“When California was wild, it was one sweet bee garden throughout its entire length,
north and south, and all the way across from the snowy Sierra to the ocean.”
~John Muir, “The Bee Pastures”
Welcome to the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association, founded in 1873, to foster the interest of bee culture and beekeeping within Los Angeles County. Our primary purpose is the care and welfare of the honeybee. Our group membership is composed of commercial and small scale beekeepers, bee hobbyists, and bee enthusiasts. So whether you came upon our site by design or just 'happened' to find us - we're glad you're here! Our club and this website are dedicated to educating our members and the general public. We support honeybee research, and adhering to best management practices for the keeping of bees.
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Brushy Mountain Bee Farm Blog September 18, 2015
WHAT IS OXALIC ACID?
Oxalic Acid is a naturally occurring acid found in plants. It became popular in Europe & Canada for treating Varroa Mites in a honey bee hive.
IS IT A LEGAL VARROA TREATMENT IN THE UNITES STATES?Oxalic Acid has been approved by the EPA to treat honey bee colonies in the United States. It must pass state approval before it may legally be sold in each state. This is a continuing process and a list of states that have been approved can be found on our website.
Versions of Oxalic Acid can be found in hardware stores but those have various additives mixed with them that can cause issue with the bees. Also it is illegal to use them for hives.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO USE OXALIC ACID TO TREAT?The most effective time to treat a hive with Oxalic Acid is when a hive has little to no sealed brood. It cannot penetrate capped brood so it will have no effect on the next generation of mites that were left in capped brood. You can treat in the spring and summer but research shows that Oxalic works best in the fall/winter.
WHEN WILL MY HIVE BEE BROODLESS?The best time for a broodless hive is during late fall through the winter. You can also manipulate the hive by caging the queen for 14 days. That keeps her from laying and capping any more brood. 14 days provides enough time to treat your hive and allow the treatment residue to subside before returning the queen to lay brood.
CAN YOU TREAT IN THE SUMMER?While some studies say you can treat honey bees in the summer, there are too many variables that can cause issues during summer treatments. Summertime is usually when the hive is full of capped brood so it could take multiple treatments to reduce all the mites concealed with the brood. Continuous multiple treatments can affect the bees severely.
CAN YOU TREAT DURING A HONEY FLOW?It has not been approved for use during a honey flow. If you have honey supers on the hive you must remove them before treating and leave them off for at least 14 days to give the Oxalic Acid treatment time to be fully cleansed from the hive to avoid contamination of the honey.
HOW CAN IT BE USED TO TREAT?There are three approved methods to treat with Oxalic Acid:
Solution Method:Note: To completely dissolve Oxalic Acid Dihydrate, use warm syrup.Dissolve 35g of Oxalic Acid Dihydrate in 1 liter of 1:1 sugar water (weight : volume). Smoke bees down from the top bars. With a syringe or an applicator, trickle 5 ml of this solution directly onto the bees in each occupied bee space in each brood box. The maximum does is 50ml per colony whether bees are in NUCs, single, or multiple brood chambers.
Under certain unfavorable conditions (e.g. weak colonies, unfavorable overwintering conditions), this application method may cause some bee mortality or overwintering bee loss.
A complete kit is available with all the parts you will need for Solution Method (35 grams Oxalic Acid, nitrile gloves, protective goggles, 60mm syringe, and instructions)
Vaporizer Method:Apply only to outdoor colonies with a restricted lower hive entrance. Seal all upper hive entrances and cracks with tape to avoid escape of Oxalic Acid vapor. Smoke bees up from the bottom board. Place 1g Oxalic Acid Dihydrate powder into vaporizer. Follow the vaporizer manufacturer’s directions for use. Insert the vaporizer apparatus through the bottom entrance. Apply heat until all Oxalic Acid has sublimated.
Spraying Package Method:Ensure bees are clustered before applying.Spray broodless package with 1:1 sugar water solution (without Oxalic Acid mixed) at least 2 hours before spraying with Oxalic. This fills their stomachs to reduce ingestion of Oxalic Solution.Mix 1:1 ratio sugar water with 35 grams of Oxalic Acid (same ratio as Solution Method). For a 2 lb package, use 21mL of solution. For a 3 lb package use 31mL solution.Store bees in a cool darkened room for 72 hours before hiving.
HOW MANY HIVES CAN OXALIC ACID TREAT?*All totals calculated from dosage amounts listed in treatment methods above.Solution Method: 20 hivesVaporizer Method: 35 hivesSpraying Package Method: 47 2lb packages & 30 3lb packages
WHAT SAFETY MEASURES SHOULD I TAKE WHEN USING OXALIC ACID?DO NOT let Oxalic Acid make contact with skin, eyes, or be ingested. Wear proper personal protective equipment (rubber gloves, safety goggles, long sleeve shirt) when mixing or distributing Oxalic Acid. If exposure to skin or eyes does occur consult directions and safety sheet for instructions. If severe reaction occurs, call 911. Wash hands, exposed skin, and PPE directly after treatment to avoid contamination.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS OXALIC ACID?The effectiveness of Oxalic Acid treatment can be in excess of 95%, but solution method have a higher efficacy.
HOW MANY TIMES SHOULD I TREAT MY HIVE?You will only want to treat your hive ONCE during the fall/winter. Honey bees have a low tolerance to Oxalic Acid. Overexposure can cause issues and death in the hive.
