Sweet taste of success for Lyreco’s latest environmental project

Manel Roura and Jamie Mills.

Manel Roura and Jamie Mills.

One of the UK’s biggest providers of workplace supplies is sweetening its environmental credentials at its Shropshire base with a new project to boost Britain’s ailing honey bee population.

Lyreco has introduced three beehives at its national distribution centre in Telford, which caters for around 240,000 bees at their peak, with plans for a fourth.

The move is part of Lyreco’s ongoing commitment towards environmentally friendly and sustainable projects.

The firm has also installed nearly 14,000 solar panels on the roof of its distribution hub. The installation is one of the largest rooftop photovoltaic system in the UK and saves Lyreco more than £53,000 a year on its energy bills, as well as cutting annual carbon emissions by 1,700 tonnes to make the site electrically carbon neutral.

The firm recently scooped the Environment and Sustainability Award at the SHD Logistics Awards 2016, in recognition of its work to minimise its impact on the environment.

Lyreco’s Managing Director for the UK and Ireland Peter Hradisky explained the firm’s decision to get involved in the biodiversity project.

“We are firmly committed to playing a positive role in our community and feel that we have a responsibility to lead by example.

“The changing landscape of the UK has contributed to the reduction in bee numbers, which in turn poses a risk to food crops as bees play an important role in pollination. We wanted to help reverse that decline so we installed three hives earlier this year and have plans for another,” he said.

A survey of the 15-acre Lyreco site established the best location for the hives to thrive and they are located in the far corner to ensure that they are at a safe distance from people using the car park but still visible from the office.

Quality, Safety and Sustainability Manager Manel Roura added: “Factors we had to take into consideration were exposure to wind, rain and sun and also levels of human activity within the vicinity.

“The chosen location on the first corner as you enter the car park was perfect for the bees to settle as it had good wind cover due to the surrounding trees, prolonged sun exposure and it was easily accessible. We work with a local beekeeper who visits weekly and maintains the hives.”

The honey produced – 60lbs so far this year – will be sold to raise funds for the Lyreco for Education programme that gives children living in poor conditions better access to schooling.

Beekeeper Darran Hall, who maintains the hives for Lyreco, urged more businesses to follow Lyreco’s example. He said: “The plight of the honey bee has been well documented.

“Honey bees can’t live in the wild and need managed hives to be able to survive so it’s great that an organisation like Lyreco is doing everything it can to reverse the decline in their area.”

Lyreco is a member of The Business Environmental Support Scheme for Telford (BESST), a partnership between local private and public sector businesses that aims to help businesses improve their environmental performance.

Asian Hornet Update

Following the finding of Asian hornets in Gloucestershire last week we have received a large number of suspect Asian hornet reports from members of the public and beekeepers which we are following up. Bee inspectors have now visited over 100 sites. Asian hornets have been seen at just six locations within 500 meters of the original site.

Efforts to track down the nest and destroy it are ongoing. There have been no other substantiated reports of hornets anywhere else in the UK so please be patient while we continue our field work and be assured that when appropriate, national alerts will be sent out via our email alert system. In the meantime, our news feed on BeeBase will be used to keep everyone updated.

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Do you know how honey is produced by the bees

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If you don’t know how do bees produce honey until now after reading of this text you will know very well the whole process…

The western, or European honeybee, pollinates three fourths of the fruits, veggies and nuts that we eat. We’d be in trouble without them. Of course, there’s a reason we don’t call them zucchini bees, almond bees, or apple bees. They also give us honey. One healthy hive will make and consume more than 50 kg of honey in a single year, and that takes a lot of work.

