CCD Update

Bee Culture just sent out the following announcement, entitled, Finally, A Complete Description Of Colony Collapse Disorder Across Time and Location. I'm reprinting it below in the hope that some of the info may be useful to beekeepers—though admittedly, a lot of this rehashes ground we've already covered in the past.

Jerry Bromenshenk has been involved with Colony Collapse Disorder from the very beginning. He and his colleagues at the University of Montana, the U.S Army’s Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center, his own company called Bee Alert Technology, and BVS, Inc. have ferreted out an amazing amount of information on this Disorder and are close to understanding the answers to this problem. Because of their work the beekeeping community i s more aware of the best management practices over time to combat the worst of the regular pests and diseases bees have, and this year the almond orchards should have an ample supply of bees for pollination, in part due to their efforts, and of course the work of many other researchers and scientists. Of course it’s only late December and bees are fickle, fragile creatures…and in bee time, it’s a long way to February.

Over the two years that Colony Collapse Disorder has been a recognized problem, this group has probably visited more beeyards suffering from CCD, in more locations, and over a longer a time than most of the people involved in this search. As a result, in a full report prepared by this team to be released in the February issue of Bee Culture magazine, Bee Alert’s Scott Debnam and Jerry Bromenshenk from Missoula Montana, David Westerveld from Florida’s Apiary Inspections Bureau, and Randy Oliver, a commercial beekeeper with significant honey bee research experience from Grass Valley, California detail the symptoms of CCD with respect to where it hits, and when it hits. This information is critical in making a diagnosis as symptoms do change as seasons progress and knowing what to look for and when to look for it is absolutely necessary in making correct decisions. So far, no better guidelines exist for diagnosing this disorder.

To review what’s commonly known:

The symptoms of the final stages of CCD have been oft repeated:
In collapsed colonies
· Complete absence of older adult bees in colonies, with few or no dead bees in the colony, on the bottom board, in front of the colony, or in the beeyard.
· Presence of capped brood in colonies during time of year when queen should be laying.
· Presence of food stores, both honey and pollen, unless a drought or time of year restricts availability of food resources.
· Absence of pest insects such as wax moth and hive beetle.
· Lack of robbing by other bees
· Robbing and return of hive pests is delayed by days or weeks.
In collapsing colonies
· Too few worker bees to maintain brood that is present.
· Remaining bee population predominately young bees.
· Queen is present.
· Queen may lay more eggs than can be maintained by workers, or is appropriate for the time of year.
· Cluster is reluctant to consume supplemental food such as sugar syrup and pollen supplement.

However, these are the terminal symptoms. By the time colonies reach this point it is far too late to do anything but bury the dead. Being able to spot colonies that are just becoming affected is a real plus because beekeepers can turn them around most times and keep them productive. Even though they still don’t know the cause, proper and appropriate management techniques go a long way in helping. Here’s what the team has found:

One year out:
Colonies are “just not doing well” with few other visible symptoms. They seem healthy, but have lackluster honey production.

Six months out:
Symptoms are vague and easily missed. Monthly inspections and careful comparisons are needed. Brood nests are slow to expand, with most in a single hive body. Mid-day inspections show bees dispersed in the colony, but this varies. Population growth slows to stops during growing season when compared to other colonies in the same yard. Honey stores remain untouched, bees are feeding on nectar recently collected. These symptoms are difficult to spot due to the careful comparisons needed.

Three months out:
CCD colonies appear slow to grow and are outpaced by non-CCD colonies in the apiary. There is a noticeable population decrease going from 3 to 2 boxes, or 2 to 1, and often the bees are on only a few frames in the bottom box…and they appear restless. Brood is shot gunned because of dead brood removal, and honey stores begin to diminish if it’s late in the season, but if early, the honey remains untouched. Routine maintenance goes undone and no propolis seals are noticeable.

One month out:
Usually 8 frames of bees or fewer remain and they decline rapidly. Brood is produced, but can’t be supported, queen replacement is often tried and abandoned brood is common. Stored honey depends on the season…in summer it may all be depleted, in winter untouched.

Remaining bees fail to eat supplied food or medications, and it’s mostly young bees that remain now, as the older bees are gone. Queens continue to lay excessively, and the colony usually lacks any aggressiveness at all.

