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.

Turn to Face the Ch-Ch-Changes

These Scary Changes

“Change is a good thing!”  Except when it isn’t. I’m thinking climate change right now.

 

Longer heat waves, hotter drier summers (and winters in some places), and higher average temperatures overall. Add to that the increasing frequency of, duration of, and devastation from drought, fire, and severe weather events, and climate change definitely does not look like a good thing. We’re already seeing the effects. Mega-storms, 500 year floods, and fierce wild fires that destroy town and life.

The Black Friday Climate Report released by the Trump administration a few weeks ago spells it all out. Over 300 scientists employed by 13 different federal agencies concluded that Climate change is real, it’s here, and we are to blame. The report spells out what we can expect in the United States through the end of this century.

The Assessment

 

The report makes a region by region assessment, in terms of losses to the economy, damages to infrastructure and private property, and the effects on the health of Americans if current releases of greenhouse gasses go unabated. They also explored the effects of limiting the carbon emissions so that the temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees above the norm (we are currently at 1.8 degrees over the norm). The conditions in either scenario of increased global temperature investigated by the Black Friday Climate Report would be devastating because plants and animals have trouble adapting in real time to rapid climate changes.

 

But why are the predictions so dire? Because, climate change is about more than a the daily weather. Whole ecosystems result largely from their climates. When climate changes suddenly, ecosystems are stressed and damaged because plants and animals adapt slowly. Water supplies change as do average surface temperatures. Plants bloom at abnormal times, or not at all, while others die because they cannot survive in the new conditions. These in turn impact the animal species that are dependent upon them for survival. This is why changing environment can lead to mass extinction in plants and animals. Many believe we are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction right now.

But this is all very general. Here’s a look at how changing climate can have more of an effect than just the temperature and when it rains.

What the Heat Does to Our Trees

Drought and increased heat can weaken trees. It makes them more susceptible to pests like the bark beetle. Trees have a natural defense against the beetles. It’s their sap. When beetles burrow deep enough into the wood, the sap, which is toxic to them, flushes them out. But with years of drought and hotter temperatures, the sap doesn’t flow as freely in the trees, making this natural defense virtually useless. Combine this with shorter, warmer winters that allow bark beetles to start earlier in the season, and reduces the likelihood of larval die-off during the winter, and the effect can be devastating. This has lead to mega infestations in some areas. And with dead, dry wood, comes the increased risk of wildfire. This has already been seen in several notable fires across the west.

Over the last few decades, with changes in climate, the problem of tree mortality due to bark beetles has risen sharply. Just as climate change is a global problem, so is the damage to forests from bark beetles. Major infestations have been found throughout Europe and Siberia.

What About the Bees?

Looking at the example of the bark beetles, I cannot help but wonder if the problems faced by bees are being climate driven in ways that might not have been previously considered. Every fire, superstorm, and drought reduces habitat and livability. As the temperature inches up, how much does the stress on the bee’s environment impact them? How much of a change in environment will be too much before we see ever accelerating losses in wild and domestic bee? And what will it mean for the food supply? Which brings us back to where we started. Climate change.

 

The effects of climate change will be profound, and are already starting to be felt. They will only become more pronounced, unless drastic measures are taken. Even then, we might not be able to set things right. We’re going to be stuck with a new reality, and it starts right now. How we choose to respond will determine how livable our planet will be. Will we halt climate change where it is? Or will we act as if there is nothing to worry about?

 

Weather we believe in this stuff or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have 12 years to figure out how to get greenhouse emissions under control, before the effects become catastrophic and irreversible.

 

To read more about bark beetle infestations, and the impact they have, check out this article by the Yale School of Forestry.

The US forest service also has a very informative page on bark beetles.

This article discusses how climate change can affect plant biodiversity.

Seven Great Bee Books for Kids

Bees on the Brain

When we’re at markets and bazaars, the kids, and even their parents, ask questions about the bees. We love talking about the bees. How better to engage people than to let them hear our passion, our awe, and our concerns about the bees, beekeeping, challenges facing the bees, and what our changing world might mean for the bees, and for us.

 

Children love to learn about the world around them, and books are a great way for them to explore. I was a child who loved books. I still love books, and am glad that some of the others in the family have developed a love of books too. This actually lead me to our local bookstore looking for holiday presents. While being there, a couple of children’s books on bees caught my eye.

