What's the Buzz?

  (Miami, Florida)
A Honey of a Blog
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Hey EPA, Bees Can't Wait 5 More Years! Protect Them NOW!

[Reprinted from Pesticide Action Network's Online Blog, courtesy of Paul Towers]

Inaction? Intransigence? Negligence? Whatever the right word, we’re reminded that the U.S. is behind the curve when it comes to protecting bees. Yesterday, Europe’s restrictions on bee-harming pesticides went into effect.

Today, in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and six other major papers, PAN and over 60 food, farm, faith and investor groups are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action. Quickly.

While Thanksgiving has passed, there are still many things to be thankful for. Among them, let’s count the bees. They pollinate much of our food, including the cranberries and pumpkin on so many Thanksgiving tables last week. In fact, we rely on bees for about a third of our food.

But these noble pollinators continue to be in trouble. Beekeepers in the U.S. have been losing, on average, over 30% of their bees each year since 2006 — twice what is considered sustainable. And commercial beekeepers, whose bees pollinate California almonds, lost over 50% of their colonies last year. Some even reported historic losses of 70% or more.

This is unsustainable, not only for beekeepers but for our food system and the agricultural economy.

EPA, get in gear

EPA has stated that it’s at least five years away from doing anything to protect bees from pesticides known to be harmful. First, the agency needs to complete its review of neonicotinoids — a relatively new and widely used class of systemic pesticides. This review isn't due to conclude until 2018.

Scientists point to neonicotinoids as a catalyst driving bee declines. While acutely toxic to bees (meaning, it kills them), studies have shown neonics also compromise bee immune systems and make them more susceptible to a wide range of other impacts like poor nutrition, mites and diseases.

Still, until EPA completes its (very slow) review of neonic products, the agency will not take action to adequately protect bees from this known threat.

Beekeepers say they — and bees — can’t wait for the agency's glacial pace. Federal officials have tried to appease beekeeper concerns with aimless conferences and reports, along with changes to pesticide product labels that yield no additional protections for bees. But decisive action, not token action, is urgently needed.

As beekeeper Jim Doan of New York said:

“Beekeepers are losing colonies at an unprecedented rate — the losses are too extreme to keep up with, and our entire industry is at risk of collapse unless federal action is taken.  Convening conferences and changing pesticide labels is not nearly enough.”

The ad urging EPA action is in today's New York Times, and also in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post,PoliticoMinneapolis Star Tribune, the Des Moines Register and the Los Angeles Times.

States in action

Since EPA has failed to step up in a timely way, states across the country are taking up the issue of protecting bees. In New York and New Jersey, legislative leaders have already introduced bills that would ban or track neonicotinoid pesticides.

And last week we were offered another glimmer of hope as Oregon regulators announced they are planning to restrict the use of neonicotinoids used on trees — and linked to a recent massive bee kill in that state.

While state action is helpful, bees need more comprehensive and uniform protections across the country. EPA should see states in action as a signal that the agency needs to step up. And quickly.


 
 

Peppermint Honey Feet Treat

Peppermint Honey Feet Treat

Peppermint Honey Feet Treat

Rinse mint leaves and place on a paper towel to dry. Grind mint using coffee grinder (or by hand using mortar and pestle). Set aside. Melt beeswax using a small double boiler. In a microwave safe glass bowl combine aloe vera and honey, mix well. Stir in beeswax. Let cool. Add mint and oils stirring until completely mixed. Apply after bath or shower to entire feet and toes. Store remaining ... [read full recipe below]

YIELD: 2 TREATMENTS

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp. - aloe vera gel
  • 4 tsp. - grated beeswax
  • 2 tsp. - honey
  • 2 tsp. - fresh mint, optional
  • 6 drops - peppermint essential oil
  • 2 drops - arnica oil
  • 2 drops - camphor oil
  • 2 drops - eucalyptus oil

Directions

Rinse mint leaves and place on a paper towel to dry. Grind mint using coffee grinder (or by hand using mortar and pestle). Set aside. Melt beeswax using a small double boiler. In a microwave safe glass bowl combine aloe vera and honey, mix well. Stir in beeswax. Let cool. Add mint and oils stirring until completely mixed. Apply after bath or shower to entire feet and toes. Store remaining feet treat in covered in cool place away from sun or heat.

