A Honey Of A Day - And It Gets Better!

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey    August 18, 2017

Elina Lastro Niño Saturday, Aug. 19 promises to be a honey of a day--in more ways than one! And it gets better!

It's National Honey Bee Day or National Honey Bee Awareness Day, launched in 2009 by newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsak during his first year of office with the Obama Administration.

The goals are the same as those in 2009:

Promote and advance beekeeping

Educate the public about honey bees and beekeeping

Ensure that the public is aware of environmental concerns affecting honey bees

It's a day when we applaud our bees, and the bee scientists, beekeepers, commercial breeders, and all the educational, scientific and research organizations that friend them, fund them, or fuel them.

Indeed, one third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. What many folks don't realize is that honey bees are not native to the United States. European colonists brought them here in 1622, and it wasn't until 1853 when a beekeeper in the San Jose area introduced them to California.

Statistics provided by the National Honey Bee Day officials, help tell the story of the industry:

For every 100 beekeepers, 95 percent are hobbyists, 4 percent are sideliners, and 1 percent are commercial beekeepers.

Beekeeping dates back at least 4500 years.

Beekeeping can be a sustainable endeavor.

Renting bees to farmers in need of pollination generates a source of income.

Beehives are kept on farms, in backyards, on balconies, and high-rise rooftops, all across the country.

Bees will also take center stage at the 40th annual conference of the Western Apicultural Society(WAS) at the University of California, Davis. The conference, to take place Sept. 5-8 in the Activities and Recreation Center, is quite special because the organization was founded at UC Davis. WAS president is Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology promises an educational program, complete with speakers, networking, tours and a silent auction.

Among those speaking will be Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, who will address the crowd on "The Impact of Varroa on Honey Bee Reproductive Castes (Queen Bee, Worker Bee and Drone): Where Will the Research Lead Us?” Her talk is at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7.

A varroa mite on a drone pupa (male bee pupa). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey) Niño, based in Briggs Hall and at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, wears a number of hats, including the protective bee veil. Through her extension activities, she works to support beekeepers and the beekeeping industry. Her lab offers a variety of beekeeping courses and educational opportunities for beekeepers, future beekeepers, other agricultural professionals and the public. Most recently, her lab has implemented the first-ever California Master Beekeeper Program. (E. L. Niño bee lab courses: http://eepurl.com/cjRern, CAMBP interest list: http://eepurl.com/cjRzY1). She serves as the faculty director of UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's half-acre bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located next to the Laidlaw facility.

Her research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding the synergistic effects of pesticides on queen health and adult workers in order to improve beekeeping management practice, testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, a major pest of bees, and understanding the benefits of supplemental forage in almond orchards on honey bee health. (Read her apiary newsletters, access her lab website at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/ or her lab Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/)

Writer Stephanie Parreira of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) recently interviewed Niño for a podcast on bee pests and how to manage them, using IPM methods. The podcast appears on the UC ANR Green Blog. You can read the transcript here.

Niño mentioned that varroa mites remain the key concern of beekeepers. "In fact, when I first started my position here as an extension specialist at UC Davis, I asked beekeepers what is one of the things that they would like me to focus on, and about ninety-nine percent of them said varroa mites," she said in the podcast. "Varroa mites are a problem because they basically suck honey bee blood, or honey bee hemolymph, they transmit viruses, [and] they can suppress immune genes in developing and adult bees. So they can kill the colony, basically, if they're not managed properly. We have seen in our own colonies that if we do not treat or manage varroa mites, we know that we will lose that colony over winter."

If you're interested in attending the WAS conference and learning more about bees, you can register here.  The speakers represent a wide spectrum of expertise and topics, from top-bar beekeeping to pesticides to how to keep your colonies healthy.  Or, you can contact President Mussen at ecmussen@ucdavis.edu for more information.  


http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24934

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.

Read at... http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=14107

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.

Read at and view images: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=13660

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Watching the Girls Go By

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    3/29/14

Pull up a chair and engage in a little "girl-watching."

That is, honey bees heading home to their colony.

Many beekeepers, especially beginning beekeepers, like to watch their worker bees--they call them "my girls"--come home. They're loaded with pollen this time of year. Depending on the floral source, it may be yellow, red, white, blue, red or colors in between.

Below, the girls are heading home to a bee observation hive located inside the conference room of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis. 

 

They're bringing in food for the colony: pollen and nectar. They also collect water and propolis (plant resin). This is a matriarchal society where females do all the work in the hive. The worker bees--aptly named--serve as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue specialists," air conditioning and/or heating technicians, guards and undertakers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The glassed-in bee observation hive is indeed a popular and educational attraction to watch the queen lay eggs (she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day during peak season), the comb construction, honey production, pollen storage and all the other activities. The sisters feed the colony, including the queen and their brothers (drones). A drone's responsibility is solely reproduction, and that takes place in mid-air when a virgin queen takes her maiden flight. After mating, he dies. Done. That's it.

