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Dave Cooper
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Hello, I am a first year beekeeper with a first year hive. I am seeking some input from experienced beekeepers on some recent observations.

     1. Varroa Mites - Not too many, first observed early September. I have not done an internal inspection yet. I have decided not to treat.
     2. Shortly after the first mites spotted, dead young bees and larva on the landing board. Is this housekeeping related to the mites or preparing for winter?
     3. Robber Bees - first noticed about a week ago. Just a few being fought off on the landing board. This morning there were maybe about 50 robber bees on the hive and landing board in cool wet weather. No signs of successful robbing yet (wax cappings and debris on landing board).

My bee's are Italian's (the robber's appear to be Carnolian?) and my hive is an 8 frame Langstroth with all medium boxes. Current configuration is 2 brood boxes with 1 honey super with no queen excluder.
Last inspection was in late August when I removed a honey super for harvest. I did not find the queen, but found plenty of eggs and larva.

I am hoping to determine if these observations are normal for season or something that requires intervention.

I will keep an eye on this thread for a week or so to check for responses and any questions you may have to help diagnose.

Thank you in advance for your responses!

Dave
 
Bryant RedHawk
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1: Varroa mites can decimate the hive, keep an eye on how the bees are taking care of this pest problem if you don't want to treat the hive.
2. dead bees and larva being ejected means you have a varroa mite problem and Those bodies are the result of the mites.
3. As long as the hive is healthy, they should be able to fend off the robbers.

You need to exclude the queen from the supers you want to get honey from, otherwise you will always have some larvae in your honey producing supers.
For the moment you should have 2 brooders and 2 honey boxes with a queen excluder.

Redhawk
 
Dave Cooper
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Redhawk, thanks for the reply!

I was hoping that the dead bees and larva were a good sign considering the mites. ie. the bees are doing their part to minimize the impact.

As for the honey supers, I removed the 2nd full honey super and still need to process. My plan was to keep the 1 honey super on for the winter for food (with supplemental) and use the 2nd box to keep a top feeder.

I removed the queen excluder because it looked like I may need to do a split in the spring and thought it would be beneficial if they replaced honey in the super with brood. Am I wrong?

My plan was to leave the hive at 3 boxes for winter. Did I do this too soon?

The hive has been strong all summer and this is the first sign of any problems.

Dave

 
David Livingston
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I personally would reduce the entrance to the hive to give your girls more chance to defend to hive from the robbers right down to maybe four inch width because if there are fifty robbers there must be a great deal more robbing going on .

David
 
Dave Cooper
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David Livingston wrote:I personally would reduce the entrance to the hive to give your girls more chance to defend to hive from the robbers right down to maybe four inch width because if there are fifty robbers there must be a great deal more robbing going on .

David


Good call!

Thanks!
 
Dave Cooper
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Put on an excluder < 1". visible robbers were about 200. numbers appear to be going down.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I like to leave 2 boxes for hive honey, then a third that is for me. (I always have two brood boxes in use, 10 frames each)
I would keep the queen away from any box that you want to gather honey from since she will lay larvae everywhere she can get to and collecting honey ends up sacrificing new bees from larvae destruction as you gather the honey.

We are going to add a top bar hive so a spring swarm will hopefully occupy it, that hive will not be touched by us. If it works, I'll probably add a new one for the next year's swarm.

(I keep the hive entrance about 2" wide), the same as the tree hive we have on our land, I figure that if the bees built that size, it is the right size.

Redhawk
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I don't look for mites in my hives, and never will. If a colony is thriving, then I leave it alone to thrive. If it's dying then I don't bother it. Either the bees and the mites will learn to co-exist, or they will both perish.

I don't try to interpret why they are doing what they do. They are bees. They'll do what they want, when they want, how they want. Not much I can do about it. I certainly can't get into the hive mind to assign motivations to them.

