The varroa destructor mite is a parasite that can take down entire bee colonies by spreading diseases and sucking the bees’ hemolymph (blood-like fluid). Because they play such a large part in colony collapse disorder, scientists all over the world are searching for ways to combat these parasites. There are pesticides that work against them, but they aren’t very good for the bees, either. No new chemical treatments have been registered in over 20 years.
Now, an accidental discovery in Germany may point the way to a new weapon in beekeepers’ fight against the varroa mite.
While attempting to replicate results from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s work with RNA interference, German scientists stumbled on a new possibility. In their experiments, they found that mites feeding on bees who were fed a lethal strain of RNA died quickly, just as the Israeli experiment showed. But in the German lab, they found that the mites in their control group, which were fed a harmless form of RNA, died just as quickly. Through rigorous testing, they determined that it was lithium chloride, which was used in producing the RNA and therefore was in the sugar solution, that was killing the mites.
Naturally, the German scientists launched into a new series of tests, this time using lithium chloride. They found that feeding bees incredibly tiny amounts of the lithium salt over a one-to-three-day period killed 90%-100% of varroa mites, without causing appreciable harm to the bee population. Of course, more tests are necessary, particularly in looking for lithium residue in the honey of a treated hive, but lithium chloride has promise as a cost-effective, easily available, easily applied, safe, and effective means of protecting bees from a dangerous parasite.
At Hummer and Son, we do all we can to take good care of our bees so we can bring you the very best Louisiana raw honey and other bee products. To learn more, contact us.
In Puerto Rico, scientists have found our best lead so far on rebuilding the bee population. The restrictions on the use of pesticides and planting of more bee-friendly ground are helping, but there is still the varroa mite to contend with. Could mixing so-called killer bees with gentle honeybees make them stronger?
About 400 years ago, European settlers brought their bees to the Americas. In North America, there wasn’t much difference, but in the South American tropical climate, the European bees became weak and fell prey to diseases and parasites. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that is the exact issue honeybees are facing now. And then, as now, scientists looked to new genetics to help bees survive.
In the 1950s, an African bee species was bred with tropical bees in Brazil. The result was very strong, healthy bees that were incredibly aggressive. The beekeepers intended to selectively breed down the aggression over several generations, but before that was accomplished, several swarms escaped their quarantine and bred with wild honeybees. This produced what most people heard about on the news as “Africanized honeybees” or simply “killer bees”.
But in Puerto Rico, there was a different result. A small colony made its way to the island and mixed with the European bees there, taking over with a new queen. However, they didn’t stay aggressive. Over a span of 30 years, without any intervention from humans, the “killer bees” became gentle toward humans, but still strong and healthy. Not only that, but the Puerto Rican bees are strong enough to fight off the nasty varroa mite. Researchers are hopeful that understanding the genome of these gentle “killer bees” could help them breed for stronger bees worldwide.
Hummer and Son proudly offers premium Louisiana honey and bee products. For more information about our bees, contact us today!
Looking for some pampering amidst all the holiday stress? Look no further than your kitchen! Take a little break from the rush of the season to indulge in a mini spa day with these treatments that are good enough to eat.
Let’s start with a nice, exfoliating body scrub. Mix about half a cup of brown sugar with a similar amount of honey to make a pasty consistency. Use in the shower or a bath with a cup of milk added to the water. After you’ve scrubbed away the dry skin, you can soak in the milk and honey infusion for an extra softening treat. Bonus: honey and sugar dissolve, so there’s no residue left in the tub!
Next, treat your hair to some deep conditioning. Mix half a cup of honey with ¼ cup olive oil (use half that amount if your hair is oily) and work through your hair thoroughly from roots to ends. Cover with a shower cap for about 30 minutes, and then shampoo and condition as usual.
And for your face, mix 2 teaspoons honey with 2 teaspoons greek yogurt. Apply to face and neck, let dry for about 20 minutes, and rinse well. Alternatively, combine 2 tablespoons honey with 2 teaspoons turmeric and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Apply and let sit for 15-20 minutes, then rinse well and wash your face as usual. Be careful, this one can stain!
At Hummer and Son, we’re proud to offer you premium Louisiana honey
Imported Genetics May Help Bees Adapt
Bees all over the world are still fighting colony collapse. Between pesticides, varroa mites, and dwindling food supplies, they’re dealing with a rapidly changing environment. But American scientists have a new idea that may help our bees adapt to these changes.
