Any Word on Honeybee Insurance? April 12th, 2009

It seems so long ago that the Obama Administration put forth their proposal for the 2009 Economic Stimulus Plan. The final copy is available to print and read, but nobody is talking about specifics. They generally point out how tax cuts are the primary focus of the revised bill 0r how the whole thing is “too little too late.”

However, it is nearly impossible to find any further information about the $150 million for honeybee insurance. We already know that the insurance only bailed out livestock farmers and maybe some beekeepers and that no money would go towards scientific research, but was it included in the final bill at all? No one has written about this since mid-February.

The Ongoing Stimulus Mystery April 12th, 2009

A little investigative journalism goes a long way. It turns out that the Honeybee Insurance disaster program never even really existed. No wonder it was so hard to find anything about this in the bills or the press. Mysteriously, this harshly criticized element of the stimulus bill never appeared in the House version of the bill nor the Senate version nor the appropriate Senate Appropriations Committee Report of 2009 (It’s supposed to detail the disaster program on pg. 102. See for yourself).

Curiously, the 2008 Senate Appropriations Committee Report did mention the risks and dangers of the CCD problem and how it was spreading.

American Colonies’ Scientists and Professors Get Published April 12th, 2009

Two of the interviewees featured in American Colonies: Collapse of the Bee were recently published in the April 2009 issue of Scientific American magazine. Dr. Diana Cox-Foster of Penn State University and Apiarist Dennis vanEngelsdorp wrote a joint article entitled Saving the Honeybee, which explains the entire issue of Colony Collapse Disorder and features other people in the film such as Migratory Beekeeper Dave Hackenberg. Check out the story on pg. 40 to get up to speed before seeing the film (now in the trenches of post-production).

Notes on Propolis April 12th, 2009

Okay, we know what honey and beeswax are used for. It is mostly common knowledge. However, propolis remains a mystery to many laypersons. Propolis (also known as bee glue or bee putty) is a natural resin that bees collect and fashion from tree buds, sap flows, conifer and poplar trees and other botanicals. It can be extremely sticky or brittle depending on temperature. Until the 20th century, it was believed that honeybees used the propolis as a means of sealing up their hive. That is only partly true. It is also used to prevent pests and intruders from entering the hive, reduce vibration and reinforce the hive’s structure.
Actually, humans have their own uses for propolis. Egyptians applied it for the mummification process. The Greeks and Assyrians used it to treat wounds. It is a valuable sealant in dentistry. Some studies show that it can fight against herpes simplex 1 and 2. And, you will find that propolis is an ingredient in many of our common products such as skin creams, lozenges and chewing gum.

Keeping Count April 12th, 2009

Just when you think that you can close the book on honeybees, another dimension of intrigue arises. New research and experiments now show that honeybees (and possibly other pollinators) can count.

Well, perhaps the term “counting” isn’t quite apt. Actually, bees can distinguish patterns. They can tell the difference between two and three and four and can remember landmarks in order to reach a destination or food location. After a fourth element is introduced, the bees tend to get confused.

Previous experiments have shown that birds, primates, dolphins, raccoons and salamanders have some kind of numerical ability as well. However, we must remember that the size of a honeybee brain is no bigger than a period.

Interestingly, past research shows that humans have trouble remembering more than four things at a time as well.

Cocaine For Bees?? April 12th, 2009

It is more than possible that in today’s economic crisis, many cokeheads are thinking harder about spending cash on their addiction. Meanwhile, honeybees are getting this expensive drug for free.

Recently, a behavioral researcher and neuroscientist named Andrew Barron has been experimenting with cocaine and honeybees at Australia’s Macquarie University. Barron is attempting to better understand addiction in human brains by using bees that have been given a cocaine solution. Using the bee brains as basic models for the molecular activity associated with addiction, Barron has found drugged bees are not unlike drugged humans.

For example, the infamous bee dance used for communication within a hive gets a boost in both enthusiasm and frequency.

Based on information printed in Science Illustrated March/April 2009

Cloning America Part III April 12th, 2009

Cloning America Part III

American cloning can also be found in the vital arena of big agriculture – a keystone industry that is often overseen by pigeonholed demographics. In his article, “Breadbasket of Democracy,” author Ted Nace describes the Red River Valley of North Dakota as “football-on-Friday-night country, where Clear Channel Radio sets the tone, and patriotic themes blend smoothly with corporate ones. Broad and pancake-flat, with topsoil measured in feet rather than inches, it possesses some of the most prized agricultural land in America” (Nace 53).

Read the rest of this entry »

Cloning America Part II April 12th, 2009

Reproduced below is part II of an essay that sheds some light on current agricultural issues that no doubt affect the bees. Part III will appear later.

Cloning America: Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Rewrite History Part II

“Approved by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors in May 2000, NH 2020 was intended as a community-based, participatory effort to respond to the perceived risk of ‘losing the natural and scenic qualities that distinguish [Nevada County] from other more urbanized regions of the state and country. In a country dominated demographically and economically by exurban immigrants who came for just these qualities, NH 2020 might have been expected to raise little controversy” (Walker and Fortmann 470). Read the rest of this entry »

Cloning America Essay Part I April 12th, 2009

Reproduced below is an essay that sheds some light on current agricultural issues that no doubt affect the bees. It will be split into parts and provided throughout the week.

Cloning America: Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Rewrite History

It has long been a warning amongst the scientific community that when anything is cloned, it loses something. To reproduce an identical copy of an already imperfect being guarantees an impurity — a mutation. This lesson is hardly limited to technological advancement and procedure. It applies to the far more abstract realm of history, culture and geographical identity quite nicely. After all, each one mentioned is a dynamic, living phenomenon. Read the rest of this entry »

Eccentric Beekeepers April 12th, 2009

Beekeepers, as some of you out there may already know, are enigmatic, eccentric and often times, brilliant people.

First of all, what brings a person to this sort of occupation unless they inherit it or have some lifelong passion about the insects themselves? It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure. This breed is endlessly intriguing. They not only regulate the existence of one of the world’s most elusive suppliers, but they do so with great personal risk and sincerity.

One beekeeper featured in American Colonies: Collapse of the Bee, Steven L. Antal, is a particularly fascinating character living in Dunedin, Florida. He keeps bees, sells honey to a local brewery, does house infestation calls, keeps his tolerance up by getting stung 30-50 times a week, and in his spare time, he conducts experiments in his homemade lab as a chemist/scientist.

One consistent part of his experiments involves removing cadmium from electronic equipment and then harnessing gold from the remaining elements. Currently, there are thousands of dollars in gold shavings sitting in a jar in his kitchen — not a bad thing to have lying around during these tough socioeconomic times.