Backyard Orchard News
It hasn't been a good year for honey bees, no thanks to colony collapse disorder, but it has been a good year for the release of educational information.
The latest edition of The Bee Health Update, a bimonthly newsletter which updates current activities around the Bee Health, eXtension.org community, is now online.
And it's a wealth of information.
Video: "Honey Bees and Beekeeping: A Year in the Life of an Apiary," by Keith Delaplane, University of Georgia
Instrumental Insemination: Susan Cobey of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis
Nosema ceranae: The Inside Story by Tom Webster, Kentucky State University
Pesticides Applied to Crops and Honey Bee Toxicity: Marion Ellis, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
A View from the Front Lines: Kerry Lynott, Pennsylvania State University
Breeding Bees for Resistance to Parasites and Diseases: Greg J. Hunt, Purdue University
Among the many other topics: The Stationary Apiary Coordinated Agricultural Project; Dance Language of the Honey Bee; and upcoming events.
A tip of the bee veil to the folks at Bee Health Update.
Inside the Tube
The yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) may be one of the most underappreciated pollinators.
You see it buzzing around lavender, lupine, California poppies, mustard and other plants.
But a Xerces Society study of organic farms in Yolo County found that it was one of the most important of the native bees visiting the Sungold cherry tomatoes.
The study, titled “Native Bee Pollination of Cherry Tomatoes,” was based on research by Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley, Neal Williams and Robbin Thorp of UC Davis and Sarah Greenleaf, California State University, Sacramento, all members of Xerces.
“Recent studies demonstrate that tomatoes pollinated by native bees produce larger and more numerous fruits,” the authors wrote. “Honey bees do not pollinate tomatoes because they cannot get the pollen and the flowers do not produce nectar. With no reward, honey bees will not visit the flower. Many native bees, however, know the trick to extracting tomato pollen and are, therefore, valuable pollinators.
"Although the tomato plant is self-fertile, flowers must be vibrated by wind or bees in order to release pollen for fertilization. To achieve the most effective pollination, the flower must be vibrated at a specific frequency to release the pollen. Honey bees are unable to vibrate the tomato flower in this way, but bumble bees and other native species can.
The Xerces Society offers a great resource on how to attract bumble bees: see Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms.
In some respects, the yellow-faced bumble bee resembles a cuddly teddy bear. It's big and bumbly, as a bumble bee should be.
From behind, however, its heavy load of pollen looks for all the world like saddlebags on a trail horse.
Foraging Bumble Bee
First it was the California poppies. Then the lupine.
And now it's coreopsis, aka tickseed.
It's seasonal blooming at the Campus Buzzway, a quarter-acre wildflower garden planted last fall at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at UC Davis.
A gift from Häagen-Dazs--in a project coordinated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and the California Center for Urban Horticulture--the Campus Buzzway features blue and gold, the UC Davis colors.
Poppies and lupine starred in the garden earlier this year, and most have finished blooming. It's now coreopsis' turn.
Its spectacular neighbor, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden, will be the center of attention on Saturday, Sept. 11 at the public opening celebration. But the Campus Buzzway will attract attention, too.
Garry Pearson, greenhouse supervisor at UC Davis, unfolded three banners at the Campus Buzzway last week. The banners will be on display in the Campus Buzzway on special occasions.
The Sept. 11 opening of the gardens, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is one of them.
Trio of Banners
Bee on Coreopsis
When a ladybug landed on a gaura in our bee friendly garden, it was business as usual.
The business: eating aphids.
The rose aphids sucking the plant juices from the tender shoot didn't last long.
This is why ladybugs are known as "beneficial insects."
You gotta love those ladybugs.
Tower of Aphids
Eye to Eye
The eyes have it.
Look at the compound eyes of an insect. Some are colorful, some are drab. But they are all organs that detect light.
Most insects "have some sight and many possess highly developed visual systems," write UC Davis entomology professors Penny Gullan and Pete Cranston in the fourth edition of their textbook, The Insects: An Outline of Entomology, published by Wiley-Blackwell earlier this year.
"Virtually all adult insects and nymphs have a pair of large, prominent compound eyes, which often cover nearly 360 degrees of visual space," they point out.
If you're studying to be an entomologist--or thinking about entomology as a career--you can learn more about how "the basic components needed for vision are a lens to focus light onto photoreceptors--cells containing light-sensitive molecules--and a nervous system complex enough to process visual information."
If you're photographing insects, you know how quickly they detect movement. Cast your shadow on them and off they go. Move closer and off they go.
Sometimes it's a challenge, but in the end, the eyes have it.
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee
Metallic Green Sweat Bee