Backyard Orchard News
Pull out the bottom tray (floor) of a beehive and you're likely to see lots of bee droppings, a little pollen, a few mites, a few dead bees and...a few scurrying ants.
Ants find a bee hive nice and cozy, especially in the winter as temperatures drop.
Beekeeper Elizabeth "Liz" Frost of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, who helps tend the hives never knows what she'll see during a colony inspection.
"Look," she pointed out, "see the ant carrying pollen?"
The tiny little critter hustling a heavy load of pollen made for an interesting photo.
Ants and bees are both social insects and belong to the same order, Hymenoptera. Bees and ants are sometimes called "superorganisms" as they employ a division of specialized labor, working together to support the colony for the good of all.
Ants in the bee hive, though, are a nuisance.
Off to the Nest
Dragonflies, damselflies, dermestids and native bees.
Does an entomological life get any better than this?
Those are some of the topics to be discussed at the next meeting of the Northern California Entomological Society, set for Thursday, Feb. 4 in the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Plant Diagnostic Lab building, 3288 Meadowview Road, Sacramento.
The meeting, to be held from 9:15 to approximately 3 p.m., is open to all interested persons. Membership dues are $10 a year, according to secretary-treasurer Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty (email@example.com).
Patrick Foley, a theoretical population biologist and pollination biologist at California State University, Sacramento, will present a talk on "Native Bees of the American and Consumnes River."The schedule:
9:15 a.m.: Registration and coffee
9:45: “Native Bees of the American and Cosumnes Rivers” – Patrick Foley, Sacramento State University.
10:30: “Spotted Winged Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii: Research, Integrated Pest Management and Control” – Janet Caprile, Contra Costa County UC Cooperative Extension.
11:15: “Section 18 Pesticide Registration” – Margaret Reiff, Pesticide Registration, Department of Pesticide Regulation.
12:00 : Lunch (orders will be taken at the meeting) – $15
1:15 p.m.: “Neo-Tropical Odonata” (Odonata is an order of insects encompassing dragonflies (Anisoptera) and damselflies (Zygoptera). – Rosser Garrison, CDFA
2 p.m.: “Tour of CDFA Insect Collection with Special Emphasis on Controlling Dermestids and Other Destroyers of Museum Specimens” – Stephen D. Gaimari, CDFA
The Northern California Entomology Society meets three times a year: the first Thursday in February; the first Thursday in May, at UC Davis; and the first Thursday in November in the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District conference room, Concord. Agricultural biologist Matthew Slattengren of the Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture serves as president.
The society is comprised of university faculty, researchers, pest abatement professionals, students and other interested persons.
The bumble bee population is declining and some species are teetering on the brink of extinction.
That's the gist behind why three conservation groups and bumble bee researcher Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, are asking the federal government to impose regulations on the movement and health of commercial bumble bees to protect the declining native/wild bumble bee population.
A Jan. 12th press release issued by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is drawing worldwide attention. The latest coverage came from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Take Franklin's bumble bee. That's a bumble bee found only in a small stretch of southern Oregon and northern California. Robbin Thorp, a member of the Xerces Society, hasn't seen it for several years and fears it may be extinct.
You'll want to read the article on "Bumble Bees in Decline" on the Xerces Society Web site and look at the photos of the bumble bees that could be nearing extinction.
Two recent studies provide a direct link between diseases in commercial bumble bees and the health of wild bumble bees:
--Otterstatter, M.C., and J.D. Thomson. 2008. Does Pathogen Spillover from Commercially Reared Bumble Bees Threaten Wild Pollinators? PLoS One. Available online at http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0002771
--Colla, S.R., M.C. Otterstatter, R.J. Gegear, and J.D. Thomson. 2006. Plight of the Bumblebee: Pathogen Spillover from Commercial to Wild Populations. Biological Conservation 129: 461-467.
Otterstatter and Thomson note that wild bumble bees near greenhouses have higher pathogen loads (of Crithidia bombi and Nosema bombi) than bumble bees farther away from greenhouses.We're glad to see this kind of research under way and the proposed restrictions sent to the USDA. We need to protect our wild bumble bees.
Franklin's Bumble Bee
When you visit the Peter J. Shields Oak Grove in the UC Davis Arboretum, you'll see one of the most diverse mature oak collections in the United States. More than 80 kinds of oaks, including scientifically documented trees native to the United States,Central America, Europe and Asia are planted there.
The dominant native oak is the Valley oak, Quercus lobata Née.
What Ian Pearse, a UC Davis researcher in the Department of Entomology, wanted to know was this: "Why do insects interact with some non-native plant species but not others?"
In a study encompassing three summers and 57 species of introduced (non-native) oaks in the grove, he found that many insects that target California’s native oak trees will also feed on non-native oaks planted near them, but with one distinct difference: the insects tend to do more damage to the non-native oaks that are closely related to the natives, than they do to the distant relatives.
“This is a confirmation of the ideas dating back to Darwin,” said Pearse, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Entomology who studies with major professor and noted insect ecologist Rick Karban.
Pearse and co-author Andrew Hipp of the Illinois-based Morton Arboretum and Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, published their results in a recent edition of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“The insects were mostly small moths, fairly inconspicuous,” Pearse said. “They don’t cause a lot of damage. This was more of a theoretical study, of how insects on native oaks also tend to interact with non-native oaks that are similar.”
“Ian's study is important for several reasons,” said Karban. “Our collective intuition about what makes some introduced plants, including crop species, more susceptible to herbivores than others is poorly developed. By using a large number of oak species planted in a common environment, and accounting for the relatedness of the species, Ian can answer that question with a great deal of elegance and power. His finding that relatedness of the various oaks to the native species explains a lot of the picture and provides considerable insight.”
The journal cover features an image of the mural “Oak Family Tree,” from the UC Davis Arboretum oak collection. The mural, created through the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, taught by entomology professor and artist Diane Ullman and artist Donna Billick, depicts the evolutionary relationships of 29 oak species and the animals associated with each species.
“The project was a collaboration with the arboretum,” Ullman said, noting that Emily Griswold, a national leader in oak conservation and the Arboretum’s assistant director of horticulture, “provided the leadership and knowledge base from the arboretum.”
The PNAS article is drawing widespread interest from ecologists, taxonomists and oak enthusiasts. Pearse is the first person to create a phylogeny of the oaks in Shields Oak Grove. Internationally recognized oak expert John Tucker (1916-2008), former UC Davis botany professor and a former director of the Arboretum, helped plant the trees nearly half a century ago.
And now we know more about the insects that interact with those oaks.
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.