Honey is made from nectar, but it doesn’t come out of flowers as that golden, sticky stuff. After finding a suitable food source, bees dive in head first, using their long, specially adapted tongues to slurp tiny sips of nectar into one of two stomachs. A single bee might have to drink from more than a thousand flowers to fill its honey stomach, which can weigh as much as the bee itself when full of nectar. On the way back to the hive, digestive enzymes are already working to turn that nectar into sweet gold. When she returns to the hive, the forager bee will vomit the nectar into the mouth of another worker. That bee will vomit it into another bee’s mouth, and so on.

honey-producing

This game of regurgitation telephone is an important part of the honey making process, since each bee adds more digestive enzymes to turn long chains of complex sugars in the raw nectar into simple monosaccharides like fructose and glucose. At this point, the nectar is still pretty watery, so the bees beat their wings and create an air current inside the hive to evaporate and thicken the nectar, finally capping the cell with beeswax so the enzyme rich bee barf can complete its transformation into honey. Because of its low water content and acidic pH, honey isn’t a very inciting place for bacteria or yeast spoilage, and it has an incredibly long shelf life in the hive or in your pantry. Honey has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back thousands of years, pretty much unspoiled.

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For one pound of honey, tens of thousands of foraging bees will together fly more than three times around the world and visit up to 8 million flowers. That takes teamwork and organization, and although they can’t talk they do communicate… with body language. Foragers dance to tell other bees where to find food. A circle dance means flowers are pretty close to the hive, but for food that’s farther away, they get their waggle on. The waggle dance of the honey bee was first decoded by Karl Von Frisch, and it’s definitely one of the coolest examples of animal communication in nature. First the bee walks in a straight line, wagging its body back and forth and vibrating its wings, before repeating in a figure eight. Whatever angle the bee walks while waggling tells the other bees what direction to go. Straight up the line of honeycombs, then the food is in the direction of the sun. If the dance is pointed to the left or right, the other bees know to fly in that angle relative to the sun. The longer the waggle, the farther away the food is, and the food is better, the more excited the bee shakes its body.

bees-producing-honey

If that’s not amazing enough, even if they can’t see the sun itself, they can infer where it is and the time of day by reading the polarization of light in the blue sky. A single bee is a pretty simple creature, but together they create highly complex and social societies. There’s three main classes in a beehive: drones, workers and queens. When a new queen is born, she immediately runs around and kills her sisters, because there can be only one. During mating season, she’ll fly to a distant hive to mate with several males and store away the sperm, which she’ll use back at her home hive to lay more than a thousand eggs a day throughout the rest of her life. Any unfertilized eggs, those that don’t join up with sperm, will mature into male drones, which means they only have one set of chromosomes. But fertilized eggs are all genetically female, destined t become either queens or workers. Queens do the egg laying of course, but worker bees are the backbone of the beehive.

So what makes most females become workers, while just one wears the hive crown? A baby bee’s diet activate genetic programming that shifts its entire destiny. Every bee larva is initially fed a nutrient rich food called royal jelly, but after a few days, worker bee babies are switched to a mixture of pollen and honey called “bee bread”. But queens eat royal jelly their whole life, even as adults. Scientists used to think it was just royal jelly that put queens on the throne, but just last year they discovered one chemical in bee bread, the food that queens don’t get, that keeps worker bees sterile. Being a queen seems to be as much about what bees don’t eat as what they do. Making honey is insect farming on its grandest scale, with intricate societies cooperating to make a food fit for bear tummies bid and small… with the pleasant side effect of pollinating most of the world’s flowering plants.

 

Bees don’t slack on the job, even when they are ill

Scientists think the insects are ‘hardwired’ to search, no matter how they feel.

wired-bee

Struggle to get into work when you feel under the weather? You should take inspiration from the hard-working honeybee and spring out of bed.

New research has shown that honeybees remain excellent searchers even when they are ill.

The bees are hardwired to search the landscape efficiently, allowing them to continue working for the greater good of their hives.

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Scientists in Cornwall used radar technology to track individual bees and were able to show they remained nimble and travelled hundreds or thousands of metres even when they had infections or viruses.

Honeybees tirelessly commute between rewarding flower patches and their hive and their remarkable navigational skills rely on distinct landmarks, such as trees or houses, which they very efficiently find and memorise on orientation flights.

Experts fitted a transponder – a tiny dipole aerial much lighter than the nectar or pollen normally carried by the bee – to the thorax.