TIP

Benefits: Aids in circulation of overworked feet. Moisturizes and softens while it soothes and restores tired aching feet.

Note: We'd like to thank the National Honey Board for this recipe. 

 
 

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

They always say necessity is the mother of invention. (Who's the father?) 

This rang true this weekend when we were at a harvest fair in Miami and ran out of our Key Lime Sublime honey. We're really big into all natural honeys....unfiltered, raw, just out of the hive and into the bottle.

However, when a shop asked us several months ago to develop a flavored honey for them with a Key Lime twist, we complied, and the results were so splendid that we allowed it into our product line. Still raw pure honey, of course, with just a smidgeon of an all natural flavor combo to give it a perky zip. Our usual base honey for this is Orange Blossom. Which we had sold out of.

Anyway, so here we are in the midst of madness, the crowd buying like crazy, and sold out we are, by lunchtime.

What to do?

Well, Rolf was bottling up extras for us at home, Tropical Wildflower and the like, and we also had some Butterbee Pancake Honey he was going to bottle up. When he arrived with a grin on his face, he had something new to share....

...He had taken the Butterbee Pancake Honey and Key Lime-d that!! Ohmygosh, it was delicious, and I've been sipping it ever since. The pancake honey is my name for a runny honey fresh from Key Largo. The hives are right off of Card Sound Road, not far from Alabama Jack's. Anyway, the Dogwood and Black Mangrove nectars make a very thin, runny honey with a specific unique flavor. Paired with the Key Lime...well, now we have Key Lime Pancake Honey, and so.....I can't wait for breakfast....

 
 

It's Snowing Pollen!

As I was standing beneath my Brazilian Pepper, admiring the flowers that had burst into bloom, I noticed what looked like snow flurries. Highly unlikely, here in Miami! I continued to observe, and what I found was this....

My honeybees were so busy sipping nectar from the blossoms, that each time they moved to another flower, some pollen would be dislodged and float gently down, like so many snowflakes.

A beautiful sight! 

 
 

When We Mead Again

Once again I have an order for a bunch of honey from an aspiring mead-maker. The thought of mead always brings with it the image of medieval England, knights in shining armor, and large joints of meat. I'm not sure why! Mead is kind of a honey wine, although if you include hops in the recipe it will taste more like beer.

I've only had it once, and it left something to be desired....but I continue ever hopeful. Whenever I sell honey to someone for mead making, I do request a sample, but this seldom comes to pass...

The earliest records of mead production date back to about 7000 BC. Pottery vessels containing the beverage were found in Northern China.

The Hindus make mention of it in their hymns in about 1700 BC.

Both Aristotle and Pliny the Elder mention it as being the preferred drink of ancient Greece. 

And for a "don't try this at home" recipe, consider the following from Spanish-Roman naturalist Columella, AD 60:

"Take rainwater kept for several years and mix a sextarius of this water with a pound of honey. For a weaker mead, mix a sextarius of water in nine ounces of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire."

Sounds simply yummy, doesn't it? Bottoms up!

 

 
 

Save the Bees Downloadable Honeybee Toolkit

 This morning I received an email with an important article and link to a downloadable Save the Honeybees Toolkit. Thought you might be interested. We need your help!!!! If you like to eat, then saving the bees matters to you!!! Here's the article, and here's the link:

http://www.honeybeehavens.com/content/honey-bee-toolkit?utm_source=action&utm_medium=alert&utm_content=HBH&utm_campaign=toolkit 

 

Create a bee haven. Talk to neighbors. Spread the word.

Bees are in trouble. In the U.S., they’ve been dying off at alarming rates since 2006 and beekeepers continue to report staggering annual losses.

