Nope. Beekeeping ain't just for country folk.

Did you that know that bees kept in the city often times thrive beyond their rural counterparts? The abundance of flowers and plants and less farm pesticide usage create a healthier source of pollen. Our blue collar bees are proudly cared for in Flint, Michigan.

Yes, bees are cool but...

Did you know that the value of bees pollinating fruits, vegetables and legumes is approximately ten times the value of honey produced? Of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world's food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.

Johnny loves honey bees!

It's true. I have a day job, but write for you and watch after bees for fun. I hope that passion comes through.

Think you're busy? Try being a honey bee.

Did you know that approximately 2 million flowers must be visited, and about 55,000 miles flown, in order to make a single pound of honey?

Nature's perfect food?

If any food item could be in the running for that title, honey would certainly be at the top. When Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine" he must have been thinking about honey.

Aug 17, 2012

Calling All Beekeepers!

Phew! I've been a pretty busy dude lately, hence the lack of new posts. Dare I say, as busy as a bee? Despite a stretch of drought here in good ol' Flint, Michigan, the hives have been faring pretty well. I had a good Summer harvest, and people snatched it right up! Nothing beats the taste of pure, raw honey!

So, enough about me. I know that people from all corners of the globe read the stuff on this website. I request of you, fellow beekeepers, tell me about your beekeeping season. Photos would be great too. Has the weather impacted your honey bees? How is the market for your product where you live? Any great new tips or tricks?

I'd like to include your input in an upcoming post. Not everyone wants to maintain a website, so let me get your voice out there.

Drop me a line at bluecollarbees (at) gmail.com and make sure you include your name and location.

Jun 20, 2012

A Fun Way To Learn About The Life Of A Worker Bee: Starring Isabella Rossellini (VIDEO)

Johnny Mason, June 20, 2012:

Remember the somewhat…alright, very weird video I posted a while back with Isabella Rossellini teaching you about bee sex? Well, she’s back with a new video (in cooperation with Burt’s Bees) about the life of worker bees in the hive. It’s a tad less odd, but even more informative and fun to watch. Check it out and pass it on to increase the awareness about our favorite honey making, pollinating pals!



BONUS: Here’s another great short about the mighty queen bee herself and the continuing saga of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). You check out more at the homepage for the Burt’s Bees initiative, Wild For Bees.

Apr 24, 2012

Sticking Some Bare Hands Into A Bee Swarm To Relocate Them (Video)

Johnny Mason, April 24, 2012: 

It’s almost swarm season! Actually, due to the odd weather this year, swarming has already begun in various areas of the United States. I know it has here in Flint, Michigan.

Are you curious what a swarm of honey bees actually looks like? Are they dangerous? The guys over at Town & Country’s Honey Bee Removal shot this video showing how gentle a new swarm of bees really is as they remove it from the branch of a tree.

When a swarm is new, they are gorged on honey, generally confused and disoriented, and only on a mission to find a new place to live. The lack of brood (eggs) to protect also lends to more docile behavior. A cluster like the one in the video will generally move on within a few days to find more suitable digs. Once they've been in the same location for more than three days, they may be a little crankier, but only because they may have decided to stay where they are, and now they will be protecting their new home.

 In the video, Daniel plays the role of the uninitiated public who thinks the bees will apparently murder him or something. But, as the cameraman says, “It’s fun!”

 

Apr 18, 2012

Micro RNA Dictates Worker Bee Roles In The Colony

Johnny Mason, April 18, 2012:

You may or may not know that as a honey bee ages, its role in the colony changes. Generally, after a few days free of the brood comb, a newborn worker bee will go straight to work as a nurse bee, feeding the next generation of larvae and secreting beeswax to seal open cells, and also attend to the queen. I want to see your three day old do that!

After a week or so, the worker will move on to things such as ventilation of the nest, packing pollen in cells, grooming other members of the colony and other tasks as needed. It’s not until toward the end of her own life will a worker venture out to become a forager and start collecting nectar and pollen to bring back to the hive.

This is all fascinating stuff, but how/why do they do it? Yehuda Ben-Shahar, PhD, an assistant professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis wondered that also. He pondered whether or not this behavior was under some sort of genetic control. In his research, it turns out that this division of labor is directly tied the presence of tiny snippets of noncoding RNA (micro RNAs or miRNAs) that suppress the expression of genes in the brains of honey bees.

