And The (Bee) Beat Goes On…

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey    August 22, 2018

It was bound to happen.

A "real" honey bee flying alongside "fake" bees on a bee crossing sign.

We photographed this honey bee (below) at 1/1000 of second (with a Nikon D500 and a 105mm lens with  the f-stop set at 16 and ISO at 800), but honey bee flight is truly amazing.

Back in the 1934 French scientists August Magnan and André Sainte-Lague calculated that honey bees shouldn't be able to lift off, much less fly at all.  However, they presumed bee wings are stable, like airplane wings, when in fact, they're not. Honey bees flap and rotate their wings some 240 times per second, according to research, "Short-Amplitude High-Frequency Wing Strokes Determine the Aerodynamics of Honeybee Flight," published in December 2005 in the Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The researchers, from the California Institute of Technology, pointed out that a fruit fly is 80 times smaller than a honey bee and flaps its wings 200 times each second, while the much larger honey bee flaps its wings 240 times every second. To stay aloft, a honey bee uses short wing strokes of less than 90 degrees and a high number of flaps.

"This flapping, along with the supple nature of the wings themselves, allows a bee--or any flying insect, for that matter--to create a vortex that lifts it into the air," explained David Biello in a Nov. 29, 2005 piece in Scientific American.

Or, technically, as the researchers wrote in their abstract: "Most insects are thought to fly by creating a leading-edge vortex that remains attached to the wing as it translates through a stroke. In the species examined so far, stroke amplitude is large, and most of the aerodynamic force is produced halfway through a stroke when translation velocities are highest. Here we demonstrate that honeybees use an alternative strategy, hovering with relatively low stroke amplitude (≈90°) and high wingbeat frequency (≈230 Hz). When measured on a dynamically scaled robot, the kinematics of honeybee wings generate prominent force peaks during the beginning, middle, and end of each stroke, indicating the importance of additional unsteady mechanisms at stroke reversal.

"When challenged to fly in low-density heliox, bees responded by maintaining nearly constant wingbeat frequency while increasing stroke amplitude by nearly 50%. We examined the aerodynamic consequences of this change in wing motion by using artificial kinematic patterns in which amplitude was systematically increased in 5° increments. To separate the aerodynamic effects of stroke velocity from those due to amplitude, we performed this analysis under both constant frequency and constant velocity conditions. The results indicate that unsteady forces during stroke reversal make a large contribution to net upward force during hovering but play a diminished role as the animal increases stroke amplitude and flight power. We suggest that the peculiar kinematics of bees may reflect either a specialization for increasing load capacity or a physiological limitation of their flight muscles."

And the (bee) beat goes on...even with that heavy load of nectar or pollen...

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=28032

A honey bee flies in formation with “fake” bees on a bee crossing sign. Bees can flap their wings around 240 times per second. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)It’s almost flyover time again. Blue spike sage (Salvia uliginosa) is in the foreground. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

It's Tough Being a Bee During the Spring-like Rains

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey    March 14, 2018

It's tough being a bee--especially when you have work to do and the rain won't let you out of your hive.

But when there's a sun break, it's gangbusters.

To put it in alliteration, we spotted a bevy of boisterous bees networking in the nectarine blossoms in between the springlike rains this week. What a treat!

Nectarines are a favorite fruit of California and beyond.  In fact, according to the UC Davis Fruit and Nut Research and Information website, "California leads the nation in production of peach and nectarine (Prunus persica). In 2013, 24,000 acres of California clingstone peaches produced a crop of 368,000 tons of fruit valued at $133,865,000; 22,000 acres of California freestone peaches produced a crop of 280,000 tons valued at $144,418,000. This California crop of 648,000 tons represents 70% of the national peach production. Nectarines on 18,000 acres in the state produced a crop of 150,000 tons with a value of $117,000,000.(USDA 2014),"

Some folks prefer the necatarine over a peach.  A nectarine or "fuzzless" peach tends to have sweeter flesh than the more acidic peach, according to the Fruit and Nut Research and Information website. "The lack of pubescent skin is the result of a recessive gene. Nectarine gained popularity in the 1950's when breeding allowed for firmer flesh and better post-harvest handling and longevity."

The foraging bees don't care whether the blossoms are nectarine or peach.

It's food for the hive. 

A honey bee pollinating a nectarine blossom in Vacaville, CA. Photo: (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)A foraging honey bee takes a liking to a nectarine blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=26607

Take It From a Bee Guy: Honey Is Not 'Bee Vomit'

Bug Squad   By Kathy Keatley Garvey      January 10, 2018

Close-up of a returning foraging bee sharing nectar with her sisters. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)Take it from the bee scientists. Honey is NOT vomit.

That incongruous belief that “Honey is bee vomit” is resurfacing on a number of YouTube channels, opinion pieces and other Internet posts. It's usually said with great glee: “Honey is bee vomit! It's bee puke! It's bee barf!”

Is it #FakeNews?

We asked noted honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus at the University of California, Davis, whose career in bee education spans four decades, to settle the issue. Although he retired in 2014, he keeps active. Last year he completed a term--his sixth--as president of the Western Apicultural Society. He maintains an office in Briggs Hall.

And he continues to answer questions about bees and honey.

“As for the bees and vomit issue, the explanation requires quite a bit of knowledge,” Mussen says. It's about an "expandable pouch called 'the honey stomach' (which we humans do not have) and a valve called the "proventriculus" (which we humans do not have)."

“As most people know, honey begins as a dilute sugar solution secreted by ‘nectaries,' sugar syrup-secreting glands which are located in flowers or in extra-floral nectaries,” Mussen explains. “Pollen is not a natural constituent of nectar.  The nectar is sucked up by honey bees and it passes into an expandable pouch called the ‘honey stomach.'  This is the pre-digestive part of the part of the digestive tract that honey bees use to bring water and nectar to the hive.  In honey bees and other insects, this ‘crop' precedes the portions of the digestive tract used for digesting food.  There is a unique valve between the crop and the ventriculus (midgut), called the ‘proventriculus,' that has rake-like projections that constantly pull particulates, like pollen grains, from the crop contents and push them along for digestion.”

