The Aftermath and Some Surprising News on Notre Dame

News That Lit Up the World

Fire and smoke rising from Notre Dame cathedral as it burns April 15, 2019 (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Everything was in a uproar earlier this week when the world watched as Notre Dame was consumed by fire on Monday. The fire broke the hearts of many around the world, as they watched the spire burn and collapse. It was feared that the many precious catholic relics and artworks housed at Notre Dame could have been lost. The world held its breath as it waited to learn the fate of the historic French Catholic cathedral, and the relics and artworks housed there.

As the next few days went by, many the world over were thankful to learn that no lives were lost, the fire was believed to be accidental, most of and  the relics and artworks were saved, and the stone structure of the church was found to be intact. With enough time and money, the iconic church can be repaired. And with that said, what else could there be left to say?

 

Did You Know Notre Dame Had Residents?

Yes, and most, if not all, of the residents of Notre Dame survived… nearly 180,000 of them. Right now, you’re probably thinking “Wait?! More Bees, what do you mean? Did the church have termites? Ants?” No, friends. The church had bees. The bees were placed there in 2013 as a part of France’s efforts to help the decreasing bee populations. Their beekeeper;  Nicholas Géant, was quite relieved as a drone flying over showed all three hives had been untouched by the flames and some photos even showed bees clustered on a gargoyle not far from the sacristy.

What More?

In conclusion, at this time there isn’t too much more. People have pledged money to rebuild and constructions plans to repair the cathedral that took nearly eight and a half centuries to construct are underway. Nicholas awaits the time to see his bees and the saved relics are safe. And the beloved Rose Windows seem intact as well. However, it could have been so much worse.

 

This post is a bit short but we had to share. We are more than happy to find and inform you of events concerning the bees around the world. We need the bees for so much and all efforts to preserve and protect them is an incredible step in the direction to saving them.

 

More Bee News With More Bees

Did you love this article and want to see more? Well, check out some of these links for other great articles on things like bees learning math or how bees can save elephants.

For more information on the fire of Notre Dame and bees  take a peek at these articles.

https://www.theblaze.com/news/cathedral-notre-dame-our-lady-bees-are-still-alive

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/15/europe/notre-dame-artifacts/index.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/notre-dame-beekeeper-waits-learn-fate-his-180-000-bees-n995676

Stay tuned with us for more news on bees and the conservation efforts. For the time being share this article with your friends and family. When you share posts like these you help us spread the good news in the world of bees.

 

To Spray or Not to Spray: It’s Okay to Spray

The Final Stand

Our journey on garden care for this series is coming to an end our friends. Thus, we wanted to finally cover The use of bee safe sprays. There can and has been debate due to new developments in scientific research and new discoveries being made. So, hold tight and enjoy as we wrap up our “To Spray or Not to Spray” series.

 

To Spray, I say!

Let’s say you don’t like the idea of having more bugs in your garden and/or they simply didn’t last as long as you hoped. Rotating and cleaning your tools has help but now you are simply getting too busy but you still want fresh fruits and veggies, or just a nice garden to relax in. That is no problem at all, sprays can be incredibly helpful and rather effective. But that effectiveness can come at a price since they can kill bees quite easily. What can you do, what are your choices?

 

Follow Some Instruction First

Depending on the spray, you may be just fine to use it. However, certain forms of applying this may cause problems for the bees or even your plants. Here are a few basic practices to help ensure the safety of the bees and other pollinators.

  • Always use the products you buy at the recommended concentrations and with the recommended frequency.
  • Always try to treat after dusk, or before dawn, when bees will be in their hives.
  • Never spray liquid treatments or spread powered treatments when it is windy. The wind will scatter the treatments to unintended areas.
  • Never treat open flowers or soon to open flower buds directly. Bees and other pollinators feed off of the nectar and/or pollen from flowers. Treating the flowers or flower buds can lead to contaminated nectar and/or pollen.

Here are some treatments that are believed to be safe for the bees:

 

Neem Oil 

The oil pressed from Neem seeds can be used as a pesticide/fungicide. It is biodegradable and short lived. When used as an insecticide, it should be use in concentrations below 0.3%. Higher concentrations of neem oil can damage plants. Because of this, it is recommended to treat a few leaves of each type plant, and waiting 24 hours, before treating all of your plants. To make a 0.3% mixture, disperse 1 tablespoon neem oil into 1 gallon of water. Shake every time before use, since the oil and water can separate. Only insects that eat the sprayed plant are harmed. If sprayed when bees are not flying, and blooms/buds are avoided, it is relatively safe for bees. This treatment has been shown to be effective against aphids, mealybugs, scale, whiteflies, and mites, and other insects that eat plant matter. Only young insects in the larval stage are harmed by neem oil.

