Archive for April, 2010

Yet another effect of the global loss of bees… bans on imports are creating shortages, and thefts of bees are being widely reported in Japan. Why? Crops need pollination… pollination requires pollinators… money, livelihoods and food supplies are at stake.

‘Bee rustlers’ sting Japanese apiarists:


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…and that’s not even the worst news.”  As if colony collapse disorder wasn’t already enough of a challenge, the winter was harsh for U.S. honeybees.  Read the results of this year’s census:


frightening… and sad.

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I read Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” as a teenager, and although environmentalism had long been underway at that point, I was shocked at how blatantly humans had gone around spraying chemicals throughout neighborhoods, meadows and waterways, to eradicate pesky insects before I was even born.  Although Carson’s writings kicked off the environmental movement, our ecosystems are complex, and issues like colony collapse disorder have multiple causes.  The more we know, the more we care… the more we care, the more we act… the more we act, the more we can hope.  Glad to see the issue getting some attention in the Times:

From April 28, 2010:  What’s behind the honeybee decline?  Perhaps not what you’ve heard

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sunflower projectLooking for a way to help bees and other pollinators but can’t see yourself as a beekeeper?  Grow sunflowers and join this project:

The Great Sunflower Project

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Sondra’s report:

Well went to apiary and pulled the queen cage which was sill just covered in bees. A bee was inside. Don’t know if it was the queen or not. Sugar plug gone. In the process of cleaning the bees off the outside of the queen cage the bee inside (queen or not) also came out. That’s all good then and we’ll just have to wait a week or so and see if comb and brood develop. Good on sugar syrup for now. Didn’t smoke bees, wanna wait till they are settled more. Good formation inside. Bees that were out after opening hive were annoyed but they were at least using their bee entrance. I think they are calling it home. That’s all to report for now. I’m heading back to Mpls now.

Mistress Bee II, out.

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This morning, after a night of bee-filled dreams, we approached the hive boxes, hoping to find that our new queen had been rescued from her sugar-plugged cage and had joined the colony.  Alas, she was still captive in the tiny cage, but it was covered with her new workers and/or nurses.  We brushed the girls off with a bee brush (yes, there is such a thing), scratched out more of the sugar plug and felt fairly certain that the queen would be released into the hive sometime today.  From what I could tell, it appeared that the rest of the bees were making themselves at home in the hive box.  Now all we can do is wait and let the bees figure things out for themselves.  They’re amazing little creatures and will do what is best for the survival of their colony.  Oh, and they’re quite cute too!  Today’s pics:

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Scenes from Day 1

Because handling bees requires two hands, it’s a bit tricky to take photos of the process.  Sondra set up a video camera, and hopefully we’ll get the vid online soon.  In the meantime, here are a few scenes from yesterday… from bees in a box in south Minneapolis and empty hive boxes in Isanti county… to an empty bee box that is almost a metaphor for how we felt after discovering that our queen bee was dead. As soon as we realized she was not alive, we weren’t really sure what to do.  So… mistakenly (Beekeeping Error number 1) we dropped her in the box with the other bees.  Then we phoned our hero, Doug, at Cannon Bee Supply, who was able to provide us with another queen this morning.  After driving in pounding rain, a round trip of about 80 miles to meet Doug in the parking lot of a Bait Shop, we were happy to see his yellow rain gear-covered self cruising up to the car on a 4-wheel ATV.  Unhindered by the rain, he handed Sondra a healthy queen, charged us $5 (usually $30, less our box deposit & his splitting the cost with us) and told us to call him if we had any other questions.  To anyone else in the parking lot, the transaction must have looked like a drug deal…swapping cash for a small package that went from one pocket quickly into another.  Needless to say, we’ll be continuing to do business with Cannon Bees.  We took turns keeping the queen warm in our pockets and returned to Isanti and to our stressed and queenless bees.  The rain and chill worked in our favor, as we lifted the lid, under cover of an umbrella, to find the bees in a cluster, generating heat.  We carefully added the queen in her tiny cage, plugged with a little bit of sugar candy and recovered the hive box.  Now we wait until tomorrow morning to see if she and her new colony have been able to eat through the candy and release her… and hopefully accept her.  I figured there would be a bit of drama with something called a queen, but I had no idea it would be a life or death situation.

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