It's Time to Revisit the 13 Days of Christmas!

Eric Mussen, Extension emeritus (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Eric Mussen, Extension emeritus (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey December 16, 2018

It's time to revisit the "13 Bugs of Christmas!"

Back in 2010, two innovators with the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) decided that "The 12 Days of Christmas" ought to be replaced with insects.

Remember that iconic song, "The 12 Days of Christmas?" Published in 1780, it begins with "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree?" Eleven more gifts follow: "2 turtle doves, 3 French hens, 4 calling birds, 5 gold rings, 6 geese-a-laying, 7 swans-a-swimming, 8 maids a'milking, 9 ladies dancing, 10 lords-a-leaping, and 11 pipers piping."

The two innovators--Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen (with the department from 1976-2014 and now emeritus) and yours truly (with the department since 2005)--decided that "5 gold rings" ought to be "five golden bees." The duo also figured that varroa mites, and other pests of California agriculture, should be spotlighted. Don't know what happened to the varroa mites! Hey, Eric, where did you put the varroa mites?

They penned the lyrics for the department's holiday gathering. Then Mussen, who sings with a Davis-based doo wopp group, led the department in song.

That was supposed to be the end of it. Not so. It went viral when U.S. News picked it up.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a psyllid in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 2 tortoises beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 10 locusts leaping, 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 11 queen bees piping, 10 locusts leaping, 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 12 deathwatch beetles drumming, 11 queen bees piping, 10 locusts leaping, 9 mayflies dancing, 8 ants a'milking aphids, 7 boatmen swimming, 6 lice a'laying, 5 golden bees, 4 calling cicadas, 3 French flies, 2 tortoise beetles and a psyllid in a pear tree

"On the 13th day of Christmas, Californians woke to see: 13 Kaphra beetles, 12 Diaprepes weevils, 11 citrus psyllids,
10 Tropilaelaps clareae, 9 melon fruit flies, 8 Aedes aegypti, 7 ash tree borers, 6 six spotted-wing Drosophila, 5 five gypsy moths, 4 Japanese beetles, 3 imported fire ants, 2 brown apple moths, and a medfly in a pear tree."

Mussen, although retired in 2014, keeps bee-sy. A co-founder of Western Apicultural Society (WAS), he completed his sixth term as president in 2017. WAS, which serves the educational needs of beekeepers from 13 states, plus parts of Canada, was founded in 1977-78 for “the benefit and enjoyment of all beekeepers in western North America."

Mussen also continues to answer bee questions from his office in Briggs Hall and recently updated the "13 Bugs of Christmas" lyrics with some more agricultural pests:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a psyllid in a pear tree.
One the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two peach fruit flies
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three false codling moths
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four peach fruit flies
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five gypsy moths
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six white striped fruit flies
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven imported fire ants
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight longhorn beetles
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine melon fruit flies
On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten brown apple moths
On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven citrus psyllids
On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve guava fruit flies.
On the 13th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, thirteen Japanese beetles

You're welcome.

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 golden bees.” This is one of them. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 5 golden bees.” This is one of them. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A Varroa mite on a honey bee—not something beekeepers want to see on their bees! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A Varroa mite on a honey bee—not something beekeepers want to see on their bees! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A queen bee with her retinue, “On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 11 queen bees piping.” (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A queen bee with her retinue, “On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 11 queen bees piping.” (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

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)

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.

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.

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

Another Reason to Be Involved in 4-H: Think Bees!

Bug Squad   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   January 8, 2016

The 4-H Youth Development Program is an incredible opportunity for youths to learn new skills, make new friends, and become involved in leadership activities and community service projects. It's all about "Making the Best Better" and "Learn by Doing."

One of the scores of projects 4-H'ers can enroll in is entomology. That would include beekeeping!

But you don't have to be a beekeeper or be enrolled in an entomology project to enter the statewide bee essay contest. You just have to be a 4-H'er.

