The 13 Bugs of Christmas

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

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

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



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Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  12/18/12

For more than a week, tarps protected the art from the elements.

The artists would work on the installation daily, then stop and cover the art, resuming only when weather permitted.  

The site: the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, designed as a year-around food resource for bees, to raise public awareness about the plight of bees, and to show visitors what they can plant in their own...


Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at:

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The Bees Algorithm

From Ethnobeeology  12/15/12
The foraging behaviors and waggle dances of honey bees (Apis mellifera) have assisted mathematicians and physicists in developing computer algorithms and understanding quantum mechanics (the behavior of quarks and other sub-atomic particles and waves).

The Bees Algorithm – A Novel Tool for Complex Optimisation Problems 

D.T. Pham, A. Ghanbarzadeh, E. Koç, S. Otri, S. Rahim , M. Zaidi

A new population-based search algorithm called the Bees Algorithm (BA) is presented. The algorithm mimics the food foraging behaviour of swarms of honey bees. In its basic version, the algorithm performs a kind of neighbourhood search combined with random search and can be used for both combinatorial optimisation and functional optimisation...



Going For The Roses

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  12/13/12

Just call it going for the roses.

Or a hot spot.

In between the showers and the sunshine, the bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, emerge from their hives to forage.

They buzz over to the nearby Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre garden with year-around...


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'A' is for Almonds; 'B' is for Bees

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

It's the Big 4-0 for the Almond Board of California's annual almond industry conferencethis week.

Some 1000 convention-goers are gathering in the Sacramento Convention Center. The 40th annual conference opened Tuesday, Dec. 11 and runs through Thursday, Dec. 13.

A contingent from the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, is there--including some from chemical ecologist Walter Leal's lab and some from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.

Many came to hear U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

After all, almonds are California's biggest export.  With some 750,000 acres of almonds in production in the state, the National Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting a record-breaking 2.10 billion meat pounds this year, valued at approximately $3 billion. Eighty-percent of the global supply of almonds is grown in California, and about 70 percent of California’s crop is marketed overseas.

Over at the Laidlaw facility, you can't help but notice the sign that graces the entrance. The work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis, it shows a skep, honey bees, DNA strands, and almond blossoms.

Then if you walk a few steps east of the facility to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, you'll run into the gigantic worker bee sculpture, also the work of Donna Billick. It's a six-foot-long morphologically correct worker bee, right down to the wax glands.

If it appears to be on a pedestal, that's the way it should be. Honey bees, those tiny   agricultural workers, pollinate one-third of the food we eat.

As for the almonds, the pollination season begins around Valentine's Day. The orchards will be buzzing. It takes two hives per acre to pollinate California's almond crop.

Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at:

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Scientists Train Honey Bees to Stick Out Their Tongues  12/12/12

Scientists Train Honey Bees to Stick Out Their Tongues

Honey bees are a highly organized, social species, as demonstrated by their complex colonies and the geometric structure of their hives. For hive building, the honey bee strongly relies on its tactile sense, and a new video-article in JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments)illustrates a novel tactile conditioning experiment using honey bees. The technique, presented by the lab of Dr. Volker Dürr of Bielefeld University, trains honey bees to stick out their tongues when...


For further information see: Journal of Visualized Experiments

ABF Conversations with a Beekeeper Webinar Dec. 12, 2012

Even though the busy holiday season is right around the corner, don't stop taking your beekeeping education to the next level.

ABF Conversations with a Beekeeper Webinar today, Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 8:00pm ET / 5:00pm PT.

"Diseases of the Honey Bee Part One: Honey Bee Brood Diseases," with Dr. Marion Ellis. 

Read more and Register...

National Honey Board Offers Honey Locator to the Industry


(The following is brought to us by the American Bee Journal.) 12/12/12

Firestone, Colo., December 11, 2012 – The National Honey Board (NHB) wants to remind honey industry members that they can have their honey company listed on the NHB’s online directory website,

The Honey Locator is a valuable search tool that helps consumers and members of the food industry find suppliers to purchase honey from. The website includes ways to search for specific honey varietals, as well as different forms of honey, like comb honey or whipped honey. Honey purchasers can also search for honey from a particular location (such as their home state), and for other goods and services offered by honey producers, packers and importers. has an average of 15,000 monthly visitors, with over 120,000 unique visitors in 2012. With a little over 300 companies listed on the site, this is an effortless way to grow your business. This site has proven invaluable for people looking for a specific varietal, form of honey or honey from their area.

Honey Locator is a one-time fee of $50.00, which is the only cost incurred over the life of the membership. If the applicant is a current assessment payer, this one-time fee will be waived. Members will be reminded to update their current information and honey offerings on a yearly basis.

For more information, please log on to or call the National Honey Board office at 800-553-7162.

The National Honey Board is a federal research and promotion board under USDA oversight that conducts research, marketing and promotion programs to help maintain and expand markets for honey and honey products. These programs are funded by an assessment of one cent per pound on domestic and imported honey.

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New Components of Epigenetic 'Code' for Honey Bee Development Discovered   12/11/12

Researchers from the UK and Australia have uncovered a new element of the honeybee's genetic makeup, which may help to explain why bees are so sensitive to environmental changes.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield, Queen Mary, University of London and the Australian National University, have found that honeybees have a 'histone code' -- a series of marks on the histone proteins around which their DNA is wrapped in order to fit into the nucleus of a cell. This code is known to exist in humans and other complex organisms in order to control changes in cell development -- but this is the first time it's been discovered in the honeybee.

Histone codes can also be affected by nutrition and environmental factors, so the scientists believe the finding may be another part of the puzzle to explain how eating royal jelly ensures honeybee larvae turn into queens and not workers. "The development of different bees from the same DNA in the larvae is one of the clearest examples of epigenetics in action - Read more... 

