Posts Tagged: Eric Mussen
Honey bees are in trouble. They are dying in record numbers.
That's why you should watch "Blossom Buddies," a two-part video segment in the Growing California series, produced by the California Department of Food and Agriculture in partnership with California Grown.
The two-part series explores the honey bee's contributions to California agriculture, their declining population, and why we should be concerned about bee health. California has 800,000 acres of almonds, and each acre requires two hives for pollination. That's 1.6 million colonies. Since California has only 500,000 colonies available for almond pollination, the rest must be trucked here from throughout the country. This means, as the video relates, "the largest annual bee migration in the world" takes place in California during almond pollination season, which begins around Valentine's Day.
In Part 2 of the series, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, says that about 20 percent of beekeepers in California, as well as throughout the nation, "are suffering significant losses of honey bee populations that we can't explain."
The video series includes interviews with migratory beekeeper John Miller, almond grower/commercial queen breeder Dan Cummings, and Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m. (That stands for Apis mellifera, the scientific name of the honey bee.)
The footage zeroes in on California almond orchards in bloom, beekeepers tending their bees, bees foraging, and Mussen working in the bee lab at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. The series also includes several photos from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Who could forget the look of colony collapse disorder, of a bee antenna poking through a cell of an abandoned frame? Or the blood-sucking varroa mite--the No. 1 enemy of beekeepers--sucking blood from a forager (worker bee) nectaring lavender? Or a mite draining blood from a drone pupa?
Or you can access Part 1 on YouTube at:
And Part 2 on YouTube at:
It's well-done production that looks at the challenges we face with our declining bee population and the crippling health issues that our bees face.
Colony collapse disorder--the bee antenna tells it all. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Varroa mite on a worker bee foraging in the lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of varroa mite on drone pupa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you've studied bees, you know that there are approximately 20,000 described species of bees in the world.
Most people are familiar with honey bees and bumble bees, but they don't know about "those big black bees" (carpenter bees) or "those green metallic bees" (sweat bees).
Harvard University and the Encyclopedia of Life to the rescue!
Jessica Rykken, Ph.D. of the Farrell lab at Harvard University, and editor Jeff Holmes, Ph.D. of the Encyclopedia of Life, Harvard University, have just published a field guide to bees that is simply outstanding.
The field guide, titled "Bees," is comprised of observer cards that are "designed to foster the art and science of observing nature," Rykken writes.
It's a guide that looks at bees much the way we all first started looking at bees. It's divided into anatomy, foraging, lifestyles, pollination, nesting habits, behavior, life cycle, associations (such as hitchhiking) and techniques (collecting and conservation).
Under nesting habits, you'll learn about the miners, masons, leafcutters and carpenters.
Under anatomy, you'll learn about body plan, look-alikes, size and shape, body color, antennae, wings, males ves females, pollen transport, tongue length, pilosity, stingers. Pilosity? What's that you ask? It means the density and pattern of hair on their bodies.
Lifestyles? No, not of the rich and famous. These point to social bees, solitary bees and cuckoo bees.
Rykken asked permission to use two of our photos, and they're in there, too. One is of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology being stung by a honey bee (Apis mellifera), and the other is a chunk of plum tree wood drilled by valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta). A Davis resident brought the plum tree wood into the Bohart Museum of Entomology for insect identification. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum (home of nearly 8 million specimens) and UC Davis professor of entomology, told him that valley carpenter bees (females) drilled the holes. The female valley carpenter bees are solid black, while the males are blond with green eyes.
The field guide can be downloaded for free on the Encyclopedia of Life website at http://eol.org. Or, just download this link to the PDF.
This photo, appearing in the field guide, is of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen being stung by a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This photo in the field guide shows a chunk of plum tree wood drilled by valley carpenter bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Where do foraging bees go to die?"
That question was asked this week of honey bee guru Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, who serves as the statewide Extension apiculturist.
"Do they return to the hive? Do they retire and live out their last days inside?" he was asked.
We've all seen worker bees in the throes of death. After all, they live only four to six weeks in the busy season. But the queen bee, which can lay some 2000 eggs a day, quickly replaces them.
"Since we do not know exactly where they go, we say that they fly off in the final moments of life, lose altitude and land on whatever is beneath them, moribund," Mussen says. "They are still able to sting for quite a few minutes, as can be attested to by neighbors who find moribund bees in their lawns or swimming pools, but they die relatively soon. Bees have enzyme systems that deal with flight and when the enzymes give out, so does flight."
Mussen points out that "a few of the dying bees, maybe 15 or so, of the 1,000 or more that die daily (in a colony) during the spring, summer, and fall, do die in--or in front of--the hive."
When those bodies lose some moisture, the "undertaker bees" carry away the lighter-weight bodies and drop them 150 feet or more away from the hive, studies show. "Most of the rest just drop, somewhere, when they no longer can forage or stay in the air," Mussen says. "Bees do fly up to four miles from the hive in any compass direction, so they drop out there in that 50-square mile area."
A worker bee staggers and extends her tongue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This honey bee died soon after this photo was taken. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"For many years, beekeepers and environmentally interested individuals have expressed the opinion that the use of neonicotinoid insecticides ("neonics") have interfered with the ability of honey bees and native bees to conduct their life activities properly," begins Extension apicuturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology in his latest edition of his newsletter, from the UC Apiaries.
"Since laboratory studies have detailed the disruptive effect on those insects, it was suggested that the same things were happening in the field. Unanticipated losses of formerly strong honey bee colonies, and easily observable decreases in bumble bee sightings, correlated well with increased use of neonics."
Mussen goes on to talk about the neonic situation in Europe and what the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has to say about the controversial issue. EFSA concluded that the neonicotinoid pesticides posed a “high acute risk” to pollinators, including honey bees, but that a definitive connection between the chemicals and loss of colonies in the field remained to be established, Mussen wrote.
Mussen, California's only Cooperative Extension apiculturist and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976, says the situation is not that simple. Read why. His newsletter is available free on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website. Access his web page and then click on "March/April 2013."
Honey bee heading for a catmint (Nepeta) patch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When there's so much pain, grief and sorrow in the world, it's time to shut off the TV, log off the computer, exit the house, and photograph honey bees.
Watching honey bees foraging in the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii, is therapy enough. They are sisters, sisters with a job to do, and so little time to do it. Buzzing from one blossom to another, gathering nectar and pollen, they are a symphony of color, grace and sound, unlike the cacophony that savagely screams from the 10 o'clock news.
"The murmuring hum of bees on a warm afternoon is surely part of everyone's mental picture of a perfect summer day," write Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw in their book, Bees of the World. "But that relentless hum, soporific perhaps, to the idling human, is in reality the produce of a machine-like urge to work--to work against the clock of the seasons, to gather enough pollen and nectar before the weather breaks, before the blooms fade."
What they do every day is for the greater good--the good of the colony. They set an example that the human race should follow.
Yet the winter of 2012-2013 may prove to be the worst yet for the declining bee population, according to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Meanwhile, we all need to bee-lieve that the worst is over.
In more ways than one.
Honey bee foraging on tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Almost like a painting, this photo of a honey bee contributes to the softer side of life. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee in flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)