How Do Bees Hear?

Have you ever wondered how bees are able to hear? In fact the way they go about hearing and communicating with each other is fascinating. This in turn results to a well coordinated work the honey bee displays. Just how do bees hear and how does this affect their day to day activity?

Many though bees were totally deaf to airborne vibrations for quite some time. With that being said, intracolony communication in honey bees is made possible with the significant role that is played by vibroacoustics, the process of hearing sound vibrations through the body.

The subgenual organ which is an organ in insects that is involved in the perception of sound and is responsible for bees to notice tones as vibration attractions over the underground, over their claw members and a sensory organ in the rail of their legs.

Johnston’s organ, a chordotonal organ located in the second segment of an insect’s antenna has been shown to be used to perceive these sound signals. Johnston’s organ function is to detect the vibrations gathered by sound waves with the antenna of the insect. With airborne sounds, honey bees are able to detect the air-particle movements which is beneficial since bees produce sound not only through movement of their wings but also with their thoracic muscles.

Honey bees are able to uncouple their wings to produce heat and generate acoustic signals even though they use these muscles to move their wings. It should be noted that pressure and particle movement components is what travelling sound waves both has which is measured by their frequency in Hertz (Hz), or cycles per second. Honey bees are known to produce a number of vibration and sound – from less than 10 to more than 1000 Hz. The higher wave frequency creates a higher pitch and they are shown to be able to detect sound frequencies up to about 500 Hz which is quite an impressive feat. How does this help honey bees with their day to day activity?

To answer that question, nest mates are informed by honey bees of the location of food sources through the use of airborne near field sound signals that revolves around the dance language. A dancing bee is able to waggles her abdomen and vibrates her wings during honey bee forager recruitment dances and in doing so simultaneously generates substrate-borne vibrations, near field sounds, and jets of air all of which can transmit information from the dancer to follower bees. This in turn makes it relatively easy for them to effectively convey their message to the other bees which is done in a timely and effective manner. As a result, honey bees are guided accordingly to their target location.

Having a clear overview on how bees communicate on a day to day basis will help individuals realize just how hearing works. Several researches take this information to devise new and innovative ways on how to help others with hearing loss or other related hearing problems.

Potential Lawsuits Arising: Pesticides Damaging Bee Populations

We all know that bee colonies have been seriously damaged in Europe and North America over the last two decades. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the term, which has been coined to describe the devastating northern hemisphere phenomenon. What happens is that adult bees die and you are left with a live queen bee and immature bees. This is classified as a dead colony by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). No causes for the plague like syndrome have been scientifically identified.

In a survey released by the Bee Partnership, a consortium of universities and research labs, there have been thousands of apiarists declaring colony losses of around forty-two percent of their stocks in 2015. These are serious numbers and come on the back of thirty-four percent losses in 2013 and 2014. Bees don’t just make honey, they also pollinate orchards and food crops across the globe; being responsible for about a third of all such food crops. You have heard the expression, “busy as a bee”, I am sure. Bees are an integral part of food production on this planet.

Potential Lawsuits Arising: Pesticides Damaging Bee Populations

Bee keepers are certain that the culprit is something called ‘neonicotinoids’, which are a new generation of pesticides. They say that wherever these pesticides have been released bee colonies suffer from CCD on mass. In places like Montana, in the USA, where some remote regions have little or no agriculture, and the neonicotinoids have not been released, CCD does not exist. Despite widespread belief, beekeepers have not up until now been able to prove their case; and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not acted on their complaints. Big agriculture in the US has gone from pest eradication policies to pest prevention policies; and neonicotinoids are a big part of the new strategy.

Law forms in the US and around the world are beginning to represent bee keepers in their class actions against the EPA and the makers of these pesticides. Although, as yet not successful, the courts have given leave for plaintiffs to amend cases and continue their legal actions. A group called Earthjustice, which is a coalition of public interest groups, has filed a lawsuit in California and that continues to this day. The science is complex and these legal actions are being fought on the science involved in these new generation pesticides.

Many law firms around the world, including Adelaide law firms see that producers of pesticides could face legal action.

Colony Collapse Disorder Spells Doom For Beekeepers

With the bad news on the bee front in Europe and North America things have not only been cataclysmic for the bees but also their keepers. Honey makes the world go around, the world go around, in the most delightful way (apologies to the lyricist from Cabaret). But if you are a beekeeper then honey and money are tied up with each other in all sorts of ways. Apiarists have been struggling to maintain their bee colonies and their finances, in many cases, and some are on the skids.

