Friday, May 27, 2016

Bye Grenada & Hello again Minnesota

Sadly I have not updated the posts here as I hoped I would have. I've been home now for 6 weeks and will try to do better of updating here and on  another blog I will be writing on for my new position, which I will also write about.

Below was written my last week of service while still in Grenada.


My year in Grenada is finishing up this week I am finishing projects, saying good byes, and packing up. I do not think this is the end of Grenada for me. I really enjoyed this island. And heard or was told that in the lower Caribbean, it truly is one of the friendliest and nicest island.

In this past year I was able to:

  • Meet with 50 established beekeepers and 30 people interested in beekeeping, assessed their knowledge and resources to understand feasibility of needed trainings, equipment and appropriate technologies.
  • Documented known 86 beekeepers and kept a contact list of 31 interested people for the Association and others use.
  • Offered assistance to all and worked one-on-one with 16 beekeepers trouble shooting problems, learning and sharing best practices and using appropriate technology and techniques for the limitations of the island.  
  • Monitored and evaluated skills and advancement over the course of working with each of the beekeepers.
  • Supported the Ministry of Agriculture extension agent with visiting beekeepers to assist them in their ventures. Knowledge and expertise was shared in terms of exporting, value chains in Grenada and importing of goods beekeepers would need.
  • Created and implemented course curriculum specific to the island of Grenada: Introduction to Successful Beekeeping: What you need to get started and Bee Pests, Disease & Integrated Pest Management: Understanding and Identification. Training 25 people over all these 2 courses given multiple times and locations to make it more available.
  • Created, managed and communicated through Facebook page, Gmail and WhatsApp application to keep beekeepers, interested people and public aware of events, classes and information.
  • Through further research and fieldworks, capturing of information from beekeepers and other people on the island Ms. Wannarka correlated, designed and wrote 160-page electronic book “Honey Bee Plants in Grenada, Eastern Caribbean:  Nectar, Pollen, and Propolis source plants” to assist beekeepers, interested people, farmers and others conserve and increase bee plant fodder and knowledge on the island. The book was sent via email, WhatsApp and the Facebook page to beekeepers, interested people and other contacts made through the past year.
  • Attending monthly was able to attend the St. George’s University Bee College in May 2015 and there met 14 other beekeepers from the Caribbean and Florida University that she kept in touch with and shared information with.
  • Assisting Belmont Estate, an Agro-tourism historic plantation. Specifically helping with their Goat Dairy project one day a week with communication from a U.S. based manager to the Belmont estate office handling the payroll, encourage staff and oversee overall process. This allowed Ms. Wannarka to see and understand the financial and payroll process of a business on the island. Working with the staff of the Goat Dairy Project and Belmont estate was a pleasure.
  • Liaisoned with other organizations on the island to share her expertise and knowledge with. Grand Bras Estate is a historic 100-acre farm that employs 20 people for year around vegetable production. Through discussion using bees for pollination was found to be possible and helpful to improve the vegetable crop in a few fields on a trial basis.
  • Attended community meetings such as GRENED, Grenada Education and Development Programme; SADO, St. Andrew’s Development Organization and Grenada Creole Society Meeting and Lecture in Concord, St. John’s. Ms Wannarka also participated in a panel for STEM Opportunities in the Peace Corps Webinar for Western Pennsylvania to share Peace Corps and Response experience
There is no comparing this service to my last in Senegal, West Africa. There are many cultural similarities, but everything else now looking back at it with a month+ perspective is good. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Making of a region specific bee fodder plant list

Isn't that a mouthful?! And is what I've been doing for the last 3 months specifically for Grenada. I've been gathering for most of the year, finding little gems (like actual island specific plant books-which are very hard to come by on the island due to all the libraries being closed after hurricane Ivan due to damage and $$). And talking to many beekeepers to get their knowledge on paper. I'm sure I'll still miss a few plants but this is a good start.

While doing parts of a very tedious, monotonous job I listen to podcasts. One specifically (Min 16) with Derek Sivers, reminds us to "document the process" not only for ourselves but for others to be see how the "how the sausage gets made"

So without a's what I've done to create a bee fodder plant list in Grenada:

My time in Senegal I was able to stumble upon Plants for Arid Lands which happened to have a list of Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources, written by of course well known honey bee researcher Eva Crane.