For example, a forager bee has higher levels of these micro RNAs in their brains than a nurse bee that stays with the colony and tends to the brood. Ben Shahar says that Micro-RNAs are also known to regulate development and disease processes such as cancer.

“We wondered if they weren’t playing a role in regulating social behaviors,” he says, “because recent studies have implicated them in complex nervous-system functions such as neurodevelopment, psychiatric disease, and circadian clocks.”

Apr 12, 2012

At Last. Destroying Varroa Destructor?

Johnny Mason, April 12, 2012:

Ooooooh, could we finally have some good news in the battle against honey bee parasite #1, varroa destructor? Scottish scientists have just made a breakthrough that could prove invaluable in getting rid  of the little blood suckers.

Yesterday, the researchers from Aberdeen University and the National Bee Unit (part of the Food and Environment Research Agency), revealed that they have figured out how to “knock down” genes in varroa destructor, actually killing it by turning the parasite’s natural defenses on itself. So far, all of this promising research has only taken place in a controlled lab setting, but the team has just been awarded £250,000 (around $399,000) in funding to develop a product to help beekeepers worldwide in effectively eliminating varroa destructor populations. The money has been provided by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Vita (Europe) Ltd.

Dr. Alan Bowman who is leading the research states that, “There is an urgent need to develop a varroa-specific, environmentally friendly treatment or some method of overcoming the varroa’s resistance mechanism to existing treatments and that’s what we are now working towards.”

Let’s all hope that whatever treatment they develop gets rid of varroa, but is still safe for the bees and their honey supply.

Apr 5, 2012

Sign The Petition To Ban The Use Of Neonicotinoids To Prevent Further Honey Bee Decline

Johnny Mason, April 5, 2012:

If you've been paying attention to the news lately, you have probably heard or seen the mounting evidence that directly links the decline of the honey bee population to the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on crops. The use of these chemicals must be stopped! People must realize that honey bees do far more for our world than just provide us with honey to eat. Much of our food supply, entire industries, a huge chunk of our economy can all be directly or indirectly to what the bees do. As people that know about honey bees, it is our duty to educate and inform.

A petition has been started that will be submitted to Lisa P Jackson, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency and to Barack Obama, President of the United States. It's true that petitions to demand the banning of these substances have been started before and have quickly stalled. There needs to be a single, driven, focused effort. Let this petition be the one that goes all the way!

If you are a beekeeper, share this with everyone you know. If you care about bees or the environment, share this with everyone you know. If you enjoy eating apples, onions, okra, strawberries, watermelon, lemons, limes, cherries, cauliflower, etc, share this with everyone you know. If you just like looking at pretty flowers, share this with everyone you know. Spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, other websites and blogs, make fliers...whatever you can think of!

It may be a challenge, and you may think that we may not be heard. Heck, I have as little faith in government as most seem to nowadays. But, I can absolutely promise you that we will not be heard if we don't do something. Sign this petition. Let's get one less honey bee killer out the United States.

Apr 3, 2012

What The Hex? A Better Beehive?

Johnny Mason, April 3, 2012:

Just like mousetraps, it seems everyone is also looking to build a better beehive. There have been many, many variations over the years and one of the latest contenders to come down the shoot is called a Hex Hive.

Created by beekeeper Randy Sue Collins, the Hex Hive is an option for those who like to take a more “natural” approach to beekeeping. Built in the shape of a hexagon (hence, Hex) the inside somewhat emulates the inside of a log and features rough cut cedar to encourage propolis creation. I know a lot of beeks think that propolis is a pain in the you-know-what. But, if you keep in mind what the actual function of propolis is, this is a good thing as it promotes a healthier environment for the bees, and fights off various sources of infection. We all like healthy bees, don’t we?

It’s interesting to note the use of the nine frames in this design. The five center frames can be removed and switched around as may be expected, but the four tapered outer frames are actually affixed inside to hold comb. It’s noted that these can be removed if needed. Kind of cool, but I haven’t actually been able to test the management of this hive in the real world, because I don’t have one *cough cough* :).

The bottom of the hive is screened for integrated pest management, each super has its own entrance hole, and the pointed top is covered in copper.

From an esthetic point of view, I really like the look of the Hex Hive, as it kind of looks like a swanky rocket. First class all the way, baby! I bet they would even serve in-flight meals in this sucker!

This is just another example of why beekeepers rule! The thought and innovation that people put into taking care of their honey bees is amazing. Some work better than others, but as long as people are trying, that’s what counts in the end. If you’d like to dive into a Hex Hive, hit Randy Sue up at her website. Go ahead and tell her that Mason’s Blue Collar Bees sent you. I’m not sure that it’ll do you any good, but it’ll make you feel like you’re one of the cool kids.