America stopped importing honeybees in the 1920s, which means the gene pool has become limited in the last century. Yes, honeybees are inbred. This wasn’t a huge problem until the varroa mite arrived stateside in the late 1980s, but then the mite ravaged the bee population. Since all the bees have the same weaknesses, entire hives can fall to a single disease or pest. Anti-mite pesticides are just about all most beekeepers have to protect their hives, and although they are useful for killing mites, they aren’t too healthy for the bees themselves. Surely there’s a better way.
In the interest of genetic diversity, scientists and beekeepers alike have begun crossbreeding domestic bees with their European and Asian counterparts. Researchers are inseminating American queen bees with genetic material collected from foreign drones, while individual beekeepers are adding foreign queens to their hives. The hope is that a wider gene pool will increase the rate of new traits, and possibly a natural resistance to varroa mites and other diseases. If nothing else, broader genetic variation should help to make sure at least some members of any afflicted colony survive.
Hummer and Son Honey proudly offers the highest quality Louisiana raw honey and other bee products. To learn more about us or our bees, contact us!
Bee Talk with Maddie Moate
Bees are amazing, complex, endlessly interesting creatures. There’s always something new to learn about them, from why they swarm to how they get their jobs within the hive. If you can’t tour a bee farm yourself, or if all that buzzing just makes you a bit nervous, never fear!
Say hello to Maddie Moate. She’s a British TV presenter with a YouTube channel devoted to explaining science and nature in kid-friendly – but never patronizing – terms. She has videos on all sorts of topics, and best of all, Maddie has a whole series all about bees!
Would you like to see how honey is harvested? Follow Maddie and her mother as they take frames from their hives to jars.
Have you ever wondered what the inside of a beehive looks like? The Moate ladies open up a hive and walk us through all the pieces.
Maybe you’d like to know just how bees make honey? Maddie is happy to explain, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
And what do bees do in the winter? Maddie’s mum explains how the bees prepare for and spend the winter months. Plus, there’s a bit of bonus information on hedgehogs at the end
From why bees are so good at math to how to lure and trap them, Maddie’s series on beekeeping answers just about every question you’ve ever wanted to ask about bees, all in easy language and engaging, fun videos.
At Hummer and Son Honey, we love our bees, and we’d love to tell you about them! Along with our premium Louisiana honey, we also offer other bee-based products. For more information, or if you happen to have a question Maddie doesn’t answer, contact us!
The bees are still working hard as summer winds down, and as we try to squeeze in a few last cookouts and outdoor parties, let’s celebrate National Honey Month!
If you’re partying or cooking out, why not incorporate some honey into your recipes? Start with a Honey-Ginger Soda, try Spice-Crusted Salmon with Orange-Honey Glaze and Honey Citrus Glazed Carrots, and finish with No-Bake Chocolate Brownies. The National Honey Board has lots of ideas for honey-drizzled dishes, from breakfasts to desserts.
Another idea to support your local bees is to provide some attractive plants for them. When the wildflowers begin to get scarce, potted or garden plants are a good source of food for bees. You can find a list of bee-friendly plants here and here. Of course, be sure to keep them free of chemical pesticides that could sicken the bees or affect the colony.
If you have a farmer’s market nearby, you can probably find many different varieties of local honey. The foraging area, local plants, and individual bee colony will all have effects on the flavor, just like wines are affected by region and growing conditions. Get several small jars from different bee keepers, grab some friends, and have a honey tasting party! Try each flavor alone, in tea, or on toast or biscuits.
Hummer and Son proudly offers the highest-quality Louisana raw honey and other bee products. We love to talk about our bees and what they do, so to learn more, contact us today.
Raw honey will naturally crystallize with time. This is fine, and it doesn’t mean the honey is spoiled or unsafe to eat. It will still spread on toast or drop into tea by the spoonful, if you can get it out of the jar. But if you prefer your honey liquid, or have a crystallized squeeze bottle, this can be fixed.
A quick Internet search may tell you to microwave your honey or place the jar in very hot water. These methods may work, but if you made a point to buy raw honey with all its enzymes and beneficial compounds intact, you don’t want to lose those benefits when you liquefy it. Microwaves can melt plastic, and too much heat can affect the honey’s taste and nutrition.
So what can you do? Take your time and treat your honey gently. Putting the jar in hot water is the right thing to do, but be careful not to heat it too much. To preserve the flavor, color, and nutritional content of your honey, you need to keep it right about 100 degrees. Honey doesn’t conduct heat well, though, so it may take quite a while at that temperature to dissolve all the crystals. A good plan is to fill a bowl or pot with water that would make a comfortable bath, place the jar in the water, and be prepared to replace the water frequently for a few hours. Stir the honey every so often to help distribute the heat. Practice a little patience, and then enjoy your golden, liquid honey!
