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Parasite-Ridden Bees Flock to British Farms

Parasite-Ridden Bees Flock to British Farms

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The bees have it, commercially exported colonies found to have dangerous parasites

Native populations of British bumblebees are being threatened by paraside-ridden import colonies.

A new study shows that colonies of imported bumblebees in England may be carrying dangerous parasites.

According to biologist William Hughes of the University of Sussex, one of the authors of the recent study, 77 percent of these imported colonies were found to be carrying five different parasites. While none of the parasites can infect humans, they could have devastating effects on Britain’s native bumblebee population, which is in decline with two species of English bumblebee already extinct.

British farmers and gardeners import around 50,000 colonies of these commercially bred bumblebees annually. The bees are bred in Central Europe and cost about £100 per hive. The bees are particularly useful for pollinating crops such as tomatoes and strawberries, which have no other method of pollination.

More than a million colonies of these infected bees are exported globally each year from farms in Eastern and Central European countries like Slovakia. On this scale, the parasites these bees carry could have a serious impact on global bee populations, and subsequently, on global agriculture as well.

License requirements declare the bees must be disease free to be exported, but evidence shows that is not the case. Hughes and his team are looking to officials for more stringent import regulations. It is also important that factories that raise commercial bees make an effort to eradicate disease within their colonies before exporting.

Garden Journal

Spring will be here before you know it! In fact, it’s already arrived in many growing zones around the country. Gardeners are beginning to fill their pots and trays with soft potting soil and tuck the first teeny tiny seeds into it’s depths with the hope of what is to come. And hope there is! In fact, never is a gardener more full of hope than at the start of the year and the beginning of the growing season.

The Influencer

Hannah Jackson, contract shepherdess, @RedShepherdess, Instagram 37k, Twitter 34k, Facebook 24k followers

Hannah Jackson is a first-time farmer and contract shepherdess, on Brookside Farm in Croglin, Cumbria. She also guest-presented an episode of Countryfile earlier this year. Hannah sells her lamb through Instagram.

&ldquoSeven years ago, I knew nothing about farming. I&rsquod just finished a degree in animal behaviour and had gone on a family holiday to the Lake District. I saw a lamb being born and knew instantly that was what I wanted to do but didn&rsquot know how to get into it.

&ldquoJoining Twitter helped me meet farmers and see how they did things around the country. I got work experience with a sheepdog trainer and, within a year, my parents had bought a smallholding. In 2014, we moved to Cumbria from the Wirral. My work was initially as a contract shepherdess and now I also look after 120 of my own sheep and 200 lambs. With my partner, Danny, I farm 65 acres and use social media to inspire people from all backgrounds into farming, especially women.

&ldquoIt&rsquos good to show others what farmers really do. People love seeing a sheepdog being trained or a lamb being born. And while I&rsquom always very positive, I include the difficult bits, too. In one post, I went as far as skinning a lamb. The lamb hadn&rsquot survived the birth, so I showed people how I was removing its skin to put on another one. Instead of focusing on the lamb that hadn&rsquot made it, I explained that I was doing this for the bereaved ewe, who would now be happier and healthier. People had no idea this happened &ndash they were amazed.&rdquo

You're not the only one who has to worry about congestion this winter. You poultry friends can suffer from respiratory illness, too.

Small-scale poultry flocks are susceptible to a number of respiratory infections, some producing extremely mild illness while others result in high fatality rates. Regardless of whether you raise chickens for eggs, meat or show, a respiratory infection can result in decreased performance and even death in cases such as Newcastle disease and avian influenza, which are now rare in the U.S. They can also pose a threat to the health of other poultry on the premises.

Respiratory infections in poultry have several causes, but outward signs might appear similar to the poultry keeper. In any case of respiratory illness, it’s important to know if you’re dealing with a viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic disease. The treatment for one disease can be ineffective or even harmful for others, which is why it is imperative to partner with a qualified avian veterinarian in making an accurate diagnosis and determine a treatment and management plan. Do not rely on home remedies. In addition to the chance that they won’t work, they might also mask key indicators of a disease, making diagnosis more difficult or inaccurate.