As with any other treatment, some bee mortality may occur, especially if hive is already weak. Check your mite count and strength of hive before applying any treatment. If you are uncertain of hive’s strength, you can get a second opinion by asking a local beekeeper or your local bee inspector.
CAN I USE OXALIC ACID WITH OTHER MEDICATIONS?Since it is a naturally occurring chemical, it can be used in conjunction with other non-varroa treatments. DO NOT mix directly with other chemicals while treating.
HOW DO YOU STORE OXALIC ACID?Dried, unmixed Oxalic Acid should be kept in a cool dry place will not expire.Mixed solution can last up to a week at room temperature and a few months if kept in the fridge.
IF THE SOLUTION STARTS TO TURN TAN/BROWN OR SMELL FUNNY DISCARD IMMEDIATELY. DISCOLORATION MEANS AN ALTERNATE CHEMICAL [HYDROXYMETHYLFURFURAL] IS FORMING AND IS TOXIC TO BEES. DISCOLORATION CAN BE CAUSED BY LONG EXPOSURE TO THE SUN.
NBC NEWS May 29, 2015
More than two out of five honey bees in the U.S. died last year and the loss of native bees could be devastating.
Scott Campbell, an ecologist at Kansas University, “It would have major impacts on human beings and our abilities to grow enough food."
Unlike honey bees, which live in hives and were imported from Europe in the 1800s. Many native bees are solitary. Some think the bees are dying off because of habitat loss, so architects teamed up to build them a place to stay. A hotel - for bees.
Kay Johnson, an environment manager at Prosoco, says, “Bee hotels are to provide that habitat. So they're little tubes so that they can crawl in individually and do their work and live."
Steve Clark, of Clark-Huesemann Architecture, says, “You use a lot of standard building principles you actually use in buildings. You turn the building away from the storms, rain and prevailing winds. You turn it towards the sun so in the morning the bees warm up before they go out and do their work."
The bee hotel contains several holes - or rooms - with different diameters, each meant to house a different species of bee. The more bees that are saved, the more our plants thrive. Such as the wild blue indigo.
Campbell says, “If there were no bumble bees this plant would have a very hard time surviving."
Johnson adds, “If we can take care of these bees, we can have fruits and vegetables and tomatoes, even if there's problems with the honey bees."
There may be plenty of vacancy on this rainy day, but this bee hotel which opened May second, is expected to fill up by this summer.
In our first Beekeeping Class 101 session we talked about the location for your hive, what the bees will need, and suggestions for informative reading for beginning beekeepers. We also went over the beekeeping equipment, supplies and protective clothing: What you need, and what you don’t!
Here’s the list of all you’ll really need to get started in beekeeping:
Basic Essentials List for Beginning Beekeepers:
The Hive - Langstroth (from the bottom up):
Hive Stand - This is a platform to keep the hive off the ground. It improves circulation, reduces dampness in the hive, and helps keep ants, bugs, leaves, and debris from getting into the hive. It can be made of anything solid enough to support the weight of a full beehive. Wooden hive stands are available for sale but bricks, concrete blocks, pallets, and found lumber are just as good. It’s helpful to place the legs of the stand in cans filled with used motor oil to deter ants from climbing up the legs and into the hive. The stand should be strong enough to support one hive or a number of colonies. What is important to remember is that the hive needs to be at least 6 inches off the ground.
Bottom Board - Is placed on top of the hive stand and is the floor of the hive. Bees use it as a landing board and a place to take off from.
Entrance Reducer - Is basically a stick of wood used to reduce the size of the entrance to the hive. It helps deter robbing.
Hive Boxes/Supers - Come in three sizes: deep, medium and shallow. Traditionally, 2 deep boxes have been used as brood chambers with 3 or 4 or more boxes (medium or shallow) on top as needed for honey storage. Many beekeepers use all medium boxes throughout the hive. This helps reduce the weight of each box for lifting. If you have back problems or are concerned about heavy lifting, you could even use shallow boxes all throughout the hive. So, 6 boxes as a minimum for deep and medium. More if you wanted to use only shallow boxes. You will only need two boxes to start out, adding boxes as needed for extra room and honey storage.
Frames and Foundation - For each box you have for your hive, you will need 10 frames that fit that box. Frames can be wooden with beeswax foundation or all plastic with a light coating of beeswax. The bees don't care and will use both equally well. Foundation is intended to give the bees a head start on their comb building and helps minimize cross comb building that makes it difficult to remove and inspect. You can buy all beeswax foundation or plastic foundation with a thin coat of beeswax applied to it. Alternatively, you can provide empty frames and let the bees build their comb from scratch but that can be a bit tricky and it takes the bees longer to get established.
Top Cover: The top cover can be as simple as a flat sheet of plywood. We prefer the top covers made with laminated pieces to make a flat board and extra cross bracing to help hold the board flat for years. Plywood tends to warp over time. You can also use a telescoping cover, but they require an additional inner cover.
Paint - All parts of your hive that are exposed to the weather should be painted with (2 coats) of a non-toxic paint. Do not paint the inside of the hive or the entrance reducer. Most hives are painted white to reflect the sun, but you can use any light colors. Painting your hives different colors may help reduce drift between the colonies. If your hive will not be in your own bee yard, you may want to paint your name and phone number on the side of the hive.
Tools & Supplies:
Bee Brush - A beekeeper needs a brush to gently move the bees from an area of observation when looking for a queen and when harvesting frames of honey. Use a brush that has long, soft, flexible, yellow bristles. Don’t use a dark, stiff brush with animal hair, or a paint brush.
