Backyard Orchard News
UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility, is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back.
And that's exactly what she did when several visitors recently toured the Laidlaw facility.
Cobey let one visitor borrow her long-sleeved denim shirt. Then, bare-armed, Cobey opened a hive to display the colony. That says two things: her generosity and the temperament of her bees: gentle.
"Sue's bees are polite," observed beekeeper Steve Godlin of Visalia, vice chair of the California State Apiary board member, duirng an apiar board meeting Oct. 3, 2008 at the Laidlaw facility.
Indeed they are.
Apiary visitors are customarily issued a bee veil, and, depending on the activity taking place and the time of year, may also be provided a full protective suit.
Or a long-sleeved shirt from Cobey.
That's just one of the things that Cobey does behind the scenes.
Update: For her contributions to the Laidlaw facility, the university and the bee industry, she recently received a citation for excellence from the UC Davis Staff Assembly. She was one of 21 individuals, plus 13 teams, receiving the award at a ceremony in the courtyard of Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef's home.
Some 6000 staff employees were eligible for the award sform a total pool of 12,000 UC Davis staff, according to Staff Assembly coordinator Tiva Lasier.
Cobey was praised for raising awareness for the plight of honey bees at local, state, national and global levels. She maintains a close relationship with the beekeeping industry at all levels, especially the California Bee Breeders, who produce half the nation’s supply of mated queen honey bees. “If an individual beekeeper is having trouble, she takes a personal interest in solving the problem as if the bees were hers,” the nomination letter read.
Cobey maintains collaborative research projects with many honey bee researchers in the
Cobey, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in May 2007 from
“Our nominee treats bees as she does people: both politely and respectively,” said UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976.
Indeed she does.
The Smithsonian Institution is the place to "bee" on Monday, June 22.
The location: Baird Auditorium, National Museum of Natural History. The Smithsonian is located at the corner of 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington D.C.
Thorp will discuss "Western Bumble Bees in Peril." Sydney Cameron and Jeff Lozier of the University of Illinois will examine "The Status and Trends of Midwestern and Southern Bumble Bees." Then Leif Richardson of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife will cover "Bumble Bee Trends in Northeastern North America."
- Stephen Buchmann, University of Arizona, "USA Native Bee Diversity: Rarity, Threats and Conservation Ideals"
- Paul Williams, Natural History Museum, London, "A Global View of Bumble Bees and Their Conservation Status."
Michael Ruggiero of the Smithsonian Institution will moderate. He's the senior science advisor of the Smithsonian's Integrated Taxonomic System (ITIS).
Following the symposium, bumble bee experts and other scientists will continue to meet at the Smithsonian for the next two and a half days to discuss concerns about the declining bumble bee population.
The symposium is part of National Pollinator Week, which starts Monday, June 22 and continues through Sunday, June 28.
Thorp delivered a presentation on Franklin's bumble bee May 27, during one of the UC Davis Department of Entomology's noonhour sessions. Franklin's bumble bee, feared extinct or nearing extinction, is found only in one part of the world: southern Oregon and northern California. Thorp's talk was Webcast.
Thorp, a member of the California Academy of Sciences since 1986, says that the loss of a native pollinator "could strike a devasting blow to the ecosystem, economy and food supply."
Locally, we've noticed far fewer bumble bees than in past years. Last summer we spotted a few in the UC Davis Arboretum (see below). This is the yellow-faced bumble bee or Bombus vosnesenskii, the most common Califonria bumble bee.
Not so common any more.
Pollen-Packing Bumble Bee
Faster than a speeding bullet...
As soon as UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey opened a beehive and removed a chunk of honeycomb to show visitors, here came the speeding bullet. A fast camera shutter caught what the eye couldn't see.
It was a queen yellowjacket taking dead aim at the comb.
"The yellowjacket queen this time of year zeroes in on the honey as soon as you open a hive," said Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
"They build up their populations in the fall and eat the bees for protein to overwinter. They can actually kill bee colonies, especially weak ones. As meat-eating predators, these are common at picnic time, for which honey bees are often unfairly blamed."
Yes, honey bees are indeed unfairly blamed. Like human vegetarians, honey bees don't eat meat. They may land on your soda can for the sugar water, but meat doesn't interest them. They forage for nectar and pollen.
Now yellowjackets--they're predators. They love meats and sweets. You'll see these uninvited guests at your picnic or barbecue, boldly sampling your steak, hamburger or chicken; targeting your can of soda; or scavenging in and around your garbage can.
They also vigorously defend their nests, which look like paper combs. Do not go near their nests.
Their sting is painful. A yellowjacket recently nailed UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen beneath the collar as he was checking the honey bees at the Laidlaw facility.
Mussen noted that beekeepers inadvertently kill a few bees each time they open a hive and pry open the "stuck-together" frames with their hive tool. The dead bees fall to the ground--to the waiting yellowjackets. The yellowjackets then carry the bees off to their nest, chew them into pulp, and feed the "protein" to their brood.
More yellowjackets on the way.
And soon, more speeding bullets.
WAS is not just the first and third person singular past indicative of be.
It's the Western Apicultural Society, an organization dedicated to the science and art of rearing honey bees.
You'll find scores of commericial beekeepers at the 31st annual WAS Conference, scheduled Aug. 17-20 in Healdsburg, Sonoma County. You'll also find native pollinator specialists, university researchers, vendors, and folks just concerned about the declining bee population and what they can do about it.
UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, who's been with the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976, co-founded WAS in 1978 with professor Norman Gary (now retired) whose research focused on the biology and behavior of honey bees, and interaction of honey bees with environment.
Last year WAS members trekked to Victoria, B.C., for their annual meeting. This year, it's right in the heart and soul of California Wine Country.
Where else but at a bee conference in Wine Country can you enjoy honey and wine tasting at the same time?
Conference topics include pathogens found associated with bees; breeding, diagnostics and insecticide tolerance; introduction to native bees, native bees in crop production in Eastern states; native bees in crop production in Western states; effects of honey on human physiology, colony natural history, honey and exercise physiology, and beekeeping tips.
Membership in WAS is open to all, Mussen says (dues range from $7.50 to $10 a year). Although worldwide membership is indeed encouraged, the organization was founded to serve the educational needs of beekeepers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon; and the states of northern Mexico.
Healdsburg is definitely the place to bee Aug. 17-20.
Pretty in PInk
“You’re not going to be able to jump on the pomegranate bandwagon with your pockets bulging with gold without a lot of hard work,” Kevin Day, farm advisor with UC Cooperative Extension Tulare County, told a reporter for a news story published May 14 in the Western Farm Press.
Yes, hard work.
Day told Western Farm Press that from 2006 to 2009, the number of acres in California planted with pomegranate trees "has increased from 12,000 or 15,000 acres in 2006, to 29,000 acres in 2009."
“We’ve doubled in three years, and that’s a lot of young pomegranate trees,” he said.
And that's a lot of work for the honey bees, too.
Our "orchard" of one pomegranate tree is buzzing with bees.
Just when we thought they'd forgotten their old buddy--"old" because the pomegranate tree was planted in 1927--here they come in the late afternoon. One by one, two by two, they head for the blossoms to gather the nectar and roll in the pollen of the papery blossoms.
Gold may bulge from the pockets of pomegranate orchardists, but a different kind of gold bulges from the honey bees--pollen.
Get in Line