Africanized Bees: How Far North?

Bug Squad   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   May 16, 2016

Africanized honey bees arrived in southern California in 1994 and are expanding north. How far north are they now?

That's the question being asked all over Central and Northern California, especially since "The Terrorizing Concord Incident" or what happened along Hitchcock Road, Concord last Friday and Saturday. Apparently a backyard beekeeper was trying to move two hives on Friday to allow his father to do some landscaping. The beekeeper reportedly moved the first hive successfully, but when he tried to move the second hive, the bees became highly aggressive and wreaked havoc. They killed two dogs, attacked a mail carrier, and stung a number of passersby. 

Were they Africanized bees? DNA tests will determine that.

Meanwhile, what is the northern boundary for Africanized bees?

Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen, who retired in June 2014 after 38 years of service, explained it this way:

"The northern boundary of AHBs depends upon the criteria you use to analyze an individual:

1. Mitochondrial DNA: Used by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to call them Africanized

2. Morphometrics: Measure quite a number of anatomical features and compare them to features of EHBs and AHBs.  Hybrids are hard to categorize, thus not used by CDFA, but the USDA likes it (they "invented" it)

3. Isozymes: Enzymes from AHBs and EHBs have different amino acid arrangements

There are "pockets of bees having one or two of the three criteria, but bees with all three criteria haven't been demonstrated more than about half way up the state from the southern end," Musssen said. Africanized honeybees or AHBs from San Diego, etc., have all three criteria."

And the farthest north they've been found? "If I remember correctly, Angels Camp (Calaveras County) vicinity was farthest north find of samples with all three criteria positive," Mussen related. "Samples around the Concord area had two criteria (up to now). Two samples from very southern Oregon had one criterion."

UC San Diego scientists reported in a press release issued Sept. 11, 2015 that "Africanized bees continue to spread in California."

The study, published that week in the journal PLOS One, "found that more than 60 percent of the foraging honey bees in San Diego County are Africanized and that Africanized bees can now be found as far north as California's delta region," wrote news communicator Kim McDonald.

Said biologist Joshua Kohn, a biology professor who headed the study: "“Our study shows that the large majority of bees one encounters in San Diego County are Africanized and that most of the bees you encounter are from feral colonies, not managed hives,” said Joshua Kohn, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the study."

McDonald explained that "Africanized bees are hybrids of a subspecies from southern Africa that were brought to Brazil to improve bee breeding stock and honey production, but escaped and spread throughout South America and Central America, arriving in Mexico in 1985 and Texas in 1990. Their aggressive behavior and tendency to swarm victims have led them to be dubbed 'killer bees.'"

Kohn and his graduate student Yoshiaki Kono "found Africanized genetic traits in honey bees as far north as 40 kilometers south of Sacramento in the state's central valley," McDonald wrote. "In the bees they collected in San Diego, they also discovered that more than 60 percent of foraging honey bee workers have Africanized genetic traits, but that African traits are found in only 13 percent of managed or commercial hives."

The scientists said the Africanized bees' northward expansion has slowed considerable, and that these bees have a limited ability to survive cold temperatures. In other words, they cannot survive cold winters. However, their presence may "improve the genetic stock of honey bees used in agriculture," according to Kohn.

At UC Davis, assistant professor Brian Johnson of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, is doing research on  genetic dispersion of AHBs around the state.  He has collected and frozen a large number of feral bee samples from around the south and central portions of the state.

After what happened last weekend, interest in AHB expansion has definitely accelerated. Stay tuned.

 

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=21056

UC Davis Department of Entomology Apiary May/June 2014 Newsletter

With the permission of Dr. Eric Mussen, we have a attached from the U.C. Apiaries, the UC Davis Department of Entomology May/June 2014 Apiary Newsletter.

To subscribe to the apiculture newsletters, access this page. Subscriptions are free. Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1976, serves as the editor of from the U.C. Apiaries
http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/Faculty/Eric_C_Mussen/Apiculture_Newsletter/.

Are Your Delicious, Healthy Almonds Killing Bees?

