Backyard Orchard News
A bee is a bee is a bee?
Poet Gertrude Stein ("a rose is a rose is a rose") could have said that.
True, there's only one species of honey bee in the United States--Apis mellifera, the Western or European honey bee--but there are several races.
The "gold standard" is Apis mellifera ligustica, also known as the Italian honey bee, the most common bee in America. It's basically your yellow or golden bee.
But among the other popular races is Apis mellifera carnica, aka the Carniolans or "Carnies," a darker bee. It is primarily darkish gray.
We spotted both of them last weekend sharing a lavender--the blond Italian bee on one side and the darker Carniolan bee on the other.
Author Richard E. Bonney writes in his book, Beekeeping: A Practical Guide: "For the most part, they (the races) are the result of evolution in geographic isolation (Italians on the Italian peninsula, for instance) where the specific climate and vegetation influenced their development over the ages. Each race has specific traits that relate to the geographic origin of that race."
At UC Davis, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, focuses her research on identifying, selecting and enhancing honey bee stocks that show increasing levels of resistance to pests and diseases. In the early 1980s, Cobey developed her New World Carniolans stock by back-crossing stocks collected from throughout the United States to create a more pure strain.
“Over time, it has proven very productive, winter hardy, well-tempered and more resistant to pests and disease,” says Cobey, who teaches advanced courses on queen bee rearing and queen bee insemination, drawing students from throughout the world.
Genetic diversity, the raw tools for selection, is critical “in maintaining colony fitness and resisting pests and diseases,” she notes.
No matter the races, the honey bees still race for the lavender.
And the other bee friendly plants...
The Italian and the Carniolan
Fran Keller, a doctoral candidate in entomology, and Nanase Nakanishi, a senior animal science major, teamed to create a "Save the Bees" T-shirt, spotlighting the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and the adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven.
The newly planted haven is a half-acre bee friendly garden designed to provide a year-around food source for honey bees and an educational experience for human visitors. By spring, it will be well-established and in full bloom.
And the T-shirt? Nakanishi served as the artist, and Keller, the designer.
Nakanishi, a Bohart student employee for the past three years, plans to become a veterinarian.
Keller's Ph.D. work involves tenebrionids or darkling beetles. She studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and professor and vice chair of the Department of Entomology.
In her "spare" time, Keller has created a number of insect posters and T-shirts, all available at the museum.
The bee shirt, which comes in black or yellow, is receiving scores of accolades. "Cute!" is one of them.
The front says "Save the Bees" and is inscribed with the Laidlaw facility name. The back features a photo (taken by yours truly) of a newly emerged bee tucked inside the line drawing of a hive. It is lettered with "Follow me to the Honey Bee Haven Garden!"
Keller said the shirts will sell for $20 for adults and $15 for youths, and range in size from 2XL to small for adults, and XS to large for youths.
All proceeds are earmarked for honey bee research at UC Davis. The shirts are available at the Bohart Museum, 1124 Academic Surge, UC Davis campus, or by accessing the Bohart Web site.
Saving the Bees
The dull brown moth may be dull-looking but as noctuid cutworms they're not.
We spotted this noctuid cutworm, soon to be a dull brown moth, last week on a yarrow in the Storer Gardens at the University of California, Davis.
Noctuids belong to--guess what--the Noctuidae family, which includes moslty the dull-colored moths.
You're likely to see these moths flying around at night, attracted to your porch light.
Another place you can see these moths--as specimens--is the Bohart Museum of Entomology, 1124 Academic Surge, on the UC Davis campus. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor and vice chair of the department, the Bohart Museum houses some seven million insect specimens--and a few live ones, such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Yes, they give tours. Contact Tabatha Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's really interesting about the noctuids is that they have auditory organs that are capable of detecting frequencies from 3 to more than 100 kilocycles per second. This can save them from being bat prey.
Bats, you see, emit high-pitched chirps as they fly around at night seeking prey and avoiding obstacles. The chirps bounce back or echo, enabling them to maneuver in complete darkness.
