Backyard Orchard News
It probably wasn't colony collapse disorder.
Probably not pesticides, a disease, malnutrition or stress, either.
It could have been a pest.
When we were walking through the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden at the UC Davis Arboretum last weekend, we spotted the still body of a honey bee on a white calla lily (Zantedeschia aethipica), a native of South Africa.
It seemed so incongruous. It was spring in the garden. Worker bees at the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis are bustling out of their hives, collecting nectar and pollen for their expanding colonies.
Worker bees live only four to six weeks during the busy season. But this isn't the busy season.
"What happened to the bee?" someone inquired, after seeing the photo. "How did she die?"
"Don't know," I said. It probably wasn't pesticides, though. The garden is pesticide-free.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, speculated that a spider hiding inside the blossom may have killed the bee and then sucked its blood.
"Spiders do that--they lurk inside the blossoms," he said.
Another pest of the beleagered honey bee.
Death by a Spider?
The spring lectures are held every Wednesday, March 31 through May 26, from 12:10 to 1 p.m., in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Drive.
There you can learn about ants, butterflies, moths, scarabs, wasps, and walnut twig beetles, among other topics.Neal Williams, coordinator of the department’s spring seminars, has announced the list of speakers. Included will be doctoral candidate Andrea Lucky (above right), of the Phil Ward lab. You'll want to check out her newly created Web site on ant phylogenetics and biogeography.
The list of lecturers:
March 31: Julien Pelletier, postdoctoral scholar in the Walter Leal chemical ecology lab, speaking on “Mining the Genome for Olfactory Proteins.” Host: Professor Walter Leal.
April 7: Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, speaking on “An International Perspective on Sustainability in Protected Cropping Systems with an Emphasis on Biological Control.”
April 14: Dan Potter, professor of urban landscape, University of Kentucky, Lexington, speaking on “Host Location by Plant-Feeding Scarabs.” Host: Michael Parrella, professor and department chair.
April 21: Tim Coulson, professor of population biology, Imperial College, London, currently at Stanford, speaking on “The Joint Dynamics of Populations, Life Histories and Heritable Characters in Free-Living Populations.” Host: Professor James Carey.
April 28: Michal Segoli, postdoctoral scholar, Center for Population Biology, Jay Rosenheim lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology, speaking on “Joint Parent-Offspring Control of Brood Size in a Polyembryonic Wasp.” Host: Professor Jay Rosenheim.
May 5: To be announced
May 12: Andrea Lucky, doctoral candidate in the Phil Ward lab, speaking on (exit seminar) “Systematics, Biogeography and Conservation of Ants in Australasia and the Pacific.” Host: Professor Phil Ward.
May 19: Steven J. Seybold, Chemical Ecology of Forest Insects, USDA Forest Service, and Department of Entomology affiliate, speaking on “Walnut Twig Beetle and Thousand Cankers Disease: Characterizing an Emergent Threat to Forest and Agroecosystems in North America.” Host: Mary Louise Flint, associate director, Integrated Pest Management Program.
May 26: Florian Altermatt, postdoctoral researcher, UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy, speaking on “Butterflies and Moths in Central Europe: Natural History, Climate Change and Voltinism.” Host: Professor Phil Ward.
Graduate students James Harwood and Amy Morice of the James Carey lab operate the Webcasting equipment.
"I'm a ladybug. Please, take me home. I want to live in your garden.
I like to eat aphids. Aphids are tiny green insects that are harmful to plants."
"Just like the Grange, I'm a friend to the farmer and you."
Those visiting the California State Grange booth at the California Agriculture Day on Tuesday, March 23 on the state capitol grounds received that welcoming note, two ladybugs, and information about them.
It was an excellent idea--giving away ladybugs, aka ladybird beetles (Hippodamia convergens). These brightly colored beetles with the familiar black spots eat aphids, moth eggs, mites, scales thrips, leafhoppers, mealybugs and other small insects.
We took home two ladybugs and released them on a rose bush in our patio.
They went right to work.
It reminded us of the two ladybugs we received last year from the UC Davis Department of Entomology at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day. They also found a home in our garden.
This year's Picnic Day, the 96th annual, is set April 17. Look for entomological events at Briggs Hall on Kleiber Drive, and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at 1124 Academic Surge, California Drive.
The Picnic Day theme? "Carpe Davis: Seizing opportunities."
Including the opportunity to take home a couple of ladybugs.
