UC Davis Apiculture Newsletter-Spring 2017

Elina L. Niño, Ph.D., Extension Apiculturist

Dear readers,

We hope you are buzzing with excitement for the new season!  We are quite busy ourselves and are working on several new projects. You can read more about it in our Spring Newsletter. Let us know if you have any questions and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it.


Elina L. Niño, Ph.D.
Extension Apiculturist
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Faculty Director
California Master Beekeeper Program, Director
Department of Entomology and Nematology
University of California, Davis
Davis, CA 95616Office: 37D Briggs HallField Office: 117 Harry H. Laidlaw Jr.Honey Bee Research FacilityEmail: elnino@ucdavis.edu

E. L. Niño Bee Lab: http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu
CAMBP: http://cambp.ucdavis.edu
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elninolab  

To sign up for updates on:
E. L. Niño Bee Lab Courses: http://eepurl.com/cjRern
CAMBP interest list: http://eepurl.com/cjRzY1

A New Wasp Species?

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   November 19, 2015

Stacy Rice of the Larry Godfrey lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, wearing the winning t-shirt she designed. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)If you're trying to fuse art with science and want to draw a wasp on a penny-farthing, but the legs are too short to reach the pedals, there's only one thing to do: lengthen the legs!

And create a "new species" of wasp in the process.

A penny-farthing, as the UC Davis community knows, is also called a high wheel bicycle or high wheeler. The front wheel is much larger than the rear wheel.  And a wasp, as entomologists know, belongs to the order Hymenoptera, which includes bees, ants and wasps. 

The end result of the art/science fusion project: the winning entry in the annual T-shirt contest sponsored by the Entomology Graduate Students' Association, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

“I wanted to draw a penny-farthing, which is part of the UC Davis culture,” said winning artist Stacey Rice, a junior specialist in the lab of Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey. “Then I wanted an insect that would be able to put its abdomen on the seat and have long enough legs to reach the pedals.”

The t-shirt, now available to the public, first went on sale at the Entomological Society of America meeting Nov. 15-18 in Minneapolis.

“I love the new design and think it translated very well on the t-shirts,” said EGSA treasurer and entomology graduate student Cindy Preto of the Frank Zalom lab.  “I expect it to be a great seller.”

In the Godfrey lab, Rice doesn't work with wasps. She does research on Bagrada bugs (Bagrada hilaris), an invasive stink bug from Africa known for attacking cole crops, including broccoli, cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and mustard.

An alumnus of UC Davis, Rice received her bachelor's degree in biological sciences with a minor in veterinary entomology in March 2015. Her goal is to attend graduate school and receive her doctorate, either in integrated pest management (IPM) or forensic entomology.

She became interested in both IPM and forensic entomology after enrolling in a “behavioral ecology of insects” course taught by Edwin Lewis, associate dean for agricultural sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Rice, who grew up in Roseville and graduated from Oakmont High School, enjoys combining art with science in her ceramic art classes at the UC Davis Crafts Center.

Preto is taking orders for the t-shirt and other designs atcrpreto@ucdavis.edu. All proceeds benefit EGSA.

The "Hymenoptera on Bicycle" t-shirt can be ordered in unisex heather navy with white lettering ($15 for small, medium, large, extra large and 2x); youth navy with white lettering ($15 for small, medium and large); and women's cut, heather red with light yellow lettering ($17 for small, medium and large).

EGSA also plans to launch an online store by Dec. 1. The t-shirts from years past will include "The Beetles" (reminiscent of The Beatles' Abbey Road album),  a weevil (See no weevil, hear no weevil, speak no weevil), a dung beetle, honey bee and comb, and a "wanna bee."

Among the other favorites is "Entomology's Most Wanted." Former graduate students Nicholas Herold and Emily Bzydk featured "bug shots" (a take-off of "mug shots") of the malaria mosquito (Anopheles gambiae), the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) bed bug, (Cimex lecturalius), and the housefly(Musca domestica). They're among the most hated of insects.

The wasp on a wheel is probably destined to become a favorite, too, especially among the bicycling and insect science communities. 

That's how we roll at UC Davis!

Read at: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=19579


The Bees Have It!

Bug Squad    By Cathy Keatley Garvey  May 29, 2015

If you missed the first-ever UC Davis Bee Symposium on keeping bees healthy, not to worry

The event, hosted May 9 in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science by the Honey and Pollination Centerand the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, drew some 360 people.

