Posts Tagged: Neal Williams
Bee specialists Neal Williams and Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology are among those quoted in a comprehensive news story, "Hives for Hire," published March 3 in the Los Angeles Times.
"Almond trees are exploding with pink and white blossoms across the vast Central Valley, marking the start of the growing season for California's most valuable farm export," wrote LA Times reporter Marc Lifsher in the lede.
Indeed they are.
This is a $3-billlion-a-year industry and the acreage amounts to some 750,000 acres. Approximately 2.6 million colonies from across the country are trucked into California for the almond pollination season.
"Without the honey bees...the (almond) industry doesn't exist," Williams told Lifsher. "We need those bees. We need them to be reliable, and we need them at the right time."
Williams, a pollination ecologist who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 2009, is an expert on bees, especially native bees (honey bees are not native; they were brought here in the 1600s by the European colonists).
An assistant professor of entomology, Williams heads a busy lab of graduate students and post-doctoral students. He just returned from Fukuoka, Japan, where he was one of the featured speakers at the International Symposium on Pollinator Conservation.
Also quoted in the LA Times piece was honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension specialist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976.
Mussen discussed bee health with Lifsher and the collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive. Mussen regularly provides updates about bee health to national and state bee conferences and at beekeeper association meetings. Mussen writes the bimonthly from the UC apiaries and the periodic Bee Briefs, both available free on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
So, what's the word? Mussen tells his constituents that beekeeping is a complex issue, as is CCD, which he attributes to multiple factors, including pests, parasites, pesticides, diseases, malnutrition and stress.
Yolo County-based beekeeper Henry Harlan of Henry's Bullfrog Bees, who maintains some 2400 hives, said it well when he told Lifsher that beekeeping is an inexact science. "If you meet a beekeeper who says he knows it all, his bees will probably be dead next year."
Indeed, it's a sinking feeling to open your hive at winter's end and find it empty.
Neal Williams discusses native bees at a recent conference in Woodland. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee working an almond blossom at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you're interested in pollen and pollinators, you'll want to attend the UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar at 12:10 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 1 in 122 Briggs Hall.
That's when T’ai Roulston, research associate professor and curator, State Arboretum of Virginia, will speak on "Pollen as a Resource for Pollinators: What Governs Quality?"
Pollen is a bee's protein. Nectar is a bee's sugar or carbohydrate.
T'ai Roulston will be speaking specifically on pollen. "Lab work using the sweat bee Lasioglossum zephyrum has shown that protein concentration of pollen may dramatically influence offspring size," he says.
"T'ai's work on native bees and insect-plant interactions includes pollination biology, foraging ecology, nesting biology, life-history as well as some work on multi-trophic interactions," said host Neal Williams, assistant professor. (Williams is currently in Japan to present a lecture at the International Symposium on Pollinator Conservation, set Jan. 27-29 in Fukuoka.)
Roulston says on his website:
"My primary research area is plant-pollinator interactions, which I study through field and laboratory approaches." These include
1. Studies of pollen chemistry, particularly protein, to characterize the diversity of pollen nutrient rewards and their effects on pollinator host plant choice and larval development;
2. Specialization/Generalization in plant-pollinator interactions
Other research areas include endangered species conservation, habitat fragmentation, foraging behavior and nestmate recognition in social Hymenoptera, and the impact of exotic species on native organisms.
Coordinating the UC Davis Department of Entomology winter seminar series are assistant professors Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu.
If you can't make it to the the lecture, Professor James R. Carey plans to video-record it. It will be posted in about two weeks on UCTV.
Female sweat bee in the genus Lasioglossum, on a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
T'ai Roulston at State Arboretum of Virginia.
Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology at UC Davis, will be one of the featured speakers at the International Symposium on Pollinator Conservation, to be held Jan. 27-29 in Fukuoka, Japan.
His talk will explore agricultural landscape change and the role of bee life history in predicting and understanding responses of bee communities. The conference, sponsored by the Japan Society of the Promotion of Science and themed "Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators: Towards Global Assessments," will take place on the Hakozaki campus, Kyushu University.
Williams is the only invited speaker from California. (See his lab research)
“Bees provide a critical ecosystem service for humanity through their pollination of crops worldwide,” said Williams, who will speak on “Bee Life History and Resource Distributions Determine Population and Community Responses to Agricultural Landscape Change.”
