Wednesday, June 29, 2016

34 Griffon vultures went on a Summer Holiday in Denmark

Griffon vulture (from wikipedia)

34 griffon vultures arrived last week for some days to the North Jutland village of Volsted south of Aalborg. This is really a rare event. Only about six griffon vultures have been since in Denmark since 1858.

Usually there are no griffons in Denmark. They live in the Spanish mountains and in South Eastern Europe, but sometimes they might fly north with the summer heat. Flocks have been located in Holland .

The 34 griffons in North Jutland are probably young birds from last year - and they might fly south again when it gets cold in DK. They cannot find much food here, there are no carrions out in the Danish fields. 

The griffon vulture is black, brown and white with a wingspan about 2,8 meter and a weight of ca. 11,3 kilo. 

source: various articles in the Danish News. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beekeeping and the Sweet Honey Bee

honey bee/apis

Honey (fra Germanic: honang = "the golden")  is the storing-nutrients of the honeybees which they use in connection to overwintering. The bees gather nectare from flowers but also sugar from the excrements of the aphids, known as honeydew, and from nectaries in ferns and on leaves from some hardwoods.

beehives in France

The colour of the honey mostly comes from the flowers from where the nectare is taken - and it can be from white-yellow til greenish black. The taste also depends on which flowers the bees have visited. Clover and lime honey are light and mild, while heather honey, lavender honey and rosemary honey are dark and spicy.

The type of honey can always be determined by examination of the pollen grains in the product.

bee carrying pollen

Honey types:
flower honey ( mild with a fine characteristic scent)
forest honey (dark, neutrally sweet)
heather honey (dark and spicy)
herb-honey (each spice delivers a dark and very characteristic honey)
rape-honey (very mild, light with a quick crystallization)
clover-honey (mild, light and with a gentle taste).

In addition is also the artificial honey made from sugar, glucose and fruktose

Honey is used as a herbal medicine but mostly in German-speaking countries, where they have a long tradition to value the preventive effect on the health. It was known since antiquity that honey works antiseptic  - and the Egyptians used honey for treating wounds.

The content of antioxidants enzymes, vitamins and minerals make honey a more healthy product than pure sugar.

a jar of honey
Some bacterias can survive in honey which makes the product unsuitable for small children under 12 months. Their gastric fluid is not yet sour enough to kill the harmful bacterias -  and eating honey might give them a serious food poisoning( fx botulism) ( ) 

Before humans made sugar from sugar cane, honey was a very important and sought for sweetener, and often the only one known. Today honey is used as a laying on and as a sweetener which brings a characteristic mild taste to dishes, desserts, cakes, candy and drinks.

Globally are more than 20.000 species of wild bees.

Harvesting honey from wild bees is one of the earliest human activities and is still being practized in some  native societies i Africa, Australia and South America. Beekeeping was known by humans for thousands of years. At some point humans began to attempt to domesticate wild bees in artificial hives made from hollow logs, wooden boxes, pottery vessels, and woven straw baskets or "skeps". Traces of beeswax are found in pot sherds throughout the Middle East beginning about 7000 BCE.
 According to legend the Irish Saint Modomnoc introduced the beekeeping in Ireland in the 500s.

cave painting, 15.000 years ago
Depictions of humans collecting honey from wild bees date to 15,000 years ago. The honey was usually being collected by pacifying the bees with smoke and then break the tree or the cliff where the bee-colony lived which resulted in the destruction of the colony.Beekeeping in pottery vessels began about 9,000 years ago in North Africa. Honeybees were kept in Egypt from antiquity. Domestication is shown in Egyptian art from around 4,500 years ago. Simple hives and smoke were used and honey was stored in jars, some of which were found in the tombs of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun.

stele, Mesopotamia 760 BCE
There was documented attempt to indtroduce bees to dry areas of Mesopotamia in the 8th century BCE by Shamash-resh-usur, governor of Mari and Suhu. His plans were detailed in a stele of 760 BCE.

In ancient Greece the god Aristaios was the shepherd god for beehives. Beekeeping was also very specifically addressed by the Roman writers of antiquitiy like Virgil, and the life of the bees were described by Aristoteles.

In prehistoric Greece (Crete and Mycenae), there existed a system of high-status apiculture, as can be concluded from the finds of hives, smoking pots, honey extractors and other beekeeping paraphernalia in Knossos. Beekeeping was considered a highly valued industry controlled by beekeeping overseers—owners of gold rings depicting apiculture scenes.