Saint Ambrose, patron saint of Beekeeping (Memorial)


This weekend was the memorial for Saint Ambrose, patron saint of beekeeping, bees, hives, and candle-making.

There is a legend that as an infant, a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey. His father considered this a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue. For this reason, bees and beehives often appear in the saint's symbology. 


Thank you very much to Ethnobeeology for sharing.

Thomas D. Seeley and BEES featured on NOVA/What Are Animals Thinking?

This AMAZING interview with Thomas D. Seeley and BEES was Broadcast on PBS November 7, 2012. Now available for viewing online at NOVA/What Are Animals Thinking? ("Hive Mind" Ch. 4, Time code 33:50).

Read more about Thomas D. Seeley, Biologist at Cornell University Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Author of "Honeybee Democracy," "Honeybee Ecology," and "The Wisdom of the Hive."

The Pollinator Partnership - Bee Merry E-Certificate for Honey Bee Health Research

Give a Bee Merry E-Certificate for Honey Bee Health Research Gift

The recent mysterious disappearance of tens of thousands of honey bees, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), has confirmed that we don't know enough about bees and other pollinators. Your contribution toward Honey Bee Research will help support programs that are helping us solve this problem.
Give the gift of Bee Research and a loved one will feel that they have made a real difference for bees. When you make a tax-deductible donation $30 or more, we'll e-mail you a full-color personalized E-Certificate for you to present to your friend or family member.

Backyard Pesticide Use May Fuel Bee Die-Offs

This article by Brandon Keim appeared in Wired Science on 4/13/12 (Something to think about when planning our gardens.)

The controversy over possible links between massive bee die-offs and agricultural pesticides has overshadowed another threat: the use of those same pesticides in backyards and gardens.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are ubiquitous in everday consumer plant treatments, and may expose bees to far higher doses than those found on farms, where neonicotinoids used in seed coatings are already considered a major problem by many scientists.

“It’s amazing how much research is out there on seed treatments, and in a way that’s distracted everyone from what may be a bigger problem,” said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director at the Xerces society, an invertebrate conservation group. 

The vast majority of attention paid to neonicotinoids, the world’s most popular class of pesticides, has focused on their agricultural uses and possible effects. A growing body of research suggests that, even at non-lethal doses, the pesticides can disrupt bee navigation and make them vulnerable to disease and...


2013 BEE Calendar by Kodua Galieti Features Bill's Bees

Bill's Bees featured in 2013 BEE Calendar created by award-winning photo-journalist, beekeeper, LACBA member, Kodua Galieti.

Bill's Bees is the month of July!

"Honey bees arrive in California by semi-truck beginning in October from as far away as Florida. They prepare for one of their most important pollination jobs of the year in February, which is the California almonds. The honey bees are anxious to fly and burst forth from their hives at first light of day to get their bearings and take care of "beesness." When there is a strong smell of nectar in the air, it almost seems like the honey bees explode out of the hive even before sunrise. This is especially visible when moving bees to oranges just as the bloom begins. The bees thrive in almonds and oranges. Well fed bees are happy healthy bees." - Bill Lewis & Clyde Steese, owners, Bill's Bees.

ABF Conversations with a Beekeeper Webinar Dec. 11 & 12

Register Today for ABF's Conversation with a Beekeeper Webinar Series — Two New Sessions Scheduled for December

Next Sessions to be Held on Tuesday, December 11, and Wednesday, December 12, 2012. Both sessions will be held at 8:00 p.m. ET. That's 5:00 p.m. PT.

Even though the busy holiday season is right around the corner, don't stop taking your beekeeping education to the next level. Register today for two new sessions in the ABF's "Conversation with a Beekeeper" Webinar series – "Beekeeping 101: Flight and Foraging Dynamics," Tuesday, December 11, with Dr. Roger Hoopingarner, and "Diseases of the Honey Bee Part One: Honey Bee Brood Diseases," Wednesday, December 12, with Dr. Marion Ellis. 

Learn more and register

Small Patches of Native Plants Help Boost Pollination Services in Large Farms

(The following is brought to us by the American Bee Journal.) 12/6/12 

A combined team of scientists from Europe and South Africa (Luísa G. Carvalheiro (University of Leeds, UK & Naturalis Biodiversity Research Centre, Netherlands), Colleen Seymour and Ruan Veldtman (SANBI, South Africa) and Sue Nicolson (University of Pretoria)) have discovered that pollinator services of large agriculture fields can be enhanced with a simple cost-effective measure, that involves the creation of small patches of native plants within fruit orchards.

"Mango farmers in South Africa are aware of the pollination limitation of this crop and invest a substantial amount of money renting honeybee hives to supplement pollination within the large farmland areas. However, while during blooming season, mango fields can have millions of open flowers, those flowers are not very attractive to neither local wild pollinators nor managed honeybees." says the lead author Luísa Carvalheiro.

While pesticide use and isolation from natural habitat lead to declines in flying visitors and in mango production (kg of marketable fresh fruit), the results of this study show that the presence of small patches of native flowers within large farms can ameliorate such negative impacts, increasing the number of visits of honeybee and wild pollinators to mango, and consequently mango production. As these patches do not compromise production areas and its maintenance has very low costs, such native flower compensation areas represent a profitable management measure for farmers, increasing cost-effectiveness of cropland. Further studies are needed to determine the optimum size and flower composition of such flower areas that maximizes benefits.

However, the effectiveness of flower patches is likely dependent on the preservation of remaining patches of natural habitat and judicious use of pesticides. The study was published in Journal of Applied Ecology, fieldwork was funded by SANBI – South African National Biodiversity Institute and data analyses by the project STEP – 'Status and Trends of European Pollinators' that is funded by the European Union Framework Program 7.

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