Backyard Orchard News
What's not to love about a baby bee?
At one day old, the worker (female) bees are exquisite little creatures. Helpless, really. They can neither flee nor fight; they cannot fly and they cannot sting.
No venom. That will come later.
They're all big eyes, fluffy hair and downy softness.
As worker bees, they will live a busy life. First they wiil become house bees, serving as the builders, the architects, the guards, the royal attendants, the coolers and the heaters, the nurse maids, the nannies and the undertakers.
Then they'll turn into field bees, leaving the hive to forage for nectar, pollen, water and propolis. They'll live only four to six weeks in the peak season.
"They're worked to death," entomologists are fond of saying.
That they are.
But on Day One, they rank so high on the cuteness scale that it needs to be recalibrated.
If there's one plant in our yard that the honey bees don't like, it's the begonia.
Lavender, sage, catmint and sedum? Bring 'em on.
Sunflowers, citrus and pomegranate? Yes! Yes! Yes!
Rock purslane? Like rock candy.
Oh, how about a little begonia, Ms. Honey Bee?
Sorry, not interested.
So were we ever surprised last weekend to see a honey bee foraging on our pink begonia.
See, the begonia isn't exactly a bee friendly plant. It's not like the dearly beloved sage, lavender and catmint.
We told Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, a noted authority on honey bees and bee behavior--and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty--of the bee-begonia encounter. "Bet she didn't come back," he said.
"Actually, she foraged for about five minutes," I said.
I imagine, though, that when our confused little bee returned to the hive, her sisters met her at the hive entrance and said (in bee language): "You collected WHAT? You foraged in the BEGONIAS? When there was LAVENDER, SAGE AND CATMINT?"
Update: No bees have returned to the begonias.
Probably won't, either.
Honey Bee and Begonia
Foraging on Begonia
Entomologist Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and a member of the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences faculty, has just received one of three Pest Management Alliance Grants awarded by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to reduce the use of pesticides over a three-year period.
This is good news for the environment, people and pollinators.Parrella, principal investigator of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Bedding and Container Color Plant Program, said the three-year grant, ending in 2012, aims to reduce “overall pesticide use in the production of bedding and container color plants by 30 percent and organophosphate, carbamate and pyrethroid use to 15 percent of total insecticide applications."
“These older compounds are of high regulatory concern because of their toxicity and detection in surface water,” Parrella said.
Bedding and container color plants are part of the environmental horticulture industry “that provides flowering plants for urban landscapes and for indoor and outdoor containers as decorations,” he said. “These plants are produced and purchased year-round for their aesthetics.”
“In California, production of these plants is rapid: an eight- to 10-week crop cycle is typical,” Parrella said. “Most growers make their profits from quick turnover of a large number of plants, which results in low tolerance for pest damage and a perception that generally slower biological control options are not appropriate. If not appropriately diagnosed and treated, many pests have the potential to remain with the plants when sold. One to three pesticide applications weekly during the entire crop cycle are not unusual.”The program, managed by entomologist Christine Casey (left), will receive $139,000 over the next three years. Funds are derived from pesticide sales and registration fees.
“What makes this project different is that the emphasis will be on teaching the growers how to pick the tools that will work best for them, rather than implanting a set IPM program,” said Casey, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis.
“Every bedding plant producer has a unique mix of plant species and production methods that make standardization impossible,” she said.The project will include a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of experts to develop IPM strategies to manage pests with less-toxic pesticides and fewer applications. An IPM guide for bedding plants, a pocket guide for pest identification and a Web site will be developed to share the information. Parrella and Casey will be launching a Web site within several months.
Honey Bee Nectaring Sedum
No, it's not a rock band or a new dance move or a new Billboard hit.
It's the name of a worldwide bee organization.
The 41st World Apiculture Congress is meeting this week through Sunday, Sept. 20 in Montepellier, France, and the buzz is all about what's killing the honey bees.
Some 10,000 entomologists and beekeepers are attending the conference and they're worried--and rightfully so.
As Emmanuel Angleys wrote in an article published today: "The Western honey bee is a vital link in the food chain, fertilizing nearly 100 kinds of crops."
"Around a third of the food on our plates gets there thanks to Apis mellifera."
Fact is, we still haven't found what's causing colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady characterized by bees abandoning the hive. Pesticides? Pests? Viruses? Malnutrition? Stress? Drought and other global weather changes?
CCD could very well be a combination of factors. When bees are sick, they simply don't function well.
Just like us. We don't function well when we're sick, either.
And then there are the ribosomes. The damaged ribosomes.
University of Illinois researchers recently found that bees from CCD hives had high levels of damaged ribosomes (think of ribosomes as protein-making machines within the cells).
We like researcher May Berenbaum's comment: "If your ribosome is compromised, then you can't respond to pesticides, you can't respond to fungal infections or bacteria or inadequate nutrition because the ribosome is central to the survival organism."
Ribosome. Compromised. Central to the survival organism.
It's all about bee-ing there for the bees. We need more researchers like Berenbaum./span>
Honey Bee on Dwarf Tangerine Bulbine
It's a story that began in May 1938 with a farmhouse-turned-lab-turned-eyesore. It will end with the honey bees' version of "A Field of Dreams"--the Campus Buzzway.
UC Davis firefighters torched the abandoned building in a control burn on June 30. Where flames erupted will be where California poppies, coreopsis (tickseed) and lupine will spring to life.
The Campus Buzzway will be planted this fall and will bloom starting next spring.
It all takes place on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the UC Davis campus.
The Buzzway will be nestled adjacent to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden scheduled to open next month. The haven will serve as a year-around food source for honey bees. Goals also include raising public awareness about the plight of honey bees and encouraging visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own, said entomologist Lynn Kimsey, professor and vice chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
“The Campus Buzzway," Kimsey said, "will be a fabulous addition to the honey bee garden already under construction at our Bee Biology facility. “Both will greatly benefit our colonies and make terrific teaching opportunities.”
Dave Fujino, executive director of the California Center for Urban Horticulture, said the Campus Buzzway will boast year-round blooms and vibrant colors. “The Buzzway will transform an empty field into something beautiful and functional,” he said. “Most importantly, the flower mix will have a positive impact on the health and wellness of our local pollinator populations.”
And oh, the gold and blue flowers planted in the Campus Buzzway have a special meaning to the university. They're the official colors of UC Davis, the Aggies.
To the bees, they're N and P: nectar and pollen.
Baxter House Fire
Honey Bee on Poppy