Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
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 the check to officials at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
“I have had a lifelong love and respect for bees and I spent a lot of my childhood watching them, attracting them with sugar water, catching and playing with them and even dissecting them during a time when I imagined myself to be a junior scientist,” Jamison told the crowd at the UC Davis ceremony. “Back in those days, there was an abundance of bees, usually observed by this kid in her family’s backyard full of clover blossoms—something you rarely see any more due to spraying of pre-emergents and other weed killers.”
So when Jamison, whose first name means "bee" in Hebrew, became state regent of the California State Society of DAR, she adopted the motto, “Bees are at the heart of our existence” and vowed to support research to help the beleaguered bees.
Jamison and her state regent project chair, Karen Montgomery of Modesto, presented the $30,000 check to Edwin Lewis, professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and bee scientist/assisant professor Brian Johnson at a ceremony in the department's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
Lewis gratefully accepted the check on behalf of the department and noted that his mother, Betty Lewis, is an active member of the DAR Owasco Chapter in Auburn, N.Y. “My mother would definitely approve of this project,” he quipped. Lewis gifted Jamison with a mosaic ceramic figure of a bee, crafted by Davis artist Donna Billick, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
The funds will be used in the Johnson lab. His graduate student, Gerard Smith, researches the effect of pesticide exposure in the field on honey bee foraging behavior, and graduate student Cameron Jasper studies the genetic basis of division of labor in honey bees.
Jamison has visited the Laidlaw facility and the adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven several times. Last September she and Fresno beekeeper Brian Liggett "talked bees" and bee health with Cooperative Extension specialist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology.
Like the DAR, the honey bee is closely linked to America. European colonists brought the honey bee to the Jamestown Colony, Virginia, in 1622, some 153 years before the American Revolution. Native Americans called it “the white man’s fly.” Honey bees did not arrive in California until 1853, transported via the Isthmus of Panama.
The U. S. honey bee population has declined by about a third since 2006 due to the mysterious malady known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), said Mussen, attributing CCD to multiple factors including disease, pests, parasites, pesticides, malnutrition and stress.
Meanwhile, the gift from the nation’s oldest genealogical society to support one of the world’s oldest--and the most beneficial--insects, the honey bee, is a gift from the heart.
California state DAR regent Debbie Jamison addresses the crowd. (UC Davis photo by Chris Akins)
Ed Lewis (far right), professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology with state regent Debbie Jamison and bee scientist Brian Johnson. (UC Davis photo by Chris Akins)
A visit to the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven last September: state regent Debbie Jamison, Fresno beekeeper Brian Liggett; Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomlogy and UC Davis entomology professor; and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees are in trouble. They are dying in record numbers.
That's why you should watch "Blossom Buddies," a two-part video segment in the Growing California series, produced by the California Department of Food and Agriculture in partnership with California Grown.
The two-part series explores the honey bee's contributions to California agriculture, their declining population, and why we should be concerned about bee health. California has 800,000 acres of almonds, and each acre requires two hives for pollination. That's 1.6 million colonies. Since California has only 500,000 colonies available for almond pollination, the rest must be trucked here from throughout the country. This means, as the video relates, "the largest annual bee migration in the world" takes place in California during almond pollination season, which begins around Valentine's Day.
In Part 2 of the series, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, says that about 20 percent of beekeepers in California, as well as throughout the nation, "are suffering significant losses of honey bee populations that we can't explain."
The video series includes interviews with migratory beekeeper John Miller, almond grower/commercial queen breeder Dan Cummings, and Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m. (That stands for Apis mellifera, the scientific name of the honey bee.)
The footage zeroes in on California almond orchards in bloom, beekeepers tending their bees, bees foraging, and Mussen working in the bee lab at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. The series also includes several photos from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Who could forget the look of colony collapse disorder, of a bee antenna poking through a cell of an abandoned frame? Or the blood-sucking varroa mite--the No. 1 enemy of beekeepers--sucking blood from a forager (worker bee) nectaring lavender? Or a mite draining blood from a drone pupa?
Or you can access Part 1 on YouTube at:
And Part 2 on YouTube at:
It's well-done production that looks at the challenges we face with our declining bee population and the crippling health issues that our bees face.
Colony collapse disorder--the bee antenna tells it all. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Varroa mite on a worker bee foraging in the lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of varroa mite on drone pupa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you've studied bees, you know that there are approximately 20,000 described species of bees in the world.