Meanwhile, life continues inside the hive.

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Carpenter Bees Like Almond Blossoms, Too

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...

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Color Them Hungry

 Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   9/3/13

As summer nears its end, the honey bees are hungry.

That's why Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology advocates that we plant flowers for late summer and fall to help the bees. Often we think of spring as the season for planting bee plants, but mid- to late summer and fall is when they really need our help.

Malnutrition is one of the factors suspected in colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious malardy in which adult bees abandon the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, immature brood and food stores. Other factors in the declining bee population include pesticides, pests, diseases and stress.

If you look around, you'll see bees foraging in Northern California on blanket flower(Gaillardia), sedum (family Crassulaceae) and late-blooming towers of jewels (Echium wildpretii).

And the lavenders, salvias (sages) and the mints.

Coming soon: the Neal Williams lab at the University of California, Davis, is compiling a list of bee plants that will be posted on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.

Current resources? The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation features plant lists on its site. The UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab maintains a wealth of information about plants and pollinators on its site. There's even a Bee Smart app, offered free by the Pollinator Partnership, that will enable you to browse through about 1000 native plants.

Some of my favorite honey bee plants: the lavenders, the salvias, sunflowers, catmint, sedum, blanket flowers, oregano, artichoke, zinnias, cosmos, borage, bush germander, buckwheat, basil, ceanothus, coneflowers, seaside daisies, red hot poker, and of course, the tower of jewels, which, in height, towers over them all.

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at: http://ucanr.org/blogs/bugsquad/
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What a Wonderful Gift!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  6/26/13

Bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, received a generous gift of $30,000, thanks to Debra "Debbie" Jamison of Fresno, California state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR),

Jamison, who has always loved bees and appreciated their work, spearheaded the DAR drive. She recently presented...

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Bees Age Faster When They Raise Offspring

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    6/25/13

The headline drew us in: "Bees Age Faster When They Raise Offspring."

It came from ScienceNow, the online edition of Science Magazine.

How many times have you heard a parent say "See all those gray hairs? Kids! Kids will do that to you!"

So it was interesting to read Paul Gabrielsen of ScienceNow comment on research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology about bee aging. 

"Researchers have found that nurturing the hive's progeny accelerates aging in the insects," he wrote. "In summer, worker honey bees usually spend several weeks feeding the queen's new larvae. Workers then change careers, living out their days as pollen-collecting foragers. They die a mere 2 weeks after making the switch, showing a steep decline in brain function. But bees born just before winter, without a brood to nourish, live nearly a year."

The article in the Journal of Experimental Biology apparently hasn't been released to the public, but the bottom line is that researchers reared two groups of winter bees in a summerlike environment: Group 1 nursed the brood, and Group 2 had no brood to nurse. The first group went from hive bees to field bees, living another two weeks. But the second group lived up to 10 weeks.  Gabrielsen said the "researchers noticed high levels of lipofuscin, an 'age pigment,' in short-lived foragers and much lower levels in longer-lived bees."

The oldest-looking bee we've ever seen was a Caucasian or black bee (originating from the Caucus Mountains) that we photographed foraging in our back yard. This photo occupies a spot on a wall at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.

"An old lady" is what the bee scientists call her. "Not long for this world."

Since a bee reared in the spring or summer usually lives about four to six weeks (the first half of life inside the hive and the second half, outside the hive), we wonder about this bee's life span.

Ten weeks?

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=10702

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Symphony in the almond blossoms!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  2/22/13

There's a wild almond tree planted in a field off Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, that's incredibly beautiful.

Honey bees from the nearby apiary at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility reunite on the blossoms, each bee seemingly vying for the best pollen to take back to her hive.

The tree is not quite in full bloom, but don't tell that to the bees. We captured a few images of them in flight, a...

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Bee My Valentine

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  2/14/13 

It's nice to remember the honey bee on Valentine's Day. You'll see many Valentine cards  inscribed with "Bee My Valentine" and featuring a photo of a bee.

Many of those photos depict a queen bee, the mother of all bees in the hive.

To be a queen, she'll need to be fed royal jelly as a larva. The nurses bees feed the otther larvae a regular worker diet that includes pollen. 

"Queen larvae are fed royal jelly throughout larval development, providing a...

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As the Worm Turns

 Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  11/6/12

There it was.

A green caterpillar, aka larva, aka worm, occupied a blanket flower (Gaillardia) last Friday morning in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre pollinator garden on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis.

Soon a honey bee from the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility landed on it. And then a...

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