Duct Tape - You’ll have lots of uses for duct tape, might want to keep it handy.
Hive Tool - A hive tool is the most useful piece of beekeeping equipment. It can be used to pry up the inner cover, pry apart frames, scrape and clean hive parts, scrape wax and propolis out of the hive, nail the lid shut, pull nails, and scrape bee stingers off skin. The hive tool has two parts: the wedge or blade and the handle. Hive tools are often fitted with brightly-colored, plastic-coated handles which helps the beekeeper locate the hive tool while working.
Feeder - You may want to have a feeder with sugar syrup to give your new bees a boost in their new home. Its the helping hand they need to get started building comb.
Smoker - Examining a hive is much easier when you use a smoker. Use it to puff smoke into the entrance before opening the hive and to blow smoke over the frames once the hive is opened. This helps the beekeeper to manage the bees. Cool smoke helps to settle the bees. Smoking the bees initiates a feeding response causing preparation to possibly leave the hive due to a fire. The smoke also masks the alarm pheromone released by the colony’s guard bees when the hive is opened and manipulated. Smoke must be used carefully. Too much can drive bees from the hive. A smoker is basically a metal can with a bellows and a spout attached to it. We prefer to use a smoker with a wire cage around it. A large smoker is best as it keeps the smoke going longer. It can be difficult to keep a smoker lit (especially for new beekeepers). Practice lighting and maintaining the smoker. Burlap, rotted wood shavings, pine needles, eucalyptus, cardboard, and cotton rags are good smoker fuels.
Bee Suit - For the best protection, full bee suits are recommended. But whether or not a suit is used, a beekeeper's clothing should be white or light in color (bees generally do not like dark colors and will attack dark objects). Avoid woolen and knit material. You will want to wear clothing both that will protect you and you don’t mind getting stained (bees produce waste that shows up as yellowish marks on your clothing). You’ll want to close off all potential to getting stung by wearing high top boots or tucking your pants into your socks and securing your cuffs with rubber bands or duct tape.
Bee Gloves - Long, leather, ventilated gloves with elastic on the sleeves help protect the hands and arms from stings.
Hat and Veil - Even the most experienced beekeepers wear a hat and veil to protect their head, face, and eyes from bee stings. Wire veils keep bees farther away from the face than those made of cloth. Black veiling is generally easier to see through. Make sure the veil extends down below and away from your neck.
Once you have all you need, expenses can be kept to a minimum. With the right care, equipment, tools, and clothing will last a long time. If your hive becomes overcrowded, just add another box or two. Or, you may find you’ll want to split your hive – then you’ll have two! If honey is overflowing, just add another box or two. And, great! – You’ll have lots of yummy honey!!
A note on protective clothing: There was a time when we could safely visit our bees wearing little protective clothing. With the arrival of Africanized bees into the Southern states we've come to realize the potential danger of an aggressive hive and have learned to exercise caution when approaching our bees. A once gentle hive could be invaded and taken over by a small aggressive swarm in a few days. These bees are unpredictable and vigorously defend their hives. Protective clothing such as a bee suit, veil and gloves will help keep stings to a minimum in the bee yard if worn correctly. As beekeepers, it is our responsibility to help curtail the danger to our bees, ourselves, and others.
Here’s a list of suppliers:
We primarily work with the Langstroth hive but you can also use the Top Bar Hive or the Warre Hive. We'll be happy to share our experience with these two styles of hives, as well.
The March 15th Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping Class 101 will be held at The Valley Hive (9633 Baden Ave., Chatsworth, CA 91311 tel: 818-280-6500). The topic is: Woodworking, Building Your Own Hive and Frames. You'll also learn how to care for your hives and equipment. You may want to purchase what you need at that time from The Valley Hive.
The April 19th class will be back at Bill's Bees Bee Yard for a grand adventure. We'll be taking a peek at what goes on inside the bee hive. This class is so exciting. You'll learn all about the worker bees and their 'jobs,' the drones and their 'job,' and you'll learn to find 'your queen'! BEE SUITS ARE REQUIRED for this class and all the rest of the beekeeping classes. Any and all information, changes, scheduling, etc. is posted on the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping Class 101 page and on theLACBA Facebook page.
If you haven't ordered your BEES yet, you can ORDER HERE!
We look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
“Beekeepers learn to read the book of nature! There, written in bold lettering, are are the wisely conceived and unchangeable laws of creation. To heed them, to act according to them and to implement them at the right time must be the beekeepers greatest commandment, so that the drink of the gods, the flowing nectar from the cornucopia of blessing, becomes pure honey.”
BBC News January 8, 2015
The life cycle of a honey bee has been captured on film by a beekeeper in north Wales over the course of a year and is being shown to schoolchildren.
The film made in the Ceiriog Valley aims to spread the message about their importance in pollinating plants.
Beekeeper Kirsty Williams, who has 50 hives and has been producing honey for 30 years, premiered the film to pupils at her village school, Ysgol Pontfadog.
Her free DVD has been sent to 150 primary schools across the region.
She received funding from economic development company Menter a Busnes as part of its Bee Co-operation Project to promote beekeeping and bee habitats in north Wales following their decline.
Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey December 24, 2014
Professor Clement Clarke Moore (July 15, 1779 – July 10, 1863) wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for his family in 1822. It later became known as "The Night Before Christmas." Fast forward, 92 years later. With apologies to the good professor, we took pen in hand and thought about what "The Night Before Christmas" might be like in a honey bee colony.