"Every year The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, Inc. runs a contest for the 4-Hers and this year is no exception," wrote Extension Apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in her current newsletter. "California 4-H members have participated in this national contest organized by Dr. Eric Mussen (Extension apiculturist for 38 years before his retirement in June of 2014) on the state level. Last year Dr. Mussen passed the torch onto me, but I was a little disappointed that I received no essays from the California 4-H members. So let's see if we can get your creativity buzzing."

This year's essay theme is "Bees and Pollination: How Important Is It?" Niño urges California 4-H'ers to "put your pens to paper (or fingers on your keyboard) and start telling everyone else just how important bees and pollination are to our own wellbeing." Or maybe well-bee-ing.

The deadline to submit the essays (750 and 1000 words) to Niño is Feb. 15, right after Valentine's Day. Her email is an easy one to remember, especially when El Niño is visiting us. It's

The contest details are at Essays from previous years are also posted.

"And if you need more motivation, every state's winner receives a book about bees and beekeeping," Niño says, "and the national winners receive a nice sum of money that they can put in their piggy banks. "

Yes. Each state winner goes on to compete at the national level. The national champion wins $750, while the second and third place winners will receive $500 and $250, respectively.  Plus, there's another incentive: the national-winning essays will be published in the American Beekeeping Federation's newsletter. 

Read at:

The Buzz About Honey Bees and Marijuana

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   December 15, 2015

Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, “retired” in June of 2014 after 38 years of service but his phone and keyboard at Briggs Hall gather no dust.

The honey bee guru continues to answer a range of questions. The latest concerns the effect of marijuana growing sites on honey bees.

We thought we’d share his answer, which deals with honey bees, pollinators, Cannabis, pesticides, and what could happen to beekeepers who stumble upon a pot farm.

The question: “What is the effect, good or bad, that marijuana plants and marijuana grow sites have on the honey bee? From what I understand, these grow sites are using chemicals to control pests year round. In some cases, I hear that marijuana growers are importing chemicals from Mexico that are stronger and work better to control pest.”

Mussen answered the question succinctly and openly.

“As you might guess, since marijuana is still considered an illegal plant to grow by the federal government,” he replied, “it is no surprise that there are no pesticides registered for use on the ‘crop.’ Some states are trying hard to build a list of acceptable products, but here is the problem. So far we have registered products based on contact and oral toxicities to mammals. We have only run inhalation toxicities on a few very potent and stinky products (fumigants). You can get up to 10X the dose of a chemical, from the same amount of plant mass, if you smoke it versus eating it.

“There are quite a number of websites dedicated to pot growing. When pest control becomes the topic, most sites suggest mechanical methods or use of products allowed in organic agriculture. However, those organic pesticides have not been checked for inhalation effects, either.”

“Thus, practically any pesticide that is used will be illegal. Given that, growers are apt to determine which materials work best on the pest at hand on other crops, acquire those materials, and use them. The regulators know this, and in states where marijuana currently is legal, the states are testing some of the products on the shelves to see what pesticides are in them. The samples have been found to be pretty clean, for the most part.”

Mussen acknowledged that blooming hemp plants are attractive to many pollinators. “I have no idea what the pollen and nectar might do to them when the bees consume it. We can provide a pretty good idea of what will happen when pesticide products used on other crops are applied to the bloom (at agricultural rates), but since nothing is registered, there is no way of guessing what might be used. For the standard fee of just under $400, we can send a sample of the bees or pollen to the USDA AMS pesticide residue detection lab in Gastonia, N.C., and they can tell us the residues. Butthat doesn’t help us much in terms of regulatory assistance.

“Pot growers probably won’t care if they repel or kill visiting bees,” Mussen speculated. “Pollinated blossoms become senescent too quickly, and do not produce the maximum amount of important resins if they are pollinated early in their cycle.”

“Up to this time, I have not heard of beekeepers reporting damage from pesticides applied to marijuana, but it is likely to happen before long. Beekeepers are more worried about being shot if they accidentally get too close to a pot farm.”

Stay tuned.

What to do When a Bee Truck Overturns

Bug Squad     By Kathy Keatley Garvey    November 12, 2015

A worker bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)When a bee truck overturns, all sorts of things can happen. None of them is good--unless both the people and the bees fare well. 

