Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
What's happening to our bees?
The International Bee Research Association (IBRA), a non-profit organization formed in 1949 that promotes the "value of bees by providing information on bee science and beekeeping worldwide," has just posted several free downloadable pamphlets on bees, including honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees. There's also a pamphlet on colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious malady characterized by bees abandoning their hives.
The pamphlets are writen for UK audiences, but you'll glean much valuable information, too. The one on honey bees is especially good, offering solid, basic information. It focuses on the queen bee, workers (females) and drones (males). For example, a typical colony, in peak season, will number more than 50,000 bees. They include the lone queen, 300 drones, 25,000 older workers (foragers) and the 25,000 young workers who tend to the 9,000 larvae requiring food, and the 6000 eggs that will develop into larvae. The typical hive also includes 20,000 older larvae and pupae in sealed cells "that need no attention except to be left warm, at around 35 degrees C."
The pamphlet on CCD thoroughly explains the problem, describing serious bee losses as a "major threat to crops and ultimately to the nation's food supply."
(By the way, if you're a beekeeper or someone keenly interested in bees, you'll notice that an unlabeled photo gracing the cover of the CCD pamphlet is not a honey bee, genus Apis, but a female solitary bee in the genus Andrena. It is, however, a nicely captured image of a pollinator.)
So, what IS happening with CCD in California?
"This year CCD appears to be less detrimental to honey bee colonies in California, and the rest of the western U.S. states, than it has been over the past few years," UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, UC Davis Department of Entomology, told us today. "Part of this may be due to the fact that the beekeepers are paying more attention to the needs of their colonies throughout the season, instead of just around the end of the year. The improvement may also be due to the fact that the most susceptible colonies have perished. The beekeepers divide their remaining colonies into new colonies in the spring. The beekeepers are increasing their numbers of colonies using stocks that have survived in the past."
Bee on Pomegranate
Ever seen bees at a watering hole?
Bees not only bring back nectar, pollen and propolis to the hive, but also water.
"Water dilutes the concentrated food, maintains humidity in the brood nest, and it's used to air-condition the hive, like an evaporative cooler," said Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who's entering his 33rd year as a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Beekeepers use a variety of watering devices to make sure their colonies have a steady supply of water. For example, some beekeepers slant a wooden board under the slow drip of an outdoor faucet. Others offer a shallow pan of water or a birdbath.
What's important is this: Bees prefer to stand where it's dry when they're taking a drink.
At the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, a regularly watered plant provides a favorite source of water. The distinct odor of the water makes it easier for bees to find or return to the source.
The Laidlaw facility's "watering hole" is an example of a honey bee watering device that beekeepers can use "to prevent bees from becoming a nuisance, or a perceived nuisance, to neighbors," Mussen said. "If beekeepers don't provide a water source, the bees may head over to a neighbor's dog bowl, sprinklers, birdbath or hanging damp laundry."
So, what do you do about those pesky mosquitoes that lay their eggs in standing water? Buy floating mosquito tablets that break up in the water. "That strain of bacteriuum will not harm the honey bees," Mussen said.
What's happening with the honey bees?
Those following the mysterious phenomonen known as colony collapse disorder (CCD)--characterized by bees abandoning their hives--are eagerly waiting the latest developments.
So, when UC Davis bee breeder-genetist Susan Cobey recently offered a class on queen-bee rearing at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, she invited Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen to address the group.
Mussen, who is entering his 33rd year as a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is considered one of the top authorities on honey bees in the country, and indeed the world. News media--including the Associated Press, New York Times, Boston Globe, BBC, Los Angeles Times and Good Morning, America--seek his expertise.
Lately he's been asked if the newly published research work in Spain "solves" the global mystery of CCD. It does not.
"It is true that we have available to us an antibiotic that, when used properly, practically eliminates the disease-causing fungus, Nosema ceranae, from our colony populations," he wrote today in answer to an inquiry. "However, in many cases, nosema-free colonies continued to dwindle to nothing very quickly in many parts of the country. Whatever the causes of that collapse may be, elimination of nosemosis, alone, is not adequate to improve the health of our colonies enough that they survive."
"We need to increaes our research efforts on this malady," Mussen said, "so that we can assure the existence of healthy honey bee colonies for the production of the fruits, vegetable and nuts that make up the healthiest one third of our daily diets."
Freerk Molleman, a postdoctoral scholar in professor James Carey's lab at UC Davis, kindly video-taped Mussen's hour-long lecture to Cobey's class.
Here it is: what's happening with the bees.
If you attend the 95th annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 18 and stop by Briggs Hall between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you'll get a taste of honey.
In fact, six tastes of honey.
Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a 32-year member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, will provide six different flavors of honey: Eastern buckhweat, redwood forest, orange blossom, California sage, Northwest raspberry and Georgia gallberry.
Here's the procedure: you scoop up six toothpicks, one per honey sample. You dip a toothpick into a container of honey (no double-dipping!) and then you discard the toothpick..
The darker honeys are Eastern buckwheat, redwood forest and Georgia gallberry; medium color, Northwest raspberry; and the lighter ones are orange blossom and California sage.
You can almost catch the buzz as you taste the honey. Honey differs in flavor and color, depending on the nectar source (blossoms) that the honey bees visit. Some 300 different varieties of honey are available for sale in the United States. In general, the lighter the color, the milder the flavor.
For more information on honey, visit the National Honey Board's Web site.
Questions about bees? Colony collapse disorder? Bee behavior? Queen bees, worker bees and drones? Why beekeepers wear light-colored clothing and don't eat bananas before visiting the hive? Mussen will be happy to answer them.
Honey bee on sage
If you built it (a field of dreams), they will come.
And if you bring flowers, that's all the bettter.
Melissa "Missy" Borel, program manager of the California Center for Urban Horticulture, UC Davis, and a strong proponent of bee friendly plants, brought salvia, lavender (Otto Quast Spanish lavender) and some stalked bulbine (Bulbine frutescens) to a television interview today at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
Darsha Philips and camerman Andrew Faulk of Fox 40, Sacramento were there to interview her along with Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology; and Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, a 32-year member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty..
Missy Borel placed the three potted plants atop a hive while waiting for the interview. It didn't take long for the honey bees to find the unexpected treat! They lavished the lavender, salivated over the salvia, and stalked the stalked bulbine.
Meanwhile, concern about the declining honey bee population continues. A third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. Bee nutrition has never been so important. The bees are seeking nectar, pollen and water to bring back to their hives.
Want to select bee friendly plants for your garden? Missy Borel compiled this list during the Haagen-Daz Honey Bee Haven Design Competition. (See pages 7, 8 and 9 of the PDF). See more information on the winning design on the UC Davis Entomology Web site. The new garden will be located next to all the hives at the Laidlaw facility.
When the half-acre bee haven is completed, the bees won't have far to go to gather nectar and pollen all year around. Look for the dedication sometime in October.
The Bee Man
Bee on Lavender
Bee Friendly Plants