Backyard Orchard News
They're now back in Vietnam, but for three days they went on a honey of a tour.
UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976 and a worldwide authority on honey bees, guided a six-member contingent of scientists from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on a three-day tour.
That included a day at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the UC Davis campus; and two daylong Central Valley tours that encompased two beekeeping operations, a pollination operation, and a lavender farm/beekeeping agrictourism location.
The Vietnamese group included Dr. Nguyen Hay, vice rector of Nong Lam University; Dr. Bui Van Mien, head of scientific research management office and head of the Department of Development Food Product, Nong Lam University; Dr. Le Minh Hoang, bee specialist, Institute of Research on Environment and Biotechnology; Dr. Nguyen Tai, general manager, Tan Phat Co.; Hoang Nhu Tung, director of Huy Hoan Co., Ltd.; and Luong Hong Quang, faculty of Food Science and Technology, Nong Lam University, who also served as the interpreter.
California ranks with North Dakota, South Dakota and Florida as the four leading honey-producing states, Mussen told the scientists. “The rankings are weather dependent, based on rainfall. Here in California, we annually average 20 million pounds of honey and 400,000 pounds of beeswax. The value of honey production in California varies from $16 to $30 million a year.”
The distance separating Ho Chi Minh City and Davis is some 8550 miles, but the camaraderie that developed among the U.S. and Vietnamese scientists drew them closer.
Honey bees, those golden social insects, brought them together.
Learn more about the visit and what Mussen told them.
Opening a hive
All About the Bees
You rarely see two male adult carpenter bees in the same photo.
They are very aggressive and territorial. While they're waiting for females to arrive, they chase all prospective suitors away.
Unlike the females, however, they can't sting.
I was watching a male carpenter bee ((Xylocopa tabaniformis) nectaring sage when I heard a loud buzz. From out of nowhere, a ferocious-sounding male carpenter was heading straight toward the unsuspecting male like a bat out of the proverbial you-know-what.
In a flash, they were gone. Battle over.
Until the next time.
Battle of the Sexes
I beg your pardon,
I never promised you a rose garden.
Along with the sunshine,
There's gotta be a little rain sometimes.
And maybe a rose curculio or rose weevil.
When Grammy-winning songwriter Joe South wrote "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," popularized by country singer Lynn Anderson, he mentioned nothing about the rose curculio or rose weevil.
Perhaps he should have.
This distinctive looking enemy of roses is a brick red and black weevil with a long comical-looking snout that it uses to feed on rose buds and petals. The female lays her eggs inside the buds.
The rose curculio seems to prefer yellow and white roses. I saw this little critter atop a yellow rose in a local alley. The faded, ragged blossoms and the hole-riddled petals provided clear testimony to its presence.
The scientific name of the rose curculio is Merhynchites bicolor. Bicolor? That’s because of its two colors. The thorax and elytra (elytra are the modified, hardened forewings that protect the hindwings underneath) are a lacquered brick red, while the long snout is solid black--as black as a villain's moustache in a turn-of-the-century melodrama.
If the rose curculio were 40 feet tall, you’d coil in terror.
Rose curculio or rose weevil
Cosmos flowers are somewhat like Libras. They balance.
In fact, the word, "cosmos," means "harmony" or "ordered universe" in Greek.
Plant cosmos and you'll soon be enjoying colorful flowers that belong to the Asteraceae family, which also includes sunflowers, daisies and asters. Plant a variety of colors--white, pink, orange, yellow and scarlet--and you'll see why the Spanish missions in Mexico favored cosmos.
They're beautiful and easy to grow.
An added benefit: they attract syrphids, also known as flower flies and hover flies.
Plant cosmos. Attract syrphids. Capture an image of a syrphid on a cosmos.
Caught on the cosmos.
Syrphid on Cosmos
Let's have a show of hands.
How many of you have seen Franklin's bumble bee in the wild?
Never HEARD of it, you say?
Well, you probably will never SEE it, either. Bumble bee experts think it may be extinct.
Franklin's bumble bee is native to southern Oregon and northern California, but in recent years, it's been a "no show."
"Franklin's bumble bee has the most restricted distribution range of any bumble bee in North America, and possibly the world," said UC Davis researcher Robbin Thorp, a noted authority on bumble bees. Its range is about 190 miles north to south and 70 miles east to west in a narrow stretch between southern Oregon and northern California, between the coast and the Sierra-Cascade ranges.
Its known distribution: Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties in Oregon, and Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California. It lives at elevations ranging from 540 feet in the north to 6800 feet in the south.
Thorp launched his scientific surveys for Franklin's bumble bee in 1998. He documented about 100 of them that year. They were, he said, fairly common.
Since 2004, however, he's seen the unique bumble bee only once. And that was a solitary worker in August 2006 at Mt. Ashland, Ore.
The black-faced bumble bee (Bombus franklini) is distinguished by a black inverted U-shape on its yellow thorax. See Thorp's photo below. Note also the yellow markings atop its head.
Franklin's bumble bee frequents (or shall we say, "used to" frequent) California poppies, lupines, vetch, wild roses, blackberries, clover, sweet peas, horsemint and mountain penny royal during its flight season, from mid-May through September. It collects (or shall we say "used to" collect) pollen primarily from lupines and poppes and gathers nectar mainly from mints.
Thorp just returned from the region in mid-May and found nothing. He journeys to the region three to five times a year, spending several days looking for the bumble bee on each trip.
It's not there.
Thorp is concerned, as we all should be, that humankind is disturbing, destroying and altering the habitat where the native pollinators exist.
He'll be speaking on the plight of the bumble bee from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 27 at 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis. His talk will be Webcast. You can view it by signing in here at that time. Later, it will be archived on this page.
Bumble bees, Thorp said, are important to our ecosystem. Wildlife, including birds, elk, deer and bears, depend on pollination of fruits, nuts and berries for their survival.
Other species of bumble bees are commercially reared to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and strawberries. They pollinate about 15 percent of our food crops, valued at $3 billion, Thorp estimated.
Goodbye, Franklin's Bumble Bee? Hello, distinction?