 

A 1% neem oil solution (3 tablespoons into 1 gallon of water) can be used as a fungicide. Saturate the roots of infected plants. In this capacity, neem oil can be used to treat rust, black spot, root rot, and sooty mold.

 

Insecticidal Soap

You can make your own insecticidal soap using a liquid castile soap. Spray a 2% solution directly on insect infestations to kill insects. The soap makes the cell membranes of the insects leak their contents, which leads to insect death. Make by adding 1 tablespoon of liquid castile soap to 1 quart of water. Alternatively, you can purchase an insecticidal soap. This is a very effective insecticide against many insects, especially soft bodied insects. There is no residual effect, so once dry, it will not kill insects. Because will be killed if directly sprayed, so do not use if bees are flying. Instead, spray between dusk and dawn.

 

Garlic 

While garlic will kill some insects, it is most effective used as a deterrent for soft bodied and crawling pests. To make a garlic concentrate, blend 2-3 heads of garlic in your blender with 4 cups of water, then blend until liquified. Strain the liquid into a clean 1 quart jar and store in your refrigerator. When ready to use, mix 1 part garlic concentrate to 3 parts fresh water. Spray this mixture onto plants- avoid blooms. Scientific evidence indicates garlic is not harmful to bees. Garlic can also be planted in your garden, in flower beds, and around trees to act as a deterrent.

Turn Up the Heat for the Garlic Solution

Some people like to include a hot pepper when they make their concentrate. Hot peppers contain capsaicin. It’s what makes them hot. It is non-toxic to reptiles, birds, but it can cause diarrhea, indigestion, stomach pain, gas, and excessive thirst in most animals, but acts a nerve toxin for invertebrates. That means it will kill insects, including bees. If you choose remember it can harm the bees and many other pollinators. Spray between dusk and dawn, when the bees are not flying. Never directly spray the flowers or flower buds. Never spray water sources – it will kill aquatic invertebrates, and can poison the water for beneficial insects. And finally, peppers can burn plants if used in too high of a concentration.

The Wonders of Garlic Continues

Garlic can also be used as a fungicide. A 2008 report in the European Journal of Plant Pathology found garlic effective against tomato leaf blight and tuber blight. Baker, dubbed “America’s Master Gardener,” writes that “there’s nothin’ fungi hate more than garlic.” To use garlic as a fungicide, add ½ cup baking soda to your 1 quart of garlic concentrate. To treat fungal infections, mix 1 part  of the concentrate/baking soda mixture with 3 parts fresh water. Use this to saturate the soil around plants suffering from fungal infections. Just use with caution is you have cats or dogs since garlic, chives, and onion can be toxic to both.

 

Kaolin Clay 

Kaolin clay is used as a barrier. Insects don’t like it, so they stay off of treated plants. It needs to be used before you develop any pest problems, It should be reapplied every 1-3 weeks, for a total of 3 applications. To use the clay, mix 2 cups of clay with 1 gallon water, and 1 T liquid soap. Use a pump sprayer. This solution of finely ground kaolin clay is sprayed onto plants, including developing fruits or vegetables. The solution needs constant agitation or shaking to keep the kaolin clay particles suspended in the water. Application of the clay will not harm the produce but does deter pests from feeding on the plants or produce. Kaolin clay treatments can be used up to the day of harvest. The Kaolin film can simply be rinsed off the produce when harvested or before consumption. Kaolin clay is non-toxic bees.

 

Final Notes

A few important things to remember when choosing to use treatments:

  1. Treatments approved for use on organic produce are not always safe for bees. So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if a treatment is approved for organic farming/gardening, it must be safe for general use.  List of organic treatments

 

  1. Natural does not always mean safe for the bees. For example, Natural pyrethrums (isolated from chrysanthemum plants), once believed to be safe for use around bees are now know to be harmful.

 

  1. Just because a treatment is believed to be safe around bees at this time, that doesn’t mean that in the future we won’t discover that it is actually harmful. A case in point is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer. So, when you use a “safe” treatment, you might unknowingly be contributing to the problem of colony collapse disorder in the bees. Because of this, try to limit the exposure honey bees receive.

Okay Now, POP QUIZ!