Bystanders panic. Bees can and do react to all the commotion by stinging the first responders and the bystanders. It's especially difficult at night.

So when Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who retired in June 2014 after 38 years of service, was asked about this, and what first responders can do, we thought we'd share the informatoin.

"It is hard to know where to start with protecting people from bee spills," he says.  "Depending upon in what part of the country it happens, the concern about loose bees varies.  In a large metropolitan area, it is likely that someone will try to put down (kill) the bees as quickly as possible.  In rural agricultural areas, the people value the bees and probably would try to salvage as many hives and bees as possible."

"Every potentially responsible agency should have a list of beekeepers to contact when such an incident happens.  The beekeepers can go to the scene, access the problem, and help clean it up."

Mussen cautions that if you respond to the scene, whether you are law enforcement, a firefighter, bulldozer or front-loader driver, towing crew, or news media, you should not exit your vehicle without wearing proper protective gear. " If you have an inkling that you may be allergic to bee stings, you should not even be at the scene.  A messy problem can turn into a life-threatening emergency when allergic people get stung." 

"Water misted into the flying bees will tend to 'ground' them, temporarily, and many will drown," he warns. "To be sure the bees are down for good, some use fire-fighting foam instead of water.  This will cause an enormous financial loss for the beekeeper, but it calms things down rather quickly.  If the bees form a gigantic cluster under an overpass, the bees can be salvaged or, in at least one case, burned up using a flame thrower."

"People should understand that it takes quite a while to upright the hives and get the frames back into them," Mussen says. "They should also know that the bees are not likely to go back into the hives, on their own, until nighttime." Bees do not fly at night.

"If the bees are being 'rescued,' someone has to help haul away the up-righted hives and put them in a safe place," Mussen points out. "Not infrequently the assisting, anonymous beekeepers leave with the hives and never return them to the owner.  Some empty hives have to be left at the scene to collect the remaining bees that are flying around.  They can be picked up early the next morning."

Those are just some considerations, Mussen says. "Every event is different.  If the emergency folks have met with a few beekeepers to talk about what to do, it will go a lot easier if it ever happens."

Good advice.

A truck loaded with bee hives. Photo taken through a car window. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)Read at:

All the Buzz: The Hive and the Honey Bee

Bug Squad   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  November 3, 2015

It's out.

The newly published edition of The Hive and the Honey Bee edited by American Bee Journal editor Joe Graham, is now a reality.

This is the bible of the beekeeping world, and rightfully so. It was first published in 1853--which, by the way, happens to be the same year that the European honey bee arrived in California.

Apiarist, minister, and teacher L. L. Langstroth (1810-1895), “The Father of American Beekeeping,” wrote the first edition, then called Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey Bee. 

The Hive and the Honey Bee, last updated in 1992, is a massive effort. Published by Dadant, the 1057-page book is the work of dozens of national and international icons in beekeeping science and the beekeeping industry. The book traces the global history of beekeeping to modern day apiculture and spotlights the progress, problems and achievements along the way. European colonists brought the honey bee to America (Jamestown colony) in 1622. 

Three bee specialists with ties to UC Davis each wrote a chapter: Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology; Eric Mussen, Extension apicuturist emeritus; and bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, now with Washington State University. (Yours truly provided several dozen bee photos.)

Gary wrote a chapter on “Activities and Behavior of Honey Bees"; Mussen, “Injury to Honey Bees by Poisoning"; and Cobey, “Instrumental Insemination of Honey Bee Queens.”

“It has taken us until the 21st Century to realize just how important these hardworking insects are and their significance in the integrity of the environment is, at least, beginning to be fully understood,” wrote Richard Jones, director emeritus of the International Bee Research Association, Cardiff, United Kingdom, in the first chapter. “There are many threats to honey bees and the possibility of their demise has sharpened interest in them and in turn led to further investigating, scientific research and the dissemination of more material on their management and well-being.”

Gary opened his chapter with “The activities and behaviors of honey bees haven't changed significantly in thousands of years! What has changed is our understanding of how and why bees behave as they do.”

