Bee expert Reed Johnson of The Ohio State University, with support from the Almond Board of California, determined the cause of bee deaths in about 80,000 colonies brought in to pollinate almond trees.
The deaths and deformed brood were caused by a combination of fungicides and pesticides. Each product was deemed "safe" for honey bees.
However, when combined, these products turned lethal. 5% of the bees brought in to pollinate the 2014 almond crop died.
A few years ago Eva, our shepherd was in an accident. She had a wound on her paw that wouldn't heal. For over a year we tried several remedies. She wore boots like the dog's in the Iditarod, took antibiotics, went through miles of bandaging, nothing worked until she started healing with honey.
One veterinarian suggested re-breaking her leg to readjust the rod and plate. The theory that if Eva could walk straighter it would take pressure off the wounded paw. That seemed like a traumatic solution.
Then a family friend, who's also a veterinarian, suggested sugaring or honeying the wound. I decided to use crystallized honey. Every day we cleaned Eva's paw, spread honey on the wound and bandaged it. She started healing within a few days. By months end the healing was nearly complete.
Applying honey is a simple solution.
Bacteria can't grow in a high sugar environment and honey is naturally antimicrobial.
Healing properties of honey are well documented. Organic honey is perfect for healing cuts, burns, skin ulcers and surgical wounds.
The Results of Honey's Healing
Honey can Heal...
Case studies, laboratory research, and clinical trials confirm honey heals many ailments and has revealed surprising insights:
Consuming honey instead of sugar reduces weight gain, improves memory and reduces anxiety
Diabetic ulcers and infected wounds that stagnate under traditional care heal rapidly with honey
Burn victims and amputees, including civilian casualties during the Iraq war, respond well to honey bandages, making painful skin grafts unnecessary
A spoonful of honey helps alleviate side effects of head or neck radiation in cancer patients
Honey proves more effective and safer than children's cough medicines
Functioning as both a prebiotic and probiotic, honey stimulates intestinal health
Cataracts respond well to honey from sting-less bees from South America
In addition to the healing property of honey, another reason to keep pesticide free, pure and clean is that studies show pesticides threaten not only bees learning and memory but humans, as well.
Pesticides Influence Bee Learning, Memory
Royal Holloway University of London compiled a decade of studies on agrochemical research and the affect on bees. Their research determined that even at very low field-realistic dosages pesticides significantly reduced the bees ability to memorize rewarding scents which are a vital component in their search for food. Exposed bees had trouble remembering what type of flower to visit, where to find flowers, and which flowers they'd already drained of nectar. And at very low doses of pesticide exposure bees had difficulty finding their way back to the hive.
What does this mean for you – is Alzheimer’s in your future
Since the repeal of Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) it's not easy to identify where fruits, vegetables and meat is coming from. 75% of grass-fed beef is imported. Other countries allow classes of pesticides banned in the United States. Consuming these products increases your exposure.
Studies link pesticides Alzheimer’s
DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) was used extensively as an insecticide in the 1940s, but has been banned in the United States since 1972 after scientists linked the compound to wildlife health and environmental concerns. DDT is still used in other countries to combat the spread of malaria.
"We have additional studies underway that will seek to directly link DDT exposure to Alzheimer's disease," said co-author Dr. Dwight German, Professor of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern. "If a direct link is made, our hope is to then identify the presence of DDE in blood samples from people at an early age and administer treatments to remove it."
The study found elevated levels of DDE in blood samples of 86 patients with Alzheimer's disease as compared to 79 control patients from the UT Southwestern Alzheimer's Disease Center and the Emory University Alzheimer's Disease Center.
Source: UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution's faculty includes many distinguished members, including five who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985.
Your Children and Pesticides
Beyond Pesticides has a Pesticide-induced Disease Database which sites studies and research about children's exposure to agrochemicals. Visit their site to educate and protect your family.
Limiting your families exposure is as simple as switching to an organic diet. You can do that by growing your own fruits and vegetables, buying organic meat and dairy, and by using clean products around your home.
Remember, You have control over your families health.
We haven't seen a Red Tailed hawk on this farm in three years. Where have they gone? The barn swallow numbers are declining, too. As a matter of fact there are fewer birds in the area. Their numbers have declined in the last few years. The peripheral area surrounding the timber, where the brambles and wild flowers are abundant, is prime nesting ground. The wild turkeys and pheasants are thriving but the local and migratory bird numbers are dwindling. Bird and Flying Insect Populations are on the Decline
Is Your Windshield Clean?
David Kline, editor of farming magazine has noticed a scarcity of flying insects. He doesn't drive a car but asked drivers if they've noticed a difference. We've noticed. When we take a drive through the countryside the windshield stays clean, not bug splattered. We use to buy special washer fluid to get rid of the bug goo, not anymore.
Here in north east Iowa the helicopters and small planes (the aerial applicators) are unleashing insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides over the crop fields. Our farm is on the Sensitive Crop Registry to protect the bees we raise and our organic status. The sprayers don't fly over our farm which is a contentious issue for some in the area.
