Monday, October 13, 2014

Get Dunked and Bee Costume

I work as a Software Engineer in Performance Team at VMware Inc. And, we have a tradition in Performance Team: Whoever getting married get dunked into the turtle pond.

Well, one week before I leave going back to Turkey for the wedding, I have been forced to enjoy the pool and become a closer friend with turtles.

But, humiliation wasn't ended there, I have been given a bee costume after the dunk. It was brutal, but I truly loved it.

Thanks to the Performance Team for the best wishes...

Hunting Mad Honey of Nepal

Here, I have found an amazing documentary, "Hunting Mad Honey", May 2014:

It's original name is "Les Chasseurs de Miel Fou". It tells a story about a tribe in Nepal hunting mad honey, which is a wild honey with natural psychoactive properties. It is being used as a medicine and also as a soft drug.

Here is couple of pointers to mad honey:

If you are interested in please check out my previous post about Mad Honey.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mad Honey of Turkey

Recently I came across an interesting article, "The Strange History of ‘Mad Honey’" by Emma Bryce: "Turkey's hallucinogenic 'Mad Honey' is produced when bees pollinate rhododendron flowers in the remote mountainside towns of the Black Sea region." [1]

Rhododendron Ponticum Wikipedia
Rhododendron Luteum, Wikipedia

Rhodedonderon ponticum is red and Rhododendron luteum is yellow. They are called  "rose of the forest" among the locals and they both contain grayanotoxin that is poisonous to humans, causing "dizziness, weakness, confusion, vision disturbances, and heavy sweating and saliva flow, but also irregular or very slow heartbeat, low blood pressure, and fainting." [2]

In the same publication [2] of Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA, it is also noted that there are a number of toxic species, containing grayanotoxin, native to the US, and even to the California: "Of particular importance are the western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale) found from Oregon to southern California, the California rosebay (Rhododendron macrophyllum) found from British Columbia to central California, and Rhododendron albiflorum found from British Columbia to Oregon and in Colorado."

Indeed, mad honey is the very first biological poison used as a weapon of mass destruction in the history [3]. In 401 BC, Xenophon and his Greek army of ten thousand soldiers stopped by at the Black Sea’s region of Turkey during a retreat from Babylon. The army feasted on honeycombs at the green hills covered with beautiful Rhododendron flowers. In his chronicle, Xenophon wrote: "All the soldiers who ate of the honeycombs lost their senses, and were seized with vomiting and purging, none of them being able to stand on their legs. Those who ate but a little were like men very drunk, and those who ate much, like madmen, and some like dying persons. In this condition great numbers lay on the ground, as if there had been a defeat, and the sorrow was general. The next day, none of them died, but recovered their senses about the same hour they were seized; and the third and fourth day, they got up as if they had taken a strong potion."

Small doses of the mad honey can also induce hallucinations. Cat Jaffee, who had a chance of consuming a spoon of mad honey during her travel in the region, describes the experience in her blog: "The effects were real: slight hallucinations, light-headedness, loss of balance, more-than-usual giddiness, and faintly blurred vision. My symptoms lasted approximately two hours until I dozed into a comfortable nap. Half an hour later I awoke… fortunately!"

It is sold and consumed in small amounts mostly for medicinal purpose - including but not limited to: gastrointestinal disorders (such as gastritis, peptic ulcers, abdominal pain and indigestion), hypertension, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, colds and viral infections, blood glucose regulation, sexual stimulant, sexual dysfunction...
[5] reviews its medicinal properties starting from ancient Greek and Latin literature to modern researches.

However, a scientific paper [6], published in Cardiovascular Toxicology Journal of Springer, warns: "consumption of grayanotoxin ... may result in intoxication specifically characterized by dizziness, hypotension and atrial-ventricular block. Symptoms are caused by an inability to inactivate neural sodium ion channels resulting in continuous increased vagal tone." And it notes: "Scientific evidence for the medicinal properties of grayanotoxin ... is scarce."

It is bitter in taste, which is also known as bitter honey in the region. In the 18th century, it was one of the major export to Europe, where it is know as miel fou. Just to be fair, not all honey from the Black Sea region is mad honey. Contrarily, most of the honey produced in the region is very high quality with excellent taste. Rhododendrons are in bloom only during May, and only that honey contains high levels of grayanotoxins.

[1] Emma Bryce, The Strange History of ‘Mad Honey’.
[2] Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA, "Grayanotoxins, Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins, Bad Bug Book".
[3] Robert Root-Bernstein, Infectious Terrorism.
[4] Cat Jaffee, Marching into History with Black Sea Crazy Honey.
[5] H.V. Harissis and G. Mavrofridis, “Mad honey” in medicine from antiquity 
to the present day, Archives of Hellenic Medicine ISSN 11-05-3992.
[6] Jansen et. al., Grayanotoxin Poisoning: ‘Mad Honey Disease’ and Beyond, Cardiovascular Toxicology - Springer,

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mad Honey in Turkey

Here is the story of The Strange History of ‘Mad Honey’, by Emma Bryce.
"Turkey's hallucinogenic 'Mad Honey' is produced when bees pollinate rhododendron flowers in the remote mountainside towns of the Black Sea region."
I visited my home country, Turkey, in August and I happened to buy 2 lb of mad honey. It is sold mostly for medicinal properties. Yes, it is bitter in taste, which is also known as bitter honey. It numbs your tongue just a little in the beginning.