Also the Senegal Peace Corps Agroforesty Manual also had a list of trees listed as bee fodder, not all of them are "true" but also no one could tell me where the information had come from even though the author was still on staff. And Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel is a awesome book for the West Africa region in general.
Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel, luckily the copy I found was in English not French
So between these two lists I combined them and started adding the local names I knew in Wolof, the local language I had learned and worked in. Senegal has 36 languages (per Wikipedia) but Peace Corps Senegal trains volunteers in one of 9 languages (Wolof, Sereer, Mandinka, Malinke/Jaxanke Fulakunda, Pular, Pulla Fuuta, Pular du Nord,French, Bambara)

Senegal Honey Bee Fodder List
This list is currently 171 species using only 4 references (see below). Luckily I had great agriculture volunteers with wonderful language ability to help fill in some of the names as much as they knew. Sadly though this list has never been used for more than personal use. The idea was to create a simple identification booklet for beekeepers to learn terms and identify plants. Similar to this below

Booklet from Mali to teach French vocabulary to beekeepers
Crane, E. (1985). Plants for Arid Lands. In Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources. International Bee Research Association.
Sidibe, D., Djitte, C., Constant, A., & Blass, C. (2012). Peace Corps Senegal Agroforestry Manual (Second.). Theis, Senegal: Peace Corps.
Traucht, M. (2009). Working with Bees in The Gambia. The Gambia.
Von Maydell, H.-J. J. (1990). Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel. Weikersheim: Margraf.

After I came home November of 2014 after my Peace Corps service was finished I kept looking for honey bee fodder lists. Not all lists would be pertinent as there are multiple breeds of honey bees and they are location specific. For example, African bees that were in Senegal, can not survive in my native Minnesota due to the cold, but also African bees are 10% smaller than Apis mellifera we have in northern climates, therefore some of the plant fodder might be different too.

Apis distribution map via Apimonda (@apimondiabees)
twitter September 17, 2015

So each list needs to be looked at from a location and Apis breed to see if a world bee fodder list can be made, which from what I can find has not been made, documented, updated, or put online. Which with all the technology we have there are many applications for this information.

Currently I have 49 literature reference sources for nectar, honey dew, pollen and propalis sources that I have started a new list specifically for Apis mellifera (honey bee) with around 2800 plants. Now what to do with the list.

Spring of 2015 I traveled to Grenada to work with beekeepers and kept my eyes open for any references specific to Grenada/Caribbean that I could find on bee fodder as well as what the beekeepers could tell me of plants. Many names are in local common names, not Latin/scienctific names. Also what do I do with all this data which is plant nomenclature, which changes over time. So my list might have duplicates due to name changes from having references sources from 1945 to present day.

Again I was luckily to stumble upon Entomological Society of America's 2015 conference that did a wonderful job of putting all of the sessions online. At the beginning of the conference Entomological Collections Network presented for the first day. The stress was putting your data sets online so they can be found, used and added by others. I contacted a presenter for more information, but since it was entomology not plant based it only pushed me to do more research.

Encyclopedia of Life website screenshot

Somehow I had a link from Encyclopedia of Life, I believe was from a conversation from the Bee College from May of 2015 when it was mentioned. Luckily I looked around and figured out that the website not only has common names in multiple languages the entire site is very easy to use with information pulled from various sites, integrating information.

Day in my life updating "the list" follow me on @mayhemmadness5 Instagram
Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is very handy to make ever changing plant lists in and also check the most correct name. Currently I'm almost through the 2800 plants I have in my list with updating the taxonomy. Next I'll cross reference my list with the 4 books I have been able to find on the island with Grenada flora to see how many actual bee plants are here.

What I would do without books but these specifically have been wonderful!

Once I have my short list of plants, I'll design a small pamphlet to be used by beekeepers, farmers, and other interested people to identify bee plants but also to encourage preservation, conservation and plant more of them through out the island.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Grenada: Work & Life on the island

Working anyplace new is intimidating, interesting, integrating and always makes for good story. Grenada is no different. The island life is a good one, relaxed, always close to a beach and a drink of choice. That is unless you have work to do. Beach and drinks aren't much of a distraction, 'liming' or hanging out happens all the time so there isn't a prescribed time to do so, so it happens all the time. Making those who do it all the time looked down upon by those who don't and 'work' (which I'll discuss later)
Reflecting sun on Grand Anse beach in St. George's

People here on the island are great. If you walk by and don't want to be bothered they inherently know it and will leave you alone, most of the time. If you greet people as you walk by, as you should in most countries I have lived, they will greet you back politely, sometimes even ask 'how is your day?' If someone calls to you here, and it's other than your name or a proper title. Proper being Miss, Mam, Lady, etc versus improper; babe, baby, honey, sexy. You can simply raise your hand, open palm at them to acknowledge their presence and they will stop. Most of the time. This simple acknowledgement is quite amazing, like a secret power that you may not notice unless someone tells you it and then you see how it works.