No, It’s Okay, Put the Pencil Down, We Were Kidding

 

We hope all of these have helped you in your efforts in improving your garden and making your life a bit easier. We all can accomplish great things when we work together so help us in protecting the bees simply by sharing this article series with your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, or even the next stranger you see in the grocery aisle. Okay, sorry, please don’t go asking strangers to read articles you find on the internet- that isn’t safe and we would like you to remain safe and healthy. How about you simply considering sharing this article on facebook and let us know what you thought out all of this. As always, we love hearing from you and we hope you take care.

 

If you haven’t read it yet, check out last week’s article. It goes hand in hand with this one.

To Spray or Not To Spray: The Infection

References

https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/pnw591_1.pdf

https://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/xerces-organic-approved-pesticides-factsheet.pdf

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/pesticides/kaolin-clay-insect-control.htm

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/organic-pepper-spray-insects-78401.html

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/pesticides/neem-oil-uses.htm

 

The Buzz of Rainy Days: What Can You Do?

Do you have little ones in your life? It could be your kids, grand kids, nieces, or nephews. It could be your friend’s kids, the kids you babysit, or the ones you teach. I bet they’re getting restless right about now. Snow and rain and cold, Cold, COLD! Just when many of us though that winter was going to be mild this year, it slammed into us. That means lately, kids have been kept in a lot more than they would like. They’re getting bored, irritable, and antsy. They’re probably starting to bicker, and drive you crazy. So what can you do?

Here are a few activities that will occupy them, alleviate some boredom.

 

Edible Peanut Butter Play Dough

Here’s a fun, edible clay that will keep many kids occupied for hours. You will need to mix together:

  • 1 C creamy peanut butter
  • 1 ½ C dried milk
  • ¼ C honey

Mix until the mixture forms a ball. Knead until smooth. Add more dried milk as needed while mixing/kneading to make a smooth, pliable ball that doesn’t stick to the hands, bowl, or the surface it is kneaded on.

Hand out chunks to the kids. Encourage the kids to form the dough into animals and other shapes. Or, break out the cookie cutters. The really cool thing about this clay is that the kids can eat their masterpieces, if you’re OK with that. If the kids will be eating their creations, consider making available dried fruit, candies, baking chips, nuts, seeds, pretzel sticks, and/or shredded coconut to decorate their project. Before letting the kids eat their sculptures, or putting the clay back into the storage container, consider immortalizing their creations with a quick photo. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator. If the dough develops an off odor, throw it out.

Things to consider:

  • Make sure any kids involved do not have nut or milk allergies.
  • This activity is not recommended over shag carpeting. Consider covering the carpet if you will be doing this activity in a carpeted area..
  • Have kids wear an older shirt, since the oils from the peanut butter can transfer from the clay, to their hands, and onto their cloths.
  • If you want to occupy the kids, let them play for awhile before cleaning up.
  • Make sure kids wash their hands before and after playing with the clay.
  • Clean the play surface before handing out the play dough.
  • Even the best behaved kids are going to be tempted to nibble on the clay (which is ok, if you’re OK with it). Keep this in mind when handing out chunks of clay to play with.
  • Refrigerate unused portions for another day.

 

Sensory Play Box

Let your child play with a homemade sensory box. In a box or bin, place dries pasta, dried beans, beads, small toys, buttons, small smooth pieces of glass, washers, small pom poms, etc. Pebbles, sand, fake paper grass, toilet paper tubes, and fake flower tops and leaves can be fun too. Make sure to use a variety of textures, colors, and sizes.

Allow the kids to free play. Some will make up little games, others will play pretend, or they will explore differences between the items in the box. For extra fun, include a spoon, a measuring cup, and a magnifying glass. A pair of chopsticks, tweezers and/or tongs can also be very fun when added to the box.

To get a bigger bang from your box, you can change things up. You can turn your sensory bin into more than one activity. For example, give your child an ice cube tray or egg carton and encourage them to sort by different textures, colors, shapes, types of item, etc. Or challenge them to see which items they can pick up with chopsticks. Regardless of how the kids choose to play, many kids will play quietly with a sensory box as long as you let them.

Things to consider:

  • Small items pose a choking hazard.
  • If the child will be sitting on the floor to do this activity, consider putting down a small blanket or sheet. When the child is finished playing, simply pick up the floor covering, and pour the items back into the box.
  • Shorter, flatter boxes/bins work better than really deep ones.
  • If you want to occupy the kids, let them play for awhile.

