Posts Tagged: honey bees
Almond pollination season is approaching, and with it, come concerns.
Mussen, a former New Englander who has seen dozens of almond pollination seasons in California (he's been a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976), says California now has approximately 710,000 acres of almonds. Each acre requires two hives for pollination.
Since California doesn't have that many bees, beekeepers from around the country truck in their colonies. The going rate per hive over the last several years has ranged from $100 to $150.
Generally, California's almond pollination season starts around Feb. 10, Mussen says, and ends around March 10. That takes into account the early, mid- or late varieties that bloom at different times. However, the pollination period for each individual orchard is around 10 days.
The flight hours of a honey bee during almond pollination season? Approximately nine hours a day over a 10-day bloom period.
And what are flight hours? Mussen defines "flight hours" as "the number of hours above 55 degrees when the wind is less than 15 miles per hour, given a sufficient level of sunlight without rainfall."
"I believe that if the tree varieties overlap well in bloom, the bees usually have moved the pollen around in the morning and early afternoon on good flight days," he writes in his newsletter. "That probably requires only about four hours a day."
Of course, poor weather can interfere significantly with "fertilization and nut set," Mussen says, "but it would not be the fault of the bees."
As a service to beekeepers and growers, a retired beekeeper posts information on the Almond Board of California Web site indicating who's renting colonies and who needs pollination.
Meanwhile, check out the images below of UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk in a Dixon, Calif. almond orchard. Fondrk manages the Honey Bee Pollen Hoarding Selection Program at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, under the direction of Robert E. Page Jr., Arizona State University. Fondrk and Page moved the bees from Arizona to California several years ago.
Talk about singing the blues.Specifically, the noted "Blue King" (Aster amellus), a member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae.
This is one flower that deserves its own chorus.
At the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, there's a "Blue King" planted close to the back entrance leading to the apiary. It serves a triple purpose: food for the bees; a splash of color for the beekeepers who tend the apiary; and eye candy for photographers and other visitors.
In the late fall and early winter (before the frost), the bees are all over it.
However, soon the "Blue King" will have company. Come spring, the one-half acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the quarter-acre Campus Buzzway (two bee friendly gardens planted last fall near the facility) will be buzzing with bees.
Circle your calendar: the public opening is June 19.
Working the Flower
The January newsletter published by the eXtension.org Bee Health Community of Practice includes:
* New Feature: Managed Pollinator CAP Updates
* Social Media Strategy Developed
* YouTube Channel Launched
* New Feature: University of Florida Bee Disease Videos
* FAQ's Organized by Category
* Google Analytics: Bee Health Homepage in Top 10 at eXtension.org
* On the Calender
One of the many bee experts who answers the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) is John Skinner of the University of Tennessee, who has strong UC Davis connections. He received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1987, studying with major professor and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp. Although an emeritus professor since 1994, Thorp continues his research. He maintains an office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
Here's a sampling of the questions that Skinner answered in the last few months:
How Do Bees Make Wax?
Bees produce the beeswax used in the construction of their combs from the four pair of wax glands located on the underside of the abdomen. These glands are most highly developed and active in bees 10-18 days old. The wax appears in small, irregular oval flakes or scales that project between the overlapped portions of the last four abdominal segments. Wax can be secreted only at relatively high temperatures and after a large intake of honey or nectar. --John Skinner, University of TennesseeHow Do Bees in a Swarm Determine Where to Go for a New Home?
A swarm of bees hanging on a branch includes a queen and thousands of worker bees. Some of these bees function as scouts and search the surrounding area for a suitable category to move into. The scouts return to the swarm cluster and dance to communicate information to the bees in the swarm. There may be numerous dances all going on at the same time. The results are similar to a dance contest where the number of dances is reduced until only one dancer left. Within a half hour of reaching an “agreement” the swarm flies to the new location. --John Skinner, University of TennesseeHow Long Do Honey Bees Live?
During the active season, the lifetime of a worker is five to six weeks. Overwintering worker bees may, however, live for four to six months. Whatever their life span, worker bees usually confine themselves to one task at a time, working without pause. If they are field bees, they may be scouts or collectors. Scouts look for sources of nectar and pollen. Once suitable sources are located, the scouts recruit additional foragers.
Nectar collectors, pollen foragers, water gatherers or propolis gatherers work so single-mindedly at their jobs, they will not stop even to collect honey placed before them. During the day, one may see hundreds of spent workers, wings ragged, returning wearily to the hive. Worker bees are aptly named as they literally work themselves to death. Death occurs following approximately 500 miles of flight. --John Skinner, University of TennesseeHow Can Worker Honey Bees Perform So Many Tasks in Their Short Lives?
The lives of the worker bees fall roughly into two periods. During the first period of approximately three weeks, they are called hive or house bees. On emerging from their cells, they groom themselves and engorge on honey and pollen from the storage cells. Their first three days are spent cleaning out brood cells. Thereafter as they mature, glands including labial, salivary, hypopharangeal and wax become functional they feed the older larvae and then the younger larvae, take orientation flights, evaporate nectar, build comb, feed the queen and the drones, keep an even temperature in the brood nest and guard the entrance to the hive. These differences in responsibilities based on worker age are known as a division of labor. But, depending on specific circumstances, it can be very flexible.
The last half of a worker bee’s adult life is devoted to foraging duties outside the hive. Four necessary items collected outside the hive are pollen, nectar, water and propolis (bee glue).--John Skinner, University of TennesseeGot a question? Just ask it on this page.
Another noted bee expert connected with the "Bee Health" Web site is Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty. Read some of his answers to FAQs posted on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility Web site.
It's all about keeping our bees healthy.
Trio on Sedum
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