Author Archives: Cath

Berks and Schuylkill Beekeeper's Association - Bees on Turtlehead flower to help with parasite issues.

Bees Use Medicinal Flowers In the Field!

21 Sep 15
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New research shows infected bees of parasite issues seek out the nectar and pollen of flowers with medicinal qualities. The determination was made wild bees are proactive and resourceful when it comes to helping themselves.

Berks and Schuylkill Beekeeper's Association - Bee on Turtle Head flower for medicinal purposes

There are iridoid glycosides, found in floral nectar and it is found this reduces the parasite loads of infected bees as found by scientists at Dartmouth College. Two of the naturally occurring compounds are aucubin and catalpol. These are commonly found in a variety of turtlehead, a flower found among East Coast wetlands.  (Photo to the left and below are bees on a turlehead flower for medicinal usage.)

Researchers manipulated concentrations of the medicinal compounds in flowers and studied bee behavior in the lab. As compared to healthy bees, parasitized bee paid more frequent visits to the medicinal flowers. Via instinct, the bees know what they need and do what is needed to help themselves.   I cannot learn about bees without admiring their great qualities!


Commonly found in floral nectar and pollen, secondary metabolites functions are not fully understood but these seem to be significant. Leif Richardson, a former Dartmouth grad student now at the University of Vermont, said in a press release. “In this study, we show that these compounds could influence plant reproduction via complex suites of interactions involving not only pollinators but also their natural enemies.” Richardson is the lead author of a new paper on self-medication among bee populations, published this week in the journal Ecology.

Previous research has shown natural chemical compounds found in nectar, like nicotine, can diminish the presence of intestinal parasites in infected bees, but the new findings suggest other parasite-killing chemicals are readily available in the wild.


“We show that bees might be able to self-medicate, altering their foraging behavior when parasitized so as to maximize their consumption of beneficial plant secondary metabolite compounds,” said senior study author Rebecca Irwin, a former Dartmouth researcher now at North Carolina State University.

Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - Dead bee from Colony Collapse pollen covering his whole body

Appeals Court – Worried About Bees!

21 Sep 15
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Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - Lots of dead beesA federal appeals court Thursday blocked the use of a pesticide over concerns about its effect on honey bees, which have mysteriously disappeared across the country in recent years. In 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency did not adequately study the use of the pesticide Sulfoxaflor before approving it for use on a wide variety of crops. Sulfpxaflor is highly toxic to honeybees and EPA was required to get further tests done according to the Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder. Given the dangerous situation of the bee populations this placed a higher risk and environmental harm, A new study deems this pesticide dangerous to bees, although there is not a clear definitive causation of Colony Collapse Disorder, these pesticide family are considered key.

Sulfoxaflor is part of a group of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, according to the 9th Circuit ruling. Neonicotinoids are suspected of being one of the many factors contributing to the collapse of honey bee colonies throughout the United States. Honeybees, are needed to pollinate crops and they are considered essential to the United States food supply. This disorder has caused as much as one-third of the nation’s bees to disappear each winter since for the last decade.  A 2013 report issued by the EPA and United States Department of Agriculture cited poor nutrition, parasitic mites, multiple viruses, bacteria, genetics, habitat loss and pesticides as factors for the bees’ disappearance. The unconditional registration by the EPA’s was overturned by the 9th Circuit and they ordered it to get additional studies and data about the pesticide’s effect on bees.

This is indeed good news!!!

Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - Beekeeper checking a frame of the hive

Beekeeping, Helps Former Inmates!

25 Aug 15
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Beekeeping, Helps Former Inmates!

Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - North Lawndale Employment Network Mission beehivesBeekeeping, Helps Former Inmates!  The North Lawndale Employment Network Mission (NLEN) of Chicago, Illinois, specifically, in the North Lawndale community, launched an employment program to help those in tremendous need.  They assist many in the need of work in the community but one of their targets is former inmates.  The NLEN believes people with a difficult past should have an opportunity to work to provide for themselves or their families (Some can be see in photo to the left.)  They could see a need within their own community and had a desire to help people who needed training, work skills, motivation and provide them the skills necessary to go to work.  Former inmates are not always a target group to receive help but the NLEN realized if they help former inmates, it helps their community, making them safer.  The recidivism rate for former inmates is extremely high.  The national recidivism average is 65%, Chicago’s rate is 55% and the NLEN rate is at a mere 4%.   Amazing!


