Who could hate a bee and be her enemy? Well, it turns out there are a lot of natural bee enemies. Bees have struggled ever since the beginning of time with pests that want to destroy them from within. Some are old enemies and some are newer.
Varroa Mites started out being a pest to the Asian bee and later moved on to the European honeybee (what we know as honeybees). Varroa mites did not make there way to the United States until 1987 and it didn’t take long for it to rise to the top of the list of bee enemies where it still sits today. The mite sneaks into the bees cell right before it is sealed. While there is feeds off of a bees fat bodies and reproduces under the protective cell cap. If that wasn’t bad enough, as it feeds off off the bee it also introduces other viruses into its body. One of the first visual signs that you have an infestation is the appearance of deformed wings on bees. There are treatments that can reduce the number of mites in a hive, but they can never really be gotten rid of. Treatment for mites can be nasty chemicals too that are not good for bees or humans. At Bee Lovely we treat our bees with a combination of CNG (Certified Natural Grown) treatments. We believe that it is better for the bees and the end products of honey, wax, propolis, and pollen is cleaner as well.
Nosema is a fungal infection that affects the intestinal tract of honeybees, most of the year it is not a big deal but shows up more in winter. Honeybees are extremely clean animals and will not go to the bathroom in the hive. In the winter they will hold it until the weather warms up to above freezing and is sunny. They will then make a quick flight out to finally go. However, nosema is like honeybee disentary and they can’t hold it any longer and relieve themselves in the hive or just outside the entrance. This eventually leads to more bees getting sick and spreading the problem further. One of the treatments for nosema is antibiotics, but we have chosen to use a treatment based on essential oils and plant sterols. Studies have shown that it is just as effective as antibiotics without the long term effects that antibiotics can cause.
Neonicitinoids are a special type of pesticide, it is a seed coating that once the seed it planted it is incorporated in the whole plant, all fluid in the plant then contains pesticide. The trouble is that this is not just used on agricultural seeds but also many decorative plants and vegetables. When CCD was first noticed many concerned beekeepers started looking at the research on the lethal dosage for bees. What they eventually found was that the research was faulty and that the lethal dose for bees is much lower than originally thought. Many other countries have banned the major neonicitinoids and have seen bee populations improve. More research is coming on systemic pesticides as well as others once thought to be safe. We are also seeing that glyphosate and fungicides are causing problems with a bees reproductive capabilities and gut health. Closing thought on pesticides is be very careful with pesticides that you spray in your yard.
Colony Collapse was first discovered in 2006 when beekeepers where noticing their hive populations dwindling over the summer. In most cases bees are relatively healthy in the spring and summer when their populations turns over consistently and they can leave the hive to do their work. The signs of CCD are that the hive has a queen, she is laying eggs and brood is being reared, but the population in the hive just continues to diminish. As mentioned before bees are very clean and when they know they are sick they will leave the hive to die otherwise fellow bees have to remove the body and possibly spread the disease. When a hive is being plagued by CCD the bees leave knowing they are sick, as this continues there are less bees to care for the young ones. The queen then lays less eggs because of the lack of worker bees and the hive continues this till it is dead. To date there is no final decision as to what causes CCD, the closest researchers have come is finding that all infected hives have mites and nosema. The trouble is that bees have been dealing with those for a long time and not seen effects like we are now. Many beekeepers now believe that it is a combination of varroa, nosema, and systemic pesticides. Pesticides might be the straw that broke the camels back and bees can no longer thrive if all three are present.
Unfortunately for bees there are so many outside forces trying to take them down. For us beekeepers we have to stay on top of the latest research on how to treat them and what are the newest enemies on the horizon. Zombie Bees are right around the corner (in case you are wondering; yes, it is real).
We are asked all the time if the bees are doing better? Well that is a loaded question and depends on the overall goal of asking. Is the honeybee populations increasing? Yes. Well there, I am glad we made it through that rough patch. If life were only that easy.
In 2006, when colony collapse was first reported, people became nervous about the health of the honeybee. Since that time many people picked up the mantle to be a beekeeper and bee colonies have since seen an increase in numbers. Does that mean that bees are getting better or there is just more bees?