If you suspect that a chicken is ill, immediately isolate it from the rest of the flock. To make a diagnosis, your veterinarian will perform several tests, including blood tests and bacterial cultures of the airways. A fecal test for parasites, including tapeworms, which can lodge in the trachea and cause severe respiratory distress, should be conducted, as well.

For bacterial infections, such as fowl cholera (aka Pasteurellosis), infectious coryza and avian mycoplasmosis, your veterinarian can prescribe an antibiotic to alleviate symptoms of the disease. However, keep in mind that in the case of infectious coryza, the antibiotic won’t eliminate carrier status, and in the case of avian mycoplasmosis, treatment with antibiotics won’t cure the disease.

Aspergillosis, aka brooder pneumonia, does not usually present with a cough but instead with a characteristic silent gasp and is caused by fungal organisms, Aspergillus spp., that grow readily in organic materials. If large numbers of the organisms or their spores are inhaled, they can multiply in the bird’s air sacs and spread throughout the respiratory tract. Treatment for aspergillosis involves antifungal drugs and is typically a lengthy and expensive process.

If the chicken dies before your veterinarian is able to provide a diagnosis, immediately refrigerate the carcass. (Do not freeze it.) Ideally, your veterinarian should perform a necropsy within hours of death.

  • Always obtain hatching eggs and replacement stock for your flock from a reputable hatchery or dealer who participates in the National Poultry Improvement Plan, a USDA program that tests and monitors a number of avian diseases.
  • If possible, house chickens by age group, separating younger birds from older members of the flock. Young poultry need time to develop immunity.
  • Limit farm visitors’ access to your flock to prevent the spread of infectious agents. If a visitor would like to see your chickens, ask them to wear freshly laundered clothes and clean footwear and request that they avoid contact with any other birds the day of their visit.
  • Quarantine new flock members for at least three weeks. During this time, ask your veterinarian to test the birds’ blood for antibodies and conduct a fecal parasite screening.
  • Provide clean living quarters for your flock. Remove manure frequently (both viruses and parasites are shed via feces), and immediately discard any feed or bedding that becomes wet. Coarse bedding is preferable to fine as it produces less dust.
  • Ensure good ventilation in buildings where you keep your flock.
  • After returning from a show or fair, quarantine chickens and other poultry for two to three weeks and monitor them closely for any signs of illness or disorders. The combination of a large group of birds and close quarters makes shows and fairs common sites for the transfer of communicable organisms, resulting in respiratory outbreaks.

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, consider putting a vaccination program in effect with your flock. This is particularly valuable in preventing outbreaks of viral infection, for which there is no treatment. Contact a local veterinarian who knows avian medicine or an extension poultry specialist he or she can answer your questions and recommend a program appropriate for your needs.

About the Authors: Eva Wallner-Pendleton, D.V.M., M.S., A.C.P.V., is a senior research associate, avian pathologist and field investigator, Animal Diagnostic Lab, Pennsylvania State University College of Veterinary Sciences. Dr. Lyle G. McNeal is a livestock specialist in the Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Services at Utah State University.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2013 issue of Hobby Farms.

Discussion questions from the Amnesty International Book Club:

What did you think of A Recipe for Bees? Which aspects did you appreciate, and which aspects were most challenging?

What is it about life events such as a loved one’s surgery that causes us to reflect upon our own lives and legacy? How have you personally been impacted when your loved ones, or yourself, have faced crisis?

The touches of magic and bee lore largely come from tradition and passed forward knowledge that the author herself possessed. In considering how these stories impact Augusta’s view of the world, can you extrapolate that to your own life? What traditions and lore have you grown up with that impact your world today? Are you conscious of your influences?

The author used images of her own parents within the novel. What does mixing fiction and fact bring to the novel that Anderson-Dargatz creates with A Recipe for Bees?

While so much of the story is set in the past, it cannot help but also leave us considering the future. Consider your legacy in this world and what stories might people tell of you when they one day look back on your life?

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12 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Got My First Guinea Fowl

Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.

Well, no. It’s a guinea fowl.

That is what many people ask when they first pull into a homestead to see these birds shuffling around.

We took the plunge into guinea fowl about a year ago, and boy was it an eye-opening experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I have grown to love our guineas very much, but it has taken some serious getting used to.

This is why I wanted to share with you a list of things I wish someone had told me before bringing them home.