Entomology doctoral candidate Matthew Prebus of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, video-recorded the presentations and uploaded them today.

You can watch them on YouTube.

Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, and Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, welcomed the crowd.

Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight Professor, University of Minnesota and a 2010 MacArthur Fellow, keynoted the symposium, speaking on "Helping Bees Stand on Their Own Six Feet."

The presentations on YouTube:

Marla Spivak: Protecting Pollinators

Amy Toth: Combined Effects of Viruses and Nutritional Stress on Honey Bee Health

Elina Niño: Best Management Practices to Support Honey Bee Health

Neal Williams: Enhancing Forage for Bees

Sarah Laird: The Bee Girl

Jake Reisdorf: Getting into Beekeeping- Thoughts from a 12-year-old Beekeeper

Katharina Ullman: Project Integrated Crop Pollination

John Miller: Keeping Bees Healthy with Forage

Benjamin Sallman: Bee Informed Partnership

Gretchen LeBuhn: The Giant Sunflower Project

Christine Casey: Introduction to the Häagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation generously provided funding.

Upcoming blog: Who won the student poster competition at the symposium and with what topics?


UCD Emposium Attendees Learn How to Keep Pollinators Safe

The Davis Enterprises   By Felicia Alverez   May 12, 2015

Marla Spivak addresses attendees at Saturday's Bee Symposium at UC Davis. (Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo)

The air was abuzz with new beekeeping studies and strategies at the first Bee Symposium held Saturday at the UC Davis Conference Center. Nearly 400 academics, farmers and beekeepers were in attendance to hear a full day of speakers who explored topics in management, pesticides and balanced bee diets.

As pollinators, bees are a critical resource for agriculture. Some crops, such as almonds, cannot pollinate and produce a crop without the help of bees.

Today, bees face an array of difficulties in the form of nutritional stresses, disease, pesticides and harmful mites that can knock out entire colonies. Attendees at the symposium discussed how to combat these challenges.

Pesticides were a main concern, with several talks debating the extent to which different pesticides harm bees.

Brian Johnson, an assistant professor of entomology at UCD, picked apart the topic of neonicotinoids, a common class of insecticide. Seattle, Portland and the European Union have banned the use of neonicotinoids, Johnson said.

Though there aren’t any bans on these insecticides in California, “You could imagine a city like San Francisco trying to pass a similar ordinance,” he said.

Taking a look at the way bees encounter the contaminant, however, may be able to determine how harmful these insecticides are to bees. Johnson emphasized that honeybees don’t eat the nectar that comes into contact with pesticides; bees forage the nectar and then give it to other bees that process the nectar to turn it into honey.

“Bees detoxify their food,” Johnson said, pointing out that the bees have an enzyme that can break down the pesticide, keeping it away from the honey.

Johnson’s lab found that neither the bees processing the nectar nor the bees foraging the nectar had measurable effects from the pesticide.

“Neonicotinoids are not all bad,” Johnson said, in his concluding remarks. “They’re better than pesticides of the past.”

Compared to the agricultural benefits seen in the pesticide, Johnson said he isn’t sure if honeybees would see benefits worth removing the pesticide from shelves.

Not all bees are safe from pesticides, however.

Keynote speaker Marla Spivak, of the University of Minnesota, pointed out that while honeybee larvae feast on honey, other native species feed off of nectar directly.

Spivak presented research detailing how other species of bees hibernate in the ground, leaving their larvae to feed off of the pollen during the winter months. If the nectar is contaminated with a pesticide, it could kill off the young bees, she said.

Spivak’s research also compared survival rates in bee colonies in different types of farms. In areas where corn, soybeans and wheat were the primary crops, up to 45 percent of a bee colony was lost compared to more open, pasture settings that saw losses up to 12 percent.

Adequate and varied food sources for bees was a topic addressed throughout the symposium.

Like humans who need a balanced died with a variety of food sources, bees also need a variety of floral sources to collect different types of pollen, said Elina Niño, a bee specialist with UCD Cooperative Extension.

Anyone can lend a hand to bees, she said: “Even if you’re not a beekeeper … try to plant a variety of plants in your garden to help the bees.”

Niño offered other tips for beekeepers to keep their colonies healthy, such as washing equipment to keep diseases at bay and maintaining good hygiene throughout a beekeeping operation.