These books made me wish my kids were still children. How they would have loved these books!

Introducing Bees to Your Children

Some of the books that I saw are very fact filled, while others are more whimsical in nature. Either way, these books all delved into such topics as bee anatomy, behavior, and social structure; flower pollination, nectar and pollen collection by the bees,  the connection between bees and the foods we eat, and honey production; and environmental factors and illnesses affecting honey bees, our changing environment, and how we can help honeybees and other pollinators.

The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi explores the activities of an urban beekeeper, and the hives he tends on the rooftop of his apartment building. It is in a story format, but still quite informative.

For a fun presentation, consider the The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole. Join Ms Frizzle and her class as they explore the world of honeybees. Even if TV show based books aren’t your thing, reconsider The Magic School Bus series of books, and dare I say, the TV show itself!

Bee Educated

There is notable and interesting books that look at the plight of the honeybees are next in line. All four of these titles explore bees in general, the troubles honeybees are experiencing, and what those troubles could mean for people. These books are aimed at middle to older elementary school aged students.

The Buzz on Bees: Why Are They Disappearing? by Shelley Rotner

This book takes a look at the factors that could be causing or contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). It also explores what scientists are doing to study the problem, and what we can do to help the bees.

What If There Were No Bees?: A Book about the Grassland Ecosystem By Suzanne Slade

This book looks at what might happen if just one species, the tiny honey bees, is lost. How might it affect the surrounding plants and animals? Grasslands are found on all the continents except Antarctica, and the ideas in this book can be applied to other ecosystems.

The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle

These book takes a look at the roll of honeybees in our food chain, the many factors that could be causing or contributing to the disappearance of the honeybees.

Aimed at children in the early grades, The Bee Book by Charlotte Milner, has 48 fact filled pages clearly presented in an easy to follow format. For a more in-depth, beautifully illustrated look at all things bees, check out

 The Bee Book By Dorling Kindersley Publishing Staff, Emma Tennant (Contribution by), Fergus Chadwick (Contribution by) This book is very thorough at 244 pages, and begs to be read! It is aimed at older kids, and even adults.

Bee Ready for More

These are just a few of the many bee books out there aimed at children of all ages.

Books make wonderful presents. They are books enduring and something to cherished. So, if you’d like to find a gift that will fascinate, entertain, educate,and motivate, why not give the gift of a book to a child in your life. If you give a book, consider one of these great titles on honeybees.

 

Bees are incredibly important and the more we educate people on them the more we can do to help them. Likewise; our children are incredible and important and the more we teach them the more they can make an impact on our future. Moreover, education is the key ingredient to provide for our youth so they can make a positive changes and developments for the world. Despite not having the clear answer on what we can do for the little pollinators, we can help improve the tools of our youth to help build a brighter future.

How Sweet it is to Bee Thankful; Dinner Ideas

Have you ever planned a holiday dinner around a unifying idea or ingredient? We’ve seen it done before, in articles, on TV, and at friends houses, with mixed results. Anyhow, somehow, we, here at More Bees, got to thinking about what a table full of holiday food might look like if honey was the unifying ingredient.

 

And then it struck us how appropriate it is to pay homage to the humble honey bees this way, when you realize that much of the bounty on the holiday table is due to the tireless work of these little creatures, as well as other natural pollinators.  And when we thought about it like that, we just had to do it.

 

At our house holiday dinners are usually big. These are the types of things that usually find their way onto the table. Included are some tasty ways to incorporate honey into these foods:

Turkey- Figure out how long your turkey should be baked (consult information provided by turkey grower). Bake as instructed until last two hours of baking time remains. While your turkey is in the oven, make a glaze by combining ½ C Honey, ⅓ C dijon mustard or brown mustard, 3-4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme, 2 tablespoons softened butter, ½ teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and smoked paprika, and ¼ teaspoon finely ground pepper. When 2 hours cooking time remains, remove your turkey from the oven and glaze generously. Place the glazed turkey back in the oven and continue to baking, basting with pan drippings every 20-30 minutes. Bake until your turkey is done (consult information provided by turkey grower). Remove the turkey from the oven, and let rest 15 minutes before cutting.  

 

Gravy – Use your pan dripping from your honey glazed turkey to make gravy, as you usually would.

