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Sunday, May 22, 2005

My Beekeeping Excursion

I will be starthing my beekeeping excursion in early June despite how late in the season I am. I ordered this kit to get me started as well as some other things from Dadant and if you're wondering what exactly I ordered it's a screened bottom board, two of these kits, twenty frames worth of plastic foundation, a flat top( The one I bought had a hole in the top for easy feeding of the bees) and a bee brush. I realy felt like an idiot when I left because I forgot a queen excluder. I couldn't get the Russians that I wanted this time of year so I'll have to go with the industry standard since the 1860s, Apis mellifera linguistica, the Italian honeybee. I really busted my budget though. I've totaled about $400.00 when you include regestration fees. Worst of all is that the bees may be killed in the first year by Varroa mites. Hopefully, later I will be able to post pictures of the bees and other stuff that I read. Enjoy as the story unfolds...NEXT MONTH!

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Reflection of Bees and Government

One hive of bees forms it’s own destiny much as an artist shall form a painting or a sculptor shall form a bust. Wax is their medium and dances are their brushes and hands. To use them properly results in a masterpiece of precision and to use them wrongly is to ensure failure.

Swarming is much the same way. If the swarm is executed to soon both colonies will perish. It a colony swarms too late then both shall perish once more. A colony that becomes more prosperous will only kill itself. I shall reflect one such story that illustrates one of these paradoxes.

In April 2004 a colony was electric with the bodies of bees dancing to and fro. Much excitement is occurring as a new queen cell is being constructed. The art of hexagonal sheets is interrupted by a hanging piece of wax. Contained inside this is the future of the colony. Workers enthusiastically surround it and laboriously feed it’s copious appetite. The swarm shall leave soon.
Everything in the colony is changing. The reigning queen is losing weight to fly with the swarm and eggs are becoming less numerous in the hive. Workers have ceased to collect pollen or nectar and sit lazily in the hive’ gorging on sweet honey.

The next morning the hive is heavy with anticipation. The queen cell has been plugged with fresh, white wax and the queen is sunning herself at the entrance, perhaps wondering where the swarm shall take her. Nothing will change the will of the colony now. After only a few more moments a cloud of bees takes to the sky and thunders across buildings and trees searching for a new home. They are found in mid winter only to have perished from never collecting enough nectar.

In the mother colony the few remaining bees defend the nest and collect nectar for themselves. A system that once seemed perfect in its elegant design now results in anarchy. However, out of anarchy, a short week and a half later the new queen hatches from her small wax cell and leaves the hive to mate. She returns a short while later and tranquility along with order are returned to the hive.
Order and tranquility can be deceiving. The new queen is slow to lay eggs and that is her downfall. Unsatisfied with her progress the colony surrounds their queen, their future and sit there; gradually compressing her until she suffocates. In a short time this colony went from almost certainly reproducing as a species to simply destroying themselves. However, the process in which they destroy themselves is quite interesting. All hive members work together in killing the queen. If bees thought like man they may look for a cover-up or conspiracy. In this case there is no cover-up because every hive member contributed to their queen’s death. To destroy the murderers of the queen would be destroying themselves even though they have now destroyed their colonies existence.

One is led to wonder if swarming is as democratic as superseding(described in previous paragraph). Do bees have the ability to chose whether or not to stay or go or must they follow instinctively with their queen. Is the queen their ruler or their prisoner. She is lavishly tended to but may rarely leave the hive. The very daughters that surround her, at one moment appear to want only to tend to their mother and the next they ensure her death.
Another curious action is that of drones. Better known as males, one must wonder if these drones are the kings of the colony but that only leads to more questions. If drones are the kings of colonies then why is it they are killed in fall and winter even though in spring and summer they were gods among bees.

Do our lives function like this? Do we praise a leader in good time but condemn him in bad? Do we attempt to expand our territory only to loose everything? If our purpose is similar to that of bees then are we both capable of thought or do our own subjective perspectives allude us to believe we are seeing intelligence? Do bees consciously kill their queen or are they responding to pure instinct? One may never be able to answer these questions and so they shall perplex many in the future as they have in the past.

