Backyard Orchard News
Scientists have long been studying alternative pollinators, especially with the decline of the honey bee population and growing concerns about "How will we pollinate our crops?"
Now a newly published study in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) shows that wild bees, which are not affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), may serve as alternative pollinators.
You've seen the tiny bees buzzing around on blossoms. At first glance, you may have mistaken them for honey bees. They're not.
Chances are you'll be hearing more about them, though.
ESA's communications director Richard Levine e-mailed us a press release today
reporting the results of a three-year scientific study that took place on 15 southwestern
Most species were from subfamily Halictinae (family Halictidae) and genus Andrena (family Andrenidae)
The journal article, titled "Wild Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Anthophila) of the Michigan Highbush Blueberry Agroecosystem," was authored by Julianna K. Tuell (
A quote from Tuell in the news release: "This should help growers know what kinds of bees are in the fields so that they can make informed decisions about whether they should modify crop management practices in order to help conserve natural populations of bees."
"Untreated bamboo or reeds are good materials because they provide natural variation in hole diameter to attract the broadest range of species. There are also a number of commercially manufactured options that growers can use, such as foam blocks with pre-drilled holes and cardboard tubes made to a particular diameter to suit a particular species of interest. Drilling different sized holes in wood is another option. If a grower is interested in trying to build up populations of a particular species, there are also details about how to do so available online."
Good idea. On a tour of Yolo County farms last year, we saw many "bee condos," or nesting cavities, for the native pollinators. (See below). They're easy to make. Just like a baseball field attracts players, so will bee condos attract native pollinators. Build them and they will come.
(B y the way ESA now has a presence on Facebook, offering more opportunities for social networking.)
y the way ESA now has a presence on Facebook, offering more opportunities for social networking.)
An article in today's San Francisco Chronicle indicated that the Berkeley City Council is "poised to transform all the city's parks and open spaces into habitats for bees."
That's the kind of news we need more of, more often.
"If the council approves the resolution," wrote Chronicle reporter Carolyn Jones, "all future landscaping would be 'pollinator-friendly' flowering native plants intended to attract bees, bats, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, beetles and flies."
And about time!
Indeed, the declining bee population should concern us all. Bees are beneficial insects. They pollinate our fruits, vegetables and nuts. They provide honey, wax and other products. One-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. Without bees, life as we know it would cease to exist.
The Berkeley City Council is expected to vote on the bee resolution at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 24 at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Way, Berkeley. We expect the council will hear protests about bee stings. Some folks, whether they're allergic to bees or not, dislike bees simply because they sting. Say "bees" and they think "stings."
Bees? Stings. Bees. Stings.
That's not what bees are all about.
The Berkeley protestors should take a look at the UC Davis Arboretum. The UC Davis campus is oh, so fortunate to have an arboretum filled with bee friendly plants. The bees go about their business while arboretum fans go about theirs. Folks stroll the paths, relax on benches and admire the gardens--which include bees, butterflies and other insects.
And in October when the half-acre Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven is dedicated on the grounds of Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility at UC Davis, the landscaping on campus will be even more enjoyable. It will be a place to inform, educate and entertain.
That's the way it should be.
Of course, plans for the Berkeley bee habitats would include precautions. All bee friendly landscaping would be planted at least 30 feet from children's play areas, barbecues, garbage cans and picnic tables.
"Staff would also post signs in the parks explaining the importance of bee habitats," Jones wrote.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates got it right when he told the Chronicle reporter: "I read about the bees declining and thought 'This is terrible. What can we do?' Making our parks pollinator-friendly is totally possible and economically feasible and a good way to help bees in our city."
Now the next step ought to be to encourage residents to plant bee friendly gardens.
Honey bee on salvia
To really know the honey bee industry, visit an apiary or bee yard.
From a distance, you'll see a beekeeper working the hives.
Look closer, and you'll see bees landing on visitors.
Look even closer, and you'll see an individual bee going about her work.
In the camera world, it's like going from a telephoto to a macro lens. Close, closer and closest yet.
These photos were taken yesterday (March 19) at three queen bee producing companis in Glenn County, located some 100 miles north of Sacramento. The occasion: UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey was leading her class of U.S. and international students on a tour of commercial queen bee producers. First stop: C. F. Koehen & Sons, Inc., in Glenn. Second stop: Heitkam's Honey Bees in Orland, and third, Olivarez Honey Bees, Inc., in Orland.
When the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven is implemented by the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis later this year, honey bees won't be the only ones enjoying the garden.
Expect to see butterflies, bumblebees and other insects.
Remember the project? Last December Häagen-Dazs ice cream committed $125,000 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology for the bee haven. A Sausalito team-- landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki--won the design competition, which drew 30 entries. One was submitted from as far away as England.
The key goals of the garden are to provide bees with a year-around food source, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
We’re all eagerly looking forward to the garden, which will be dedicated in October.
Meanwhile, scientists at the Laidlaw facility plan to examine the diversity of insects already there. One insect we saw there last week was a soapberry bug on a flowering almond tree.
So bees, butterflies, bumblebees and soapberry bugs.
Lots of others./o:p>/o:p>/o:p>/span>
Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees
And the flowers and the trees...
The Birds and the Bees (music and lyrics by Herb Newman)
Don't know about "the birds and the flowers and the trees," but the bees were definitely there.
Lots of bees. More than 250,000. I captured this image on Tuesday, March 17 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the UC Davis campus.
The occasion: UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility was teaching a three-day course on "The Art of Queen Bee Rearing."
Tuesday the beekeepers learned about the principles of queen rearing, set up cell builders, grafted queen cells, made queen cup bars, made queen candy, marked and clipped the queens, and evaluated drone maturing and queen mating status. Those were just a few of the scores of activities.
Wednesday the beekeepers heard a two-hour lecture on "Bee Nutrition and Emergent Diseases" by Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a 32-year member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. The class also grafted queen cells, participated in diagnosis workshops (detection of tracheal mites and nosema) and learned about instrumental insemination.
Tomorrow (Thursday), they'll participate in an area tour of commercial queen producers.
Where's the buzz? Definitely at UC Davis.