Veggie – Cook 1 pound pared, cut up veggies until they are just tender. Remove from heat, and drain any liquids. Mix 1 tablespoon butter/oil, 2 tablespoon honey, and the juice of ½ lemon or ½ orange in a saute pan. Mix on medium heat until bubbly. Add warm veggies back in, stir to coat. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper if desired, and serve. This works really well with snow peas, sugar snap peas, carrots, beets, baby corn, pearl onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, or a combination.

Rolls – Serve warm rolls with whipped honey and butter. To make honey butter, allow one cup (2 sticks) of butter to soften to room temperature. Whip with ¼ C of your favorite honey until light and fluffy. A whisk attachment works best.  Add ½ teaspoon cinnamon and/or ½ teaspoon vanilla if desired. Refrigerate any leftover honey butter.

Fruit Salad – Whisk together 4-6 ounces of flavored yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 2 tablespoon honey in a 2 quart bowl or container. Add 6 cups of assorted chopped, bite-sized pieces of fruit. We like 1 banana (peeled and chopped up), 1 apple (cored and chopped up), 1  cups strawberries (hulled and halved), 1 C grapes (halved), 1 small can well drained mandarin oranges, ½ can well drained pineapple chunks. If desired, add 1-2 C mini marshmallows. Mix well with the yogurt dressing. Make at least 4 hours in advance if you want the marshmallows to soften. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve, stirring once or twice until serving time. Stir before serving. And if you desire, fold in 1 C walnut or pecans just before serving if desired.

Spinach salad –  Make a honey mustard dressing by combining ½ C plain yogurt or sour cream with ¼ C oil and 1 clove crushed garlic. Add 2 tablespoons each honey, spicy brown mustard, Dijon Mustard, Lemon juice, cider vinegar, and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste then set aside. Place ½  lb clean, dry, raw spinach (torn up into bite size pieces) onto a dinner plate or small platter. Top with 2 tablespoons each nuts (walnuts, pine puts, and sliced almonds work well. Toast and cool the nuts completely before adding to the salad if desired), dried cranberries, thinly sliced sweet onion, bacon bits, and crumbled cheese (feta, gorgonzola, or blue). Thinly drizzle with the dressing, and/or serve with the dressing on the side. Don’t care for spinach? That’s OK. Just use your favorite salad greens instead. Refrigerate any unused portions.

Candied Yams –  replace part or all of the brown sugar in your yam recipe with honey, for a yummy change.

 

We don’t really know any good recipes for mashed potatoes, stuffing, relish tray (pickles and olives), or deviled eggs that use honey. If you have any, please share with us. We would love to see what you all have added honey to. You know we love hearing back and seeing what you all have done for an even more delicious meal time. Happy Thanksgiving and be safe if you are going to do some Black Friday shopping.

bee and elephant over words bees vs elephants

Saving the African and Asian Elephants, Who Could it Bee?

We were lied to!  Who remembers being told that elephants are scared of mice when they were little? Turns out, it was a lie!

Turns out that elephants are afraid of something much smaller than mice- Honey bees! I bet you’re wondering how that can be when the skin of an adult elephant is up to 2 ½ centimeters thick. That’s an inch thick to you and me.

But Why the Bees?

Africanized honey bees are very aggressive. If africanized bees even remotely sense a threat, they are prone to attacking en masse. African elephants are terrified of these bees. Even with their thick skin, elephants can be hurt by bees. Think eyes, mouth, and nose. These tissues are very vulnerable on elephants. And getting stung hurts. I can’t even begin to imagine being stung in the eye or inside the nose.

 

Add to that the fact that some specialists speculate that a very young calf, whose skin is much more easily penetrated, could be killed if it were to be attacked by a hive. Even an adult could be hurt if swarmed by enough bees. Knowing this, and coupled with the fact that elephants are very protective of each other, you know that’s not something elephants will let happen if they can help it. Even Asian elephants have a fear of bees. Their fear of bees is real, though not as profound as for African elephants. This difference is like due to the fact that Asian honey bees are relatively docile, and much less likely to attack than Africanized honey bees.

It turns out that elephants are so averse to bees, that they will go to great lengths to avoid them. They can hear a single buzzing bee almost 600 meters away, and African elephants have a specialized call to let other elephants know about the bee danger.