Most people are familiar with honey bees and bumble bees, but they don't know about "those big black bees" (carpenter bees) or "those green metallic bees" (sweat bees).
Harvard University and the Encyclopedia of Life to the rescue!
Jessica Rykken, Ph.D. of the Farrell lab at Harvard University, and editor Jeff Holmes, Ph.D. of the Encyclopedia of Life, Harvard University, have just published a field guide to bees that is simply outstanding.
The field guide, titled "Bees," is comprised of observer cards that are "designed to foster the art and science of observing nature," Rykken writes.
It's a guide that looks at bees much the way we all first started looking at bees. It's divided into anatomy, foraging, lifestyles, pollination, nesting habits, behavior, life cycle, associations (such as hitchhiking) and techniques (collecting and conservation).
Under nesting habits, you'll learn about the miners, masons, leafcutters and carpenters.
Under anatomy, you'll learn about body plan, look-alikes, size and shape, body color, antennae, wings, males ves females, pollen transport, tongue length, pilosity, stingers. Pilosity? What's that you ask? It means the density and pattern of hair on their bodies.
Lifestyles? No, not of the rich and famous. These point to social bees, solitary bees and cuckoo bees.
Rykken asked permission to use two of our photos, and they're in there, too. One is of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology being stung by a honey bee (Apis mellifera), and the other is a chunk of plum tree wood drilled by valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta). A Davis resident brought the plum tree wood into the Bohart Museum of Entomology for insect identification. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum (home of nearly 8 million specimens) and UC Davis professor of entomology, told him that valley carpenter bees (females) drilled the holes. The female valley carpenter bees are solid black, while the males are blond with green eyes.
The field guide can be downloaded for free on the Encyclopedia of Life website at http://eol.org. Or, just download this link to the PDF.
This photo, appearing in the field guide, is of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen being stung by a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This photo in the field guide shows a chunk of plum tree wood drilled by valley carpenter bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Where do foraging bees go to die?"
That question was asked this week of honey bee guru Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, who serves as the statewide Extension apiculturist.
"Do they return to the hive? Do they retire and live out their last days inside?" he was asked.
We've all seen worker bees in the throes of death. After all, they live only four to six weeks in the busy season. But the queen bee, which can lay some 2000 eggs a day, quickly replaces them.
"Since we do not know exactly where they go, we say that they fly off in the final moments of life, lose altitude and land on whatever is beneath them, moribund," Mussen says. "They are still able to sting for quite a few minutes, as can be attested to by neighbors who find moribund bees in their lawns or swimming pools, but they die relatively soon. Bees have enzyme systems that deal with flight and when the enzymes give out, so does flight."
Mussen points out that "a few of the dying bees, maybe 15 or so, of the 1,000 or more that die daily (in a colony) during the spring, summer, and fall, do die in--or in front of--the hive."
When those bodies lose some moisture, the "undertaker bees" carry away the lighter-weight bodies and drop them 150 feet or more away from the hive, studies show. "Most of the rest just drop, somewhere, when they no longer can forage or stay in the air," Mussen says. "Bees do fly up to four miles from the hive in any compass direction, so they drop out there in that 50-square mile area."
A worker bee staggers and extends her tongue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This honey bee died soon after this photo was taken. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"For many years, beekeepers and environmentally interested individuals have expressed the opinion that the use of neonicotinoid insecticides ("neonics") have interfered with the ability of honey bees and native bees to conduct their life activities properly," begins Extension apicuturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology in his latest edition of his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries.
"Since laboratory studies have detailed the disruptive effect on those insects, it was suggested that the same things were happening in the field. Unanticipated losses of formerly strong honey bee colonies, and easily observable decreases in bumble bee sightings, correlated well with increased use of neonics."
Mussen goes on to talk about the neonic situation in Europe and what the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has to say about the controversial issue. EFSA concluded that the neonicotinoid pesticides posed a “high acute risk” to pollinators, including honey bees, but that a definitive connection between the chemicals and loss of colonies in the field remained to be established, Mussen wrote.
Mussen, California's only Cooperative Extension apiculturist and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976, says the situation is not that simple. Read why. His newsletter is available free on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website. Access his web page and then click on "March/April 2013."
Honey bee heading for a catmint (Nepeta) patch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)