Backyard Orchard News
The Western Apicultural Society's annual conference.
Two bee specialists at the University of California, Davis, will be among the speakers when the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) meets Aug. 30-Sept. 2 in Salem, Ore.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty and WAS co-founder and past president, will speak, as will bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
The conference takes place in Salem's Red Lion Hotel, 3301 Market Street. On Tuesday, Aug. 31. Cobey will discuss her research on building a better bee. On Wednesday, Sept. 1, Mussen will offer hints for backyard beekeepers.
The lineup of speakers includes beekeepers, a conservation specialist, a college dean, a seed grower, almond growers, an integrated pest management specialist and the editor of the Bee Culture magazine (Kim Flottum), among others.
Colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious malady in which adult bees abandon the hive, leaving behind the queen, brood and food stores, will be one of the timely topics. Tim Lawrence, formerly of UC Davis and now of Washington State University (and husband of Susan Cobey), will speak on "Human Dimensions of CCD and Its Impact on the Honey Bee" on Thursday, Sept. 2.
WAS and UC Davis are closely intertwined. Mussen and fellow apiculturist Norman Gary (now an emeritus UC Davis professor) co-founded WAS in 1978 as a non-profit, educational organization designed specifically to meet 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.
Mussen and Gary are among five UC Davis bee specialists who have received the WAS outstanding service award. Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (now deceased) received the award in 1980; Robert Page in 1989; Norman Gary in 1990; Eric Mussen in 1991; Christine Peng in 2002; and Susan Cobey in 2009. Page (now with Arizona State University), Gary and Peng are all emeriti professors.
Meanwhile, registration is under way for the 2010 WAS conference. This is definitely the place to "bee."
Ever heard of a polyester bee?
We encountered a plasterer or "polyester" bee on a recent trip to Bodega Bay.
A female Colletes fulgidus longiplumosus, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, was foraging on a seaside daisy (Erigeron) along a sandy cliff off Bodega Head, Sonoma County.
She was covered in pollen.
The common name, polyester bee (family Colletidae), refers to the cellophane-like polyester material females secrete to line their burrows, Thorp said. These bees, he noted, nest in the same cliff faces with Anthophora bomboides stanfordiana (a faux bumble bee), but do not have turrets. A polyester membrane “doggy door" guards the nest entrances.
Worldwide, there are more than 20,000 identified species of bees.
The polyester bee is one of them.
Three little words can help us determine what to plant in a bee friendly garden: "attractive to bees."Escallonia, a fast-growing evergreen shrub often planted as a hedge or screen, is indeed attractive to bees. Bees work the blossoms like there's no tomorrow--and no colony collapse disorder.
Escallonia's delicate pink blossoms remind me of apple blossoms, and indeed, there's a cultivar named just that: Escallonia Apple Blossom (E. xlangleyensis).
A native of South America (probably Chile), the plant is drought-resistant, hardy, fragrant and basically pest-free.
Butterflies and hummingbirds join bees in finding it attractive.
So, perhaps Escallonia should be referred to as "attractive to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and people-looking-for-what-to-plant-in-bee-friendly-gardens."
Bee on Escallonia
Going for the Escallonia
Our Artemisia, a silvery-leafed shrub bordering our bee friendly garden, looks quite orange and black these days.
It's not for lack of water or some exotic disease. It's the ladybug (aka lady beetle) population.
If you look closely, you'll see eggs, larvae and pupae and the adults. And if you look even more closely, you'll see aphids.
The predator and the prey.
Ladybug and a Pupa
Talk about agility.
When you watch a honey bee foraging, it's a lesson in aerial acrobatics.
She glides to her target flower, touching down gracefully and accurately. As she gathers nectar, she's vertical, horizontal, upside down and right side up again.
She's a circus performer, an Olympic gymnast and a ballet dancer, all rolled into one. She specializes in cartwheels, somersaults and pirouettes, coupled with head stands, hand stands and foot stands.
In his research, neuroscientist Mandyam Srinivasan of the Queensland Brain Institute and the School of IT and Electrical Engineering found that bees slow to a hover about half an inch away from their target before they land.
Srinivasan marvels how the bee can detect moving targets, avoid collisions and land smoothly.
All this, the professor says, has practical applications for robotics and unmanned aircraft.
Indeed. We can learn a lot from watching a foraging honey bee.