Backyard Orchard News
It's Presidents' Day today, a holiday for most of us but not for the honey bees.
The bees are buzzing in and around the almond blossoms, collecting nectar and pollen for their hives. Nectar provides the carbohydrates for the hive, and pollen provides the proteins.
Someone told me yesterday that she thought that the drones (males) gather the nectar and pollen. Not so. (Shades of the inaccurate information released in Jerry Seinfeld's "The Bee Movie" and the equally inaccurate term, "pollen jocks.") No, the only function of the drones is reproduction. When the virgin queen bee heads out on her maiden flight, she'll mate with 12 to 25 drones or so in the drone congregation area. Then the drones die. Happy, probably. If they don't mate, they'll die within a month. Sad, probably.
The queen bee, in peak season, will lay about 2000 eggs a day. The worker bees--all sterile female workers--serve as the nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers.
It's a matriarchal society.
So when you see the bees buzzing around the almond blossoms, they're girls. Busy girls. Golden girls. They not only buzz, they rock.
They're the ones that pollinate one-third of the food we eat, including California's 700,000 acres of almonds.
You go, girls!
Wild Blue Yonder
There's nothing like a steaming hot cup of coffee to jump-start the day.
If there's anything better than one cup, it's TWO cups.
Well, honey bees like a little caffeine, too.
Scientists at the University of Haifa, Israel, found that bees prefer nectar with a small concentration of caffeine and nicotine over nectar without those substances. The bees like the amount naturally found in nature and not at the higher, more toxic levels.
A news release posted on EurekaAlert noted that the bees "clearly" favored the blossoms that gave them a little buzz.
What's caffeine and nicotine doing in flowers, you ask? Did someone pour coffee or stub their cigarette in the blossoms? No. Some plant species naturally have a little caffeine or nicotine in their floral nectar.
"Nicotine is found naturally in floral nectar at a concentration of up to 2.5 milligrams per liter, primarily in various types of the tobacco tree (Nicotiana glauca)," wrote communications specialist Rachel Feldman of the University of Haita in her news release. "Caffeine is found at concentration levels of 11-17.5 milligrams per liter, mostly in citrus flowers. In the nectar of grapefruit flowers, however, caffeine is present in much higher concentrations, reaching 94.2 milligrams per liter."
What the researchers did was offer "clean" nectar (comprised of just sugars) and artificial nectar (comprised of various natural sugar levels, coupled with various levels of caffeine and nicotine).
The bees honed in on the spiked nectar.
It's important to point out, however, that the study proved a preference, not an addiction.
And yes, the next step is to study whether the bees can become addicted to the substances.
Honey, would you like a little sugar in your coffee, or a little coffee in your sugar?
It was Feb. 27, 2008. As a visiting researcher with the Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, she was working on almond pollination research with UC Berkeley conservation biologist Claire Kremen.
Klein had earlier (2003) received her Ph.D. in agroecology and zoology from the University of Göttingen, Germany.
Today Klein is a professor at the University of Lüneburg, Germany and continues to study conservation biology and ecological interactions.
And more good news--she's in the Yolo County area for approximately five weeks for continuing almond pollination research, and while here, will present a lecture on the UC Davis campus.
Klein will speak on "Can Wild Pollinators Contribute, Augment, and Complement Almond Pollination in California?" on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at a UC Davis Department of Entomology noonhour seminar.
Klein will be hosted by her fellow researcher and colleague, pollination ecologist Neal Williams, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
On Feb. 17, however, Klein won't be up a tree, but at the lectern.
In the Arms of an Almond
Bee and an Almond Blossom
The Tidy Tips, a native California wildflower (Layia platyglossa, family Asteraceae) is a welcome addition to flower beds.
If you walk behind the Sciences Laboratory Building on the University of California, Davis, campus, patches of Tidy Tips abound.
If it's cold, windy and rainy, no honey bees. If we're graced with a "sun break," here come the bees.
Sun break on the Tidy Tips...a sure sign of spring.
Honey Bee on Tidy Tips
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses more than seven million insect specimens at its facility on the University of California, Davis campus, has extended its hours to include several weekends.
The first will be Saturday, Feb. 13 from 1 to 5 p.m., and the theme focuses on Valentine's Day.
The theme? "What Is a Kissing Bug?"
The Bohart Museum, located at 1124 Academic Surge, also will be open on two other Saturdays and a Sunday. Think St. Patrick’s Day, UC Davis Picnic Day and Mother’s Day.
“The weekend openings are in response to working people and parents who can't visit us during the week,” said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart's education and outreach coordinator.
“For these events we'll be highlighting some of the animals at the Bohart which get overlooked,” Yang said. “On Feb. 13, we’ll let the kissing bugs have their 15 minutes of fame.”
On Sunday, March 21, in keeping with St. Patrick’s Day, the theme is “What Has Six Legs and Is Green All Over?” Hours are from 1 to 5 p.m.
Saturday, April 17 is the traditional UC Davis Picnic Day, when the Bohart will be open throughout the day.
Saturday, May 8 will be “Moth-ers Day,” an event focusing on moths from 1 to 5 p.m.
The Bohart is open weekdays, Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., and is closed on Fridays. Group can arrange tours by contacting Yang at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493 or (530)-752-9464. “Due to limited space, groups need to call ahead and book a tour other than on the weekend openings,” she said.
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 by the late Richard M. Bohart (1912-2007), a noted entomologist and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Dedicated to teaching, research and service, the museum houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America. The museum's "petting zoo" includes live insects such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, tiger hissing cockroaches (also from Madagascar), mantids, and assorted walking sticks and walking leaves.First-year graduate student Emily Bzdyk, who studies at the Bohart with major professor Lynn Kimsey, is among those intrigued by all the insects there, including the tiger hissing cockroaches (Gromphadorhina grandidieri). (Bzdyk is also a very talented artist and photographer.)
Emily and the Tiger