous for me to go hypo because my brain shuts down and it tells me not to eat.

“That’s why it’s vital to have something nearby – like my honey – which I can take really quickly.

“It doesn’t feel like eating and it is absorbed really easily.”

As a toddler, Adam almost died after hospital doctors failed to diagnose his condition and he spent a week in a coma.

adams bees

 

To counteract this his mum, Patricia, made sure he had a spoonful of honey each morning to restart his body.

Patricia, 46, said: “Adam’s blood levels can fall really low and he needs a quick hit of sugar to bring him back up.

“It’s perfect to have at the back of the cupboard to bring out.”

Adam has been keeping the yellow and black insects for the past five years after helping out his 71-year-old grandmother, Ann Waldock, who has been an avid beekeeper for 35 years.

Of course, he doesn’t eat all of the harvested honey – he sells the surplus at local farmers markets with his gran.

He said: “I just started this as something to do and I’m doing quite well.

“I’ve won a couple of second places at local competitions but nothing major.

“The money me and my gran make is just enough to cover the costs so I don’t really see this as a career, more a hobby that could save my life.”

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Great time for a beekeeper

hives

 

September is a great time to be a beekeeper,

“This is a wonderful time of year to be a beekeeper! The work of examining the bees to make sure that they are queenright, have enough space for brood and nectar, are not preparing for swarming and have no disease problems, which occupied us weekly since the middle of April, is over. We have harvested our honey crop which is not as large as had been hoped due to the cooler weather since the end of July. The bees have been treated to control the varroa numbers in the hives, they have been fed enough sugar syrup to replace the honey which we beekeepers stole from them so that they have enough food to last until next spring and we have ensured that their hives are weather proof and secure against mice, slugs and any other creature which might find a comfortable, if somewhat dangerous, home with them during the winter,” she said.

“During this past spell of good weather, the bees have been working with vigour. Queens are laying at almost full capacity again after the natural brood break in August and this has stimulated the bees to collect nectar and, especially, the pollen which is so essential for the feeding of larvae. These larvae, which are free of the varroa mites which feed on the haemolymph, will in about two and one half weeks hatch into the healthy adult bees which will see the colony safely through to next March. Their role will be to keep the colony temperature high enough for the colony to survive cold spells by forming a cluster which gets tighter as the weather gets colder. They shiver their huge wing muscles to generate heat, changing places from the outside of the cluster to the inside so that as few bees as possible become immobilised by the cold. They take good care of the queen, making sure that she is fed and kept warm. They look after the little patch of brood which the queen will continue to lay all winter. They will emerge during sunny spells for cleansing flights and to gather any nectar and pollen available from winter flowering plants.

“At the moment it is a pleasure to approach the apiary and, from about 10m away, be able to smell the ivy nectar which the bees are collecting at the moment. Then, on watching the hive entrances, we can see the yellow pollen from the ivy, the grey from fuchsia, fawnish from any heather in bloom, dull yellow from dahlias and, most surprising of all the ‘ghost’ bees covered with white pollen from the (despised by many but not by beekeepers) Himalayan balsam, all being carried in the pollen baskets on the hind legs of the bees.

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Bacteria found in honey may help fight infection

“Bacteria found in honeybee stomachs could be used as alternative to antibiotics,” reports The Independent.

The world desperately needs new antibiotics to counter the growing threat of bacteria developing resistance to drug treatment. A new study has found that 13 bacteria strains living in honeybees’ stomachs can reduce the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, in the laboratory.

The researchers examined antibiotic-resistant bacteria and yeast that can infect human wounds such as MRSA and some types of E. coli. They found each to be susceptible to some of the 13 honeybee lactic acid bacteria (LAB). These LAB were more effective if used together.

However, while the researchers found that the LAB could have more of an effect than existing antibiotics, they did not test whether this difference was likely to be due to chance, so few solid conclusions can be drawn from this research.

The researchers also found that each LAB produced different levels of toxic substances that may have been responsible for killing the bacteria.

Unfortunately, the researchers had previously found that the LAB are only present in fresh honey for a few weeks before they die, and are not present in shop-bought honey.

