Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
If you cotton to honey, you'll want to head over to Briggs Hall tomorrow (Saturday, April 17) during the 96th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.
You can sample cotton honey, as well as five other flavors, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty will be offering samples of these honeys: orange blossom, eucalyptus, raspberry, meadowfoam (a vernal-pool flower that is grown commercially in Oregon for oil), starthistle, and cotton.
You'll get six toothpicks, one for each container of honey. You'll taste the exquisite meadowfoam, the exotic raspberry, and then what some folks say is the "best-of-the-best" honey--starthistle. Bees make this from an invasive, exotic weed that agriculturists hate. Our tiny winged agricultural workers love it.
And then you'll taste cotton. Hint: it's a light-colored variety of honey.
If you have a question about honey bees, including colony collapse disorder, ask away.
At Mussen's booth, you can also taste "Honey Lovers," the fruit chews that Gimbal's Fine Candies makes with real honey. Gimbal's, located in San Francisco, is donating 5 percent of the proceeds from the sale of Honey Lovers to UC Davis honey bee research.
These sweet treats at Briggs Hall are free.
Here's what else the entomologists are planning at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
You'll see racing cockroaches, termite trails, Maggot Art, kissing bugs, fleas, ticks, walnut twig beetles and the like, and you can take home some free ladybugs (lady beetles) from the statewide UC Integrated Pest Management Program.
But it's the honey that makes UC Davis Picnic Day so sweet.
Honey Bee on Lavender
When some folks think of a honey bee, they immediately think of stings.
Not pollination, not honey, not colony collapse disorder, but stings.
To beekeepers, stings are a minor irritation, or perhaps not an irritation at all. It's just something that happens in an occupation. "It's like grease on a mechanic's hands," says bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Or, I imagine, like flour on a baker, dirt on a gardener or sweat on an athlete.
Yesterday, when Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty was opening a hive at the UC Davis apiary, a bee landed on his wrist.
"Bee on my wrist," he said, knowing I had my macro lens at the ready.
The bee, defending her hive, did what a good guard does--she stung him. When that happens, you scrape the stinger off with your fingernail so the barbed stinger with its attached venom sac doesn't continue to pump venom.
When a worker bee stings and pulls away from her victim, part of her anatomy pulls away, too. She dies, often within minutes.
What you usually see is only the stinger. Not this time. The camera lens caught the barbed stinger and the stretched tissue.
That one word aptly describes the generous donation by Gimbal's Fine Candies, San Francisco, to aid honey bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, recently accepted a check for $10,000 from Lance Gimbal, CEO of Gimbal's.
Seeking to help save the bees, company officials expressed concern about the declining bee population. USDA just reported a 29 percent drop in bee population in 2009. “Approximately one-third of our food supply depends on honey bees,” Lance Gimbal said.
The fact is, honey bees are in trouble and we must all do our part to help save the bees. For example, we can plant bee friendly gardens, avoid using pesticides in our garden, take up backyard beekeeping, buy only U.S. honey, and generally raise awareness about the plight of the honey bee.
This is the fourth year of colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive. They just fly off, leaving behind the queen bee, brood and stored food. This year is the worst ever for CCD, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Enter Gimbal's Fine Candies. It just launched Honey Lovers, fruit chews made with natural honey, and will give UC Davis 5 percent of the proceeds for honey bee research.
Said Mussen: “The UC Davis bee biology program is extremely appreciative of the generosity of Gimbal’s Fine Candies. Their contribution will enable us to reach more people with factual information about bees and beekeeping. It also is possible that their support of our research efforts may help uncover better methods of dealing with pests, parasites, and diseases of honey bees and honey bee colonies.”
The allergen-free line of candy is available at Walmart and Fresh & Easy stores, as well as Amazon.com and candydirect.com. Additional stores featuring Honey Lovers will launch this spring.More information on bee research at UC Davis is on the bee biology Web site. More information on Gimbal’s Fine Candies is available from (800) 344-6255 or from its Web site.
Meanwhile, the folks at the UC Davis Department of Entomology are grateful that Gimbal's has stepped forward.
If honey is the "soul of a field of flowers," as someone once said, then businesses and individuals concerned about maintaining healthy bees are "surely the heart."
Check for $10,000
Cherry Blossom Time
It probably wasn't colony collapse disorder.
Probably not pesticides, a disease, malnutrition or stress, either.
It could have been a pest.
When we were walking through the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden at the UC Davis Arboretum last weekend, we spotted the still body of a honey bee on a white calla lily (Zantedeschia aethipica), a native of South Africa.
It seemed so incongruous. It was spring in the garden. Worker bees at the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis are bustling out of their hives, collecting nectar and pollen for their expanding colonies.
Worker bees live only four to six weeks during the busy season. But this isn't the busy season.
"What happened to the bee?" someone inquired, after seeing the photo. "How did she die?"
"Don't know," I said. It probably wasn't pesticides, though. The garden is pesticide-free.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, speculated that a spider hiding inside the blossom may have killed the bee and then sucked its blood.
"Spiders do that--they lurk inside the blossoms," he said.
Another pest of the beleagered honey bee.
Death by a Spider?
The news is not good.
The honey bee crisis is worsening.
Back in November of 2006, commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg of Pennsylvania sounded the alarm. Fifty 50 percent of his bees had collapsed in Florida. Other beekeepers came forward with equally bad news: some individuals reporting losing one-third to 100 percent of their bees.
Quickly referred to as colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious phenomenon is characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, flying off and leaving behind the queen bee, brood and stored food.
Fast forward to today: a federal survey shows a heavy bee dieoff this winter, and research published last Friday in the journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) shows an alarming number of pesticides found in pollen and wax samples from 23 states and a Canadian province.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, agrees that bees are in trouble and the declining population is worsening. Scores of beekeepers have reported opening hives and finding them virtually empty.
Meanwhile, another federal survey on bee winter losses will take place April 1 through April 14. That should shed more light on a darkening crisis.
Perhaps CCD is due to a yet undiscovered virus. Perhaps it's due to a combination of factors: pesticides, diseases, pests, viruses, malnutrition and stress.
"Unexpected, periodic losses of honey bee colonies, very similar to this, have been noted in the bee journals since the late 1800s, but they tended to be very short term," Mussen says in his March 19th Bee Brief, published on the UC Davis Entomology Web site. "In 1965, 66, and 67 a similar problem persisted for three years. Our current session is the longest yet."
"The intensity of research on possible leads to the causes of CCD is increasing around the world, as other countries are having similar losses in their honey bee colonies," he writes in his Bee Brief. "The global nature of the problem suggests that some other, more fundamental aspect of the environment may be involved. Honey bees prosper best and are best able to resist diseases, parasites, exposures to toxins, etc. when they have fed on a quality diet.
"For bees in general, and honey bees in particular, that means a constant supply of pollens that provide their required proteins, vitamins, lipids, sterols, minerals, antioxidants and carbohydrates. While global warming may not directly challenge a species of insect that can prosper from very cold climates to the equator, climate change may result in more stress on the bees. Increased periods of dry, hot weather or cold, rainy weather, could limit availability and access to those important pollens. The bees will have to rear their brood at the expense of their body nutrient reserves. The brood will be less well fed, and in turn will not be good at rearing the next 'round of brood.' "
That sort of downward spiral, Mussen says, will leave the bees very fragile and susceptible.
The MAAREC Web site (Mid-Atlantic Apiculture and Extension Consortium) hosted by Pennsylvania State University, offers latest updates on the crisis.
Tending the Bees