Visual Symptoms of a CCD Colony

Just days before its collapse the colony seemed to be strong and fully functional
Mostly young bees remaining in the hive
Bees are not aggressive
Queen is present
Eggs are present
Full frames of brood may be present
Brood may show signs of “shotgun” pattern
Capped honey and fresh nectar are often present, although not in summer collapses, which are uncommon
Fresh pollen has been stored in the hive recently, if external resources are available
Supplemental feed (syrup and extender patties) if supplied, are ignored
No robbing occurs
No secondary pests (small hive beetles, wax moths or ants) are found
No dead bees are noted around entrance of the hive
Bees do not show any signs of winglessness, paralysis or other adult bee diseases.
CCD tends to travel like a wave through a beeyard, and combining affected and unaffected colonies usually gives 2 dead colonies. Adding a package may help, and may not. There is a time until secondary pests will move in…using equipment before that time for more bees is risky and the colony may die again.
The Cause of Colony Collapse Disorder remains unknown, but the diagnosis, and thus the opportunity to administer remedial treatments is getting better all the time.

For the full article with additional information see the February issue of Bee Culture on our web site www.BeeCulture.com after Feb 1.
Thanks to Scott, David, Jerry and Randy.

This message brought to you by Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping


Honeybee Yanks Caterpillar's Chain

In the latest entry from the "everything is connected" dept., here's an odd little piece in the NY Times: The Buzz of Bees, Though Benign, Halts Caterpillars' Munching. The illustration alone is worth the effort of clicking the link.


Eartha Kitt, Queen Bee (1/17/27-12/25/08)

Sad to learn that Eartha Kitt no longer purrs upon this earth. In her honor, we're resurrecting this post from our blog entry of last spring.

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


Earth Rise, Earth Set


Bee-Defenders Unite!

British bee-defender Phil Chandler has posted an excellent piece on The Barefoot Beekeeper about the bizarre situation whereby the British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) is endorsing certain highly questionable pesticides as "bee-friendly."

BBKA's agreement to endorse pesticides of any kind is at best an acute case of strange bedfellows...at worst...it's perverse, highly suspect, bonkers, and criminal in the Karmic sense. Something's very wrong here, and I'm glad Chandler is speaking out.

Read Chandler's Ten Reasons Why the BBKA Should Not Take Bayer's Money

And see Chandler speak on the issue here:

Is the BBKA too close to Bayer? from Gord Campbell on Vimeo.


Gifts for Beekeepers

Great Depression notwithstanding, the holidays are coming and those who know and love bees and beekeepers will want to be on the lookout for beeky merch.

Possibilities to consider:Exceedingly handsome, retro-style, eco-friendly note cards.

A donation to the excellent Heifer International. Your gift can help Heifer provide a family with a package of bees, the box and hive, plus training in beekeeping.

Clan Apis—a fabulous graphic novel by scientist-artist Jay Hosler about the honeybee lifecycle, suitable for older kids and adults.

A lovely bee skep watering can...in solid copper!

Subscriptions to the leading beekeeping magazines in the U.S.: Bee Culture and American Bee Journal.

A mind-boggling array of bee-related shirts, messenger bags, thongs, and kids' stuff from Cafe Press.

Wood engravings and notecards from Kenspeckle Letterpress.

Beehive mixing bowls from Stonewall Kitchen.

And for the truly obsessed beekeeper, some excellent books:

Honey Plants of North America (A revelation! Highly recommended.)

Bee Pollination in Agricultural Ecosystems (I confess that I have not read this yet. It's pricey, but based on the recent review in Bee Culture magazine, I think it's worth a gander, though the writing may be a bit on the academic side.)

Eva Crane's beautifully illustrated classic, The World History of Beekeeping and Honey-Hunting, should bring a massive smile to the face of any book-wormish beeks in your life, especially those with an interest in the many ancient, cross-cultural expressions of beekeeping and honey-takin'. The book is expensive, but worth every penny.

And, last but most definitely not least, there are many wonderful possibilities offered by the non-material gift of donated labor. The reality is that most beekeepers have way too much to do and can use a helping hand with their beekeeping duties from time to time. Whether it's painting beehives, installing an electric fence, processing honey, constructing a solar wax melter, catching a swarm, or simply organizing the tool shed, your average beekeeper can always use some good-natured assistance. So why not gift your beekeeper friend or loved one with a "voucher" for a few hours of hard (or soft) labor around the bee yard when they need it most?

I hope this list helps you get a good start on finding just the right thing for the people in your life. Happy holidays, whatever you celebrate!


Fire Ants

Hot, hot hive mind! The New York Times has a thingy about how fire ants wreak their havoc.

Syrian Honey!