“There is increasing recognition of the contributions of wild species to crop pollination and their role in sustainable pollination into the future. The persistence of wild bee species depends on the availability of essential nesting sites and forage resources within the landscape. Agriculture management can profoundly change the abundance and distribution of these resources over time and space."
“Because bee species differ in specific nesting and forage requirements, there is the potential for land transformation to filter wild bee communities based on such ecological traits,” Williams said. “I will present two separate studies from central California exploring the role nesting and forage resources in determining bee responses to agricultural intensification. The first study explores the effects of bee life history traits and resource distributions on observed changes in bee communities between semi-natural and farmland components of an agricultural landscape.
“I will use a combination of empirical data sampled over multiple landscapes and spatial modeling of bee communities to reveal the relative importance of forage and nesting resources to bee responses. The second study focuses on the bumble bee Bombus vosnesenskii. I will use empirical data on bumble bee colony performance and a spatially-explicit model of floral abundance to quantify the importance the forage-resource landscape in determining worker and queen production.”
Williams pointed out that “the abundance of forage strongly affected worker production; however, it was most sensitive to early season resources. Spatio-temporal variation in the resource landscape across the season reduced the overall effect of the forage landscape on queen production. Nonetheless consistent forage resources are key to the persistence of bumble bee populations in this region.”
UC Davis pollination ecologist Neal Williams is one of the featured speakers at an international symposium. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you're interested in native bees, you'll want to read the newly published University of California research article, "Tiny Saviors in Our Backyard."
Native pollinator specialists Robbin Thorp and Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology are featured in the article as is conservation biologist Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley.
Author Erik Vance describes Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, as "the patriarch of a rag-tag group of scientists who have pioneered research on non-honey bees that just may hold a solution to the world’s pollination problems."
Williams' work with conservation biologist Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley involves monitoirng which native bees are effective on Yolo County farms.
It's great to see so much attention on native bees.
As Vance says, "Honey bees get most of the buzz, but some native bees are better at spreading pollen. They may hold the solution to world pollination problems that affect important crops."
Honey bees are often considered "native" bees but they are not. English explorers brought them to America beginning in the 1620s.
The Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, based in Portland, Ore. (and celebrating 40 years of conservation this year), is rightfully pleased with the UC scientists' work.
“The work out at the UC is some of the best work in the country right now,” Mace Vaughan, who oversees national pollinator work for Xerces, told Vance. “They are actually demonstrating the benefits.”
Metallic green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus) on coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Writing for the Nature journal, Sharon Levy recently examined pollination studies that focus on the importance of pollinators and the plants they frequent.
Levy mentioned the work of conservation biologist Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley; Rachael Winfree, a pollination biologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.; and native pollinator specialist Neal Williams of UC Davis.
Williams led one of the studies that found that "most native bees are far less picky than was imagined," Levy wrote. The study showed that "bees collect pollen from both alien and native plants in proportion to a plant's abundance in the landscape," she related. "In highly disturbed habitats, bees make greater use of alien plants--not because the bees prefer them, but simply because introduced plants are far more common where people have transformed the landscape."
Last year Williams received a three-year federally funded research grant aimed at improving pollinator habitat plantings in nationwide agricultural settings. Williams said at the time:
“Recent declines in honey bee populations and the threat of losses in pollination service to economically important crops has raised awareness of the importance of restoring and conserving native bee diversity and abundance. We will be developing simplified assessment tools that will allow land stewards to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of future habitat restorations."
In 2000, the economic value of insect-pollinated crops in the United States was estimated at $18.9 billion.
Kremen, Winfree, Williams and Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, were among the specialists sharing their expertise at the 59th annual Entomological Society of America's meeting, held Nov. 13-16 in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
At one of the ESA seminars, Winfrey said that about 75 percent of the nation's crops require pollination, and that there are 20,000 species of native bees.
Kremen pointed out that "35 percent of the food we eat is pollinated by bees."
Vaughan, in emphazing the need to protect the pollinators, announced the Xerces Society's newest publication, Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies.
To attract native pollinators, the Xerces Society says that we need to:
--Ensure pollination in our gardens, orchards or farms.
--Identify the flower-visiting insects of our region.
--Provide host plants and nesting sites for bees and butterflies.
--Create a landscape that is beautiful, diverse and pollinator friendly.
Good advice. We all have a role to fulfill in attracting and protecting the pollinators.
Assistant professor Neal Williams and Kimiora Ward, research associate from the Williams lab, collect bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Neal Williams (right) and colleague Rufus Isaacs confer at the Entomological Society of America meeting Wednesday, Nov. 16 in Reno. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)