Backyard Orchard News
Is coconut oil effective in treating varroa mites, those nasty little mites that plague our honey bees?
The facts aren't in, and research is ongoing.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, will discuss his research, “Coconut Oil - Varroa Treatment or Food Ingredient?” at the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) convention, set Nov. 16-17 in the Embassy Suites, San Luis Obipso.
He'll address the crowd on Tuesday, Nov. 16. (To read more about honey bees, check out his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, and his Bee Briefs on his website.
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey will address the conference on "Honey Bee Stock Improvement: Challenges and Options" on Thursday, Nov. 18.
In addition, she'll speak Nov. 16 at Cal Poly's Horticulture and Crop Science Department on “Mating is Risky Business and the Benefits Of Being Promiscuous." That talk is part of the Dow AgroSciences Seminar Series: “New Advancements in Biotechnology and Sustainability of Crop Science."
The CSBA is headed by Roger Everett of Porterville, who is also a member of the California State Apiary Board.
CSBA’s purpose is to “educate the public about the beneficial aspects of honey bees, advance research beneficial to beekeeping practices, provide a forum for cooperation among beekeepers and to support the economic and political viability of the beekeeping industry.”
Checking the hives
Yarrow, yarrow, yarrow.
Drone fly, drone fly, drone fly.
This little insect is often mistaken for a honey bee. In the adult stage, both the drone fly and honey bee nectar flowers. However, the drone fly is a syrphid fly (family Syrphidae, subfamily Eristalinae, tribe Eristalini, genus, Eristalis). Like all syrphids, it has two wings. The honey bee has four.
Other distinct differences tell you it's a fly, not a bee. It's amazing, though, how often stock photos proclaim "honey bee" when the insect is actually a drone fly.
In its larval stage, the drone fly is known as a rat-tailed maggot. You'll see it in stagnant water, such as in ditches, ponds and drains. It feeds on stagnant rotting organic material.
We spotted this drone fly sipping nectar on a brilliant yellow yarrow (Achillea millefolium). If you look closely, you'll see yellow pollen clinging to its abdomen.
Flies, too, are pollinators!
"One generation of monarch butterflies flutters some 2000 miles between southern Canada and central Mexico," writes LiveScience senior writer Wynne Parry in her piece, "Life's Little Mysteries" posted Nov. 4 on the LiveScience website.
And some other animal migrations are even more incredible.
Parry explores the topic, "Why Do Animals Migrate?" in her excellent article, and quotes Hugh Dingle (right), emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis and a noted authority on animal migration.
Why don't migratory animals select a "shorter, simpler journey or stop altogether?" Parry asks.
"The simple answer is that the benefits of long-distance migration outweigh its costs and the benefits of shorter distances," replies Dingle.
Indeed, the monarch butterfly's migratory efforts pale in comparison to the humpback whale and the shorebird, the bar-tailed gotwit.
Humpback whales travel as much as 5000 miles one way, Parry says. But the bar-tailed godwit, "holds the record for the longest nonstop flight: 6,835 miles in eight days."
Parry points out animal migrations take their toll. "Their journeys aren't easy: migrants fast, swim upstream, fly nonstop, and face hungry predators and barriers built by humans. The journeys may be fatal to some; however, mortality data is difficult to obtain, according to Dingle."
"My own suspicion is that it's a lot less than people think," Dingle told her. "They just seem able to do it well."
Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus has plenty of them.
Native bees? Check.
In fact, the Bohart houses more than seven million insect specimens, plus a live “petting zoo,” that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, scorpions, a millipede, and six different kinds of walking sticks, including Vietnamese walking sticks and one that the Bohart staff has nicknamed “Avatar.”
Of Avatar, “It’s long, skinny and blue,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
To accommodate folks who can’t visit the Bohart during the week, the museum will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14 and again from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11. The museum is located at 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive.
A special focus on Sunday, Nov. 14 will be on Orthoptera, an order of insects that includes grasshoppers, crickets and katydids. The Diptera order (flies) will be showcased in December.
One of the most inquisitive and knowledgeable young visitors this year was Tobin “Toby” Jacobs Thornton (top right and below) of Nevada City. He was 4 1/2 when he visited the Bohart with his grandfather Paul Jacobs of Davis.The youngster knew a lot about many of the insects, including their morphology, eating preferences, behavior and habitat, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart. He held the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, marveled at the spiders, and allowed a green walking stick to walk up his leg and on to his chest.
Jacobs said his parents have long encouraged his interest in insects “and he has access to their books of Sierra insects and spiders and loves just looking at them, and he's devoted to the non-fiction section of his local libraries in Nevada County.”
The R. M. Bohart Museum of Entomology founded in 1946 by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart, is dedicated to teaching, research and service. It houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America and is worldwide in coverage. The museum is also home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity of California’s deserts, mountains, coast and great central valley.
It also includes a gift shop, where visitors can purchase t-shirts, sweatshirts, jewelry, note cards, books, posters, insect candy and other gifts. The insect candy includes chocolate-covered ants and crickets. A favorite is a scorpion encased in a lollipop.
The museum’s regular hours are from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. It is closed on Fridays and on major holidays.
Toby and a Walking Stick
The Community Food Bank is in need of volunteers for the holiday season. The demand for food is always highest in the winter. They are located 3403 E Central Avenue, Fresno. 273-3663