Silent Spring, Stephen Hawking-style

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left.
No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

– Albert Einstein

Speculation continues into Colony Collapse Disorder (previously covered in the Hive Mind blog here and here).  Today, an intriguing piece from Synchronizm, which I will do my very best to summarize here.  After that, I will go soak my brain in ice water, because it hurts.

It all begins, apparently, with Barbara Shipman, a mathematician (and, through lucky coincidence, daughter of a bee researcher) who noticed that the patterns in the “waggle dance” that bees use to communicate where flowers are to one another (i.e., to give navigational information) map very closely to shapes one sees when one projects the residents of a six-dimensional flag manifold into two dimensions.

No, I’m not joking, and now you see why I need to soak my brain in ice water.

Not only that, there is research that suggests that bees have quantum mechanical sensitivities:

One study exposed bees to short bursts of a high-intensity magnetic field and concluded that the bees’ response could be better explained as a sensitivity to an effect known as nuclear magnetic resonance…nmr occurs when an electromagnetic wave impinges on the nuclei of atoms and flips their orientation. nmr is considered a quantum mechanical effect because it takes place only if each atom absorbs a particular size packet, or quantum, of electromagnetic energy.

If this were not enough, the results imply that bees can perceive quarks, thereby interacting with the quantum world without disturbing it in the ways both observed and predicted by quantum theory. And this perception would have to extend to the perception of quarks not as coherent structures, but as fields. In other words, bees may be able to perceive the unobserved quantum fields of zero-point energy, the much-debated property from which all of the phenomenal world may emerge in the eternal quantum moment.

You with me so far?  Never mind, just hurry along, we’re not there yet.

Spin is a property of quantum ‘particles’ that can be manipulated, and is a fundamental component of both NMR and quantum computers. Spin is complex conceptually, especially given the fact that the most simple description of the spin of Fermions (the ‘particles’ that make up matter as we know it) is 1/2. This means that if you could hold one of these ‘particles’ and mark a spot on it with a Sharpie, you would have to turn it 720 degrees around in your hand to see the mark once again. Quarks, the ‘particle’ bees may interact with, also have spin 1/2.

Something’s spinning alright, and it’s not just the quarks.

The concept of spherical harmonics is used to visualize the effects of spin. Using spherical harmonics, the sun can also be visualized as a six-dimensional body with three rotational components. In another simple visualization, a two-dimensional flatlander would have a great deal of difficulty explaining an eight-ball intersecting her space while rotating both horizontally and vertically. It would seem to her that the disc she observed (the portion of the eight-ball intersecting with her plane) had a spin of 1/2.

Let me take a moment here, because I actually understood a part of this, so I want to revel in it.  When I was in 9th grade or so, I got bored in math class, so my teacher made me Flatland, a satirical novella that helped teach some principles of multi-dimensional geometry in understandable terms.

In a nutshell, imagine that you were a two-dimensional being living in a plane.  Not only couldn’t you look up or down, you had no concept of “up” or “down”.  When you looked at a circle in your plane, it would appear as a line (because you would be looking at it edge on, not from above or below.  If you had binocular vision, you might be able to tell that line bent away from you, but that’s all.

Now, imagine what a sphere would look like to you.  As the sphere passed through you plane, it would look at first like a point (where the sphere lay tangent to the plane), then as a growing and then shrinking line (i.e., an enlarging and shrinking “circle” to you conceptually). 

Now, imagine how an eight-ball intersectiong two dimensional space while rotating both horizontally and vertically would look.  Obvioulsly, it would seem to be a disc with a spin of 1/2.  I say “obviously”, because the Synchronizm guy says it, but I actually have no idea how eight-balls came into this, so we’ll just keep on plodding through the explanation and hope that part doesn’t turn up on the final exam.