1. A Guinea Is Not A Chicken

You might be thinking, “Well, duh!”

But I mean they are not even remotely the same.

Chickens are very domesticated birds. You can coop them, free-range them, or do half and half.

Chickens are fine with both.

Guineas are not the same. Unless you clip their wings extremely short, they are going to get out of the coop. That is actually a good thing if you have them for any reason beyond meat and eggs.

Guineas are also very dominant.

So don’t be surprised if they end up running your coop. Our guineas have completely taken over.

Our chickens were adjusted eventually, but you know the guineas have entered the coop when you look out and even the rooster is in the nesting boxes trying to get out of their way.

Don’t let this deter you from keeping your chickens and guineas together. Guinea fowl become tamer when allowed to interact with chickens.

2. Guineas Know No Boundaries

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but chickens know when they are off of their turf. I’m not sure how, but they do.

Well, guineas are not like that.

Guineas will walk onto a road and think they own it. They will take over the neighbor’s yard if they so desire.

When we first got our guineas, they not only took over our yard and chicken coop but our neighbor’s too. Thankfully, he was a good sport about it.

But most Saturday mornings I’d go out to feed the animals and sure enough, my neighbor would go into his coop and find my guinea rooster roosting in his coop.

So in the midst of feeding animals, he’d catch them and pass them over the fence to me. Talk about embarrassing.

But our neighbors have grown to enjoy the benefits of guineas too, so it all worked out.

Plus, all homesteaders know that animals have a mind of their own. So my guineas go up to visit our neighbors and their goats come down to visit us on occasion.

3. They Are ‘Chatty Cathy’

Guinea fowl are ‘Chatty Cathy’.

They talk all of the time.

The hens make a noise that sounds like they are saying, “Come back. Come back,” while the roosters make a “Chi chi chi” sound.

This is the main way you can tell your males and females apart.

Not only do they converse a lot, but they do it loudly.

I can’t emphasize this point enough.

Guineas are loud creatures. It can be annoying at times, but you either choose to embrace it, or guineas aren’t your cup of tea.

4. Who Needs ADT When You Have Guineas?

This is a great benefit of owning guineas.

I was not prepared for how great of watchdogs these birds were going to be for our homestead.

We don’t have a lot of predators around our homestead, but we did have a stray dog problem.

We raise meat rabbits and unfortunately, these stray dogs had figured out we had them. It got to a point where we were going outside every morning to either find a hutch destroyed or a rabbit missing.

We tried everything to catch them in the act but never had any luck. Then the dogs started getting more brazen and showing up in the middle of the day.

They were fast. As soon as we’d come out to find them, they’d be gone.

I heard the guineas going nuts the first few days they were released on the property. I went outside to check out what was going on, and sure enough, there stood one of those stray dogs.

It was so afraid of them that eventually, our dog problem ceased.

We had a few stray cats stalking our chickens as well. A cat tried to stalk our guinea rooster one day, and he actually let the cat pounce.

As soon as the cat pounced, the guinea flew over his head and attacked him. We no longer have a stray cat problem either.

They will guard your animals and property against both predators and people that should not be around.

They are great to have for this reason alone.

5. You Don’t Need The Orkin Man—You Need Guineas

Our property was once completely wooded. We have since cleared a lot of it in order to homestead, but we still had a pest problem.

We had ticks everywhere and every year we had to do battle in our garden because of June Bugs.

Our middle son came in one day with a giant tick on him. He had the ring around the bite so off to the doctor we went for antibiotics.

That day is what led us to guineas. My husband made an executive decision and a few days later we were the proud owner of our first guineas.

Since we have had guineas, we don’t have bugs.

They go all throughout the woods, in the different animals’ areas, in the garden, and all over the yard.

This is another huge benefit to owning guineas.

6. Guineas Must Be Trained

As mentioned earlier, guineas are not very domesticated birds.

They don’t actually require a coop. They will roost in the trees.

However, if you want them to come home and roost then they’ll need a coop.

If you decide to start with keets, you raise them basically as you would a baby chick or duckling. They require a brooder box and starter feed.

They need to be protected from the wind and kept warm for the first few weeks.

You can also raise guinea fowl from adults.