I was also advised not to consume it at huge amounts at once but little by little over time. Even, though I ate fair amount at once, say quarter pound, I did not experience anything of the followings except the numbness:
"When over-imbibed, however, the honey can cause low blood pressure and irregularities in the heartbeat that bring on nausea, numbness, blurred vision, fainting, potent hallucinations, seizures, and even death, in rare cases."
Please, continue reading the story of The Strange History of ‘Mad Honey’...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bee Fence Against Elephants

In Kenya, farmers install honey bee hives around their farms to discourage elephants' invasion. What a cool idea...

Watch it on YouTube: Earth Rise - Bee Fence

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

PechaKucha: Honey Bees

PechaKucha is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). Continue on Wikipedia.

PechaKucha presentations are concise, fast-paced and fun. At the same time, easy to mess up. You have only 20 seconds for each slide. You may not finish what you want to say in 20 seconds and the slides would advance no matter what. Or you would say what you want to say in 10 seconds then there will be 10 seconds of awkward silence. In those cases, never look back, say "How fascinating" and continue and have fun...

Here is my PechaKucha talk on Honey Bees presented at a non-technical session of my company's technical conference.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Honeydew Honey

From Wikipedia: "Honeydew is a sugar-rich sticky liquid, secreted by aphids and some scale insects as they feed on plant sap. Bees can take honeydew, the sweet secretions of aphids or other plant sap-sucking insects." and turn it into Honeydew Honey.

Basically, it's first aphid poop and then bee puke...

Read the story "Aphid Shit is the Good Shit" by Kelly Kittell.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

In search of an Original Bee Character

I am a newbie to DeviantArt community without any drawing experience. No trained eye and I am not familiar with the terminology. I got introduced to DeviantArt while I was in search of an Original Bee Character for my hobby, beekeeping.

I am looking for an Original Honey-Bee Character that I can use to promote my blog and to put on the honey jars, as well as on posters that I prepare to educate people on bees and honey.

I have huge appreciation and admiration to the artistic talent and imagination for these artists in DeviantArt community. Keep up the good work guys...

Few examples that I truly love:

Bee Tan by Teruchan
Bee Mars by Rosvo
Bee-chan by Koku-chan
Bumble Bee Pinup Girl by ArtistMeli

I found few more examples. Please check more in my favorite bookmarks:

Caveat: It is illegal and unethical to use someone else's work in any way without their consent.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Beekeeping is like Love

Beekeeping is like Love: it comes with occasional stings, but at the end, you'll get the sweetest taste...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973)


Genres: Horror | Sci-Fi | B-movie | 18+

Wikipedia: Invasion of the Bee Girls (UK video title: Graveyard Tramps) is a 1973 science fiction film.[1] The first film venture for writer Nicholas Meyer, it was directed by Denis Sanders and stars William Smith, Anitra Ford and Victoria Vetri.[2] Meyer almost didn't put his name to the project after he saw it but was later convinced by his manager at the time.

IMDb: In the small town of Peckham, California, many men die for excessive effort during sexual intercourse. When a scientist from the Brandt research laboratory is found dead in a motel, the government sends Agent Neil Agar (William Smith) to investigate the mysterious deaths. He suspects that the deaths may be related to some experiments of Dr. Susan Harris (Anitra Ford), who is researching bees in the Brandt facility.

Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Watch at Amazon Prime Instant.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Worst Places To Get Stung By A Bee

The Worst Places To Get Stung By A Bee: Nostril, Lip, Penis; by Ed Yong:
"It started when a honeybee flew up Michael Smith’s shorts and stung him in the testicles. Smith is a graduate student at Cornell University, who studies the behaviour and evolution of honeybees... That got him thinking: Where’s the worst place on the body to get stung?"

Reference: Smith ML. (2014) Honey bee sting pain index by body location. PeerJ 2:e338

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bee Photography

I find this photography site devoted to bees. Eric Tourneret is travelling around the world and shooting amazing bee photos.

He calls himself "The Bee Photographer":
Why this work on bees? --- I grew up in a village on a mountainside above Annecy. When I learned about the dying out of the bees, my instinct as a child of the countryside told me something was wrong in our relationship with nature. I chose to commit myself to the bee and pass on the idea of a living nature.
Check out:
Few sample photos:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Photos of a Bee Collecting Blue/Purple Pollen

A fellow beekeeper, Bryan Hains, took these gorgeous photos of a honey bee collecting blue/purple pollen from Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans).