Bees are still suffering.
Bees are still suffering like they were, in fact the number of honeybee deaths are continuing to increase. So how is it that bee populations are increasing, then? Good question.
Bees are a fantastic animal that can populate quickly. A good queen can produce almost 2000 eggs a day when food supply is plentiful. There is also money to be made from bees, making it financially advantageous to be a beekeeper. Bees can make so much honey that the excess can be sold, pollinations services are needed more now than ever, and other products from a beehive are in high demand. The reason bees are not in a decline is because beekeepers are stepping up to help this amazing little bug and can make money doing what they love.
But what if bees are not so easy to keep, or money can’t be made from them? We can see the effects of that with the Rusty Patch Bumble Bee. The Rusty Patch Bumblebee was once prolific around the Great Lakes Region, but it was placed on the endangered species list last year. It does not make enough honey to sell, you can’t easily domesticate it, and its hive is limited in size because the queen is the only one that survives winter.
Other pollinators are in decline
Other natural pollinators are seeing the same kind of decline in their populations. If it becomes financially insolvent to be a beekeeper, many businesses will give up and decide to let their passion go. If hives continually die, many hobbyists will also throw in the towel. If that happens, we will once again see a huge decline to the bee populations.
What is the simplest way to help the bees? Help the beekeepers. Beekeepers are on the front lines keeping bees alive and healthy, but we need your help to do it. We need you to buy our products, support our business, and spread the word. We need you to let your dandelions bloom and to stop using sprays that harm bees. We need you to plant flowers that are not treated with systemic pesticides, so bees have more forage. We need you to be calm and call a beekeeper when you see a wild swarm dangling from a tree in your front yard.
Bee Lovely Botanicals has an excellent option that allows you to support beekeeping and get a little in return. Our Adopt-A-Hive programs is geared toward giving you the knowledge you need to do your part and the support we need to do ours. With our Adopt-A-Hive program you get to pick between a full share or half share. Each share includes equal amount of product as your investment, a hive manual, an adoption certificate, and hive updates. You can also name the queen with the full share option.
Please join us on Facebook for our 2nd Annual Pollinators Trivia Night. We’ll be giving away an awesome honeybee inspired gift set to person with the most knowledge of honeybees and the fastest typing fingers.
We just got back from Nashville, can you tell? We were vendors at the Country Living Fair and we were so happy to get a little southern sun and warmth while there. We also were blessed to meet so many wonderful vendors and customers. We want to thank all of you that participated in our questionnaire from last month. It definitely was nice to get to know you a little more and gain some valuable information on how to serve you better. Congratulations to Danielle on winning the $50 gift certificate for participation.
I know we make what we do look easy (he he he), but it can surely take a toll on a person’s spirit to always need to be on the cutting edge. We were so very encouraged by our neighbor vendor who had been doing shows for awhile. She gave us to the great advice to follow God’s direction (if this is on our heart then continue, He will provide a way to make it happen).
We know we have a great product, we love beekeeping, and we love the opportunity to serve our customers. However problems always crop up that make doing those things challenging. Computer issues that make running an online store difficult, having all of our bees die over the winter (apparently the US has had a huge bee die off this past year), and finding time to wear all our many hats can be very trying.
This beautiful, sunny day, we are going to clean out our hives. This is probably the saddest beekeeping day of the year, but even more so when you have no surviving hives. We’ve already missed seeing them buzz around the yard when the temperature creeps up in early spring, and our budding dandelions look really bare this year.
While we were in Nashville, we spoke with a bee inspector from Ohio. He said that both Ohio and Tennessee experienced heavy losses this year. We’ve also heard that large commercial operations in Michigan had losses exceeding 75% and that no hives survived in one Michigan county.
It’s discouraging and expensive to have to replace your entire apiary. If a cattle farmer lost all of his cows, if a majority of beef farmers over 3 states lost even half of their herd, people would wonder what was going on. When a beekeeper loses bees, people say you should have put them inside, you should have used antibiotics, you shouldn’t treat at all, you should this and that all day long. The truth is, this is a problem much larger than any individual beekeeper’s methods. Traditional, natural, non-treatment beekeepers all sustained heavy losses.