Same happens in the public transport, which are passenger vans that hold typically 18 people but can squeeze in 22. This sounds awful, but the most time spent in a bus is maybe an hour, with windows open (no spirits to make you sick here thankfully) and on curvy roads with slick seats the cramming of people make it impossible to move actually making the ride MORE comfortable. I found the same in Senegal, when wedged between two people you can sleep, relax and forget where you are.
Buses and traffic on Market Hill road in St. George's

Conversation is optional again on the bus. You should greet the bus upon getting in and typically if you talk about anything else people may ask you more questions or converse depending their mood or personality. When you put in to the exchange they give back, but if you don't neither will they. It's quite interesting.
Blurry view of the fish market in Grenville

Work culture is even more complex. There are good jobs and not good jobs, there is also almost 50% unemployment, so you would think any job is a good job. Not the case. There seems to be a feeling of entitlement that people need a 'good' job, if they are capable of the job. Agriculture makes up most of the economy and you see plenty of vegetables, crops and fruits in the market, and I see farmers and know many of them for my work, but the labor force doesn't seem to be proportional.

In Senegal, being subsistence farmer, everyone, man, women, children worked the land. In Grenada, you would think that this would be the easier work to have with the largest payout but yet people have a small garden or plot, but I hardly see it as an 'everyone' can do this approach. I hate to think what Grenada will be like if this continues as the people I do see working the land are older (40+).

I find the island to be very tolerating of other people, their ideas, religions, and customs. There are probably at least 8 religions on the island even though it's predominately catholic. I've also heard of many other Caribbean people on the island along with Indians, Syrians, Germans, Brits, Belgians, and of course Americans. There are mixing of these groups at various times, but there are definitely segmentation of each group as well in the larger culture.

I very much enjoy this place, people and atmosphere, but there are definite underlying inter-personal and larger political issues at play here that makes this place difficult to get much done. I know I say this after posting what I have been able to do after 6-months, but I can easily see more that could be done or accomplished in the same amount of time if a few more things were in place.

"Some people hate change.  They don't hate you. If you get confused about that, it's going to be difficult to make (needed, positive, important) change in the future."        
Seth Godin Blog November 4, 2015

Futurist Cecily Sommers writes  "[t]he four forces of change are resources, technology, demographic and governance." in Think Like a Futurist. 

Sommers, C. (2012). Think Like a Futurist: Know What Changes, What Doesn’t, and What's Next. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Grenada: Six Month Work Review

Monthly reports are part of most Response volunteer's life. Luckily I do not have to do the Peace Corps reporting that is now computerized matrix to input numbers based on objectives. Lots of monitoring and reporting. It's great to understand whats going on, but it's really difficult to understand what is really happening on the ground through those numbers. I understand needing the quantifying of our very undefinable jobs as Peace Corps volunteers. Here on Grenada, the 27-month volunteers have very specific roles as Teaching Assistants for primary schools for reading development skills.

In the Peace Corps St. Lucia office
The other Response volunteers work with children with learning and behavior challenges at a school and children's home, respectfully, another at the national museum and me with the beekeeping association on the island.

As nice as it is having a defined job description, what is the likelihood you do any or all of them when you get to a developing country? It's depends upon the expectations of the organization and their resources frankly. As most Response positions on the island, expectations were high and what we would be able to accomplish and semi-unrealistic. It's hard to get someone to come down from a cloud. Even worse when they are unwilling to see what's on the ground to work with or lend a hand. 

The front of the Sub office where my office is

This an edited summary report that I've submitted to my partnering association, Peace Corps, and other partners I have on the island.  There are sections for my recommendations to the partner organization and Peace Corps/Response as well a list of my major collaborators that I have left off but very valuable to document and share. Also I have added pictures where possible to help illustrate :)

History of Partnering Organization
Formed in 1998, Grenada Beekeeping Association (GAB) was formed from fourteen young persons that took a 2-week beekeeping course organized by Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). Initial funding came from Agency for Rural Transformation (ART) and the National Development Foundation (NDF). Until 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) also provided subvention and a technical officer from the Veterinary and Livestock Division of the MoA had been assigned full time to assist GAB members.  Their office at the Ministry of Agriculture Extension office in Grenville.