Honey bee guru Eric Mussen (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)“A nectar-foraging bee,” Mussen points out, “returns to the hive and pumps out the nectar to a receiving bee.  An enzyme is mixed with the crop contents that reduces sucrose (table sugar), a disaccharide normally found in nectar, into two monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) that are the principal sugars in ripened honey.  If the nectar is not immediately used as a water substitute or for diluting thick honey or solid pollen stores to allow swallowing, it is carried to the area in the hive where honey is being processed.  The nectar is passed to processing bees that blend the incoming nectar loads, mix them together, then pump out a bit of solution and hold a small sheet of the syrup in its partially distended mouthparts.  Water evaporates from the surface of the syrup.  The drier solution is drawn back into the crop and mixed with the other contents.”

“Then the film is again exposed to the air.  That process repeats itself until the moisture content of the syrup falls below 20 percent.  Evaporation is influenced significantly by the relative humidity.  Since honey will ferment at moisture contents above 20 percent, it is important to leave the honey with the bees until it can be immediately processed in locations with high humidity.  That honey will seem to be thin.  During the summer in California, the ambient relative humidity is quite low--15 percent or less.  In that case, honey produced in the Central Valley can have a moisture content of 13 to 13.5 percent.  That honey is quite thick.”

As an aside, “pollen grains are likely to be found in honey,” Mussen says. “Wind-blown pollens can fall into flowers that are open faced.  Pollen grains are collected by hairs on the bees' bodies.  They can get onto the mouthparts and become consumed with the nectar.  Nectar-processing bees may have eaten some pollen in the hive before processing the honey.  This is how the pollen grains get into honey.  They do not necessarily get consumed with the fresh nectar.  Physical contaminants of honey have to be quite small, like pollen grains, since the bees ingest all their food by drinking it through a straw-like proboscis with a very small opening at the tip.  Most of the physical contaminants are removed by the proventriculus.”

And here's the point: “Since honey never is mixed with digesting food in the intestinal tract, it is inaccurate to refer to honey as ‘bee vomit.'  A dictionary definition of vomit includes ‘disgorging the stomach contents through the mouth.'  Since a human does not have a crop, the stomach is in direct contact with the esophagus and mouth.  In a bee, the proventriculus and crop are in direct contact with the mouth.  The digestion of solid foods in bees begins in the ventriculus and there is no way that a honey bee can bring that food back through the proventriculus, or ‘vomit.'

 Which begs the question: Why can't we enjoy honey for what it is, not for what it isn't?

We can. Mark your calendar to attend these two events: the  second annual California Honey Festivalon May 5 in downtown Woodland (it's held in partnership with the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center) and the fourth annual UC Davis Bee Symposium: Keeping Bees Healthy (hosted by the Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) on March 3 in the UC Davis Conference Center. The Bee Symposium will feature keynote speaker Thomas Seeley, the Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell University, New York.

Interested in beekeeping? UC Davis Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and her lab will teach a number of classes this spring, beginning March 24, at the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis campus.

The schedule and links to the capsule information:

Planning Ahead for Your First Hives: Saturday, March 24

Working Your Colonies: Sunday, March 25

Queen-Rearing Techniques Short Course: Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22 course; Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29 course

Bee-Breeding Basics: Saturday, June 9

Foraging bees return to the hive to share nectar, which the house bees will turn into honey. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bees sharing nectar with their hungry sisters. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=25974

For The Love Of Bees

Bug Squad    BY Kathy Keatley Garvey     September 5, 2017

Sarah the Bee Girl stands in front of a cluster of first graders sitting by a six-foot worker bee sculpture in the UC Davis Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven.

Her name is Sarah Red-Laird, and she is here to present an interactive educational program involving bees and beekeeping, honey, beeswax and bee habitat to students from Peregrine School, Davis. It's part of her "Bees and Kids" program, funded by the American Beekeeping Federation's Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees.

She's speaking to them as part of the Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference, Sept. 5-8.

The students are super excited.

Holding up fruit after fruit, she asks if they like strawberries, apples, oranges and lemons, all bee-pollinated. They eagerly raise their hands. She tells them that bees are responsible for providing one-third of the food we eat, including fruits, vegetables and nuts (almonds). Our shopping carts would be sparse if there were no bees, she says. She quizzes them about grapes, rice and oats, which are not bee-pollinated.

Then she turns to honey.

"How much honey does a bee make in her lifetime?" she asks. "Is it 1 cup, 1 teaspoon or 1/12th of a teaspoon?  if you think it's one cup, raise your hand." Half a dozen hands shoot up.

"If you think it's one teaspoon, raise your hand." A few more raise their hands.

"If you think it's 1/12th of a teaspoon, raise your hand." One person responds.

"The correct answer," says Sarah the Bee Girl, "is 1/12th of a teaspoon. That's how much a honey bee makes in her lifetime."

"I guessed that!" yells a little girl.

"Did you?" Sarah asks, approvingly. "You're a smartie," she praises.

"We didn't," a boy laments.

A honey bee seeking drips from the bottled honey at the "Kids and Bees" honey-tasting event. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Sarah drives home the point with: "That means that honey bees work really, really hard for the honey we eat. For me, I eat it every day."

Sarah continues. "How many flowers does it take the bees to make one pound of honey?" she asks, holding up a jar of honey.

The students respond with answers that range from 99 to 100 to 200 to 1000 to 2000 to 8000 to 1 billion.

"The correct answer is 2 million," she tells them. "it takes 2 million flowers to fill this one jar of honey."

Sarah drives home the point with: "The best thing to do to help bees is to plant flowers. Let's say it all together. what can you do to help bees?

"Plant flowers!" they chorus.

