Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
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
They're now back in Vietnam, but for three days they went on a honey of a tour.
UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976 and a worldwide authority on honey bees, guided a six-member contingent of scientists from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on a three-day tour.
That included a day at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the UC Davis campus; and two daylong Central Valley tours that encompased two beekeeping operations, a pollination operation, and a lavender farm/beekeeping agrictourism location.
The Vietnamese group included Dr. Nguyen Hay, vice rector of Nong Lam University; Dr. Bui Van Mien, head of scientific research management office and head of the Department of Development Food Product, Nong Lam University; Dr. Le Minh Hoang, bee specialist, Institute of Research on Environment and Biotechnology; Dr. Nguyen Tai, general manager, Tan Phat Co.; Hoang Nhu Tung, director of Huy Hoan Co., Ltd.; and Luong Hong Quang, faculty of Food Science and Technology, Nong Lam University, who also served as the interpreter.
California ranks with North Dakota, South Dakota and Florida as the four leading honey-producing states, Mussen told the scientists. “The rankings are weather dependent, based on rainfall. Here in California, we annually average 20 million pounds of honey and 400,000 pounds of beeswax. The value of honey production in California varies from $16 to $30 million a year.”
The distance separating Ho Chi Minh City and Davis is some 8550 miles, but the camaraderie that developed among the U.S. and Vietnamese scientists drew them closer.
Honey bees, those golden social insects, brought them together.
Learn more about the visit and what Mussen told them.
Opening a hive
All About the Bees
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.