Mother Jones   By Tom Philpott   April 28, 2014

California dominates almond production like Saudi Arabia wishes it dominated oil. More than 80 percent of the almonds consumed on Planet Earth hail from there. Boosted by surging demand from China—overall, 70 percent of the state's output is exported—California's almond groves are expanding. The delicious nut's acreage grew 25 percent between 2006 and 2013. In a previous post, I noted how the almond boom is helping fuel a potentially disastrous water-pumping frenzy in a drought-stricken state.

Now comes more unsettling news: California's almond groves are being blamed for a large recent honeybee die-off.

What do almond trees have to do with honeybees? It turns out that when you grow almond trees in vast monocrops, pollination from wild insects doesn't do the trick. Each spring, it takes 1.6 million honeybee hives to pollinate the crop—about a million of which must be trucked in from out of state. Altogether, the crop requires the presence of a jaw-dropping 60 percent of the managed honeybees in the entire country, the US Department of Agricultural reports.

A mutual dependence has arisen between the state's almond growers and the nation's apiaries. For the 1,500 beekeepers who deliver "pollination services" to the almond industry each year, the gig provides 60 percent of their annual income—more lucrative, in other words, than selling the honey they produce, reportsthe Bakersfield Californian, a newspaper in the heart of almond country. "Without the almond industry, the bee industry wouldn't exist," one large-scale beekeeper told the paper in February.

But this year, something has gone wrong. According to the Pollinator Stewardship Council, somewhere between 15 percent and 25 percent of the beehives in almond groves suffered "severe" damage during the bloom, ranging from complete hive collapse to dead and deformed brood (the next generation of bees incubating in the hive).

Eric Mussen, a bee expert at the University of California-Davis since 1976, told me that there have been isolated die-offs on recent years, but this year's troubles have been "much more widespread…the worst we've ever seen."

The Pollinator Stewardship Council blames the cocktail of pesticides—insecticides and fungicides—almond growers use to keep their crops humming, and Mussen thinks the group may have a point.

He told me that several years ago, beekeepers in almond-heavy Glenn County began having problems keeping their brood alive, as well as with developing new queens. They began to fear that the trouble came from a widely used fungicide called Pristine, marketed by the German chemical giant BASF, for almonds. The company, which claims Pristine is harmless to bees, sent representatives to the county to collect almond pollen samples. In them, Mussen told me, they found "significant" levels of an insecticide called diflubenzuron. (Here's a copy of an email from January 2013 that Mussen circulated on the topic.) The catch is that its maker, Chemtura, insists that diflubenzuron, too, is harmless to bees.

If the two pesticides are safe for bees on their own, what's the problem? Mussen says that almond growers are combining them along with substances called adjuvants—which are used to enhance the performance of pesticides—and then spraying the resulting cocktail on crops. "It now seems that when you roll these three things together, it has very negative consequences on the bees," Mussen told me.  

He explained that originally, adjuvants were used to help spread pesticides more evenly. Sprayed on their own, pesticides tend to form into discrete droplets on a plant's leaves that might not come into contact with insects or mold spores. Mixed with adjuvant, pesticides coat leaves evenly, making them more effective.

In recent years, the industry has come out with what Mussen calls "super-duper" adjuvants, that not only coat leaves but also penetrate them—which is desirable for growers because it prevents expensive agrichemicals from being washed away by rain or degraded by sun.

For bees, though, that development might be bad news. Mussen says it's possible that the bees' own skin tissues had been blocking the pesticides—until the new-and-improved adjuvants gave them a pathway inside. Also, he added, the chemicals "have some pretty potent material in them that we believe could be toxic to honeybees."

Mussen pointed me to a 2012 paper, published in the peer-reviewed PLOS ONE by Penn State University researchers, which found that, when consumed at low doses, new-wave adjuvants inhibit bees' ability to learn how to forage, compromising the long-term health of the hive. (Penn State's press release on the paper has more explanation; and here's more still from the research team itself.)