Colony collapse disorder spells doom for beekeepers may be a tad dramatic, but these sure are challenging times that we live in. What’s the buzz; tell me what’s a happening (with apologies to Tim Rice)? The buzz is bad folks for the humble beekeeper and his future prospects in the honey making business. Love and honey, love and honey; its currently a sticky business. I imagine that I will be seeing a lot of disused bee hives on the verges of the streets of America in the not too distant future. Plus a lot of people, bent over with permanently bad backs, shuffling their way down struggle street.

I know from personal experience that some apiarists have been forced to take on bad credit personal loans as they give up on producing honey and shift to new crops in order to survive financially. But once you have tasted honey how do you do anything else? It is a sweet business with a lot of rewards; most importantly the satisfaction of creating, with your bees, a special product. A gourmet food for human beings, which cannot only delight the senses, but heal and nourish as well. No other product does that in quite the same way.

I cannot see apiarists turning to growing crops or veggies or flowers. Or becoming peanut farmers and producing their own peanut butter. It is just not the same. Aquaculture is too smelly and prone to diseases. Growing hops for boutique beer brewers just doesn’t have the same cache. Honey bees are at the pinnacle of nature and beekeeping has such a long and rich history. The ancient Greeks and the Romans were very partial to a drop of honey on their bread and goat’s cheese. Someone must save the honey bees and turn this disaster around before it is too late. The government should be investing in solutions for humanity’s sake.

Life’s Sweet in the Honey Business: Setting up an Apiary

Life can be sweet in the honey business, but it is also very hard work moving hives and extracting honey. The flow method of extracting the apiarist’s honey, invented by a young Australian beekeeper, has revolutionised the business of producing honey, but it is still a labour of love as much as anything else. This is as it should be, I would not advise anyone to go into the honey bee business to make money; you must love the work and honey. It’s all about the honey not the money, sounds like a great book title.

Setting up an apiary involves purchasing hive boxes or making your own, having access to an environment that the bees will happily produce in and getting a permit from your government regulator to make honey for sale for human consumption. Producing great honey is similar to being a vigneron and wine maker or, perhaps, a cheese maker. All of these artisans are working with nature to produce a natural food or drink product.

The first question you should ask yourself when considering setting up an apiary, is, can you handle being stung by bees. Because you will get stung occasionally, it is all part of the process. If you have an allergic reaction to bee stings look for another hobby. Like anything, the more you are stung, if you are not allergic to bee stings, the less severe your reactions become, as your body builds up its immune system to the toxin.

It is recommended that you start small with one or two hives to see how the life of an apiarist suits you. Business finance is available when you choose to expand your production levels. Read up on books or websites explaining the how to be a successful bee keeper.  Check with all the government agency guidelines and get a permit. You will need protective clothing, boots, gloves, smoker and a hive tool, in addition to your hive boxes. Plus an uncapping fork, honey extractor, honey strainer and vessels to store your honey in.

Where do the bees come from? You can wait for some bees to find you, or you can purchase bees from someone like another beekeeper, an association or business selling honey bee colonies. Spring is the optimum time to acquire your bees, as they then expand the colony and you can watch them grow. Bees must be looked after, and the hives regularly checked for pests and infestations. You need to ensure that you leave enough food in the hive for the bees at the end of summer in preparation for winter. Happy beekeeping.

12 Green Groups Who Care for Bees

In Germany the giant chemical corporation, Bayer, attempted to sue Friends of the Earth over its claims that pesticides manufactured by Bayer were harmful to bees. The company failed in its bid to sue the environmental group. Bayer and other chemical manufacturers like Syngenta and Monsanto are continuing to lobby the European Commission to lift the ban on neonicotinoids (NNIs). The pesticide maker point the finger at the Varroa mites as the reason for bee colony decreases in Europe and North America.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a New York based environmental advocacy group, has filed a legal petition with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking for the withdrawal of its approval of the use of NNIs.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is an international coalition of NGOs and people who are all fighting against the use of pesticides in some sixty nations around the world. Decades ago it was people marching in the streets to save the whales, the largest creatures on the planet, and now people are marching in the streets to save tiny little honey bees; perhaps, we are progressing in our care and stewardship of the earth. Nobel Prize winning author Maurice Maeterlinck wrote in his, The Life of the Bee, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Are we seeing the beginning of this terrifying scenario, only time will tell? This quote has been wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein but like a lot of things on blogs in the digital sphere there is much hot air blowing around without guidance.

Beekeeping associations in Canada have filed legal proceedings to prevent the uncontrolled use of pesticides like NNIs in their country.

Charles Benbrook, a research professor out of Washington State University’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources, recently estimated that NNIs are being used on around seventy five percent of agricultural crops. These pesticides are killing bees, which are the natural pollinators on the earth.

