Backyard Orchard News
"R" is for research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Faciity at the University of California, Davis.
What's it all about?
The Laidlaw facility is a nexus for diverse bee research and scientists from throughout the world.A poster hanging in the Laidlaw facility explains: "We provide cutting-edge research on basic bee biology, genetics, pollination and conservation. We address international concerns about bee health and meet the needs of California's multibillion dollar agriculture industry. Our program combines research on honey bees and native species to promote sustainabiity of pollinators and pollination."
The researchers include:
Honey bee specialists: Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen; bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and manager of the Laidlaw facility (she trained under Laidlaw); bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk who manages the Robert Page Honey Bee Pollen Hoarding Selection Program; and Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Postdoctural Fellow Michelle Flenniken. An insect virus researcher, Flenniken investigates the viruses and other microbes associated with honey bees using a molecular biology approach.
Native pollinator specialists: Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor; and Neal Williams, assistant professor. Thorp "officially" retired in 1994 but continues to conduct research on bees (Apoidea) with a focus on native bees, their ecology, systematics, biodiversity, conservation and pollination relationships. Williams says his lab "explores fundamental questions about the evolution and ecology of bees and pollination as well as applied research on crop pollination and native bee conservation within the context of global change and agricultural sustainability."
Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at UC Berkeley, is closely associated with UC Davis. Her Berkeley lab explores "the conservation and sustainable management of ecosystem services such as pollination and pest control in agricultural settings." Her group is involved with several research projects through the Laidlaw facility.
Other visiting scientists include Stephen Hendrix of the University of Iowa; Susan Monheit, UC Davis; Lora Morandin, UC Berkeley; and Alexandra Klein and Claire Brittain, both with the University of Goettingen, Gemany.
Another exciting research program at UC Davis involves the aging and lifespan of the honey bee. Robert Page, former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and now founding director of the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, is a co-principal investigator on this research. It's part of the federally funded Biodemographic Determinants of Lifespan, directed by UC Davis entomology professor James R. Carey.Another highlight at the Laidlaw facility is the newly planted Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden designed to be a year-around food source for bees and an educational experience for visitors. Also new is the Campus Buzzway, a quarter-acre wildflower garden to be planted this fall.
"R" is for research. "B" is for bees.
A Bee Wave
Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen (right), a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, touches on these subjects in the latest edition of from the UC Apiaries, a bimonthly newsletter he's been writing since 1976.
Mussen, who will be the keynote speaker at the 120th annual California State Beekeepers' Association, set Nov. 17-19 in San Diego, keeps beekeepers informed.
His topic at the state beekeepers' meeting? “Glimpses of California’s Beekeeping Future.” He'll speak at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at the convention headquarters, the Hilton Resort and Spa.
Mussen, who was named the California Beekeeper of the Year in 2006, won the American Association of Professional Apiculturists’ Award of Excellence in Extension Apiculture in 2007. In 2008 he received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
A noted authority on honey bees, Mussen has been interviewed by Good Morning, America, the Lehrer Hour, National Public Radio, California Heartland, New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other media.
Other UC Davis speakers at the conference will be breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and assistant professor and native pollinator specialist Neal Williams.
Cobey, who was named the association’s California Young Beekeeper of the Year in 1986, will speak Nov. 17 on “Update on Stock Improvement.” Williams will discuss his work as the UC Davis new native pollinator specialist on Nov. 18.
Meanwhile, hot off the presses, is the September-October edition of from the UC Apiaries. You can read the current edition and back editions, 1994-2009, here. There's no charge to download the newsletters.
The doctor (Mussen has a Ph.D. in entomology from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul) is in.
Honey Bee and Catmint
When a sweat bee and a honey bee share the same flower, the size difference is quite distinct.
We took this photo of a honey bee on a rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora) blossom.
Above it stood a tiny female sweat bee (probably Halictus tripartitus, according to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis).
Two bees. Two sizes. One blossom. One native. One non-native. The sweat bee is a native, and the honey bee was brought over here in the 1600s by the European colonists.
Speaking of honey bees, this is the first day to participate in TwitCause. The Häagen-Dazs brand is donating $1 per Tweet (up to $500 per day) today through Nov. 11 to support honey bee research at UC Davis.
Häagen-Dazs joined forces with ExperienceProject.com (EP), a San Francisco-based online community for sharing life experiences.
Like to support honey bee research at UC Davis? Go to www.twitcause.com. Directions on top of the page detail how to follow, retweet, and help the honey bee cause on Twitter.
Bees buzz. People "Tweet."
Well, many people do.
It's generous of the Häagen-Dazs brand to donate $1 per Tweet (up to $500 per day) from Nov. 5 through Nov. 11 to support honey bee research at the University of California, Davis.
Häagen-Dazs, known for its superpremium ice cream and other desserts, is joining forces with ExperienceProject.com (EP), a San Francisco-based online community for sharing life experiences, to help the honey bees via EP’s TwitCause.
TwitCause, which EP launched in August, connects people with causes.
How can you do this--support UC Davis honey bee research by Tweeting?
“The easiest way for individuals to get involved is to visit www.twitcause.com,” said Erik Darby of EP. “There are directions on top of the page that detail how to follow, retweet, and make an impact around the honey bee cause on Twitter. Starting Thursday, Nov. 5, the designated TwitCause will be the Häagen Dazs Help-the-Honey-Bee campaign.”
“It’s an easy thing to do, and you don’t have to buy anything or send a letter to anyone,” said Tonya Iles, interactive manager for Häagen-Dazs.
Honey bees are responsible for the pollination of more than 100 crops, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, providing 80 percent of the country’s pollination services, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Häagen-Dazs (HD Loves HB, or Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees) is a strong supporter of honey bee research at UC Davis. About 50 percent of their ice cream flavors depend on bee pollination. HD supports the work of bee virus researcher Michelle Flenniken, the Häagen-Dazs Postdoctoral Fellow. HD also supports the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a newly planted half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
The haven is a year-around food source for honey bees and an educational experience for visitors.
Bees were the original "social network," as Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, says
Now it's our turn to network.
Butterflies, honey bees and hover flies can't get enough of red buckwheat.
Tight clusters of pink blossoms, coupled with gray-green foliage, grace red buckwheat (Eriogonum grande rubescens), a California native.
It's good for the insects and good for the gardener. It's drought-tolerant.
We planted red buckwheat in our bee friendly yard several weeks ago, and among the first to find it were hover flies, aka flower flies.
Hover flies (family Syrphidae) hover over flowers like a sightseeing helicopter. Then they dip down and sip the nectar.
They're often mistaken for honey bees. Many an editor has published a photo of a "honey bee" that was in reality, a hover fly.
California buckwheat is one of the attractions in the newly planted Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. It is serving as a year-around food source for bees and an educational opportunity for humans. A public celebration will take place next June.
Look for the buckwheat!
Looking for Nectar