When the dull brown moths hear the chirps, they fold their wings and drop to the ground.
Three kilocycles (3000 cycles) per second is in the top octave of the piano; the average upper limit of hearing in humans is about 15 kilocycles per second. (Source: An Introduction to the Study of Insects by Donald Borror and Dwight DeLong, former entomologists at Ohio State University)
Dianne DiBlasi did it.
Back in January, we wrote a Bug Squad blog about Dianne DiBlasi’s three-year effort to overturn an Allendale, N.J. ban on backyard beekeeping.
DiBlasi, who leads a group of teen environmentalists known as Team B.E.E.S. (Bergen Environmental Effort to Save Bees) and is a member of the the New Jersey Beekeepers' Association, simply wanted the Allendale Council to remove bees from the city’s list of “banned and dangerous animals” and allow non-commercial beekeepers to keep their bee colonies in their yards.
On Oct. 14, the Allendale Council unanimously voted to lift the bee ban.
This is good news indeed. It shows what one person, with help of her friends and fellow beekeepers, can do to overturn an ordinance that needed overturning.DiBlasi set out to educate the town officials and the community about how vital honey bees are. She pointed out that bees are important pollinators, that they pollinate one-third of the food we eat. She pointed out that bees are in trouble, due to the mysterious malady known as colony collapse disorder, and diseases, parasites, pests, pesticides, malnutrition, and climate changes. She pointed out that bees need our help and one way to help is to plant bee friendly gardens and allow backyard beekeeping.
Of course, the lifting of the bee ban comes with restrictions, such as the number of hives within a certain area. There are also requirements such as notifying the neighbors within 200 feet of any property line (if a neighbor protests, no beekeeping), protecting the area with a fence at least six feet high, licensing the hives with the Allendale officials, registering with the New Jersey apiarist, and the like.
But she did it!
DiBlasi graciously thanked the entire council for their support. "I promise you that you will be amazed at your flower gardens and vegetable gardens. Give me two years."
We suspect it will be a lot less.
Newly emerged bee
Honey bees are involved in a unique "sting operation" utilizing their sense of keen smell to detect explosives and narcotics.
And now a scientist from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, will talk about the project on Wednesday, Oct. 21 on the UC Davis campus.
Robert Wingo, with the Chemical Diagnosis and Engineering of the Chemistry Division, will speak on “Explosives and Narcotics Detection by Monitoring of the Proboscis (Tongue) Extension Reflex in Apis mellifera (Honey Bee)" at 4 p.m., in 357 Hutchison Hall, UC Davis.
The one-hour event is sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology.
Wingo's lecture will be Webcast live as part of the pilot UC Seminar Network, which is Webcasting scientific seminars on three UC campuses: Davis, Berkeley and Santa Cruz. Viewers can link to it.
UC Davis entomologist James R. Carey, instrumental in launching the pilot program, is the former chair of the UC Systemwide Academic Senate University Committee on Research Policy.
What's the honey bee project all about?
In a news release issued Nov. 27, 2006, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) news writer Todd Hanson wrote that scientists at LANL “have developed a method for training the common honey bee to detect the explosives used in bombs. Based on knowledge of bee biology, the new techniques could become a leading tool in the fight against the use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which present a critical vulnerability for American military troops abroad and is an emerging danger for civilians worldwide.”
“By studying bee behavior and testing and improving on technologies already on the market,” Hanson wrote, “Los Alamos scientists developed methods to harness the honey bee's exceptional olfactory sense where the bees' natural reaction to nectar, a proboscis extension reflex (sticking out their tongue), could be used to record an unmistakable response to a scent. Using Pavlovian training techniques common to bee research, they trained bees to give a positive detection response, via the proboscis extension reflex, when they were exposed to vapors from TNT, C4, TATP explosives and propellants.”
The bee’s phenomenal sense of smell rivals that of dogs, according to Tim Haarmann, then principal investigator for the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project.
More information is available from the LANL news release.
LANL, a self-described "multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security," is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team comprised of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and the Washington Division of URS for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.
The Tongue Has It