Our first go-round with guineas we raised day old keets. We raised them all the way up until they were ready to start free-ranging, and we messed up big time.

We let them all go at once.

Guineas travel in close-knit groups so once they are all out and gone, they are gone if they aren’t trained that this is home.

The next go-round we bought only adults.

We cooped them for about six weeks. Then we let them out one at a time. We would release a new guinea about every day or so.

Because they won’t leave each other, they had to keep coming home to roost.

By the time all of our guineas were released, they knew that this was home.

This is what you’ll need to do whether you raise them from keets or not.

Giving them a coop with food, water, and roosts will entice them to come home every day more so than if you just let them roost in the trees.

7. Guineas Are Poor Mothers

Guinea fowl are fast-paced, flighty birds.

They are also seasonal layers. They prefer to nest on the ground instead of nesting boxes as chickens do.

It takes guineas about 26-28 days to hatch a full clutch.

A lot of times they will make a nest off in the woods. If you find it, it is a good idea to move the nest back to the coop.

Guineas are usually great setters.

The problem is that once the eggs hatch, the moms are off and running again. They take their babies through wet areas which can cause them to chill and ultimately die.

So what do you do if you want to raise those baby guineas?

  1. Put the guinea eggs under a broody hen. She will raise them as her own and take great care of them.
  2. Incubate the eggs and raise them as you would day old keets that you purchased.

If you leave things in the hand of a guinea hen, sadly, the keets will probably not survive.

8. Fly Away Little Guinea

Have I told you yet that guineas are nothing like chickens?

Chickens don’t really fly. They can use their wings to help them slightly hop to high places, but they don’t soar.

I’m talking like actually take flight.

It is nothing for our guinea fowl to fly on top of our house. They sit on our fence posts with ease.

If something scares them, they’ll just fly right over it.

I’ve even seen my guineas walking back from my mother-in-law’s house which is across from our house.

They got tired of walking up the driveway, so they just flew from the bottom of our driveway over our house, and into the farthest corner of our backyard with no problem.

I was not aware of this when we got them. I imagined them to fly like a chicken flies.

The first time I saw them soar over our house, it was amazing.

So just be prepared that they will actually soar longer distances than you’d probably think.

9. Guineas Are Excellent Gardeners

I already mentioned that guineas are great at eating bugs. They have saved our garden from being ravaged by the June Bugs.

I am so thankful for that!

What is even more amazing is that they don’t destroy your garden.

Chickens like to eat bugs, but they’ll also eat your plants and scratch the ground all around them.

Ducks are great at eating bugs, like chicken. However, their feet are so big that if the plants are not large enough, they’ll squoosh them in the process of eating the bugs off of them.

And ducks like certain plants too.

They eat the bugs, are delicate on the plants, and don’t scratch the ground.

If you are like us and try to grow as much of your own food as possible, then guineas are a great little weapon to unleash on those unwanted garden pests.

10. Guineas Are Crazy Fast

If you need to catch your guineas, you can forget it.

The only way you’ll most likely be able to catch them is if they are cooped at night.

Even then, you get only one shot. If you blow it, you won’t catch them that night.

You first have to wait until they are cooped.

Then you have to grab them by their wings. We actually use a net, so we don’t hurt them.

Guinea fowl have really delicate legs. If you grab them by their leg, they’ll whip around on you and actually break it.

That is why it is best to grab them by their wings or just use a net and catch the whole bird at once.

When you have to catch them be prepared to laugh at yourself. It gets humorous quickly.

11. Guineas Are Free Entertainment

People told me chickens were funny. They were right.

People told me goats were funny. They were right.

But no one ever told me how funny guineas are to watch.

When they shuffle up and down the driveway looking for bugs, it is an adorable sight.

Watching a guinea outsmart a cat and then running it off is a funny sight.

Guineas just add one more funny thing to watch while you are out on a homestead. It is nature’s free entertainment.

12. Guineas Are Low Maintenance Birds

Guineas don’t have to have a coop.

They forage for their food.

Guineas don’t need nesting boxes.

Yes, a coop is a good idea as we discussed previously.

But in all actuality, guineas are super low maintenance. There are no nesting boxes to clean, no large coop to maintain.

They are just happy to fly around your property and eat your bugs.

You don’t get much more low-maintenance than that.