Later she reads a book and then asks them to answer questions about nurse bees, house bees, scout bees, guard bees, queen bees, foragers and drones. Each person who answers the question correctly is adorned with props depicting that bee.

The first graders love it! They gigle, laugh and cheer.

Next they move in small groups to the educational stations where they taste honey, learn about bee habitat and bees wax, and see honey bees and other bees up close.

It's obvious that Sarah loves bees and wants others to love them, too.

Sarah says her love of bees began in Southern Oregon, on the deck of her aunt's cabin, at the end of a country road. She received her degree, with honors, in resource conservation from the University of Montana and did research in Jerry Bromenshenk Honey Bee Lab. She presented her beekeeping findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research on "How to Keep 100,000 Girlfriends, the Careful Relationship of a Beekeeper and Her Honey Bees."

This first-grader got a good luck at a Valley carpenter bee, caught by Robbin Thorp in a special device and then released. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Today she's the program director of the American Beekeeping Federation's "Kids and Bees" Program and executive director of Bee Girl, a nonprofit organization: its mission is to inspire and empower communities to conserve bees, their flower and our food system.  She serves as the Oregon director of the Western Apicultural Society, a member of the New York Bee Sanctuary Advisory Board, and the regional representative to the Southern Oregon Beekeepers' Association. She is also a "Mountainsmith Brand Ambeesador."  See her work on FacebookInstagram and Twitter (@sarahBeeGirl). Her hashtag is #loveyourbees.

Among the UC Davis personnel assisting her at the haven were:

Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology,  UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who caught and released bees with a device that included a magnifying glass

Staff research associates Bernardo Niño of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility/UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who staffed the beeswax table, where children drew pictures with crayons

Staff research associate and Charley Nye of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility/UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who staffed the  habitat table, where the children learned about where the bees live.

Zoe Anderson, a UC Davis undergraduate student majoring in animal biology, assisted with the honey tasting. The youths all agreed they liked Sarah's vetch honey the best.

First graders, school officials and parents from Peregrine School cluser around a bee sculpture at UC Davis Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee for a “Kids and Bees” program. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Sarah the Bee Girl reads a book about bees. In back are WAS members Cyndi and Jim Smith of Donney Lake, Wash. Cyndi serves as the secretary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Sarah the Bee Girl outfits a first grader with a forager costume for correctly answering a question about foragers. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey) View more images: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=25094

Tower of Beauty; Tower of Bees

Bug Squad: Happenings in the Insect World    By Kathy Keatley Garvey     June 21, 2017

The Echium wildpretii is commonly known as "The Tower of Jewels" but it ought to be known as "The Tower of Beauty."

That's especially when honey bees gather to collect the blue pollen and sip the sweet nectar.

Or when their wings glisten in the early morning sun.

Or when it's National Pollinator Week.

In our family, we call it "The Christmas Tree" due to two reasons: its height (it's as tall as a Christmas tree) and due to its spiked red blossoms, the color of Christmas.

The plant, in the family Boraginaceae, is biennial and it can reach 10 feet in height. You often see its purple-spiked cousin, the Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) growing wild in Sonoma, along the roads to Bodega Bay. 

The species is endemic to the island of Tenerife. There they call it "Tenerife bugloss."

Whatever you call the plant, it's good to see it racing up the popularity scale as gardeners seek it for their pollinator gardens. There's even a Facebook page, "We got an Echium through the winter."

Common question: "Anyone got seeds for sale?'

Echium wildpretii is that pretty.

A honey bee packing blue pollen as it forages on the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)This foraging honey bee can't get enought of the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24436&sharing=yes

Bears Raiding Bee Colonies: They're Seeking the Brood

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey     May 18, 2017

A huge financial loss: this is an example of the damage a bear can do in the bee yard.(Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris, Palo Cedro)Yes, bears raid honey bee colonies.

But it's primarily for the bee brood, not the honey.

The brood provides the protein, and the honey, the  carbohydrates. For beekeepers and commercial queen bee breeders, this can wreak havoc. Financial havoc.

The American Beekeeping Federation, headed by Gene Brandi of Los Gatos, recently asked Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to respond to a question about bees and bears.

Mussen, who retired in 2014 after 38 years of service (but he still remains active from his office in Briggs Hall), is from Minnesota, where the bears are and he isn't. He's managed to photograph a few bears, though, on family outings to Lake Tahoe.

We thought we'd share his response about bees and bears. Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, who owns Jackie Park-Burris Queens, kindly let us post some of her photos so our readers can see what bear damage looks like.  A past president of the California State Apiary Board and the California State Beekeepers' Association, she's a member of the noted Homer Park beekeeping family and has been involved with bees all of her life. She's been breeding Park Italian queens since 1994.

But back to Eric Mussen, the bee guru who has answered tons of questions during his 38-year academic career and who's now serving his sixth term as president of the Western Apicultural Society. (The society, founded in Davis, will gather \Sept. 5-8 in Davis for its 40th annual meeting, returning to its roots.)

"Bears eat both meat and plants (berries) etc. whenever they can find them," Mussen says. "Most people think that a bear has a sweet tooth, since it is attracted to beehives. While it is true that bears will eat some honey if it gains access to a hive, a closer look shows that it will eat all of what we call 'brood' first, and then eats a little honey."

Eric MussenMussen describes bee brood "as made up of bee eggs, larvae, and pupae."  Since the queen may be laying between 1000 and 2000 eggs a day, "quite a bit of brood can accumulate before the end of the 21-day period that it takes to complete development from egg to adult female worker bee (24 days for the drones)."

"Bears have a pretty good sense of smell, so they can smell a beehive if they get downwind of a nearby colony," Mussen points out. "If the colony is living in a tree, often the bear literally tears the tree apart to get to the bees.  Unfortunately, they will claw and dig into a man-made beehive, as well.  They leave the covers scattered all over; the hive boxes scattered and often broken; the combs pulled out, broken, and strewn about in the apiary; and the combs that had brood in them will have the comb eaten out.  The colony will not survive and there may be very little undamaged equipment to salvage."

