2016 was a year for the bees. Honey bees were in recovery. Colony collapse hadn’t been reported in five years and (in Canada, at least) there were record numbers of kept hives – there were more bees than anytime in history.
That doesn’t mean all is well with the world. Native (‘wild’) bee species have been suffering from chemical exposure, climate change, and continued habitat loss. Their numbers are likely going down. Kept honey bees fared better because beekeepers do all they can to care for their little friends, feeding and protecting them.
Honey prices were low during the past year. I think prices will continue to trend low in 2017. I predict that some beekeepers will leave the business. We’ll see if that sad prophecy comes true.
I wrote a lot in 2016 – 141 bee blog posts. That was about 110,000 words, or the equivalent of a full-length book. (And it’s all free – isn’t the internet wonderful?) In order of popularity, blogs with the most views this year were Why Vegans are Wrong, Bees Do Do-Do, Saving Honey, The Honey Threshers, The Price of Honey, The Man Who Made Killer Bees, and Cuba’s Organic Honey.
With this blog, I’ve had a chance to look at a lot of bee science and news over the past 12 months. Here are some of my favourite 2016 bee stories:
A century ago, threshing crews worked their away across the American and Canadian prairies, harvesting farmers’ grains. When I was rather young (not quite a century ago) one of my Saskatchewan buddies signed up for a threshing crew job. Maurice … Continue reading
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has suggested that anyone who sells or grows genetically modified foods on his turf should face a few years farming in Siberia. He has proclaimed Russia will be GMO-free and he’d like to see his farmers raise … Continue reading
Some aggressive honey bees were raised to be mean. Some bees, it seems, grow up on the wrong side of the honeycomb. Or, as one experiment shows, in the wrong sort of hive. Illinois and Pennsylvania researchers conducted a brilliant … Continue reading
A bee brain is bigger in the summer, when there are more things to learn, experience, and think about. It shrinks in the winter, which must be a blessing because bees spend weeks on end doing nothing – an active … Continue reading
February is almond pollination month in California. A couple of nights ago, the CBC aired a story about almonds, water, and bees. They try to cover everyone involved – the consumer who loves the heart-friendly food, the almond grower who … Continue reading
In our continuing series on Oscar-winning beekeepers… Leo says keeping bees reduces stress during the annual awards cycle. Funny, I find it helps me the exact same way. Similarly, beekeeping seems to be a preferred pasttime for Scarlett Johansson, Morgan … Continue reading
My last two blog posts (Alberta is Beekeeping and Canada’s Hive Beetles) were unseemly braggadocious pitches. I wrote about how great beekeeping is on Canada’s western prairies. Alberta, Canada, has not had CCD, but instead has increasing numbers of kept … Continue reading
General Mills is sending Buzz the Bee, their cheerful Honey Nut Cheerios spokesbug, on vacation. Or into hiding. In a campaign bound to raise awareness for the world’s suffering bees, and maybe to inadvertently sell more Cheerios, packages of the … Continue reading
Brag time. We just got home from the big Calgary science fair competition. My 13-year-old won three awards. Here’s the kicker: his project was called Saving Honey with Sound. His experiment was based on sending ultrasonic energy waves into combs … Continue reading
Calgary has a hyper-active bee club. Members help members with all manner of thing. Equipment exchanges, educational programs, disease control. The latest big event was the arrival of 160 packages of bees from New Zealand. By the way, 160 packages … Continue reading
In the old days, cowboys occasionally stole cows. Horse thieves were sometimes hanged. Not always, though. Back in Val Marie, Saskatchewan, a cattle town that I lived in for ten years, there was a fellow named Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault … Continue reading
Not long ago, Scientific American had a piece about drawing. The story, written by a biology professor, encourages us to look at nature and draw it. The case is made that drawing helps you understand what you are observing. But … Continue reading
There’s a small country in Central Europe, a very beautiful alpine country, called Slovenia. Slovenia has only about two million people, but this tiny country is very big in beekeeping. Tucked between Italy and Austria, it has both mountains and … Continue reading
Every June there is a wash of yellow along the edge of almost every highway and trail in North America. The yellow is from sweet clover that grows and blooms all across the continent. It’s wild and it has been … Continue reading