Bugs and kisses.
The news is not good.
The honey bee crisis is worsening.
Back in November of 2006, commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg of Pennsylvania sounded the alarm. Fifty 50 percent of his bees had collapsed in Florida. Other beekeepers came forward with equally bad news: some individuals reporting losing one-third to 100 percent of their bees.
Quickly referred to as colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious phenomenon is characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, flying off and leaving behind the queen bee, brood and stored food.
Fast forward to today: a federal survey shows a heavy bee dieoff this winter, and research published last Friday in the journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) shows an alarming number of pesticides found in pollen and wax samples from 23 states and a Canadian province.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, agrees that bees are in trouble and the declining population is worsening. Scores of beekeepers have reported opening hives and finding them virtually empty.
Meanwhile, another federal survey on bee winter losses will take place April 1 through April 14. That should shed more light on a darkening crisis.
Perhaps CCD is due to a yet undiscovered virus. Perhaps it's due to a combination of factors: pesticides, diseases, pests, viruses, malnutrition and stress.
"Unexpected, periodic losses of honey bee colonies, very similar to this, have been noted in the bee journals since the late 1800s, but they tended to be very short term," Mussen says in his March 19th Bee Brief, published on the UC Davis Entomology Web site. "In 1965, 66, and 67 a similar problem persisted for three years. Our current session is the longest yet."
"The intensity of research on possible leads to the causes of CCD is increasing around the world, as other countries are having similar losses in their honey bee colonies," he writes in his Bee Brief. "The global nature of the problem suggests that some other, more fundamental aspect of the environment may be involved. Honey bees prosper best and are best able to resist diseases, parasites, exposures to toxins, etc. when they have fed on a quality diet.
"For bees in general, and honey bees in particular, that means a constant supply of pollens that provide their required proteins, vitamins, lipids, sterols, minerals, antioxidants and carbohydrates. While global warming may not directly challenge a species of insect that can prosper from very cold climates to the equator, climate change may result in more stress on the bees. Increased periods of dry, hot weather or cold, rainy weather, could limit availability and access to those important pollens. The bees will have to rear their brood at the expense of their body nutrient reserves. The brood will be less well fed, and in turn will not be good at rearing the next 'round of brood.' "
That sort of downward spiral, Mussen says, will leave the bees very fragile and susceptible.
The MAAREC Web site (Mid-Atlantic Apiculture and Extension Consortium) hosted by Pennsylvania State University, offers latest updates on the crisis.
Tending the Bees
When the annual California Agriculture Day took place yesterday on the state capitol grounds, thousands of visitors buzzed the booths learning more about the food they eat and the agriculturists that provide it.
But that wasn't the only buzz.
The California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) booth included a bee observation hive, a glassed-in hive where visitors could watch colony activity.
Brian Fishback of Wilton, president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association, pointed out the queen, worker bees (sterile females) and the drones (males) to the visitors, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Secretary of Agriculture A. G. Kawamura.
"Look," Fishback told a group of young children. "There's a boy bee. See him? And look, there's a bee ready to enter the world."
"One-third of the food you eat is pollinated by bees," he said.
The beekeepers' booth was staffed with bee experts, including UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty members Lynn Kimsey and Eric Mussen. Kimsey, a former beekeeper, directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology and is a professor and vice chair of the Department of Entomology. Mussen, an Extension apiculturist or bee specialist, is active in national and state honey bee organizations. He currently serves as the CSBA parliamentarian.
Roger Everett of Porterville, president of CSBA, was there, along with CSBA secretary-treasurer Carlen Jupe. So was Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, chair of the California State Apiary Board and past president of the California State Beekeepers’ Association. Mike and Donna Tolmachoff of Madera represented the Central Valley Beekeepers’ Association; in fact, Mike serves as the president this year.
They handed out free honey bee sticks, "I Love Honey" stickers, recipe booklets, and bee fact sheets, and answered questions about bees. Crystal Hubbard of Häagen-Dazs distributed free ice cream. Some 40 percent of the ice cream brand’s flavors depend on honey bee pollination. Häagen-Dazs strongly supports honey bees. Their financial support includes bee research at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
So, how busy was the beekeepers' booth? They handed out 2600 honey bee sticks and 1500 individual servings of Häagen-Dazs.
Meanwhile, the bees in the observation hive just kept working, too.
California Agriculture Day
Bee Observation Hive