“Over the period 2002 to 2008, the number of registered beekeepers increased from twenty-seven to fifty-seven; the number of hives in use increased from 810 to 1710 units; and honey production increased from 13,324lb to 28,129lb. (These figures can be verified from official statistics.) Present estimates indicate that the number of hives has dropped to 1400, but the yield per colony has increased because of better beekeeping practices. This is mainly due to the efforts of GAB to improve the ability of beekeepers and to have beekeeping equipment and materials available at most times, and at reasonable costs to beekeepers.” 

Previously the association had been a co-host to the Caribbean Beekeeping Congress (2011), participated in World Food Day Celebrations (2009) and the week of Agriculture (2010) along with producing a GAB news bulletin (2009) but has not been sustained. In the past the Association ordered wood goods (hive & hive products) and equipment in mass, stored it in a container and sold it to beekeepers as needed. A small profit was made from resale of honey and goods. On April 1, 2011 became a registered incorporated body.

Currently and for the past 5 years GAB has faced many challenges. First the lack of subvention from the Ministry of Agriculture and the increase of tariffs on imports has made purchasing a bulk order of goods nearly impossible. In this time many beekeepers have started to import goods themselves (typically from Trinidad) or make them on the island.

Since 2010, there has been a change of policy on the import of ‘breeder queens’ from outside of the island. This is still a challenge that is a topic of conversation between GAB and MoA presently and as of October 2015 200+ queens have been purchased and brought in via GAB and MoA and purchased by beekeepers on the island.
Peace Corps was contacted and the Association requested a response volunteer to help specifically to develop the beekeeping industry in Grenada and expand membership to maximize potential. Specifically by identifying good genetic material, training 20 in an intro to beekeeping course, train 10 trainers in advance queen-rearing for Trainer of Trainer model, produce 500 queens for local beekeepers and region, develop a queen rearing manual specific to Grenada.
Ministry of Agriculture, F. and F. (2015). 2010-2011 Annual Agriculture Review Grenada W.I. St. George’s Grenada: Ministry of Agriculture.

Grenada Association of Beekeepers logo
Focus of work Activities
With financial and political challenges and lack of resources faced by the association the volunteer has identified these potential short term goals:
Collaborate with beekeepers on best practices, challenges, solutions, goals and gaining feedback throughout the process
Creating ongoing training programming for beekeepers, public and partnering shareholders’ staff
Identifying good genetic stock for queen rearing to increase honey production and training of trainers to do so as well
Assist in increasing overall knowledge of bees, nectar, propolis and pollen sources
Assist in developing beekeeping industry in Grenada and assist in increasing public knowledge of the industry.

Major Accomplishments
From the time I have arrived on island April 16, 1st day of work was April 20th until October 31st (6 months of service) I have accomplished:

  • Met personally with 43 beekeepers/interested people in beekeeping21 of those visited their apiary/bee yard
    15 of the visited apiaries we worked the bees that day
  • Met 12 extension officers, ministry officials, St. George University contacts, other individuals that work in the agriculture industry
  • Met the Grenada Association of Beekeepers Executive Board along with the Chief Veterinary Officer for the Ministry of Agriculture
  • Followed up with Ministry of Agriculture Chief Veterinary Office (via email) specifically for filling out paperwork on Grenada clearance for honey to be accepted into the U.K. for beekeepers to enter London Honey Show October 29-31st 2015.

  • Had check-in meeting with Peace Corps Associate Country Program Director, current and previous Grenada Association of Beekeepers' President to put 2 months of planning in place.
  • Met with Peace Corps Associate Country Program Director, 2 Executive Board members and previous Association President to discuss and clarify overall plan with Response volunteer as it pertains to training. Volunteer is to take the lead and consult with Association as needed.
Group of attendees of the Queen Rearing Course at St. George's University at the Bee College

  • Attended the 4 day St. George’s University Bee College in St. George's
  • Attended GAB membership meetings (3 total) and The Goat Dairy board meeting & On-Farm Workshop
  • Discussed, researched and wrote Response Counterpart Workshop proposal with assistance of my Associate Country Program Director fellow Response volunteers and 27-month volunteer
The Goat Dairy Project at Belmont Estate

