Posts Tagged: honey bees
The swamp sunflower that graces the entrance to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, does quadruple duty.
It's stunningly beautiful. It's strong and sturdy. It's a late bloomer. And the honey bees love it.
This perennial sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) can reach 5 to 10 feet tall. It likes its soil moist, which is why it's often planted around water gardens.
You can almost feel the warmth of the sun backlighting the blossoms, as the nearby honey bees forage.
One drawback: it's as vigorous as bamboo and can take over a yard. But oh, how swamp sunflower can color a flower bed.
Until the first frost.
It's being hailed by environmental groups as "a victory for the bees."
A U.S. federal judge has ruled that the insecticide, spirotetramat, must be pulled from the shelves because it could be dangerously toxic to America's declining honey bee population.
Starting Jan. 15, 2010, it will be illegal for the insecticide, manufactured by Bayer CropScience under the trade names Movento and Ultor, to be sold in the United States.
What the federal court order does is invalidate EPA's approval of the use of the pesticide.
U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote ruled that the EPA did not properly seek comments or publicize the review process. She called for further re-evaluation of the insecticide in compliance with the law.
Spirotetramat, which inhibits cell reproduction in insects, targets such sucking pests as aphids, whiteflies, scales, mealybugs, psylla, phylloxera, thrips, and mites.
Up to now, its registered uses, according to the 74-page EPA document, included a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as uses in greenhouses and nurseries. A few of them: citrus, grapes, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, onions, strawberries, stone fruits and livestock commodities.
The Xerces Society, an invertebrate conservation society based in Portland, Ore., and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental organization in New York, filed the suit as a means to protect bees.
Pesticides--along with diseases, viruses, parasites, pests, malnutrition and the changing weather--have been linked to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious malady in which adult bees abandon the colony, leaving behind the queen, brood and food stores.
"Save the bees" is a hue-and-cry being heard about the world. And rightfully so.
Bees, our little agricultural workers, pollinate about one-third of the food we eat. In the United States, bees pollinate $15 billion worth of plants every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Newly emerged bee
Soon beekeepers from around the country will be trucking their bees to California for the annual almond pollination.
California has some 700,000 acres of almonds, with each acre requiring two hives for pollination.
But an article in the Dec. 27th edition of the New York Post raises a serious question: How healthy are the honey bees?
Since colony collapse disorder (CCD) became the buzz word in the fall of 2006, just how healthy are the bees now?
Well, CCD is still with us, and the commercial beekeeper that sounded the alarm--Dave Hackenberg of Pennsylvania--says this winter could be the worst yet.
Hackenberg told The Post that "We had around 3000 hives at the end of the summer, but they started shrinking early, so when we came to truck them to Florida, there was only 2000 of them left."
He said that he wouldn't be surprised if one-fifth of his bees died before spring. "We're hoping we can stop at 50 percent losses," Hackenberg told reporter Alison Benjamin.
CCD, the mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive--leaving behind the queen and brood--continues to wreak havoc.
That's why honey bee research is so important.
CCD is probably caused by multiple factors, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Davis and closely affiliated with the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. The targeted list of suspects involved includes diseases, parasites, pesticides, pests, viruses, stress, malnutrition, and weather changes.
Beeline to Blossom
If you look closely at the colorful ceramic sign at the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, you'll see an entrance to a bee hive.
Entrance? Right. There's a hole in the skep, which tunnels to a hive in back of the sign.
And if you look really closely at the entrance, you'll see guard bees guarding their turf. They don't like home invasions or unwelcome visitors. When bees from other colonies try to sneak in to rob the honey stores, the guards chase them out.
The sign? It's the work of Davis artist Donna Billick, who co-teaches art-and-science classes at UC Davis with entomologist-artist Diane Ullman, a professor in the Department of Entomology.
Look for their students' "bee art" next spring at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted this fall next to the Laidlaw facility. A public opening is set for June 19.
Sign of the Times
Guarding the Hive
The honey bees are hungry.
There are fewer flowers blooming this time of the year, so the bees are foraging for what they can.
This morning the bees were all over the lavender (Lavandula) in our yard. One bee, packing red pollen (probably from rock purslane), glided in, strapped herself to the lavender, and sipped the nectar from a floral "cup."
The bees are a little testy this time of the year. They're foraging for their winter stores as the days grow colder and shorter and the floral supply fades. "Honey bees don't forage when it is cool, below around 50 degrees," says bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk of the University of California, Davis.
To help support the declining bee population, it's crucial to offer the bees a year-around food supply, and that's exactly what the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the UC Davis, will do. A public open house is scheduled June 19.
Meanwhile, it was Red Letter Day today as the pollen-packing bee made her rounds.
Packing Red Pollen
Red Tongue, Red Pollen