A friend of Wren's was kind enough to bring us honey from his travels in Syria last month. I haven't tasted the honey yet, but fell in love instantly with the honeybee-related art on the bag.The jar on the bottom is from Syria. The jar on top (described on the label as containing "flower honey") is from Turkey.
See more jars of honey from around the world.


Bees Without Borders

Our friend Andrew's beekeeping and edu-beeking activities were covered in the New York Times today. Congrats, Andrew!



is one of my favorite words—it's so D.C. Comics!

So I was psyched this morning when my friend Eva brought this new book to my attention: The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies by Bert Holldobler and E.O. Wilson.

Sounds like a good read on the fascinating topic of swarm intelligence. A cool gift for the bookworm beek in your life.


Pollination 101

Even the most casual conversation about beekeeping soon wends its way toward the inevitable topic of pollination—What is it, exactly? What role do bees play in it? And why should we care about it?

Such questions are usually asked with a vague sense of apology. We know we should be more conversant with something so basic to our food supply and our natural world, yet back in school, who among us did not zone out 150% when the topic of botany arose? The clock hands practically froze when the words "stamen," "stigma," and "anther" were uttered by teachers who somehow managed to make it all seem so distant, static, and dull.

I guess it takes decades of living to realize just how spellbinding plant sexuality can be, and just how mighty a role insect pollination plays in our lives—at least to the degree that our existence is tied with the availability of fruits, nuts, and flowers (not to mention stuff like coffee, cotton, and cola nuts). Check out this cool chart of bee-pollinated crop plants to see the scope of services bees and other insects provide.

I'll be the first to admit that, until I started gardening and beekeeping, the ins and outs of pollination were shrouded in vagueness and/or outright mystery. These days, though, every almond, apple, squash, and berry I encounter brings amazement about the intricacies of pollination and gratitude to the compound-eyed critters who make such gifts as the cukes below possible.Putting aside the 1950s-style narration and attendant assumptions about insect awareness (which I confess I find amusing), this short video provides a decent summary of how flowering plants reproduce.

Here's more:

A ton of fact sheets from the Xerces Society about pollinator conservation.

A HowStuffWorks Video on Pollination & Fertilization.

A Wikipedia page fruit tree pollination.

Wikipedia on pollination in general.

The Pollinator Partnership's new ecoregional planting guides to attract pollinators to your garden.

The utterly fascinating Pollinator Conservation Digital Library.

A New York Times article on the sexual trickery of orchids and hot, hot waspy action!


Change We Can Believe In


When Trees Have Faces...

...One can (like Dorothy) get a little creeped out walking in the woods. Here are some of my local players on the facially-inclined tree front.
If you like these, check out Trees of Halloween.

And talking of trees, here's my favorite arboreal cyber-thingy, Festival of Trees.


Botanical Convergences

Wren and I were amused to find this bit of botanical signage on our walk in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Sunday afternoon. So weirdly election-y!
It's quite a lovely tree, in spite of its name. The iPhone camera gave it this warm, buttery, 19th-c. treatment.


Turning Over a New Leaf

Now that that's taken care of, we'll be returning to the bees and related topics of interest. More soon.



Vote Barack


Hockey Mama for Obama


it ain't over till it's over


10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 10

Oh, we're gonna miss this little top 10 list when Lipgloss Lassie hightails it northward where the angry spirits of wronged moose and wolves will, one hopes, seek their revenge.

As bee-boy Thew observed in the first of these posts, this list is just the tip of a very vast (and melty!) iceberg when it comes to reasons to loathe this awful excuse for an American (yes, I am questioning her patriotism—it's not just about ranting and raving, it includes knowing a bit about the country you're so eager to defend).

Soon, we pray, all this idiocy will be behind us and we can then return to bees. In the meantime, check out the collected idiocies right here.


10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 9

Yo, Sarah, here's the dictionary definition of terrorism, cause it seems you're (once again) a little confused:
terrorism |ˈterəˌrizəm|
the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.


Oh My God

People are coming to their senses right and left—or should I say, left and right!

This just in from the friendly folks at Huffpo:

Charles Fried, a professor at Harvard Law School, has long been one of the most important conservative thinkers in the United States. Under President Reagan, he served, with great distinction, as Solicitor General of the United States. Since then, he has been prominently associated with several Republican leaders and candidates, most recently John McCain, for whom he expressed his enthusiastic support in January.

This week, Fried announced that he has voted for Obama-Biden by absentee ballot. In his letter to Trevor Potter, the General Counsel to the McCain-Palin campaign, he asked that his name be removed from the several campaign-related committees on which he serves. In that letter, he said that chief among the reasons for his decision "is the choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis."

