Kim Severson Wins "Headline of the Week" Award

Just made that award up off the top of my head, but wouldn't you agree this headline rocks?

An Unlikely Way to Save a Species: Serve it for Dinner

It certainly grabbed my attention—mainly because it got me thinking (again) about the sad and frustrating reality that if we want anything in nature to be protected, we need to first show how it matters to humanoids. Biodiversity for its own sake is a hard if not impossible sell in the context of human narcissism. Biodiversity that yields a clear return in terms the human "consumer" can wrap his/her/its brain (and maw) around—well, that kind of biodiversity has a future. Perhaps.

None of this is to take anything away from the truly noble project of working to protect biodiversity in the agricultural realm. Severson's article provides an excellent 101 on the topic, with a focus on "plants and animals that were once fairly commonplace in American kitchens but are now threatened, endangered or essentially extinct in the marketplace."

The article's inspiration is a very cool new book edited by Gary Paul Nabhan called “Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods” (Chelsea Green Publishing). Nabhan has written many books about endangered foods, biodiversity, and even migratory pollinators.

Severson's piece provides a nice overview of the topic at hand. There's a wonderful infographic on Disappearing Foods throughout Turtle Island, dividing our continent up into gastronomic regions like Salmon Nation, Acorn Nation, Corn Bread Nation, Gumbo Nation, and Clambake Nation. Turns out I reside in Maple Syrup Nation—news to me.

Check out this mind-blowing map and chew awhile on its varied implications. Then go out and plant some Seneca hominy flint corn or start raising a few Tennessee fainting goats. Now that's living!


What goes on in an individual's mind when confronted with a butterfly, a snake, a bat, a wolf, a pigeon, or a bee?

Natalie Angier has an illuminating piece in today's New York Times about "biobigotry"—"the persistent and often irrational desire to be surrounded only by those species of which one approves, and to exclude any animals, plants and other life forms that one finds offensive."The article describes the psychology behind this way of parsing the animal world, and points out some of the weird ironies that arise when we project our human morals, values and beliefs onto nature—often with only the vaguest sliver of actual understanding about what it is we're observing when we watch a butterfly, a snake, a bat, a wolf, a pigeon, or a bee in action.

If you've ever called pigeons "flying rats," disparaged a pig, attempted to eradicate a certain weed from your yard, or tried to chase the "wrong bird" from your birdfeeder (and who hasn't indulged in something along these lines?), you'll find Angier's piece a worthwhile read.


Spring Wanderings

Spring has definitely arrived in Upstate NY USDA Zone 4. There aren't enough exclamation points in all of human history to adequately punctuate my pleasure with this, my favorite time of year.

This weekend, I saw my first heron of the season, the first pair of goldfinches, and what appears to be a nesting pair of Canada geese down by the pond. The peewees and phoebes have arrived, as have the vireos. To our great joy, a handsome bluebird male appears to have selected one of our many bluebird houses to set up shop. The other 10 or 12 "bluebird houses" we've put up have already been taken up with swallows, who are a delight in their own right.

Over the weekend we saw bumblebees, cabbage white butterflies, and a butterfly we suspect was a comma (yes, there's a butterfly called "comma," along with one called the "question mark").

The honeybees were seen working the willow and gathering pollen from a blue hyacinth. Last fall we planted 100 or so Siberian squill, and they too have bloomed, though I haven't see any honeybee action there as yet. The dandelions have just begun to blossom, and I imagine much of the bees' focus is on that vitally important foraging plant.Speaking of dandelions, Wren and I enjoyed one of our annual spring rituals this weekend—foraging for tender dandelion leaves in the field, which we cooked up with olive oil, anchovy paste, onions, and pine nuts and tossed over pasta. Serious seasonal/local yum!

On my morning walk with the dog yesterday morning, I communed at woodland's edge with the aptly named spring beauties, one of my favorite spring ephemerals.
An additional sign that beekeeping season is officially upon us: I managed to acquire my first sting of '08 on Sunday afternoon while observing Hive Orange from what I thought was an appropriate distance. They weren't having it, though, and clocked me upside my head. It didn't hurt much. Must be the time of year.


Help Us Name Our New Hive

Rebel Rebel is (as reported earlier) no more. Last weekend, I painted over the scribbled sign that adorned the hive. A larger top bar hive will now sit in the spot Rebel Rebel occupied, and in a couple of weeks, we'll install a new package of bees into this hive body. Aside from the bees themselves, the only thing we're missing is a name for this soon-to-be colony.

Rebel Rebel hive was so named because it was occupied by a spirited swarm that issued from either Green Hive (now deceased) or Hive Orange (which rocks on). I'd like to name the new beehive along similar lines—invoking a song or lyric by David Bowie, one of my cultural heroes.
What would you recommend we name the new hive? Besides Suffragette City, of course. Post your comment below.


The Humble Bumblebee

Check out Humming Praises for the Wild Bee, Anne Raver's lovely appreciation of native bees—particularly bumblebees.