It's the end of September at my place. The wildflowers have been decimated by frost. Robbing is the bees top priority right now. They are robbing anything and everything that they can. They are just following the beekeeper's example. I robbed them blind a couple weeks ago. Second priority is being pissy cause of all the robbing. Trying to work in the garden next to the apiary really sucks right now... They insist on chasing me out of the garden. Yesterday I put on a veil and jacket so that I could work without so much worry about being stung on the face.

Are you planning on using only "medium" 8 frame boxes permanently? If yes, then depending on your climate, you might want to plan on sending them into winter with 3 Medium boxes rather than the typical 2 Deeps. Especially since the most common winter configuration, at least around here, is 2 deeps with 9 frames each.  I don't feed bees, so don't know how feeding would mess with the math about how much honey they need for winter.

Like others, I recommend using a queen excluder, and reducing the width of the entrance. We run a 4" entrance during hot weather, and a 2" during fall, winter, and spring.

For what it's worth, I don't pay attention to my vegetables either. They live or they die, and I don't fuss about them.


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Joshua Parke
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It's been a few years since I've had any hives.  I'm going to set some up again soon.

Varro mites -  From what I learned, varro mites are a problem in hives where the bees are forced to build a specific cell size.  If they are allowed to draw out all of their own fresh new comb everytime, then the varro mite cycle ceases.  So basically with your langstroth, remove the comb foundations from the frames, and allow the bees to build their own.  The cell size and the timing that results are what keep the varro mites out.  I could try to explain it from memory but I would fudge it up.  Google will have a better explanation.  I had TBH's and Warre's.  My next hive is going to be the Perrone, only modified to be a bit smaller so that the colony can build up.  I think the large size of the Perrone is the reason why they fail so often.
 
David Smolinski
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I'm also new to beekeeping. I made my first queens this year, and hope to make hundreds next year. Minimizing entrances might prevent the robbing. Robbing screens are good for when there is robbing. They confuse robbers.

good practices:
location: maximize distance from mosquito spraying and golf courses
avoid foundation
getting proper genetics
Queen excluders are only for 2 queen systems, banking queens, or making queens.
It's easier if all your boxes are the same size.
Insulate the top cover.
Use a screened bottom board if hygiene is questionable.
Top entrance
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Michael Cox
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Joshua Parke wrote:
Varro mites -  From what I learned, varro mites are a problem in hives where the bees are forced to build a specific cell size.  If they are allowed to draw out all of their own fresh new comb everytime, then the varro mite cycle ceases.  So basically with your langstroth, remove the comb foundations from the frames, and allow the bees to build their own.  The cell size and the timing that results are what keep the varro mites out.  I could try to explain it from memory but I would fudge it up. 


This is often repeated, but based on a series of suppositions that have not been demonstrated to work in practice. People who advocate small cell beekeeping have not actually been shown to have better results than those who use traditional foundation sizes, when other factors are taken into account.

The main mechanisms for varroa resistance depend on the genetics of the parent queen and drones she has mated with. These determine if the bees will, for example, bite and groom mites, remove mites from capped worker cells, etc... These traits exist in the population and are fairly common, but they need to be selected for by allowing susceptible colonies to die out. Treating prevents this evolutionary process taking place.

 
Gregory T. Russian
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Michael Cox wrote:.... People who advocate small cell beekeeping have not actually been shown to have better results than those who use traditional foundation sizes, when other factors are taken into account....


Let me offer this thought regarding the small cell...

I feel more and more that these small cell/narrow frames approaches are nothing more than a mitigation to counter the current, sub-optimal design of a bee hive.
Once the bee is given a better beehive which approaches the optimal bee requirements, the bee will be able to cope with most all pests in natural ways (it has been practicing survival techniques for ages long before Homo species even developed to the present form).

I advice everyone to review Tom Seeley's book "The nest of the honey bee" where the optimal honey bee hive is essentially described by observation and documenting the actual bee trees (including the numeric data that provides many answers).

