Nosema apis is a tiny one-cell parasite recently reclassified as a fungus. It causes a serious infection in bees that disrupts the health of the bee gut. The sick bee becomes not only disoriented and unable to do its normal activities such as foraging or caring for bee larva.

 

 

A honeybee alights on a fountain, searching for water

A foraging honeybee quenches its thirst on water fountain

 

 

Nosema is one, among many threats, to the global honeybee population. The infection has been associated with colony collapse disorder. But now science has shown that healing and improved survival rates from nosema (also known as nosemosis) is possible through the aid of probiotics.

 

In most instances, the fungus (that bees pick up as they ingest their food) causes no harm. But stress seems to create conditions for the fungus to invade and wreak havoc on the bee’s immune system. Just as probiotics support human gut microbiota (the microbe population in the human intestine) so, too, do probiotics appear to help the bee microbiota to better deal with a nosema infection.

 

 

Healthy bees on a frame

Healthy bees on a frame

 

 

 

In a Canadian study conducted by scientists at Université Laval in Quebec City, researchers discovered that they could lower the death rate of the bees suffering from nosema from 20 to 40 percent as compared to a control group by treating the sick bees with probiotics. In particular, a probiotic (P. apium) seemed to work best in the study.

 

Developing probiotics with specific microbes to contend with nosema is promising. But for beekeepers and scientists searching for the causes of colony collapse disorder, the work goes on to identify sources of stress that adversely affect the immune system of bees. For more information, see, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180517113819.htm

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about gardening and farming topics, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries: A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and A HIVE OF HOMICIDES (Kensington Publishing).

 

Each book is chocked full of tips for gardening, keeping bees and chickens, and growing heirloom fruits and vegetables. There are also plenty of delicious recipes to try. Find these books in hardcover, paperback, ore ebook formats on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Walmart.com and other online retailers or purchase at traditional bookstores everywhere.–Meera Lester

 

 

 

All available online and in bookstores everywhere

All available online and in bookstores everywhere

 

A BEELINE TO MURDER (#1)      https://tinyurl.com/y6ue28xb

THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE (#2)      http://tinyurl.com/yd7pz7af

A HIVE OF HOMICIDES (#3)      http://tinyurl.com/ya5vhhpm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To Feed or Not to Feed the Bees?

Author: Meera, September 15, 2015

Mid-September is a time when beekeepers check their hives and consider the prudence of harvesting more honey or leaving it as well as whether or not to feed the bees. Honeybees, like many living creatures on our planet, need food and water to survive.

 

 

A honeybee alights on a fountain, searching for water

A honeybee alights on a fountain, searching for water

 

 

My wise beekeeper neighbor tells me that the hive needs to have sixty pounds of honey to make it through winter. He’s feeding his bees now a mixture of sugar and water.

 

 

 

black plastic feeder unit inserts fit directly into a hive like frames

Division board feeders are black plastic feeder units that fit directly into a hive like frames

 

 

The sugar-water inserts are black plastic holders that get inserted right into the hive in place of a frame. They are rigid enough to hold the sugar-water but pliant enough to swell outward, so conventional wooden frames of honey and wax help them stay in place. The downside is that bees can drown in these feeders. And if the beekeeper lets them go empty, the enterprising bees will just build comb and honey inside them.

 

 

There are several kinds of feeders–all with benefits and also drawbacks. For more information on feeders, see: http://www.honeybeesuite.com/what-type-of-honey-bee-feeder-is-best/

 

 

Closeup of a division board feeder unit

Closeup of a division board feeder unit

 

 

Last year, I didn’t take honey in the fall. I wanted to ensure the bees had what they needed to survive after they’d been through yet another summer of drought. There aren’t a lot of pollen-rich flowers to be found now. However, star-thistle still dots dry hillsides of Contra Costa County (where I live) and particular eucalyptus species that the bees like are blooming now.

 

 

I’m hopeful that this will be the last year of drought for a while. Weather forecasters say we have a strong El Nino that’s formed and will likely bring rain during our rainy season (November through April). That will be good news for the bees and those of us who love to plant flowers in our gardens to attract pollinators. But until the wet stuff starts coming down and new pollen sources are abundant, we beekeepers need to keep a close watch on our industrious little honeybees.

 

 

 

 

 

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Northern California Nut Trees in a Nutshell

Author: Meera, June 19, 2015

Take a trip into Northern California’s great Central Valley and you’ll notice how the landscape becomes dotted with nut tree farms along with vegetable fields, fruit tree orchards, and dairy farms. While Texas dominates the pecan tree market, California’s big three nut crops are almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. With nut prices on the increase, backyard gardeners might consider planting a tree or two if they have the space.

 

 

This backyard almond produces a bountiful crop

For it’s size, this almond in my neighbor’s yard produces an abundant annual crop

 

Some nut trees, such as almonds, require pollination assistance–a couple of different cultivars and honeybees will do the trick. For this reason, commercial almond growers pay beekeepers to bring their hives in to pollinate California’s early almond crop each year. Growing almonds is big business in California (it’s the third leading agricultural product in the state); the decline in honeybee populations is bound to affect this profitable crop.

 

The Central Valley has the perfect climate and growing conditions for almonds. It’s estimated that there are roughly 5,500 almond growers in the state. Many are commercial growers who capitalize on the rich, well-drained soil, and the hot summers and cool winters of Northern California. But California’s continuing drought is causing concern to almond growers since almonds require a lot of water. Backyard gardeners, too, must consider the water requirement of almonds before planting trees.

 

A newly formed almond on the tree looks like an unripe fuzzy peach because almonds are related to the peaches. Mature almond trees reach 20 to 30 feet tall. Some popular cultivars in zones 5 through 8 are Hall’s Hardy, Nonpareil, Peerless, and Mission. My neighbors have gorgeous, healthy almonds growing on their farmette.

 

 

Young Franquette walnut will provide shade and nuts for years to come

This young Franquette walnut will provide shade and nuts for years to come

 

 

The California Black Walnut and Persian Walnut (with cultivars of Franquette, Chandler, and Hartley) are valued for their stateliness, shade, bountiful crops, and longevity. Walnuts contain healthy nutrients. Cultivars of the English walnut are fast-growing and the nuts are thin-skinned and bountiful.

 

If a walnut is planted at the birth of an individual, and he lives 75 years, that walnut tree might could still be growing when the person breathes his last breath. The black walnut can reach 100 feet in height. The nuts have an thick outer hull that can blacken sidewalks and driveways with their stain; also, the tree also can be toxic to other plants.

 

In comparison to walnuts, filberts/hazelnuts are considered small trees (achieving heights of only 10 to 40 feet), they are often the nut tree of choice for backyard landscapes. DuChilly and Daviana are excellent pollinizers with Barcelona. Other cultivars are Bixby, Royal, and Hall’s Giant.

 

Pecan trees grow much larger than filberts, often towering 70 to 150 feet. Some cultivars include Major, Peruque, Stuart, and Colby. The cultivars of Wichita, Western Schley, and Cherokee are excellent pollinators for each other. Of all the nuts valued for their antioxidants, pecans rank the highest.

 

There is a pistachio tree growing a mile or so from my farmette. While pistachios love the Mediterranean climate of the Central Valley, in some places the trees perform better than in others. The nuts are highly valued by consumers. Growers have taken notice. Pioneer Gold, a varietal that’s been around since 1976, remains a popular choice. The trees are wind pollinated and require a male and female tree for a crop set.

 

If you have room in a backyard garden or on a farmette or field, consider planting one or more nut trees. You’ll be rewarded with shade and heart-healthy, nutritional snacks for years to come.

 

 

 

 

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