Tracking each bee individually allowed them to pick up a radar signal from the transponder showing where and how it was flying. The aerial is harmless to the bee and removable.

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Bees, like humans, can fall ill and getting around during periods of sickness can become very challenging.

The study shows that even very sick bees are still able to search their surroundings optimally in so-called Levy flight patterns.

Lead author Dr Stephan Wolf, from Queen Mary University of London, said: “The honeybees we observed had remarkably robust searching abilities, which indicate this might be hardwired in the bees rather than learned, making bees strong enough to withstand pathogens and possibly other stressors, and allowing them to still contribute to their colony by, for example, foraging for food.”

During the study the team monitored 78 bees, some of which were unwell.

The researchers discovered that the unhealthy bees did not fly as far or for as long as the healthy bees but they continued to search in the same manner, suggesting that the pattern was inbuilt.

Honeybees know it’s going to rain, so work more before it starts

Honeybees know it’s going to rain, so work more before it starts

bees and rain

Busy bees get busier if the next day looks rainy.

This is according to Xu-Jiang He and colleagues at Jiangxi Agricultural University in Nanchang, China, who attached tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to 300 worker honeybees from each of three hives.

They used these to monitor when the bees left the hive, how long they were gone and when they quit work in the evening.
The bees spent more time out of the hive foraging and stopped work later in the afternoon when the following day proved to be rainy rather than sunny. They seemed to be responding to cues such as changes in humidity, temperature and barometric pressure that preceded rainstorms.

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Stores for hoarders?
The finding is surprising because honeybees should not need to set aside extra stores of food for a rainy day, says Gene Robinson, a honeybee expert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Honeybee foraging ecology is not based on immediate need. They are a hoarding species,” he says.

Robinson notes that He’s team only tracked the bees for 34 days, so other factors such as blooming times of flowers could also have affected their behaviour.

If the Chinese researchers are correct, though, their discovery will help shape our understanding of how and why honeybees forage when they do, says Robinson.

And that, in turn, may help in managing the impact of climate change and human activity on bees, which are the world’s most important pollinating insects.

 

African honey bees change lives and save elephants

The Elephants and Bees Project is an innovative study using an in-depth understanding of elephant behaviour to reduce damage from crop-raiding elephants using their instinctive avoidance of African honey bees. The project explores the use of novel Beehive Fences as a natural elephant deterrent creating a social and economic boost to poverty-stricken rural communities through pollination services and the sustainable harvesting of “Elephant-Friendly Honey”.

Elephants & Bees is thrilled to share this short video on the project’s amazing milestones. Get to learn how bees are bringing harmony to communities that live with wildlife.

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700 Beehives Hang Off This Rocky Cliff to Boost Dwindling Bee Populations

beehives in china

700 Beehives hang off this rocky cliff to boost dwindling Bee populations

The Shennongjia Nature Reserve in central China has an unusual approach to boost the country’s dwindling bee population: a sky-high, vertical apiary.

Roughly 700 wooden beehives hang from a cliff 4,000 feet above sea level on a mountain in the conservation area. According to People’s Daily Online, this vertigo-inducing “wall of hives” is meant to attract the area’s wild bees into settling in the boxes, as it mimics their natural habitats. To get to the boxes, beekeepers have to climb to each one individually. The hives contain thousands upon thousands of bees. As you might know, global food production is dependent on pollination provided by honey bees and other pollinators.

But in some parts of China, bees have virtually disappeared, forcing some farmers to pollinate their crops by hand with feather dusters. The website Xinhua.net reported (via The Daily Mail), that in China’s north and north east, bees have become extinct. Other areas in China are also seeing bee populations decline, the publication said.

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It is suspected that neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species, is a major factor in overall global bee population declines. Twenty-nine independent scientists conducted a global review of 1,121 independent studies and found overwhelming evidence of pesticides linked to bee declines.

As beekeepers and conservationists around the world try to solve the plight of colony collapse disorder, this extraordinary apiary in in the Far East seems to be seeing some success, The Daily Mail reported.