Anyway, to the right, we see the sun rotating in six dimensions,

the magnetic component (poles) waxing, waning and switching on a 22-year cycle (magnetic flux and the Hale cycle), the 11-year “butterfly pattern” (the Schwabe cycle, the Omega effect accounting for the stretching in actual observation).

The red and blue parts of the image above correspond with the “real” component of the wave function described by the spherical harmonic (sunspots and solar wind), while the yellow and green describe the “imaginary” component. Could this “imaginary” component correspond to an effect similar to the solar wind that interacts with the “unobserved quantum field”?

Could it? How could it NOT?

And this, Synchronizm argues, leads to the “smoking gun”:

The solar probe Ulysses’ circumpolar orbit took it below the south pole of the sun this past winter. While there, sunspot 938 put on the most energetic performance of any sunspot in four years, ejecting a particle storm that would have been a “ground-level event” (penetrating the entire atmosphere) had it been directed at earth…

If we consider such a particle stream to be a secondary stream to the “imaginary” component of the solar field that would be dominant during a solar minimum, then the quantum field to which the bees may be sensitive could have been disturbed. Or, the bees could have lost navigation, possibly abandoning the hive as one of the directional components of either the quantum field or local terrestrial magnetic variations moved drastically closer to the sun. They may have flown skyward, attempting to keep up with the rapidly moving target of home in six dimensions. Or, hyperdimensional bee-eaters could have emerged from the sunspot, phasing the bees out of existence on contact (given the evidence, anything is possible, and equally strange. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider this to be very likely to say the least).

The similarity to my alien zombie superbee theory is striking.  There, I’ve struck it!

Similar events could have happened 50 years ago when geomagnetic events preceded the most active solar cycle recorded. Bee disappearances were reported across the southern United States in the time preceding the increased activity…Enough anecdotal evidence and coincidence combined with solid observation also exists to link the disappearance of the bees with changes in the sun…

I am in awe.  Do I believe it?  With a nod to, Life of Pi, I’ll say yes.  A world in which quark smelling bees are misdirected to the heavens to be consumed by hyperdimensional bee eaters is just so much cooler than a world in which pesticides kill them off.

Off to get aluminum foil for hats.

Death Sentence

The verdict is in, and it’s not looking good for the Hive 2 queen.  I posted this question to the Organic Beekeeper’s mailing list:

I cracked open my (one) hive last weekend to see how the girls made it through
the winter, and was a little worried about the laying pattern. It seemed very
uneven and sparse and there were a goodly number of drone cells mixed in. I had
a friend with a camera over, and he took some pictures of the brood (and the
queen). Would someone mind taking a look and let me know if I should be

Followed by a link to the photos that I posted in my last entry. Perhaps I should have allowed the queen to have her lawyers present, but this is post-9/11 America, and justice must be swift and blind.  The judges have returned their verdict:

The queen is getting old and starting to drone in with worker brood, or old
drone laying queen and time for either natural supercedure or replacement […]
This time of year in early spring, hives do though normally want to replace queens
like this on [their] own.  [- Dee]

I took a look at your pics. it looked like your queen was marked for 06 so
she’s not really that old but she might not have bred with alot of drones and
her productivity is suffering now, but this is assuming alot. from your pics
it’s hard to make an accurate assessment of your queen. what I look for this
time of year is still a good tight brood pattern just alot smaller than in ther
summer this allows the bees to keep the brood warm as they are not so spread
out or spotty. If your in doubt requeen especially if you only have one hive it’s
a lot cheaper to requeen than it is to buy a package of bees. many beekeepers
requeen yearly to ensure productive hives others every two years. don’t feel
bad if you have to send here to the happy hive in the sky it’s for the best.
[- Heath]

Happy hive in the sky. Don’t feel bad?  Easy for you to say, you don’t have to…to…(sniff)…to…

Oh, I can’t say it. Somebody else tell her!  I can’t face her!