 

 

Movie Day

Recreate the magic of a movie theater right in your home. Our top picks are: Epic, A Bug’s Life, James and the Giant Peach, and Antz . A single movie, or a marathon –  your choice. All it takes is a good movie(s), a few treats, a drink, some popcorn, and a very dark room, and you’re ready to go. Besides candy and popcorn, consider cheese chunks, dried fruit, nuts and small pieces of fresh fruits and veggies. Don’t forget to have intermissions as needed, for bathroom breaks, to stretch, and to refresh treats and drinks.

 

I was asked over my shoulder a few moments ago “But what does this have to do with honey bees?” My answer to all of you is, as much or as little as you want it to. The Play dough can just be play dough, or it can turn into a discussion on bees, how they make honey, and why. The sensory boxes can be bee themed if you like. Or not. If they are, you can ask “What/why”  type questions to get your kids minds going. Questions like “Why do you think bees like flowers?” The movies can be any type of movies. They can just be a movie if you want. Or they can be the starting point for many discussions on insects, pollinators, or bee. That’s the beauty of these activities. They can be whatever you want or need them to be.

Can Bees Solve Math Problems?

5+2=?

 

The answer’s 7.

 

It’s easy enough, right?

It is, but at the same time, it isn’t. Adding, as well as subtracting, are actually complex number skills. You have to remember multiple things when figuring the answer to an addition or subtraction problem. First, you need to remember the rules. Next, you need to remember the numbers and what they mean. Finally, you need to remember what addition is, and how to do it. This series of events takes both short-term working memory and long term memory.

 

Looking at our example, you need to remember several things. What is “5”? Or “2”? What does “+” tell you to do? Can you figure out how to do it to “5” and “2”? And what do you get when you do that? That’s a lot to remember and do all at once.

 

For the longest time, scientists believed that very few animals besides humans might be capable of such complex numerical thinking.

 

But in recent decades, scientists have assembled an increasing list of animals who are capable of performing just such complex number skills. February 6th, Australian and French scientists publish a scholarly article which added the humble honeybee to the list. Already on the list: Humans as young as 1 ½ years old, chimpanzees, rhesus monkeys, vervet monkeys, orangutans, African grey parrots, and pigeons. Recently African jumping spiders, and golden silk spiders were added to the list. Now, honeybees take their rightful place on the same list.

 

 

 

 

Are you are wondering how exactly scientists checked to see if honeybees can add and subtract? I sure did! To understand, follow along.

 

Imagine you walk into a room. There’s a door on the other side of the room. Next to the door are four blue shapes on the wall. After you walk through the second door, you enter a second room. In this second room you see two more doors. One door has five blue shapes next to it, and the other one has three blue shapes next to it.

 

Which door do you go through next? If you picked the door with five shapes, you get a sweet, yummy treat. And if you picked the door with three shapes, you get something yucky and bitter to eat.

 

Now, do this 100 times, using either blue or yellow shapes. You will eventually figure out that blue means” add one” to the number of shapes on the first door if you want the yummy treat. Yellow means “subtract one.” Once you figure this out, you will have learned something new. Another way to say it is that you will have been trained.This type of training is called reward-punishment training.

 

This is exactly how scientists taught bees how to add or subtract one from a starting number that was between one and five. Each bee had 100 training runs, before they were tested. If bees didn’t learn how to add or subtract 1, scientists expected they would get the answer right 50% of the time when they did test runs. But when bees tested, they got the right answer 63% to 72% of the time. These numbers are very statistically significant, and show that the bees did indeed understand the ideas of “add one” and “subtract one.”

 

This study also shows that large complex brains, and language skills aren’t needed to understand and carry out complex numerical concepts.

 

Finally, this articles adds to a growing list, the number of surprising mathematical concepts that honey bees understand. Previous experiments have shown that honeybees can learn and use the concepts of “greater than” and less than,” and understand the concept of zero.

 

Who knew bees could do math. Did you?

 

The following link will let you read the full scholarly article, which was released on February 6th, 2019:  Numerical cognition in honeybees enables addition and subtraction Science Advances  06 Feb 2019: Vol. 5, no. 2, eaav0961 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0961

 

This following link is to  the article that explored the honey bees understanding of greater than, less than, and zero.  S. R. Howard, A. Avarguès-Weber, J. E. Garcia, A. D. Greentree, A. G. Dyer, Numerical ordering of zero in honeybees. Science 360, 1124–1126 (2018).