Why build an apiary on a mountain? According to the National Commission of the People’s Republic of China for UNESCO, the Shennongjia Nature Reserve is unique in that its location has several different climates zones in a single area—subtropical, warm temperate, temperate and cold temperate—which allows for a rich variety of fauna and flora (as well as ample pollen) to grow.

Along with the bees, approximately 1,131 species of plants grow in the reserve, along with 54 kinds of animals, 190 kinds of birds, 12 kinds of reptile and 8 kinds of amphibian. The commission said that the main cash income of the farmers living in the reserve is “mainly based on a diversified economy by raising cattle, pigs and beekeeping as well as collecting the Chinese herbal medicine etc.”

What we can learn from the ancient Egyptian practice of beekeeping

Egyptian-bees

“The god Re wept, and the tears from his eyes fell on the ground and turned into a bee. The bee made his honeycomb and busied himself with the flowers of every plant and so wax was made and also honey out of the tears of Re.”

What we can learn from the ancient Egyptian practice of beekeeping

This inscription from an ancient Egyptian papyrus inspired the title of a new book, The Tears of Re, a historical look at beekeeping in ancient Egyptian culture by Professor Gene Kritsky, an entomologist at Mount St Joseph’s University.

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“Bees were considered sacred because they were a gift from Re,” Kritsky says. “They were made from his tears, and that gave bees a valuable aspect, not just because of what they contributed and brought to Egyptian society, but also because they were theologically important.”

‘Re’ is the name modern scholars now use for the sun god that was once called ‘Ra.’

The oldest honeybee hieroglyph goes back to just before 3000 BCE, Kritsky says. “It was a very ancient symbol in the Egyptian writings. But even in the Old Kingdom (2600-2160 BCE), beekeeping was an important activity organized by the state.”

Beekeeping-Egypt

Egyptians used honey as a sweetener in their cuisine and it was also used as a medicine.

“They would use honey for cuts and burns,” Kritsky says. “Of the 900 or so prescriptions I found in the various medical papyri, close to 500 of them included honey as one of the ingredients. … They used honey as a way of making the medicine taste a little sweeter, but honey also has antibacterial properties, which probably added medicinal value to the concoctions.”

Scholars also confirm honey’s centrality to Egyptian society by measuring its worth relative to other objects and commodities. Only the higher classes and parts of the royal court would have enjoyed honey, Kritsky says, which clearly tells us something. Honey was also used as a kind of tribute from the various provinces to the Pharaoh.

“A number of papyri talk about the rations given to workers,” Kritsky explains. “We know that people who, for example, worked directly with the Pharaoh would receive an allotment of honey daily, but the laborers did not.”

Ancient Egyptian bee hives were different from the kind of hives used by beekeepers today.

“They certainly were quite amazing,” Kritsky says. “They were horizontal tube hives made out of mud that was dried into large cylinders, which were stacked on top of each other — very similar to the construction of the hives we still see used in Azerbaijan and Iran, for example.”

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Tomb paintings show beekeepers removing round honeycomb from the horizontal hives. The honeycomb was crushed and then placed into containers.

“So, of course, I had to do this,” Kritsky says. “I took honeycomb and I crushed it, and I put it in a container in the hot sun and the beeswax floated to the top and the honey stayed below the beeswax.”

Another relief shows beekeepers holding a vessel with a spout coming from the middle or towards the bottom, Kritsky says — much like a fat separator used for making gravy. “That may be one way they could have decanted a lot of the honey without getting a lot of the wax mixed in with it,” he explains.

In one of the oldest tomb paintings, from 2450 BCE, a beekeeper is holding something to his face, right up against the opening of the hive.

“The hieroglyph above it means “to weaken” or “to slacken” or “to emit a sound,” Kritsky says. “That’s been interpreted as smoking bees, which is a way of quieting bees, or maybe calling to the bees.”

In fact, scholars believe a traditional Egyptian beekeeper practice involved ‘calling’ the queen — making a sound to see if the queen bee would respond. “That would tell them if there was a queen ready to emerge or the status inside the hive,” Kritsky explains. “If that was the case, then their beekeeping was much more sophisticated than we can appreciate.”

