Tag Archives: Honey bees

5 insightful TED talks on Honey Bees

18 Nov

We have selected 5 insightful TED talks on Honeybees, from beekeepers to scientists, all bee lovers, and all speaking about the importance of the honey bees. By watching these 5 short videos, you will learn about their origins, their relationship with human, why they are disappearing and how you could help them.

John Miller: No bees, No food – March 2014

John Miller is a commercial beekeeper who you might have caught a glimpse of in the documentary ‘More than honey.’ His grandfather was making his living by selling honey, but times have change and Miller makes his living not by selling honey any more but by offering the service of pollination. He travels with his 12,000 colonies all over USA and pollinates fields. This unique approach makes him standout among a crop of commercial American beekeepers. He is telling us more in this TED talk:


Marla Spivak: Why bees are disappearing? – September 2013

This TED talk is led by Marla Spivak, a distinguished McKnight University Professor in Apiculture and Social Insects. She is explaining us how bees are disappearing due to diseases and parasites, pesticides, monoculture and a flowerless landscape devoid of any biodiversity. It’s no secret that the honeybee population is on the decline and the main reason for this is the change in our farming practices. For example, we stopped planting cover crops and start using chemicals fertilizers. Monocultural practice and relentless use of fertilizer and weed killer have ensured that our landscape is gradually turning into a desert for bees.


Dino Martins: The human and the honeybees – June 2013

“Both honeybees and humans originated in East Africa and the connection between us has survived the ages.”

Dino Martins, entomologist and teacher at Turkana Basin Field school and explorer at National Geographic gives us a short but really fascinating talk. He shows how insects and in particular honey bees are connected to human beings. Showing examples of bees pollination all over the world and their importance for the livelihoods of people.


Noah Wilson Rich: Every city needs healthy honey bees – April 2013

This TED talk is done by Noah Nilson Rich, Doctorant in Biology and founder of Best bees, a company which delivers, installs, and manages honey bee hives for residents and businesses throughout eastern Massachusetts. He promotes urban bee keeping and its benefits. Imagine all roof tops everywhere, creating food crops in the city.The pilot project started in Paris and it is now catching on all over the world.


Dennis Vanengelsdorp: Where have the bees gone? – December 2008

Dennis Van Engelsdorp, assistant Professor in the department of entomology at the University of Maryland was one of the early advocates of the health of honey bees and has spoken extensively about bees disappearing and what could be the root cause of this problem. Yearly, around 30% of the population of bees vanish in America.  After spending time with local and commercial beekeepers, he goes through all the possibilities of why and where the bees could have gone.





February Timeline: Swarming season and the Indian summer

8 Mar

DSC_0239 - CopyWe’re happy to report a very fruitful February for the Pollinator Programme. The month started with the partners learning to divide colonies more efficiently. We’ve trained our partners to divide the hive during swarming season. According to the region and the climatic conditions, the period of swarming varies greatly from one site to another. It generally happens a few months after the beginning of the flowering season. In Araku, swarming happens from January to March, as well as at the beginning of the monsoon, in June. We were pleasantly surprised to find one of the colonies we divided in Kotagumam had more than 5 queen cells! The hive was carried around a kilometer from the mother hive,  to avoid the possibility of worker bees coming back to their initial address. The new colony has been put in a coffee plantation on a tree which is locally called Madi tree.

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We also had a visit from our mother bee, Briony Young, who brought us the original Sunhive last year. We loved sharing our ideas with her and have constantly been in touch with her throughout the last year for her valuable inputs on the programme. She was impressed by the progress that our partners had made and offered a training session on how to plant bee-friendly trees and plants around hives. She is an expert biodynamic farmer and spends her time shuttling between her native Zimbabwe and England.

With the onset of summer our bee garden has suffered. The soil is becoming harder and we are doing a séance of CPP (Cow Pat Pit) Biodynamic method to improve the quality of the soil- can be called a super fertilizer. The sultry South Indian summer does have a silver lining, with the mango flower season starting. Mango is more of a pollen supplier tree, meaning our bees are in for a treat!


Back to Hyderabad were I visited the farm of our good friend and biodynamic farmer, Anjali Rudraraju. She is working on creating a Sunhive on her biodynamic farm as well. She has a lot of Apis florea on her plot and we also observed the presence on the Borage flower of our little friends Apis cerana. You can check out more about Anjali’s farm and her work on her Mitti and Mango Nation Facebook page.



