Posts Tagged: Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility
It's no secret that bees are fond of germanders or Teucrium, a genus in the mint family, Lamiaceae.
And it's no secret that praying mantids are fond of bees.
Although it's a little late in the season for praying mantids, we spotted this one hiding in a bush germander last Friday in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee garden located on Bee Biology Road next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
The mantid's abdomen bulged. She was very much pregnant.
Nearby honey bees from the nearby Laidlaw apiary nectared on the blue flowers. One bee tucked herself inside the blossom, oblivious of the nearby predator.
Current score: Praying mantis: 0. Honey Bee: 0.
But tomorrow is another day.
Note: The garden is open from dawn to dusk for self-guided tours. Groups who'd like a guided tour may contact Christine "Chris" Casey at email@example.com for more information.
Pregnant praying mantis camouflaged on a germander twig. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee nectaring on germander. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When the Onward California tour rolls into Davis next week, the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility will share the limelight.
First of all, the tour of 10 campuses and their adjoining communities is a campaign to draw attention and support for the University of California in these tough economic times.
Or, as Dan Dooley, UC senior vice president for External Relations, told Dateline, UC Davis: "This tour brings the University to Californians in their own communities and gives them the opportunities to engage with UC in a new and unexpected way. We hope that building understanding of how UC contributes to the daily lives of all Californians will further strengthen public appreciation and support for the mission of public higher education in the state."
So, how does the honey bee fit in?
Naia's 10 UC gelato flavors show the value of what UC delivers to California through higher education--"in agriculture and nutrition; health and brain science; astronomy, computers and energy; and sustainability and the arts," Jones wrote.
Which brings us to the flavor selected for UC Davis: "Bar Gelato Honey Bee."
The label indicates that "UC Davis' honey bee research facility is the largest and most comprehensive state-supported apiculture facility in North America and the only one in California."
So the spotlight next week is on the bee scientists at the UC Davis Department of Entomology's Laidlaw facility; the 80 research hives they maintain; and the honey bees.
And the free bar of gelato? That's one honey of a deal.
Here's where you can get yours:
Wednesday, Oct. 3: Davis Farmers' Market, Central Park, 3rd and C streets, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 4: UC Davis campus on the East Quad from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Onward California tour will share the site with the Davis Chamber of Commerce; this is the annual day that Davis businesses meet and greet the students.
On that note, if you want to know more about what UC is doing for us and how you can get involved, be sure to read Jones' article, "UC's Statewide Tour Heads to Davis--City and Campus." in Dateline and access the Onward California website.
And if you're the curious type and want to know the gelato flavor selected for each of the 10 campuses (okay, who got the chocolate and why?), you'll have to read Jones' sidebar, "A Honey of a Treat Just for UC Davis."
Honey bee nectaring Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) at the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This sign, the work of noted artist Donna Billick of Davis, greets visitors to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Some folks enjoy a doughnut, bagel, muffin or fruit for breakfast--and maybe some cream cheese on the bagel and honey on the muffin.
Not so the praying mantis.
If he were in a restaurant, he'd tell the waiter "I'd like a bee for breakfast, please."
Or maybe he would leave off the "please" and tell the waiter "Hurry, I'm hungry. Move it, will ya?"
A bee for breakfast is not only perfectly fine for him, but also a bee for lunch, and a bee for dinner.
This young bee (below) was nectaring some salvia (sage) near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, when a cunning praying mantis, lying in wait, nailed her. He grabbed her in his spiked forelegs and swoosh, it was all over. No more buzzing around the salvia. No more sipping the sweet nectar. No more sharing with her colony back at the hive.
Every time this happens--when a mantid nails a honey bee--I want to say outloud: "Why don't you go after a fly? Or a spotted cucumber beetle? Or an aphid?"
Indeed, dear mantid, why not have a nutritious fly for breakfast and a colorful spotted cucumber beetle for lunch? And maybe a succulent aphid for dinner?
Alas, you cannot tell a mantid what to stalk and what to eat.
It was bee for breakfast.
Praying mantis lops off the head of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantid polishing off the bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Now that's Italian!
The Italian honey bee (below) nectaring on a zinnia at the University of California, Davis, is striking for two reasons: she's as gold as starthistle honey in the sunlight and she's a very young forager.
"That is a pretty young bee to be a forager," said Exension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "Look at all that baby hair."
When European colonists introduced honey bees (Apis mellifera) into the Jamestown colony (now Virginia) in 1622, it wasn't the Italian. It was what beekeepers call the "dark bee" subspecies of Northern Europe, Apis mellifera mellifera.