The Night Before Christmas...in a Bee Colony
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the bee yard
Not a creature was stirring, not even a guard
The honey was packed in the hive with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The larvae were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of royal jelly danced in their heads
The workers, drones and queen were all a'fling
To await what trouble next spring will bring.
It's a dangerous world out there, the queen said
Life on the wing can leave you dead
Spiders, dragonflies, yellowjackets and birds
Assassin bugs, mantids and wasps, it's absurd.
Then there are pesticides, parasites and pests
And viruses, diseases, malnutrition and stress
It's a dangerous world everywhere, the queen said
A little of that can leave us all dead.
For years, we put out the "unwelcome mat"
For there are bears, skunks and raccoons about
And ‘possums, badgers, ‘jackets, and mice
'Scuse me! Why can't everyone just be nice?
Santa, you didn't listen to us bees
When we sat down upon your knees
You called us by name, that is true
But you left us all feeling quite blue.
Hi, honey! Hi, sweetie! Hi, sugar! Hi, dear!
You said we had nothing to fear.
Hi, darling! Hi, precious! Hi, baby! Hi, love!
And with that, you gave us a shove.
You didn't ask what kills us, St. Nick
You didn't ask what makes us sick
You didn't ask us about our clan
Do you care that we're in a jam?
There's just one thing we want, that's it
Something that will make us fit
Just two little words, please answer our call
We want to “bee healthy,” for once and for all!
(c) Kathy Keatley Keatley December 24, 2014
The Smithsonian By Sarah Zielinski December 11, 2014
BEES and changes in agricultural practices since the 19th century may be major culprit in the pollinators' decline.
Do you like apple pie, guacamole and orange juice? Then you'd better be worried about disappearing bees. The insects are prolific pollinators, credited with helping a variety of fruits, nuts and other commercial crops flourish. But since the early 2000s scientists have been sounding the alarm that pollinating bees are being stricken with disease or mysteriously vanishing from their hives. Culprits behind what is now commonly called Colony Collapse Disorder have ranged from parasites to pesticides.
However, analysis of species diversity in Great Britain shows a decline in pollinating bees and wasps that began far earlier than scientists had suspected. Nearly two dozen species have disappeared from Britain since the middle of the 19th century, according to the study, published today in Science. While managed bees pollinate many commercial crops today, wild bees, wasps and other species also play a significant role in agriculture, particularly for foods such as blueberries, sunflowers and soybeans.
The study authors found that in Britain, local extinctions—or extirpations—were highest during an agricultural ramp-up that began after World War I, suggesting that changes in agricultural practices sparked the loss of pollinators.
Lead author Jeff Ollerton at the University of Northampton and his colleagues pored through almost 500,000 records of bee and wasp sightings from the 1850s to the present, held by the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society. This group of British scientists and volunteers collects data about the distribution and biology of insects in the order Hymenoptera (which includes many pollinators). Determining when a species has gone extinct is an inexact science, but the researchers assumed that a species had disappeared from Britain if it had not been seen for at least 20 years.
Local extinctions occurred as early as 1853 and as late as 1990, but about half occurred between 1930 and 1960. These disappearances line up with patterns of changes to British agricultural practices, the researchers note. In the late 19th century, for instance, farmers began to rely more on imported South American guano for fertilizer. That let farmers intensify their agriculture and resulted in wind-pollinated grasses replacing many of the wildflower species many pollinators relied upon for food. That time period also saw a decline in traditional crop rotation, when farmers would have periodically planted their fields with legumes or left them to weedy flowers—both of which support pollinating insects—to rejuvenate soil nutrients.
But the big decline in pollinators occurred in the middle of the 20th century, when Britain was intensifying its agriculture in response to food security concerns sparked by World War I. For decades before that conflict, Great Britain had relied on imports for much of its food supply, a practice that proved nearly disastrous when Germany began to cut off trade routes. In response, the nation amped up food production at home. This time period also saw the introduction of manufactured inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, which probably contributed to further declines in wildflowers.
“Fundamentally [the decline in bees and wasps] is about a reduction in the size of the area providing food resources on which these pollinators rely,” Ollerton says. Extinctions began to slow down in the 1960s, the researchers note, either because the most vulnerable species had already disappeared or conservation efforts were showing some success. “There were a range of initiatives, including the establishment of more nature reserves,” he says. The country also encouraged efforts to restore wild habitat, and more farmers began turning to organic agriculture, which uses less manufactured fertilizer and pesticides.
Parts of northern Europe, the United States and any other countries that had similar changes in agricultural practices may also have lost native pollinators over that time period, Ollerton adds.
“The U.S. suffers from the same sort of dumbing down of our landscapes across that same time period for the same reasons,” says Sam Droege of the U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. “We are too damn efficient” in our agricultural efforts, he says. “Croplands, pastures, and meadows now grow only crops, no weeds or wildflowers.”
But a continued decline in pollinator species is not inevitable, he says. Roadsides and rights-of-way can be managed to re-create more natural landscapes, for example. “Additionally, we need to reconsider our tree planting tactics to let some lands move only slowly into forest and keep other landscapes as permanent meadows, prairies, sage and scrublands,” he says. Such efforts would foster the growth of pollinator-friendly plant species. “We no longer have the luxury of letting Nature find its own level, but have to consciously foster wildness and diversity everywhere we live."
Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World By Kathy Keatley Garvey August 15, 2014
If you appreciate honey bees--particularly their pollination services--then you should thank them.
Not just on National Honey Bee Day, which is Saturday, Aug. 16, but every day.
This year's theme is “Sustainable Gardening Begins with Honey Bees.”
Some grassroots-minded beekeepers established the day in 2009 "to build community awareness of the bee industry, through education and promotion," according to their website. "Our commitment is to continue that philosophy."
"Oh, but I'm just one person!" you say. The NHBD's response to that is a quote from Edmund Burke (1729-1797): "No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."
Here's what we did: We removed our lawn: no lawnmower, no edger, no lawn. Our garden is a bee garden. We planted lavender, artichokes (and let them flower), catmint, alyssum, cilantro, cosmos, tower of jewels, zinnias, guara, blanketflowers (Gallardia) sunflowers, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), lantana, California golden poppies, honeysuckle, salvia, oregano, African blue basil, sedum, peach, tangerine, pomegranate, lemon and other bee favorites. A drip irrigation grid system, timed to turn on at 4 in the morning, keeps the plants healthy, and the nectar and pollen flowing. It's a veritable oasis. It's a welcome mat. It's a pool of floral resources. C'mon in, the flowers are fine!
It's also important to select seasonal plants, especially for late summer and fall, when food resources are scarce. Avoid pesticides. Buy local honey. Support the bees. Support the beekeepers. Become a beekeeper or let beekeepers maintain their hives on your property, if you can.
Get involved with bees!
If you're like me, you love to photograph them. I can sit for hours in our bee garden and just watch them go about their bees-ness. Here are several of my favorite images:
Read at and view more images by Kathy Keatly Garvey at:
Star Tribune Story by: Josephine Marcotty Photos & Video: Renee Jones Schneider June 29, 2014
The past few decades of farm economics have created a system in which one-third of the food on our plate now relies on just one pollinator — the honeybee. And it’s dying.
San Joaquin Valley, CA / First in an occasional series.
On a cool January day in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Steve Ellis culled his sick bees. The only sounds were their steady buzz and the chuffing of the smoker he used to keep them calm as he opened the hives, one by one, to see how many had survived. The painful chore has become an annual ritual for Ellis, and, hardened now like a medic on the front lines, he crowned another box with a big rock to mark it.
“This one is G.A.D.,” he said. “Good as dead.”
Ellis, of Barrett, Minn., is one of some 1,300 commercial beekeepers from across the United States who migrate to California each year, along with nearly 2 million hives, for the single largest pollination event in the world. Below him in the sprawling valley, nearly 1,400 square miles of almond trees — three-fourths of the global supply — were ready to burst out into a frothy sea of pink and white. To grow into a nut, every single blossom would need at least one American honeybee.
Ever since the ominous phrase “colony collapse disorder” first surfaced in 2006, scientists have struggled to explain the mysterious mass die-offs of honeybees. But here in America’s food basket the escalating stakes are laid out as clearly as the almond trees that march in perfect rows up to the horizon.
Continue reading, view photos and videos at: http://www.startribune.com/local/264929101.html
[Note: This is an excellent article. Lots of great video. Highly recommended.]
The Daily Mail By Dick Johnson for Columbia-Green Media June 24, 2014
Fourth of July is traditional picnic time. Among the uninvited picnic guests it’s likely to see some yellow jackets. Unlike gentle honeybees that are vegetarians, the aggressive yellow jackets are carnivores and feed on other insects. This is why they show up just at the time that the delicious aroma of hot dogs and hamburgers floats in the breeze from the grill. They also have a “sweet tooth” and go after the sugar in your ice tea or soda pop. Remind the kids to check for bees especially if the drink has been left on the table for a while. There are two types of yellow jackets that build their populations late summer and early fall. The native, most common type makes its nest in the ground and is actually small than a honeybee. The other type is one inch, double the size of the honeybee and is native to Europe. Both of these pests are shiny, bright yellow with black stripes - different from honeybees that are tan and black and “fuzzy.”
The other serious pest at the picnic may be the white-faced hornet. This is a large, shiny black bee with white markings on the head. These are the bees that build those big round gray nests hanging from a branch. Both of these bees are aggressive and can sting multiple times, unlike the honeybee.
It is unlikely that honeybees create a problem unless the picnic is in a beekeepers yard. Honeybees don’t want to sting as they lose their life, but they will use their stinger to protect their hive. Unless you threaten them, while honeybees are foraging in the flower garden, they usually are very gentle. Despite the hysteria associated with honeybee stings, they do not cause a medical crisis for 99 percent of our population.
The honeybee has a barbed stinger that continues to inject venom under your skin for a couple minutes. The best advice is to get the stinger out as fast as possible to prevent injection of the “full dose.” Fortunately, many persons develop a tolerance to stings, and their reaction is much reduced after frequent, repeated stings. Most persons do not experience any symptoms other than a burning sensation for two minuets, a red spot, and localized swelling. Occasionally, a mild allergic reaction may cause itching, a rash, or light-headed feeling and these symptoms usually respond to antihistamine pills.
The dangerous type of reaction is a drop in blood pressure and any difficulty breathing. This mat be an anaphylactic reaction and requires immediate medical attention. Persons hypersensitive to bee venom should carry the pocket bee sting kit available by prescription. Treatments to desensitize highly sensitive persons are available from specialized allergists to greatly reduce bee stings.