And looky here: the Wall Street Journal gives us all the latest on the "flight to quality" on the right. "Obamacans" is what they're calling 'em.

Opie, Andy, & the Fonz...

support Barack. Don't miss this fabulous treat.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Mighty Real

Truth may be stranger than fiction, oh yeah, but this SNL sketch is mighty real.


Conservatives Come Around

Democracy in action: lifelong Republicans/Conservatives speak about why they're voting for Barack Obama.

Acorn: A Reality Check


10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 8

In this latest interview, Palin says the VP is "in charge of the United States Senate"—NOT!!! Jesus Christ, this woman is scary!

Maddow Meditates on Lying


Thank you!

Moose Musings


These People Must Have Holes in Their Heads!

Arty Buzz

Check out this New York Mag piece about Hilary Berseth, an artist who elicits the talents of honeybees to create sculptural objects. (And don't miss the slideshow.)

10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 7

My goodness, I've been so busy donating to the Obama campaign, dispensing cute "Boxers for Barack" pins to everyone we know, putting homemade Obama signs on our window, and gearing up to work the phones on behalf of That One, that I've fallen quite behind on my "Reasons to Loathe" list.

But Palin is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to reasons to loathe, so our little list is back in business.

Here's Uncle Woman cogently explaining how she would trash our precious constitution with her quote "opinion" re one man and one woman or one dead moose and one pregnant teenager or whatever she's received her latest personal instructions from God about, even as—in the same dumb breath—she spouts that "compassionate conservative" nonsense about not "sitting in judgment."

I cannot wait until these horrible hypocrites are roundly trounced in two short weeks.


Colin Powell Picks Obama

I found myself surprisingly moved by this thoughtful, well considered commentary on the two candidates, and the increasingly harmful and extreme positions being taken by the Republican party. Watch and listen:


McCain = 0

In more ways than one, but today in this one particular way: the League of Conservation Voters ranks McCain as a “0” on its newly released 2008 National Environmental Scorecard on congressional eco-votes.

McCain managed to miss every vote of environmental importance in 2008, including: global warming, clean energy tax credits, energy prices, low-income energy assistance, public land protection, and environmental funding.

Guess he was too busy cooking up paranoid theories about “That One” and suspending his suspenders over the economy to get right with the ecosystem (a word I’m sure causes him to roll his Loony Tunes peepers).

Meanwhile, back in the reality-based community, Mother Nature’s patience is wearing thin. If people think the current economic meltdown is kind of a bummer, just wait till the eco-chickens come home to roost.

Barack = Batman?

Something eerily echoey from the Genius Class over at Wonkette.


Bush Shares Some "Thoughts"

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Women for McCain

Yeah, Right


Bush on "Global Warmings"

See more funny videos at Funny or Die


Get to Know McCain

Get to know him.

See also, this.

Hey Sarah Palin

A nifty sing-a-long. Oh, if you become VP, Oh, it's Canada for me!

Palin's Pallin' Around

What McCain's Friends Are Saying...

From the super-scary Make-Believe Maverick article in Rolling Stone:

"John has made a pact with the devil," says Lincoln Chafee, the former GOP senator, who has been appalled at his one-time colleague's readiness to sacrifice principle for power. Chafee and McCain were the only Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts. They locked arms in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And they worked together in the "Gang of 14," which blocked some of Bush's worst judges from the federal bench.

"On all three — sadly, sadly, sadly — McCain has flip-flopped," Chafee says. And forget all the "Country First" sloganeering, he adds. "McCain is putting himself first. He's putting himself first in blinking neon lights."


Uncivilized Oaf

McCain can't bring himself to shake Obama's hand?! Shame on him.

Brigitte Bardot Belittles Barracuda

This just in from Huffpo:

French film legend-turned-activist Brigitte Bardot took a swipe at Sarah Palin on Tuesday, saying the US vice presidential candidate was a disgrace to women.

"I hope you lose these elections because that would be a victory for the world," Bardot wrote in an open letter to Republican John McCain's running mate in the November vote.

"By denying the responsibility of man in global warming, by advocating gun rights and making statements that are disconcertingly stupid, you are a disgrace to women and you alone represent a terrible threat, a true environmental catastrophe," wrote Bardot.

The screen icon from the 1960s, who now heads an animal rights foundation, went on to assail Palin for supporting Arctic oil exploration that could jeopardize delicate animal habitats and for dismissing measures to protect polar bears.

"This shows your total lack of responsibility, your inability to protect or simply respect animal life," Bardot wrote.