It is wild bees that are being most affected by the pesticides in canola seeds and other crops, their numbers are dropping far faster and in far greater numbers than those of honey bees.It is these wild bee pollinators which will be greatly missed by almond growers, watermelon growers and the like. The Xerces Society is a group concerned with the conservation of native bees and insects.

Other concerned environmental groups are the World Wildlife Fund, ACM Group Conservation Monitoring, Greenpeace, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, the National Bee Unit, the Stinging Truth and Americans for Bees.


A Bee Ambassador Remembered: Vale William Hill

Truly a friend of the bee, William Hill was born in Merseyside in the UK and from an early age was stung by the apiculture bug. Young William poured over the work of the great Charles Darwin, especially as it related to honey bee comb building in the hive. For Master Hill the work of the natural philosopher and biologist was an inspiration and turned him toward his path to become Britain’s greatest bee keeper and authority on honey bees. Hill’s honey has become synonymous with toasted crumpets and breakfasts across the nation. He is not to be confused with William Hill Bookmakers.

It is, however, his work on understanding the nature of bees and their colonies, which has contributed to worldwide bee knowledge. We now comprehend the behaviours of bees, the what and whys of apiculture; and can work with nature to improve the quality of life for bees and increase honey production at the same time. The natural world is a wondrous place and bees have a vital role to play in overall environmental health. Wild bees are an essential part of food production on the planet; agriculture recognises the pivotal role the bee plays in pollinating flowers. Agnes Baden-Powell was influenced by the work of William Hill.

William Hill began life as a poor theology student in Liverpool at the Merseyside College of Christ at the turn of the last century. His father the Rev. Cedric Felton Hill was an Anglican minister in the village of Little Puddle Bottom in Dorset. William had won a scholarship to attend the Merseyside institution for his academic brilliance at the local elementary school. He would not graduate from the theological college, as his Darwinian views would eventually put him at loggerheads with the Christian ‘humancentric’ conception of the universe. William thought, controversially, that bees had souls and so did all the flora and fauna in nature.

William Hill would fight for the rights of honey bees and many other animal causes against the exploitation they suffered through ignorance and church sanctioned cruelty. The Church of England, along with most other Christian creeds, preached that only ‘man’ had a soul and, therefore, all other creatures were put on earth for the benefit of humanity. God had designed the intricate hexagonal prisms within the bee hive, according to religious proponents, along with everything else in nature. The birds and the bees were lesser creatures and served to feed and entertain ‘mankind’, who was made in God’s image.

Mister ‘humblebee’ Hill would rail against this misguided madness all his life, as he studied the intricate behaviour of bees within their colonies in the wild and in captivity. Eventually, the views of Darwin on natural selection would prevail globally over the ignorance of religion and the rights of bees and all creatures have been recognised by the state through legislation. A big thank you must be directed to the ambassador of bees, Mr William Hill.

Beehives: Is Wood Always The Best Material?

Quite simply, yes. The apiarist’s bee hive is recreating something that occurs in nature through the intervention of human made infrastructure. Most bee keepers are naturalists, so they believe in keeping things as close to nature as possible. In the wild bees may colonise around a branch on a tree and trees are made of wood. Wood is nature’s first choice for supporting bee hives, so it makes sense to construct your bee hives out of wood.

What kind of wood is best for the construction of bee hives? Pine is the cheapest and most popular with apiarists. Cedar and cypress are great woods for beehives, as they contain natural oils which deter other bugs and mould. Oak and maple are also great woods to work with. You can also use more expensive timber for the construction of your hives, like mahogany, cherry wood and black walnut; but these will set you back a pretty penny or two. Avoid timber that has been treated with chemicals, as you want your bee operation to be natural and non-toxic. Plastic boxes are available for bee hives but are much more expensive to purchase than the materials to create your own natural wooden hive box.

In ancient times beehives were made out of plaited straw and were more circular in shape. In eighteen fifty one in Philadelphia, the Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth designed a box hive, which contained removal frames for the bees to establish their combs on. This invention meant that bee swarming was avoided and that the apiarist could dramatically increase the number of colonies and thus increase honey production. The box hive has a lid, inner cover, frames for the homey, a honey super box, queen excluder, brood box, frames for brood and bottom board. The bee hive is like wooden furniture for the bees.

There are strict rules in many countries like the US and Australia, which govern the construction of beehives and the honey bee industry as a whole. The dramatic decline in bee colonies in the US has concerned numerous official bodies responsible for bee keeping and the global honeybee market. There are requirements governing the use of wood preservatives in the timber used in beehive construction, the use of removal frames, the marking of beehives with registration numbers and the disposal of waste products used in honey production. Natural food producers must be monitored to ensure the safety of the public and the overall safety of the honey bee industry.