When a person accidentally receives multiple stings there will be significant swelling but a healthy adult usually recovers fully after 300 to 500 stings. There has bee considerable concern about the spread of the “Africanized” honeybees now found in most of the deep southern states. These bees are very aggressive but beekeepers in those areas have adjusted their management to be able to maximize their pollination of crops and honey production. These aggressive bees will not breed locally as they originated in the tropics and cannot survive our cold temperatures.
Don’t expect any problems from gentle honeybees but be careful with the “picnic bees.”
Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World By Kathy Keatley Garvey May 5, 2014
It's almost time to count the pollinators!
The University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) wants you set aside three minutes on Thursday, May 8 and count the pollinators wherever you live--and they live--in California. It's all part of UC ANR's Day of Science and Service celebrating the 100th year of the Cooperative Extension system.
First, count the pollinators (they can be bees, syrphid flies, bats, butterflies and the like.) Then you may choose to photograph them and upload your photos to the UC ANR website.
It should be interesting to glean the final count.
Just a few of the bees you may find:
- Honey bee (Apis mellifera)
- Green metallic sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus)
- European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum)
- Long-horned bee (Melissodes communis)
Other activities on May 8 focus on water and food (see the website, Day of Science and Service)
Water: in this record drought, UC has committed to reducing its water consumption by 20 percent how are you conserving?
Food: Where is food grown in your community? Fill out our California food maps.
UC President Janet Napolitano has just issued the following statement:
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of our nation's Cooperative Extension system, the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is sponsoring a day of science and service on May 8.
We need your help to make our science projects successful. The more people who participate, the more data we'll have to analyze.
Everyone in California is invited to participate. It's quick and easy. Go to beascientist.ucanr.edu, choose a project, and record your observations about conserving water, growing food or counting the numbers of pollinating bees, birds and butterflies in your neighborhood. You can share your observations on an interactive map and upload photos if you like.
This is a great opportunity to learn about California's natural resources and the role of agriculture in all our communities.
For 100 years UC Cooperative Extension has been turning science into solutions to build healthy communities. From creating new varieties of fruits and vegetables, fighting off invasive pest attacks, and helping school kids learn about healthy eating, UC's work benefits every Californian.
Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/
Make Way for Monarchs By Gary Nabhan April 30, 2014
Field Notes from White House: Listening to an Unprecedented Alliance of Stakeholders for Bee and Monarch Butterfly Recovery
It was a dark and stormy day in Washington DC when sixty thought leaders from the farm community, industry, government and non-profits met next to the White House grounds to discuss pollinators; we could hardly see First Lady Michelle Obama’s new pollinator garden through all the pouring rain. Nevertheless, it was cause for celebration: a landmark meeting in the history of insect conservation, because the White House had brought together diverse stakeholders to deal with recent catastrophic declines in pollinators and plan their recovery on a continent-wide scale.
Dr. Michael Stebbins PhD, the meeting facilitator for White House Office of Science Policy, set the stage:
“There are many different stressors impacting various pollinators: herbicides, pesticides, habitat loss, climate change, and parasites like the varroa mite. Because of that, we need a hands-on approach to better leverage everyone’s investments to reverse the loss of pollinators. We are not at all interested in pointing fingers but we do want to know what roles chemical producers, among many others, are willing to play in helping solve this problem.”
The President’s Science Policy Advisor, Dr. John Holdren, added his welcome to the group of farmers, beekeepers, nurserymen, scientists, educators, corporate CEOs and faith-based community leaders Wednesday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington DC:
“This is an issue that President Obama personally cares about: ways of protecting and nourishing natural capital, including ecosystem services. We are happy to see this intersection between people inside government and outside government trying to figure out how we can meet the challenges we face. Bees and butterflies have become like the canaries in the coal mine and that should be a wake up call for all of us.”
For nearly two hours, the group discussed the best means to avert further pollinator decline and prevent negative consequences for food security in North America. As noted by Ed Flanagan, a Maine wild blueberry farmer and president and chief executive of Jasper Wyman & Son
“As a farmer of berries, without pollinators, we are out of business. So we have begun taking a sort of Hippocratic Oath as farmers just as doctors do: “First, do no harm.”
In particular, Dr. Stebbins asked every person in the room to identify the following assets:
1) Activities, policies, or other initiatives for which federal agencies could enact to address pollinator health;
2) Potential public-private partnerships to be formed to address these issues; and
3) Significant commitments that organizations are making which the White House could help raise up to increase attention to these issues.
It became a hundred twenty minute session that this issue has emerged to be one of the most pressing and pervasive issues affecting our food supply and the health of the natural systems and ecological relationships that provide support services for agriculture.
Dr. Marla Spivak, a MacArthur Genius award-winning bee scientist at the University of Minnesota bluntly summed up many participants’ concerns: “Americans need good, clean diverse food, and so do pollinators.” As concluded by Laurie Davies Adams, Executive Director of the Pollinator Partnership:
“We need to come away from this meeting with a larger collective vision that incorporates the good work of hundreds of organizations and businesses.”
And so commitments began to be made for the voluntary involvement of farmers, beekeepers, nurserymen, seedsmen, garden clubs, wildlife habitat restorationists to design a pollinator recovery plan to include both the for-profit and non-profit sector at an unprecedented scale. These commitments will need to affect more than 100 million acres of American farmscapes that have been depleted of their pollinators over the last decade. While the causes and consequences of the pollinator declines remain different for each species of insect that has become imperiled, there was a ready consensus: habitat restoration of milkweeds for monarchs and other butterflies will also aid honeybees and imperiled bumblebees.
