Category Archives: Beekeeping in the media

Posts about media articles regarding beekeeping

Insect stings and the Schmidt “Pain Scale for Stinging Insects”

A number of years ago I met a honey bee researcher from the Tuscon USDA Bee Lab named Dr. Justin Schmidt. Sometime later I read about his Pain Scale for Stinging Insects. Not too surprising, since one of his research interests was Africanized Honey Bees. These bees are known for their stinging, as I discovered first hand in Africa in August.

While boarding a plane in France for the last leg of my a flight to Africa, I picked up a copy of the International New York Times. What was on the front page but this article about Justin, titled The Connoisseur of Pain, about his first hand experiences with stinging insects. Was someone trying to tell me something? After returning home last week I was forwarded the following link to the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Guess who was on the show? And Justin has a new book out, which is mentioned in the video clip.  Check out all three links – interesting, entertaining, and educational. Science is fun, though research can be painful. I prefer to stick to honey bee stings. They are fairly low on the pain index.

Some recent media reports involving honey bees

In the last ten years beekeepers in the U.S., and many other countries, have faced severe problems and challenges. The causes of these difficulties are complex, not easily explained, and still not totally understood. Mainstream media, with their need to attract an audience with short articles, and sound bites, often fail to get the story quite right. Below you will find links to several non-science media pieces that I think that will be informative for beekeepers, and those just interested in honey bees, and more accurate than many others that I have read. However, the writers still have a hard time getting the story completely right. For example, in one of these articles you will see a quote from a bee scientist that the symptoms of the recent unexplained colony loss that came to be called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), have not been observed for several years. I have also attached a link to a National Public Radio interview, in which interviewer, who presumably had read the before mentioned quote, speaks of CCD as an ongoing observation. Most popular media depict honey bees as being on the verge of extinction, while national surveys indicate that the total number of managed colonies in the U.S. have actually been increasing in recent years. Part of the problem that the writers face, as mentioned before, is that the facts are complex, and not easily explained in a few words. However, it seems that the ultimate goal of popular media is to offer a picture of coming disaster, which while making a good story, is not an accurate understanding of what is really going on. While getting all of the facts into the story may not be easy, it is necessary to give an accurate one. Continue reading

When NOT to destroy a feral honey bee colony!

This was forwarded to me this morning.

Woman lights power pole on fire to get rid of beehive

VALLEJO, Calif. (United Press International) — Authorities in California said a 68-year-old woman was taken for a mental evaluation after she allegedly lit a power pole on fire to get rid of a beehive.

A Vallejo Fire Department spokesman said the woman used lighter fluid to ignite the power pole about a block from her Vallejo home. However, he said there were no reports of stings and the flames were quickly extinguished.

Police officers were apprehensive about exiting their vehicles to take the woman into custody.

“She thought they were killer bees,” a police lieutenant said. “The officers didn’t even stop. The bees were everywhere.”

(Since putting this up, have received a note from a beekeeper friend  – see comments -who said that Vallejo was pretty far north in California (” …close to Oakland and San. Francisco area..” and so more likely not Africanized Honey Bees).

Shortage of Hives for California Almond Pollination in 2013

Every year since 2006 when Colony Collapse Disorder was officially recognized, there has been speculation in the national media that there would not be enough honey bees to pollinate agricultural crops in the United States. Each year the ominous predictions have failed to come true. This year, though, it appears that it may really be happening – at least in the California almond groves. Migratory beekeepers have been busy moving their hives to California for the last month and the word is that, this year, there truly is a shortage of bees.

If you are not familiar with the California almond/beekeeping/honey bee connection, it truly has a fascinating history. Almonds are native to Asia, but have been grown in the Middle East for thousands of years. Brought to California from Spain in the 1700s, they were part of the early farming of Franciscan missions. By 2000, the almond groves of California’s Great Valley had grown to a half a million acres. Each acre of almonds requires two hives of honey bees for pollination; a little math will tell you that in 2000, a million hives were required. Today however, there are 800,000 acres of almond trees, producing 80% of the world’s supply. They will need 1.6 million hives of honey bees, with 1.1 million of them coming from outside of California! Continue reading

Recent beekeeping articles in the media – April 4, 2012

Bees and beekeeping have made the headlines in several newspaper articles recently. Below are links and some brief information about the articles. A more complete listing of beekeeping in the media can be found on this webpage. I encourage beekeepers to send me links to media articles concerning beekeeping so that I can let others know about them.

On Saturday, April 21st, at 8:00pm, Kentucky Educational Television  (KET), will feature Louisville beekeepers Lorie and Ted Jacobs in an episode of Kentucky Life. You can read more about the episode in a recent article in the Louisville Courier Journal.

Former State Apiarist Phil Craft, was the subject of an article in the Jessamine Journal . The article discusses beekeeping and Phil’s recent activities, including his participation in five regional beekeeping schools at which he was a speaker (not host, as the article erroneously stated).

Several publications discussed the recent confirmation of Africanized bees in Tennessee. This discovery was the subject of a recent post on this webpage. Links to three of these publications can be found there.

Kentucky Department of Agriculture  Commissioner James Comer continues to invite controversy with his handling of the state apiarist position as reported in a Lexington Herald Leader article this week.


Africanized honey bees identified in Tennessee Beekeeper’s hive

Tennessee State Apiarist Mike Studer has announced that honey bees in a hive belonging to an East Tennessee beekeeper have been positively identified as containing Africanized genetics. The hive belonged to a hobby beekeeper in Monroe County, Tennessee, which is located southwest of Knoxville. The hive has been “de-populated”, meaning that the bees in it have been destroyed. The subject of African/European hybridization in honey bees is extremely complex, and the details are rarely understood or reported clearly by the news media. These bees were described as being 17% Africanized honey bees (AHB), which I presume means that 17% of the genetics which vary from species to species in honey bees are of those of Africanized bees. The media articles quoted Studer as saying that bees are not considered Africanized unless they are 50% AHB. However, in my opinion, bees that are 17% are a cause for real concern. The only bees in Kentucky ever identified as having any Africanized genetics had Continue reading

The story: New honey bee parasite discovered

I’ve been receiving emails from beekeepers asking about media reports concerning a fly that is attacking honey bees. These media reports are the result of recently published research from San Francisco State University. This research actually began in 2008 when  Biology Professor John Hafernik  picked up some dead honey bees from underneath lights outside his biology building at San Francisco State. He wasn’t really interested in the bees; he was just looking for some food for a praying mantis that he had found on a recent field trip. (Praying mantises, as you probably know, are carnivorous and feed on a variety of insects.) He left the dead bees sealed in a small bottle in his lab, and was surprised a few days later to find fly pupae along with the dead bees. These pupae were identified as Apocephalus borealis, a species of parasitic fly that commonly lays its eggs inside an insect host – usually bumble bees. This finding was the beginning of a trail that would lead to the discovery of a new honey bee parasite. Continue reading