That's where we all should (re)start - the proper environment.
Once the bee is given back the proper environment it should have, the bee itself will take care of the most other issues (outside of artificial toxic poisoning by humans, obviously).

PS: just to be clear, none of the industrial Lang/Dadant systems provide optimal bee habitat... they just don't.
 
Todd Parr
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Joshua Parke wrote: I think the large size of the Perrone is the reason why they fail so often.


I would like to hear more details about this.  My Perrone hive is full size, and by far the strongest hive I have had.
 
Joshua Parke
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Todd Parr wrote:I would like to hear more details about this.  My Perrone hive is full size, and by far the strongest hive I have had.


I would actually like to hear more about that.   Do you have any info up about it?  The statement was purely personal from observation.  As I kept reading about the perrone, I continued to see more failures than successes, some were attributing the large size as to the reason.  The hives would take off and then fail within a year, I think it was because the colony just couldn't get large enough that first year to get through the winter.  And the warre hives have great success because of their small size.  But the fact that you're in zone 4 in Wisconson.....I want to hear more about your successful perrone hive.  I have a huge hive I built but never set it up....I may convert it to a perrone.  It is HUGE like a perrone...maybe a little bigger.


Michael Cox wrote:This is often repeated, but based on a series of suppositions that have not been demonstrated to work in practice.


If I'm recalling correctly there is a website out there of a man who makes a living as a beekeeper for well over 30 years. He tossed all his foundation because of this.  He documented the difference in the hives, with photos.  He was documenting the changes to the hives that went from large cell foundation, to bee drawn comb.  It took a few "generations" of comb before the effects were apparent.  When the bees were taken off the foundation and allowed to draw out their own comb, they didn't reduce the cell size all at once, they had to go through a few generations of brood.  This was years ago, and I've lost my computer where I had the page bookmarked.  I was trying to find the page but have still yet to find it.  He was hinting at writing a book, but don't know if he ever did.  Pre-determined cell size foundation also prevents the evolutionary process from functioning properly as nature intended it.

I'm not sure if this is the person I was thinking of or if I'm recalling things incorrectly.  But I found a site that I know I had bookmarked, which goes into detail on the topic. Natural Cell Size And it's implications to beekeeping and Varroa mites
 
Todd Parr
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Joshua Parke wrote:

I would actually like to hear more about that.   Do you have any info up about it?  The statement was purely personal from observation.  As I kept reading about the perrone, I continued to see more failures than successes, some were attributing the large size as to the reason.  The hives would take off and then fail within a year, I think it was because the colony just couldn't get large enough that first year to get through the winter.  And the warre hives have great success because of their small size.  But the fact that you're in zone 4 in Wisconson.....I want to hear more about your successful perrone hive.  I have a huge hive I built but never set it up....I may convert it to a perrone.  It is HUGE like a perrone...maybe a little bigger.


I thought I posted pictures on here, but I'm not finding them now.  I'll post them again if I can track them down.

I can tell you that I believe the large size is an asset.  I used 2x lumber to build mine, and I built a quilt for it like the Warre hives use for added insulation.
 
Gregory T. Russian
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Todd Parr wrote:
Joshua Parke wrote: I think the large size of the Perrone is the reason why they fail so often.


I would like to hear more details about this.  My Perrone hive is full size, and by far the strongest hive I have had.


So for how long this has been going in years (the same, strong colony in the large volume)?
What is the hive volume?
 
Todd Parr
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Gregory T. Russian wrote:
Todd Parr wrote:
Joshua Parke wrote: I think the large size of the Perrone is the reason why they fail so often.


I would like to hear more details about this.  My Perrone hive is full size, and by far the strongest hive I have had.


So for how long this has been going in years (the same, strong colony in the large volume)?
What is the hive volume?


3 years.  I don't know what the volume is.  I made it to the Perrone specs.
 
Gregory T. Russian
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Todd Parr wrote:
Gregory T. Russian wrote:
Todd Parr wrote:
Joshua Parke wrote: I think the large size of the Perrone is the reason why they fail so often.