A few days ago, I read an interesting American Bee Journal article by Tammy Horn (et al.) and it made me think differently about something. Although I know that poisoned bees represent a real crime, I never really thought of … Continue reading
The price of honey has been falling for over a year. Honey is such a strange commodity. It’s agricultural. It’s ubiquitous (produced on all but one continent). It’s easily transported. Doesn’t need refrigerated. Doesn’t spoil (though quality may diminish with … Continue reading
Bees sense the environment differently than humans. For example, bees can see ultra-violet colour and distinguish it from violet and white, yet they see red as if it were black. They sense the orientation of polarized light. Their massive compound … Continue reading
Rather than “Save the Bees”, it’s “Save the Trees” in central Africa. A story from Zimbabwe reminds us that beekeeping can be very, very good for ecology. Bees (and beekeepers) are saving Zimbabwe’s forests. The country of Zimbabwe, lest we … Continue reading
Diapers for bees? Some folks stopped me when I was leaving an apiary that I once had in a Florida orange grove. They didn’t own the grove, but their house was within fifty yards. They told me that my bees … Continue reading
Scientists may have proven that African Honeyguide birds “communicate” with their human partners. You have probably already heard about this, as it’s been reported this week in Zaire’s Times, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and fine papers everywhere. … Continue reading
There’s a jolly fat man up on the roof. With a smoker and hive tool. Rooftop beekeeping seems modern, trendy, and new, but it’s been happening for generations. Ever since homes had rooftops. I’m surprised there isn’t a Rooftop Beekeepers … Continue reading
I wish I had good news. Canada’s first confirmed case of zombees has appeared – on Vancouver Island, out in the Pacific. Hundreds of kilometres from my home in Calgary. Zombie zombees, like the human kind, are undeads who are … Continue reading
Here’s something sure to stir controversy. The price of the life-saving EpiPen went from $50 US (in 2008) to somewhere between $250 and $400 US this month. That’s if you live in the USA. This morning, I was at the … Continue reading
You’ve seen the memes. Albert Einstein is pictured with a caption that says “if honey bees disappear from earth, humans would be dead within 4 years!” I got tired of seeing this repeated and decided to dig deeper than the … Continue reading
In February, Toronto became Canada’s first certified Bee City. This week, a bedroom community just outside Calgary became Canada’s second. I heard the news last night on a CBC radio interview of Dr. Preston Pouteaux, a hobby beekeeper who apparently … Continue reading
Bees have a complicated social structure which some political scientists have sought to embrace. In the old days, people assumed that the King Bee ruled with an iron fist that imposed order, harmony, sacrifice, and unflinching duty. Now that the … Continue reading
It seems that Saving the Bees has turned into quite a nice little cottage industry. Although honey bees are more numerous today than any time in history, some people seem intent on telling other people that the honey bees are … Continue reading
Today (September 9) is the 94th birthday of Warwick Estevam Kerr, the man who made the Killer Bees. Just like his bees, Kerr comes from hot, tropical Brazil. And just like his bees, Dr Kerr has been much maligned and … Continue reading
A gentleman at our bee meeting posed a challenging question a couple of weeks ago: “What should I do with a weak hive? I think it might be queenless.” Well, it depends, of course. I’m continuing with the series of … Continue reading
I have a vegan acquaintance. He is a mild, considerate, and generally pleasant young man. He thinks that beekeeping is cruel and inhumane. He tells me that honey-eating encourages theft and the abuse, imprisonment and exploitation of insects. “Tell me … Continue reading
Today is the anniversary of the birth of one of my beekeeper-heroes, Professor Richard Taylor. He was an early champion of the round comb honey system, a commercial beekeeper with just 300 hives, and he was a philosopher who wrote … Continue reading
Australia is having a food fight. Well, a honey fight, actually, and there are lessons aplenty to be found in it. First off, a Save the Bees gentleman, Simon Mulvany, of Melbourne, launched a name-calling campaign against Australian honey packer … Continue reading
Let’s see if I write as much in 2017 as I did in 2016. 141 posts would be fun to match, but I have no writing schedule, I just add to it when I have a spare hour or two. I hope you’ll drop by occasionally and see what’s new in bees. If you have a story you’d like told here, drop me a line and I’ll consider it. Meanwhile, I hope that you’ll have a healthy, happy, prosperous new year!