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December Bee Notes

Introduction

A friend sent me a card the other day which read, “Somehow we will squeeze through these dark December days”. It described how I felt. I like Blaise Pascal’s idea that in difficult times, you should always keep something beautiful in your heart or I might add in your pocket. Beauty makes a difference. The bees adjust their life style to each season of the year, why not us? With our technologically-adapted life style we are cut off from the natural world and we imagine that the natural world plays no part in our lives. D.H. Lawrence, in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, describes this disconnection as a catastrophe:

“Oh what a catastrophe for man when he cut himself off

from his union with the sun and the earth.

This is what is the matter with us. We are bleeding at the roots,

because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars and

love is grinning mockery, because, poor blossom,

we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life and expected

it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table”

In a book on, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, the author Acharya Shunya explains how we are connected to the natural world and still need to adjust our lifestyle to fit the time of the year. A ‘seasonally adjusted life style’ makes sense to me – eating the same foods all year, exercising in the same way throughout the year, doesn’t make sense. Ayurveda recommends specific protocols for each season of the year. Some of these recommendations are in autumn, with darkness closing in and wind and rain increasing. It is easy at that time for our inner world to become a little shaky so Ayurveda advises stabilising one’s routine , especially routines of eating and sleeping and also recommends settling in our ideas and convictions. As winter settles in, a change of diet is helpful, eating hot, spiced and warming foods – soups, stews – also getting out into early morning light and engaging in creative activity. I know I have a lot to learn about this idea of managing myself round each season. Maybe I could learn more from the bees. The church too provides a change especially with the Gregorian chant for Advent and this lifts me over the lintel and into a different mood.

A Note on Mistletoe Use

Mistletoe, the partial parasite of apple, lime, poplar, or hawthorn trees is evergreen, and grows into a large spherical mass on the host tree. It produces a root like structure which grows into the tree and sucks its nutrients from the tree. Its seeds, spread by birds, are covered with a sticky, viscous gel that attaches them to the bark of a tree. The Mistle Thrush gets its name because it loves Mistletoe seeds. It flowers in early spring with male and female flowers on separate trees. Bees, among other insects, do the pollinating and provide us with those shiny, waxy white berries at Christmas. After each kiss you remove one of the berries – once all the berries are gone that’s it, no more kissing!

Asthma Cure

According to a new study, streets with trees may help against asthma attacks. Researchers from Exeter University studied the impact of urban greenery on asthma. By comparing 26,000 urban neighbourhoods the researchers found a link between areas highly populated by trees and lower rates of emergency visits to hospital for asthma. The association is even stronger in highly polluted areas. The study showed that an extra three hundred trees per square kilometre was associated with approximately 50 fewer emergency asthma cases per 100,000 residents over a 15 year period.

Watch Out For Fungicides

We know how harmful insecticides are for bees, but fungicides may also be causing harm. A study at Cornell University in the USA has found signs of a “surprising link” between fungicides and declining bumblebee numbers. This could be important for us since because of our damp climate we use lots of fungicides. Ireland has ninety-eight species of wild bee, twenty-one of which are bumblebees. According to the National Biodiversity Data Centre, 30% of Ireland’s bee species are threatened with extinction, mainly due to habitat loss. It is suspected that fungicides could change the nectar composition of flowers or harm the micro-organisms that live in bees’ guts. Fungicides have also been found to react with insecticides and make these toxic to bees. More research is clearly required in the Irish setting to see how fungicides impact our native bees.

American Foul Brood (Afb)

There is an interesting treatment for American Foul Brood coming from Australia. They use gamma radiation to sterilise equipment (same thing as used to sterilise medical equipment). It is popular as it does not use chemicals, so there is no residue in treated parts and they can be used immediately. This is ideal for bee equipment where it can be difficult to ensure chemicals and other treatments reach every area. Gamma radiation penetrates every part of the equipment, which means that any pathogens or insects are eliminated. This eliminates AFB and equipment can be treated over and over again. This would be a welcome new treatment and a more effective control than just burning hives which I had to do many years ago!

Conclusion

I am not getting great reports on the usefulness of the Bee Meditation. Maybe I need to test it myself. But thank you for the feedback from the brave people who tried it. There is little to be done in the Apiary at this time of year. If we get snow, do check that snow doesn’t block the entrance to the hives. Bees don’t hibernate and if the sun comes out and it warms up, they will be out and about, taking cleansing flights. They are very hygienic and save their waste until they get a chance to get outside their home. Some people give some extra protection to their hives by adding a blanket under the roof. In my experience, good ventilation is more important. A blanket can get damp and ultimately trap cold, damp air in the roof space. The best gift we can give bees at this time of the year is not to disturb them. But do go and tell them, ‘yes it is Christmas – rejoice and be glad’. I hope someone whispers this to you too!