I would like to hear more details about this.  My Perrone hive is full size, and by far the strongest hive I have had.


So for how long this has been going in years (the same, strong colony in the large volume)?
What is the hive volume?


3 years.  I don't know what the volume is.  I made it to the Perrone specs.


Cool.
One issue with the hive size is this - you don't want to stick too small of a colony into overly large hive (especially at a wrong time of the year).
If not sized properly, they are not able to climate control the volume which is too much for them (especially, when the timing may be critical; e.g. early spring).
Other than that, I am a fan of large hives (as well as small hives when they are called for it).
Why, I build them both!
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Ken W Wilson
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I hope you are watching for small hive beetles too. I think they are rapidly becoming the worst threat to honeybees in some areas.
 
Michael Cox
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Joshua Parke wrote:
If I'm recalling correctly there is a website out there of a man who makes a living as a beekeeper for well over 30 years. He tossed all his foundation because of this.  He documented the difference in the hives, with photos.  He was documenting the changes to the hives that went from large cell foundation, to bee drawn comb.  It took a few "generations" of comb before the effects were apparent.  When the bees were taken off the foundation and allowed to draw out their own comb, they didn't reduce the cell size all at once, they had to go through a few generations of brood.  This was years ago, and I've lost my computer where I had the page bookmarked.  I was trying to find the page but have still yet to find it.  He was hinting at writing a book, but don't know if he ever did.  Pre-determined cell size foundation also prevents the evolutionary process from functioning properly as nature intended it.

I'm not sure if this is the person I was thinking of or if I'm recalling things incorrectly.  But I found a site that I know I had bookmarked, which goes into detail on the topic. Natural Cell Size And it's implications to beekeeping and Varroa mites


All my hives are foundationless, but I don't ascribe any particular benefits to it beyond that it makes some aspects of my beekeeping cheaper and easier. I can make cut comb from any nicely drawn frame, and the cost of foundation can add up in a big operation. In reality I see fairly wide variety of cell sizes even on a single frame. The biggest notable difference is the change in proportion of drone comb, which increases to about 10% of the whole hive. My observations suggest that the drone comb protects the worker from varroa infestation - especially early in the season during spring build up - as varroa preferentially enter drone cells.
 
David Livingston
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I wonder about this micheal as it could also be verroa prefer cooler parts of the hive as drone cells are normally found towards the edge of the comb .so it could be a temperature not a size thing 
There are lots we still don't know
makes no difference to me as I too prefer being foundationless the bees know best
David
 
Joshua Parke
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Gregory T. Russian wrote:That's where we all should (re)start - the proper environment.
Once the bee is given back the proper environment it should have, the bee itself will take care of the most other issues (outside of artificial toxic poisoning by humans, obviously).


Thinking along these lines a bit more... I am recalling that a natural log hive found in a tree or in a fallen branch/trunk will have fungus growing on the wood.  Bees have been observed drinking the liquid from mycelium on wood chips/branches.  I think I heard paul stamets say this, but can't recall.  Another thing that I dwell on are ants in a hive.  Lots of people try to create a hive that ants can't get into, from what I recall the ants don't harm the hive in any way, they actually enhance it.....but they take a little honey.  Now of course I've seen tiny ants crawling from one end of a house to the other for food....I wouldn't want to see thousands of ants marching through my hives.

LOL I just had images of a hive with shitake mushrooms growing on it. That brings an idea I must try at some point....making a hive and innoculating it with shitake mushroom dowels...then planting it into the soil, keep the hive itself above soil level, but have a portion of "log" a foot or two in the soil.
 
Michael Cox
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Stamets is not a beekeeper. He proposed some ideas about bees self-medicating with mushrooms. Periodically it gets hyped up again in sensationalist click-bait news articles, but in the years since he proposed it no one has found any serious use for it. It just doesn't seem to be important.
 