Training and Courses:
  • Met, followed up and wrote proposal with 4-H Extension liaison for St. Andrew’s, on term-long project for 12-16 year olds on pollinators, habitat and conservation Emailed Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) or Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQ) certification about current and past trainings held in regard to beekeeping (none as of lately nor in the near future)
  • Followed up on status of reply from T.A. Marryshow Community College on access to Mirabeau farm school and course syllabus for Apiculture they teach
  • Created overarching syllabus with 10 courses that I thought would be beneficial to beekeepers and potential beekeepers in Grenada and shared it with the membership
  • Followed up with past teachers of beekeeping courses on the island
  • Drafted “Introduction to Successful Beekeeping: What you need to get started” outline, wrote PowerPoint with overview of GAB membership
  • Finalized power point presentation and needed resources for Intro class, further reviewed and added classes to overall syllabus for beekeeping classes
  • Identified interested people that would be interested in the beekeeping class and make record of their contact information. Collaborated to identify potential stakeholders and community partners to communicate via posted letters in the next week or two about the details on the classes being held
  • Met and planned additional meetings, trainings and brainstormed agenda with the Ministry of Agriculture Extension Agent for Beekeeping; presented Introduction to Beekeeping course and additional course syllabus to membership meeting
  • Met with  Ministry of Agriculture Extension Agent for Beekeeping and Chief Veterinary Officer  to discuss ideas planned for moving forward with trainings. Letter was drafted and sent to Principal at T.A. Marryshow Community College for access and use of Mirabeau Farm School
  • Set time, dates and place for Introduction to Beekeeping class, sent letters to potential stakeholders and community partners about details of class with assistance of Ministry of Agricultural Extension Agent and Office in Grenville. 
Flyer for 'Introduction to Successful Beekeeping: Getting Started in Beekeeping"
  • Contacted 20 interested people that expressed interest in the beekeeping class via phone, email and in persn
  • Emailed or whatapps’ed another 20 partnering individuals, 16 Peace Corps volunteers & staff, 16 NGO’s and partnering institutions, 25 attendees of the Bee College to alert and invite them to the class.
  • Taught class to 7 people and have another 14 signed up for another class held in October for total of 21 for 2 classes.
Flyer for "Pest, Disease and Pest Management: Identification and Understanding"
    • Planned 2nd class on Pest, Disease and Pest Management with Beekeeping Extension Agent and SGU Lab Researcher to be held in October
    • Taught Pest, Disease and Pest Management class to 3 beekeepers, hope to offer this again in late November and late January.

    Additional Community Partners:
    • Attended GRENED meeting to better understand community need and how organization assists youths in the community
    • Partnered with Belmont Estate to create simple business and action plan for bees to be established on the estate, including training of trainer for estate to also train staff on better understanding and best practices (ongoing 2 pg word document emailed)
    • Attended Saint Andrews Development Organization (SADO) planning meeting for Rainbow City event in Grenville happening before Carnival to assist beekeepers in preparing for possibly exhibiting
    • Met with Grand Bras Farms to discuss pollination benefits to the farm and best practices having bees on the property
    Grand Bras Farm, a historic estate that is now being used for short crop and vegetable production
    Research, Networking and Organizing
    • Drafted project plan for self-started projects, events, and notable dates
    • Continued researching and compiling world honey, pollen, and propolis plant sources to create Caribbean and Grenada specific plant lists
    • Wrote, applied and my abstract was accepted for Apimondia, an international beekeeping conference being held in Seoul, Korea September 15-20, 2015
    • Networked with many people on the island along with inquiring about resources on the island for beekeepers and the association

    Potential Projects for Rest of Service
    • Plan and draft “Nectar, Pollen and Propolis Plant Sources’ outline, write PowerPoint, layout and create plant identification manual for Grenada specific plants (PowerPoint, list of resources, images and people; small ¼ page booklet identification manual on plants) Tentatively set for late January and start mentioning it to potential attendees mid-late December
    • Offer ‘Intro to Successful Beekeeping’ and ‘Pest, Disease and Integrated Pest Management’ courses on ad-hoc basis in January-March.
    • Plan and draft “Beekeeping Basics:1st year of Beekeeping in Grenada’ outline, write PowerPoint, layout and source apiary for hands on examples for class (PowerPoint, list of resources, images and people; apiary; protective gear for attendees) Tentatively set for February and start mentioning it to potential attendees January
    • Plan and draft “Bee and Hive Anatomy’ outline, write PowerPoint, source needed items for bee dissection-pinning boards, microscopes, tweezers (PowerPoint, list of resources, images and people; apiary; protective gear for attendees) Tentatively set for March and start mentioning it to potential attendees February.
    • Continue attending GAB membership meetings as needed; following up and assisting beekeepers with questions and work alongside with them when possible in their apiaries.
    • Continue communicating with GAB membership, Grenada MoA & extension officers, beekeepers and interested people, partnering organizations who have shown interest in beekeeping (i.e. 4-H, Belmont Estate, Grand Bras) and any others who ask assistance of information.
    • Continue to network and research potential contacts on and outside of Grenada for information, best practices and further information on techniques, plants, and resources.
    • Continue to offer support, solicit feedback and constructive criticism from work partners, class attendees and Peace Corps staff and volunteers. 

    Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    A request

    So my birthday is in a month (December), I have no clue what I'm going to do yet for it, but I would like to make a request for letters, cards  (simple handwritten doesn't need to be crazy), postcards and 3" x 5" photos (holiday photos!! or just fun ones) sent to me here on the island. I love getting mail! Feel free to have people traveling send me ones to-I love seeing new places!

    Send them to:
    Megan Wannarka 
    P.O. Box 766
    St. George's, West Indies

    Wednesday, October 28, 2015

    I have been...

    very productive! I would have said busy. But I truly hate the idea of 'busy' as an excuse to be human, be accountable, and simply care.

    View from Harford Village to the Atlantic Ocean (east)

    On October 16th I've been on island for 6 months. Which is typically where volunteers hit their slump. Honestly this last month I truly did. Yesterday also marked the 32nd anniversary of America invading Grenada. I believe the heavy energy and ciaos leading up to this even it very much felt on the island. Its widely discussed and talked about, noted in church and discussed on tv and radio. It was not a fun time in the history of Grenada. I hope the energy lightens so I'm able to get back to more work.

    And speaking of work, I feel there is so much work to do here and I've only really gotten feel for things. People are calling me out of the blue asking for advice, assistance or to find out more about bees. (This is always the sign new people are looking for to see if they are really 'needed' someplace, once the unknown people start showing up because word of mouth has spread about you) I've been consistent in the last month or so about the schedule of my week. Monday is administrative tasks, reading, and preparing for the rest of the week. Tuesday-Thursday is assisting beekeepers (1-2 per day) in their apiary if/when possible. Friday is in the office in Grenville where new people show up and introduce themselves along with some beekeepers I know, neighbors of the office come in and check on me and I try and make some rounds around town and say hi to the people I know. Also Friday is 'market' day so it's also nice to get some groceries and say hi to the wonderful ladies in the market right next door.

    Me and early morning need to make friends, but in the coolness of a rainy morning in the lowland of the country it makes getting out of bed at 4:30-5 am while it's pouring down very hard. Now if it was hot as Senegal where by 9am it's almost unbearable, this would be a blessing and I'd be getting up that early and happy grab a drink of cool water and get it to it before the heat rises past bearable. So instead of 5, 6:30-7 am has been more my norm. I'm work on it...

     I have made some gains with planning of an Introduction to beekeeping workshop and planning some more training for established beekeepers on the island. This should be 'easy' enough to facilitate. But when it takes 2 weeks for me to send a letter to the needed parties to have it printed on letter head, signed by another person and then usually hand delivered or it will be lost in the mail/system of mail. At which time an action can be taken, even though you've discussed it so thoroughly you would think it already all happened. Multiply that on every resource needed. Thank Senegal I am prepared to present anywhere, but having a room and projector is helpful. Done and done, with backups for both as I know most likely I will use the backups.
    Flyer for the workshop

    I've added more pictures to my facebook albums and have kept up documenting plants and nectar sources on my instagram along with just life here on the island.

    Excited to have some more meetings lined up and contacts being past my way in the business/NGO realm here and will assist me in thinking about planning further out if things go well with training.

    I'll post by this weekend an update on my work as I also need to do my monthly report and looking to see what I've accomplished in 6 months and what is realistic in the next 6 months.

    Monday, August 17, 2015

    So I forget...

    To write here more often, especially when I have things to write about or generally show people. I've been hoarding it on instagram and my facebook page. During my service in Senegal we were given a simple 'dumb' phone, that is instead of a 'smart' phone (who comes up with these ideas anyways) it was a simple nokia. Bless nokia's heart for that phone. Something that can survive a lot. I'm not going to go into details...lets say squat toilet and leave it at that. But with iphone's being more available now with resale of older models, they become a 'must' when traveling.

