Thursday, April 26, 2012

Barefoot Rookie 'keeper

Update from home hives:
I lost three of my four hives this winter, even though it was quite warm compared to last year. My new 3#packages are arriving the week of 5/7 from H+R Apiaries in Georgia.  Last year the hives with the georgia bees collected 60 pounds of honey. They are hard workers and very patient as I rummage around in their hive. I have learned a lot from them.

Also at school we now have three hives. Two well established hives and one maverick. It's quite wild in the maverick hive. It looks like a top bar hive when in fact it is a langstroth. When we opened up the hive last weekend was a riot. I was stung 8 times. A drag. I think we will let them settle down a bit and get the smoker fired up next time.

life as a rookie.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Honey Club

The Honey Club is a social enterprise that aims to create the biggest bee-friendly network inthe world, starting with our local community in Kings Cross, London.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Harvard study finds common pesticide kills bees

Here is a petition to the EPA to ask them to ban the sale of neoniconitoid

Boston Articles
Harvard study finds common pesticide kills bees
April 06, 2012 By David Abel

A common pesticide used increasingly in recent years for crops such as corn and soybeans is the probable culprit in the destruction of honeybee colonies around the world, a study released Thursday by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health has found.

The researchers said they found convincing evidence of the link between the pesticide known as imidacloprid and honeybees abandoning their hives, or colony collapse disorder, which they say began occurring in 2006 on a scale and scope never seen before in the history of the beekeeping industry.

Bees pollinate about one-third of crops in the United States, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and livestock feed. A widespread loss of bees could be devastating to the nation’s agriculture.

“The significance of bees to agriculture cannot be underestimated,’’ said Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health, who estimated bees account for about $15 billion in revenue for the agricultural industry.

“It apparently doesn’t take much of the pesticide to affect the bees,’’ Lu said. “Our experiment included pesticide amounts below what is normally present in the environment.’’

Before 2006, the typical bee colony collapse was between 25 and 30 percent; that figure has doubled since then, said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist of the Organic Center in Boulder, Colo., and former executive director of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Agriculture.

Bees are exposed to the pesticide through nectar from plants or through high-fructose corn syrup, which beekeepers use to feed their bees, the researchers said. Corn grown in the United States has been treated with imidacloprid since 2005.

But officials at Bayer, the German chemical and pharmaceutical company that produces more of the pesticide than any other company in the world, said that the study was flawed and that its findings should be disregarded.

They said imidacloprid is used only on a small amount of the nation’s crops, although they could not provide specific figures, and argued the doses used in Lu’s study were excessive.

“It’s a very effective and safe insecticide, much safer than the products it replaced,’’ said David Fischer, director of environmental toxicology and risk assessment at Bayer CropScience, who said the product has been sold since 1994. “All they have shown is if you feed massive amounts of a toxic insecticide to bees that you can cause mortality.’’ Continue here.

These are my bees and bee mentors

MORE INFO HERE from Scientific American

Arsenic in Our Chicken?

Published: April 4, 2012 
New York Times

Let’s hope you’re not reading this column while munching on a chicken sandwich.

That’s because my topic today is a pair of new scientific studies suggesting that poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic.

“We were kind of floored,” said Keeve E. Nachman, a co-author of both studies and a scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future.  “It’s unbelievable what we found.”

He said that the researchers had intended to test only for antibiotics. But assays for other chemicals and pharmaceuticals didn’t cost extra, so researchers asked for those results as well.

“We haven’t found anything that is an immediate health concern,” Nachman added. “But it makes me question how comfortable we are feeding a number of these things to animals that we’re eating. It bewilders me.”

Likewise, I grew up on a farm, and thought I knew what to expect in my food. But Benadryl? Arsenic? These studies don’t mean that you should dump the contents of your refrigerator, but they do raise serious questions about the food we eat and how we should shop.

It turns out that arsenic has routinely been fed to poultry (and sometimes hogs) because it reduces infections and makes flesh an appetizing shade of pink. There’s no evidence that such low levels of arsenic harm either chickens or the people eating them, but still...

Big Ag doesn’t advertise the chemicals it stuffs into animals, so the scientists conducting these studies figured out a clever way to detect them. Bird feathers, like human fingernails, accumulate chemicals and drugs that an animal is exposed to. So scientists from Johns Hopkins University and Arizona State University examined feather meal — a poultry byproduct made of feathers.

One study, just published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Environmental Science & Technology, found that feather meal routinely contained a banned class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. These antibiotics (such as Cipro), are illegal in poultry production because they can breed antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that harm humans. Already, antibiotic-resistant infections kill more Americans annually than AIDS, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The same study also found that one-third of feather-meal samples contained an antihistamine that is the active ingredient of Benadryl. The great majority of feather meal contained acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. And feather-meal samples from China contained an antidepressant that is the active ingredient in Prozac.

Poultry-growing literature has recommended Benadryl to reduce anxiety among chickens, apparently because stressed chickens have tougher meat and grow more slowly. Tylenol and Prozac presumably serve the same purpose.

Researchers found that most feather-meal samples contained caffeine. It turns out that chickens are sometimes fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them awake so that they can spend more time eating. (Is that why they need the Benadryl, to calm them down?)


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hive check in

Spring hive check in. Lost a few hives this winter and I have ordered replacement packages from H&R Apiaries.  Call Pearl, she will set you up. My H&R bees last year were amazing.

Tips if your chickens are molting

My birds often molt once a year. Molting is hard for hens. Make sure your hen is in fact molting and not the bottom of the pecking order, it can look the same: feathers missing around the head/neck and wing /tail feathers, low on energy. Here are a few things I try to do to help them out and keep them happy. A complete molt takes about two months and your hens will look quite bedraggled during this time.

1. Keep the coop warmish, if you can. 
2. Add protein to their diet. I do this by adding "Game Bird Feed"
3. Add more fresh veggies 
4. Increase the exposure to light
5. Keep your eye out for things that could stress them out.

Here are the things that can trigger a molt: change in available light and stress caused by lack of water or feed or cold temperatures.

She isn't molting, but she is curious