"To a small-scale beekeeper," Mussen says, "the financial loss is not too severe.  However, losing the colony, that requires so much effort to keep healthy these days, is quite a blow.  For commercial operators, who may not revisit the apiary for a couple weeks, it can mean a very substantial economic loss."

"The correct type of well-maintained bear fence usually is very effective at keeping bears away from the hives.  However, that holds true only for situations in which the bear has not had previous positive experiences ripping apart man-made beehives.  In that case, the bear expects a substantial reward for barging through the stinging fence and getting into the hives."

What to do? "Most beekeepers have no desire to kill bears, but they do desire to keep their colonies alive," Mussen says. "Often, attempts are made to capture the offending bear, tag it, and move it away far enough that it should not return.  Some of the wildlife specialists marvel in how far away a bear can be taken away and still return. Bears that cannot stay away from apiaries, or away from people's houses, or away from trash containers, etc., sometimes have to be eliminated.  It is best to have this done by agency personnel, but sometimes in remote areas the beekeepers get deprivation permits and kill the bear themselves.  In Northern California, the beekeeper has to notify the wildlife people of the kill, and the carcass has to be inspected to be certain that specific, black market body parts have not been removed from the bear.  The carcass then is buried in a landfill, or once in a while used in institutional food."

Occasionally Bug Squad hears of bears raiding honey bee hives in rural Solano County. We remember a story about a beekeeper/queen breeder in Mix Canyon, Vacaville, who was losing his hives to a "wild animal." The loss? Reportedly about $30,000. He set up a stealth camera and....photographed a 300-pound black bear. 

"Bears have a pretty good sense of smell," as Mussen says, and the result can be "a very substantial economic loss."

This is what bear damage to a hive looks like. This photo was provided by Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, who owns Jackie Park-Burris Queens. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris.)

A bear scattered frames all over this bee yard, as it went for the brood and then the honey. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris, Palo Cedro.)

A bear wreaked havoc in this bee yard. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris, Palo Cedro.)

 This image of a bear snagging fish was taken at Lake Tahoe by Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's been answering questions about bears and bees for more than three decades.

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24145

What a Stretch to Get the Nectar!

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey    April 11, 2017

A honey bee "stands upright" to reach the nectar on a Photinia blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)How often do you see a honey bee "standing upright" to reach nectar?

"Well, I guess I could just buzz up there and grab some nectar! But why not stay right here where I am and just s-t-r-e-t-c-h  like a giraffe to get it?"

This bee, foraging on a Photinia blossom, almost looked like an athlete in training.  Was she stretching to "warm up?"  Was she stretching to improve performance? Flexibility?  Mobility?

Me thinks she was just taking a short cut to the sweet stuff and being a little territorial as other bees buzzed around her.

 

 

 
Okay, I'll buzz over to it! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Our honey bee will return to the hive where workers will process the nectar into honey. Humans will get some of it, too.

If you'd like to sample honey--and mix with entomologists--mark your calendar for Saturday, April 22 and "bee" at Briggs Hall for the annual honey tasting, just one part of the 200 some events at the 103rd annual UC Davis Picnic Day. It's an all-day campuswide open house aimed to educate, inform and entertain.

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=23785

 

Why Honey Is Neither Bee Vomit Nor Bee Barf!

Bug Squad   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    June 2, 2016

  • "Honey is bee vomit!"
  • "Honey is bee barf!"

How many times have you heard that?

Strong-willed arguments flash rapidly, pointedly and furiously, much like guard bees defending their colony in the fall from would-be robbers.  Just when you think the issue is settled once and for all, the arguments circle again. Non-beekeepers, in particular, gleefully maintain that the sweet mixture you spread on your toast in the morning is "bee vomit." Or they may label that spoonful of honey in your tea as "bee barf."   (It's usually accompanied by "How can you eat THAT?")

So, what's the answer?

We consulted  "honey bee guru" Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who completed 38 years of service in 2014 to the apiculture industry and the general citizenry of California. (However, as an emeritus, he continues to maintain an office in Briggs Hall and answer questions.)

The answer? "In one word--No!" he says.  "Honey is neither bee vomit nor bee barf."

Then, what is honey?

"To answer that question, we have to define a few important words," Mussen says. "We will use Wikipedia as our source.

  • Vomit – “Forceful expulsion of the contents of one's stomach through the mouth.”
  • Regurgitation – “Expulsion of material from the pharynx or esophagus.”
  • Crop – “A thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion.”

"Here is how these terms relate to honey," Mussen says. "Honey begins as a dilute (5-20 percent) sugar solution that is called nectar, which is sucked up by foraging honey bees as they visit the flowers or extra-floral nectaries of bee-attractive plants. The nectar is pumped through the 'tongue' of the bee into an expandable crop, which in honey bees is called the honey stomach. While in the crop, two salivary enzymes begin the honey-making process. Diastase catalyzes the conversion of starch into maltose. The equivalent enzyme in human saliva is alpha amylase that catalyzes the conversion of starch to maltose and dextrins. A second honey bee enzyme, glucose oxidase, catalyzes the conversion of glucose to hydrogen peroxide and gluconolactone. The hydrogen peroxide prevents microbial growth in the pre-honey solution." 

Wait, there's more, and yes,  it gets technical.

"While residing in the crop, a curious, pulsating valve, called the proventriculus in insects, extends curved, rake-like bristles into the crop that filter out particles from the nectar," Mussen points out. "The particles can be moderate in size to quite small, such as a pollen grains or infectious spores of the intestinal parasites Nosema apis and N. ceranae. The size is limited by the diameter of the tubular mouthparts through which all honey bee food must be consumed. Some squash pollens are too large to swallow. Once a number of particles have accumulated, they are passed back (swallowed) into the midgut as a bolus. As the bolus leaves the proventriculus, it is wrapped in a sausage skin-like wrapper called the peritrophic matrix (formerly the peritrophic membrane). Once passed into the midgut inside the peritrophic membrane, there is no way for it to return to the honey stomach."

