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,





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, Barnes &, 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












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In college, I often washed my then waist-long auburn hair with apple cider vinegar to keep the locks healthy and shining. And years ago, I discovered the decadent pleasure of a hot rosemary oil treatment and scalp massage that uses lavender oil.



If you grow your own herbs, making hair-care products couldn’t be easier.



Lavender is an old-time favorite herb that can be used in many beauty products

Lavender is an old-time favorite herb for homemade beauty products




The following are simple recipes you can make with home grown herbs and essential oils available in health food stores.



Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse Recipe: 4 cups of warm water to 1 cup apple cider vinegar. After you’ve washed the shampoo out of your hair, use the vinegar water as your final rinse.



Alternatively, you could add a couple of ounces of your favorite herbs like lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, or rosemary sprigs along with scented essential oils to impart shine and fragrance to your hair.  Rosemary is also good for promoting hair and scalp health.



Rosemary Rinse Recipe: 4 cups of boiling water poured over 2 ounces of rosemary springs. Let set overnight under a lid or cover. The next day,  strain out the rosemary sprigs and add to the liquid 10.5 ounces of apple cider vinegar and 10 drops of rosemary essential oil. Wash your hair, rinse, and as a final step pour through your hair the rosemary rinse.



For dry hair and scalp, create an oil treatment that you can do once every three weeks or a on a monthly basis. You’ll need rosemary, lavender, and a bit of tea tree oil (which possesses chemicals that may kill bacteria and fungus and reduce dandruff).



Hot Herbal Oil Treatment: 2 drops each of the following herbal oils–rosemary, tea tree, lavender–in 6 tablespoons of coconut oil. Thoroughly combine in a dark bottle, seal, and store. When you are ready for your hot oil treatment, sparingly apply the oil to strands of dry hair until all is lightly coated, not saturated. Cover with a hot towel for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the towel and wash with shampoo as usual.








If you love all things natural, country, and homemade AND you enjoy a cozy mystery, check out my novels available online at, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and other retail outlets as well as in bookstores everywhere.


For my newest novel, A HIVE OF HOMICIDES, click on the link:





COMING Sept. 2017

Available NOW

The second book in the Henny Penny Farmette series

The second book in the Henny Penny Farmette series

First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

Meera Lester’s debut novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries










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To-Do List of Chores for the Fall Garden

Author: Meera, September 16, 2014



Harvested pumpkins and heirloom butternut squash symbolize the arrival of autumn

Harvested pumpkins and heirloom butternut squash symbolize the arrival of autumn



From my office widow, I look out over what once was a lush and thriving garden. Not so today.


I can hardly bear to gaze upon the sorrowful, dried tomato vines that for me have come to symbolize the severity of the extreme drought on California gardens.


Now that fall will soon arrive, I’ll toss onto the compost pile those vines along with others from pumpkins and hard-shelled squash.


So with the garden cleared, I’m thinking ahead to next year, ever hopeful we’ll get rain rather than a repeat of dry conditions like this past year.



To ensure the viability of our fruit trees, citrus trees, and various berries through the fall and winter, there is a spray regimen to be initiated. I’ll add it to my long list of chores that will need to be done.




Pomegranates hang heavy on the tree that is beginning to lose its leaves

Pomegranates hang heavy on the tree that is beginning to lose its leaves






Turn the soil, add amendments like compost to hold in the water.



Prepare new beds.

Build cold frames and 4- x 6- foot boxes for new raised beds.

Cut the canes of blackberries (berries only set up on two-year-old canes that won’t again produce; cut to ensure new fruiting canes will take their place).



Prune away the spent floricanes of red raspberries, once they’ve produced fruit.



Clean up around the bases of all trees and evergreen plants; add mulch.

Also remove all leaves at the base of all fruit trees and dispose.


Remove rose leaves after blooming season, cut canes to 18 inches, and spray for diseases and pests.


Stake young trees so they’ll survive windy winters, growing straight and tall.

Treat the trees with an organic spray (one containing copper and protector oil) to prevent fungal disease and pests.