 

Fraudulent Mānuka Honey from New Zealand

Today, I saw an article that floored me, the headline read “New Zealand brings first ‘fake mānuka honey’ prosecution”. I know many who buy and use mānuka honey, so I just had to share it with all of you. I mean; when you love something you want to know about it and make sure it is what is says. It’s scary when something you love turns out to be fraudulent. Sometimes it is minor, at other times it can be dangerous. But what about this fraudulence in the case of mānuka honey?

 

What is this Honey

For those of you who aren’t familiar with mānuka honey, here’s a quick little blip. Mānuka honey is prized by honey enthusiasts worldwide as a panacea – a magical elixir made by the honey bees that will cure all your that ails you.

People have been using honey to remedy a variety of problems since ancient times. This makes sense, since modern science has shown that honey is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and packed full of nutrients. Scientific findings are mixed on whether mānuka honey heals or aids conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or stomach ulcers. That said, honey has been shown to help with pain, and the healing of wounds (cuts, abrasions, burns) and topical infections (viral, bacterial, and fungal). Mānuka honey is said to be the most potent of honeys in this respect.

 

The Science Behind The Wonder Honey

How can that be? It’s because the degree of such activity is highly dependent on many factors. The factors include the quality of and type of food the bees take in, the climate  and the environmental health of the area the hive is located in, and health of the hive itself.

 

Which brings us right back to this incredible liquid gold. WHY do people covet it so? What’s so special about it? And why are there so many big claims out there about it? It all comes down to location, location, location. Which comes down to the broom tea-tree, which originated in one region of the world, New Zealand and Australia. The mānuka myrtle thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. There are many countries that host mānuka plantations across the world. As a result, not all Mānuka honey produces comes from down under.

Most honey gets the bulk of its antimicrobial ability from hydrogen peroxide. Unlike other flowers, the nectar of the mānuka tree is very high in dihydroxyacetone. Bees convert this compound into methylglyoxal (MG) when they take the mānuka nectar and turn into honey. MG is found in most types of honey, but it is usually only in small quantities. But in mānuka honey, MG is found in much higher concentrations which makes it the antimicrobial powerhouse of honey.

The Bittersweet Truth

Because this honey often goes at a premium cost, the chance of fraud is quite high. Recently New Zealand is charging a company who chose to add synthetic chemicals to mānuka honey. Afterwards they would mark this crude imitator as mānuka honey. This is the first ever case of honey tampering of it’s kind brought. The company, Evergreen Life Ltd is the manufacturer/seller of the honey in question.

As quoted from the article:

 

“Details of exactly which products the company is accused of tampering with are expected to emerge during the court case, which is scheduled for a hearing next month.

 

Evergreen’s website says it sells health products internationally to countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.”

 

Click on the link to read the full article published by The Guardian on Jan 30, 2019

New Zealand brings first ‘fake mānuka honey’ prosecution

Thank You and Please Remember

Thank you for joining us again this week and please remember that we are not doctors or health professionals. Online information can be helpful but they aren’t as knowledgeable as certified professionals. Never replace ongoing treatment with natural remedies without discussing your specific condition or situation with your doctor. Diabetics should consult with their health professional before ingesting honey, or using honey topically on broken skin.

 

Interested in growing a Mānuka tree? They grow in USDA hardiness zones 9 and 11. You should be plant these in full sun in coastal areas or under partial shade inland.

The Good That Just Got Better; If It Were Possible

Wouldn’t it be nice if you always had the things you loved? Good things never seem to last as long as we would like. They seem to deplete so quickly and it can be troublesome to remember to procure more. But here, we can help keep the good coming straight to your door.

We now have subscriptions so you can get the products you love when you want them without the memos and reminders. Whether you need it every month or every three months. The good can keep on coming and all you need to do is enjoy it. You can use it as a chance to try new scents, flavors, or combinations. Whether you want the lip balm, soap, solid lotion, or the variety bundle you can have what you love.

 

Personalize your pack or get a sampler, whatever you want, when you want it. Maybe even get this as a gift for those you love for the upcoming Valentine’s Day. What could be better than a good gift that keeps giving. Who wouldn’t enjoy that? So if you have a loved one who loves More Bees, consider sending them a link or buying them a subscription.

What is the Real Break Down on Plastic

The Price Behind Plastic

People held out so much hope for plastic. It was seen as a solution to so many problems just a few generations ago. But now we know that the rampant use of plastics comes with a hefty price. It fills our dumps, litters our land, clogs our streams, and creates huge mats of debris in our oceans.