Sunday, March 2, 2014

California’s driest year on record

Spring has already started with trees blooming 3 weeks ago. I am a beginner beekeeper and bees are busy as bees, nowadays, collecting nectar crazy and pollinating plants in the neighborhood. However, this year we did not get any rain, California’s driest year on record. This summer will be really tough for bees and us :(

           The Washington Post: California’s driest year on record

Please, don't miss a chance to save water, we'll need every single drop of water...

Honey and Bee in Indian Literature and Culture

Poster about "Honey and Bee in Indian Literature and Culture", including:

  • "Let every wind that blows drop honey...", Rig Veda. 
  • "A young man's love-charm", Hymns of the Atharva Veda. 
  • "The Hero and the Nymph", Kalidasa.
  • "Like the Bee and the Flower", Dhammapada.

Beez In The Trap by Nicki Minaj

Music video: Beez In The Trap (Explicit) by Nicki Minaj.

Check wikipedia entry for the details about the song and video.

Monday, January 20, 2014

2014 Plan

I have 8 hives (all medium Langstroth hives) entering into the winter. I checked out my bees this weekend. One hive is really really weak; two hives are mediocre and the others look strong.

This spring, I will try couple of splits and also raise my own queens. I hope 4-6 of my hives will survive, and, my plan is to grow up to 10 Langstroth hives in summer.

This year, my main goal is to try THB (Top Bar Hive), planning to have 6 to 8 TBHs. I already ordered 6 packages of bees and started building the hives (I also enrolled couple of woodworking classes in Santa Clara Adult Ed) using Les Crowder's plans.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bees Crying for Help!

I have prepared this education poster to raise awareness for the danger that bees are facing. I set up a stand with this poster at work, and I offer people a big spoon of local honey. This gives me about 2 minutes to talk about this poster. Here are the main talking points with this poster:
  • Bees are dying. Why?
  • Why should we care?
  • What can you do?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Premium Honey - Honey Buying Guide

Here is the poster that I prepared to compare the honey that I harvest from my hives versus the honey that is available at supermarkets produced by the commercial beekeepers. Just to be fair, while the processes that commercial beekeepers use are common, some honey is special, some unheated, some unfiltered. Please first read the labels, then be cautious since there is no enforcement on the labels. Read more: Food Safety News: Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn't Honey.

You can take this poster as a honey buying guide and learn what to look for...

  • The natural form of the honey is comb honey; not extracted liquid honey in a bear jar. Extracted liquid honey that is available at supermarkets are:
    • Heated: In order to extract, the honey is heated up to 161 ºF, and then it is pasteurized to increase the shelf life. This process destroys yeast cells, reduces enzymes, increases HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) level. As a result, it changes the flavors, taste, smell, color, viscosity and sugar compositions of honey. 
    • Filtered: Last but not least, the honey is filtered removing the pollen grains in order to slow down the crystallization. All honey crystallizes; some crystallizes sooner, some crystallizes after years. During crystallization, the sugar crystals build on small particles such as pollen, propolis and wax in honey. By removing these particles, the process can be slowed down in the expense of alternation of honey, loss of precious nutrients as well as the natural flavor. Read more about crystallization: Why does honey crystallize? by Brookfield Farm Bees & Honey.
  • Commercial beekeepers use medications heavily in their hives. All sorts of hard chemicals, soft chemical, and antibiotics are given to the bee hives throughout the whole year (questionably, turning them into drug junkies). Any medication given to bees will contaminates to whole hive including the comb and honey, and finally, reaches to our kitchen table. This is the biggest debate and the most important philosophical question in beekeeping community: Using medication versus treatment-free beekeeping. From beekeepers point of view, not using any chemicals may result in high losses in bee hives, but the honey that is produced is free of any contamination of chemicals.
  • Foundation is the thin layer of sheet in the middle to support to whole frame. Commercial beekeepers use plastic or beeswax foundation, which is produced by collecting beeswax from other beekeepers. The problem is that that beeswax is already contaminated with all sorts of chemicals that the previous beekeepers used. If foundation is not used, bees draw fresh foundation from scratch with the beeswax that they produce. However, in order to produce one drop of beeswax, they use 10 drops of honey. This will cause less honey production.
Comb honey produced by foundationless and treatment free beekeeping is much much less than the commercial beekeeping. But the honey is the purest natural premium honey.

My final suggestion is to:

  • Find a local beekeeper in your area.
  • Get to know the beekeeper's practices(such as using medication vs natural approach; foundation vs foundationless).
  • Buy and consume comb honey.
  • Enjoy it... 

Posters on Bees & Honey

I have started to prepare posters about bees, honey and environment to increase awareness on the importance of the honey bees and their impact on environment. I do some research on honey bees and will share some of these educational posters about:

  • Honey, what to look for buying honey?
  • Bees in danger, why is it important, what can we do?
  • Honey and Bees in world literature and culture.
  • Bee life cycle.
  • ...