The next time you take a drive notice the windshield. If it's clean think about the possible causes and consequences. Why are the insects and birds disappearing? New studies show the negative effects agricultural chemicals have on developing brains, children's health, behavior and immunity. PLoS ONE links agricultural chemicals to the Decline of flying Insects
In the early spring, when the apple, peach and cherry trees are blossoming I keep the bees interested in pollinating the fruit trees by cutting the grass very short. This keeps the dandelions down until after the trees have finished blooming. It’s my trick to get bigger fruit crops.
Later in the spring there are still plenty of dandelions to keep the bees happy . And there's a variety of clovers and flowers planted for the bees, too. It’s a pollinator paradise.
On a trip to Seed Savers Exchange I bought Blue Boy Bachelor’s Button, Lambs Ear, and Heritage Farm Poppy seeds. The bees love these.
On our farm the pollinators are safe from pesticides and herbicides. We’re an organic farm, it’s all about health and quality of life.
Recipes to Help Both You and the Bees
This lemonade is a great energy booster. Not only does it taste great it helps the honey bees and your local beekeeper.
1 cup Fresh squeezed lemon Juice (if you don’t have a citrus juicer this one works great)
1 cup local honey (support a local beekeeper, don’t by commercial honey, It's probably not be real honey, anyway)
6 cups water
Put the honey and lemon juice in a blender and mix at high-speed for one minute.
Pour into a pitcher, add water and ENJOY!
You can add fresh fruit, raspberries or strawberries taste great. Adding ginger or mint is an extra tasty treat, too.
Meyer lemons make this even better, they’re sweeter than regular lemons. When they’re available buy them in bulk and freeze the juice.
Bug Jugs and Bee Safe Herbicide
Plant bee friendly gardens and keep them pesticide free. These recipes protect your fruit trees and kill weeds without using glyphosate.
Lets pretend that in your line of work the numbers started to change. There's a sudden decline in people needing your services. Lets pretend that you're a teacher.
One morning you walk into the school. Something's wrong, you can feel it. When the bell rings one-third of your students are missing.
A few minutes later the principal walks in and asks to speak with you. She shares that in each classroom thirty percent, and in some classrooms seventy percent, of the students are missing. The trend continues day after day. The declining enrollment is alarming. And it's not just your school. This is happening at all the schools in your state.
In the coming months you learn the trend is happening globally. 30 - 70% of school-aged children have vanished. What's causing this and where have the children gone?
Now it's getting personal. The decline is affecting your contract. Lower school enrollment equates to lower numbers of teachers. How will you meet your financial obligations and feed the family?
Seems far-fetched, right? Well, this is exactly what's happening to the bees. They're vanishing without a trace. Beekeepers have lost 30% of their colonies. In some areas the numbers are closer to 70%. Remember; one out of every three bites of food requires bees for pollination.
In the book, More Than Honey, (there's also a video available) Markus Imhoof and Clause-Peter Lieckfeld use a similar scenario;
If 70 percent of all cattle or 30 percent of all chickens were to die annually, states of emergency would be declared everywhere. The death of bees is at least that dramatic and with even more far-reaching consequences.
Vanishing Bees is a Global Crisis
The more personal an issue is the more meaning it has for you. The declining bee population does directly affect you. One of the reasons for the decline is due to herbicide and pesticide use. Studies show that when hives are located close to genetically engineered crops both honey and pollen contain toxic levels of chemical residue. Bees suffer with memory loss and nervous system disorders after visiting plants genetically engineered with systemic pesticides (neonicotinoids). The toxins create confusion, the bees can't find their way back to the hive.
It’s beekeeping time. Yep, even with snow on the ground - now is the time to get started.
Winter beekeeping is relaxed, it’s about learning, dreaming and planning. It’s the time for researching and experimenting.
It's the perfect time to build hive bodies, supers, and frames. Painting them is fun too. Spring doesn't seem so far away when you're busy.
I was reading about an experiment published in the Fifth Annual Report of the State Bee Inspector for the year 1916. It was reported that hives painted darker colors
outperformed hives painted white. Our hives have always been white. Boring. Not this year, though. The new hives are bright colors. Vibrant and happy colors. It will be interesting to see if these hives are more productive than the white ones.
Another experiment this spring will be splitting hives using strong brood frames and swarm cells containing new queens.
When the hives were closed up for the winter there was plenty of honey and pollen for feed. This is a critical time of year. Bees can easily starve late in the winter or early in the spring. In the next few weeks the queen will start egg laying again, she'll build up brood.
It was warm enough to open up the hives the other day, just for a quick minute to add pollen patties. The bees were clustered, they looked healthy.
This is a great time of year to learn beekeeping.
Sign up for beekeeping classes, they’re starting soon. There’s plenty of time to learn by taking classes and reading books.
My style of hive management is relaxed. I start fall feeding when I see the workers killing the drones.
Drones are male bees created from unfertilized eggs. There are between 500 and 1,000 drones in a typical hive of 50,000 – 60,000 bees. A drone's only job is to fly out and search for virgin queens. The luckiest, or unluckiest depending on your perspective, die immediately after mating. It's a good news, bad news, scenario.