And while pesticides have to go through a registration process with the Environmental Protection Agency before they can be unleashed upon the world, adjuvants are considered "inert" ingredients and aren't subjected to EPA review, Mussen said. And while the EPA process for assessing the impact of pesticides on honeybees is deeply flawed, as I have shown before, at least there's a process in place. For adjuvants, there's no bee testing at all, he added. And by adding them to pesticide mixes and spraying them on almond trees, farmers aren't breaking any California or USDA rules.

It all adds up to yet another pathway linking pesticide cocktails and our beleaguered honeybee population. Pesticides and fungicides widely used in Midwestern corn and soybean fields have been shown to damage bee health—and these operations are also increasingly using adjuvants in their pesticide mixes, too. The above-mentioned PLOS ONE paper concluded that these unregulated chemicals may "contribute to the ongoing global decline in honey bee health." But corn and soybean farmers don't need bees to achieve their harvests. That bee-reliant almond growers would engage in practices that might severely harm bees…well, that's just nuts.

Read at:  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/04/california-almond-farms-blamed-honeybee-die

UC Davis Dept of Entomology Newsletter for January/February 2014

With the permission of Dr. Eric Mussen, we have a attached from the U.C. Apiaries, the UC Davis Department of Entomology January/February 2014 Apiary Newsletter.

To subscribe to the apiculture newsletters, access this page. Subscriptions are free. Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1976, serves as the editor of from the U.C. Apiaries
http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/Faculty/Eric_C_Mussen/Apiculture_Newsletter/.

 

UC Davis Department of Entomology Apiary Newsletter Dec/Nov 2013

With the permission of Dr. Eric Mussen, we have a attached from the U.C. Apiaries, the UC Davis Department of Entomology September/October Apiary Newsletter.

This issue is chock full of new information on: Bee Food and the differences between the diets of queen bee and worker bee, and what makes a queen; Bee stings, bee venom, and preventing allergic reactions; Apitherapy Studies and the use of products from the honey bee hives for medicinal purposes; Cover Crops in Orchards. 

To subscribe to the apiculture newsletters, access this page. Subscriptions are free. Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1976, serves as the editor of from the U.C. Apiaries (below) and Bee Briefs.

http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/Faculty/Eric_C_Mussen/Apiculture_Newsletter/

The ABC's of the Bee-a-Thon (August 21, 2013)

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   8/20/13

What Emmet Brady describes as "the wonderful world of pollination" will come to life on Wednesday, Aug. 21. 

Brady, a cultural entomologist, hosts the Insect News Network on KDRT 97.4 FM Radio, Davis, and every year he hosts a "Bee-a-Thon" to spotlight honey bees.

So, get ready for Bee-a-Thon 3!

The free multimedia event will beginonline with a series of videos about honey bees and other members of the Microcosm, including videos created by Brady and clips from previous Bee-a-Thons... 

Read more and get the full schedule...

“The interdependence we have with insects — especially bees — is profound and complex and most people are only discussing half the story," said Brady, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Hiram (Ohio) College. "The key word is biocomplexity — how human behavior fits into the global ecology. It’s also about how insects inspire and amaze our society. That will all be covered on the show.”

Brady described the Bee-a-Thon as timely; Time magazine just published a cover story on  “beepocalpyse.”

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/
Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey website at: http://kathygarvey.com/

The 13 Bugs of Christmas

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   12/25/12

It's Christmas Day and time to revisit  "The 13 Bugs of Christmas."

Back in 2010, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and yours truly came up with a song about "The 13 Bugs of Christmas." Presented at the Department of Entomology's holiday party, it drew roaring applause. Then  U.S. News featured it when reporter Paul Bedard...

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Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/
Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey website at: http://kathygarvey.com/

CSBA Convention Highlights (Tuesday, Nov. 13)

Highlights from the CSBA Convention for Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Honey Bee Nutrition -  Dr. Eric Mussen, UC Davis

We have so far not found a good substitute food for our bees. Current products are a good supplement, but not sufficient to replace natural honey and pollen.

Definition of nutrition: provision to cells of nutrients required to sustain life.


Macronutrients:

- Proteins can be digestible or indigestible (fiber). They’re made of amino acids and folded very specifically based on the electrical charge of the elements involved – the folding pattern is crucial for...

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