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Egyptians had various uses for beeswax, too. Beeswax was used in cosmetics, as well as in paintings, and even in some embalming practices.

Beeswax was also important as a “wonderful, magical substance,” Kritsky says. “Beeswax burns with a very bright light and doesn’t leave any ash. Moreover, if you put beeswax in the hot Egyptian sun, it will start to change. It will get a little molten, a little liquid-y. All of this tied in with their solar theology and would have been important to the Egyptians.”

As a beekeeper himself, Kritsky feels a strong kinship with these ancient Egyptian beekeepers. “It’s a very ancient occupation, because it goes back to ancient Egypt obviously,” he says, “but there’s a kinship between us — humans and bees — that I find very alluring.”

Honeybees’ buzzing can shed light on Queen’s fertility, study finds

Honeybees' buzzing can shed light on Queen's fertility, study finds

The buzzing of bees can provide beekeepers with crucial information about the fertility of the queen in the hive, according to a new study which could play a key role in helping to preserve honeybee colonies.

Research led by scientists at Nottingham Trent University focused on developing a way to remotely monitor the ‘brood’, or reproductive, activity in the hive – something which is essential to the overall health and survival of a colony.

By detecting and translating vibrations caused by the buzzing of bees, the researchers were able to indirectly determine the absence or presence of a laying queen, specifically whether a brood cycle was occurring, and what stage it was at.

Monitoring the brood would enable beekeepers to get a good indication of the health of the queen, as well as how ‘dynamic’ she is.

The work, published in the journal PLOS ONE, involved embedding tiny accelerometers – devices sensitive to minute vibrations – in the honeycomb of a series of hives. This enabled the team to monitor vibrational amplitude and frequency information to identify honeycomb load changes and patterns of buzzing which shed light on the brood cycle status.

The researchers have also developed a prototype device which, based on the vibrational signal from the hive, would enable beekeepers to receive wireless, instant, alerts – via email or SMS – relating to the health of their colonies.

The work – which comes as honeybee populations continue to decline – would make it possible for beekeepers to take swift remedial action to protect their hives, before a colony perishes.

It could also pave the way for beekeepers to reduce the amount of visits and inspections they have to carry out, regardless of hive conditions.

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Unnecessary visual inspections can place substantial stress on a hive. The daily activities of the hive are disrupted for some time after the inspection, the queen can be inadvertently killed, leading to the overall failure of the colony, or the colony can be disrupted by cooling down the brood, which needs to remain at 34-35 degrees Celsius.

As well as the occupational hazard of getting stung, it can also take up a huge amount of the beekeeper’s time, as every hive must be inspected every eight days during the swarming season, and commercial bee farms can have many thousands of hives.

In the case of a queen in poor health – or absence of a fertile queen – beekeepers might need to check that the colony isn’t diseased, consider introducing a new queen, or unite the remaining bees with another colony.

The brood cycle only stops during winter – it should be visible in a healthy hive from late February to late November – and is the means by which a colony sustains its numbers and continues to thrive.

The cycle starts with an empty honeycomb, which the worker bees clean before the queen fills the cells with eggs. These then ‘hatch’ to become grubs and the cells are capped with beeswax when they pupate, before emerging as adult bees. When one frame is filled, the queen moves to the next frame and the process is repeated. Each cycle takes about 21-24 days.

Dr Martin Bencsik, a physicist in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology, said: “It is essential that we find new affordable ways which can accurately – and less invasively – assess honeybee colony status. This could help the beekeeping industry which is presently facing difficult times.

“Queen bee health is central to the health of an overall hive; we believe our work will soon help the beekeeping practice, particularly by reducing the need to unnecessarily visually inspect some healthy colonies.”

The study also involved the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in France and the Beekeeping Centre of Research and Information (CARI) in Belgium.

It is the latest in a series of studies involving the ‘Swarmonitor’ consortium – initiated by Nottingham Trent University and the Bee Farmers Association of the United Kingdom (BFA) – which shows how buzzing may indicate specific health disorders, or deterioration in the hive.

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