Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
The honey bee hive is not all sweetness.
The first virgin queen bee to emerge from her cell (each queen cell resembles a peanut shell) will rid the colony of her competition.
After emerging, the queen makes a mark on the other queen cells. That's an indication--or really, an order--for the worker bees to destroy the developing queen inside, says Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty..
There can, after all, be only one queen bee in the hive.`
"The queen bee develops from a fertilized egg that hatches three days after being laid," wrote authors Eric Mussen, Len Foote, Norman Gary, Harry Laidlaw, Robbin Thorp and Lee Watkins in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources booklet, Beekeeping in California, published in 1987. "Nurse bees, a class of worker bee, feed developing queen larvae a special diet consisting mostly of the royal jelly that they secrete from their glands. This special diet shortens the time spent to reach maturity to 16 days, compared with 21 days for the worker bee and 24 for the drone (male). The result is a bee larger than any others, with fully developed ovaries and a very large abdomen."
"The queen," they explain, "is reared in a large cell resembling a peanut shell that hangs vertically from the comb and about 10 days after emerging, she becomes sexually mature."
Then she takes one or more mating flights, mates with 10 to 20 drones, and returns to the hive to spend the rest of her life laying eggs. In her two-to-three-year life span, she'll lay about 1000 eggs a day. In peak season, she'll lay about 2000 eggs a day.
She's queen for the day, and every day.
UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility, is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back.
And that's exactly what she did when several visitors recently toured the Laidlaw facility.
Cobey let one visitor borrow her long-sleeved denim shirt. Then, bare-armed, Cobey opened a hive to display the colony. That says two things: her generosity and the temperament of her bees: gentle.
"Sue's bees are polite," observed beekeeper Steve Godlin of Visalia, vice chair of the California State Apiary board member, duirng an apiar board meeting Oct. 3, 2008 at the Laidlaw facility.
Indeed they are.
Apiary visitors are customarily issued a bee veil, and, depending on the activity taking place and the time of year, may also be provided a full protective suit.
Or a long-sleeved shirt from Cobey.
That's just one of the things that Cobey does behind the scenes.
Update: For her contributions to the Laidlaw facility, the university and the bee industry, she recently received a citation for excellence from the UC Davis Staff Assembly. She was one of 21 individuals, plus 13 teams, receiving the award at a ceremony in the courtyard of Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef's home.
Some 6000 staff employees were eligible for the award sform a total pool of 12,000 UC Davis staff, according to Staff Assembly coordinator Tiva Lasier.
Cobey was praised for raising awareness for the plight of honey bees at local, state, national and global levels. She maintains a close relationship with the beekeeping industry at all levels, especially the California Bee Breeders, who produce half the nation’s supply of mated queen honey bees. “If an individual beekeeper is having trouble, she takes a personal interest in solving the problem as if the bees were hers,” the nomination letter read.
Cobey maintains collaborative research projects with many honey bee researchers in the
Cobey, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in May 2007 from
“Our nominee treats bees as she does people: both politely and respectively,” said UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976.
Indeed she does.
Faster than a speeding bullet...
As soon as UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey opened a beehive and removed a chunk of honeycomb to show visitors, here came the speeding bullet. A fast camera shutter caught what the eye couldn't see.
It was a queen yellowjacket taking dead aim at the comb.
"The yellowjacket queen this time of year zeroes in on the honey as soon as you open a hive," said Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
"They build up their populations in the fall and eat the bees for protein to overwinter. They can actually kill bee colonies, especially weak ones. As meat-eating predators, these are common at picnic time, for which honey bees are often unfairly blamed."
Yes, honey bees are indeed unfairly blamed. Like human vegetarians, honey bees don't eat meat. They may land on your soda can for the sugar water, but meat doesn't interest them. They forage for nectar and pollen.
Now yellowjackets--they're predators. They love meats and sweets. You'll see these uninvited guests at your picnic or barbecue, boldly sampling your steak, hamburger or chicken; targeting your can of soda; or scavenging in and around your garbage can.
They also vigorously defend their nests, which look like paper combs. Do not go near their nests.
Their sting is painful. A yellowjacket recently nailed UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen beneath the collar as he was checking the honey bees at the Laidlaw facility.
Mussen noted that beekeepers inadvertently kill a few bees each time they open a hive and pry open the "stuck-together" frames with their hive tool. The dead bees fall to the ground--to the waiting yellowjackets. The yellowjackets then carry the bees off to their nest, chew them into pulp, and feed the "protein" to their brood.
More yellowjackets on the way.
And soon, more speeding bullets.
WAS is not just the first and third person singular past indicative of be.
It's the Western Apicultural Society, an organization dedicated to the science and art of rearing honey bees.
You'll find scores of commericial beekeepers at the 31st annual WAS Conference, scheduled Aug. 17-20 in Healdsburg, Sonoma County. You'll also find native pollinator specialists, university researchers, vendors, and folks just concerned about the declining bee population and what they can do about it.
UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who's been with the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976, co-founded WAS in 1978 with professor Norman Gary (now retired) whose research focused on the biology and behavior of honey bees, and interaction of honey bees with environment.
Last year WAS members trekked to Victoria, B.C., for their annual meeting. This year, it's right in the heart and soul of California Wine Country.
Where else but at a bee conference in Wine Country can you enjoy honey and wine tasting at the same time?
Conference topics include pathogens found associated with bees; breeding, diagnostics and insecticide tolerance; introduction to native bees, native bees in crop production in Eastern states; native bees in crop production in Western states; effects of honey on human physiology, colony natural history, honey and exercise physiology, and beekeeping tips.
Membership in WAS is open to all, Mussen says (dues range from $7.50 to $10 a year). Although worldwide membership is indeed encouraged, the organization was founded to serve the educational needs of beekeepers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon; and the states of northern Mexico.
Healdsburg is definitely the place to bee Aug. 17-20.
Pretty in PInk
A field of dreams, for a honey bee, almost certainly would be a field of lavender.
Call it what you want, but if a bee could talk, it would probably be "lovely lavender."
When UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, guided a group of scientists from Ho Chi Minh City to commercial bee operations in the Central Valley, one of the stops was to Ann Beekman's lavender fields in Hughson, Stanislaus County.
Ann Beekman of Beekman and Beekman (beekeepers) grows lavender and keeps bees to produce honey, mead soaps and candles. She's featured in the UC Davis Small Farm Center’s book, Outstanding in Their Fields: California’s Women Farmers, which celebrates the achievements of 17 women farmers and ranchers.
Visiting the lavender fields is on my "honey-do" list, but presently, I'll have to be content capturing images of honey bees nectaring the lavender in our bee friendly garden.
And I'm eagerly awaiting the opening of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. A group of Sausalito residents submitted the winning design, which will be implemented this year. A public dedication is tentatively scheduled in October.
The honey bees will surely be as happy as we bee lovers. We all love lavender.
Honey Bee on Lavender