And it can last from several to hundreds of years before it a plastic item breaks down. It depends on the type of plastic and the conditions (Temperature? Sunlight? Oxygen present? Buried? In the ocean? etc.).

The Breakdown of the Plastic Break Down

When it breaks down, most plastics release toxic chemicals and further crumple or break into smaller pieces of plastic. Very little of the plastic littering our world breaks down into new, non-hazardous compounds. And these smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, along with breakdown chemicals, have now entered the food chain. Animals eat plastic, where it clogs digestive systems, disrupts endocrine and reproductive systems, and pollutes bodies with hazardous chemicals, like bisphenol A, which is a known carcinogen. It’s the very reason the use of plastic nanobeads is banned. And now, plastics, and their bi-products are showing up in humans.

 

Knowing all of this, people ask us, how we can wrap our soaps in plastic.

Benefit of Biolefin

It’s because not all plastics are equal when it comes to environmental problems. We have gone to great lengths to be as environmentally conscious as we can be, while at the same time balancing other demands placed on us. For example, some of the markets we participate in require that body products be packaged and labeled. We researched materials and settled on Biolefin shrink wrap, made by Wells Plastics using Reverte technology. It is an oxo-biodegradable polyolefin plastic film that breaks down to simple non-toxic compounds in a shortened time frame. It is food-grade and acid free. According to the manufacturer, the Reverte additive causes the plastic polymer chains in the film to break down into much shorter fragments, which can then be consumed by bacteria that is abundant in the environment.

 

When exposed to sunlight, heat, and air, the wrap we use begins to decompose within 1 year. When fully decomposed (1-3 years), only water, carbon dioxide, and biomass are left behind. The biomass is chemically different than plastic and is consumed by microorganisms in the environment. If left in the dark without oxygen, the biolefin breaks down to methane and biomass that can be consumed by microorganisms. This process takes longer, around 4 years according to the manufacturer.

More Bees Wrap

We like it because it keeps the soap dry, clean, and contained. It allows us to affix labels so the customer knows what they have purchased. It has the added benefits of allowing the soap to breathe, and allowing the customer to smell the soap. We even chose paper labels without a plastic coating. Are our choices perfect? Probably not, but we’re trying.

National Geographic article on marine plastic waste

Article about microplastics in human stool

Time for garbage to decompose

National Geographic on degradation of ocean plastics

Biolefin information page

Wells plastics Reverte oxo-biodegradable polyolefin page.

Reverteplastics page

Magic Mushrooms: A New Hope for Bees Plagued By Mites

Today, I read an article that I just had to share. It isn’t the longest, but it could turn out to be quite significant.

Tiny Mighty Terror

It was about varroa mites, honey bees, and a possible remedy to some of the problems plaguing the honey bees. Introduced to the US in the 1980’s, varroa destructor, a parasitic mite, has been wreaking havoc with beehives across the country. These mites sap the strength of the bees on which they feed.

But they do even more than that. You see, just like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can carry illnesses that infect humans, varroa mites can carry viruses that infect bees. As rodent fleas caused the Bubonic Plague, the varroa mites are contributing to the die off of a large percentage of honeybee hives in many parts of the world. It is estimated that in the US, 40% of hives were lost from April 2017-April 2018.

Plight of Flight

There is more than one virus that the mites can pass to honey bees, but the most significant seems to be deformed wing virus (DWV). It causes wing deformities in the bees, particularly those incubated with the mites. The wing deformities range from mild to severe. But any deformity is significant in a species that has to be able to fly to feed itself.

It’s easy to see why varroa mite infestations are a concern for beekeepers. The varroa mites spread from bee to bee and larval cell to larval cell within a hive very easily. Mites can also be spread from hive to hive when hives are kept in very close proximity to each other, or when a infected bee comes into contact with other bees when foraging. They can even jump off one bee, hang out on a flower, and jump onto a bee from a different hive.

Scientists have know for a few years that the mites can spread diseases such as deformed wing virus (DWV). For that reason, beekeepers try to control levels of varroa mites. Most do this with with chemical miticides. While initial results seem good when hives are treated, some beekeepers have noticed the miticide resistant populations develop quickly within their hives. Since resistant varroa can thrive in a hive, and pass viruses on to the bees, some scientists are looking at treating the viruses that infect the bees.

