Posts Tagged: honey bees
Eric Mussen is used to fielding questions about honey bees--how and why they gather nectar, honey, propolis and water; how many eggs a queen bee can lay in a day; and why beekeeper use smokers.
Typical of the questions and his answers:Why do beekeepers use smokers?
The smoke from the smoker has three effects on the bees. First, it prevents the guard bees from liberating much “alarm pheromone” (smells like bananas) in the hive. Second, it prevents “soldier” bees in the hive from smelling the pheromone that has been secreted. Third, it causes many bees to fill up on honey. Despite the wives’ tales to the contrary, there is no reason to believe that the bees “think” there is a fire or that bees full of honey cannot sting.
Can honey bees see color?
Yes, honey bees can see nearly all the colors we see. They cannot see red, which looks black to them. They can see into the UV wavelengths a ways, which is beyond our limit at purple. UV looks black to us.
However, when Mussen takes the stage on Monday, March 1 at the California Small Farm Conference in San Diego, he won't be giving a presentation on honey bees or answering questions.
He'll be receiving a well-deserved award: the Pedro Ilic Outstanding Ag Educator Award for his work in educating the agricultural community, the beekeeping industry and the general public about honey bees.
Mussen, an Extension apiculturist and member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976, is considered by his peers as one of the most respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation.
He serves in leadership roles in numerous honey bee organizations, from the California State Beekeepers' Association to the American Honey Producers' Association. He helped found the Western Apicultural Society and served terms as president. The list of service to agriculture and apiculture is both impressive and extensive.
“Yet he is just as open to answering a question about Nosema to a beginning beekeeper or responding to a child’s question about queen bees as he is to helping a commercial beekeeper with 15,000 hives, or engaging in intricate scientific research,” said nominator Larry Godfrey, Extension entomologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Mussen delivers his messages via computer, phone, field and office visits, research, conferences and publications. Since 1976, he has written the bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, and fact sheets called Bee Briefs.
Yet unbeknowst to many of today's agriculturists: Eric Mussen and Pedro Ilic, a small farm-advisor in Fresno County who died in 1994, knew each other. In fact, they worked together as members of the Small Farm Work Group, part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
"They were alike in many ways: their dedication, enthusiasm, high energy, friendliness, their commitment to small-scale and family farming, and the easy-going way they imparted information on a diversity of projects, solving a multitude of problems—and sometimes at a moment’s notice,” Godfrey said.
Ilic was known as an effective teacher who instilled self-esteem in others and constantly encouraged others, his colleagues said. Illic showed characteristic determination, exuberance, high energy, and genuine friendliness for all people, with the conviction that the smallest is as important as the biggest.
That would be describing Eric Mussen to a "T."
Or to a "B."
A tip of the bee veil to Eric Mussen, public servant extraordinaire.
It's not too early to start thinking about NPW.
NPW? National Pollinator Week.
They are a key to our global sustainability and food supply. Eighty-percent of the world's crops depend on pollination. Honey bees pollinate about one-third of the food we eat.
Worldwide, we have about 20,000 species of bees, according to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. And California alone, he says, has more than 1600 species. Bees include sweat bees, digger bees, leafcutting bees, bumble bees, and scores of others.
Want to know what to plant in your garden to attract bees and other pollinators? Good sites to read are UC Berkeley's Urban Bee Gardens Web site and the Xerces Society Web site.
Meanwhile, almond blossoms are in full bloom in California. At the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, an almond tree near the apiary is a burst of blossoms and a flash of aromatic fury.
Walk by the tree and you'll see pollen-packing honey bees buzzing around like there's no tomorrow.
We must ensure there will be a tomorrow.
Almond Tree at the Laidlaw Facility
Buds 'n Blossoms
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
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
It’s raining in northern California like the proverbial cats and dogs--and all the more reason to think of vacations.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, received a query last week from a family planning a camping trip to a public park in the Midwest.
A daughter is allergic to bee stings, so the family wanted to know two things:
1. Is there any way to find out what a bee population is in a specific area?
2. How can we avoid bee stings?
His answers are informative:
Is there any way to find out what a bee population is in a specific area?
Usually, the only records that are kept deal with the number of colonies registered by the beekeepers in a state once a year. If the beekeepers are commercial beekeepers, they are likely to move the colonies around for purposes of crop pollination or producing honey crops. Unless you knew all the beekeepers and their patterns of operation, there is no way to know where the colonies are.
If this is a good honey producing area, beekeepers might be moving their bees into it. You could call the park (if it is one) and see if they allow beekeeping on the park grounds.
Even if they don't, if there is good bee forage in the area (nectar and pollen), some honey bees are apt to be living around the area in "feral" colonies--not managed by anyone.
How can we avoid bee stings? Best preventative measures?
Honey bees do not tend to sting anything very far from the nesting location, unless you happen to step on one, etc. They are busy collecting water, nectar, pollens, or propolis (plant resins they use to glue things in the hive.) If something comes near the nesting location, and the bees respond to the approaching threat, then there might be some stinging.
What are the best preventative measures? This pertains to wasps, too, which sting more people in the woods than honey bees ever do. Keep your eyes open for "directed" flight by insects in an out of a specific spot. That is likely to be the nest entrance. Keep away from there.
If bees or wasps come flying out toward you, don't swing at them or try to blow them away from your face. You'll get stung immediately. If you are not yet stung, just stand very still for a moment, then ease yourself out of the area with no flailing or swinging of the arms, etc.
Put a lot of distance between you and the nest without running.
If they are all over you and stinging, then run first and work on the stings later. Honey bee stings stick in your flesh and give off "alarm pheromone," which leads to more stings in the same place. You do not want to continue to be a target.
If stung, look for the sting when you get a chance. If it is honey bees, the sting will be there. Scrape it off with a finger nail, before all the venom is pumped into the skin.
Honey bees are attracted more to yellow and blue than to other colors. Honey bees treat red and black as black. Black is bad if bees are stinging in the area. Pastel and white colors usually are best around bees.
Honey bees are attracted to odors reminiscent of lemon and are shocked by the smell of bananas--just like their alarm odor. (The aroma of bananas is similar to the scent of a bee's alarm pheromone.)
Final thought, even if there are bee hives or nests around, hardly anyone ever gets stung by them. They do their thing and you do yours, and there should not be any conflict under normal circumstances.***
For more information on bee stings, read the bee sting advice that appears in his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, a publication Mussen launched in 1976. He also writes the equally informative Bee Briefs. These publications are archived on the UC Davis Department of Entomology Web site.
Flight of the Honey Bee