The Opportunity for Change

This fear of bees was noticed in 2002. People are beginning to use the elephant’s fear of bees to good use in an ingenious solution that benefits people, bees, and the elephants themselves. The first bee fence was put in place in 2012.

 

14 countries in Africa and Asia now encourage farmers to use bee fences to protect crops and property from elephants. Bee fencing entails placing beehives approximately 65 feet apart, around the perimeter of the property. The hives are interconnected, so that crossing the perimeter triggers the hives to sway, and the bees to buzz and fly. The initial cost of fencing a 1 acre farm is approximately $1,000. That’s only about one fifth the cost for electric fencing, and no onsite electricity is required.

The benefits of bee fencing for elephants, bees, and people are numerous, while the negative effects are few. They include, but are not limited to those listed below.

 

For the elephants:

  • Reduced confrontations with people
  • Decrease in elephant deaths and injury
  • Reduction in animosity of people towards elephants
  • A slowing of sprawl and deforestation (since additional bee fencing costs money to put in) which means a slowing in loss of habitat

 

For the honey bees, which are seeing declines in many areas of the world:

  • An increase in the number of hives
  • A vested interest of humans to establish, tend, and protect beehives.

 

For the people:

  • Decrease in death or injury from confronting an elephant
  • Reduction in the loss of crops/increase in crop yields
  • Reduced property damage
  • An additional resource in the forms of crop pollination, and harvestable honey.

 

The biggest negative that we could find mentioned:

  • An additional cost to farmers in the maintenance of the beehives and fencing

 

The solution is not foolproof (about an 80% success rate if hives and fencing are maintained). And it isn’t free with the initial cost of fencing for an acre of farm being approximately $1,000, and maintaining the established hives costs some money. This has led some to look for other bee inspired solutions.

Where Else Could the Bee Fence Help?

In India, where elephants are killed or injured every year when they wonder onto train tracks, the most troublesome areas of some tracks have been fitted with speakers that transmit a buzzing sound. Called ‘Plan Bee’ by the Indian government, this program has been effective at reducing the number of train elephant collisions in India.

And in South Africa, research is being done to develop a bee pheromone based elephant repellent. Initial work has already been done, showing that pheromones that are released by bees when they become distressed are effective at keeping elephants away from watering holes that they normally frequent.

 

If you would like to help in the construction of more bee fences, click on this link for the Elephants & Bees Project. There are also links below for some pertinent articles on the use of bees to repel elephants.

 

New York Times article

National Geographic article

Smithsonian.com article detailing bee pheromone use as opposed to live hives

 

Reason to Bee Spooked this Halloween

I kept going around and around in my head. How are they related? And what can I write about this week? I was looking at bee themed costumes. Yes, I know we already did that once. But I was hoping to get an idea. That’s when I saw a cute pin that made me think.

That’s when I realized that bees have a lot to do with how we celebrated modern day Halloween. Think about it! The plight of the bees is a very real issue. They are dying at increasing rates in many areas of the world.

What Can Be so Scary About No Bees for Halloween?

What if there were no honeybees and what would be the impact on Halloween? Would we even notice? I would, because no bees means no pumpkins. Which means no more carved pumpkins. Carved pumpkins and Jack-o-lanterns are iconic American symbols of Halloween (It also means no more pumpkin honey- Oh my goodness- it’s the best!). That’s because honeybees pollinate most pumpkin crops in the US. So without bees, we’d have a noticeable absence of pumpkins, not to mention pumpkin pie, pumpkin honey, and many other fall favorite pumpkin essentials.

So, no bees, means no iconic pumpkins. Imagine no bins of pumpkins in front of the supermarkets. No sitting around the table carving pumpkins with your siblings. There would be no roasted pumpkin seeds, no jack-o-lanterns lighting the way on Halloween night. Halloween just wouldn’t be the same.

 

OH NO! What About Pumpkin Spice Lattes?!