Bee populations are sustained by beekeepers. We read a recent study that bee populations are rebounding, and CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) is not a problem any more. Looking at the surface of these statistics, the number of beehives in the US may be on the rise, but the true statistic you need to look at is survival rates. If you were to look at the population at the beginning of March this year, my guess is that it would have been very low. In another few weeks, beekeepers will be rebuilding their hives, and the numbers should look a little closer to normal. Should beekeepers stop rebuilding their hives, the true weight of the problem would be realized. Ross Conrad has an excellent 6 part series on the effects of pesticides (especially neonicatinamides) on bees. (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part V,Part VI ). In Part IV Ross explains that honeybees are actually faring better than some of their pollinating counterparts because of the intervention of beekeepers.
This is where our Adopt A Hive Program comes into play. It’s an excellent way to support honey bee populations, while also getting some awesome products and education. Each Adopt A Hive comes with an adoption certificate, hive updates, a Hive Awareness Manual, and products or honey.
It makes a great gift for Mother’s or Father’s Day. You could use the full share option and customize products for your mom, mother-in-law and grandmothers. 1. Finish shopping 2. Save the bees. Check!
Our Adopt a Hive program is also a great way to learn about bees in the classroom. Our full share option includes 4 video hive updates, the kids get to name the queen and we would ‘bee’ delighted to customize gift bags for the classroom. We’ll even bring the field trip to you by bringing the queen bee into the classroom in our observation hive (within reasonable distance).
We currently have 27 hives available for adoption, below you can see how the share program is broken down.
Full Share: Cost: $200. Includes:$200 worth of products (you can get all honey, all skincare products, or mix of both), 4 hive updates through the season, A Hive Awareness Manual, you get to name the queen, a personalized adoption certificate, and a fully customized honey tag if you choose to get honey.
Half Share: Cost:$100. $100 worth of products (honey or products), 3 hive updates throughout the season, A Hive Awareness Manual, adoption certificate, a customized honey label, and you are in a drawing with another half share to have the opportunity to name the queen.
Quarter Share: Cost is $50, with that you get $50 worth of products (honey or products), 2 hive updates throughout the season, Hive Awareness Manual, and an adoption certificate.
These options are already pre-populated with some of our best sellers, but just contact us if you would like to fully customize your box.
Let us know if you have any questions. We’d be happy to discuss custom options with you.
Not all bees are created the same. In this post I will address the differences occurring in the honeybee caste system.
If you are signed up for our newsletters, you know that we have been discussing what goes on in a hive. I try to hit the major points of the caste system without getting lost in the weeds, which happens to me often when talking about bees. The blog, however, allows me a little more room to go into detail about bees, their behavior, and why they’re is so interesting. So without further adieu:
In this first article I will be explaining the caste system of bees. It seems that the political realm has not affected the bees yet, so they are okay with fact that they are not all the same. In the bee caste system, there are three designations: queen, drone, and worker. Each with its own job and is specifically designed to perform it to near perfection.
The queen gets the bulk of attention. When we take an observation hive to shows, everybody’s first question is, “Where’s the queen?” She definitely is important to the hive and her characteristics are always under scrutiny by any good beekeeper. All bees receive royal jelly, but queens get such an abundance of it that their ovaries and spermatheca (sperm storage organ) become fully developed.
The queen, being fully developed, goes on mating flights and will become an egg laying machine until the day she dies a natural death or the workers feel there is a need to replace her. The queen will lay up to 1500 eggs a day during the peak of honey season.
She directs the temperament of the hive by the pheromones she produces and also the genetics she carries, since she is the mother of the hive. Under normal working conditions there is only one queen per hive, but sometimes during replacement or possible swarm you might find two.
