Honey harvest!

This coming Sunday, Sept. 30, from noon to 3 pm, at the Sixth Street Community Center. Though larger than last years (which was bupkis), it’s a small harvest, so we’re not using the NYCBA’s extractor. Too much of a scheduling hassle and it’s a bit overpowered for what we’ve got, which is 18 frames.

I asked Bare Burger over near NYU for six food-grade plastic buckets and am in the process of constructing three squoosh-and-strain extractors. This will be both messy and slow. Everyone’s welcome but wear sloppy clothes!

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Zombees wander the Google campus

google hives

The newly installed Google hives in happier days. (Note tasteful Googley color scheme.)

Two years ago, Google set up four hives which—in just the over-achieving fashion you’d expect from any living creature working there—produced over 400 pounds of honey their first season.

Unfortunately, the hives have been stricken with the phorid flies mentioned in my earlier post. Scientific American blogger Mariette DiChristina recounts the nighttime investigation that revealed the infestation.

Early next week, I’m going to assemble a light trap, as described in DiChristina’s blog post and on the Zombee Watch site. I don’t think our hives are in tremendous danger, considering we’re thousands of miles from the nearest sighting, but I can always use a new object for my obsessive neuroses.

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Yet another thing plaguing the poor honey bees… In January 2012, researchers at San Francisco State provided the first documentation of a new phenomenon: honey bees infested by the phorid fly, Apocephalus borealis, originally known as bumble bee parasites. They’ve now been observed infesting and eventually killing honey bees, and the infestation is considered yet another potential factor in colony collapse disorder.

The much smaller A. borealis fly laying its eggs.

It’s pretty gruesome. The fly lays eggs into the bee’s abdomen, causing the bee to become (understandably) disoriented, staggering around and often flying at night, which bees normally never do. The bee soon dies and, about a week later, about a dozen maggots emerge and wrap themselves up in pupae nearby; another week or so and they emerge as flies to start the whole thing over. All that’s bad enough, but the flies are also suspected to assist in spreading two worrisome bee pathogens: deformed wing virus and Nosema ceranae. 

The fine folks at Parasite of the Day (god, I love the web) have a link to the paper and some interesting analysis.

[C]ould the invasion of honey bees by this parasite mean that CCD is going to increase? The natural hosts of A. borealis are bumble bees, which live in small colonies where only the queen herself survives the winter, but honey bee colonies have thousands of bees and their activity maintains some amount of heat, even in colder winter months. This increase in host resources and more generations per year could spell a population explosion of A. borealis…and that won’t be good for those of us who depend on pollination – like all of us.

So far, A. borealis infestation in honey bees has been documented only in California and South Dakota. The original researchers have set up a monitoring project, ZomBee Watch, to keep track of any new outbreaks. I’ve signed us up so if you’re interested, take a look at their tutorial, “How to become a ZomBee Hunter!

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Speaking of weather…

As part of their “Coping with Climate Change” series, the PBS Newshour aired a story about how earlier springs and more erratic weather are affecting bees and their keepers. Guess what—it ain’t good.


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Snow bees in the making

I’ve talked before about the difficulties of overwintering our hives. This article, from the Anchorage Press, goes into detail about the especially harsh realities of trying to nurse a hive through the loooong Alaskan winter, and the efforts of one man to breed an Alaska-hardy “snow queen” bee.

This snow bee was created by Amy Pollien, a beekeeper and artist in Maine, who swears the yellow stripes are food coloring. Check out her blog!

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Artists + bees

elsa mora* Elsa Mora’s papercuts are intricate without being fussy, and she has a special fondness for bees.

* Gollybard’s paintings are whimsical without being treacly. No special fondness for bees but she’s featured them in at least three images.

* I’m now in search of Animals at Home: The Bees by Iliane Roels. A children’s book published in 1968 and long out of print, two (1, 2) very sweet illustrations are posted on Flickr. I especially love the second one. (The aprons! The snoozing drone!)

Credit where credit is due: These were my favorites from the “Sunday Safari: Bee Buzz” page at Animalarium. That was posted last year and since then, Laura Ottina has posted lots more clever, glorious, and charming images of bees.

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“The Beauty of Pollination”

From the always-wonderful Retina, four minutes of wonder and gorgeousness. The honey bees come in at 1:20 but the whole thing is a must-see. Don’t miss the mama bat hauling around her enormous baby.

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