September 2013: Education takes the Araku Pollinator Program forward

23 Sep

This month we received an educational kit from Bee for development to help us train and empower  the tribal women of the Pollinator Program. Thanks to the visual cards provided we can now help our beneficiaries understand the program easily and also organize and structure our meetings in a better.

karakaput meetin 30/08

We experimented with the educational kit in a village called Karaput. The first meeting was about the awareness on honey bees primary role. The group of 12 women gave different answers – “bees make honey which is medicinal”,” they sit on flowers and drink the juice”, but they didn’t really seem to know why bees did this. The visual cues assisted us in explaining the the role of honey bees as pollinators. At the end of the session, all the women insisted on doing a group picture with me to commemorate our first meeting!

Karakaput Members

We are also preparing for swarming season which will occur when the monsoon comes to an end and the flowers of the forest trees will begin blooming. We have started building bait hives which will hopefully attract a swarm. We’ve put some drops of lemon grass oil in all our empty hives in an attempt to attract swarms.

In the nearby village of Kodaput, we took the time to speak to elders from the community. They told us of how in these 2 last decades the lush-green forest around them has slowly disappeared. Back in the day, you couldn’t walk 2 meters without stumbling upon a beehive, the village had 6 households (they now have around 30). Trees and wild flowers were there all yearlong, to cross rivers they used the tree’s branches, It’s hard to believe that all this was just 15-20 years ago! I was really touch by their words and they helped me reinforce the need for the pollinator program in light of disappearing bee populations


At current, it is not easy to work and travel in this region. Since the beginning of the month, region has been paralyzed by daily strikes and bandhs over the division of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Roads are blocked, public transport options are sparse and power cuts have increased due to the weekly strike of the electricity department. Due to this our work is disturbed on a daily basis and its difficult for us to reach our weekly targets. We’ve been forced to take smaller steps.

Honey and the coffee bean

5 Sep

Coffee bean shapes

In our pristine Araku Valley, the Naandi foundation has been working alongside about 10,000 organic coffee farmers. They are working with the Arabica coffee which is self-pollinated. This mean that to obtain fruit, the plant doesn’t depend on the presence of bees, relying instead on the wind to propagate its pollen. However an independent Indian study reveals that the introduction of bees to Arabica plantations produces a greater proportion of fruit berries (2-seeded fruits) while the exclusion of bees results in higher proportions of pea-berrys (single seeded fruits). The shape of the seeds are being improved due to the presence pollinators. When the coffee is processed, only the perfect shaped beans are selected and roasted for a quality coffee. Therefor bees can play a vital role in improving the coffee quality and assuring better returns for farmers.


Bees get high

Geraldine Wright, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University in England, conducted a study finding bees may actually be benefited  by low concentrations of caffeine in coffee flowers. Caffeine, a compound which is toxic at high dose to pollinators and other animals is  generally produced by the plant as a defense mechanism . However at low doses, caffeine becomes effective for attracting pollinators.  It actually improves the long-term memory of the bees and encourages them to come back to the coffee flowers.The plant is secretly drugging the pollinator to spread its pollen!

b n c

Even if Arabica coffee is self-pollinated, their is a clear co-relation between bees and the plant. It attracts the bees thanks to a small amount of caffeine and the quality of the bean improves thanks to the bee pollination. In my opinion this represents a perfect example of a a symbiotic  pollinator exchange.

Planting species like coffee  amongst crops might improve pollination. The more we know about bee foraging, the better a chance we have at keeping them around and healthy, both for their sake and ours.”- Dr. Wright

[Photo creadit by Ducan]

[Photo credited by USW]

5 Facts about Monsanto in India

21 Aug

I recently visited Monsanto- India’s website and was quite shocked being greeted by this slogan: “Producing more, conserving more, improving lives. THAT’S SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, AND THAT’S WHAT MONSANTO IS ALL ABOUT”. Don’t believe me? Check for yourselves.

If that’s not enough, Monsanto was awarded the World Food Prize (2013), often referred to as the “Nobel Prize” for Agriculture. Do you think, like me, that there’s something fishy about that? Below are a few of my findings about Monsanto in India I thought I’d share:


BT cotton

  • Monsanto developed BT Brinjal illegally using 6 endemic varieties of Indian Brinjal. Biosafety test done raised serious health concerns.
  • In 2003, Monsanto got a patent granted in the European patent office for a variety of wheat that  had originally developed from Nap Hal, an Indian wheat variety. But was un-patented in India.
  • In the last 15 years, 270,000 farmers have committed suicide in India. Most of these suicides were in the cotton belt. Monsanto now controls 95% of the cotton seed supplies in the country through its GMO BT cotton, and the associated Intellectual property claims. Costs of cotton seed jumped 8000% with the introduction of BT cotton.
  • Monsanto has been conducting field trials in India with GM corn for commercial approval.  The biosafety assessments presented by Monsanto have been left incomplete. The most shocking is the fact that this assessment has been conducted by Monsanto laboratories itself.
  • After the US Monsanto Protection Act law was passed in March 2013, Monsanto is trying to impose a protection act in India, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill.