For those of you who are worried about your sweets, those will likely survive dwindling honeybee populations.  Sugar cane does not require pollination at all, and sugar beets are effectively wind pollinated. So, we’ll likely always have sugar. Chocolate plants are pollinated by the chocolate midge, and only the chocolate midge. So, as long as the chocolate midge stays healthy we’re good there. Vanilla is a little iffy. It is naturally pollinated by the melipona bee, or vanilla bee.This bee is found in tropical areas of the Americas. Over the last quarter century, there has been a loss of over 90% of melipona hives. That, combined with the fact that many vanilla plantations are not located in the tropical Americas accounts for the fact that commercially grown vanilla is hand pollinated, making the vanilla bean the 2nd most expensive spice, after saffron. Even so, the bulk of vanilla flavored products are flavored with synthetically produced vanilla flavoring, so if the vanilla orchid were to ever go extinct, sadly, most people probably wouldn’t even notice.

Bee Troubles

If you weren’t aware, the bees are in decline. Pesticides, large agricultural monocultures, improper food sources (sugar/corn syrup as bee feed inplace of nutrient rich pollen and honey), and parasitic infestations (varroa and tracheal mites and nosema), and viral infections (like deformed wing viruses) and bacterial infections (Like American Foulbrood).

 

Link discussing illnesses and infections affecting honeybees.

Pollination of Chocolate plant.

Pollination of the Vanilla plant.

More on growing vanilla orchids.

The Best Protein Bar Recipe You’ll Ever Find

Lately, we’ve been on a protein bar kick. They’re an easy, nutritious, filling snacks. If you’re going to be on the run, with no time for a proper meal, bring along a double portion as a replacement for a meal. They’re so good, we wanted to share them with you. Honey, oats, fruit, nuts, and chocolate -how can you go wrong!

The recipe we’ve been using is adapted from a recipe originally obtained from the family that owns and runs Montes Salsa, out of Vancouver WA. We discovered these wonderful bars at Salmon Creek Farmers Market, that we did with the Montes. These bars looked so tasty, that we asked for the recipe, and they were gracious enough to share.

 

The Recipe

We’ve change the original recipe to suit our family. Here it is:

Dry ingredients:

1 C Rolled oats (quick, or old fashioned)

2 T Flax seeds

2 T Raw pumpkin seeds

2 T Sunflower seeds

¼ C Protein powder (we use 2 T   + 2 T , to make ¼ C )

¼ C Chocolate chips (or any other flavored baking chips)

¼ C nuts, chopped

¼ C Dried fruit, chopped

Wet ingredients:

½ C Nut butter

2 T Honey

¼ C Coconut milk

Instructions:

  1. Prepare pan by oiling a standard sized bread pan. Set aside.
  2. Mix dry ingredients. Set aside.
  3. Mix wet ingredients.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix well. Will be very stiff, and only very slightly crumbly. If the dough is very crumbly, add a little coconut milk.
  5. Press the dough mixture into your pan.
  6. Cover and refrigerate until firmed up a bit.
  7. Cut into 8 bars.
  8. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

The recipe can be doubled and pressed into an 8×8 pan if desired.

But That’s Not All!

This recipe is very satisfying, and very versatile. You also have a lot of creative latitude by changing up the types of nuts, baking chips, dried fruit, nut butter, and honey, you can dramatically change the flavor of these bars.

The bars in picture above were made with dried apricots, Bliss sunflower butter, pumpkin honey, cashews, and chocolate chips. We’ve tried lots of combinations, and they’ve always been good.

Here are the top three favorite variations we have tried.

  1. Dried cranberries, Bliss almond butter, pumpkin honey, almonds, and mini chocolate chips. This was the least sweet of the combinations we tried. This one was the most savory, and hardy tasting.
  2. Dried mixed fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins, and golden raisins), white chocolate chips, meadowfoam honey, and Bliss hazelnut butter. This one is my favorite.
  3. Dried apricots, Bliss cashew butter, mixed nuts, mini chocolate chips, clover honey. This one was the mildest tasting.

All three were very good, hands down better than the protein bars we have purchased in the past. The bonus is that they are way cheaper per to make than they are to buy. Our favorite nut butters to use are Bliss Nut Butters, made in Oregon City, Oregon.

If you happen to be vegan or just don’t eat honey, this recipe can easily be made vegan by using agave syrup in place of the honey.

 

Nutrition Facts and Afterthought

Nutritional information will vary with your choices for the ingredients, but are going to be roughly:

Protein 12g, carbohydrates 24g, sugars 10g, fats, 12, fiber 5g, and calories 350.

