All Bees, All the Time

Been meaning for awhile to make sure ya'll know about a wide-ranging informational "news digest" called APIS-Apicultural Information and Issues.

Posted monthly, APIS provides a wealth of information on CCD, bee health, and other info of interest to beekeepers and bee-lovers.


Honey Press

If you keep bees using a top bar hive like I do, you wind up with plenty of beautiful honey comb. I've come to greatly appreciate the pleasures of eating honey in the comb, but sometimes I also want to extract the honey from the comb and I continue to experiment with different low-tech methods for doing so.

The funky little Sesame Street segment I posted recently showed a nice honey press, but I haven't found anything similar in my web searches for "honey press." However, I did find this page by beekeeper James Satterfield on Making and Using a Honey Press. I think I might try something similar. I wish his photos were a bit larger, but I think you can get the gist from his web page and take it from there.

Let me know if you have other low-tech, low-cost ideas for pressing honey from the comb, or if you have leads about where to find a honey press like the one in the Sesame Street video.


Old Timey Sesame Street Beekeeping Spot


NYC Abuzz With Pollinator Week Activities

Pollinator Week 2009 is almost upon us, and this year for the first time New York City will have an abundance of events and activities to mark this nationwide celebration of the vital role pollinators play in our lives. (The official dates are June 22-28, but around here, pollinator week is every week—or bust.)

A wonderful, energetic organization called Just Food is sponsoring myriad events for Pollinator Week, including "New York Nectar"(signature dishes and drinks featuring local honey at NYC’s favorite bars & restaurants), a "hidden hive" tour, a honey festival at the Union Square Greenmarket, a rally in support of legalizing beekeeping in NYC, and a Beekeepers Ball. Read all about these Pollinator Week events here.

Learn about Pollinator Week events throughout the United States here.


Ant Rant

I've said before that my fascination with bees has opened the door to many new interests, including botany—a topic that once elicited in me an inescapable sensation of drowsiness.

Beekeeping has also rekindled childhood obsessions that, with the passage of time and the ravages of adulthood, were relegated to the sidelines.

Last summer, I wrote about how how beekeeping had "recharged" my interest in ants, those smart, social, industrious insects that mirror the lifestyle of honeybees in so many ways. Just the other day, I enjoyed a lovely meditation on a hillside meadow that included serious communion with some big black ants and their magnificent anthill. I had ants in my pants and I was happy.

Ants never seem to get the respect they deserve. They're just too small and fast and ubiquitous, and they don't make honey, or buzz around our flowers, or earn us money by their labor. But they are fascinating and important creatures without whose presence the world would be a very different, and much messier, place. Ants play a vital role in soil health and functioning, have important symbiotic relationships with many plants, and are considered "ecosystem engineers."

Bert Hölldobler, who has studied and drawn ants throughout his scientific career, was interviewed in the New York Times this week. In the interview, he talks about his longstanding collaboration with E.O. Wilson, the art of collaboration, the role ants play in our world, and what to do if ants invade your kitchen.

Read the interview with Bert Hölldobler here.


Beekeeping in Honduras

Going through the mile-high stack of papers and magazines in my office today, I happened upon this item about beekeeping in Honduras. It's from WorldArk, the publication of Heifer International, one of my favorite nonprofits.


The Body of Bumblebee Knowledge

For the past couple of years, I've had a little wooden birdhouse hanging from a sumac branch at the edge of our bee yard. Wrens selected it for their residence in both years, and made a cheerful presence in the yard with their ceaseless chatter (such tiny birds; such assertive personalities!).

Back in April, I noticed that the birdhouse had been knocked to the ground, presumably by the wind. When I picked it up, I saw that the mice had been at it, stuffing the birdhouse with milkweed silk and other soft nesting material for a cozy winter and/or breeding retreat.

As I began to gently pry the stuffing out with a stick to ready it for the next generation of wrens, I heard a distinctive buzz resonating from deep within—clear warning—and realized that a bumblebee had taken up residence in the box. I put the birdhouse back on the ground and left nature to take its course (and the wrens to find another nesting spot). But it made me think about the fascinating reproductive life of bumblebees, with their honey pots and underground palaces. It also made me think about all the trouble native bumblebees, like so many of our winged, finned, furred, and photosynthetic brethren, are in.

So I was excited to learn about a new Bumblebee Nest Survey aimed at gathering information on the nesting habits and conservation needs of these wonderful and varied creatures.
According to the survey description:

A bumble bee nest might be located anywhere- one of the reasons for this survey is to find out where they like to nest! It could be under a log, in the ground, in a tree, in the side of a building, or in an old mouse burrow. You'll know you've found a nest if you see bumble bees flying into and out of the same hole repeatedly and if you hear a humming sound near the hole. Bumble bees are gentle and ignore people unless grabbed or their nest threatened, so you're not likely to get stung unless you block the entrance or if you disturb the nest itself.
The instructions for making observations are as follows:
When you're near the nest, move slowly and walk softly so you don't alarm [the bees] and you're very unlikely to be stung. You will likely not be able to see the nest, as it will probably be concealed by something like leaves or grass. Don't try to uncover the nest if you can't see it. You don't need to see the nest itself to contribute invaluable information for this research- just be as descriptive of the location as possible.
If, in your travels or birdhouse-cleaning efforts, you come upon a bumblebee nest, why not add to the body of bumblebee knowledge by participating in the Bumblebee Nest Survey?


Clowdey Days

I prefer the archaic spelling of "cloud," don't you? It's so much...clowdier.

And with so many "clowdey" days of late, it seems a good time to share this interesting item on a dramatic and yet-to-be-classified cloud structure.


More Lovely Bee Photos

Take a stroll over to The Kittalog blog and meet a beautiful black-and-white bee and a humble bumble bee.

Learn more about black-and-white bees here.

Learn a thing or two about bumble bees here.

View an impressive array of bees here.


Best Bee Photos Ever

You are now in for a tremendous treat. My friend Andrew recently hooked me up with the website of the extraordinary photographer Eric Tourneret—a.k.a. The Bee Photographer. (Thank you a thousand times, Andrew!)

The site can be enjoyed in several different ways. You can browse these wonderful honeybee photos by topic, selecting from swarming, apiculture, pollination, honey, bees in history, and city bees.

Or you can visit the bees by country, viewing striking photos of bees and beekeeping in Nepal, Argentina, Cameroon, Mexico, Romania and Russia. Sample, for instance, this incandescent series of beekeeping-related images from France: the poppies! the sunflowers! the mountains! the hive-carrying donkeys! the drones!

And then there's Cameroon, where ancient honey-gatheing methods still prevail in the Adamwa forest or the death-defying cliff-climbing of the Nepali "tiger-men" who gather honeycomb from the world's largest bee.


Counting Bees in NYC

If you live in NYC and can count, you may wish to help out with a citizen science project to count bees in the five boroughs.

The Times did a nice article about this project today.

Full details on the NYC bee-counting project can be found on the Bee Watchers page of the Great Pollinator Project.