Drones are useless to the hive. They don't clean cells, care for the young, gather pollen and nectar, sting, or fan the hive in hot weather. The don't do anything. Drones are larger than workers and steal large quantities of stored food.
So, in the fall, the workers kick them out. They tear the drones wings by pushing and pulling them out of the hive. It's a vicious attack and a violent end to self-serving freeloaders. The workers line up at the entrance to form a barricade against the drone's re-entry. Without the hive's protection the drones die.
For these reasons I don't feed the hive too early in the season. I let the workers do their job first. Otherwise the drones will eat the stored honey, pollen patties, and sugar-water. By waiting I have a reasonable assurance that there will be enough food for the hive to survive through the winter.
I've met a few beekeepers over the past few years, wonderful folks, but they're liars. The beekeeping class instructor said that eventually you won't notice getting stung. He said it's not a big deal. Every beekeeper I've met since has said the same thing, "I don't even notice when I get stung."
To this I say, "Liar!"
One of the first questions people ask is, "How often do you get stung?" Followed by the second question, "Does it hurt?"
Here's the truth; you won't get stung often but when you do it hurts. I know the procedure; when you get stung use the hive tool to scrape the stinger away, otherwise the sack keeps pumping venom. The same goes with trying to squeeze out the stinger. It won't work, you have to scrape it away.
It will continue to hurt for a couple of days, your joints around the area will ache. As the swelling goes down your skin will start to itch. As for me, patience isn't a virtue. I've been stung plenty of times and the only home remedy that's worked is time.
I love bees enough to endure the occasional sting. The reward is greater than the pain.
Sugaring bees for mite control is a great alternative to chemical treatments if the mite count is manageable. In the battle of bees vs Varroa Mites my weapon of choice; powdered sugar. I calculate the mite load by capturing a couple hundred bees and placing them inside a jar with a few tablespoons of powdered sugar. The jar is fitted with a screen placed over the mouth. The bees are shaken vigorously to loosen the mites clinging to them. The mites fall through the screen lid, onto a sheet of white paper (they're easy to see against the white background) for counting. A quick calculation gives the mite load for the hive. This calculation determines if I need to treat the bees aggressively (for a large infestation) or if the sugar will take care of the problem. I'm reluctant to use chemicals for treating Varroa Mites because it could cause resistance or weaken the bees.
Using an old window screen, placed over the hive body, I dump a pound of powdered sugar on top. It's important to have the smoker ready to force the bees away from the screen. Using a bee brush to gently spread the sugar across the screen so it falls between the frames, I continue to apply smoke. You don't want the bees clinging to the screen because the brush will damage the bee's legs, sometimes amputating them.
The sugar dust clings to the bees causing the mites to fall off or get groomed off by other bees. I use a screened bottom board which the mites fall through. I repeat the sugaring process two to three times in the fall.
Once the hive's been dusted and sealed back up again the jarred bees are let loose to fly back inside the hive. They're angry and unhappy after being shaken. Never free the bees from the jar before all the frames are sugared or they'll work the rest of the hive into a fervor. You don't want to work with agitated bees, I've learned this the hard way. Bee venom supposedly cures arthritis, I don't have arthritis but I think I'd prefer it to being stung seven times in the hand. Learning new things is important, I just wish I'd learn before it becomes a painful reality.
Knowledge is power - the more you know about bees the more conscientious you’ll be of their habitat. Here’s another bee quiz.
Q. How much honey does one worker bee produce in her lifetime?
a) 1 quart of honey
b) half a cup of honey
c) 1/12 of a teaspoon
Q. How much honey does a small colony of bees need to survive the winter?
a) 50 pounds of honey
b) 35 pounds of honey
c) 75 pounds of honey
A productive hive can make 2 pounds of honey a day. Thirty-five pounds of honey provides enough energy for a small colony to survive the winter.
Q. There is enough energy in one ounce of honey to supply the needs of one bee flying a distance of..
a) 100 miles
b) from the Florida Keys to the Pacific Northwest
c) around the world
Q. Queen bees lays up to how many eggs each day?
A queen bee lives for about 2-3 years. She is busiest in the summer months when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength, she lays up to 2500 eggs per day.
Q. How fast does a honey bee fly?
a) 10 miles per hour
b) 15 miles per hour
c) 18 miles per hour
Honey bees fly up to 15 miles per hour. Their wings stroke 11,400 times per minute which makes their distinct buzzing sound
Q. The sting from a drone bee is more potent than the sting of a worker bee?
Drone's don’t have a stinger. A dron's role in the bee colony is to mate with the queen. Immediately after mating the drone dies. There are very few drones within the bee colony. Drones do not contribute to the hive, other than to mate with the queen.
Q. In 1947 there were 5.9 million managed bee colonies producing honey in the United States. How many managed bee colonies producing honey were there in 2008?
a) 6.5 million
c) 2.3 million
In 2008 the USDA reported 2.3 million honey producing colonies in the United States, a decline of 61% since 1947