Gary, who retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career, specialized in research in honey bee behavior, especially mating, foraging, stinging and communication. A noted bee wrangler., he trained bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. Among his credits: 18 films, including “Fried Green Tomatoes”; more than 70 television shows, including the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; six commercials, and hundreds of live Thriller Bee Shows in the Western states.

Mussen began his chapter with “Honey bees have been exposed to naturally occurring intoxicants and poisons for tens of millions of years. Their exposure was limited mostly to toxicants that were components of nectar and pollen or naturally occurring gases such as methane from anaerobic breakdown of organic wastes.”

“While flying as many as four miles from the hive in their quest for water, nectars, pollens and propolis, a fifty-square mile potential area of coverage, forages are likely to encounter many different chemicals and organisms,” Mussen wrote.

Mussen, who retired in 2014, served 38 years as the Extension apiculturist, headquartered in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.  During his academic career, he conducted a program focused primarily on his role as a liaison between the academic world of apiculture and real world beekeeping and crop pollination.  Known as a "honey bee guru," Mussen continues to share his bee expertise from his Briggs Hall office.

In her chapter on instrumental insemination, Cobey wrote: “The ability to control honey bee mating is essential for stock improvement and a valuable research tool.  Instrumental insemination provides complete control of the random honey be mating behavior.”

Cobey noted that queens “mate in flight with an average of 10 to 20 drones in congregating areas consisting of 10,000 to 30,000 drones from diverse genetic sources.”

Former manager of the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Cobey served UC Davis from 2007 to 2012 when she joined the WSU Department of Entomology. With a strong background in practical bee breeding for the commercial industry, she developed a collaborative honey bee stock improvement and maintenance program, partnering with the California queen producers. She coordinated a project to develop techniques for the international transport of honey beegermplasm. Under a permit from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS),  germplasm collected from Old World European honey bees was successfully imported and incorporated into domestic breeding stocks to enhance U.S. honey bees. Cobey developed information and outreach programs to assist beekeepers in honey bee breeding methods, providing instructional material and workshops in queen rearing and instrumental insemination,  presented locally  and internationally.

Norm Gary, Eric Mussen, Susan Cobey--three UC Davis scientists who made a difference in the beekeeping world and are sharing their expertise.

The "bee bible" belongs on the bookshelf of every bee scientist, beekeeper, and bee enthusiast. 

(Editor's Note: The price for the new edition is $54.50 plus shipping, and the books can be ordered now from the Dadant web site: or purchased at any of the Dadant branches. The toll-free order line for the Hamilton, Ill., home office is 1-888-922-1293.)

Ask the Naturalist: Why Do Bees Clean Themselves?

Bay Nature  By Eric Mussen and Elina Nino   July 30, 2015

Photo: Dann Thombs/Flickr
Bay Nature’s marketing director had a recent experience with a very tidy-looking honeybee:

“I was sitting in my car this afternoon when I noticed a cute little bee on my windshield appearing to desperately clean something off itself. At first I thought, oh no, it fell into something and now it’s going to die from whatever contaminated it. I took a cup and put the bee inside, but it rebelled and flew out. When I returned home I googled it and learned that bees do this — clean off pollen, etc. — and especially their eyes before flying home to their hives!”

We decided to get to the bottom of this extraordinary bee behavior and reached out to Eric Mussen, an entomologist at the Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. He and colleague Elina Nino, an Extension apiculturist, sent in this explanation:

Answer: The inside of a bee hive is considered to be a pretty clean environment. The bees produce honey there and we eat it. But, why are honey bees and their hive so clean? It is in their genes.

Honey bees are akin to animated robots that move around in their environment responding to stimuli with behaviors that have served them well for millions of years. Building wax combs to use for food storage and baby bee production allows the bees to keep tens of thousands of bees huddled close together. However, if any type of microbial outbreak occurs, all this closeness could lead to an epidemic and colony death.

The bees exhibit a behavior that deals with that problem. They collect resins from various plant sources. They return to the hive with these sticky masses where their sisters help to unload them. Beekeepers call this substance bee glue (propolis) because it is used to fill small cracks in the hive and cements the boxes together. It also is mixed with beeswax and used as a thin varnish to line the walls of the hives and sometimes portion of combs. Those resins have surprising antimicrobial properties that are effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. So, the bees are encased in a shell of antibiotics. Some have suggested that the inside of a hive is as clean as a hospital room, but we are not quite sure about that.

