If you are a member and have anything that you feel is important to chemical free beekeeping, please email it to me. I will post it in this section in a future issue.

Where ever you live in the world you should apply the information on working your bees that is given below when the weather conditions in your area are right. So take notes and be ready.

Cletus Notes

 Hello Everyone,

February is a busy month here at Lone Star Farms in Bryan, Texas. This is the month that I put together all that equipment I ordered last month. It is time consuming to put together several boxes, frames, tops and bottoms. Then, when you finish all that, you still have to get the equipment painted.

By working with that good plan I made in January, I am able to have all the parts I need to complete my February work load. I don’t have to re-order anything which would only slow the process down.

I believe in keeping my bee yard in good order, so February is a good time to perform that task. I make sure that all the hives are sitting level on their stands, and that the grass and bushes are cut away from the hives. I like to have plenty of work space around each hive. The bees will need unobstructed access into their hive entrance when the nectar sources become available to them.

February is a good time to inspect all of my feeders to make sure they are clean, in good working order, and ready to go, in case they are needed when I perform my first hive inspection around the first of March.

The start of the bee season will be exploding here in Texas by the first of March, and if you have a passion for beekeeping like I do even after 50 years, you know how hard it is to contain your excitement.

Love and enjoy your bees.

Dennis  Brown---Author of—“Beekeeping: A Personal Journey” and “Beekeeping: Questions and Answers.”

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                                                                                                        Ancient Pheromones Keep Queens in Charge  


Researchers have identified a particular class of structurally similar, queen-specific hydrocarbons that suppress the reproduction of ant, wasp and bumblebee workers alike -- and they suggest that these pheromones have been around, signaling fertility in social insects, for nearly 150 million years. Previous studies have shown that when it comes to such social insects, queens maintain their monopoly on reproduction by emitting chemical signals that render their loyal workers infertile. But, even though these signals, called pheromones, achieve the same end in various species, they are structurally diverse. Annette Van Oystaeyen and colleagues studied the chemical profiles of the outer skeleton, or cuticle, of the desert ant, the common wasp and the buff-tailed bumblebee and found several compounds that were specifically overproduced in the queens of each species. They tested those chemicals on workers and discovered that, even when their queens were gone, the presence of saturated hydrocarbons kept the workers infertile. (Meanwhile, however, control groups of the insect species rapidly developed ovaries in the absence of their queens.)

Van Oystaeyen and her colleagues compared their findings to those of 90 other published studies and investigated the chemicals that have been consistently overproduced by queens across 64 different species. Their findings reveal that saturated hydrocarbons are, by far, the most common class of chemicals overproduced by social insect queens. In fact, their study suggests that similar hydrocarbons were used by the solitary ancestors of ants, wasps and bumblebees to indicate their reproductive status millions of years ago. The study suggests that these chemicals have been evolutionarily stable, and that queen pheromones are honest signs of the queen’s fertility (not manipulative signals, variable over time, meant to actively suppress worker reproduction). A Perspective article by Michel Chapuisat explains this study in more detail and highlights its implications regarding the ancient origins of eusociality.

 

Penn Museum Team Finds
Evidence for 3,000+-year-old
'Nordic Grog' Tradition --
Honey Was A Major Ingredient

Discovery highlights innovative and complex
fermented beverages of northernmost Europe
in the Bronze and Iron Ages


From northwest Denmark, circa 1500-1300 BC, to the Swedish island of Gotland as late as the first century AD, Nordic peoples were imbibing an alcoholic "grog" or extreme hybrid beverage rich in local ingredients, including honey, bog cranberry, lingonberry, bog myrtle, yarrow, juniper, birch tree resin, and cereals including wheat, barley and/or rye—and sometimes, grape wine imported from southern or central Europe.

Such is the conclusion based on new archaeochemical evidence derived from samples inside pottery and bronze drinking vessels and strainers from four sites in Demark and Sweden, combined with previous archaeobotanical data. The research ("A biomolecular archaeological approach to 'Nordic grog'") was recently published online in the Danish Journal of Archaeology (Dec. 23, 2013). Patrick E. McGovern, Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and author of Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer and Other Alcoholic Beverages (University of California Press, 2009) is the lead author on the paper, which was researched and written in collaboration with colleagues Gretchen R. Hall (University of Pennsylvania Museum) and Armen Mirzoian (Scientific Services Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau [TTB], US Treasury), with key samples and archaeological evidence provided by Scandinavian colleagues.

