Bees and Onions Go Together: Pollination Partners
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 also involved at the national and global level.
Seed Central is co-organizing the two-day conference (which ends April 10) with the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. This is the Veg Research and Development Forum, an annual meeting of the research managers of vegetable seed companies with breeding activities for the North American market. Its purpose, according to the Seed Central website: "to enable discussion among research managers of long-term, pre-competitive research topics and research-related policy issues of importance to the North American vegetable seed industry. Attendance includes invited participation with university scientists, technology providers to the seed industry and members of the downstream agriculture and food industries."
If you've ever seen honey bees pollinating an onion umbel (flowering head), they're a joy to watch. The bees come in twos and threes, buzzing up, around, over and under. It's their world on a string. A globe on a stalk. A bee-covered ball.
Nevertheless, there's concern among the onion growers and beekeepers about decreasing seed production due to the increased use of insecticides to control onion thrips. This insect vectors the pathogen, iris yellow spot virus.
Hybrid onion seed is indeed a small specialty crop in California, but an important one. To get acquainted with what's going on in the industry, read the UC Agriculture an Natural Resources (UC ANR) publication (No. 8008) on "Onion Seed Production in California," published in October 2013. One of the experts on onion seed production in California is Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Long, who directs the Yolo County Cooperative Extension, Woodland.
Honey bees on an onion umbel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees circling the "globe" (onion umbel). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)