Archaeological finds relating to beekeeping have been discovered at Bronze and Iron Age archaeological sites in Israel in the ruins of a city dating from about 900 BCE. Beekeeping has also been practiced in ancient China since antiquity. In the book "Golden Rules of Business Success" written by Fan Li (or Tao Zhu Gong) there are sections describing the art of beekeeping, stressing the importance of the quality of the wooden box used and how this can affect the quality of the honey.

P. Bruegel 1568: Beekeepers.
Beekeeping, 14th century

It wasn't until the 18th century that European understanding of the colonies and biology of bees allowed the construction of the moveable comb hive so that honey could be harvested without destroying the entire colony.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

European Honeysuckle (Woodbine) / Vild Kaprifolium (Gedeblad)

Lonicera periclymenum
The name after the genus Lonicera was given to the honeysuckle family by Carl Linneaeus (1707-78), the Swedish botanish, with honour of the German botanist Adam Loncer (1528-86). There are about 180 species of Lonicera. The Common honeysuckle (Danish: Vild Kaprifolie) has creamy white or yellowish flowers and red berries. The plant is usually pollinated by moths or long-tongued bees and develops bright red berries. Many of the species have sweetly-scented bell-shaped flowers that produce a sweet edible nectar. The powerful aroma attracts bees, moths, humming-bees and butterflies to its sweet nectar. Some lepidoptera species feed on honeysuckle. Some Loniceras have poisonous yellow or black berries.
Svinkløv Strand, North West Jutland photo: gb

woodbine on willow caused by Lonicera
Honeysuckle is a deciduous liana which together with ivory is the liana of the forest, twining around bushes and trees - but honeysuckle is in all its pretty variations popular in the garden for its sweet scent and it is great for covering fences and garden arches because of its fast growing - and it combines well with clematis. Other names for honeysuckle include woodbine, fairy trumpets, honeybind, trumpet flowers, goats leaf and sweet suckle. The old name woodbine describes the twisting binding nature of the honeysuckle through the hedgerows. 

Typical twining of Lonicera (wikipedia)
L. periclymenum is one of several honeysuckle species valued in the garden, for its ability to twine around other plants, or to cover unsightly walls or outbuildings; and for the intense fragrance of its profuse flowers in summer. It needs to be planted with its roots in the shade, and its flowering top in sun or light shade. Plants need to be chosen with care as they can grow to a substantial size. Growing to 7 m (23 ft) or more in height, it is a vigorous evergreen twining climber. It is found as far north as southern Norway and Sweden. In the UK it is one of two native honeysuckles, the other being Lonicera xylosteum It is often found in woodland or in hedgerows or scrubland.

The tough wood has been used for walking sticks and pipe stems. The charcoal was used for gun powder. The dried flowers are used for adding to pot-pourri, herb-pillows and floral waters. Scented cosmetics are made from the fresh flowers. The flowers can also be used in lemonade, decoration in desserts an pastry.

Lonicera on tree, wikipedia.
Honeysuckle (woodbine)  has been a valued part of Britain's ecology for centuries. It is mentioned by Shakespeare:
"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxclips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine
British rock band Dire Straits mentions Honeysuckle in the opening lines of their 1980 song " Expresso Love":
"She gets the sun in the daytime
Perfume in the dusk
And she comes out in the night time
With a honeysuckle musk"
The plant was voted the County flower of Warwickshire in 2002 following a poll by the wild plant conservation charity Plantlife.

Medicinal use in the Middle Ages:
red berries, Lonicera (wikipedia)
Culpeper stated that only the leaves of the honeysuckle were used medicinal to treat coughs, sore throat and for opening obstruction of the liver and spleen. Honeysuckle can be found in a Chinese herbal which is the earliest known existing pharmacopoeia written in AD 659. The Chinese used honeysuckle japonica as a cleanser and for removing poisons from the body.

Legend and Superstition
Honeysuckle has long been a symbol of fidelity and affection and there is much superstition attached to it. In Scotland it was believed that if honeysuckle grows around the entrance to the house it would prevent a witch from entering. It was also a promise of money. According to old superstition people had to put the first flower of a honeysuckle in the purse then it would never be empty -and if people brought the flower into their house then it would bring money to them.
There was also a promise to the garden people that if honeysuckle grew well in their garden they would be protected from evil.

In Victorian era there was a ban on young girls bringing honeysuckle into the house because it was believed to cause dreams that were far to risqué for their sensibilities.

photo 2008: grethe bachmann, Svinkløv, North Jutland
photo: wikipedia