The new biomolecular archaeological evidence provides concrete evidence for an early, widespread, and long-lived Nordic grog tradition, one with distinctive flavors and probable medicinal purposes—and the first chemically attested evidence for the importation of grape wine from southern or central Europe as early as 1100 BC, demonstrating both the social and cultural prestige attached to wine, and the presence of an active trading network across Europe—more than 3,000 years ago.

"Far from being the barbarians so vividly described by ancient Greeks and Romans, the early Scandinavians, northern inhabitants of so-called Proxima Thule, emerge with this new evidence as a people with an innovative flair for using available natural products in the making of distinctive fermented beverages," noted Dr. McGovern. "They were not averse to adopting the accoutrements of southern or central Europeans, drinking their preferred beverages out of imported and often ostentatiously grand vessels. They were also not averse to importing and drinking the southern beverage of preference, grape wine, though sometimes mixed with local ingredients."


Archaeological and Chemical Evidence
To reach their conclusions, the researchers obtained ancient residue samples from four sites in a 150-mile radius of southern Sweden and encompassing Denmark. The oldest, dated 1500-1300 BC, was from Nandrup in northwestern Denmark, where a warrior prince had been buried in an oak coffin with a massively hafted bronze sword, battle-ax, and pottery jar whose interior was covered with a dark residue that was sampled. A second Danish sample, dated to a later phase of the Nordic Bronze Age from about 1100-500 BC, came from a pit hoard at Kostræde, southwest of Copenhagen. A brownish residue filling a perforation of a bronze strainer, the earliest strainer yet recovered in the region, was sampled. A third Danish sample was a dark residue on the interior base of a large bronze bucket from inside a wooden coffin of a 30-year-old woman, dating to the Early Roman Iron Age, about 200 BC, at Juellinge on the island of Lolland, southwest of Kostræde. The bucket was part of a standard, imported Roman wine-set, and the woman held the strainer-cup in her right hand. A reddish-brown residue filling the holes and interior of a strainer-cup, again part of imported Roman wine-set, provided the fourth sample. Dating to the first century AD, the strainer-cup was excavated from a hoard, which also included a large gold torque or neck ring and a pair of bronze bells, at Havor on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

Ancient organic compounds were identified by a combination of chemical techniques: Fourier-transform infrared spectrometry (FT-IR), gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), ultra-high performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS), and headspace solid phase microextraction (SPME) coupled to GC-MS.


A Tradition and a Revival
According to Dr. McGovern, the importation of southern wine, now proven to have begun, if only as a trickle in the late second millennium BC, grew apace—and eventually eclipsed the grog tradition—but never completely. Many of the ingredients in Nordic grog went on to be consumed in birch beer and as the principal bittering agents (so-called gruit) of medieval beers, before hops gained popularity, and the German purity law (Reinheitsgebot) which limited ingredients of beer to barley, hops and water was enacted in Bavaria in 1516 and eventually became the norm in northern Europe.

"About the closest thing to the grog today is produced on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea," the site of the latest residue sample, Dr. McGovern noted. "You can taste Gotlandsdryka in farmhouses. It's made from barley, honey, juniper, and other herbs like those in the ancient version."

"This new evidence of an old tradition resonates with modern inhabitants of Scandinavia, where alcoholic beverages are very much enjoyed and seen as an intrinsic part of Nordic and Viking lore. The story goes that a particularly wise creature named Kvasir was created by two races of gods, the Æsir and the Vanir, by spitting into a large jar. Kvasir was later murdered by two dwarfs, who ran his blood into three huge vessels containing honey. The result was a mixed beverage that conferred the gift of wisdom and poetry to the drinker. Odin himself, the Norse high god, was able to steal the grog back by consuming the beverage, transforming himself into an eagle, and flying back to Valhalla, the Nordic warrior paradise."

New this winter, the Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, in collaboration with Dr. McGovern, re-created their version of the ancient Nordic grog. It is the latest in the celebrated Ancient Ale Series, begun in 2000 with Midas Touch. Appropriately called Kvasir, it is a hybrid barley and winter wheat beer, lingonberry and bog cranberry wine, and honey mead--all rolled into one and seasoned with bog myrtle, yarrow, clover, and birch syrup. A second version of this extreme hybrid beverage was also collaboratively brewed in Spring 2013 at the Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri on the east coast of Sweden, right across from the island of Gotland. Called Arketyp, it is now available in the state stores (Systembolaget) there.

The Dogfish Head version of the Nordic grog has a somewhat sour, toasty wheat taste profile, comparable to a Belgian lambic and in keeping with the relative scarcity of sugar-rich resources in the far north. Dogfish Head offers details.

"Both versions of the grog will marry nicely with the new Nordic cuisine, with its emphasis on natural ingredients," said Dr. McGovern.