No way. No way for it to return to the honey stomach.

Mussen says that "the most time-consuming step in converting nectar to honey is the dehydration process, during which the moisture content of the honey is reduced to a fermentation-inhibiting 20 percent or lower. To accomplish this, the nearly particle-free nectar is pumped (regurgitated) out of the crop and suspended as a thin film, hanging directly below the horizontally extended mouthparts. Bees fan the films with their wings to hasten evaporation of water. As the film thickens, it is pumped back into the crop, blended with the remaining nectar, and pumped back out to be dried some more."

So, what happens then?

"When it reaches the appropriate moisture content, the 'ripened' honey is pumped into a comb cell and capped with a beeswax cover. This is the honey that beekeepers provide for us to eat. The color and flavor of the honey depends upon the floral sources from which the nectars were collected. The moisture content of the honey is markedly influenced by the relative humidity of the ambient air surrounding the hive."

So, bottom line is this: Sorry, honey, honey is not bee vomit.

"It never reaches the true digestive tract of a honey bee," Mussen emphasizes.

 

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=21199

When Varroa Mites Hitch a Ride

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   March 1, 2016

Varroa mite on a honey bee (drone) pupa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Those blood-sucking varroa mites (Varroa destructor) are considered the No. 1 enemy of beekeepers. In powerful numbers and weakened colonies, they can overwhelm and collapse a hive.
 

We remember seeing a varroa mite attached to a foraging honey bee one warm summer day in our pollinator garden. The mite was feeding off the bee and the bee was feeding on the nectar of a lavender blossom.

Didn't seem fair.

We've never seen a varroa mite on bumble bees or carpenter bees, but Davis photographer Allan Jones has--and he's photographed them. (See below)

When varroa mites tumble off a honey bee and into a blossom, they can hitch a ride on other insects, such as bumble bees and carpenter bees.

"Varroa have been recorded hitching rides on bumble bees and yellowjackets," observed native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. "Varroa have been reported as feeding on larvae of these and other critters--but not successfully reproducing on them.  Also bumble bees and yellowjackets typically overwinter as hibernating queens not as perennial colonies like honey bees.  Thus they are not suitable hosts for Varroa."

Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen says that bees other than honey bees aren't reproductive hosts for the varroa mite.

"As far as I know, Varroa destructor may be able to find soft areas of the exoskeleton of insects other than honey bees and feed on them," he says. "I have no idea whether or not the substitute hemolymph would sustain the mites for very long.  The mites have practically no digestive capabilities.  They simply utilize the previously-synthesized bee blood, to which they seem to be perfectly adapted."

 "Since the mites reproduce on honey bee pupae, there are a number of considerations about potential other reproductive hosts," Mussen said, citing:

  1.  Are the nutrients of the substitute host close enough to those of honey bees to support immature mite development? 
  2. Can immature mites that develop properly at honey bee cell environmental conditions (temperature and relative humidity) find a similar environment in the nests of other insects? 
  3. Do other insects tolerate the presence of mites on their bodies or in their brood nests?

Like honey bees, bumble bees do segregate their pupae in single cells, Mussen says, but he was unable to find any studies devoted to whether bumble bee pupal conditions support Varroa destructorreproduction.

Sounds like a good research project!

A varroa mite attached to a honey bee forager. It's the reddish brown spot near the wing. The bee is foraging on lavender. Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=20360

Bug Squad: "As Bees Vanish"

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey    February 18, 2016

As bees vanish, bee heists multiply!" screamed a Feb 16th headline in TheWashington Post.

So true.

For her news story, reporter Jenny Starrs interviewed "Bee Detective" Jay Freeman of the Butte County Sheriff's Office (he's a detective all year long but a "bee detective" during almond pollination season and he also keeps bees).

"At the start of pollination season in 2010, the average hive cost $130 to rent," Starrs wrote. "Rental fees are $200 this year, and will continue going up as hives continue to die off. The industry is becoming increasingly volatile, increasingly expensive and thus, increasingly criminalized."

In past years, we remember hearing about several hives stolen here, several hives stolen there, and a few more over there. But now bee hive thievery is rampant.  Detective Freeman reported hundreds of hives stolen and cited the numbers: 240 from an operation in Colusa County, 64 from an operation in Butte, 280 in Sutter County...the list seems endless.

The California State Beekeepers' Association has now set up Bee Theft Alerts on its web page.

It's good to see that the CSBA is offering a reward up to $10,000 for the arrest and conviction of persons stealing CSBA members' bees or equipment. CSBA is also encouraging beekeepers to report the thefts, no matter how small.

It's working. The Butte County Sheriff's Office arrested a suspect Feb. 6 and charged him with stealing 64 bee hives  from Olivarez Honey Bees Inc. in Chico and trucking them to a Stanislaus County almond orchard.

Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology--his career spanned 38 years--told us last week that apparently beekeepers or people with beekeeping knowledge are stealing the hives. "Maybe they used to work for some of these beekeeping operations, and know where the hives are," he said. So, in the dead of the night, the thieves are moving in the big trucks and forklifts, hauling them away, and then renting them to unsuspecting almond growers. The culprits pocket the money and never return for "their" colonies.

“Most people, when they lose their hives, figure they're never going to get found,” California State Beekeepers' Association media director Joy Pendell told Starrs. “It's very frustrating for us, because we go all winter without any income. So we put all this money and work into them for months, and we're about to have our payday and someone just goes and steals it.”

The Bee Culture journal, edited by Kim Flottom, has also sounded the alert.

"If you have had any hives stolen within the last couple years, please email Joy Pendell directly at jpendell11@gmail.com with brand numbers, a description and pictures," Flottum wrote. "The California State Beekeepers would like to create a complete history of hive theft in our industry to share with law enforcement and interested media outlets. If you know of a theft victim who is not a CSBA member, please pass along this information so they can report as well. The CSBA represents the interests of all California beekeepers plus they would like to create a summary of bee theft both inside and outside of our organization."