Toolkit: Bee the Change

Bee the Change: Tips & Tools for Protecting BeesDownload this toolkit for simple tips and actions to help protect bees from harmful pesticides and keep the pressure on policymakers. Download here»

While policymakers remain resolutely stuck — and have yet to take swift action to address theknown causes of bee die-offs — home gardeners, backyard beekeepers and concerned individuals across the country have been stepping up to protect our favorite pollinators.

This groundswell of support for bees is inspiring and important, but we need to keep building momentum — and we need to press for policy change.

Download the toolkit for simple tips and actions to help protect bees from harmful pesticides and keep the pressure on policymakers.

Whether you create a safe haven in your yard, write a letter to the editor, or chat with your neighbors about the importance of protecting pollinators, your actions will make a difference.

 
 

National Honeybee Awareness Day

Did you know that this Saturday, August 18th is National Honeybee Awareness Day? Plant some flowers and hug a bee....

OR....check out this link:

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-simple-ways-to-help-honeybees.html 

 
 

Celebrity Bees

We got a call last week from a producer at Univision, asking if they could come out for a visit with our honeybees. And so, on Thursday the crew arrived. We spent 3 hours shooting and demonstrating what we like to do best. First, I would like to thank Ian of Gardens of Ian for handling the hot, heavy work of lighting that smoker and getting into the bees. We went through a couple of hives, and the cameraman got great footage of the girls in action on the honeycombs. Then Ian took out one super of honey, and we brought that back to the patio. Plugged in our electric knife, uncapped the combs, and extracted 40 lbs. of Tropical Wildflower (which, by the way, was delicious!)

After that, we went on to affiliated activities.....We rolled up some honeycomb candles and then I made them some honey cinnamon oatmeal soap. And a good time was had by all.

This is going to be edited into a two minute feature on a cooking show, which is supposed to air in two weeks. I'll keep you posted when I get more detailed information about when and where the segment will air...

 
 

Bottling Honey for Fairchild's Food & Garden Festival This Weekend!

A busy day today....I'm bottling up lots of honey and making soap for the Food & Garden Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden this weekend. It's the first time I've been a vendor there, although I attend events there all the time because I'm a member. So I'm busily labeling jars, shrink wrapping soap, and getting all kinds of handouts and literature ready for sharing.

Also, on Saturday morning at 11:30 AM I'll be doing an event for kids. It'll be a short version of my "What's the Buzz?" program. We'll be tasting honey and making honeycomb candles, which is always fun.

So come see me! It's Saturday and Sunday, April 14-15, 2012, from 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM.  Address: 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables FL  33156.

See you there! 

 
 

Zombie Bees/ Parasitic Fly Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder

Zombie Bees? Sounds like an idea for next year's Halloween costume! So now, in addition to worrying about toxic flowers and pollen caused by systemic pesticides, we have another culprit to add to the mix.

Apparently, there is a parasitic fly, known as the phorid fly, or apocephalus borealis, which lays its eggs in the bees abdomen, causing the bees to exhibit "zombie like" beehavior, and destroys their sense of direction. It also causes deformed wings, another symptom of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Not to be gloom-and-doom oriented, truly I am an optimist by nature. However, all of this information helps to give us an understanding of the widespread group of challenges experienced by today's honeybee.

To see the whole article, go to: http://www.capitalpress.com/content/AP-colony-collapse-010412 

 
 

Honeybee Problem Nearing Critical Mass

 As we all know, our honeybees are having a terrible time, and while there are many factors to consider, the one that is most critical is the use of systemic pesticides. Systemic basically means that the active insect killing agent is within the plant itself. Therefore the flowers and the pollen are toxic to the bees. 

Here's an excerpt of a great article that you should totally check out:

Of particular concern is a group of pesticides, chemically similar to nicotine, called neonicotinoids (neonics for short), and one in particular called clothianidin. Instead of being sprayed, neonics are used to treat seeds, so that they’re absorbed by the plant’s vascular system, and then end up attacking the central nervous systems of bees that come to collect pollen. Virtually all of today’s genetically engineered Bt corn is treated with neonics. The chemical industry alleges that bees don’t like to collect corn pollen, but new research shows that not only do bees indeed forage in corn, but they also have multiple other routes of exposure to neonics.