So, we hope you find this all helpful and enjoy this awesome healthy snack that we all enjoy. Also, if you wanna try out Bliss Nut Butter check out their facebook. We love their nut butters and high recommend them for all of you for this recipe. Share your favorite combination if you do give this a shot so we can try it too. Plus, we would love to see what you all come up with; bon appétit!

Inside the Life of the Bombus: the Bumblebee

Name: Bombus

Alias: The Bumblebee

Super Power: Buzz Pollination

Activity: Early spring through late fall

Favorite plants to pollinate: All of them!

 

What Is The Bombus?

Bombus is the bee genus known by the common name of bumblebee. Bumblebees are in the Apidae family, which contains the western honey bee. Bombus contains over 250 known species of bumblebees. Bees in the Bombus genus are indigenous to the northern hemisphere, as well as South America.

This map indicates the regions of the world that species of the bombus can be found.

 

Just like the leafcutter bee, the mason bee, and the honey bee, bumblebees are long-tongued bees. And similar to these other types of bees, bumble bees feed off of nectar and pollen; making them valuable pollinators. Also like honey bees, they have pollen baskets, where they can carry pollen that they collect. They cover large areas, much as honey bees do, and are not picky about the types of flowers they visit, as some types of bees are.

 

The Buzz Behind The Bombus

But Bumblebees do something that none of the other long-tongued bees can do. They ‘buzz’ pollinate. Buzz pollinating consists of the bee grabbing onto a bloom antlers, disengaging their wings, and then vibrating the muscles that usually control their wings. This has the effect of violently shaking the flower to release pollen, which then coats the bumble bee’s hairy body.That’s why the bumblebee is believed to be so very hairy (See the link showing buzz pollination taking place at the end of this article.).

 

Many plants are most effectively pollinated when buzz pollinated. Buzz pollination of such plants greatly increases size, quality, and quantity of the fruits and vegetables from these plants. Nightshade (including tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, tomatillos, and ground cherries) and many species of the genus vaccinium (blueberry,  cranberries, bilberries, and huckleberries) are a few examples of plants that benefit from buzz pollination.

 

Seasons of the Bombus

Bumblebees are active in their environments from early spring when the queen emerges from the nest, through late fall, when temperature become too cold for them to fly. Bumblebees usually live in small colonies (most often between 50 and 200 bees), and subsist on nectar and pollen. Like honey bees, bumblebees have a queen who will populate the colony and the bees secrete wax, which they use for a variety of reasons. They fashion the wax to cover their eggs and make cocoons where larvae are incubated. They even use this wax to make a place for worker bees to store nectar and pollen to be consumed by developing larva and mature bees, and even use wax to enclose their nest when needed. Nests are often found in the ground, in hollow spaces in wood, and even in grass and other vegetation. A cluster of crudely fashioned cells, bumblebee nests are crude when compared to the regular hexagonal cells constructed by the honeybee. Also, unlike honey bees, bumblebees only store only enough food to last a few days at a time, whereas honey bees need enough food stores to get the queen and a significant amount of the hive through winter and into the spring.

Bumblebee nest
Honey bee nest

 

The Cold and the Bombus

The bumblebees also differ from other bees in that they have the lowest chill-coma temperature. This is the temperature at which a bee can no longer fly. That means that when all the other bees are done for the season, bumblebees keep on flying late into the fall, when a newly formed queen mates with drones and then consume large quantities of food, giving her the resources to hibernate through the winter. Unless the bumble bees are in a very temperate climate, only the new queen will survive until the spring, where she emerges, to start the process all over again.

 

Living With Bombus

If you encounter a bumblebee nest or have one your yard, be aware that bumblebees can sting. But they won’t do so if you leave their nest alone, and don’t swat at them. If you do get stung, breath easy, since the stinger is barbless, and won’t stay in your skin. On the other hand, it also means that the bumble bee does not die when it stings, and it can sting more than once, so move away from them.

 

And finally did you know that their coloring and markings can be used to distinguish different species of bumble bees, and the species seen vary from area to area. Below, we have included links for identification of different bumblebee species, as well as general information about bumble bees. How many have you seen?

 

Classification and identification of bumblebees

Bumblebees of the Western United States

Bumblebees of the Eastern United States

More about bumblebees

video showing buzz pollination