The NLEN has many ventures to provide employment but one of their primary areas of focus also helps bees.  One of the most effective methods they chose for success and the accomplishments of those being trained was the launching of Sweet Beginnings, LLC., offering the beelove™ product line.  The beelove™ products, which is a natural line of raw honey and honey infused body care products also offers exceptional quality.


The NLEN are running an urban apiary in their community, their workers are employed and live in the neighborhood.   Their bees produce honey with a complex flavor since it feeds on the plant life of their urban environment.  Bees can travel several miles to collect nectar and pollen, so flowering plants do not have to be in the immediate area but it helps.  Most housing communities have plenty of flowers and bees can make a good crop of local honey. It is helpful if there are housing communities are near to urban hives.


There can be challenges with urban beekeeping; it is important to plant lots of flowers, wild flowers, plants and even add simple water gardens in the communities with urban beehives.   Bees also cannot distinguish between weeds and flowers so these are also very appealing to urban bees.   Bees have a tremendous need for water so you could take a barrel or something similar to create a water garden using water and some floating plants to help out.   It does not have to be expensive!


Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - O'Hare Airport beekeepersNot only do the NLEN respect the earth in the production of their products but they also provide important transitional job opportunities for area residents who struggle with barriers to employment.   One of the areas Sweet Beginnings, LLC. has working hives is at Chicago’s, O’Hare Airport supported by the Chicago Department of Aviation. This is an interesting collaboration not just giving honeybees a home but giving their Beekeepers a second chance.  These Beekeepers are carefully screened former convicts from the non-profit NLEN group.  There are twenty-three beehives on a vacant piece of property on the east side of the airport. The objectives of Sweet Beginnings, LLC. and those of the Chicago Department of Aviation is to help make the efforts at O’Hare to become more environmentally friendly.  The apiary is outside of the runway protection zone, which means the Federal Aviation Administration does not allow airports to develop these area.

Airports around the world are joining O’Hare in keeping bees in these protection zones. This land, vegetated with prairie-type plants proved a be quite the field of plenty for bees. The locations are so suitable for them with lots of food for them to forage.  Each hive is producing about 150 pounds of honey, which is quite significant. The project also is important for honeybee survival because the species has experienced a population drop in the last decade.

Sweet Beginnings, LLC. workers care for the bees, hives, landscapers, harvest honey, make beelove™ products, package/ship, track inventory, fill product orders and sell in retail outlets or special events.  The training and work experience methods transfer to the work marketplace with positions in manufacturing, food service, distribution, warehousing, hospitality, customer service and more.   They are working on putting kiosks in O’Hare Airport to sell the beelove™ product line.  Many of the airports supporting beehives do sell honey and other bee related products.



The NLEN group looks for people who truly want to turn their life around and who want to contribute to their community.  They believe everyone deserves the prospect to work.  A company representative stated, “More importantly, we also believe our community flourishes when good jobs give residents both paychecks and self-worth.”  Their goal is to improve the earning potential of North Lawndale residents through innovative employment initiatives.  They are also growing economic advancement and providing improvement to the quality of life for many.   There is also a benefit to donors, who are able to contribute to a highly successful program to help former inmates, bees and the community.


Mr. Patterson, a  former inmate involved with the beekeeping program got into a field he never would have considered but he stated, “I got a chance to see how bees produce honey,” Patterson said. “I actually fell in love with these little creatures.   I’m going to hang around because I want to learn more about them.”


Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association - Graduates of Travis Correctional Complex beekeeper's certification program

Bees and criminal offenders might seem like an odd combination but they are becoming increasingly common counterparts.   They help each other to survive!   A growing number of states have jails and prisons hosting beekeeping programs for inmates. There are counties in Texas, Florida, Oregon, Washington, and Maryland offering beekeeping classes behind bars.  One such place is Texas based, Travis Correctional Complex and they are providing a beekeeping program for men and women both. They even offer a 1,200 hour certification program so the inmates will have a job after their release earning from $25-$50 an hour.  This program even offers the Beekeepers the ability to reside on the twenty acre property (in trailers or tents), where the bees reside.   This program has been so successful, correctional facilities in twenty other Texas counties are contemplating starting their own beekeeping courses for inmates.   To the left are some of the graduating students from the beekeeping class from Travis Correctional Complex who  got their certificates in July of 2014.


We can be grateful to programs like these because they are trying to help bees and trying to increase the numbers of hives.  They are also working to increase the numbers of trained and experienced Beekeepers who can care for and are willing to work with these amazing little creatures.   We are all trying hard to help bees to thrive!