Get out the frost cloth in readiness to cover tender citrus trees.

Prune back the hydrangeas.

Plant fall bulbs for spring flowering.


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Fall Spraying for Peach Leaf Curl

Author: Meera, November 15, 2013


The roses, bench, angel, and fruit trees provide a lovely setting to view the mountain peaks

The roses, bench, angel, and fruit trees provide a lovely setting to view the mountain peaks




Just beyond the sliding glass door of my kitchen, we’ve carved a bit of a lawn and garden out of a wild weedy field. When I’m washing dishes or making jam, I can see my garden sanctuary where I’ve moved in a statue of an angel and positioned a bench near two nectarine trees–a perfect place to sit and take in the view of Mount Diablo’s peaks.



Of late, though the nectarine trees look less than healthy. The two heavy-bearers have become infected with the fungus that causes peach leaf curl. It’s not just my trees that are infected; two of my neighbors have the same problem. And this showed up late in my trees this year.




The nectarine leaves recently developed peach leaf curl

The nectarine leaves recently developed peach leaf curl



I’ve tried plucking off the twisted and contorted leaves as they show, discarding them in the garbage (not the compost pile). However, I fear I am losing this battle. The trees are going through a leaf drop now that it’s middle of November. I don’t want that fungus overwintering in the infected leaves, so I’m gathering those into the garbage, too. And I’ll begin a spraying program.



The nectarines and peaches need to be sprayed three or four times (if we have a strong rainy season), from autumn to bud break in the spring. Both lime sulfur and copper sprays can be used; both are considered organic, although some formulations are not very strong. But the leaves must not remain on the ground under the trees.



Last year, I sprayed those trees the required number of times with an organic horticultural oil recommended by the local garden center. The trees were fine most of the summer. But last month, the infection showed up. And here I am now, plucking the leaves from the trees and picking them up from the ground.



I dare not use anything on treating the fungus that is not organic and safe for the honeybees. Come spring, perhaps I’ll be rewarded for my vigilance with new growth that is healthy and free of the fungus.





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Is It a Mushroom, Morel, Truffle, or Toadstool?

Author: Meera, November 27, 2012




Toadstool with a cap, gills, and stem



I wouldn’t call myself a gastronome when it comes to mushrooms–my taste and enjoyment of them is not that discriminating. I like them in food, but I am not fond of finding them popping up all over the farmette after a rain. My displeasure at seeing them in the lawn, around the raised planter boxes, on the pathways, or in the orchard and garden stems from my not readily knowing which types are beneficial s and which are harmful. There are literally hundreds of different species, some are poisonous.


The mushroom (often called a toadstool) is the visible sign of the presence of a fungus in the soil. The toadstool generally has three parts–a stalk or stem, a cap, and gills. You might think of the hookah-smoking caterpillar perched on top of one in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by English author Lewis Carroll.



Mushroom color varies with the species of fungus that produces the fruiting body. While many have neutral coloring, some, like the poisonous fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) that you would find in the woods associated with conifer and birch trees, has a brilliant red cap with white scales.



Toadstools can have strange shapes


Don’t eat mushrooms or toadstools you find growing in the wild unless you are an expert on fungi.


The majority of fungi won’t harm the garden (although some do). If I don’t recognize the type of fungi that is growing, I either ignore them or use a spade to dig them out. I dispose of them in the garbage. Some toadstools are actually beneficial to the soil, adding back in certain nutrients. Such fungi have a symbiotic relationship with garden plants. However, others can have spores harmful to humans.


Seek help in identifying mushrooms
if you don’t know the type


I’ve used a lot of soil amendment and compost on the property. There may be pieces of rotting wood buried under the dirt. Fungi need a food source to grow. In packed soil and the damp conditions following a rain, toadstools pop up, seemingly everywhere.


Alas, I cannot as yet tell the toadstool from the truffle or morel, so highly desired in the French and English culinary traditions, so I won’t eat any of them. And as for sitting on one, well . . . I leave that  for the hairy worm of Lewis Carroll’s imagination.


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