Research of Honeybees in America

History of Honeybees in U.S.: a research done by Apis629

The honeybee is not native to America but came from Europe in 1621 (Bryant, http://www.ingenbees.c). The first race of bees brought to the U.S. is believed to have been the German Black Bees or Apis Mellifera mellifera. This is to be followed later with the introduction of the Italian honeybees or Apis Mellifera linguistica (http://omniknow.o).There are some basic ichericteristics to determine if a bee is a honeybee. Honeybees have three castes that may be present in each hive depending on the time of year. The first caste is workers. Workers are actually underdeveloped females. They are produced from fertilized eggs and do all the work in a colony with the exception of mating or laying fertile eggs. They are also the only caste that communicates through the dance language as identified by Professor Carl von Frisch. There are two of the dances identified. One is a circle dance, where a worker bee runs in a circle to signal a near by source of water, pollen or nectar. The second, called the round dance, appears as two semicircles and indicates both the direction and distance of a nectar, water, or pollen source. In a hive, at any given time, there may be 20,000 to 80,000 workers present. The second cate are drones; the males of the hive. They are produced from unfertilized eggs and, in a sense, they got “...the short straw.” They can either mate, and die in the process, or they are killed by their sisters once winter approaches. Their number in a colony are never very large, five hundred in summer/ zero in winter. The third cate is called the queen. In a healthy hive there is only one female laying eggs. This is the queen and she is the only fertile female in a hive. She is produced from a peanut shaped cell that hangs vertically and is only fed royal jelly (secretion from Pharyngeal glands) during her entire larval life (Castner). All in all, the history of honeybees in America has been quite fascinating with its innovations and importations.
The first example of this interesting history began in the early 1600s. In 1621, the German Black Bees or Apis Mellifera mellifera were introduced to Petersburg, Virginia (Bryant). Soon after their introduction to the U.S. honeybees began spreading to Connecticut in 1644, New York in 1670 and Pennsylvania in 1698 (Oertel).

During the 1600s, there were a few popular designs for bee hives. There were skeps, which are made from inverted, woven baskets. There was also the log gum, which was a hollow log with a roof and a box hive, which is like a Langstroth hive before the discovery of bee space (Caldeira).

A second example of the fascinating impact of beekeeping is in the 1700s. In the 1700s, bees continued to spread through America. They made it to North Carolina in 1730, Georgia in 1743, Alabama in 1773, Mississippi in 1770, Kentucky in 1780 and Ohio in 1788 (Ortel). It was also during this time that the German Black Bees were identified as Apis Mellifera mellifera - 1758 (http://omniknow.o).
In 1851 Reverend Langstroth invented a hive that revolutionized beekeeping. It had ten frames placed 3/8 inch from the bottom and sides. This spacing nearly eliminated propolis and brace comb. The hive consisted of a few different pieces. The first is the deep super. It is used only for the brood hive and is 9 5/8 inches deep. Next, is a medium super. This super can be used for either the brood hive of honey production and is 6 5/8 inches deep. Finally, a shallow super is used for honey production and is 4 5/8 inches deep.

The invention of the Langstroth 10-frame bee hive had a few benefits. It allowed beekeepers to keep a hive and harvest honey; unlike skips where a colony had to be killed to harvest honey. It also had frames that were movable for inspection (Kritsky).

The Langstroth hive had many effects on the beekeeping industry. The most noticeable of these was for honey production. Before the invention of the Langstroth hive, the annual honey harvest was about 23 pounds of honey per hive. With the Langstroth hive, the annual average per hive jumped to 150 pounds(Bryant)!

The 1800s was a time for inventions and here are two more to be discussed . The bellows smoker was invented in 1877 by T.F. Bingham. The Bee escape was invented a few years later in 1891 by E.C. Porter(Kritsky).
Honeybees continued to spread through America in the 1800s. They reached Alaska in 1809 (Bryant, Ortel) and went on to move into canada, reach California in 1809 and Illinois in 1820.

It was also in the 1800s that the first law on beekeeping was announced. It banned honeybee importation to the U.S. from the 1880s through 1922. It was set up to stop the spread of Acarine (later identified as Tracheal mites). Acarine was currently infesting Europe and could destroy entire apiaries. It wouldn’t be the last law on beekeeping because many would soon follow. This law was successful in that Acarine (Tracheal Mites) wouldn’t make it to the U.S. until the mid 1980s(Oertel).

Classification of honeybees continued into the 1800s. The Italian honeybee was classified as Apis Mellifera mellifera in 1806. The carniolan Honeybee would be classified as Apis Mellifera carnica in 1879 and the Caucasian Honeybee would be classified ten years later as Apis Mellifera causica(http://omniknow.o).

A final example of beekeepings intresting impact is seen in the 1900s. The 1900s gave way to the Africanized or “Killer” bee. African honeybees were brought to Brasil by Dr. Warwic E. Kerr in 1956 . 26 of those 29 colonies escaped in 1957. In October of 1990 the first Africanized honeybees were found in the U.S. near Hildago, Texas (Grantham). It was only two years later that a man received the worst stinging by these insects yet. He was 44 years old and while mowing his lawn was attacked by the Africanized Honeybees. In his flesh and lungs were 800-1,000 stings(Kunzmann).