Joshua Parke
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In this video he isn't proposing the idea, he's sharing the discovery of what has been found and how it impacts the health of hives.  He gets to the heart of the topic around 12:20.  But everything he talks about before that is pertinent.

This is the video where I heard that info from.  It's also from a topic that was created a couple years ago here in the bee section.  Here's the video..



I love that short 3 min or less video at the end he closes with, I've watched it a couple dozen times or more throughout the years.   It's on youtube by itself if you enjoy it like I do.

And here is the topic.  Paul Stamets New Lecture - fungi, bees, trees, bears and resistance to viruses and colony collapse.

I have a different opinion about whether or not medicinal fungi and plants are important and beneficial to insects/bees.  When they collect nectar from herbs and fungi in my gardens, I know they are getting nectar that they can increase their health on.  Thyme nectar, for example, is medicinal to the hive, and they collect it.  They also collect "nectar" from medicinal fungi, which increases the health of the hive.  Same as me drinking chaga tea, my system is healthier from drinking it.
 
Ken W Wilson
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This site has a lot of good information, http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm .
 
Michael Cox
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Ok, so his evidence is that bees were observed collecting moisture from fungi? Bees collect moisture from all sorts of sources - swimming pools, puddles of animal urine, drips from air conditioning units, damp soil and holes in the ground. It is not at all surprising that a location of moist wood chips with fungal growth would be a reliable water source that bees would learn and return to visit. Would my observation of bees visiting stagnant puddles of cow piss be considered evidence of something? They were ignoring the lovely fresh drinking trough 6 feet away.

The reality is bees will collect moisture from sources that are highly scented (urine, salts, chlorine from a pool etc...), close to the hive and reliable day to day. I would want to see a lot more evidence that that bees happened to visit his mushroom patch to draw any kind of conclusions.
 
Joshua Parke
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Yes, bees are well known to collect moisture where the opportunity arises.  But the talk is about how fungi play an important role to the health of bees.  Listen from 12:20 to roughly 15 minutes.   The whole talk is worth listening to, it's pretty good.  I think the evidence is from the studies done, not observation.  Fungi have medicinal benefits that translate across multiple species.
 
Gregory T. Russian
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Joshua Parke wrote:Yes, bees are well known to collect moisture where the opportunity arises.  But the talk is about how fungi play an important role to the health of bees.  Listen from 12:20 to roughly 15 minutes.   The whole talk is worth listening to, it's pretty good.  I think the evidence is from the studies done, not observation.  Fungi have medicinal benefits that translate across multiple species.


I would not be too concerned about this "mushroom talk".
Do remember that Apis M. species exists in North America for only very, very brief moment (in evolutionary terms).

Apis m. is really a very young exotic species for US to come up with some sort of solid bug/fungi connection.
It takes much longer than that for any connection to set in (outside of immediate nutrition connections, you know, edible nectar and pollen).
It is possible for such connections to exist in the home land (Old World) where the bees coexisted with the rest of the flora/fauna for 40-50 millions of years. Maybe.
 
Joshua Parke
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From the talk he mentions that the bees are getting something they can only get from fungi.  Without the fungi there are genes turned off in the bee.  And without the genes turned on, the detoxification pathways of the bee are turned off, then they begin to hyperaccumulate chemicals from the environment. 

The key point I learned from the talk is that fungi play an important role to bees.  I don't think it's the specific species of fungi native to one area that is important.  At some point the Apis genus began using beneficial fungi to have evolved to where they are now, having genes switched on by fungi.

If they are adapting to the native flora so quickly then they would adapt to the various exudates and fungi, as quickly....I would think.?
 
David Livingston
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I'm not so sure about the role of fungi as such but mould and bacteria certainly are vital in the production of bee bread
Thus the role of fungicides in killing bees

David
 
Gregory T. Russian
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Joshua Parke wrote:........If they are adapting to the native flora so quickly then they would adapt to the various exudates and fungi, as quickly....I would think.?