At a recent meeting of the California Bee Breeders' Association that we attended in Ordbend, Glenn County, members talked about stepping up patrols and recruiting volunteers to monitor remote areas at night and early morning.

Just call it "The Sting" operation.

Unfortunately, all this bee thievery may worsen. Gordy Wardell recently reported in the Project Apis mnewsletter that California's total number of almond acreage is now at 1 million.

 

  http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=20253

Bee My Valentine

Bug Squad     By Kathy Keatley Garvey   February 8, 2016

Bee my valentine.

There's something about a honey bee foraging on a flowering quince that makes you long for Valentine's Day and the end of winter.

Flowering quince (Chaenomeles sp.) is one of the first flowers of the year to bloom. And bloom it does, in between the rain drops and rays of sunshine.

It's a delight to see the honey bees buzzing in and out of the delicate pink flowers as they tightly pack their yellow pollen for the trip back to their colony. Protein for the bees.

They're the real winged cupids of Valentine's Day, not the baby with the bow and arrow.

Wikipedia says of Valentine's Day: "The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as valentines). In Europe, Saint Valentine's Keys are given to lovers  'as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver's heart,' as well as to children, in order to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine's Malady).Valentine's Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards."

Remember those traditional Valentine's Day cards?

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sugar is sweet
And so are you.

Me thinks that "pink" and "flowering quince" and "yellow pollen" and "honey" should have been in there somewhere...

Read at and view more images: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/bugsquad/index.cfm

Neonics Severely Affecting Queen Bees

Bug Squad     By Kathy Keatley Garvey   October 15, 2015

Everyone from scientists to environmentalists to beekeepers are clamoring for more research on the effects of neonicotinoids on honey bees.

How do neonics affect queen bees?

Newly published research led by Geoffrey Williams of the Institute of Bee Health, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Switzerland, indicates that neonics severely affect queen bees.

They published the article, Neonicotinoid Pesticides Severely Affect Honey Bee Queens, on Oct. 13 in the "Scientific Reports" section of Nature. The abstract:

"Queen health is crucial to colony survival of social bees. Recently, queen failure has been proposed to be a major driver of managed honey bee colony losses, yet few data exist concerning effects of environmental stressors on queens. Here we demonstrate for the first time that exposure to field-realistic concentrations of neonicotinoid pesticides during development can severely affect queens of western honey bees (Apis mellifera). In pesticide-exposed queens, reproductive anatomy (ovaries) and physiology (spermathecal-stored sperm quality and quantity), rather than flight behaviour, were compromised and likely corresponded to reduced queen success (alive and producing worker offspring). This study highlights the detriments of neonicotinoids to queens of environmentally and economically important social bees, and further strengthens the need for stringent risk assessments to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services that are vulnerable to these substances."

Williams and his research team correctly noted that "a plethora of literature has demonstrated lethal and sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on social bees in the field and laboratory" but that much of that research was done on worker bees.

"In this study, we hypothesised that exposure to field-realistic concentrations of neonicotinoid pesticides would significantly reduce honey bee queen performance due to possible changes in behaviour, and reproductive anatomy and physiology," they wrote. "To test this, we exposed developing honey bee queens to environmentally-relevant concentrations of the common neonicotinoid pesticides thiamethoxam and clothianidin. Both pesticides are widely applied in global agro-ecosystems and are accessible to pollinators such as social bees, but are currently subjected to two years of restricted use in the European Union because of concerns over their safety. Upon eclosion, queens were allowed to sexually mature. Flight behaviour was observed daily for 14 days, whereas production of worker offspring was observed weekly for 4 weeks. Surviving queens were sacrificed to examine their reproductive systems."

They called for more research on the effects of the pesticides on queen bee reproduction:

"Current regulatory requirements for evaluating safety of pesticides to bees fail to directly address effects on reproduction. This is troubling given the key importance of queens to colony survival and their frailty in adjusting to environmental conditions. Our findings highlight the apparent vulnerability of queen anatomy and physiology to common neonicotinoid pesticides, and demonstrate the need for future studies to identify appropriate measures of queen stress response, including vitellogenin expression. They additionally highlight the general lack of knowledge concerning both lethal and sub-lethal effects of these substances on queen bees, and the importance of proper evaluation of pesticide safety to insect reproduction, particularly for environmentally and economically important social bee species." Read the full report.

Meanwhile, the University of California, Davis, just held a sold-out conference on neonics. The speakers' presentations (slide shows) are posted on the California Center for Urban Horticulture's website.

Everyone agrees on this: more research is needed.

Read at: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=19248

The UC Apiary Newsletter is Smokin!

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   February 27, 2015

If you're looking for the newsletter, from the UC apiaries, it has a new home. 

The new UC California Cooperative Extension apiculturist, Elina Lastro Niño, has moved it to her website now that EricMussen has retired. Mussen, now Extension apiculturist emeritus, wrote the newsletter from 1976 to 2014 and loaded it on his UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website. The editions are now archived.

The new home? It's on the elninobeelab website

It's available online for free, of course. The newsletter is published bimonthly: in February, April, June, August, October and December.  Niño relates: "If you wish to have this newsletter sent directly to your email address, please follow the instructions below.  Enter this URL into your browser: https://lists.ucdavis.edu/sympa/subscribe/ucdavisbeenews. When it opens, it should relate to subscribing to this newsletter.  Enter your email address and then click submit. It is time to decide whether to continue your hard copy subscription. The mailed subscription rate is now $25 per year (six issues). If you'd still like to continue this subscription please send a check by April 10, 2015 payable to the UC Regents and mailed to Elina L. Niño at the address in the signature block. Be sure to include your name and mailing address. If the check is not received you will not receive the next issue of the newsletter as a hard copy. This, of course, does not apply to those who have already prepaid for a certain time period."

