By Wendy Langhans
Blatz, Schlitz, Hamms, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Heileman’s Old Style, Leinenkugel – names I remember from my childhood in Wisconsin. When my dad asked me to “fetch him a beer”, I usually sneaked a sip before delivering it to him. It tasted somewhat bitter and grown-up – definitely not the kid-friendly sweet taste of Kool-aid.
So what gives these beers their characteristc bitter flavor? Hops! I like how Jack Schmidling describes it: “Hops is to beer what lemon is to lemonade. It is a bittering ingredient without which, beer would be cloyingly sweet.”
But hops provide more than just flavor. Hops help maintain a foamy head and prevent “spoilage from wild bacteria”. And recently, scientists from the USDA have discovered a new use for hops – to protect bees from parasitic mites.
According to the USDA article, “Varroa mites are 1/16-inch-long parasites that feed on the bees’ blood-like hemolymph, weakening these important flower-pollinating insects and exposing them to pathogens.”
The researchers carefully hung moist cardboard strips laced with beta-acids inside the hive. They found that the worker bees actually helped spread the chemical around. They found that beta-acid chemicals produced by hops (lupulone, co-lupulone and ad-lupulone), were lethal to the mites but showed “no adverse effect on worker bees, their queens or brood”.
Right now, the miticide HopGuardTM has been approved for use in a few states under “Section 18 emergency use” guidelines, so I suspect we’ll learn more about its effectiveness as time goes on. (As an aside, I am making no product recommendation here.)
One concern, of course, is the effect of these chemicals on honey. But beta-acids are on the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) food additive list (after all, they’re used in beer) and the researchers found no adverse affects on the flavor or quality of the honey.
Thank goodness! Just the thought of beer-flavored honey is enough to gag a bee.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, July 3, 7:30 – 9:30 PM, Moonlight Stroll at Towsley Canyon. Wander the trails under our nearly full moon. Uncover which plants and animals are adapted to this transition time and maybe even see a few elusive nocturnal animals. Meet at the Towsley Canyon front parking lot. For directions and trail maps, click here.
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at email@example.com for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29.
Saturday mornings, June 11 & 25.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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