This Earth Day we’re excited to share the latest developments in our Bee Friendly™ Research Initiative, originally unveiled by Paul Stamets during the 2014 Bioneers Annual Conference. For those unfamiliar with the story, our “Bee Friendly” campaign is an initiative created to support the research and development of fungal strategies to improve bee health and offset the use of toxic pesticides.
The devastating phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder was first officially recognized in 2006. Honey bee hives continue to die off at rates of 30–40% each winter. According to the USDA, the winter of 2015–2016 was the worst on record, when up to 44% of hives died (no data is yet available for winter 2016–2017.) This should be concerning to all, as approximately one out of every three bites of food human beings eat comes from a source that depends upon pollination by bees*.
In 2014, Paul Stamets teamed up with the Dr. Steve Sheppard, entomologist and head of the Washington State University APIS Molecular Systematics Laboratory to investigate the potential benefits of exposing honey bees to certain species of fungi. In the initial set of experiments, fungal extracts were fed to bees to determine their effects. The preliminary results suggest that extracts of certain polypore mushrooms can increase worker bee longevity and reduce viral burden.
Researchers suspect the nutritional support from fungal extracts is playing a significant role in improving bee health. The sugar syrup bees are typically fed is high in calories but non-nutritious, lacking phytochemicals and micronutrients. Fortifying this syrup with fungal extracts provides a wide assortment of B vitamins and other myconutrients critical for bee health.
An educated choice is better than an uneducated guess. IRescueBees is here to help with our blog Beekeeping Basics Choosing the Right Bee
The honey bee comes in many different breeds. Each breed has it's own characteristics.
For instance, one breed may be gentle and productive but, is susceptible to disease. While another could be a bit more protective yet, can be disease resistant.
Lets start with the Italian honey bee...
Italian honey bees are by far the most well know of all breeds. Beginners often start out with Italian bees.
While they are widely available and the best selling honey bee breed but, that does not make the perfect. Although, gentle and easy to work with they need to be medicated to overcome local bee diseases.
Italians have also been extensively inbred that listed characteristics may not bee there. As a whole, Italian honey bees are prolific, have a low tendency to swarm, medium propolizing, gentle and make nice white cappings.
Conversely, they exhibit low hygienic behavior and have a slow spring build if not fed. Hygienic behavior aids in the removal of varroa and other parasitic mites.
We will cover bee diseases and mites in another post.
Although, we do not use Italian bees in our apiaries, we do recommend them to the beginner.
Russian Honey Bees...
These are another available breed, many beekeeping suppliers provide Russian as well as Italian honey bees.
Russian honey bees are a three way cross of Caucasian, Carniolan and Italian. Bred for disease and mite resistance, make them a great choice for the beginner that wants to beekeep chemical free.
Great honey hording with a less swarming tendency of Italian. With maximum propolizing makes them perfect for propolis production.
Not as gentle as Italians; so if your willing to take a few stings Russians will work fine.
This breed sells well and is available in the United States. But, we do not recommend Buckfast for the beginner, they are just to hot.
Buckfast bee is a sub breed of Italian bees. Developed by Karl Kegrle ( brother Adam ) while in charge of beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey in England. Bred for a fast spring build up, hygienic behavior and prolific honey gathering these too have their negative traits.
They are not gentle and the queen needs to be changed every year.
IRescueBees recommends that the beginner starts out with Italian honey bees. These will give you a feel of beekeeping and honey bee behavior.
As you grow in experience consider other breeds. We only use feral bees in our apiaries, we call them mutts.
Feral bees are available but not to purchase. These must be caught.
You can advertise that you will chase swarms ( for a charge, do not chase swarms for free remember hives cost money )
In a later post we will discuss catching a swarm and how to get free bees. Beekeeping Basics Choosing the Right Bee