Christi Heinz of Project Apis put the entire concern into perspective: “Pollinator health is really a land use issue. Bees in particular are responsible for much of the food we eat. It should be a requirement to set space aside for them.”
To which Dave Nosman of Pheasants Forever added, “What farm or ranch couldn’t need better quality wildlife habitat?”
See more at: http://makewayformonarchs.org/i/archives/1160?utm_source=NPDF+News&utm_campaign=2cfcbf4c58-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_bd1e2eba78-2cfcbf4c58-75586273&mc_cid=2cfcbf4c58&mc_eid=7b80874d2a#sthash.V3fuLUgL.dpuf
Science Daily Source: Ecological Society of America By Lisa Lester May 1, 2014
The butterfly (Dryas iulia) and the bee (Centris sp.) were most likely seeking scarce minerals and an extra boost of protein. On a beautiful December day in 2013, they found the precious nutrients in the tears of a spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus), relaxing on the banks of the Río Puerto Viejo in northeastern Costa Rica.
A boat carrying students, photographers, and aquatic ecologist Carlos de la Rosa was passing slowing and quietly by, and caught the moment on film. They watched [and photographed] in barely suppressed excitement for a quarter of an hour while the caiman basked placidly and the insects fluttered about the corners of its eyes.
De la Rosa reported the encounter in a peer-reviewed letter in the May 2014 issue of the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
"It was one of those natural history moments that you long to see up close," said de la Rosa, the director of the La Selva Biological Station for the Organization for Tropical Field Studies in San Pedro, Costa Rica. "But then the question becomes, what's going on in here? Why are these insects tapping into this resource?"
Though bountiful in the ocean, salt is often a rare and valuable resource on land, especially for vegetarians. It is not uncommon to see butterflies sipping mineral-laden water from mud puddles. When minerals are rare in the soil, animals sometimes gather salt and other rare minerals and proteins from sweat, tears, urine, and even blood.
De la Rosa had seen butterflies and moths in the Amazon feeding on the tears of turtles and a few caimans. Tear-drinking "lachryphagous" behavior in bees had only recently been observed by biologists. He remembered a 2012 report of a solitary bee sipping the tears of a yellow-spotted river turtle in Ecuador's Yasuní National Park. But how common is this behavior?
Back at the field station, he did a little research. He was surprised to find more evidence of tear-drinking than he expected in the collective online record of wilderness enthusiasts, casual tourists, professional photographers, and scientists. He now thinks the phenomenon may not be as rare as biologists had assumed -- just hard to witness.
"I did a Google search for images and I found out that it is quite common! A lot of people have recorded butterflies, and some bees, doing this," said de la Rosa.
A search of the scientific literature produced a detailed study of bees drinking human tears in Thailand, as well as the remembered October 2012 "Trails and Tribulations" story about the Ecuadorian bee and the river turtle by Olivier Dangles and Jérôme Casas in ESA's Frontiers. This experience reminds us that the world still has many surprises for ecologists, de la Rosa said. There so much still to be studied. De la Rosa is a specialist in the biology of non-biting midges, and a natural historian, with his eyes always open to new discoveries. Scientists at La Selva have discovered hundreds of species of aquatic insects that are still unnamed and undescribed.
"I have over 450 undescribed species from Costa Rica in my laboratory. If I did nothing for the rest of my life but collaborate with taxonomists and try to describe those, I would never get done," he said.
De la Rosa's job as director of La Selva Biological Station brings him an unusual number of serendipitous encounters with wildlife. He lives on site in the lowland rainforest, and he never needs an alarm clock. Howler monkeys wake him every morning.
"I learned I have to carry a camera with me 24/7, because you never know what you're going to find when you're walking to the office or the dining hall," he said. One day, he spied a new species of dragonfly on his way to breakfast. It had emerged from its larval form in the small pool of water caught in the cupped leaves of a bromeliad plant. He did a double-take. Dragonflies don't live on bromeliads. Or do they?
"Those are the kinds of things that, you know, you don't plan for them, you can't plan for them," de la Rosa said. There was only one known species of dragonfly in the world that lives in bromeliads. Now there will be two. "You just keep your eyes open and have curiosity, and when you see something that doesn't seem to fit, dig."
Source: Ecological Society of America
Carlos L de la Rosa. Additional observations of lachryphagous butterflies and bees. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2014; 12 (4): 210 DOI:10.1890/14.WB.006
Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World By Kathy Keatley Garvey
What's that on the Coreopsis?
Could it be--a bee?
Yes, that's the metallic green sweat bee, also called an ultra green sweat bee, Agapostemon texanus. This one (below) is a female. Males and females are easily distinguishable. The female is all green, from head to thorax to abdomen, while the male (right) is green on the head and thorax but not on the abdomen.
Native pollinator specialist...
ecology.com By Mary Zakrasek April 23, 2014
It’s spring and with flowers blooming and birds singing, it’s a perfect time to celebrate the little insects that makes the biggest impact on our world…Bees!
Honeybees are often the first bees we think about but have you ever noticed how different flowering plants attract different bees?
I first became much more aware of this when a wisteria vine in our yard bloomed and suddenly, we had bumblebees. They found a plum tree to hang out in and when they got hungry, they’d make a “beeline” down the path to the hanging blossoms.