However, the researchers did find low levels of LAB-produced proteins and free fatty acids in shop-bought honey. They went on to suggest that these substances might be key to the long-held belief that even shop-bought honey has antibacterial properties, but that this warrants further research.

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Small Hive Beetle Detected in South West Italy

On September 11 2014, the Italian National Reference Centre for beekeeping confirmed the first detection of the presence of Small hive beetle (SHB) in South West Italy, in the port city of Gioia Tauro. The samples were taken from a bait trap (similar to the Sentinel Apiaries in the UK) belonging to the University of Gioia Tauro.

Since its discovery, urgent measures are underway to measure the extent of the outbreak, complete tracings (sales and movements of bees from the area) and eradicate and control its spread in line with EU legislation and safeguards. Measures include that in all apiaries where the beetle is found colonies are destroyed and all soil surrounding the land is ploughed in and treated with a soil drench.

Since 2011, there has been a substantial level of imports of package bees and queens from Italy into the UK. The NBU is arranging for further inspection of colonies belonging to these beekeepers.

Mike Brown and Gay Marris are attending the EURL Honey Bee meeting in France next week where the Small hive beetle will be discussed extensively. For more information about this exotic pest and the things beekeepers should do are illustrated in the NBU advisory leaflet ‘The Small hive beetle’. Please see the NBU website for more details:https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/

We will update this information as and when we hear more.

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Bees create buzz for Castle Stuart Golf Links

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A top Highland golf club has created a buzz by introducing hundreds of rare bumblebees on the course – helping it to win a major sustainability accolade.

The conservation work at Castle Stuart Golf Links, which will greet the return of the Scottish Open in 2016, has seen it collect the GEO Certified ecolabel, an international symbol of ‘great golf environments’.

It recognises high standards for performance in nature conservation, water and energy efficiency, ethical and environmental supply chain, pollution control and community engagement.

As well as the bees, the long rough at the course provides habitats for ground nesting birds like skylarks and short eared owls and several buildings host kestrels, barn owls and other small birds like swifts and swallows.

Badger gates have also been installed to allow free access for the animals whilst keeping out rabbits.

And with its acclaimed, art deco-style, low carbon clubhouse supplied by a ground source heat exchanger, Castle Stuart consistently strives to reduce energy and water consumption.

All surface drainage run-off from the course is filtered three times before it reaches the Moray Firth to avoid any pollution risk.

In addition, a one-acre site on the course is given over to testing 40 species of fescue grass – with another 40 species being added to the trials this year – to select those which best suit the Highland climate, need the least water and are the most disease-resistant.

The Scottish Open venue has been praised both for its contribution to date and stated targets for continual improvement in the coming years.

Jonathan Smith, Chief Executive of GEO, praised the club for its achievements.

He said: “In a short period of time, the development and management teams at Castle Stuart have created a world-class golf facility that has brought tangible benefits to the local environment, community and economy.”

Castle Stuart Golf Links general manager Stuart McColm, said: “We are privileged to have such a wonderful location and right from the outset we have done everything possible to ensure we protect, and enhance, the land and its wildlife so it can be enjoyed by many people in the years ahead.”

They are particularly proud of their bee project.

Bumblebees are important to the ecosystem as pollinators of wild flowers which host a range of insects and provide food for birds. Over the last 50 years several British species of bumblebee have declined markedly, largely due to loss of habitat.

At Castle Stuart they feed on swathes of heather, introduced to the course when it was developed from farmland near Inverness, providing a sustainable source of food in an area where the bees had all but disappeared.

Chris Haspell, the Castle Stuart course manager, said: “The heather doesn’t just look nice on the course; it provides an important habitat for the bees and other insects. Their presence brings small mammals and birds to the site as part of the overall environmental management plan.”

The links course, which hosted the Scottish Open from 2011-2013 and will again welcome the competition in 2016, was created on a 95-hectare site adjacent to the Inner Moray Firth Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area, and the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation.

Working with statutory bodies, including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the holes were created and shaped using only materials from the site, which significantly reduced the carbon footprint during construction.

The land had previously been intensively farmed using pesticides and herbicides to help produce arable crops.

Castle Stuart’s eight full-time and five seasonal course management staff now actively work just 24 hectares of maintained playing area and have reduced the use of chemicals on the land by around 85 per cent.