Here's the link to the rest of the article:

 http://grist.org/food/2012-01-13-honey-bees-problem-nearing-a-critical-point/

Let me know what you think! 

 
 

Bees in the Jam Garden

A local reporter came out here on Monday to learn about bees and honey. She's a freelance food writer for the New TImes, and also hosts her own blog, called the Jam Garden. She did a great job, and posted some video and great audio as well. And so, to find out more than you ever knew you didn't know about bees, check it out:

http://thejamgarden.squarespace.com/food/2012/1/12/in-depth-article-the-buzz-on-honey-bees.html 

 
 

Lifehacker Covers Local Honey and Why You Should Buy It!

 This just in from my alert son-in-law, who is about to become the father of twins. It's a reprint from "Lifehacker" about why local honey is important. I couldn't have said it better myself!!

You'll see that they mention Local Harvest at the bottom of the article. Yay!

Buy Local Honey to Make Sure You’re Really Getting Honey, and Support Local Beekeepers

A report by Food Safety News earlier this week claims that the majority of the honey available in most grocery and department stores in the United States doesn't legally meet the definition of "honey." It's been "ultra-filtered," in order to produce a super-clear product that won't crystallize. In the process, the honey loses any and all pollen, which is required to trace the honey to its origins in case of contamination and may have health benefits. Here's how to find the good stuff.

This week's report by Food Safety News sampled honey at grocery stores around the country, and found most of it has been filtered to the point where it has no pollen at all. The World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) all state that in order for a product to be called honey, there has to be some pollen content. The industry group that represents honey manufacturers and importers, the National Honey Board, says this is misleading, and says they're just doing what their customers want. Food Safety Watch disagrees, and says removing all of the pollen from honey removes any way to test for its geographic origins, doesn't improve shelf-life, negates the possible health benefits of pollen, and is actually being used to cover up the import ofunregulated and often contaminated honey from China through another country like India and finally into the US. In fact, in the EU, pollen must be listed as an ingredient on bottles of honey so consumers know what they're getting. The FDA, on the other hand, hasn't responded to the allegations, and doesn't currently inspect honey for pollen content.

The best way to deal with the controversy is to avoid it altogether. Real honey, sometimes marketed as "raw honey," is closer than you think. Natural food stores and farmers markets are far more likely to stock honey where the pollen has not been filtered out. They also tend to carry local honey, harvested by apiaries in your community that could use the support. Local Harvest, who we've mentioned can help you find a CSA, also can help you find an apiary or beekeeper in your area that sells their own honey. The closer to home you buy your honey, the better off you'll be until the honey-laundering matter is settled.

 
 

Boiling Bees

Checked the bees....took the covers off all thirteen hives simultaneously. Not just a basic look/see, but a major breaking down and removing supers of honey, then removing the queen excluders and going right down into the bottom deep supers and looking at the community in action. Always an amazing experience!

Even after smoking them thoroughly, the bees were a big agitated. Several got caught in the folds of my bee suit, panicked, and stung me right through the fabric. My arm looks like I have bodybuilder biceps.....I don't usually swell up like that....oh well...bee venom is good for me!

It was such a surreal sight to see bees by the thousands, boiling over the tops of their hives, all of them at the same time. They were pouring out so quickly they really looked like liquid flowing. Smooth and overflowing. It was gorgeous, in a science fiction sort of way.  

 

 
 

Sigh of Relief

Well, we're breathing a sigh of relief here in Florida, as Irene pushes farther out to sea. There's not much you can do with your beehives when a storm threatens. I've got 13 hives out in the backyard, and my beekeeping partner-in-crime, Steve, has 700 throughout the state. Think about trying to tie those down!!!! When the hives are full of honey, they're nice and heavy and will mostly stay put....although a few will topple over, but they won't blow away.

However, we just harvested, and our hives are as light as could be. Glad they'll be out of harms way......

 
 
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