The Italian or Apis mellifera ligustica didn't arrive in America until 1859. "The American beekeeping public was enamored with the newly available yellow and gentle bees," bee breeder-geneticist and co-author Susan Cobey wrote in a chapter of the book, Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions. "As a result, Italian-type bees form the basis for most present-day commercial beekeeping stocks in the U.S. Following the arrival and success of honey bees from Italy, U.S. beekeepers developed an interest to try other honey bee subspecies."
Indeed, it took 231 for years for honey bees to arrive in California. Beekeeper Christopher A. Shelton introduced honey bees to the Golden State in 1853, establishing an apiary just north of San Jose. (Check out the bee plaque at the San Jose International Airport.)
Cobey, of UC Davis acclaim, serves as the project leader of the Honey Bee Stock Improvement Program, working with Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, and other scientists.They aim to enhance the genetic diversity of domestic bee stocks through the importation of honey bee germplasm (drone sperm).
Meanwhile, this week over at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk (who worked with Cobey at Ohio State University) is extracting honey.
If you look at the backlit honey, it looks just like the young Italian honey bee that Mussen says "is pretty young to be a forager."
Italian honey bee forages on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
UC Davis staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk admires a freshly bottled jar of honey to the sun. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When youngsters meet Alyssa Fine, the first thing they ask is “Do you ever get stung?”
They also ask if the bee population is “still” declining and if she’s a beekeeper.
Yes, yes, and yes.
Alyssa Fine, 23, of Monongahela, Penn., is accustomed to answering questions. As the 2012 American Honey Bee Queen, sponsored by the American Beekeeping Federation, she’s an ambassador to the beekeeping and honey industries. One of her responsibilities is to educate the public about the importance of bees and the merits of honey.
And that’s just “fine” with her.
“I really enjoy this,” she said enthusiastically.
A 2010 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management, Fine is spending 11 days in California, one of some 23 states on her itinerary during her yearlong role as the American Honey Bee Queen.
She speaks at state and county fairs, festivals, schools, beekeeping association meetings and to the news media, spreading the word about the importance of bees. She monitors the American Beekeeping Federation’s Facebook page, and the kids’ blog, buzzingacrossamerica.com.
Fine also works closely with youth development groups, including Girl Scouts, 4-H, Boy Scouts. She hopes to “help bring back the beekeeping badge” for Girl Scouts.
Today she toured the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, and the adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden that's anchored with a six-foot-long ceramic bee sculpture.
The sculpture, created by Donna Billick of Davis and cleverly titled "Miss Bee Haven," portrays a morphologically correct worker bee.
Alyssa Fine recognized the worker bee right away.
No stranger to bees, she's been around bees all her life. Her family owns the Fine Family Apiary in Monongahela, located 20 miles south of Pittsburgh. They keep about 150 hives and sell honey at farmers’ markets, at country stores, and via word of mouth. They also offer pollination services on area farms.
Alyssa's earliest childhood memories include running through a field of clover and getting stung by a bee; enjoying fresh comb honey on the front porch; and crafting scores of school projects on honey bees.
So, going from bee onlooker to bee fancier to beekeeper to Pennsylvania Honey Bee Queen to American Honey Bee Queen seemed quite natural. For, "bee-neath" the sash and the crown is a beekeeper who loves to talk about bees and their role in agriculture.
One thing's for sure: come next January, when her year as American Honey Bee Queen ends, she'll replace the crown with a bee veil.
Meanwhile, Alyssa is enjoying her California stay at the BD Ranch and Apiary in Wilton, owned by veteran beekeeper Brian Fishback and his wife, Darla, where they maintain 100 hives. Brian, a volunteer at the Laidlaw facility, is active in area, state and national beekeeping organizations.
Plans for the rest of the week? It's off to the California State Fair in Sacramento.
In fact, State Fair visitors can see their American Honey Bee Queen tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday at the Insect Pavilion where she will be greeting the public, handing out honey-based recipes, and answering questions in front of Fishback’s bee observation hive.
At 2 p.m. on Friday, she'll offer a special treat to State Fair visitors. She will present a cooking demonstration at 2 p.m. at The Farm. She'll prepare glazed skillet chicken, cole slaw and lemonade--all with honey, of course.
As for the Fishbacks, they've hosted an American Bee Queen for the past three years because they believe strongly in the American Beekeeping Federation's mission and message.
“Having an American Honey Bee Queen," he said, "is really good for public education, for people to learn about the importance of bees."
Beekeeper Brian Fishback shows Alyssa Fine the bee sculpture in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
American Honey Bee Queen Alyssa Fine watches a honey bee forage in the zinnias at the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)