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May 28, 2012


Pam Wright

Hi Debbie: Backyard beekeeping has exploded since people learned about colony collapse disorder. My husband Pete and I became beekeepers this spring ... Two families within 1/4 mile of us are beekeepers. We live in a rural area, so that's about 25% of our neighbors.

The social life of bees is fascinating. Although beekeeping has a modest learning curve, it is not a labor-intensive hobby. We started with 2 hives, and may expand next year. The bees were delivered in mid-April. Despite the stresses of winter, being shipped, and the need to create new communities, they were producing honey in a couple of weeks. We check the hives about once a week (although we visit them nearly every day to see what they are up to). Honeybees are bred to be gentle - although we open the hives, move the foundations (where they deposit pollen and honey), I have not been stung yet - I'm amazed.

Did you know that the White House has a beehive? It's a very productive hive too! When the WH staff learned that Michelle planned a kitchen garden, one staffer had a spare hive & offered to set it up. The chefs use WH honey in food served at State dinners, as gifts, and to make honey ALE!

"The Secret Life of White House Bees" is a short video about the first WH beehive.

If you and Lab Rat want to learn more, you'll find beekeeping classes at community colleges, conservatories, botanical gardens, organic gardens, etc. Google "beekeeping classes YOUR STATE." I think most classes are held in the winter so people are prepared to begin in the spring. Classes are also available online, but taking a class has additional benefits - including people who will act as your mentors. ~Pam

mistah charley, ph.d.

The likely culprit in sharp worldwide declines in honeybee colonies since 2006 is imidacloprid, one of the most widely used pesticides, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

The authors, led by Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health, write that the new research provides “convincing evidence” of the link between imidacloprid and the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives.

The study will appear in the June issue of the Bulletin of Insectology.

“The significance of bees to agriculture cannot be underestimated,” says Lu. “And it apparently doesn’t take much of the pesticide to affect the bees. Our experiment included pesticide amounts below what is normally present in the environment.”

Pinpointing the cause of the problem is crucial because bees — beyond producing honey — are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of the crop species in the United States, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and livestock feed such as alfalfa and clover. Massive loss of honeybees could result in billions of dollars in agricultural losses, experts estimate.

Lu and his co-authors hypothesized that the uptick in CCD resulted from the presence of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid introduced in the early 1990s. Bees can be exposed in two ways: through nectar from plants or through high-fructose corn syrup beekeepers use to feed their bees. (Since most U.S.-grown corn has been treated with imidacloprid, it’s also found in corn syrup.)

In the summer of 2010, the researchers conducted an in situ study in Worcester County aimed at replicating how imidacloprid may have caused the CCD outbreak. Over a 23-week period, they monitored bees in four different bee yards; each yard had four hives treated with different levels of imidacloprid and one control hive. After 12 weeks of imidacloprid dosing, all the bees were alive. But after 23 weeks, 15 of the 16 imidacloprid-treated hives had perished. Those exposed to the highest levels of the pesticide died first.

The characteristics of the dead hives were consistent with CCD, said Lu; the hives were empty except for food stores, some pollen, and young bees, with few dead bees nearby. When other conditions cause hive collapse — such as disease or pests — many dead bees are typically found inside and outside the affected hives.

Strikingly, said Lu, it took only low levels of imidacloprid to cause hive collapse — less than what is typically used in crops or in areas where bees forage.

Betty G

What do you make of this article from the Sunday Times regarding salt? I have heard of similar search results over the years.

Betty G

How do you think Dr. Essylstyn would feel about adding honey to your diet?


Had to laugh about your husband's email asking you about "another loser movie?" This sounds like what would happen at my house. But how neat to hear that this movie is so good. My husband has kept bees off and on for the past 50 years or so. He just might like this movie.

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