But it was a documentary hosted by Peter Fonda called “Pollinators in Peril” where I first learned that there are over 20,000 species of bees and found out just how much we rely on bees. The film also introduced a gentle bee, the Blue Orchard Mason Bee which is indigenous to North America that pollinates, but doesn’t produce honey, and can easily be introduced into home gardens.
What Bees do for Us
Simply and amazingly, the world’s food supply depends on them. Bees not only help produce one-third of the all fruits and vegetables but many of those plants are then used to feed animals. Without their pollination, many plants would not bear any fruit. For example, almond trees, blueberries and avocados rely exclusively on bees.
Because tomato plants have tight flowers, they depend on bumble bees to know just how to shake, or buzz pollinate them to release the pollen. Honey bees don’t have the ability to vibrate like bumble bees. The flight muscles of bumble bees doing this have been found to match the musical note, middle-C, which may open a new area of pollination research called sonication!
Many plants also need multiple visits from bees. For example, it takes about 21 visits to strawberry plants or the fruit will end up being small and lopsided. (Hmmm…now I know what happened to the strawberries I was raising)!
Honeymoons and Healing
Ever wonder where the word “Honeymoon” originated?
There’s a little known piece of folklore about a honey wine called mead that has aphrodisiac properties. In cultures that base their calendar on the lunar cycle, newlyweds would drink mead during their first month of married life for good luck.
Besides being used in food products, personal care, beauty products, supplements and beverages, honey is used to cure some health problems. The ancient healing art called Apitherapy thrives in Bucharest where there is an Apitherapy Medical Center. Doctors there believe the hive is the oldest and healthiest natural pharmacy, and use bee venom to combat multiple sclerosis, pollen for indigestion and honey to heal wounds.
The Telegraph By Kate Bradbuty 10/25/13
How to Make a Solitary Bee Hotel - Attract bees to your garden with this easy to make container
The example shown below uses an old wine box, filled with wooden logs, lengths of bamboo and florists’ foam. But you can use any container and any combination of these materials, as long as it protects the bees from rain, the wood is untreated and the holes are no bigger than 10mm in diameter.
Different species nest in holes of different sizes, so it’s worth drilling holes of a variety of diameters (between 2mm and 10mm) to attract the widest variety of species.
You will need
Small logs or pieces of wood
A selection of plant stems (eg bamboo and sunflower stems)
A drill and wooden drill bits
Dry florists’ foam (optional)
An untreated wooden box (I used an old wine box)
A rustproof bracket
1 Using a saw, cut the small logs, wood and stems to fit box. Smooth sharp edges with sandpaper. Drill holes in the wood.
2 Arrange the wood, stems and foam in the box.
3 Once you’re happy with the arrangement, make holes in the foam using a pencil or a selection of different-sized pencils. Don’t make the holes too big; the bees will happily excavate their own.
4 Using the bracket, fix the box to a wall or fence in the sunniest part of the garden. You may wish to grow flowers, such as roses or wisteria, near the box, to advertise it to leafcutter bees, but make sure plants don’t hide the box.
Taken from The Wildlife Gardener by Kate Bradbury
Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World By Kathy Keatley Garvey 2/27/14
We're accustomed to seeing honey bees pollinating the almonds.
But carpenter bees do, too.
We spotted a female Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, foraging in an almond tree on Feb. 24 in a field adjacent to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
Sounding like a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, this lone carpenter bee buzzed loudly as...
Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/
It turns out the current threat to honey bee survival is not the first.
An international research term has under covered evidence that bees underwent a massive near-extinction at the same time as the dinosaurs.
Lead author Sandra Rehan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at University of New Hampshire and colleagues at Australia's Flinders University and the South Australia Museum have documented a widespread extinction of bees that occurred 65 million years ago as part of the massive event that wiped out land dinosaurs and many flowering plants.
They report in the journal Plos One, they modeled a mass extinction in bee group Xylocopinae, or carpenter bees, at the end of the Cretaceous and beginning of the Paleogene eras, known as the K-T boundary.
Previous studies have suggested a widespread extinction among flowering plants at the K-T boundary, and it's long been assumed that the bees who depended upon those plants would have met the same fate.
Rehan says unlike the dinosaurs, there is a relatively poor fossil record of bees, making the confirmation of such an extinction difficult.
Rehan and her colleagues overcame the lack of fossil evidence for bees with a technique called molecular phylogenetics. Analyzing DNA sequences of four “tribes” of 230 species of carpenter bees from every continent except Antarctica for insight into evolutionary relationships, the researchers began to see patterns consistent with a mass extinction.
Combining fossil records with the DNA analysis, the researchers could introduce time into the equation, learning not only how the bees are related but also how old they are.
“The data told us something major was happening in four different groups of bees at the same time,” Rehan says. “And it happened to be the same time as the dinosaurs went extinct.”
While much of Rehan's work involves behavioral observation of bees native to the northeast of North America, this research taps the computer-heavy bioinformatics side of her research, assembling genomic data to elucidate similarities and differences among the various species over time.
Marrying observations from the field with genomic data, she says, paints a fuller picture of these bees' behaviors over time.
“If you could tell their whole story, maybe people would care more about protecting them,” she says, adding that the findings of this study have important implications for today's concern about the loss in diversity of bees, a pivotal species for agriculture and biodiversity.
“Understanding extinctions and the effects of declines in the past can help us understand the pollinator decline and the global crisis in pollinators today,” Rehan says.