As for the bees themselves, it is common to see them using their legs or mouthparts to clean off other parts of their bodies. For bees, we might think that they are simply moving around or brushing off pollen that they picked up when foraging. However, honey bees live in a suit of armor called an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton is waterproof and protects the insects from invasive microbes. But bees also have to sense what is going on around them, so they have sensory receptors on the surface of their exoskeleton. The most obvious sensory organs on bees are their compound eyes. Honey bees can see objects, detect polarized sunlight, and have good color discrimination, similar to that of humans, but shifted a bit in the color spectrum. Bees wipe their eyes every so often to keep them clean. We humans have eye lids that keep our eyes clean and moist.

The rest of the sensory organs on the exoskeleton are sensilla (stiff hairs and protuberances) or pits that serve as sensory receptors. The tips of honey bees’ antennae have many touch receptors, odor receptors, and a special sensory organ called Johnston’s organ that tells them how fast they are flying. Other sensilla bend when the bee changes positions, so it remains aligned with gravity when it is building comb cells. Sensilla on a queen bee’s antennae help her determine the size of a comb cell, which determines if she lays a worker- or drone-destined egg. So, all those sensilla must remain dust and pollen-free to function properly, allowing bees to remain as busy as, well, bees.

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Project Apis m. - December 2014 Newsletter



Director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m, Meg Ribotto, was the recipient of the California State Beekeepers Dr. Eric Mussen Distinguished Service Award at their 125th Annual Convention in Valencia, CA. In 2010, Meg launched the first comprehensive Best Management Practices program for honey bees. This was followed by the initiation of the "Seed for Bees" project to build better bee health through improved nutrition. Using a combination of traditional and social media and by personally working with landowners, Meg put 2,500 acres of seed in the ground for bee habitat in 2013. Her efforts this year produced nearly 3,000 acres of bee forage. Total plantings for these two years exceed $.25 million in seed to help honey bees. Meg is editor of the California Bee Times, the PAm enewsletter and Almond Facts Bee Box. She is well-deserving of this Distinguished Service Award!

Read PAm's December 2104 Newsletter

A Gathering of Beekeepers: Follow That Buzz!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   October 21, 2014

Follow that buzz! 

When the California State Beekeepers' Association, founded in 1889, meets Nov. 18-20 in Valencia for its 2014 convention, it will mark a milestone: 125 years of beekeeping. Not so coincidentally, the theme is "Celebrating 125 Years of California Beekeeping."

And to think that California's first honey bees are "fairly new" newcomers: they didn't arrive in the Golden State (San Jose area) until 1853.

The conference promises to be educational, informative, timely and fun. "We will hear about things going on in the world of beekeeping on the local, state, and national levels," said CSBA president Bill Lewis, who lives in the San Fernando Valley and maintains 650 colonies of bees (Bill's Bees) with his wife, Liane, and business partner, Clyde Steese.

Topics range from “Keeping Bees Safe in Almonds" and “Land Trusts Working with Beekeepers," to "Mead Making" and "Urban Beekeeping, Beginner to Advanced."

Among the hot topics: Entomologist Reed Johnson of The Ohio State University will speak on  “The Effects of Bee Safe Insecticide" on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Biologist Thomas Seeley of Cornell University will speak on "Survivor Population of European Honey Bees Living Wild in New York State” at the research luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 20. He is also scheduled for two other talks, "Honeybee Democracy" (the title of one of his books) and "The Bee Hive as a Honey Factory," both on Nov. 20. In addition, speakers will address such topics as forage, land management, queen health, genetic diversity, and pests and diseases.

One of the featured presentations will be the richly illustrated documentary, "Almond Odyssey," a look at California's almond pollination season, the world's largest managed pollination event. The state's 900,000 acres of almonds draw beekeepers and their bees from all over the country.