Spring Fevah

2007-03-Alyssa Bees 0027.jpgAlyssa and Pmatt came by last weekend for Alyssa’s free introductory Intro to Beekeeping class, taught by yours truly, Professor Stungstein.  It was a good opportunity for me to get off my lazy arse and check the hive for real.  Nothing too alarming, a small pile of moldering death off to one side, but my big worry was the laying pattern.  It was pretty spotty and there were lots of drone cells interspersed.  Pmatt got a nice picture of the queen (with the white dot on her back) amidst this spotty brood, which I share with you below:

Hive Mind Hive 2 Queen   Hive Mind Hive 2 Queen

I’ve posted these pictures to the Organic Beekeeper’s mailing list and asked for advice.  Worst case, I’m going to have to replace the queen, which always skeeves me out.  I slap mosquitoes with abandon, but for some reason, hunting down a queen and executing her for the crime of insufficient reproductive activity seems barbaric. Isn’t there some sort of queen bee pasture I can put her out to, a low-light basement job she can be re-assigned to in her autumn days? 

I took advantage of a burst of enthusiasm this last weekend to stock up on equipment, too.  I ordered the following items from Betterbee, who seemed to have better prices than Beez Neez:

  • One (1) pair child’s gloves
  • One (1) pair small gloves
  • One (1) full premium beekeeping suit (at right)
  • One (1) zippered jacket pullover
  • One frame clamp

The gloves are for Michelle.  Not sure which will fit better, the smalls or the child size (she’s but a wee lass), I figure whichever she doesn’t use, a guest will take advantage of.  The premium bee suit is because I’m tired of that sickening buzz from inside the suit when the girls crawl through the gaps in my “California Department of Corrections” jumpsuit (plus, it’s dark brown, which the bees find more antagonizing then white).  The pullover is for guests (doesn’t seem very host-like to leave guests exposed while I’m suited up) and the frame clamp makes it easier to pull the frames out.

Finally, I put in an order to Beez Neez for a new colony, to replace the late, great Hive 1.  While I had the new owner on the phone, I took advantage of the opportunity to chat him up and got some questions answered.  Here’s what I learned:

  • Yes, I should be feeding Hive 2 sugar syrup now.  We’ll have a bit of a honey flow when the maples bloom, then nothing major until the blackberries in July, and by then, you really want them to be well-established, so blackberry season is all profit.  I should be feeding them whenever there isn’t a strong flow, or there is bad weather.
  • Yes, it’s OK to put some of the unripe frames from last year back on top, I should just smell for fermentation before doing so.  It’s OK to give them slightly fermented honey, just a few frames at a time though, and not doing poor weather, as it makes them “loose”.  I wasn’t quite sure whether he meant he meant it gave them “mead goggles” or the squirts, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask, but either way, sounds like a bad thing.
  • He gave me the name of someone who I can contact about harvesting my unextracted frames of honey from last year.

He’ll be driving down to California to pick up my new colony on April 9th, returning April 11th. I’m all in a tizzy, like an expectant father.

We Are Not Worthy

 You ever think you know how to do something, then you see someone who really knows how to do it, and you realize how little you actually know? So check out this post by “Naturebee” Joe on the Organic Beekeeper’s Yahoo Group about his Spring hive check.

Here’s his report after checking his hives:

Went thru and inspected my colonies this morning. Although I was hit rather hard with many dead outs, I am very happy with the assessments because all dead outs were determined to be death by isolation starvation / nutritional deficit, compounded by the severe 2006 foraging conditions. Only one colony had peculiarities that may be suggestive of TM perhaps contributing along with starvation (a strange freezing on comb, some bees in patrolling mode as if alive in appearance, which reminded me of how some of the newer pesticides are known to affect other insects[…]). It is NOT the numbers of losses, rather the cause of the loss I am most concerned about in order to move forward. Basically, these losses are a management failure by me failing to readjust stores properly to compensate for lack of summer and fall forage in 2006.