Well, let us call the finding nectar/pollen sources - macro-adaptation.
So, if you don't do your macro-adaptation in a matter of days, you die of starvation.
Next, if you, being an exotic species, don't figure out which of the local major sources of nectar/pollen abundant enough, so to save enough for the winter in a matter of weeks/months - you again die and very quickly so.
That simple. Macro-adaptations.

Now, let us talk about micro-adaptions next.
I am yet to see someone who understands micro-adaptations.
Many people claim they do and yet it is the grass-root level folks, (simple Simons, so to speak) who drive the treatment-free beekeeping.
So much for the academic experts in micro-adaptions.
Remain a skeptic.
Keep my bees treatment-free no matter what the professors are saying (most experts still INSIST I must treat my bees, mind you).
 
Michael Cox
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Joshua Parke wrote:From the talk he mentions that the bees are getting something they can only get from fungi.  Without the fungi there are genes turned off in the bee.  And without the genes turned on, the detoxification pathways of the bee are turned off, then they begin to hyperaccumulate chemicals from the environment. 

The key point I learned from the talk is that fungi play an important role to bees.  I don't think it's the specific species of fungi native to one area that is important.  At some point the Apis genus began using beneficial fungi to have evolved to where they are now, having genes switched on by fungi.

If they are adapting to the native flora so quickly then they would adapt to the various exudates and fungi, as quickly....I would think.?


Fungi are important to bees. Of course they are. Bee bread is a fermented pollen and nectar paste, and fungi is important in breaking down the pollen protein sheaths and making the pollen grains more digestible to bees. A super important role. Bees have adapted to these specific fungal strains for literally MILLIONS of years, in constant close proximity. They are symbiotic inside the hive itself. However THOSE fungi are not the ones he is talking about, and emphasizing in his speech and various publications. It is faulty logic to leap to the conclusions he is making, and not even close to being justified by the evidence.

The human parallel is to say "Yeast is important for humans in making bread. Yeast is a fungus. This pretty toadstool is a fungus so must serve some important function for humans. Now go away and eat it because I say so."

I have a lot of respect for Stamets work; he has done amazing practical things using fungi to re-mediate toxic wastes and oils. However on this topic his claims are massively overreaching, and not supported by evidence.
 
Joshua Parke
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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Michael Cox wrote:and not supported by evidence.


Except for the evidence referenced in the talk.  When the one of the worlds foremost leading mycologists sees bees going out of their way to get to the mycelium of a medicinal fungi, of course he’s going to look into it.  Then when the university studies his observations and finds that the bees are benefiting from these medicinal fungi, I’m going to listen to his observations and the evidence on what has been learned.

Fungi spores can float into the stratosphere, they are literally all over the world, and if the conditions are right, they will grow.  So the medicinal fungi the university is using, is already in the bees genetic makeup.  To have genes activated by these compounds found from these different medicinal fungi, they must have receptor sites specifically for it.  Which means they have evolved for millions of years to where they have formed symbiotic relationships with these various beneficial medicinal fungi.

For me the human parallel would be more like...  Chaga has various medicinal aspects to it that the human body is receptive to and benefits from.  Lets find out why and how.  And let us study this to see if there are other varieties of medicinal fungi that the body also finds beneficial and has increased health from.

The most important thing that I gleaned from the video, is that I have another beneficial reason to be planting various types of edible and medicinal fungi logs around my property.  If bees use medicinal fungi as a way to increase their overall health…I am interested, and willing to encourage the interaction.  Plus another huge benefit is that all the honey/propolis/etc., collected from the hives on my property, will be loaded with medicinal compounds from all the various nectars and exudates found in all the different varieties of trees, bushes, fungi, herbs, etc…  So if the bees are benefiting from it, I find that pretty awesome.  It’s just one more thing that brings up the health of the eco-system.  Plus, I’ll have some nice shiitake mushrooms for the stir fry.
 
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