At Hummer and Son, we proudly offer premium Louisiana honey and other bee products. Contact us to learn more!
Scientists continue to study the decline of bees and the phenomenon known as colony collapse. Recently, a few more pieces of the puzzle have begun to fit together. NPR reports on two field studies that shed light on just how pesticides called neonicotinoids are affecting bee populations.
The first study, conducted at 33 sites in the EU, tracked bee populations placed near fields of canola. Some of the fields had been treated with neonicotinoids as seeds, and others were treated with a combination of neonicotinoids and fungicides, or fungicides alone. In general, the scientists found that exposure to neonicotinoids caused problems for both wild bees and honeybee colonies, from decreased reproduction to colonies failing to survive the winter. However, bees studied in Germany thrived, with or without neonicotinoids. These bees could find a wider variety of flowers to feed on, so that the neonicotinoid-treated plants were a smaller percentage of their intake, and they were also comparatively free of parasites, leading the team to conclude that variety of food sources, local environment, and general health of the bee population all play into the effect of neonicotinoids.
The second study, from Canada, compared bee colonies closer to neonicotinoid sources to those farther away. This team found some troubling evidence regarding the use of these pesticides. First, they found that the pesticide was measurable in the harvested pollen for months, even though neonicotinoids are used only on seeds. Next, they found that most of the contaminated pollen came from untreated wild plants, not industrial crops. The scientists concluded that some neonicotinoids get into the groundwater, and then taken up by untreated plants. When the pesticide exposure was replicated in the lab, the team found that exposed bees don’t keep their hives as clean and tend to lose their queens more often, which usually results in the death of the colony.
Both these studies, taken together, are helping scientists form a better picture of how we can protect the bees that are so crucial to our food supply. As more research is done, the puzzle pieces begin to fit together.
Hummer and Son Honey is proud to offer the finest Louisiana honey and other bee products. To learn about us or our bees, contact us.
Bees Help Us
Everyone knows that humans depend on bees for honey and for pollinating our crops, but bees help us in more ways that you might not know about.
After honey and pollination, the first thing many people think of when they think of bees is their sting. Unpleasant for both the person and the bee (who dies after losing her stinger), certainly, but bee stings have some benefits, as well. Some studies have found that bee venom can help with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis by increasing the body’s natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Other research suggests that a specific toxin, mellitin, can kill HIV while leaving other cells unaffected, opening new paths for treatment and prevention.
Bees’ hives may also offer new medicinal possibilities. Bees build their hives using a resin called propolis as a sort of glue. Scientists have found that propolis helps to relieve a number of human ailments including cold sores, eczema, sore throat, and even cavities.
Understanding bee behavior helps humans fight crime, believe it or not. Bees forage for pollen near the hive, but not so close that predators might find their home. Serial killers work in much the same way, committing crimes close to home, but not so close that the neighbors suspect anything. Algorithms derived from bees help to improve computer models used to find killers.
We at Hummer and Son love our bees and all the great things they do for us. We proudly offer premium Louisiana honey and other bee products. To learn more about us or our bees, contact us.
People don’t typically think of bees as being very intelligent. Look at the way we use terms like “hive mind” or “drone” – hardly complimentary to bees. But there’s much more to our apian friends. Read on for a few facts that might change your mind about bee brains.
You probably know that bees are designated as workers, drones, scouts, soldiers, or queens. But many bees will do a number of jobs in its lifetime, and every time they take on a new job, their brain chemistry changes. Imagine if your brain changed every time you got a new job!
Not only that, but when an older bee takes on a job that is normally done by younger members of the hive, their brain stops aging. Actually, it begins to age in reverse. Scientists are hopeful that this could help us understand and treat dementia in humans.
Science has shown that bees are anything but mindless drones. Studies have found distinct personality traits among bees, from thrill-seeking to timidity to agitation. One study even suggested that some bees were pessimistic. Does that mean bees have feelings? They just might.
Bees might even be better at math than you are. Researchers point to the “travelling salesman problem”, which requires determining the shortest route to travel while making a number of stops. Even some computers are flummoxed by this problem, but bees routinely fly the shortest distance between flowers. No other animals are known to have solved this problem.
At Hummer and Son Honey, we love our brainy bees and we’re proud to share their premium Louisiana honey and other products with you. To learn more about us or our bees, contact us.