The article appears in The New York Times—which, by the way, has been delivering an abundance of bee-related content of late.

Recent info on native bees posted on this blog can be found here and here.


Update on Bat Die-Off and White-Nose Syndrome

Hundreds of thousands of dead bats throughout the Northeast—a (sad, depressing, fascinating) update from NPR.

Bat Conservation International—an excellent organization that's been in the vanguard of protecting bat habitat and educating the public about the ecological importance of bats, has this article on the bat die-off and is helping to coordinate the efforts to obtain funding to try to identify the cause(s) of white-nose syndrome. (Sure to be an uphill battle in the current economy.)

If you're looking for a place to donate to this important cause, BCI is a fine place to start. By the time the federal government gets around to funding research on white-nose syndrome, there'll be nary a bat left to study.


The Sad Eros of Abandonment

Strange confluence of the foreclosure crisis in Florida and homemaking honeybees. Don't miss the rather amazing video, "The Beekeeper's Lament."


Eartha Kitt, Queen Bee

Here's one for the Department of Delicious Surprises: Eartha Kitt collects hornets' nests.

“I think they’re fascinating, so intricate. I love all kinds of bees’ nests. I was a wild child, and I depended on the forest to find company when I was a kid, so I became very cognizant of how friendly nature can be.”—Eartha Kitt

Drink Coffee? Thank a Bee: Honeybee Pollination Research Roundup

If you eat fruit, drink coffee, or love flowers, you need to thank a bee today. In this springy time of pollen-gathering, here's a little roundup of articles on the topic of honeybee pollination.

Had Your Morning Coffee? Thank a Killer Bee; Smithsonian Scientist Shows Pollination by Exotic Honeybees Increases Coffee Crop Yield by More Than 50 Percent Who knew? According to the researcher, David W. Roubik, "the work of two or three dozen wild African honey bees is in every cup of coffee that you drink."

Primitive Plants Use Heat and Odor to Woo Pollinating Insects. Sex sells.

Wild Bees Making Honeybees Better Pollinators. I bet you'll never guess why.

Oregon Bee Loves Berries, May Help Fill Gap Caused by Colony Collapse Disorder of European Bees.
Native bees to the rescue? We hardly deserve it.

See also my recent post on native bees (a.k.a. "alternative pollinators").

And buzz on over to Bee Culture to download a Cornell University study entitled The Value of Honeybees as Pollinators of U.S. Crops in 2000 (on the lower right-hand corner of the Home Page, look for the article under "Free Reprints").


Jonathan Franzen on China, Birds, Biodiversity, & Eco-Catastrophe

Jonathan Franzen speaks about his article in the 4/21 issue of The New Yorker. It's a fascinating interview—worth a listen.


Honeybees Sweeten the Lives of Ex-Offenders

Thanks to bee-boy Thew for sending a link to a marvelous Chicago Tribune video about Sweet Beginnings, an economic development program that uses beekeeping as a path to a better life for ex-offenders and others who face barriers to attaining employment that pays a living wage.

I've been meaning to write about Sweet Beginnings for some time, since services that enable ex-offenders to rebuild their lives is a particular interest of mine. In the video, Gerald Whitehead, one of the men who has transformed into a beekeeper through his involvement with Sweet Beginnings, has this to say:

"I'm reconstructing my whole life, just like the bees that have to reconstruct their hive, the honeycomb, to prepare for the next stage—that's what I'm doing with my life."

Read the accompanying Trib article, The Felons and the Bees.

And meet some more of the people whose lives have been changed by honeybees and Sweet Beginnings.


Get Your Bee On At The BBG

The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens is a local miracle, and last week the place was in early bloom, with many honeybees on hand to help out with the spring festivities. During my brief afternoon visit, I observed honeybees working the Japanese pachysandra, siberian squill, heather, azalea, and grape hyacinth.
Above: Apis-girl on a serious pollen-gathering mission. The plant is Japanese pachysandra.
Honeybee working azalea.

The heather in the rock garden attracted considerable honeybee attention.

At the entrance to the BBG's native garden is this wonderful old fence. It's one of my favorite nonliving things in the garden.
The BBG also has a couple of great gift shops where you can find bee pencils, bookmarks, mugs, tea towels, and other cool stuff that your beekeeping and bee-appreciatin' friends will swoon o'er. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop by.

Coda: Just happened in on The Brooklyn Bachelor blog and found this post on the BBG and bees. Seems all of Brooklyn is heading toward flower-mecca with these warm days.


Many Thanks!

Thanks to those of you who helped me exceed my goal for the Nature Conservancy's Plant A Billion Trees fundraiser. (It's not too late to contribute—just use the widget on the Trees=Bees post below.)

Thanks also to my new friend George from Romania for the beautiful package that arrived in today's mail, containing lovingly crafted doilies and a CD featuring buoyant and beautiful Romanian music. George sent this picture along today via e-mail. I hope he doesn't mind my sharing it here. It's wonderful to have an unexpected visitor here at Global Swarming Honeybees.
And a BIG thank you to Majora Carter for having the courage of her convictions.