    Coated seeds

What is the BRAI exactly? 

This Bill was introduced by the Ministry of Science and Technology in the Lok Sabha on 22 April 2013 as a promise to promote the safe use of modern biotechnology. This bill is a threat to our health,  the environment and agriculture. The introduction of GM seeds means that:

  • This bill promotes the use of GMO and GE in India without taking inconsideration of the health risk associated to this modern technology. Basically Monsanto thinks that more is better, doesn’t matter the quality.
  •  The bill reduces the role of the state government and gives them no power to ban or reject the introduction of GM seed on the market and citizen will not have access to information about the safety of GM food.
  • There is no socio-economic survey proving that GM will be a better solution to India agriculture. (introduction of the GM cotton is a good example of the negative effect of GM crops.

bee against monsanto

Working everyday with poor, tribal communities, I can’t imagine them buying all seeds every year, they have traditionally always kept seeds stored for the coming year. Few days ago, an Indian nationwide campaign has been launched against the BRAI Bill and GM crop to fight the invasion of Monsanto in Indian crops. You can join the fight and sign the petition.To be continued.

[Photo credit – abhisheksrivastava]

July 2013: Araku welcomes the Indian monsoon

17 Jul

After the harsh summer, farmers can finally rejoice, monsoons have arrived!  Most farmers in our emerald valley don’t have access to irrigation systems and can only rely heavily on the rain. When the monsoon skies open, farmers plough their lands and start sowing rice and vegetables. In a week’s time the dry, arid landscape transforms itself into a lush green landscape.

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There is little info available as to where the bees migrate to during the monsoon, they become scarce in this region when the monsoon start. Apis cerana builds its nest in October, which often gets flooded during monsoon and the honey bees evacuate. I was surprised to see this swarm at one of our empty hives a couple weeks ago.


That morning I went to a particular village to monitor the bees and inform the villagers about monsoon management techniques. When we reached one of our new beekeepers came to us, telling us that there is a group of bees hanging on her empty hive. I was delighted to be greeted by lively swarm! The colony found its new house all by itself! Taking established colony count to 15!


Our first trained beekeeper, Laxmi,  is now ready to teach other women of her village. She looks like a pro and she isn’t the least bit scared of the bees anymore. She has a passion for her bees and when she opens her hive, she takes great care not to disturb them too much.The team is extremely proud of her!



5 must-see documentaries about Honey bees

11 Jul

We noticed there was not enough quality Apiculture resource banks on the net. The lack of awareness around Colony Collapse Disorder and the plight of the honey bee is startling. Here’s our list of 5 of the best honey bee documentaries we found out there. Hope everybody enjoys watching them as much as we did, do feel free to leave comments.

More than Honey (2012) by Markus Imhoof

rated 7.6/10 on ImDb

This documentary focuses on the relationship between honeybees and small family beekeepers as well as commercial beekeepers from Australia, China, Switzerland and America. A beautiful film featuring stunning close ups of bees in their natural element. This documentary gives you a lenseye perspective of life in a honey bee colony.


Queen of the Sun: what are the bees telling us? (2010) by Taggart Siegel

rated 7.6/10 on ImDb

Perhaps one of the most unconventional documentaries on honeybees. This documentary made me laugh and cry. After watching this movie you’ll think twice before munching on an almond. You’ll learn in-depth about the innovative design of the Sun hive. A beautiful biodynamic hive made in rye straw that respects the well-being of the colony. An informative and defining documentary, ‘Queen of the Sun’ is a must for apiculturists across the board.


Vanishing of the Bees (2009) by George Langworthy and Maryam Henein

rated 6.9/10 on ImDb

The movie highlights the challenges bees are facing in this fast modernizing world. With a special focus on “Colony Collapse Disorder,” it presents us the economic, political and ecological implications of the worldwide disappearance of the honeybee. This documentary follows organic and commercial beekeepers fighting against big corporation and trying to save their bees.


Who killed the honey bees? (2009) by James Esrkine

rated 7/10 on ImDb

Introduced by Martha Kearney, this BBC documentary, full-length available on YouTube, explores the reasons behind the decline of bee colonies across the globe, investigating the key contributors to the devastation. This simple documentary is a good introduction to Colony Collapse Disorder. A 50-minute documentary explaining tracing the history of commercial beekeepers.


The Last Beekeeper (2008) by Jeremy Simmons

rated 7.6/10 on ImDb

In 1950, the United States had a work force numbering 200,000 beekeepers, in 2008, there were less than 1,600! One of the eldest professions in the world faces extinction. The movie follows the struggles of three American beekeepers as their colonies are threatened by a mysterious illness. A unique perspective on commercial beekeeping,