In the newest edition, published today, you'll learn about how to treat those nasty Varroa mites, known far and wide (except in Australia, which doesn't have them) as beekeepers' Public Enemy No. 1.

Niño writes about HopGuard® II, "basically an 'old' product developed by BetaTec Hop Products, Inc., but it has an improved delivery system."

You'll also learn

  • what Niño said when she addressed the the Avocado Pollination Seminar series
  • that EPA is registering a new insecticide, flupyradifuron
  • about exciting upcoming events, including a bee symposium, open house, and queen-rearing workshops, and
  • some great information about how honey bees collect nectar.

How honey bees collect nectar is her Kids' Corner feature. "Usually after about three weeks of  life as a house bee, all healthy honey bees in a normal, healthy colony become foragers," she writes. "They start every morning by going out into the world looking for the best sources of sugary nectar and protein-rich pollen. Some of them even collect water. Now, I'm sure you've seen these friendly ladies just buzzing along visiting flowers in your back yard. By the way, just a reminder, forager bees will not attack unless they feel threatened so just make sure you don't bother them and you should be fine (and tell your friends too!). "

Niño goes on to explain the process, and points out, as Mussen emphasizes, that honey is "not actually bee vomit as it never goes through a digestion (breakdown) process in the digestive tract of a honey bee." (Mussen officially retired in June 2014 after 38-years of service, but he continues to maintain an office in Briggs Hall and assists wherever he can, including writing a few articles for the newsletter.)

Niño, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology on Sept. 1, 2014 from Pennsylvania State University—2600 miles away--is as busy as the proverbial worker bee.

 “California is a good place to bee,” she told us recently. “I just wish I could have brought some of that Pennsylvania rain with me to help out California's drought."

Niño operates her field lab at Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, and at her lab in Briggs Hall, on the central campus. Her aims: to conduct practical, problem-solving research projects; to support the state's beekeepers through research, extension and outreach; and to address beekeeper and industry concerns.

 The mission of her program is "to provide support to California beekeepers and other relevant stakeholders through research, extension and outreach." Niño studies honey bee biology, health, reproduction, pollination biology, insect ecology, evolution, genomics and chemical ecology.

Check out her lab's website at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/; and her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab. Her email is so easy to remember: elnino@ucdavis.edu.

UC Davis Newsletter 

Feel the Buzz

The word is "bees"  and "almonds" are their world.

Right this very minute there are about 1.7 million colonies of bees pollinating California almonds. Since it takes two colonies to pollinate one acre, and California doesn't have that many bees,  beekeepers throughout the nation trucked in some 1.6 million colonies.

Feel the buzz!

"Spend a couple days driving on county roads around I5 and Hwy 99 in the Central Valley of California, and you can feel the excitement!" writes Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m.  in her February newsletter. "Semi-load trucks are delivering over 400 hives each near orchards."




She lists five February facts: 

  1. Commercially-managed bees are just about ready for the biggest pollination event ON EARTH
  2. More than 3,500 truckloads of bees have crossed the border into California for the event,
  3. Almonds will require 1.7 million colonies this season
  4. If over-wintering losses for honey bees are hovering about the same as previous years (30 percent), almond pollination requires nearly ALL available commercially-managed colonies, and
  5. Some lucky bees have been able to forage on PAm's Mustard Mix and thus will not starve prior to bloom! 

 Read more...

Cutting the Mustard

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   February 16, 2015

"Spring is the busiest time of year for honey bees,  and their keepers, whether the operation is in the desert uplands of southern Arizona, the citrus groves of Florida, or the apple orchards of Washington state," writes entomologist/bee expert Stephen "Steve" Buchmann in his book, Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive.

So true.

Lately we've been watching honey bees collecting pollen from mustard, Brassica. The amount of pollen they collect is truly amazing. Each honey bee colony collects an average of 20 to 40 pounds a year, Buchmann writes. 

Buchmann, the author of The Forgotten Pollinators, The Bee Tree, and other books, will soon release his next book, The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives, in July.  Buchmann, an adjunct professor in the University of Arizona's Department of Entomology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tucson,  and scientist-at-large for the Pollinator Partnership, San Francisco, received his doctorate in entomology from the University of California, Davis. He studied with major professor/native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, now a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology. Buchmann's dissertation was on buzz pollination.

There's an old saying "to cut the mustard," meaning that someone is good enough or effective enough for a task.

The meaning probably originated from the military term "pass muster," but with honey bees, they're not only good at passing the muster and foraging in the mustard, they excel.

Read at...

Bee Mine

Bug Squad   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   February 14, 2015

How to celebrate Valentine's Day?

Well, without pollinators, we wouldn't be celebrating Valentine's Day as we know it.

That box of chocolates? Give thanks to the midges that pollinated the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. 

That bouquet of mixed flowers? Honey bees probably visited them before they were gifted to you. Among honey bee favorites are lavenders, mints, sunflowers, asters, basil, rosemary and the like.

That candle on your dining room table or fireplace? It may be made of beeswax, provided by the bees.

But to paraphase John F. Kennedy, it shouldn't be about what bees can do for us; it should be what we can do for the bees. Two of the nicest things we can do are to (1) plant a bee friendly garden, offering a diversity of their favorite seasonal plants,  (2) avoid pesticides and (3) learn about the bees around us and their needs.

You can learn how to attract pollinators at a workshop set March 28 on the UC Davis campus. That's when the California Center for Urban Horticulture is sponsoring "Your Sustainable Backyard: Creating a Living Landscape." Registration is underway.

Another perfect gift for Valentine's Day is the newly published  California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardener and Naturalists (Heyday), the work of Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville and Gretchen Ertier, all with UC Berkeley connections, and one with a UC Berkeley/UC Davis connection. That would be native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley.

As the authors point out, California is home to some 1600 species of bees. In their must-have book, they describe bee  behavior, social structure, flight season, preferred flowers, and natural enemies. They offer "recipes" for bee gardens and list how you can become involved with projects that protect bees and promote public awareness.