How to Build a Solar Wax Melter

If you keep bees with a top bar hive, you're likely to wind up with plenty of nice comb that can be melted down for beeswax.

I created a highly makeshift solar wax melter last summer, but will need something a little larger and more sturdy this year, since it looks like I'll soon be processing a fair amount of comb from my dead hives (sigh).

Here's a good article on harvesting honey and beeswax from a top bar hive. In addition, the government of Queensland has been good enough to provide this overview on beekeeping, beeswax, and solar wax melters, with some good tips, warnings and tricks.

Here's a roundup of instructions for making a solar wax melter.


Swarm This! #5

Intertwingular links of interest.
Today's theme: Fun &/or Funny.
Postal Workers Attacked by Wild Turkeys

Create Your Own Flower


I Park Like an Idiot

A Bug's Life. Really.


Befriending Native Bees

This is a follow-up on my recent post, Urban Bees & How to Help Them. Herewith are additional resources about native bees, bee-friendly gardening, and environmental practices that promote biodiversity.

Alternative Pollinators: Native Bees is a publication of the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA). The article provides a nice overview of native bee species, tips on how to encourage bees to prosper in your area, a list of forage plants favored by native bees, info on constructing bee nests like those shown below, and tons of additional resources.The rich list of links on the Alternative Pollinators webpage will lead you in a thousand worthwhile directions, from info on bumblebee ID to an article on butterfly intelligence as compared to that of bees. There's also a halfway decent list of international resources on this site. Vertebrae and non-vertebrae pollinators are included.

I fell madly in love with this Bumblebee ID card. Alas, the species of native bumblebee included are limited to those in and around Utah. But what a wonderful infographic! I hope this will be emulated by biologists in other places who want to make it easier for the mere mortals among us to identify our local bumblebees. I spent time trying to do this in upstate New York last summer, and believe me, it wasn't easy—those bees are fast and linger only briefly upon each blossom! It was fun trying to figure out who was who, though.

Last but not least, there's a recent article on bee-friendly gardening called "Creating Buzz" in Audubon Magazine.

Enjoy! And don't forget to thank a bee today.


Honeybees' In-flight Services

Today's New York Times has this: "Why Wait for the Hive? Honeybees Get to Work In Flight, Study Says."The new research, conducted in South Africa, suggests that honeybees begin evaporating the water in nectar immediately after collecting it, while en route back to the hive. It was previously thought that the process of evaporating the water occurred strictly within the hive itself.

How do they do it? Check out this short and sweet little article on the marvelous efficiency of the honeybee to find out.



Well, not exactly, but trees do equal: oxygen production; food and habitat for insects, birds, mammals, and other creatures; beauty; life; forests; planetary well-being; shade; totemic symbolism; real-world awesomeness; forage for bees and other pollinators; sanctuary; and more.

Tropical forests, in particular, can be described as the "lungs" of the earth, converting vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the oxygen on which we all depend. The Atlantic Forest in Brazil is one such "lung"—and it's in deep trouble now, having been deforested to within an inch of its life.

The Nature Conservancy—one of the best environmental groups I know of—has launched a campaign to save the Atlantic forest through a massive effort that will result in the planting of 1 billion trees in this ecologically important forest.

I've been a card-carrying member of the Nature Conservancy for many years, and I am continually impressed by their good and important work. In that spirit, I'm inviting the readers of Global Swarming Honeybees to join me in planting 100 trees in this vast reforestation effort. $1 plants 1 tree. How's that for a bargain?!

Every dollar raised through this site will be matched by an anonymous donor (me). Sign on now (or learn more) using the link below. And thanks.

One dollar, one tree, one planet.

"What have I done but wander with my eyes in the trees?"—Allen Ginsberg (from "A Desolation")


Honeybee Decision-Making & What It Can Teach Us

Recent research on the process by which a swarm decides upon a new home from among the various choices identified by the scout bees. The swarm's decision is made relatively quickly and remarkably well. No small feat when you're talking 10,000+ individual bees.


How to Install a Package of Bees

A helpful demo on installing a package of bees.


Loathe Bush? Love Bees?

Just stumbled upon this happy finding and thought I'd share.


Top Bar Hive Beekeeping With Corwin Bell & Kelly Simmons

This 1-hour video was shot at the Organic Beekeeping Conference in February 08. In it, the speakers discuss their philosophy of sustainable beekeeping and provide tips for beekeeping using top bar hives.

Many other videos from the Organic Beekeeping Conference are available online through the good graces of Golden Rule Apiary's "Bee Unto Others" website.


Bee Warned!

Bjork: "Sailing into nature's laws"

Her new video, "Wanderlust." Perhaps the first time the words "law" and "spore" have been slant-rhymed in a song. View a relatively high quality version of Wanderlust on the New York Times website, or watch the YouTube job below.