Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
It's a mighty mite and it's causing beekeepers fits.
The varroa mite (see photo below) is an external parasite that attacks honey bees. It sucks blood from the adults (apparently preferring drones, the male bees) and from the brood (immature bees). "It's commonly found in most hives," says UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen.
Untreated infestations of varroa mites can weaken and kill honeybee colonies
Initially from Asia, the eight-legged reddish brown parasite was first detected in the United States in 1987. It was discovered in two states that year: Florida and Wisconsin (from the same beekeeper colonies). It's now all over the United States.
"Bees try to brush it off with their legs," Mussen said.
Mussen, editor of the bi-monthly newsletter, "from the UC Apiaries," writes about varroa mites in his July-August edition. He's been writing the newsletter since 1976.
In addition to the UC Apiaries newsletter, Mussen writes Bee Briefs, where you can read about such topics as "getting started in beekeeping," "removing swarms" and "honey bees and California native plants."
Both publications are invaluable to the beekeeping world and to folks who just want to know more about bees.
Mussen, a Cooperative Extension apiculturist at UC Davis for more 31 years, is the 2008 recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
In national demand for his expertise on honey bees, Mussen appeared on Good Morning America on March 12, and has also been interviewed for The Lehrer Hour, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the television documentary, California Heartland. Coverage also includes Sticky Stuff of Modern Marvels, the History Channel.
“Eric is the primary conduit of information on apiculture, certainly for the entire western U.S. and perhaps even broader than that,” said UC Davis entomologist Larry Godfrey, past president of the Pacific Branch of ESA.
Widely recognized for his work, Mussen received the California State Beekeepers’ Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 1999; Apiary Inspectors of America’s Exceptional Service Award in 2000, and the California State Beekeeper Association’s Beekeeper of the Year Award in 2006.
In 2007, the American Association of Professional Apiculturists honored him with an Award of Excellence in Extension Apiculture, one of only five awards the group has presented in 20 years.
Mite on drone
Eric Mussen with panel of bees
Ouch! So, you’ve been stung by a bee.
If you’re a beekeeper, an occasional sting is a natural part of beekeeping.
UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen says that the average beekeeper may be stung approximately 3000 times a year.
Mussen describes the sting as a “modified egg-laying apparatus, so only females can sting.” The queen bee can sting multiple times, while the female worker bee dies after stinging. Drones, or male bees, cannot sting. (Interesting that Jerry Seinfeld, who played the role of Barry B. Benson in The Bee Movie, could sting! Then again, he was a "pollen jock," too. However, only the worker bees (females) gather nectar and pollen.)
When bees sting, they inject a venom that can be temporarily painful. The pain may last a few minutes but may be felt up to a few days later.
How do you remove the stinging apparatus? “It doesn’t matter how you get it out as long as you remove it as soon as possible, within 45 to 60 seconds,” Mussen says. “Otherwise, venom will keep pumping into the body.”
He advises victims to "pull out or scrape off the sting (which some people call a “stinger”) with a fingernail. The sting is barbed. The sting also emits an alarm pheromone that marks the target for additional stings. Leave the area quickly.”
Some advise that you wash the wound and treat it with ice or a cold compress to alleviate the pain. Or, apply an aerosol or cream antihistamine preparation that contains a skin coolant. The important point: don’t scratch the itch as that could lead to an infection, Mussen says.
If you’re stung on the neck or mouth, or start feeling severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately, he says.
Allergic responses include hives, swelling, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and headaches. Life-threatening reactions—which require immediate medical intervention—include shock, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, unconsciousness, and a laryngeal blockage resulting from swelling in the throat.
“Only about one or two people out of 1000 are allergic or hypersensitive to bee stings,” the UC Davis apiculturist says.
To avoid being stung:
- Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
- Wear light-colored clothing. Bees are more likely to sting black or red objects.
- Don’t wear perfume, cologne or scented soaps.
- Avoid going barefoot.
- Remain calm if you’re stung. Don’t flail your arms at the bee; movement attracts more stings.
- Remove bees from a swimming pool before entering the pool.
A funny thing happened on the way from El Cerrito to UC Davis on Friday, Aug. 1.
And it wasn't even Friday the 13th.
At 7 a.m., a group of UC Davis employees approached their commuter van in an El Cerrito parking lot. But, after glancing at the passenger side, they weren't at all sure they wanted to board.
A huge swarm of bees bearded the entire passenger side of the vehicle and part of the windshield. Thousands of bees. Did I say thousands of bees? Thousands of bees.
What to do? Knowing about colony collapse disorder and the declining bee population, they didn't want to hurt them. So they climbed in the van via the driver's side and circled the block, hoping the bees would disperse. They didn't.
In an un-bee-lievable sight, the white van, accompanied by the bees and their queen, buzzed to the UC campus on a 60-mile freeway ride.
When the vehicle pulled into the Shields parking lot shortly before 8 a.m., so did a long line of bees hanging around the door frame.
“We lost most of them along the way,” said vanpool driver Keir Reavie, head of the Biological and Agriculture Sciences Department at Shields Library.
How did the survivors survive?
“Some bees must have slipped inside the door frame and held on to the others by linking legs,” said UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen. “The queen bee was probably inside the crack.”
Reavie had earlier emailed him, asking what to do.
Mussen recommended that they leave them alone or contact a beekeeper on campus or in
Meanwhile, the social insects spent the day on campus, periodically leaving the van for food and water, while others—the scouts—searched campus buildings for a new home. Some bees parked on the “Van Pool Parking Only” sign and the motorcycle permit parking sign.
At least one bee casualty occurred in the Shields parking lot: a bee flew into a nearby spider’s web. When Mussen arrived at the site, the spider was feasting on the web-wrapped bee. A taste of honey.
What happened to the bees? "I was not able to contact the person Eric suggested on Friday afternoon, so nobody came to take the bees," Reavie said. " When I returned to the van at 5 p.m., most of the bees had left, but there was still a large group on the passenger side rear view mirror. Some of these dispersed on the trip back to
As for the UC Davis commuter van, it’s now “the bee mobile."
Let's hear it for our "unstung heroes."