Magic Mushrooms

Recently, it was discovered that a couple of different conk wood mushrooms, amadou and reishi, are effective against DWV. Conk wood mushroom extract, when mixed with sugar water, and delivered by feeder has proved effective at combating DWV. Not only have these mushroom extracts shown positive results against DWV, they have shown an even greater antiviral effect on Lake Sinai virus, which is also causing serious problems in some beehives.

Studies are just beginning on the effectiveness of these mushroom extracts. It will be interesting to see if the initial results carryover to real world beekeeping situations. This could turn out to be a new front for helping the bees. We all know they could use all the help that they can get. If you would like to read more in depth on the topics we covered above, feel free to follow the links below.

 

The article that started this blog post

Basic info on Varroa Destructor

Mushroom extract as medicine

Cool article on conk wood mushrooms

 

The Sweet Secrets of Honey: A More Bees Q and A

Honey: Asked & Answered

Customers at markets and even everyday friends always come up to us with bee or honey related questions. Things like: “What is honey made of?”, “Why does various honeys taste different?”, “Why does honey crystallize?” “Can I stop or slow the crystallization?”, and “Can honey freeze?”. Well, we are here to answer these questions of yours. Just keep reading and if your question wasn’t answered here, leave a comment and we will get to it next time.

 

What is honey made out of?

For some people, the answer is simply as follows:The bee drinks up the nectar, takes it back to the hive, and spits it back up. This is what becomes the honey we are so fond of.

 

But that’s not enough for others. They want to know what honey looks like chemically? Is it all one compound, or is it a mixture?

 

Honey is a little bit of water (averages ~18%)  with lots of other stuff dissolved into it. Mostly, different types of sugar. Fructose (~30% – 44%) and glucose(averages ~25% – 40%), are the two most abundant sugars in honey; these are both monosaccharides. Monosaccharides are  the simplest form of sugar that when broken down become energy. Several different disaccharides (a double sugar made of two sugar molecules bound to each other, like sucrose) are next, with a combined average percentage of ~9%. Then oligosaccharides (sugar molecules made up of chain of several single sugars attached to each other) are next with a combined average percentage of ~4%. These are all followed by the minute amounts of enzymes, amino acids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, organic acids, pollen, and other substances that make honey more than just a mixture of sugars in water.

 

Why does various honeys taste different?

The exact percentages of the different substances in honey determine how a honey tastes. These percentages are highly dependent upon the types of flowers that provided nectar to the bees. This is why honey from one plant source tastes different than honey from a different plant source. The relative concentrations of the different sugars affect how sweet the honey tastes. Honey’s with higher fructose concentration taste sweeter. On the other hand, differing relative ratios of the trace aliphatic acids (amino, and organic) in honey are what impart the characteristic flavors to different types of honey.

 

Why does honey crystallized?

The sugars cause a phenomenon called crystallization because honey is a very concentrated sugar solution. When it first forms, there is more sugar dissolved in the water than the water should be able to hold. That means when it forms, honey is a supersaturated sugar solution. If a seed crystal forms in the honey, or is introduced into the honey, sugars can come crashing out of the solution.

 

Differences in water content of the honey, storage temperature, and glucose content all affect weather or not a honey will crystallize, and the texture of the crystals that will form. Honeys with higher glucose content, as well as those with lower water content are more likely to crystallize. Any given honey is most likely to crystallize fastest between 55℉ (13℃) and 63℉ (17℃). Seed crystals occur at the greatest rate between 41℉ (5℃) and 46℉ (8℃).

 

Below 41℉ (5℃), crystallization will not occur at all.

 

Because different honeys have differing ratios of sugar to water, and fructose to glucose, different honey varieties are more or less likely to crystalline.

 

Can honey freeze?

Water freezes, so does honey? The short answer is no, at least, not like you might think. And here’s why. Honey is more than just water. It is a little bit of water (14%-20%), with a mixture of mostly sugars dissolved into that small amount of water. This solution is very viscous, and It doesn’t behave like pure water at all. As water cools, the water molecules become regularly arranged, it becomes a crystalline solid (ice) at 32℉ (0℃). The process of going from a liquid to a crystalline solid is called freezing.

 

As honey is cooled, it becomes increasingly viscous and slow moving. At 32℉, where water freezes to ice, honey is still a free flowing liquid. Once honey gets down to -4℉ (-20℃) it appears to be a solid, but it is actually still an extremely slow moving liquid. When it reaches -44℉ it begins to change into a glass.  By the time it reaches -60℉, the honey is now in a glassy state. A glassy state is a semi amorphous state. An amorphous state is made up of a disordered jumble of molecules bound together. Since honey does not turn into a crystalline solid, it technically does not “freeze.”