Mar 29, 2012

Another Amazing Honey Bee Skill: They're Good At Creating Art.

Johnny Mason, March 29, 2012:

Come on! Who says honey bees don't have any taste in art? Nobody? Well, apparently they do, and they are active in the art community.

Canadian artist, Aganetha Dyck has "chosen to collaborate with the honey bees for the past 14 years". She continues to say, "My research has included the bee's use of sound, sight, scent, vibration, and dance. I am studying the bee's use of the earth's magnetic fields as well as their use of the pheromones (chemicals) they produce to communicate with one another, with other species and possibly with the foliage they pollinate." Her collaboration with honey bees (in the form of "beework") is mainly a fusion of naturally formed comb on figurines and other three dimensional objects. Due to a short window of active bee-ness in the summertime, Dyck says that a piece can take years to complete. Now, that's dedication.

It's interesting to note that Aganetha Dyck is not a beekeeper, but began her work due solely to her fascination with the architecture that bees create.

All of us honey bee lovers have known for a while that they are pretty special creatures that do a lot for our world. I guess we can add "artist" to the the list. I wonder if they wear tiny berets.

Check out the video below to see Dyck discuss her art, her experimentation with beeswax, and the bees at work in an art museum installation. A quick Google search for Aganetha Dyck will bring up some more of her impressive imagery.

Mar 27, 2012

The Weirdest Video About Bee Sex I Have Seen

Johnny Mason, March 27, 2012:

Stumbled across this one a couple of days ago and it is just what the title of this post says. This is clearly the oddest/most entertaining video that I have seen on honey bee sex. I think the fact that it stars Isabella Rossellini makes it even more of a joy to watch, but you can't help but feel bad for the "drone" at the end. Enjoy.

BTW: The words "penis" and "vagina" are used, so I guess keep your surroundings in mind when watching if that's a concern to you.

Mar 24, 2012

For New-Bees: Painting The Queen Bee. What? Why?

Johnny Mason, March 24, 2012:

Have you ever seen or heard about a queen bee with a bright color painted on her thorax? Well, if the person who did it knew what they were doing, that paint color was most likely not selected at random. Believe it or not, there exists an International Color Code for marking your queens. Yes, international...as in beekeepers all over the world. Why? So that you can find her easier majesty in a crowded hive, keep track of her age, or see if your original queen has maybe been superseded. Beekeepers will sometimes even code the frames (using colored thumbtacks or other means) in a Langstroth hive to keep a visual of when they were introduced, and get rid of old wax that has been in there every few years or so.

A queen is really only expected to live for a couple of years, so the color code cycles through every five years. Here’s how it works:

  • Years ending in 0 or 5 are blue.
  • Years ending in 1 or 6 are white.
  • Years ending in 2 or 7 are yellow.
  • Years ending in 3 or 8 are red.
  • Years ending in 4 or 9 are green.

Queen honey bees can be purchased already marked, or you can (carefully) do it yourself using one of those model car paint pens or a 1/16 dowel lightly dipped in paint. Make sure that the paint has dried before allowing her back into the colony. A queen plunger, available from most beekeeper suppliers, makes the job easier to do, and decreases the chances of you injuring or crushing the queen. That would be bad. Very bad.

So, now you know. And knowing is growing. ;)

Mar 22, 2012

Thousands Of Honey Bees Shack Up In Man's Car

Johnny Mason, March 22, 2012:

What would you do if you walked out to your car to go get some breakfast, and found that thousands of bees have decided that your car was the perfect spot to land their swarm? Well, if you're not a beekeeper, call one! If you are a beek....YAY! FREE BEES!!! Check out the video below to see how these men in Washington handled things.

What's the oddest or most difficult place that you have found a swarm of honey bees? Let me know in the comments.

Mar 21, 2012

Honey For Diabetes, Part 2. Things To Read.

Johnny Mason, March 21, 2012:

Recently, a post from this site called "Can Diabetics Eat Honey? Yes, They Can, And They Should!" appeared over at Reddit. Since then, a few people have expressed concern that it was just misinformation that could lead to harmful effects for diabetics. One of them being a fourth year medical student. I assured them that I didn't just throw a bunch of stuff on the website haphazardly, and would post some resources that have been written by people that have done medical research on the topic of using honey for diabetics. As I mentioned in the original post, if you are a diabetic, you should discuss it with your doctor.