“Even though it might be a beekeeper badge of honor to have that black beekeeping suit, you might want to consider washing it,” she joked.

For agriculturists trying to keep bees in mind, Niño suggested that if spraying pesticides is necessary, spraying should be avoided during bloom when bees are most active. Growers also could apply pesticides in the afternoons and evenings when bees have returned to the nest, Niño said.

The Bee Symposium concluded with a reception at the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on the western part of UCD’s campus, a physical example of the ways that bees can thrive peacefully among varied foliage and agricultural settings.

Read at: http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/ag-environment/ucd-symposium-attendees-learn-how-to-keep-pollinators-safe/

Keeping Bees Healthy: Bee Symposium on May 9th at UC Davis Center

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   January 16, 2015

Distinguished McKnight Professor and 2010 MacArthur Fellow Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota, will keynote a University of California, Davis symposium on ”Keeping Bees Healthy," hosted May 9 by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Spivak will speak on "Helping Bees Stand on Their Own Six Feet." The symposium, set for m 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., will take place in the UC Davis Conference Center on Alumni Drive.

“This educational program is designed for beekeepers of all experience levels, including gardeners, farmers and anyone interested in the world of pollination and bees...

Read more... http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=16497

Update: 2/4/15: If you're planning to attend the #ucdavis bee symposium featuring Marla Spivak, you ought to hurry. Just head that tickets are going fast. Student tickets discounted. 

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...

Continue reading: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=14566

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

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

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

Bee Stunt: A First and a Last

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

It was Norm Gary's last bee wrangling stunt. And it was Barbara Allen-Diaz' first close-up encounter with bees.

The occasion: Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), was on the UC Davis campus recently to fulfill her UC Promise for Education. Last October she vowed that if she received $2500 in contributions for UC students, she...


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

Spaced Out

By Christine Casey   May 19, 2014

“How many plants do I need?” “How should I space my plants?” are two of the common questions we hear at the Honey Bee Haven when visitors ask about designing their bee gardens. Among the factors ecologists use to evaluate how bees use a floral resource are patch size, floral diversity, and floral density.

Patch size is the area covered by the desired resource (flowering plants) in a habitat that is fragmented. Floral diversity is the number of different species of flowering plants in an area, while floral density is the number of flowering plants in an area.

For honey bees, patch size is key. The scout bees return to the hive and direct their sisters to a good resource. Honey bees are efficient foragers that will visit many flowers on one plant until they have a full load of pollen or nectar. By grouping all plants of a species into a singe patch rather than spreading them around the garden you help honey bees maximize the value of each trip to and from the hive. There is no hard and fast rule for a minimum patch size, although three feet square is an area often recommended by bee biologists.

Bumble bees, on the other hand, tend to move quickly from plant to plant. So large patches of one plant species are less important than dense patches with a diversity of flowering plants.

At the Haven we have examples of both planting styles.



Getting back to the questions posed at the beginning of the post: rather than worrying that you might not have a large enough garden or be able to provide the right mix of plants, just do it! Choose plants that will provide flowers for as much of the year as possible, with as much of the garden as you can planted with flowers. In the Davis area, bees are active year round so the Haven always has something in bloom.   If the garden does include turf areas, which don't provide bee forage or habitat, try to plant your flowers so that they are in a continuous patch.

Read The Bee Gardener Blog: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=14019

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

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...

Read more... 

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

The Buzz on California Agriculture Day

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey    3/19/14

The bees weren't all that buzzed at the 2014 California Agriculture Day, celebrated today (March 19) on the west lawn of the California State Capitol. 

The California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and theSacramento Area Beekeepers' Association (SABA) staffed a beekeeping booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and filled it with honey straws,Häagen-Dazs premier ice cream and bee-related pamphlets from Project Apis m.  A bee observation hive, brought by Bill Cervenka Apiaries of Half Moon Bay, fronted the booth.

The bees buzzed all right, but the people--the general public lining for the ice cream donated by Häagen-Dazs--seemed to create the biggest buzz. They made a literal beeline for the strawberry and vanilla ice cream. Häagen-Dazs supports the University of California, Davis, through its bee garden and bee research (some 50 percent of its flavors require the pollination of bees).

By 11:35, the honey was all gone. "It vanished, just like our bees," quipped Bill Lewis, CSBA president.