The gathering of beekeepers will include multiple generations of family-owned commercial beekeeping operations, bee hobbyists, and those hoping to start their very first bee hive, Lewis says. They're there to learn the latest about beekeeping from world-renowned researchers and industry authorities. 

The University of California, Davis, is expected to be well represented. Amina Harris, director of theHoney and Pollination Center, UC Davis, will speak Wednesday, Nov. 19 on  “Honey Wheel” and “California Master Beekeeper." Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology serves as the organization's current apiculturist and parliamentarian (as well as a frequent speaker). He will introduce the new Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Nino in a Nov. 20th presentation titled "California Extension Apiculturist--Passing the Torch." (For a complete list of sessions and speaker biographies and to register for the conferene,  access the CSBA website.) 
CSBA's mission is to support and promote commercial beekeepers and pollination services in California's agricultural farmlands. Each year funds raised at the CSBA convention go to research. Researchers attend the conference and provide updates. They are in "the front lines of the bee health battle," Lewis noted.  

The conference (as well as membership in CSBA) is open to all interested persons.



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UC Davis Department of Entomology Newsletter for July/August 2014

from the U.C. Apiaries   By Dr. Eric Mussen    July/August 2014

With the permission of Dr. Eric Mussen, we have attached latest newsletter:"from the U.C. Apiaries," the U.C. Davis Department of Entomology July/August 2014 Apiary Newsletter.

"This is the last newsletter for which I will be solely responsible.  Our newly acquired Extension Apiculturist, Dr. Elina Nino, will decide shortly on how she will handle the newsletter business, but I will keep the list available for her use.  Unlike Dr. Malcolm Sanford, I am signing off.  So, Malcolm your “Apis” newsletter will outlast my nearly 39-year run.

I wish everyone the best of luck in all your beekeeping and bee-related endeavors in the future."  Eric.

(Note: For more on Dr. Eric Mussen and Dr. Enina Nino, see Kathy Keatley Garvey's September 5th blog:

Better Statistics for the Bees

Bug Squad - Happenings in the insect world    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   September 5, 2014

The bees. What about the bees? How are they doing?

Better, says retired Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who today published the last edition of his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries. Last? "Or, it's the last edition I'm solely responsible for."

Mussen retired in June after 38 years of service. Now it's "Welcome, Elina Lastro," who joined the department this week. 

"The summary data from this spring's suvey on winter colony loss is available for review on, the public's entry to information from the...


Keeping Bees

Bug Squad - Happenings in the insect world   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    August 19, 2014 

So you want to keep bees in your backyard...

When do you start? What should you do?

Newly retired Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, continues to field questions. He's kindly agreed to respond to beekeeping queries until the new Extension apiculturist, Elina Lastro Niño of...


Honey Bees Need Water, Too!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  July 8, 2014

These triple-digit temperatures make us all thirst for water.

Honey bees need water, too.

If you see them taking a sip from your birdbath or taking a dip in your pool, the "sip" means they're collecting water for their hive, and the "dip" could mean they're dying, says retired Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

"Like most other animals, the bodies of honey bees are mostly water," he points out. "Thus, they need to drink water routinely as we do.  Additionally...

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Colony Collapse Disorder: Still With Us?

Green Blog/Green News-UC Agriculture & Natural Resources  By Kathy Keatley Garvey  May 28, 2014

He's asked this question a lot. 

"Does colony collapse disorder (CCD) still exist?"

Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis says "yes."

But the winter losses are being attributed to many other causes. "Less than 10 percent of the losses are now attributed to CCD," Mussen points out.

CCD surfaced in the fall of 2006 when beekeepers starting seeing their colonies decimated. They'd open the hive, only to find the queen, the brood and the food stores. The adult workers? Gone. 

"CCD still exists and it appears as though in cases where multiple other stresses combine to severely weaken the bees, then  viruses can overwhelm the immune system and the bees fly away and die," Mussen says. "We do not know what causes apparently-sick bees to fly from the hive, and we still have a difficult time describing how all the bees could become affected so swiftly."

"As colony losses mounted, the beekeepers had to spend even more time monitoring the conditions of their colonies. They noted things that might be done to prevent some problems that seemed to be starting. So, we are better at preventing the losses, but the percentage for about 25 percent of our beekeepers is still way too high."