    Due to having an iphone instead of just a camera, photos, videos, and the like simply get sent to instagram or facebook with a few clicks and addition of a caption. Instead of downloading photos to my laptop, editing, uploading to the blog or an album. Hence my blog has suffered.

    I'm trying to right my wrong today but giving a better glimsp of my photo posts, my visuals captured and reasons to what I shoot.

    Typically I will upload photos to my albums on facebook, simply as its relatively fast to upload,  many of my friends/people get to see them, along with I can share with a link.

    I have more than a few photo albums on facebook
     So for example I have 3 albums for Grenada already. Grenada-May. Grenada-June, July, August, and Grenada-Carnival. Most of these pictures are literally taken with my iphone through out the day/week as needed. Typically no reason, sometimes to remember something, or to look something up. Mostly to capture an interesting view or thing.

    I should back up a little and explain that I use Picasa to organize and edit photos. It also has an awesome 'collage' feature. Over all very easy to use when searching for an image as it scans (based on settings) your computer for images constantly. And drag and drop for sorting into folders. LOVE.

    Screenshot of my Picasa
    The other place I typically have photos is on Instagram.
    Randomness of my instagram
    These are much like facebook are random shots from where I'm at. I have been trying to start taking photos of themes. So far #nectarplants or #honeyplants, as of course this is part of my ongoing research here on the island but in a larger scope (see here if you missed it). But also try to find the local stories, names, and history of this wonderful place. I've had Grenadians abroad tell me how much they enjoy seeing my picture of the island and make them homesick.

    Much of my over arching goal here on the island and the third goal of Peace Corps is: To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. Or the way I interpret it, to help Americans get a better sense of places outside of America. Of course people reading this and seeing images I post are not only Americans, but capturing the sense of place, culture and people, giving it some context or description helps anyone better understand something.

    I strive to understand the cultural context of the thing I'm taking a picture of, not just capturing it for the sake of a pretty picture. Typically I ask a few locals what the thing is, how it's used, if it's 'normal'/'known', and usually starts a larger conversation.

    I have found my asking people of different ages and genders about anything will give me a much varied response. A younger generation might know the name and how it's used. But someone older might remember using it or having it around when they are young, the object having a daily use in the household, typically more than one use and sometimes multiple names. This of course generalized and sometimes is reversed as the younger generation travels more broadly and know of more broad use or understanding of the 'thing' in question.

    Much like ethnography, 'the scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures' I want to better understand the 'thing' through the people here, rather than the 'thing' standing alone out of context.

    Of course the 'thing' could be anything. From language, specifically word usage, plants, events, clothing to history. Of course some of these things can not be photographed but having the understanding helps to further understand other things. Everything is interconnected. And then try to explain my own culture, or American culture in general on top of that.  

    It's very fun capturing the nuances of a place. Lately I've been reminiscing of things I learned in Senegal that the locals would find 'local knowledge'. Being a playful, teasing culture with many languages,  typically 'outwitting' your partner in conversation was always a goal. Having enough understanding of the culture, language and people made you a stronger player in the game.

    Sunday, August 9, 2015

    On-Going Research: Apis meliferia nectar, pollen and propalis sources

    I haven't really written about this per se, I think some people know that I've been working on this since I was in Senegal (2012) and found "Plants for Arid Lands" published by International Bee Research Association on the bookshelf which had a small chapter Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources by Eva Crane. Through more and more literature review and a cross-referencing local plant databases/writings with known nectar sources I've gotten to have a pretty comprehensive list going.

    So a little background. There are 7 species of the 200,000 bees that specifically produce honey in massive amounts. These we call honey bees or Apis mellifera. There are races of these that have been breed over time. Much like we have races of humans, we are all still people, we all come from certain places making us identify with those locations and in some cases even have specialized characteristics. Example of races in honey bees would be Italian (A. mellifera ligustica), Carnolian (A.  mellifera carnica), Caucasian/Russian (A. mellifera caucasica) and African (A. mellifera adansonii)

    From Tropical and Subtropical Apiculture (1986) FAO
    So of these 7 honey bees in the world, many of them are region specific. As you can see from the map bee originated in a few place and migrated into others. Typically assisted by humans, bees there were able to colonize and survive. This is due to a few factors, one being food or fodder resources, second being habitat, and third would be climate. All of these factors are interconnected.