Staffing the booth with him were Carlen Jupe, CSBA treasurer; Marti Ikehara of SABA, and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Among those stopping to chat with the beekeepers were California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). The California Department of Food and Agriculture sponsors the annual event, this year focusing on "Celebration, Innovation and Education."

Bill Lewis, who makes his home at Lake View Terrace in the San Fernando Valley, maintains 650 colonies of bees with his wife, Liane, and business partner Clyde Steese. Their company, "Bill's Bees," offers pollination services, honey, pollen, beeswax, candles and handmade soap.

Their bees pollinate almonds, oranges, avocados and alfalfa. 

For Lewis, his interest in bees began at age 14 when he took up beekeeping in the Boy Scout program and earned his beekeeping badge.  That was in Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee, where he maintained several bee hives in his backyard. "I 'abandoned' them when I went off to college," he said.

After earning his master's degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University, he settled in California to work in the aerospace industry. Ten years later he began a 10-year period of working at a horse-boarding stable.  "Horses don't much like bees," he commented. "It bothers the horses when they have to share the same water bowl."

How did he get back into beekeeping? "The bees found me," Lewis said. He began keeping bees in 1991, first as a hobby, and then as a business. "I'm a first-generation beekeeper."

"Our food supply is so dependent on bees," Lewis said. As visitors flowed by, some asked him what they could do to help the bees.  Plant bee friendly flowers, buy local honey, try not to use pesticides in your garden, and generally, provide a friendly place for bees.

His favorite variety of honey is black sage "but we're not getting to get much of it this year due to the lack of rain." His second favorite: orange blossom.

He also has almond honey, which he and Mussen describe as "bitter."  And, Lewis said, it gets more bitter with time."

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

Can a aBee Unscrew the Sting?

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   2/24/14

When a honey bee stings you, she makes the supreme sacrifice and dies.  She's usually defending her colony. In the process, she leaves behind part of her abdomen. A beekeeper simply scrapes the sting with a fingernail or a hive tool to stop the pulsating venom and continues working.

But is it ever possible for a bee to "unscrew the sting?"

A beginning beekeeper asked Extension apiculturist Eric...

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

All Abuzz Over Feral Bees

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

All of Los Angeles seems abuzz about a new bee ordinance.

Associated Press reporter Gillian Flaccus wrote that a man illegally keeping bees on the roof of his West Los Angeles home may not have to worry any more since the City Council voted Wednesday, Feb. 12 to allow backyard beekeepers to keep bees.

That's good news for our urban beekeepers.

What troubles some folks, though--and rightfully so--is that the council agreed that when at all possible, feral bee colonies should be hived instead of destroyed.

Los Angeles has been the home of Africanized bees since the mid-1990s and some of those feral cololnies are indeed Africanized. They look the same, but their behavior isn't. Africanized honey bees, which the media has dubbed "killer bees," are much more aggressive than our European honey bees, established here in California in1853.

Flaccus quoted Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen as saying "“To just haul them (feral bees) out of the fences and stick them in the backyard, that's not a good idea." (See news story.)

Flaccus also quoted beekeeper Ruth Askren, who relocates feral hives to backyards all over the city,  as estimating that only  10 percent or fewer of the colonies she collects are so aggressive they must be destroyed.

"Currently, most hives discovered in the city's public right of ways or reported by concerned citizens," Flaccus wrote, "are wiped out because of worries about their aggressive genetics."

Mussen, who just received a grant with UC Davis bee scientist Brian Johnson to research Africanized bees in California, is following the story closely. He pointed out that Africanized bees were first detected in California in 1994, just outside Blyte in Riverside County. 

Fact is, not all bees (especially highly aggressive Africanized bees) are worth saving. 

Mussen wrote in one of his Bee Briefs, posted on his website: "While it does appear that over the decades the Africanized honey bees in southern California have lost some of their overly defensive behavior, they still are not predictable. At times a colony population is no more apt to become disturbed and defensive than our normally kept EHBs (European honey bees). At other times they respond quickly to minimal disturbance and defend a very large territory around the hive location. Such behavior is not restricted solely to AHB (Africanized Honey Bees), however colonies of EHBs demonstrating such intensive defensive behavior usually are 'requeened' or killed by beekeepers. Requeening is a process by which the original queen in the colony is located and removed.