In a final salvo against Palin, the 74-year-old ex-star picked up on Palin's depiction of herself as a pitbull wearing lipstick and said she "implored" her not to compare herself to dogs.

"I know them well and I can assure you that no pitbull, no dog, nor any other animal for that matter is as dangerous as you are," Bardot wrote.

I couldn't agree more on all counts...and the phrase "disconcertingly stupid" wins my vote for Palin-related pronouncement of the day.

We'll get back to bees...

As soon as this dang-blasted election is over and Obama nails it and Palin goes back to wherever it is she comes from with her tail between her legs and "Sweet Coconut" McCain goes to prison or whatever for being a big jerk.

In the meantime, I'm doing the "mavericky" thing by focusing on the icky urgency of now. Because yep, you betcha, the outcome of this election has everything to do with the prospects for honeybee survival and anything else worthwhile you might care to name. It's gonna be, to quote Uncle Woman, the "be all, end all."

In the meantime, let's enjoy the ride and try to keep our heads from exploding between now and election day. As an offering toward that end here's my #1 favorite Palin blog-post of the week. The post is written by the witty and wonderful Helen Philpot, who describes herself thusly:

My name is Helen Philpot. I am 82 years old. My grandson taught me how to do this so that I could “blog” with my best friend Margaret Schmechtman who I met in college almost 60 years ago. I have three children with my husband Harold. Margaret has three dogs with her husband Howard. I live in Texas and Margaret lives in Maine.

Check out Helen's blog.


We're Doomed.

As if the economic news weren't cheery enough, here's an update on what we're doing to the other denizens of our world, as reported in an article entitled One in Four Mammals Threatened, Study Finds, which appears in today's New York Times.

A fun-nugget of all the super-cool stuff We Of The Superior Intelligence have wrought:

An “extinction crisis” is under way, with one in four mammals in danger of disappearing because of habitat loss, hunting and climate change, a leading global conservation body warned on Monday.

“Within our lifetime, hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, the director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an international network of campaign groups, governments, scientists and other experts.

She called the findings “a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live.”

Ecosystems in which we, too, live, by the way.

Of course, given all the deregulated chickens (and swine) coming home to roost these days, it should also be noted that 3 in 4 humans (or more) are threatened, too.

And speaking of humans (sort of), whatever will the likes of Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin find to shoot at if all the mammals go belly up, having been "drill, baby, drilled" out of hearth and home?

McCain, Bought and Paid For

Just what we need at a time like this.

McCon Game

Knock Me Over With A Feather

Be all, end all.


Tina Fey Hits the Nail on the Head

"I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers," etc. If only it weren't so real.


10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 6

Caribou Barbie is a shameless liar.


Recent Things

The Palin Method

Courtesy of wonderful Wonkette.

You can put lipstick on a mouthpiece...

but it's still a mouthpiece.

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.


Mooseburger Supermom Preps for Big Debate

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

Additional fun (and horror) along similar lines can be found here, courtesy of Sara Benincasa and her adorable sidekick, Diana Heath-Barr.

McClueless Straw-Grasper

Can someone help me understand why the racist John McCain is so proud to support a bill he thinks is so horrific? First McCain says, "This bill is putting us on the brink of economic disaster." Then he says he's proud he helped to pass it. Sneering moron.

10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 5

We thought George W. Bush had permanently shattered the glass ceiling on arrogant ineptitude, puppetry, and the inability to formulate a coherent thought or sentence—but apparently he was only the opening act.

Caribou Barbie—a living, breathing parody of herself—attains new heights of arrogant ineptitude, puppetry, and blithe stupidity. Indeed, she renders parody obsolete, as you'll see in these twin examples of the house of unfunny mirrors that this election has become.

The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg said it best: "This seems to be a case of incoherence of thought leading to incoherence of syntax."


Sarah Palin is so awful I have to interrupt my own list of reasons to hate Sarah Palin for this!

"In the great history of America," indeed.

10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 4

No comment required.

Homer Simpson Tries to Vote

Fox Can't Count

Check this out, from Scranton, PA. Practically everyone in the (all-white) room raises their hand for Obama and this dumb Fox reporter calls it a "split," and then the people in the room laugh derisively at his "fair and balanced" reporting.
This is what it "all boils down to" indeed!

10 Reasons to Loathe Sarah Palin, Installment 3

The rape kit situation gives us yet another taste of what deep lies inside of Caribou Barbie's soul.
See here and here.


Daddy longlegs in love

At least I think they're in love...