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About this blog

Essays from the edge of knowledge & bewilderment

 

 

Entries in this blog

 

Let's Get Physi-cal

Physics provides a lens that focuses on our honeybee colonies in interesting new ways and a recent paper from Derek Mitchell at Leeds University’s School of Mechanical Engineering does just that. The mathematics is a bit challenging if you’re anything like me, but it’s possible to get through that, and he also has some worthwhile observations we can apply to polystyrene hives.  Mitchell’s current interest (Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD); his thesis was about differences in heat transfer betw
 

Bee and Wasp stings

1.         Introduction 2.         Venom Biochemistry 3.         Minimising the dose 4.         Treating the sting 5.         Topical treatments 6.         Systemic, toxic, and anaphylactic responses 7.         Ocular stings 8.         Beekeepers 9.         Caring for others 10.      References   Introduction New Zealand is fortunate to have very few stinging insects. These are members of the hymenopt

Dave Black

Dave Black

 

Social immunity and Hygienic Behaviour

Social insects like honeybee living in close proximity have a higher risk of spreading diseases and poisons among nestmates, so we would expect to find mechanisms that mitigate this. One of these systems is an innate immune system that provides an antimicrobial film on their exoskeleton, a hostile gut environment, a peritrophic membrane and gut epithelium, and effective cellular and humoral defences. These secrete antimicrobial chemicals, engulf or entomb foreign materials, and provide enzymes t

Dave Black

Dave Black

 

Viruses, RNA, and Honey bees

For most of us viruses are confusing. Many people are unable to distinguish between viruses and bacteria and expect them to be much the same kind of thing, which they are not. Viruses don’t fit easily in to the various categories of living things we are used to dealing with, and actually whether they even are living organisms is arguable, and how they came to be still more controversial. Which is why there is never a clear answer about how we might kill a harmful virus.   Viruses are n

Dave Black

Dave Black

 

Honey Bee Families

The promiscuity of honey bee queens generates lots of interesting questions about social insect society, many of which relate to the many different ‘sub-families’ that co-exist within a colony.  For example, do individuals within a colony overcome their self-interest to rear the ‘best’ replacement queen in an emergency or do they try to pick their closest relative? Just how far does social co-operation extend? Emerging recent research is starting to suggest that, apart from picking well-fed larv

Dave Black

Dave Black

 

Over the fence: Perspective on managing acaricide resistance

This article was originally published in 2015   Everybody needs to look over the fence once in a while, especially beekeepers. Something that caught my eye recently was a study looking at weeds and glyphosate resistance, a study which itself took a glance over the palings at antibiotic resistance in hospitals. Resistance is not a phenomenon unique to beekeeping, it is universal and, at its simplest, just about how organisms adapt and evolve in their environment.   From our po

Dave Black

Dave Black

 

Another look at American Foul Brood

The bacterial brood disease American Foul Brood (AFB) occurs worldwide and leads to significant losses of honey bee colonies every year. In several countries, as in New Zealand, AFB is a notifiable disease and infected bee colonies have to be burned to contain the disease. Although it has been under investigation now for more than a century, the underlying characteristics of the host–pathogen interactions on larval level remain elusive. An effective treatment of AFB does still not exist, partly

Dave Black

Dave Black

 

Beginner's Guide to Nectar and Honey

Have you ever wondered about honey, what it is and why it’s like it is? What about quality and honey, what should beekeepers know?     Honey comes from Nectar Nectar is a solution produced by plants that animals collect for food. Plants have special structures that make this solution usually from water and sap flowing in the plant. Often these are found in flowers and attract animals that pollinate the plant, but that is not always the case, and they can sometimes be found on

Dave Black

Dave Black

 

Pollination under cover with honey bees

The number of kiwifruit blocks covered by a canopy is increasing. These canopies consist of a hail netting supported on rammed posts, and can cover a considerable area, thousands of square meters. Many, but not all, are fully enclosed with netting down to ground level along the sides. From a grower's perspective these provide some substantial benefits. Obviously, given the name, one is protection from hail. Even unnoticed hail damage can cause a significant fall in the return a grower gets for t

Dave Black

Dave Black

 

Learning Their Place

As Honey bee workers mature they undergo a behavioural development scientists call “temporal polyethism”, more commonly referred to as an age-related (not age-dependant!) division of labour. Younger bees for the first two to three weeks of adult life work inside the hive at tasks such as brood care and hive maintenance, and older individuals work outside the hive as foragers. The transition to foraging involves changes that cause many thousands of alterations in gene activity in the brain affect

Dave Black

Dave Black

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