Castle Stuart Golf Links opened in 2009 and made an immediate impact on the golfing world.

It has since been consistently placed among the top 100 courses in the world by a number of prestigious golf publications, most notably Links Magazine and Golf Course Architecture.

The course hosted the Scottish Open for three successive years from 2011 with the 2013 competition, won by Phil Mickelson, reaching a television audience of more than 500 million. It was announced this year that the competition will return to Castle Stuart in 2016.

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Very rare bees found on new Cornish Bartinney Nature Reserve

Tormentil Nomad Bee

 

Two very rare species of bee have been discovered on the new Bartinney Nature Reserve near Sennen in west Penwith, reports the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

The tormentil nomad bee (Nomada robertjeotiana) is so rare that it is only currently known at one other site in the south west, near Davidstow.

This species uses the nests of another rare bee, the tormentil mining bee (Andrena tarsata), known to only three UK sites and also discovered at Bartinney. Both are moorland species that have undergone a dramatic decline since the 1970s.

Paddy Saunders, the invertebrate expert who discovered both species of bee during a survey for Natural England said: “The tormentil mining bee needs lots and lots of flowering tormentil very near to nest sites, from which to collect pollen to feed their larvae that live in small chambers slightly underground.

“It is unusual to find such big colonies of tormentil mining bee and the Trust’s Bartinney Nature Reserve, with its big drifts of flowering tormentil, is clearly an important site for them.

“The tormentil nomad bee is a ‘cuckoo’ bee that nips into the tomentil mining bee’s nest, where it lays an egg. Once hatched the nomad’s larvae eats all the pollen that the other bee has done all the hard work to collect!

“It needs a big tormentil mining bee colony to sustain a population of the nomad. The fact that Bartinney Nature Reserve supports both these rare bees is very significant.”

Liz Cox, Wild Penwith Project Manager for Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: “Open flower-rich habitats are vital for wildlife, including these bees, and this find highlights the importance of managing Penwith’s moors and downs to ensure such areas are kept open and not lost to invading scrub or bracken.”

“Bartinney Nature Reserve is one of the two reserves that the Trust recently bought thanks to public donations and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and I am sure everyone involved will be thrilled to know that the site is already playing an important role in protecting Penwith’s wildlife!”

Andrew Whitehouse, South West Manager at Buglife said: “Both of these bees have been identified by our South West Bees Project as being in need of conservation action.

“We are encouraged to find that both species have been found at Bartinney, and we hope to work closely with Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Natural England to ensure that these nationally important populations thrive.”

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Planetbee Cider – helping counter declining bee population

Following the success of Planetbee’s South African Chenin Blanc in Mitchell & Butler, Morgenrot and Blue Fruits have announced the arrival of Planetbee Cider in Oddbins.

This new craft cider, available in 33cl bottles, is created by one of the world’s most acclaimed cider makers, Tom Oliver.

Available initially in Oddbins in time for the UK apple harvest, Tom Oliver uses carefully selected organic English cider apples that are freshly pressed, fermented with wild yeasts and aged in barrels.planetbeedrycider

The launch has been supported with an in-store tasting and awareness drive.

Planetbee cider provides a crisp, bitter sweet apple, honey and blossom complexity and is priced at £2.50 for a 33cl bottle (ABV 6%).

The Planetbee brand was set up to help counter the declining bee population in the UK through quality drinks. After launching Planetbee Chenin Blanc in the Mitchell & Butler pub group in March, Planetbee Cider, which donates 25% of its profits to FOHB, supplements a growing fund.

Money raised will help by funding research to combat the deadly Varroa Mite which infests hives and destroys honey bee colonies. It will also be invested in nationwide projects aimed at increasing the number of pollen and nectar-rich pollinating flowers, plants and trees that bees need to thrive and prosper.

“With apples relying on bees, a cider is a great vehicle to continue our mission to reverse the terrible and worrying plight of the industrious and life-giving honey bee,” said Morgenrot commercial director John Critchley. “The support for the project from Oddbins and their managers has been fantastic but massive credit has to go to Tom Oliver at Oliver’s Cider & Perry and James Forbes at Blue Fruits for making such a quaffable tipple.”