 

Exposure to Pesticides Results in
Smaller Worker Bees


Exposure to a widely used pesticide causes worker bumblebees to grow less and then hatch out at a smaller size, according to a new study by Royal Holloway University of London.

The research, published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology, reveals that prolonged exposure to a pyrethroid pesticide, which is used on flowering crops to prevent insect damage, reduces the size of individual bees produced by a colony.

The researchers, Gemma Baron, Dr Nigel Raine and Professor Mark Brown from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway worked with colonies of bumblebees in their laboratory and exposed half of them to the pesticide.

The scientists tracked how the bee colonies grew over a four-month period, recording their size and weighing bees on micro-scales, as well as monitoring the number of queens and male bees produced by the colony.

"We already know that larger bumblebees are more effective at foraging. Our result, revealing that this pesticide causes bees to hatch out at a smaller size, is of concern as the size of workers produced in the field is likely to be a key component of colony success, with smaller bees being less efficient at collecting nectar and pollen from flowers," says researcher Gemma Baron from Royal Holloway.

The study is the first to examine the impact of pyrethroid pesticides across the entire lifecycle of bumblebees. The topical research is at the heart of a national Bee Health Conference running in London from Wednesday to Friday this week (22-24 January 2014).

Professor Mark Brown said: "Bumblebees are essential to our food chain so it's critical we understand how wild bees might be impacted by the chemicals we are putting into the environment. We know we have to protect plants from insect damage but we need to find a balance and ensure we are not harming our bees in the process."

Given the current EU moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides, the use of other classes of pesticide, including pyrethroids, is likely to increase.

Dr Nigel Raine, who is an Invited Speaker at this week's bee conference, said: "Our work provides a significant step forward in understanding the detrimental impact of pesticides other than neonicotinoids on wild bees. Further studies using colonies placed in the field are essential to understand the full impacts, and conducting such studies needs to be a priority for scientists and governments."

  

Pathogenic Plant Virus
Jumps to Honey Bees

A viral pathogen that typically infects plants has been found in honey bees and could help explain their decline. Researchers working in the U.S. and Beijing, China report their findings in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

The routine screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses "resulted in the serendipitous detection of Tobacco Ringspot Virus, or TRSV, and prompted an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in the bees," says Yan Ping Chen from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, an author on the study.

"The results of our study provide the first evidence that honeybees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen can also be infected and that the infection becomes widespread in their bodies," says lead author Ji Lian Li, at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science in Beijing.

"We already know that honey bees, Apis melllifera, can transmit TRSV when they move from flower to flower, likely spreading the virus from one plant to another," Chen adds.

Notably, about 5% of known plant viruses are pollen-transmitted and thus potential sources of host-jumping viruses. RNA viruses tend to be particularly dangerous because they lack the 3'-5' proofreading function which edits out errors in replicated genomes. As a result, viruses such as TRSV generate a flood of variant copies with differing infective properties.

One consequence of such high replication rates are populations of RNA viruses thought to exist as "quasispecies," clouds of genetically related variants that appear to work together to determine the pathology of their hosts. These sources of genetic diversity, coupled with large population sizes, further facilitate the adaption of RNA viruses to new selective conditions such as those imposed by novel hosts. "Thus, RNA viruses are a likely source of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases," explain these researchers.

Toxic viral cocktails appear to have a strong link with honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady that abruptly wiped out entire hives across the United States and was first reported in 2006. Israel Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV), Chronic Paralysis Virus (CPV), Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV), Deformed Wing Bee Virus (DWV), Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) and Sacbrood Virus (SBV) are other known causes of honeybee viral disease.

When these researchers investigated bee colonies classified as "strong" or "weak," TRSV and other viruses were more common in the weak colonies than they were in the strong ones. Bee populations with high levels of multiple viral infections began failing in late fall and perished before February, these researchers report. In contrast, those in colonies with fewer viral assaults survived the entire cold winter months.

TRSV was also detected inside the bodies of Varroa mites, a "vampire" parasite that transmits viruses between bees while feeding on their blood. However, unlike honeybees, the mite-associated TRSV was restricted to their gastric cecum indicating that the mites likely facilitate the horizontal spread of TRSV within the hive without becoming diseased themselves. The fact that infected queens lay infected eggs convinced these scientists that TRSV could also be transmitted vertically from the queen mother to her offspring.

"The increasing prevalence of TRSV in conjunction with other bee viruses is associated with a gradual decline of host populations and supports the view that viral infections have a significant negative impact on colony survival," these researchers conclude. Thus, they call for increased surveillance of potential host-jumping events as an integrated part of insect pollinator management programs.