Mussen says that "the other 75 percent of the beekeepers are doing relatively well (5-15 percent losses), so we have leveled off in national colony numbers. If the 25 percent can better determine what is going wrong, we should see improved data in the future."

Scientists attribute CCD to a combination of causes, including pests, pesticides, viruses, diseases, malnutrition, and stress. The No. 1 problem in the hives, they agree, is the varroa mite. Mussen writes about those topics - and others in his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries and "Bee Briefs." Both are available free on his website.

Mussen, who is retiring in June after 38 years of service, was recently named the recipient of the 2013-14 Distinguished Service Award, sponsored by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Mussen devotes his research and extension activities toward the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices. Mussen, who joined the UC Davis department in 1976, is known throughout the state, nation and world as “the honey bee guru” and “the pulse of the bee industry" and as "the go-to person" when consumers, scientists, researchers, students and the news media have questions about honey bees.

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Rapini! Rapini! Rapini!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey       4/21/14

Honey bee population declining? 

You wouldn't know it if you were to visit the two rapini patches in front of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.

“The bees love the rapini,” said Laidlaw manager and staff research associate Billy Synk, who planted the seeds given him by Project Apis m.

Project apis m., a moniker derived from Apis mellifera, the scientific name of the European honey bee, funds and directs research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production. It's based in Paso Robles, Calif.  Take a look at the organization's website:  "We've infused over $2.5 million into bee research since our inception in 2006 to provide growers with healthier bees resulting in better pollination and increased crop yields.  We have personal relationships with the nation's commercial beekeepers and with the top bee scientists in the country."

"We fund research studies, purchase equipment for bee labs at our universities, support graduate students and provide scholarships to young bee scientists to encourage their pursuit of science-based solutions to honey bee challenges." 

Its eight-member board includes beekeepers and industry leaders. Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis is a longtime scientific advisor.

And rapini? It's a green cruciferous vegetable from the mustard family. The leaves, buds and stems are edible and often served in restaurants throughout the world. If you were in Italy, you'd eat the cimi di rapa or rapini. In Naples, it's known as friarielli and sometimes broccoli di rapa, according to Wikipedia. If you were in Rome, broccoletti. And in Portugal and Spain, grelos.

The bees know it as simply food for their colonies. Good stuff.  (In addition to rapini, PAm encourages folks to plant lovers, vetch, allysum, and native wildflowers as bee pasture.)

One thing's for certain: If you plan to participate in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' pollinator count for a three-minute period on Thursday, May 8 your eyes will tire from counting all the bees in the rapini!

Like to participate?  See the UC ANR's website, Day of Science and Service. You can also photograph pollinators and post the images on the website for all to see and enjoy.

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Bees and Onions Go Together:

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    4/9/14

The University of California, Davis, is a world leader in seed, plant and agricultural sciences. Some 100 seed and seed-related companies are located near UC Davis and benefit greatly from its proximity, but the influence of UC Davis extends throughout the USA and far beyond.--Seed Central

So it stands to reason that Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will keynote a Seed Central-affiliated conference on Thursday, April 10 on the Davis campus. He'll speak on "Honey Bees in Seed Crop Pollination" at 6 p.m. in the UC Davis Conference Center.

Mussen serves as the Extension apiculturist for the entire state, but is...

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Eye on the Buckeye

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  3/26/14

It won't bloom until summer, but already many eyes are on the California buckeye.

The tree's blossoms are poisonous to honey bees.  Bees are attracted to them and forage on them, but the end result of the food provisions to the colony can be deformed larval development.

We've seen bee hives within a quarter of a mile of California buckeyes (Aesculus californica). And we've seen honey bees, native bees and other pollinators foraging on the blossoms. 


At the recent UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen talked about the poisonous plants. (See PowerPoint presentations.) That led to one workshop participant wondering if the flowers of the California buckeye are poisonous to native bees. (Honey bees are not native; the European colonists brought them to the Jamestown colony, Virginia, in 1622).

Responded Mussen...


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