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Honeybees’ bacteria could be used as antibiotic alternative says new study

bees

 

Bacteria found in the stomachs of honeybees could potentially be used as a medical alternative to fight antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, according to new research.

Scientists from Lund University in Sweden discovered the groups of lactic acid bacteria, found in the stomachs of honeybees, which they claim could be used as an alternative to antibiotics when treating MRSA (meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureusis) and other forms of human bacteria.

Dr Tobias Olofsson from Lund University noted the effectiveness of the bacteria when treating wounds, which contained greater amounts of active substances compared to standard man-made antibiotics.

“Antibiotics are mostly one active substance, effective against only a narrow spectrum of bacteria. When used alive, these 13 lactic acid bacteria produce the right kind of antimicrobial compounds as needed, depending on the threat,” he said.

“It seems to have worked well for millions of years of protecting bees’ health and honey against other harmful micro-organisms.”

It is believed the use of the bacteria could be beneficial in developing countries, where large amounts of fresh honey is readily available, while researchers also noted it could be of benefit in western countries where antibiotic resistance is an issue affecting an increasing amount of the population.

Overuse of antibiotics even by GPs sparks fears of renewed medical dark age

Meanwhile the current study will be broadened to investigate whether the bacteria can treat tropical infections, in both humans and animals.

The new findings look set to once again spark the debate about the use of pesticides, with some environmental officials citing the use of chemicals as a major reason behind the decline of honeybee numbers in the UK.

A separate study, released earlier this year, found that the use of pesticides was having a major impact on honeybee, earthworm and butterfly populations in Britain, which was subsequently affecting the ecosystems of a broader number of animals and plants.

This led the Food and Environment Research Agency to begin work developing so called ‘bio pesticides’ which would pose a significantly reduced impact to honeybees and other wildlife when used on crops.

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Bees ‘prefer city to countryside’

Bumblebees seem to prefer the buzz of the city to the countryside, a large-scale “citizen’s science” study has found.

bumble

 

They also like to have a cool breeze on their backs when foraging, and choose English lavender over the more “flowery” French variety, according to the findings.

Scientists were surprised to receive more bumblebee sightings from volunteers in city centres than in either the countryside or suburbs.

After taking account of factors such as local variations in participant numbers, they concluded that densely packed “flower rich oases” in the form of tubs or baskets of flowers used to brighten up city centres were attracting the insects.

“We asked people to record bumblebees visiting lavender,” said lead researcher Dr Michael Pocock, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. “The rate of bumblebees observed … was higher in cities than in other places, and certainly much higher than in the countryside.

“We were surprised to see more observations in urban localities, as suburban gardens are often thought to be better.

“Bumblebees are visiting (flowers) both for nectar and pollen. A likely explanation is that there’s a concentration effect. Bumblebees will be concentrated on floral resources such as pots and baskets of lavender.”

Colleague Dr Helen Roy, also from CEH, said: “This was an exciting result. I think we can think of cities as quite hostile environments for wildlife. But this shows that we can create oases for wildlife in our cities.”

Areas of greater flower density appeared to be what mattered most to the bees.

Dr Pocock added: “It does suggest potentially one way of boosting and enhancing populations of bees in the cities. If the explanation is this concentration effect then if we plant more floral resources that’s going to have a beneficial effect on populations of bees.”

A total of 30,000 people, mostly schoolchildren, took part in the study this summer, recording more than 4,000 bumblebee sightings from across the UK.

Participants were asked to note how many bumblebees they saw visiting roughly 1ft wide patches of lavender over a period of five minutes. One reason lavender was used was because it is easy for people to identify.

The rate of bumblebee observations was also found to be higher when the weather was both sunny and windy.

Breezy conditions are thought to suit the insects because they help to prevent them overheating, especially on warm days.

“We had some lovely warm days this summer, and the fact that when it was sunny more sightings were reported on breezy days suggest that a breeze has a positive effect on the activity of bumblebees,” said Dr Pocock, speaking at the British Science Festival at the University of Birmingham.

In addition, bees showed a marked preference for English rather than French lavender. Both are introduced species, but French lavender has “highly ornamental” flowers that might impede bees’ access, said the researchers.

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