Last seasons weather contributed to a severe deficit of the quantity and quality of nutritional stores going into winter. It seems in some starved colonies, the incoming nutrition last season was barley keeping ahead of brood rearing. As goldenrod bloomed, the bees managed to catch up on stores a bit in the bottom deep, but most of the stores in these bottom deeps may have been unripe. This may have contributed to a very rapid consumption of nectar in the bottom deep during fall and early winter, and caused the cluster the need to abandon brood in the bottom deep to move upward more rapidly than would be preferred. Many of these clusters found dead moved into the upper deeps where a frame or two of unripe honey here and there may have been used up quickly and served to isolate the cluster from moving across the frames to fresh stores. If I had gotten in and moved unripe frames to the sides and brought capped frames inward, I would have been fine here also. […] Nothing resembeling the so called CCD disease found in any of my colonies.

90% percent of colonies and new stock being assessed in my assessments (these are colonies under 2 years old) were found starved out due to isolation starvation. Much of the comb I use in my assessment yards is not down to 4.9 yet, so this may be a contributing factor in these kills. This is a good time to finally get these combs culled and sizing correct in the assessment yards and get them into shape also. Its nice to be able to blame good old fashion ‘management mistake’ for my losses rather than the scourge of varroa or other fancy CCD type diseases, because I know I can improve here. The bees are doing fine, I just need to work on my part of the partnership a bit more. 🙂

Here is my report after checking my hives:

Well, I’ll be hornswaggled!  Them dad blum bees done made it through the winter, I reckon.  Hyuk, hyuk. Least ways, they seem to be alive and scurrying best as I can see, a-some of ’em, anyhoo. Ouch! I done got stung! Omilord, they’s in my har, they’s in my har!  Aaiiii, somebody he’p me, I’m a gettin’ stung to def!

Obviously, I’ve got quite a bit to learn: “Dead outs”, “patrolling mode as if alive in appearance”, “unripe stores” and the mysterious number 4.9.  Apparently, there’s a highly developed language and schema for beekeeping that I haven’t the first clue about.

And the kicker: he blames himself for “management failure”, he’s got to work on his “part of the partnership a bit more.” Dude, let’s do a trade: you teach me how to move unripe frames to the sides to bring capped frames inward, I’ll teach you about “management failure”.

Well, this kind of thing can either make you want to throw down your marbles and go home or double-down and learn what you don’t know.  I’m going with the former.

Nah, just kidding, I’m to win. After I hit publish on this post, I’m going to compose a mail to the group with a bunch of questions I’ve had about what I’m supposed to be doing (when do I start feeding, when do I start adding more supers) that I’ve been too embarrassed to ask.

Vanity Buzz

I came across an article today on “Beekeeping in the Digital Age“. Of course, I was tickled at the first line:

The first beekeeping home page I can remember was put up by a graduate student named Jordan Schwartz at the University of Washington.

It’s true.  When I put up my first web page back in 1994, 1995, there were only a handful of web pages that addressed beekeeping, and there was no single page that linked to them all (and of course, this is back when Sergey and Larry were just meeting as undergraduates and Yahoo’s URL was  So, naturally, I called my page “The Beekeeper’s Home Page”.  Accurate, complete.

As years passed, and the Internet grew, my little list of links didn’t do the name justice, so I renamed it “Beekeeper’s Reference”, and in the last year or two, most of the energy I’ve put into the site has gone into this little blog.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, exactly.  It’s just nice to have a little “back in the day” moment every once in a while, I guess

Bee Pr0n

I was just looking to e-mail someone the link to the National Geographic bee fight video, in which a swarm of hornets devours a hive to Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries, but apparently the link I had has gone dead.  Fortunately, I came across this awesome video of bees turning the tables and roasting Japanese hornets to death (as previously described in my Great Balls of Fire post).

And, of course, you can enjoy my own, home made Bee Fight video

If anyone can find that other video though, let me know.  Your Google Fu is stronger than mine.