 

Can I keep my honey from crystallizing?

The best option for long term to store the honey is to keep the honey below 41℉. While your fridge should be set down around this temperature, the temperature can fluctuate allowing the honey to reach the 41℉ to 46℉ the danger zone for seed formation. The freezer is a safer bet because it is not likely to reach the danger zone even with opening and closing and causing the temperature to fluctuate. As was said before when the temperature is below 41℉, all crystallization stops. So, if you have the freezer space, this is an option but make sure that there is a 1 inch head space, to allow for any expansion of the honey as it cools.

 

You basically have two choices. Between 70℉ (21℃) and 104℉(40℃), or below 41℉(5℃).

 

If you want to slow down the whole crystallization process, store your honey above 70℉. So, not your unfinished basement in the winter. If your cupboards are on an exterior wall, check their temperature to make sure they stay warm enough. Also make sure your storage area doesn’t get too hot. Storing honey above 104℉ degrees will cause a loss in quality. And remember, given enough time, raw honey stored above 70℉ may develop crystals, but storing at this higher temperature will greatly slow it down.

Closer look at the crystallization of  honey

Any More Questions?

So, with that we hope covered some questions you all may have had about honey. However, if we haven’t, feel free to leave us some more and we will answer them in due time as well. If you have other questions regarding our products then click this link if you have a question like: “My dog just ate my lip balm, will he be okay?”. As crazy as it sounds, we have even answered that. Stay tuned and we will see you all again!

All about honey

Composition of honey

Honey and temperature

Is Glass Liquid or Solid

Can Honey Stand Against Time?

Honey through the Ages

What do a Georgian Noblewoman who lived 5,500 years ago, Egyptian King Tutankhamen who lived over 3,300 years ago, and a modern day prepper have in common? Honey stores!

 

In the southern Caucasus Mountains of Eurasia, a Georgian Burial Mound was discovered in 2003 when the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan oil pipeline was built. A rich young noblewoman was entombed there, with everything she would need for the afterlife. The 5,500 years old tomb contained the oldest honey found to date, and also gave the oldest indications of humans keeping bees! A 4,300 year old tomb since investigated has been found to not only have honey stores, it was used to help preserve virtually everything entombed. From the timbers used to make the burial chamber, cloth, baskets, nuts, and fruits that were embalmed with  honey to help stop decay!

Honey Tombs

Before the Georgian tomb was discovered in 2003, the Ancient Egyptian tomb of King Tut was found to have perfectly preserved honey. Like the Georgian find, the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics show that not only did ancient Egyptians eat and use honey, they also kept bees.


 

If  5,500 year old honey is edible, the honey you bought two years ago is still perfectly fine. That said, 20 year old honey you found at the back of your mom’s pantry. Some of you may be thinking “But what about the use by date stamped on the jar?” While not required; if sold directly by beekeepers at farmers markets. Honey sold in stores must be stamped with a “use by” or “best if used by” date. It’s required by law, but in this case, not really necessary.  When it comes to honey, you can just ignore it.

Survival of the Honey

A modern day prepper will tell you just that, “Just ignore it.” They believe in maintaining extensive stores of food and water/water purification means, medicines, and other items that may be needed in long term emergency or survival situation like a natural disaster. One of the food stores suggested is honey, since it does not spoil, and has some medicinal properties.

So, remember, honey may darken in color. It may crystallize. It does not do bad!

 

The inquisitive reader may wonder how can that be. Honey has an incredible make up composed of unique and complex combination of sugars, amino acids, minerals, enzymes, and  hydrogen peroxide, all in an acidic, low water environment. This unique composition not only keeps honey from spoiling, and makes it antimicrobial. But we’ll talk more about some interesting uses for honey another time!

If your honey crystallizes, don’t throw it out. Simply heat it gently to re-dissolve the crystals, and it will return to it’s viscous, golden glory. If that’s too much trouble, use it as-is as a stir-in for your tea or oatmeal.

 

And remember, even though honey never spoils, it can make a child under one ill. Honey often contains spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. While the spores in the honey won’t hurt you or me, they can make an infant sick.

 

Video about 5,500 Georgian tomb

National Geographic article on archaeological finding of a 4,300 year old Georgian burial mound .

If you would like some ideas to use up any old honey, you can check one of our favorite posts here.