    Not scientific based, but an idea on differences between race characteristics
    Honey bees are generalist when it comes to plants, meaning they will touch many different flowers for a multitude of reasons. Some for nectar, others for pollen, some for propalis, but few plants can provide more than one of these. The plants themselves are specialized. Also the bee will follow the bloom of one plant until it's finished. So if a mango tree is in bloom it will continue to look for mango flowers until the bloom has ended. 

    Color is also a major part of how pollinators find food

    Evolutionary plants have created flowers to attract pollinators to increase fertilization and thus dissemination of themselves. Nectar within the flowers assists in attracting certain pollinators, such as honey bees, to visit the flower taking pollen and transferring it to the stigma, or female part, in order to create a seed. Nectar us a sugar-rich liquid produced by glands called nectaries. Bees use nectar, mixing it with an enzyme in their ‘honey stomach’ to create honey once it’s stored in wax comb, water content is evaporated to below 18.2 percent and is capped with wax. Honey is the main food source for bees in the hive.

    Bees also use pollen, plant’s male gametes, as a food source. Pollen is the protein source needed for rearing one worker bee from larval to adult stage requires approximately 120-145 mg of pollen. An average bee colony will collect about 20-57 kg (44-125 pounds) of pollen a year. By natural instinct, bees will collect only the best entomophily pollen grains that are higher in nutritional value.

    Propolis, often referred to as bee glue, is used in the hive to seal cracks, crevices or encase carcasses that cannot be removed from the hive. Typically collected from the sap or resin of certain trees and small number of flowers. Propolis has been used medically for its antimicrobial, immunostimulant, and antioxidant properties which vary due to location in which it is procured based on plant sources in the area.

    So based on region, in any given place there are bees (everywhere expect Antarctica and the South Pole) there are only 250-300 plants that bees are able to take nectar, pollen and propalis from. And given you need approximately one million blooms to produce one cup of honey, you need many many blooms of those given plants.

    Looking at plant phenology (the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life) the way in which these 250-300 plants' blooms appear is also quite amazing. Many of them do not over lap and if they do, there is one in which the bees prefer due to either quantity each bloom produces or more likely the amount of sugar in the nectar. Much like if oranges are in season you'd eat them, but if mangoes came in to season you'd prefer the mango as it's sweeter and juicer. 

    Great example of nectar source calendar for Western North Carolina

    Due to climate change and the change of priorities when it comes to research, little has continued to be documented on these ideas (nectar, pollen and propalis source plants and their phenology). Many of the cited literature I have found is from the 60's and 70's. Also at the local level internationally, many host-country nationals are aware of this and have a vast knowledge of these plants. The names they known them by are local names rather than the scientific, but capturing this information and further researching to find the Latin names and some times specific varieties I believe will be instrumental to maintain and increase honey bee habitat.
    Example of local nectar source list per Beekeeper Richard Underhill from his trip with Winrock International to East Africa
    So I have started collecting lists, as many as I can find and cross referencing them. Most are through scientific literature. Dr. Eva Crane (foremost researcher on honey bees) was no slouch, her Trust has 40,000 abstracts available to search along with her publishing 300 papers and many books over her lifetime. Others are found through beekeepers I've heard of or found through the wonderful place of the internet. Most beekeepers are amazing people who are willing to help out each other to further honey bees, habitat and generally overall goodness on the planet. 

    Currently I have reviewed many many articles and journals, 22 of them have viable lists that I'm extracting, cleaning and adding to my main list. Then sorting, removing duplicates, verifying correct taxonomy (science of defining groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics and giving names to those groups as these tend to change over time especially with plants) and adding in any bloom dates, propagation information or nuance information of the plant.

    After all of that, I would love to share it on a website such as Zooniverse, to further have citizen scientists help identify where the plants grow and the bloom pattern in that location, hopefully on a global scale. This information would then assist beekeepers, land owners, farmers, environmentalists, policy makers, and others to maintain and increase habitat and food sources world wide.

    Lack of knowledge is one thing, but in this day and age of information the world is becoming and smaller and smaller place. People want to help bees, I don't believe we need more beekeepers, we need better beekeepers, farmers, stewards, with better information to make a better place for all of use.

    Currently my abstract for this project as been submitted and accepted to Apimondia (the international beekeeping conference), I am looking for support in order to attend and present my abstract in Daejeon, Korea in September. I have contacted various organizations for support as well, but is currently pending response.

    Please feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be interested in the information, I would love to collaborate further on it. Thank you for your time and support.