Some additional items: 

  • I come from a family of diabetics, including my mother, so I wish no harm on diabetics (or anyone, for that matter). I am not suggesting that a diabetic should discontinue any medications without speaking to their physician first. Honey for use with diabetes should not be seen as a cure for the disease.
  • I am not dismissing doctors or their advice. I have taken and do take prescription meds at times. I have a doctor that I have seen for years, and he has provided some good care for me in the past. If my appendix explodes, or I break my leg, the first person I want to see is someone with MD or DO after their name. Rest assured, I will not be slathering honey on myself hoping for a miracle.
  • The use of honey mentioned in the original post was in small doses, not a cup or two which would most likely be detrimental. I'm not diabetic myself, and wouldn't even eat that much at one time!
  • More research is always being done and breakthroughs are being made, even on things that seem like a no-brainer now. You know, there was a time when physicians didn't even wash their hands between surgeries?
  • The only thing that is clear here is that there is no 100% agreement on this issue. There is certainly a "medical" train of thought that will be quick to scoff or ridicule some natural treatments, especially in the west. The same is also true for "holistic" people that will speak swiftly to dismiss chemical treatments for illnesses. Traditional medical research done on various topics often disagree with each other and this leads to more discoveries being made. So, as always, I welcome your comments, but please be kind and respectful to anyone that may enter the conversation.
So, here are a few things to read. There are much more, but you can do some research on your own. Take care!

The Honey Revolution. Written by Dr. Ron Fessenden, MD, MPH. There is an entire section on honey for diabetes. Dr. Fessenden spent three years fully researching and writing about the health benefits of honey before writing his book.

The Use of Honey in Diabetes Mellitus: Is It Beneficial or Detrimental? Erejuwa OO. International Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2012. "In conclusion, the explanations and evidence in this commentary indicate that the use of honey in the treatment of diabetes mellitus is not detrimental, but beneficial, provided that genuine and natural honey is administered at appropriate therapeutic doses."

Effects of natural honey consumption in diabetic patients: an 8-week randomized clinical trial. Bahrami, et al. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. November 2009, Vol. 60, No. 7 , Pages 618-626. "The results of this study demonstrate that 8-week consumption of honey can provide beneficial effects on body weight and blood lipids of diabetic patients. However, since an increase in the hemoglobin A1C levels was observed, cautious consumption of this food by diabetic patients is recommended."

Glycemic Response And Glycemic Index Of Bangladeshi Honey In Type II Diabetic Patients. MD, Ibrahim Khalil et al. Malaysian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol. 4, No. 1, 13–19 (2006). "Honey produced less postprandial hyperglycemia than glucose and sucrose in normal volunteers and NIDDM patients. Our findings showed that Bangladeshi honey could be beneficial as sugar substitute for type 2 diabetic patients."

Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose. Al-Waili NS. Journal of Mediciinal Food. 2004 Spring;7(1):100-7. "Honey compared with dextrose and sucrose caused lower elevation of PGL in diabetics."

Intrapulmonary administration of natural honey solution, hyperosmolar dextrose or hypoosmolar distill water to normal individuals and to patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus or hypertension: their effects on blood glucose level, plasma insulin and C-peptide, blood pressure and peaked expiratory flow rate. Al-Waili NS. European Journal of Medical Research. 2003 Jul 31;8(7):295-303. "The results demonstrated that honey inhalation was safe and effective in reducing blood glucose level, in normal and diabetic subjects, it could improve glucose tolerance test, elevate plasma insulin and C-peptide and PEFR, and reduce elevated blood pressure in hypertensive patients."

Honey and Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. Abduhlrhman, et al. Pediatric Department, Faculty of Medicine, Ain Shams University. "Honey has a lower glycemic and peak incremental indices compared to glucose and sucrose in both type 1 diabetic patients and non-diabetics. Therefore, we recommend using honey as a sugar substitute in type 1 diabetic patients. In spite of its significantly lower glycemic and peak incremental indices, honey caused significant post- prandial rise of plasma C-peptide levels when compared to glucose and sucrose in non-diabetics; indicating that honey may have a direct stimulatory effect on the healthy beta cells of pancreas. On the other hand, C-peptide levels were not significantly elevated after honey ingestion when compared with either glucose or sucrose in type 1 diabetic patients. Whether or not ingestion of honey in larger doses or/and for an extended period of time would have a significant positive effect on the diseased beta cells, needs further studies."