Can't you just hear the bees communicating "Bee Mine?"

Read at:  http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=16783

Give Her Some Space

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey    February 12, 2015

If you see a news story about "honey bees" in a newspaper or magazine, odds are you'll see it spelled as one word,  "honeybees."   

That's because the Associated Press Stylebook, the journalists' "bible," spells it that way. So do dictionaries.

However, in the entomological world, that's incorrect. "Honey bee" is two words because it's a true bee, just like "bumble bee." Similarly, you wouldn't spell "dragonfly" as "dragon fly" because a dragonfly is not a fly.

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) governs the worldwide references to insects in its Common Names of Insects. If you want to know the common name, scientific name, order, family, genus, species and author, the ESA database provides it. Type in a name and a drop-down menu appears. Find the honey bee!

Common name: Honey bee
Scientific name: Apis mellifera Linnaeus
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Genus: Apis
S
pecies: mellifera
Author: Linnaeus

Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology writes about the misspelling in the Kids' Corner of her recent newsletter, from the UC Apiaries. "Since starting my new job at UC Davis, I have been corrected a few times for spelling 'honey bee' as two words rather than 'honeybee,'  a single  word. What  do you think: which one is more appropriate?"

She goes on to explain why "honey bee" is accurate. "Honey bees belong to an order of insects (a group of insects that have several similar features) named Hymenoptera which contains bees, wasps, sawflies and ants. You might even say  they  are  'true'  bees  and  therefore, should be spelled as two words." 

In an article published in a 2004 edition of Entomology Today, the Entomological Society of America's communications program manager Richard Levine acknowledges that "Writing insect names using American English can be difficult. Some species have different names depending on where you are, or with whom you are speaking (think 'ladybug' or 'ladybird' or 'lady beetle'). More often than not, an insect may not even have an official common name because out of the million or so insects that have been discovered and described, only a couple of thousand have been designated with common names by the Entomological Society of America (ESA)."

"To make matters worse," Levine writes, "even the ones that DO have official common names — ones that we see nearly every day — may have different spellings depending on whether they appear in scientific publications or other print media, such as newspapers or magazines."

So the "bible" of journalists--or what the Associated Press sanctions and governs--does not always agree with the scientific "bible" of the entomological community--or what ESA sanctions and governs.

"The reason for the discrepancy is that entomologists use two words if a common name accurately describes the order to which a particular insect belongs," Levine points out. "For example, all true flies belong to the order Diptera, so true fly names will be spelled using two words by entomologists — house fly, horse fly, pigeon fly, or stable fly, for example. However, despite their names, dragonflies and butterflies are NOT true flies — their orders are Odonata and Lepidoptera, respectively — so they are spelled as one word."

As an aside, we wonder if the controversy over the spelling of "honey bee" extends to spelling bees. Would judges eliminate someone for spelling "honey bee" with a space in between? "H-O-N-E-Y (space) B-E-E?"

Still, things can and do change. For years, the AP Stylebook editors insisted that "under take" is two words, not one. They've relented now, and it's one word, "undertake." Glory bee!

Will the AP Stylebook follow the ESA's Common Names of Insects and decide it's "honey bee,"  not "honeybee?"  Will the AP Stylebook give the honey bee some space? Just a little space?

Stay tuned. Or stay buzzed.

Read at:  http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=16776

Cl'mon In, the Pollen's Fine

As temperatures dip throughout much of California, and honey bees snuggle inside their hives, it's "bees-ness" in southern California this week.

Bug Squad      By Kathy Keatley Garvey    January 6, 2015

C'mon iin, the pollen's fine! A honey bee reaching for pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Everything's abuzz as two national bee organizations host their annual conventions: The American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) is meeting for its 46th annual convention Jan. 6-10 in Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County. And the North American Beekeeping Conference and Trade Show is underway Jan. 6-10 in the Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, Orange County.

The topics will encompass bee health, including pests, pesticides, parasites, diseases, malnutrition and stress. Everything about the bee-leagured bees.

Meanwhile, a few almond trees are blooming (one in the Benicia State Recreation Area burst into bloom before Christmas Day) and more and more bees are venturing out as the temperatures hit 55.

If you have winter blossoms, odds are you're getting bee visits during the sun breaks. In our yard, the bees love the Bacopa, a groundcover that fought--and won--the battle with Jack Frost. Strong winds and rain storms hammered and stripped some of the blossoms, but the bees don't care. The pollen is there.

Read at: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=16377

Matadors in the Champagne Bubbles

Bug Squad      By Kathy Keatley Garvey    November 11, 2014

A honey bee gathering pollen. In the foreground, a freeloader fly. (Photo Kathy Keatley Garvey)It's cool how honey bees and syrphid flies gravitate toward the Iceland Poppy.

It's a winter plant, and frankly, there isn't much to eat out there.

The Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule), a bowl-shaped, papery flower, fills the bill.

The name is a misnomer. It's not native to Iceland. It's from the cooler regions of Europe, Asia and North America, and the mountains of Central Asia. Botanists first described it in 1759.

Like all poppies, they're... 

Read More...

Seeing Eye-to-Eye on a Sedum

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   October 23, 2014

If you've ever watched a Gray Hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) nectaring a sedum, and then watched a honey bee (Apis mellifera) land on the same flower, it's a study in sharing.

"I was here first," says the Gray Hairstreak, sipping nectar.

"I was here second," says the honey bee.

So they wind up sharing, the butterfly and the honey bee. It's autumn and there's not much nectar anywhere.

"Stay back," says the butterfly.

"No," says the honey bee. "My colony needs the nectar."

So they crawl slowly on the blossom, meeting head to head, as if to prove that yes, "We can all get along."

The Gray Hairstreak is not so sure. The honey bee abruptly moves closer, and the startled butterfly lifts off to find another blossom.

The butterfly will be first again on a nearby sedum.

Read and view more images