"Then, a young queen, mated outside the range of AHB drones, is introduced into the colony. Over a period of four to six weeks, the original workers die of old age and are replaced by daughters of the new queen. Defensive behavior becomes less intense as population replacement rogresses. Individuals and organizations in southern California are advocating collecting honey bee swarms and extracting colonies from buildings, etc., hiving them, and keeping them in backyards. The probability of hiving an AHB colony is relatively high."

Meanwhile, Mussen is fielding calls from news media, beekeepers and agencies.

One person wanted to know if Mussen's views are science-based. "No," Mussen said, "it's common sense."

Mussen offers two suggestions:

1. Beekeepers needing bees should order packages from an area outside AHB colonization, such as Northern California. Be careful about ordering from queen bee breeders in Texas, "as the state is covered with Africanized honey bees."

2. If feral bees are collected and hived, move the hive to a location where there will not be interactions with people and domestic animals.  Allow the bees to fill the box and then conduct an inspection.  It will take only a couple minutes to determine if the bees simply mind their own business or would likely cause problems for adjacent  neighbors.

Mussen also warns that the new ordinance will be yanked if problems mount. If neighbors start complaining about  swarms, or bees stinging people and pets en masse, or about scores of bees seeking water elsewhere (beekeepers need to provide  for their colonies), that could happen.

Then, he says, beekeepers will have no one to blame but themselves. 

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

[Note: Finally, an article that tells the truth about the realities of urban beekeeping in areas where there are Africanized Honey Bees. Unfortunately, all other articles I've read on the subject seem to simply relay some of the facts, leaving out what does not suit the objective: Legalizing Beekeeping in the City of Los Angeles. The fact is: Africanized Honey Bees can be dangerous. Read some common sense from long-time, highly experienced beekeepers and entomologists.  The City Council needs to implement Best Management Practices for responsible beekeeping in an urban environment.  - Eva Andrews, Urban Beekeeper, LACBA Member/Webkeeper.]

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.


Parasites, Pesticides and Pollination

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   10/15/13

What are the indirect effects of parasites and pesticides on pollination service?

Ecologist Sandra Gillespie, a postdoctoral researcher in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will present the results of her research at a departmental seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16 in 122 Briggs Hall. It will be recorded for later posting on UCTV.

“Whether in natural or...


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

Seminar: All About Honey Bee Health and Disease Resistance

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

It's a topic we've all been waiting for: "Honey Bee Health and Disease Resistance."

Jay Evans, a research entomologist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Beltsville Bee Research Laboratory for the past 14 years, will discuss "Bee Disease Resistance and Colony Health" on Wednesday, Oct. 2  to  open the fall seminar series hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

His lecture, open to all interested persons, is from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, located on Kleiber Hall Drive, UC Davis campus.

"Honey bees are vulnerable to poor nutrition, parasites and pathogens, and exposure to chemicals," Evans said. "These threats can occur in batches and little is known about the impacts of multiple challenges to honey bee health, and about the abilities of bees to fend off these threats. I will present recent work aimed at determining the impacts of multiple parasites on bee health. I will also discuss the impacts Varroa mites, chemicals, and bacterial symbionts on bee health and colony losses."

As a research entomologist, Evans has focused his projects on a range of bee pests including bacteria, fungi, viruses andmites, and beetles. He is especially interested in the immune defenses of bees toward these threats. 

Evans was an early proponent of the Honey Bee Genome Project and helped recruit and organize scientists interested in applied genomics for bees.  He has improved and applied genetic screens for possible causes of colony collapse disorder and is now heading a consortium to sequence the genome of the Varroa mite in order to develop novel control methods for this key pest.

Evans holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Princeton and a doctorate in biology from the University of Utah.

The fall seminars, coordinated by faculty members Joanna Chiu and Brian Johnson, will be held every Wednesday noon through Dec. 11 in 122 Briggs Hall, except for Nov. 27, Thanksgiving Week, when no seminar will be held.

Under the coordination of professor James R. Carey, all seminars are to be videotaped and posted at a later date on UCTV.

Anyone with a computer can view the seminars, and yes, they're free.

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

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

About That Bee Nutrition

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   9/10/13

Honey bee guru Eric Mussen never misses an opportunity to talk about the importance of honey bee nutrition

It's critical issue.

Mussen, an Extension apiculturist based at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology since 1976, says malnutrition is a major factor in the declining bee population. That, along with pesticides, pests, diseases and stress.

"You, no doubt, have lost track of how many...




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

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/
Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey website at: http://kathygarvey.com/