The Worker Bee
The worker bees in a beehive are all females. They do all the work of the hive: cleaning, nursing young bees, defense, wax production, and lastly foraging and sweating down honey. The workers also determine where honey is stored, how many eggs should be laid, when to replace a queen, when to swarm, and a whole bevy of other things. During peak season there could be up to 60,000-70,000 workers in a hive. Workers will live only 6-8 weeks during the summer. They work themselves to death during the honey making season. The bees will hopefully survive through the cold winter months to be replaced in spring.
Drones get the worst press of any type of bee. They are the males of the hive, and their main job in life is to mate with the queen. They also play a role in regulating hive temperature.
Drones come from unfertilized eggs. They only have one set of genes and are sometimes referred to as flying gametes. Drones are much bigger than workers and often mistakenly thought of as the hive’s defense, but they have no stinger to defend with, they really only have one job.
Unmated or poorly mated Queens only lay drones, which causes the hive to eventually dwindle and die. Since they only have the one job and since queens don’t mate in winter, the drones get kicked out during fall so they do not consume precious hive resources. Only a small percentage of males get to complete their one and only task. Oh and by the way, after the drone completes his job he dies in the air by getting his penis ripped off!!! Not as much fun as it originally sounded, is it?
“Just sit right here, Butch, and the bees won’t bother you.” I’d heard this story before. As my father continues the tale, I imagine my great grandfather, looking somewhat like the old man from the Mountain Dew bottle, leaping in the air and being chased by a cloud of angry bees. “And sit right there I did. Grampa was right, the bees didn’t bother me at all. He ran right past me and the bees chased him all the way down the path, but I didn’t get stung once,” Dad concludes.
This was my first exposure to beekeeping, and never did I imagine myself to be a homesteading, homeschooling mama with a beekeeping business. The only way that I can expain it is that God is good, and sometimes He sneaks up on
In 2007, while I was pregnant with my second son, we found a swarm of bees living in a hollowed out maple tree. The entrance to the hive was near the ground and Jaden (my oldest) and I would sit and watch the bees return with their baskets full of colorful pollen. Later that fall, I read many, many beekeeping books while nursing the baby. The more I learned about bees, the more intrigued I became. The following spring we started a great adventure with our first package of bees.
During the next year, my husband, Joshua, was laid off when the local high school cut the ag program he taught. We also found out we would be welcoming a third son into our family. This was just the nudge we needed to turn our beekeeping hobby into a sideline business.
I spent many delightfully frustrating hours developing our brand, revising labels and product formulations, and coming up with eye catching displays. While I worked at this, my husband, a biologist with experience in wildlife and agriculture, delved into natural hive treatments, integrated pest management techniques, bee genetics, and efficient home remedies for bee stings. Our boys fostered a natural interest in pleasing aesthetics and the scientific process by watching us and helping us work through these things over time. As our boys continued to grow and mature, our business did, too. A clear brand emerged, and our natural beekeeping practices became sound and successful. Soon, we were able to identify our niche. The boys learned this intuitively from speaking with customers at farmers markets. Recognizing our niche helped us to not only identify potential customers, but helped us pin point where to sell and advertise. Being able to choose profitable venues and advertisements increased our sales and helped our bee business continue to grow and expand.
Throughout the last few years, the boys have worked alongside us in the bee yard. They suffered the occasional sting for the privilege of doing what Mom and Dad were doing (and a small smackeral of honey now and then). On the days when the whole family wasn’t going to the farmers market, they debated who should get to wake up at 4:30 AM to go with Dad. Neighboring vendors supposed the boy that got to go had drawn the short straw, it was actually just the opposite. They’re so excited and enthusiastic to share what our family has worked on. They’ve set up our booth, packed up products, and lugged display pieces bigger than they are. Our customers are always impressed with the boys’ maturity, their work ethic, and their knowledge of honeybees and our products. Work ethic, maturity, and business knowledge weren’t purposefully taught to our boys, but they were inferred through the many interactions we share working together.
I don’t think we ever would have dreamed this path for our family. It’s definitely full of mistakes and challenges, but we are so grateful to God for leading us on this adventure. He provides for our family in such interesting and rewarding ways, and blesses us with the opportunity to spend time working, and playing together.