Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bees In An Iron Cage? Part I-- Introduction

On November 4th at 7:30 pm, I will be giving a presentation entitled "Bees in an Iron Cage?: The Formal Rationalization of 20th Century American Apiculture" at the Stark Auditorium at Winona State University. The presentation is part of Winona State's CLASP lecture series which has as its theme this year, Food. I will be collecting my thoughts for this lecture and writing my notes right here on my blog: Canaries In A Coal Mine.

About two years ago, the news media reported a mysterious "new" disease that was attacking and killing thousands of managed bee hives throughout the United States. Labeled Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the disease exhibited the following symptoms:

1. "Complete absence of adult bees in colonies, with little or no build-up of dead bees in or around the colonies.

2. [The]Presence of capped brood in colonies. Bees normally will not abandon a hive until the capped brood have all hatched.

3. [The]Presence of food stores, both honey and bee pollen:

i. which are not immediately robbed by other bees

ii. which when attacked by hive pests such as wax moth and small hive beetle, the attack is noticeably delayed." Wikipedia

As many in the beekeeping and entomology community can tell you, this is not the first time these symptoms have occurred nor are they the first major threat to the honey bee population. Over the last few decades, honey bee health has been threatened by other pathogens including both tracheal mites and, in the late 1980s, the varroa mite.

Scientific research into the causes of CCD have discovered multiple factors connected to the outbreak, including: nutritional deficiencies in bees, new and emerging diseases (e.g.Nosema ceranae), the continuing infestation of varroa mites and its associated disorders, pesticide poisoning originating both inside and outside the hive, and a lack of genetic diversity in the honey bee population. (CCD Steering Committee 2007)

As an environmental sociologist, I agree with social ecologist, Murray Bookchin "... that nearly all [of] our present ecological problems arise from deep-seated social problems. " The biophysical factors connected to Colony Collapse Disorder, and the general decline of honey bee health over the last few decades have their foundation in human social structures that conflict with the biophysical needs of other living creatures. The aim of this presentation is to briefly examine one such structural process (formal rationalization) and its possible effects on honey bee health. In doing this, I clearly recognize the limitations of this presentation. First, I do not claim rationalization to be the chief social factor behind the decline of honey bee health. In other places, I have pointed to the possible effects of globalization, agri-business practices and techniques and the structure of the subfield of beekeeping within the larger field of modern agriculture. Secondly, I do not claim that all rationalization of apiculture has been bad to bee health, nor do I claim to be an expert in bee management. Lastly, I do not claim any original insights here. Much of what I will speak of tonight will be painfully recognizable to anyone familiar with the factory farming of other creatures humans find useful and profitable to manage.

My presentation will begin with a brief discussion of the term rationalization and its use in sociology. I will then turn to a short history of the rationalization of apiculture in the United States over the last 160 years. After this, I will give a few examples of ways that rationalized techniques of bee management may conflict with the biophysical needs of honey bees. Lastly, I will describe some of the anti-rationalization movements emerging in the beekeeping world today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The First Cold Snap

The last two days have brought a change in our weather here in Winona, from warm and dry to cold, wet and windy. This was a sign that I need to begin winter preparations in Beelandia. This afternoon, after work, I will be bringing all the plants that can't survive our southeast Minnesota winter. Monta will be measuring the top bar hives in preparation for making "quilt" boxes for each this weekend. I have the hive wrap already for attachment this coming weekend. I will transfering all the fish out of Lake No-Bee-Gone and into their winter quarters this weekend as well.

I now await our first frost tonight!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bottom Boards Back on Top Bar Hives

I took a half hour or so and reattached the bottom boards to the two top bar hives this morning. Plan Bee... was fully cooperative which is unusual. Metpropolis was not (which was also unusual). I wanted to tidy up Beelandia a little. We might have some visitors today.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Video: Monta's Mead A-Brewing

My partner, Monta, uses some of the honey produced in Beelandia to brew mead. This video shows three batches started on Labor Day bubbling away.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Feeding and Feeding

The bees in Beelandia did not have much honey stored two weeks ago, so I've been feeding the bees sugar syrup, hoping they'll store enough for winter. They have a ravenous appetite right now, consuming a gallon or so of 2:1 syrup a day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Playing Blog Catch-Up

With the semester beginning and me having for "preps", it's been difficult to keep up with the blog like I's like. I have a few minutes this morning, so here are a few highlights of Beelandia the last week or so.

  • Last week, I found the queen in Metpropolis. Either the hive swarmed or there was a supercedure because there seems to be a gap in the "brood cycle". This is fine as long as the colony can produce enough bees to survive the winter. In fact, it may be positive, if it has disrupted the mites' lifecycle as well.
  • Yesterday, I worked on Plan Bee... and Bee Glad... I moved frames (or bars) around so that the eventual winter cluster will be able to move up more easy. I am a bit concerned with the relative lack of stored honey, so I started to feed both hives with medicated (Fumigillin-B) 2:1 sugar syrup. I would rather not medicate at all but wintering bees in my area is hard without it.
  • I took a mite count last week and, even with the large population of bees in the hives, few mites dropped onto the sticky sheet. I dusted the hives with powdered sugar yesterday.
  • I had a number of visitors drop by to see Beelandia this week. Beelandia is turning into a short stop on the "eco-tourism" bus tour.
  • Today I will manipulate the rest of the hive. I need to return to the supermarket and get some more sugar however.