Backyard Orchard News
So you're thinking about becoming a backyard beekeeper...
What considerations are involved?
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist and member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, has just revised his Bee Brief on "Getting Started in Beekeeping," posted on the department's website.
"One of your most important considerations," Mussen says, "is the safety of family members and neighbors." Indeed, someone might be allergic to bee stings and require immediate medical attention.
"The only way to find out is to ask the neighbors, and this will allow you to find out whether or not there is serious opposition to your keeping bees in the neighborhood," Mussen says.
Among the other considerations:
1. Over how much of the year will nectar and pollens be available to the bees? Will you have to feed the bees to ensure their survival?
2. Over how much of the year will water be available to the bees? They need it every day.
3. What will the bees be flying over to get their food and water? They defecate in flight and bee feces can damage finishes on cars and leave colored spots on everything below them. Also, will they be flying across a pedestrian, bicycle or equestrian pathway? If so, they have to be encouraged to gain altitude quickly by installing fencing or solid, tall plantings near the hives.
4. Is the apiary accessible year around? Flooding at or near the apiary site is the usual problem.
5. Try to avoid low spots. They hold cold, damp air for prolonged periods.
6. Try to avoid hilltops. They tend to be windy.
Mussen goes on to talk about beekeeping equipment, costs, knowledge of diseases, beekeeping journals, and the "bible" on honey bees, the 1324-page book: The Hive and the Honey Bee.
It's a good idea to join a local beekeeping organization and get tips from the veterans.
Beginning beekeeping books? Mussen points out that Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, recently published a 167-page book, The Backyard Beekeeper, and that UC Davis emeritus professor Norman Gary (and bee wrangler) has written a beekeeping book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist, due out in November or December.
There's a wealth of information out there to help you get started.
Honey Bee on Begonia
They're called "wonder flies."
And for a good reason.
Folks wonder what they are. As native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says: "We non-Dipterists often refer to these flies as 'wonder flies' since most of us wonder what these tiny diverse flies are."
We recently spotted these "wonder flies" in Napa sharing a squash blossom with honey bees.
Flies are pollinators, too!
If you wonder about these flies, check out BugGuide.Net, where entomologists and others congregate to share "observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures."
Its stance is firm. Its eyes glow menacingly. Its attitude: "Don't mess with me."
We spotted this katydid on a rose in a UC Davis rose garden. It towered over the honey bees, spotted cucumber beetles, ladybugs, hover flies, and assorted other insects.
The katydid, in the family Tettigonlidae, is also known as a long-horned grasshopper, but entomologists point out it's more closely related to crickets than grasshoppers.
Tettigoniids dine on flowers, leaves, bark and seed, and some feed on other insects.
Now if the katydid were six feet tall...that would scare any trick-or-treater...
A gigantic bee sculpture and bee hive columns are major attractions at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of the California, Davis.
The grand opening of the half-acre bee friendly garden took place Sept. 11 but the garden is open year around at no charge. Located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, it is proving to be a major campus destination.
The key goals of the haven are to provide a year-around food source for the Laidlaw bees and other pollinators; to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees; to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own; and to serve as a research site.
Noted artist Donna Billick created the six-foot-long sculpture, "Miss Bee Haven," located beneath an almond tree. The UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program provided the ceramic tiles around the bench and the bee hive columns.
Billick and entomologist Diane Ullman co-founded and co-direct the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, serves as the associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Plans are in the works for more art from the Art/Science Fusion Program to bee-utify this bee friendly garden.
Bee Hive Column
There's a magnificent purple aster blooming in the bee yard at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
The aster, a late-bloomer, makes for a picture-perfect apiary scene...white bee boxes in the background...purple aster in the foreground...and the sounds of bees buzzing among the flowers.
In reality, the bees are gearing up for winter, but on this sunny day, autumn mimics spring.
Meanwhile, there's an administrative buzz in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, too. The department is recruiting for an assistant professor/apiculturist.
The research focus of this position will center on investigations pertaining to honey bees (Apis mellifera) and their role in pollinating California’s $6 billion honey bee-dependent crops, according to Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the department. Possible research areas include behavior, genetics, ecology, pathology, physiology/immunology, microbiology, nutrition, toxicology, and parasitology of honey bees.
The call is out. The beginning review date is set (Dec. 1) and a bee specialist is expected to be in place by July 1, 2011.
Hear that buzz?
Bee on purple aster