Having these amazing birds as part of your homestead will give it a complete feeling.

Yes, they have their pros and cons, but from my personal experience, I wouldn’t trade my guineas.

They have been much more of a help around our homestead than a hindrance.

Here are some excellent beginner guides on raising guinea fowl, if you decide to get one yourself:

October at Walnuts Farm

Much of the harvest from the kitchen garden has been gathered in before the first frosts arrive at Walnuts Farm but Nick and Bella are still collecting 'Egremont Russet' and 'Laxton's Superb' apples, quince and raspberries, alongside the bounty of butternut squash.

"We've tried lots of the more exotic types of squash but butternut remains our favourite," Bella explains. "They store well, 
so we keep eating them well into the new year." All the drying beans have been picked by now, placed on trays 
in front of windows. "We take down the hazel poles that supported them and use any that break as kindling."

Putting the kitchen garden to bed is an important task in October. The foliage from the squash plants is cleared away because it quickly becomes covered by mildew, while the glass cold frame and cloches are scrubbed and hosed down, then used to protect the 'Winter Density' lettuces that have been planted out this month.

Piles of well-rotted manure need to be worked into next year's potato bed and Bella is also feeding up the bees with sugar syrup to replenish their winter stores.

The flock of four sheep are shepherded into the front meadow to help improve the variety of wild flowers. "They are natural mowers and we have found that there 
is a better mix if we don't cut and rake ourselves," Nick explains. "There isn't so much goodness in the grass now but we won't start buying in hay until November. On a smallholding, you have to get as much as you can from your land for as long as possible."

October crops at Walnuts Farm

Autumn raspberries, butternut squash, chard, dill, figs, maincrop potatoes, pumpkins, parsley and sweetcorn.

Parasite-Ridden Bees Flock to British Farms - Recipes

Stream Farm organic lamb comes from our pedigree flock of Hampshire Down, a solidly British breed renowned for the quality and flavour of its meat. Hampshire Down flocks were established over 150 years ago and originated by crossing the Wiltshire Horn and the Berkshire Knot with the South Down stock. There used to be large sales of this breed in Wilton, Overton and Weyhill, often with thousands of animals being sold at a time.

Our lambs for the table are slaughtered at around 6 to 9 months at a local, family-run, organic-certified abattoir a few miles away and are hung there for a week before being butchered.

We sell the lamb by the half (between 8kg and 10kg in weight) jointed, bagged, labelled and (usually) frozen. The local price in Taunton and Bridgwater is £10/kg, elsewhere we sell for £11/kg. Half a lamb consists of a leg of lamb, shoulder of lamb, rack of lamb, rolled breast of lamb, neck of lamb and chump and loin chops. In 2018 our organic Hampshire Down lamb was awarded Gold at the Taste of the West awards, and shortlisted for the Champion award.

We occasionally have mutton to sell please call us to find out more.

We know the history of each of our animals in great detail and are able to vouch for the integrity and quality of its meat. If you want to know more about it, please do not hesitate to email us.

We can deliver our lamb boxes locally to the farm, as well as in Bristol and Bath for free. Delivery further afield can be arranged by courier. We are happy to help with cooking suggestions and recipes.


Detail of painting depicting goldfish bowl in the Washington bedchamber

The Bedchamber of Washington, in which He Died, with All the Furniture, as It Was at the Time, Drawn on the Spot by Permission of Mrs. John Washington of Mount Vernon, by John Gadsby Chapman, 1834. Courtesy of the Wethersfield Estate, Amenia, NY.

There is an interesting clue to another type of pet in a painting done circa 1834 by Alexandria artist John Gadsby Chapman entitled The Bedchamber of Washington In Which He Died With All The Furniture As It Was At The Time.—Drawn on the spot by permission of Mrs. John Washington of Mount Vernon by Jn. G. Chapman.

In order to do this painting, Chapman interviewed several of Martha Washington’s descendants. They knew what the room had looked like in the 18th century and owned pieces of furniture which had been in the room. Chapman painted pieces of furniture which were in several houses and placing them in the setting of the Washington bedchamber, presumably in the places they had originally stood.

On Martha Washington’s desk, which is shown on the left side of the painting, is a glass bowl containing a goldfish.


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