In the 1900s new diseases made there way as well to the U.S. Acarapis woodi (also known as the Tracheal Mite) was found in the U.S. in the 1980s. These parasites feed off the haemolymph of bees and live(as well as reproduce) in the honeybees’ tracheal tubes. Shortly after the invasion of Acarapis woodi came Varroa destructor. Varroa destructor (also known as Varroa mites) was found in the U.S. during the 1990s. They feed off honeybees at all stages but are most attracted to drone larvae. They also parasitize Apis cerana, Apis mellifera, Bombus pennsylvanicus, Palpada vineroum and Phanaeus viadex.
There are other disease of honeybees not including the new introductions of Acarapis woodi and Varroa destructor (http://omniknow.o). One of these is American Foulbrood(AFB). This bacteria has a characteristic odor and may survive dormant for up to 40 years. It attacks larvae and makes cell capping turn inward. There are only two methods of treatment for the hive which include either burning it or medicating with oxytetracycline hydrochloried to which the AFB bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant. Oxytetracycline also requires a permit for use.

European Foulbrood (EFB) is another common disease of honeybees (http://omniknow.o). This disease usually comes only when a colony is under stress from another disease. The methods of treatment are to add ventilation or reqqueen the hive.

Chalkbrood is a common ailment of honeybees. It is a fungal disease that effect bee larva only when colony is under stress from another disease. It can be treated either by requeening or adding ventilation.
Nosema is a common spore forming paraitize in honeybee intestines . It can lead to dysentery and can be treated either by adding ventilation or removing the honey from the hive and feeding the bees with sugar water.
Small hive beetles or Aethina tumida are a relatively new paraitize of honeybees . They live and reproduce in bee hives and are originally from Africa. They were found in the U.S. in 1987(Florida). No effective treatment currently exists.

Wax moths parasitize a colony of honeybees of it’s wax(http://omniknow.o). They lay eggs in wax and their larva eat it and eventually spin cocoons in it. The only known treatments for wax moths was Calcium Cyanide in early 1900s but after people started dying from it Para-Dichlorobenzene became the treatment of choice(http://www.omniknow.o).

Therefore, the history of honeybees in America has been quite fascinating with its innovations and importations. They have impacted society by making the creation of new laws required and allowed vegetables/fruit to be relatively inexpensive(Ortel, Blackiston). They impacted agriculture by pollenating most crop plants and pollenating graze plants for cattle(e.g. clover) Honeybees are even of great value to the economy because literally billions of dollars of revenue come from them indirectly annually. Some of this profit comes from hive products such as Propolis, Honey and Pollen while some more comes for payment of pollination services to the beekeeper. Most of the revenue comes from the fact that honeybees make farming of fruit/vegetables on a large scale possible. Honeybees and beekeeping will continue to impact American society into the twenty first century.

Sources Cited
“Beekeeping”. OmninKnow. Omniknow. 15 Mar. 2005 http://omniknow.com/common/wiki.php?in=en&term=beekeeping

Blackiston, Howland. Beekeeping for Dummies. Hungry Minds inc. 2002

Bryant Jr., Vaughn. “A honey of a story”.Palynology Loboratory.Texas A&M University. 11 Mar. 2005. http://www.vftn.org/projects/bryant/navbar_pages/apiary_2.htm

Caldeira, John. “American Beekeeping History the bee hive”. John’s Bekeeping Notebook. 13 Mar. 2005. http://www.outdoorplace.org/beekeeping/history1.htm

Castner, James. “Honey bee facts page”.UF Enviornmental Department. 6 Apr. 2005. http://www.ivyhall.district96.k12.il.us/4th/kkhp/1insects/honbeefax.html

Delaplane, Keith. “Africanized Honey Bees”. Intigrated Pest Management. 2000. Univercity of Georgia. 14 Mar. 2005. http://www.ent.uga.edu/docs/africanized_honey_bees.htm

Grantham. “Africanized Honey Bees in Oklahoma”. Department of Entomology. Department of Entomology. 14 Mar. 2005. http://www.ento.okstate.edu/ahb

Kritsky, Gene. “Langstroth and the Origin of the Bee Space”. American Bee Journal. Oct.2003: D 811-813

Kunzmann, Michael / Bunchmann, Stephan / Edwards, John / Thoenes, Steven and Erickson, Eric. “Africanized Bees in North America”. U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://biology.usgs.gov/s+t/noframe/x189.htm

Oertel, Everett. “History of Beekeepign in the United States”. Beesource.com. 1980. Agriculture handbook number 335. 13Mar. 2005. http://www.beesource.com/pov/usda/beekpUSA2.htm