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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Swarming Season Has Arrived!

Author: Meera, April 11, 2014


Honeybees cluster in a temporary location (apricot tree) during a swarm

Honeybees cluster in a temporary location (apricot tree) during a swarm



What’s not to love about spring? It’s only the middle of April and already we’ve seen several honeybee swarms. Swarming is how the bees reproduce their colonies and most often occurs during the warm days of early spring.



My neighbor, whom I’ve often called a world-class beekeeper (his father kept honeybees in Lebanon and taught him well) permitted me to keep his bee swarm that alighted in my apricot tree. He also generously donated a super (hive box) with some frames that already had wax, honey, and capped brood–all from his own apiary.



Honeybees outside the hive box on a hot day

Bees outside the hive boxes on a hot day



The newly housed honeybee workers delight in foraging on the various types of lavender (Spanish, English, and French perfume) that I’ve planted around the farmette. The colony will build up the wax and make honey while the nursemaid bees will care for the brood.



My husband, the architect-turned-farmer/beekeeper, has constructed a unique bee house for the hives. It will keep the bee boxes  dry during winter rains and out of reach of marauding animals (skunks and raccoons). Resting on a platform that Carlos built on top  of a newly installed brick floor, the hives are not within easy reach of the ever present ant population.



Alas, the bees weren’t about to wait until Carlos finished building their house. The swarm happened when the bees were ready to take flight (some 60 percent of the workers with their old queen) flew into our apricot tree.



Queen cell that houses the queen who is feed royal jelly until she emerges

The thimble-shaped cell houses the special bee who is fed royal jelly until she emerges as queen



If you see a swarm, call your local beekeeping association (or any store that carries local honey) for the name of a beekeeper. Avoid the temptation of spraying water or anything else on the swarm. Permit the beekeeper to safely remove the swarm.



For a beekeeper, rescuing a swarm is a truly exhilarating experience. Often a swarm consists of thousands to tens of thousands of honeybees. Beekeepers routinely rescue swarms from where bees have temporarily clustered while the bee scouts seek a permanent home. The beekeeper can shake them into a prepared hive box, leaving the box at the hive cluster site until all the bees are inside. At that point, the beekeeper takes the new hive to his apiary.



The beleaguered honeybees (whose populations have been decimated by the Varroa mite, weakened immune systems, and Colony Collapse Disorder) need help to survive and increase their populations. We need them, too! Without their pollination of fruit, nut, and other crops, our own food sources diminish.



Saving the honeybees is a good practice whenever possible because doing so ensures abundance and diversity in the plants we eat. Whenever I see a  cluster of bees in a tree I feel joyful and celebratory. Is it any wonder that swarming season is my favorite time of the year?



Two beekeepers rescue a swarm from high in a pepper tree

Two beekeepers rescue a swarm from high in a pepper tree





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Henny Penny Farmer’s Almanac–Sayings

Author: Meera, December 2, 2013



Honeybees surround their queen in a spring swarm

During a swarm, honeybees surround and protect their queen




Humans could learn a thing or two from the world of honeybees where all endeavor benefits the entire colony, not an individual bee.


A tea made of meadowsweet, chamomile, or peppermint herbs can calm an upset stomach.


To get stronger egg shells, feed your chickens extra calcium.


Producing manure is easy; it’s the moving of it that takes patience and the right shovel.


Sow above-ground plants during a waxing moon and below-ground plants during a waning moon.



honeybees doing the waggle dance around the top of a super

Honeybees do a waggle dance as they accept a new hive as home


The simplest treatment for a bee sting is to get the stinger out.


Move chickens and bees at night; when they awake in the morning, the move is a fait accompli.


If you enjoy listening to songbirds, it might interest you to know the male is generally the singer since he uses song to attract a mate and defend his territory.


Birds don’t just sing; they call, and their calls are how they communicate
with a partner or sound the alarm that a predator is near.


Box and jug wines are fine as long as you never drink or cook with a flawed wine.


Use a dab of raw honey or bee propolis to treat a peck wound on a chicken as honey and propolis have antiseptic, antibacterial properties.



Rescued dogs can make great family pets

Rescued dogs can make great family pets


Each nostril of a dog’s highly sensitive nose can separately track scents—a skill proving useful to humans in finding illegal drugs, locating dead bodies, and even detecting cancer.


Red wine remains drinkable for decades because the tannins act as a natural preservative; however, the wine must be properly bottled and stored.


If you want to lower your cholesterol, decrease your stress level
and improve your blood pressure, adopt a dog.


Pacific oysters can engage in annual sex reversals; male one year, female the next—one of nature’s many surprises.



Chickens need extra calcium to produce eggs with strong shells

Chickens need extra calcium to produce eggs with strong shells



Help your chickens go through the molting process (when they lose feathers and stop egg production) by feeding them 20 percent more protein and limiting their stressors.



The sight of flowers can lift your spirits

Just the sight of flowers can have an uplifting effect on body, mind, and spirit



Time spent in a garden is a lot like yoga; it slows the breath, quiets the mind, and lets you get to  the truth.


To break your dog’s habit of licking you, get up and go into another room
immediately when the licking starts so the animal will associate its licking with your leaving.


If you don’t want to be devoured by insects, wear light colors when gardening.


If you want to strengthen your immune system, consume a teaspoonful of raw buckwheat honey every day.



Queen bee quarters on a frame inside the hive

Queen bee quarters on a frame inside the hive



A honeybee queens live 10 times longer than her worker bee sisters and while they are sterile, the queen remains reproductive throughout her life.


To keep your bee colony strong and robust, feed your honeybees when their food sources become scarce.


To make a fat-free broth, pour the juices of a roasted chicken or turkey into a wide-mouth jar and refrigerate until solidified; then, skim away the fat that has risen to the top.


You can’t shift the status quo if you don’t take action.


When relationships sour like beans and bitter herbs, an hour in a garden
can generate the sweetness of new dreams.


©November 2013 by Meera Lester
Permission is granted for use of individual quotes, provided the quoted material contains the following credit: “Used with permission from Henny Penny Farmers’ Almanac.”



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